As an SEO company or agency you will get asked the same awkward question over and over again… How much? Well as we all know it all depends on what work the client needs doing, and that in itself takes time to calculate. It all depends on what you offer as an agency too, whether you are purely link building, local marketing or full service including social and PPC and email marketing. Well, let’s explore how to price your SEO services in the post…
1. SEO Pricing Depending On Budget Or Size Of Company
This may seem unethical to price depending on the size of company or the budget they have to play with, but bear with me. If Company A has just a £100,000 turnover and you make a 10% increase in business because of your SEO efforts, that is worth an extra £10,000 to them in a year. So charging them any more than £10,000 in a year wont be worth it for them, your price range should be more around £2,000 – £3,000 which translates at around £200 a month. A real small business, local type client scenario.
If company B turns over £1,000,000 a year and you make a 10% increase because of your efforts that is worth an extra £100,000 to them. So do think charging £5,000 – £20,000 isn’t reasonable? They’re going to get a lot more value out of the same service more or less.
I know there’s a lot to be said about the bigger the company usually the bigger the competition and therefore more effort and resources are needed, but it’s a distorted ratio in which that occurs. The extra return is not 1:1 on the extra effort or resources. The bigger the clients turnover the more pounds per unit of resource you can make them and I have to say the less stress they cause or give you.
There’s also a lot to be said about getting a company to reveal turnovers, profits and that kind of thing. In an in-depth SEO benchmarking phase, the conversion rate and visitor worth is essential to know. It won’t be hard for you to understand how much or how little value you can add.
- Make a fair healthy profit based on returns
- Hard to position yourself with no set prices
- Hard to sell until you know potential clients figures
- Unethical, selling more or less the same thing to different clients at different prices?
2. SEO Packages (Bronze, Silver or Gold?)
Simple to sell. Simple to deliver. SEO Packages, your bronze, silver and gold. McDonald’s SEO. Extra fries, or links…. whatever. I’m not shunning this route at all, it does get a lot of stick because there is a lot of supposed “SEO packages” out there that are scams, or add very little value to unsuspecting business owners’ websites. It’s also controversial as every campaign should be bespoke to the client, not every client’s website is the same or in the same industry however if you do it right, and have real value to offer, you can make life easy for old school MDs or purchasers that want to price things upfront and want to know exactly what they’re getting for their money. The guys that want deliverables like packages.
More seasoned marketers who do their own SEO may want a little more promotion and know exactly what they want. If you are the type of company that can offer X amount of links, or a one-off SEO audit, packages can work in this circumstance too.
I have seen SEO packages work well when they are used as a loss leader, to get a buyer’s foot in the door. The ‘package’ can then be customized to the client’s needs afterwards to make the campaign work.
Salesmen love packages because it almost means they don’t need to know anything about SEO, they can just offer Bronze, Silver and Gold and then pass the work onto the SEO team – who also have an easy time delivering on a list of actions. It’s a good way to get your agency into a process a bit like a factory in fact and will be much easier to work out your profit margins.
- Easy To Sell
- Easy To Deliver
- A good loss leader
- Can upsell from a package
- Can increase business automation and create a process
- Price sensitive
- Buyers market
- Generally, less profit of ‘bespoke SEO’ requires multiple clients
- Short Client life span
3. Pay On Results
This one is a hard one because every SEO knows we can’t guarantee results. But surely we can give our potential client peace of mind by offering a lower down payment and then the rest gets paid upon promised results? This kind of deal may work in the ‘buyers market’ for agencies that have yet to prove themselves or are new on the block. They can take the competitive edge by offering a no brainer pay on results deal.
Organic SEO Profits Performance Model
When the agency or SEO gets paid upon an increase of organic SEO profits over the agreed baseline. For example, if a company currently generates £10,000 of leads, orders or business per month and this is the baseline, anything they make over and above this from Organic SEO is arguably from your efforts therefore you agree on a percentage of whatever the profit over and above it is. This would have to be time-bound obviously and only really works well in industries that sell online, or generate almost final sales leads on the website. This to me isn’t a great model because there are lots of reasons (other than direct SEO efforts) why natural traffic may go up or down. A customer may have received amazing service and decided to write a review with a link on his really authoritative blog… the mention means search engines reward the site with a lift in rankings on their main terms, bringing in more traffic and more sales… should the SEO or agency be rewarded in this scenario?
Software like call tracking (http://www.infinity-tracking.com) could potentially help SEOs in this model.
Keyword Based Performance Model
A bit ridiculous, but I have seen keyword models like pay X amount for a keyword position 10, X amount for keyword position 9… etc, across a multitude of keywords. Obviously, this is an option in your agency and although SEO is not about 1 keyword this model still works. It’s again easy to sell. If you do want to offer this pricing model in your agency or as an SEO it might be better to offer performance-based pricing on a group of keywords. i.e “When we get 20% of your keywords onto page 1 in Google then you pay us”.
Traffic Based Performance Model
I have been involved with some companies who have previously offered a model like this. It works similar to the Organic SEO Profits model above however is based purely on organic traffic generated. For example, a company currently generates on average 5,000 organic visits a month (takeaway brand keywords to make it fair). If you as the SEO or agency then get to work and by month 3 they are hitting 7,000 organic visitors a month (again minus branded keywords) then you agree with the company an amount for achieving X amount of improvement. Again, controversial as you could game and generate the wrong type or easy to target SEO traffic just to get paid! It should always be about the ROI, however, this is again another way I’ve seen agencies price SEO.
Pros of Pay on Results Models
- Easy to sell
- The customer gets peace of mind
- No timely pressure
Cons of Pay on Results Models
- May not ever get rewarded for the work you do
- Hard to define SEO success
4. Pay Per Lead or Conversion (Lead Generation)
This is a great model in my opinion for maybe medium to smaller sized businesses. I have to say I don’t see this much though, especially in the UK may be because it’s a poor idea? You decide. Like an affiliate program, the SEO company or consultant will build a site separate from the ‘client’ and is free to promote however he or she wants to generate leads. The leads are then sold to the client of the SEO’s choice. If the client refuses the lead, there are plenty more clients to choose from in most markets who will be happy to pay for the lead. The model works well on a local level. Think local plumbers, dentists, accountants and web designers. Some of these guys don’t know how to market their business or generate leads and they generally have less faith in SEO services with a very little budget so offering them hot leads where they can see the pound signs flashing then they are sure to want to pay for each lead. You could build sites for lots of industries and have deals with lots of clients without the stress of ‘Why have my rankings dropped?’.
Approved Index although not an SEO company offer this service on a huge scale only to market their own website lead funnels through SEO and PPC.
- Complete freedom to use any tactic
- Control over website
- Choose your clients
- No ties or contracts
- No headaches from picky clients with tight deadlines
- No monthly retainer
- Will only work with certain businesses
5. Hourly SEO
Hourly SEO is most common amongst solo freelance SEOs or contracted SEOs who may go in-house for a while to complete a project. All work is invoiced at a fixed hourly rate, no matter what value the SEO is bringing to the table. This is an easy to understand model for the buyer, and easy to sell too for the SEO too.
It makes sense, you work X amount of hours, you get paid X amount of money. There is, however, a lot of money being left on the table, depending on the job. A lot of SEOs these days outsource their link building or outsource certain aspects of SEO and this is hard to factor into an hourly rate.
- Easy to understand
- Get paid for every hour you work regardless of results
- Profit left on the table
- Not getting paid for the ‘value’ just for the time
So there you have it…
That’s basically just a few of the SEO pricing models out there. There are of course a lot more, I would like to hear your opinions, what works best for you and why… Please comment below!