Bob Rains Q&A: Putting a Price on SEO
Every second Monday, CAP hosts an exclusive feature with online marketing pro Bob Rains, to provide you with insider info on the ins and outs of Internet marketing — from affiliate program best practices to search engine optimization, and all points in between.
Editors' note: Bob will be a featured speaker at CAP Euro London. Details coming soon!
Bob Rains Q&A, No. 3, Monday, January 5: The Value of Quality SEO Services
Question: Someone recently quoted me £6000 a month (based on 2-3 days a week) for SEO 'consultation'. This is purely consultation, as I have a dev team at my disposal to do site work.
I laughed at this number, and have since found an alternate. However, after questioning the cost, I was told that this was the best cost available with no room for saving.
Is this in fact an industry-wide number? I have never/nor will I ever pay for something that given hard work I can’t do myself. I wonder if this is somewhat of a norm?
Bob Rains: Great question! I could go on about this topic for days, but I tried to keep it simple and give you some ideas of the different pricing models in SEO so you could potentially discuss alternatives with your provider.
The short answer is, yes, this is a justifiable cost, and the price you were quoted isn’t by any means off the charts. The long answer, however, would require that we dive into the nature of work needed, and what your long-term goals are. As a converting traffic driver, organic traffic from search is pretty hard to beat, and thus the ROI on SEO when executed properly, and consistently maintained, is well worth $6000 a month.
As someone who has spent a fair amount of time comparing notes on search marketing firms, as well as assisting people seeking SEO services, I have a reasonably strong understanding on the pricing and cost structures of the SEO business. That said, please take these guidelines with a grain of salt, since search is expanding more and more each day:
The Most Popular SEO Pricing Models
1. Contract Services. A contract usually presents a fixed price for a fixed amount of work, such as link building, content creation, Google Bowling, Social Media Baiting, and many other specialized SEO functions. In many cases, you may want to consider specialized companies if you are really looking to engage your consumer on a variety of fronts online. For example, you may want to think twice about contracting the same company that would assist you with Digg for assistance on Facebook, as these are very different social spaces.
2. Standard Profit Sharing. A limited number of SEO providers offer profit sharing-based compensation. These usually include a small down payment to begin work and then a percentage of revenues from conversions through the website. This can be a good option for SEOs who have great confidence in their abilities and are ready to assume a significant share of risk. One big problem with this option is that you'll need to ensure that the business operations, outside of the website, are running on all cylinders. I personally have been burnt on more than one occasion due to poor business practices on my client’s side while engaged in a profit sharing arrangement.
3. Monthly Retainer. This can be a very good model for companies seeking to retain clients over a long period of time, but it can also be abused by those who claim that the site will "lose its rankings" if the customer cancels. I personally have avoided this method of billing, as I have had clients get great ranking for desirable keywords on one or two terms, and then want to avoid the long tail, and eventually never see the full value of SEO.
4. Hourly Consulting. The fastest way to price SEO work is to charge by the hour. Rates in SEO vary with the entry-level folks around $40 – $50, mid-tier consulting around $100 – $200, and high-demand people from $300 – $500. I personally always tried to limit my number of clients by going outside the norm and charging around $1000 / hour.
5. Project-Based Consulting. Many folks and firms will keep it simple and charge a flat fee (often over the course of a project). The total estimate is based on the amount of time, effort and people involved in the project. Additionally, some may charge in this fashion for a site review + keyword research + consulting time, or for an on-site SEO training series.
6. Pay for Rankings. This is one of the more interesting strategies that SEOs employ. You pay one price for reaching, say, page 2 of a particular result, another price for position 10, 9, 8, and so on — usually with particular bonuses for #1 – #3 rankings. It really only makes sense for companies seeking to rank for a particular set of terms/phrases that they know convert quite highly. In the gaming space I would avoid this method, as any talented SEO could potentially provide you with very strong, yet very temporary results.
I hope this helps. In my opinion, with SEO services you really need to consider how much your traffic is worth, how well you convert, and what kind of deal are you looking for before even speaking to a provider. Many people think that they shouldn’t pay for SEO services because they can do it themselves. My only answer to this is simply: If you can do it yourself, why aren’t you already?
Ask Bob Rains your online marketing questions. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org today!