Are You in the Dark About SEO Pricing?

There are a lot of people involved and there is lots of action taking place in the search engine optimization (SEO) field, which often leads to confusion and a number of questions.

Most marketers today realize the importance of achieving top search engine placement for their Web sites as it’s well established that the majority of Web site visitors come from search engines. But when it comes to the mechanics of fees and pricing methods, most people are in the dark. Even fewer know what to expect regarding customary fees and how they are determined.

In fact, I get many questions on the topic of SEO pricing and have avoided writing about it sooner because I didn’t want to sound like I was promoting my own SEO services. But since this is now becoming such a frequently asked question, I decided to share a request and provide a philosophical response.

Keith Clark of CC Group asked: “I have enjoyed reading your column at ClickZ, and it seems you are on to something. However, I am curious about your past articles where you mentioned the ‘real professional fee’ SEO agencies charge should average $2K to $5K and that charging by the impressions or click-through is not a good way to go. Could you tell me more about how you come up with a price for a client?”

What follows is a philosophical answer and in no way has anything to do with pricing used by my company, Web-Ignite. I’ve made a strong commitment to write for ClickZ honestly and objectively without self-promotion. Here are my candid feelings, based on years of industry experience, about methods of payment for SEO services.

Paul’s Honest Answer

SEO is abstract and dynamic. In other words, it’s unpredictable and ever-changing. I prefer a price point developed around the resources required to sustain and maintain the best positions possible.

A price point would have to be regularly maintained and modified daily, weekly, and monthly. It would include the cost of dedicating the proper resources to a specific client and its objectives. This is normally provided as a monthly ongoing SEO plan, payable month to month as a fixed fee.

The fee in question is best tied to the number of key phrases a client has, which obviously vary from industry to industry or site to site. In some cases, a site or industry may have the capacity for several hundred key phrases; however, its marketing budget may be limited to a few dozen key phrases. Pricing should be based on the long-term resources required per key phrase and the extent of the SEO plan.

Charging SEO services by impressions or click-throughs presents several areas of concern for the success of the client’s campaign. A major concern is fraud or irrelevancy.

Traffic auditing is a very complex technology when combined with search engine referrers and IP addresses, not to mention that the relevancy of a click-through is always under scrutiny by the client. I recall a discovery I made in the early days while auditing search traffic for the term “fat burner.” It was delivered and derived from searches for “Pamela Anderson.” This was both fraudulent and irrelevant. Additionally, only the cloaking server-side log files would know.

When I can see a position report that: a) identifies the engine or directory, b) tells me exactly where my keyword search result is located, c) tells me whether it’s located on page one, two, or three, d) gives me a live link from the engine to my destination page… I am a happy camper. When I pay a monthly fixed fee to maintain and modify these links, I am even happier.

Like I said, these are my own feelings based on years of experience. There are many other opinions, and I continue to welcome your comments.

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