While many SEO’s are quite adamant that no legitimate SEO will offer guaranteed services others have come up with novel approaches that do just that.
Tyler Young at Conversion Insights, which specializes in marketing automation for attorneys, offers a 3 month satisfaction guarantee. If after the first three months a new client is not happy with either his work or the results he’ll give them a full refund. That gives him a built-in incentive to not slack off or otherwise not provide the best service he can. With that kind of offer we all know the potential for an unscrupulous client to use his services with the intention of asking for a refund regardless of whether he’s satisfied or not just to get something for free but according to Tyler:
Generally in that time frame, they’ve started to see some results—I suspect if they hadn’t, they may ask for a refund, but I’ve never yet had anyone take me up on that.
Guarantees on Traffic
Christian Sculthorp, an SEO in Toronto, gets beyond guaranteeing rankings to guaranteeing traffic, which is one step closer to what a business really wants, which is customers:
I generally guarantee X amount increase in traffic after a 6 month period. If I don’t increase it by that amount after 6 months I will continue to work for free. This hasn’t been an issue since I’ve always hit the mark.
Christian explains that he doesn’t make it a hard goal to reach. He figures at what point his client is at least getting his money back if not a lot more:
The X amount I promise is usually just their break even for working with me. So as a marketing professional you should be giving them at least a breakeven ROI (Return On Investment).
One disadvantage with offering a guarantee based on traffic is it’s not always possible to have good statistics to start with. Preferably a site will have had Google Analytics installed for at least a year so month-over-same-month comparisons can be made. Most clients will bring a site with no Analytics installed so we wouldn’t be able to get a baseline for performance and even if we were to show an increase in traffic there’s no way to tell how much of that increase would have happened anyway do to what the website owner would have been doing had he not engaged a marketing service.
Free or Discount Services After Initial Period If Goals Not Met
Many SEO’s will do their best to predict how long it will take to reach certain goals. Knowing their potential clients will be making their decisions of whether to do SEO based on this expert opinion they will offer some compensation if their prediction was off. This way they cannot be accused of purposefully misrepresenting the effectiveness of their SEO services and the client doesn’t end up getting stuck paying full freight for something that doesn’t deliver.
David Haskins at Haskins Public Relations & Marketing is doing his part to counter the bad taste bad SEO’s have put in people’s mouths by not charging the full amount when things don’t turn out as planned:
While we don’t “guarantee” results, we have an unwritten rule that we won’t charge the full fee if we don’t meet their goals. (i.e. client goal is to reach top 3, and then we underestimate the work/time it will take to get them there, we will hold off on billing the rest until we get there, or we will give a discount to keep goodwill and our reputation.) My thinking is that we are a new SEO company (6 months old) in a big pond, and we want a happy client base of referrals, of course. But also, many clients have had bad SEO/fly by night/vague/black hat/etc. experiences in the past and we want to give them a stark contrast to that.
Karl Bantleman at DeepRed55 Marketing in the UK takes things one step further and as such is a pioneer in the industry:
We have even trialed doing the work for free and only taking a percentage of organic revenue (obviously only on e-commerce websites). The first few clients we approached with this method were shocked that we offered such a deal because they had never seen or heard of an SEO company doing so.
This approach is a lot like commission sales which is well-used in industry. It basically says, “I get paid by how well I do and how well it benefits you as a client.” It’s an easy sell because not too many clients can argue with having to pay a commission on an increase in sales as long as they are still making money on the sales. A small (or large) percentage of something is better than 100% of nothing.
Pure commission sales are hard to do in any industry because not too many salesmen are willing to work without any guarantee of payment, especially if they have a family to support. I was approached by someone who offered me 50% of sales for his product for all sales that were internet related whether that included Pay-Per-Click, SEO, or Multi-Level-Marketing. I would have had to build the website since he had done nothing other than in-store sales. It was an attractive offer but I just couldn’t make time for something with no immediate benefit.
One way companies make it doable for salesmen is to offer a base salary as a draw against any commission sales they make. For example, a salesman will be offered a salary of $2000 per month and if his commissions are less than that he gets the guaranteed $2000 but if his commissions are $2500 for the month he gets the $2500. The base salary is usually low enough that the business isn’t out too much if the salesman has a bad month and too low to be attractive as a regular salary but high enough the salesman knows he will make at least something and put food on the table. One way to incorporate this into doing SEO is to work for an hourly rate and build in a bonus for meeting performance goals.
I was approached by a new business in a very low-competition niche market in which I didn’t think it would take much to get ranked. There was only one other company in their local market that I thought was trying very hard to get ranked and was Google #1 for most keywords. My client was happy to just get on page 1 but I wanted to challenge myself to take the #1 spot and wanted to get rewarded for it so offered to SEO for one amount per month except for the months I got his site to Google #1 for the highest volume keyword in which case I wanted twice as much for the month. He liked the idea because he knew he would more than make up for it with one good call that would lead into a job.
The SEO Industry Has a Long Way to Go Before Becoming Mainstream
Many people in the SEO industry get a lot of business from people who have been burned by other SEO companies. They may want to try it just one more time to see if someone else can make it work. These are the ones that have heard over and over that there are no guarantees and SEO’s shouldn’t be offering them any guarantees but they also get the feeling SEO should work and don’t think they should have to shoulder the entire burden if it doesn’t. The innovative approaches outlined above go a long way to giving clients a service that makes sense to them as a business wanting a good return on investment and not have to be the ones to be yet another victim of an SEO who overestimates his abilities or is really more interested in making a buck than providing good marketing services.
Posted in Guaranteed SEO