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Pay for Performance SEO

I was approached this week by someone who wanted an SEO company to take on a contract based on pay for performance. Now that in itself isn’t always a bad thing. The company involved knows they are not throwing money away and only pay when they get results. The terms of the offer were the thing that unsettled me.

Payment would be made if the SEO company got the client to results 1-10 in Google UK for a popular 1 word search. Let’s say it was “dvd”. (it wasn’t but it was an equally popular search). No other results mattered.

So the SEO company who takes on this pay for performance deal will slog their guts out building and suggesting content on the site, building links, building more links, building more content, then building some more links. With all the effort in the world they are maybe going to get to page 2 or 3 in Google for “dvd” but not into that elusive top 10 position. The sites populating those top positions are older, way older. They’ve got thousands of pages listed. They’ve got 10’s of thousands of inbound links. The potential client’s site just can’t catch up for that one word search.

As a spin off however, all the work that the SEO company does means that the site is coming up in the top 10 for thousands of other search terms like “motorbike dvd”, “uk dvd free delivery” or “comedy dvd”. The site will be raking in orders by the thousand but the SEO company won’t see a penny because the site is not coming top 10 for “dvd”.

Another difficulty is that because the client isn’t paying any money up front, they don’t always take the seo proposals too seriously. The SEO company will tell them they need another 500 words of content on the main pages, they need at least another 50 pages of content in the site, they need to change the page titles on every page etc but the client never actions it. This might be down to budget, laziness or just a feeling of “why should I change my site, I’ll maybe do it if I see some results”. Whatever the reason it is crippling for the SEO company who end up trying to promote a website with poor content.

I can understand companies who want to try pay for performance, but from the SEO company’s point of view it is not always the best way to undertake a contract. It’s too easy to get stung.

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