The contractor Tim Carter aka Tim Challama aka Hourbacklinks.com promised to do extensive keyword research for the client, research on competitors' keywords, and report weekly on keyword ranking and link building. When asked in the hearing if he had any evidence that the contractor did not perform, the client had none. Ending his testimony however, he challenged the contractor, saying, "I'm [sic] don't think there is anything else to be submitted by Tim to prove he performed the contract that he agreed to as specified. So I'm ready to rest."
At this point I expected the contractor to present evidence of the keyword research he did for the client. Perhaps a more extensive list of keywords that were considered and not used along with some data to support their choices. And maybe the results of keyword research they did on the client's competitors. And possibly a list of the URL's of links they had placed. Surely some internal paperwork must have been generated in order to handle the client's account.
But when given the opportunity to present evidence of any work that was done, the contractor preferred to hurl invectives at the arbitrator and the hearing process before resting his case. On the two reports we have in evidence, I have these comments.
1) "Not found" with nothing more is not a valid report in my opinion. Not found where? In the top 10? On the first page? The first 100, 1000? After all, it's in the client's interest for him to know if he's moving at all and in what direction. All SEO contractors in my experience report results within the top 100 and many report ranking even deeper than that. After all, it's in the contractor's interest to show his client that he moved from #800 to #600, even if there's still a long way to go. Reporting simply "not found" is an indication that not much effort was put into the job.
2) Of the 8 keywords listed in these reports, only 5 are valid. "Owner operator trucking jobs" is a good keyword but "owner operator jobs" is not the way to get targeted traffic. And the last 3 (truck driver job, truck driver jobs, truck driving job) are the same for organic search purposes. These choices show no sign of research, extensive or even superficial, and are again an indication that not much effort was put into the job.
Thus given only these two reports showing only a questionably effective, short list of "not found" keywords and nothing more, I conclude that not enough promises were filled to substantiate payment for that first month. I find the client was justified in his decision to terminate the contract and ask for a refund. The contractor will no doubt be relieved that a full refund means there will be no feedback from this job to ruin his 5-star rating.
1. The contract for this project is terminated except for any non-disclosure provisions that may exist.
2. Within 3 days after this Award, ChallamaTim (Tim Carter)