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Affordable SEO Companies Adopting Pay-for-Performance Pricing

An animated short made the rounds on YouTube and Twitter not long ago, poking fun at popular misconceptions about social media gurus who ask for huge retainer checks without guaranteeing measurable results. Search engine optimization companies, social media strategists, and business coaches often get lumped together by novice online marketers. Prospects often dont exactly know what each of these professionals can do for their businesses. As more business owners spend time on search engines and on social media sites, some prospective search optimization clients weigh the option of hiring an affordable SEO company or launching their own in-house campaigns to save money.

Measuring Search Optimization Performance

Until a few years ago, anyone could measure their sites search engine performance by typing a few keywords into Google or Yahoo. If a company landed in the first few results for a critical phrase, a consultant could justify their retainer. However, the fragmentation of major search engines into a set of highly customized offerings has challenged search optimization experts to work harder for client results. As competition among affordable SEO companies heats up, clients can demand a fee schedule based on performance metrics, including:

  • The amount of revenue directly attributable to search optimization strategies
  • The number of links back to a clients website from independent bloggers and journalists
  • The overall increase in traffic during the course of a campaign

These kinds of results reflect the changing nature of the search optimization business. No longer content with poor quality backlinks from link farms or on unrelated blog comment pages, clients have become savvy enough to understand that high-quality content drives the highest quality customer traffic.

Paying for Affordable SEO Results

Having established the parameters for success, todays search optimization clients have three ways to directly tie an SEO firms compensation to their results:

  • Hourly/monthly retainers. This is still the most common compensation model for search engine optimization companies. However, many clients have significantly reduced their upfront retainers in favor of a rolling model that can be adjusted based on routine performance measurements.
  • Project performance fees. Some of the best search engine optimization firms have adopted a model of accepting payment only upon reaching predetermined milestones. By partnering on a clients overall success, these companies often trade off big advances for an even larger share of the profit pool they cultivate.
  • Separate fees for strategy and maintenance. Some of the most affordable SEO firms now make the distinction between search optimization strategy and implementation. Firms and consultants offer hourly or daily fees to develop a game plan before turning the process of coding and writing over to less expensive subcontractors or to internal teams.

When clients understand how to measure search optimization results, they can make better decisions about hiring affordable SEO firms. Likewise, SEO professionals can use transparent metrics to hold themselves and their peers accountable for helping their clients generate revenue. Without a clear commitment to results, search engine optimization specialists could find themselves losing contracts to less expensive, more effective competitors.


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