The SEO industry has long been taking advantage of the ignorance of business owners about SEO to continue pricing SEO in ways that just don’t make sense and further reinforce the image of SEO as an illegitimate stepchild of the marketing industry. It wasn’t that long ago when I was shopping for SEO myself as a painting contractor and realized early on it’s really hard to find companies that price their services in a way that makes sense for anybody other than the SEO company. I found myself saying to myself, “This is how I would like SEO to be sold to me.” Now that I’m in the business I haven’t forgotten how I wanted it sold to me and have striven to go by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
Top 6 Ways SEO Pricing is Done
And why it doesn’t make any sense. In no particular order:
- Charging twice as much for twice as many keywords. The problem is, doubling the number of keywords you are targeting will not double the number of phone calls you get if you picked the highest volume keywords to start with. In some industries, such as pest control, 2 keywords for each city is all you need since “pest control” and “exterminator” pretty well cover the waterfront, used about as often as the next 50 most-used keyword combined. To double the traffic to your website you would have to target the next 50 highest volume keywords, not the next 2. Also, doubling the number of keywords does not double the work involved in getting you ranked, especially if most of the work being done is off-site SEO.
- Contracts. The industry standard seems to be about 1 year. A contract then becomes a license to steal your money no matter how poorly they do their job, and there really is no incentive for them to perform well if they can take your money regardless of how poorly they perform. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow yourself to get locked in to a contract of any kind with an internet marketing company or even a web design company. It doesn’t make any sense to be held to a contract if that company isn’t doing their job.
- You Pick Your Keywords. Aren’t you hiring your SEO because they are the experts? Then why are you the one picking your keywords? That makes about as much sense as telling your surgeon which of your favorite shop tools to use during your surgery. Yikes! You giving your SEO a few keywords for which you want ranked and weeding out the ones they come up with that don’t apply to your business is one thing but them not doing extensive keyword research to find the best keywords to target is unconscionable. They are preying on your ignorance hoping you will come up with keywords for which there is no competition and for which it is very easy to get ranked for. Those are also the same keywords that nobody is using in search so they won’t do you any good.
- No Guarantees. On Google’s Webmaster Tools page since 2008 I think they have had this posted: “Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google.” Ever since then SEO companies have used this as an excuse to take your money even if they can’t get your website to the first page of Google. That just doesn’t make sense.
Pricing for Services Instead of Results. The industry standard seems to be having several different packages to offer but the only difference between the packages is the quantity of tasks performed. Nothing is said about the quality of those tasks, just the number of tasks, such as how many backlinks are generated or how many keywords for which your site will be optimized. No thought is given to whether these activities will actually do any good. It is just assumed that they will. A professional SEO will tell you, however, that one good backlink is worth a hundred backlinks that are low quality, and some keywords are easy to rank for but nobody is using them to search for anything so don’t really do anyone any good to get ranked for them. It’s kind of like you hiring me to mow your lawn and me charging you for the number of revolutions of my mower blade whether I actually cut grass with it or just let it sit and run on the sidewalk. “For 50,000 revolutions of my mower blade I charge $20 and for another $5 I’ll throw in another 25,000. Yes, ma’am, actually cutting the grass will cost you a bit more.”
- Pricing the Same for a Small Market as for a Large Market. In most industries the product or the service is going to be the same whether it’s in Seattle or Sequim, but with SEO the smaller the market the less competition there is and the less effort it takes to get a website ranked. For the most part the SEO industry has ignored this fact so small companies from small markets like the one I live in with only a quarter million population within 20 miles of my zip code do some shopping around for SEO services and get sticker shock. I know, I did the same. “$1200 per month for a 2 man painting company in Kennewick? That’s my marketing budget for the whole year,” I would tell the salesmen. For the most part the industry has been going after the big national companies with big marketing budgets but those clients are drying up. Eventually more will figure out a way to offer services to the lower paying clients in less competitive small markets where you’re lucky to find local competition with a decent website much less one that’s optimized for search.
SEO is a relatively young industry yet it seems to be taking forever to become one that is understood by the general public, or even recognized for that matter. As long as SEO’s keep charging for their services in ways that don’t make sense they are only perpetuating its image as mysterious voodoo science dominated by profiteers and shysters. If you are one of those companies it’s time to become mainstream and charge in a way that actually makes sense.