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Paying on results sounds like a win-win scenario but as Steve Morgan reveals there are factors to consider that mean you could end up paying with more than just your money.
Recently I met with a prospect who had really been let down by his previous SEO company. Four months into a 24-month contract, he asked them to show proof of their work because he hadn’t seen any improvement in his rankings and organic search traffic whatsoever.
But what did the SEO company say?
They claimed intellectual property, i.e. that if they showed him their work, he could go off and do it himself… which is stupid, because they had already locked him into a ludicrously long contract. Regardless, many would argue that they may not have even lifted a finger and simply pocketed the money each and every month (in fact I even checked his website’s inbound link profile and could barely find any evidence of their work). Fortunately for him, he managed to worm his way out of the 24-month contract, paying for only 6 months’ worth of supposed ‘work’ instead.
Understandably, having been bitten by a bunch of scammers who sound like the type of people who give our industry a bad name, he was considering a different approach this time around: ‘pay on results’ SEO. As the name suggests, this is when a client pays a company to improve their rankings and only pays when pre-agreed results are met – usually a #1 ranking for particular keywords.
Even though he was also meeting with me, and I don’t offer such an approach, he seemed really keen on the idea, so much so that he was asking me about it. And I mean, why wouldn’t he be keen on it? He only pays if/when he gets a result? Sounds brilliant and risk-free, right?
No. Not so much.
Put simply, if you only pay the SEO company once a result has been met, then they may simply do whatever it takes in order to get that result. Whatever it takes. That could mean black-hat, spammy tactics that will get you up to the top of Google as soon as possible, but could do damage to your domain in the long run – e.g. if the black-hat work is noticed by Google and you’re subsequently penalised for it. Of course, by then, you might have already paid them, and they can say: “well we did get you the result you wanted,” but I very much doubt they’re going to rectify what they’ve done after you’ve paid them. So while it might be risk-free when it comes to your cash, there may be bigger risks at stake, such as your website’s long-term performance in search engines.
Now maybe I’m being a little harsh. Maybe there are ‘pay on results’ SEOs who do not conduct any dodgy tactics. But if you are considering this approach then tread very, very carefully.
So what should you do instead?
Well, if you’re working with an SEO who’s talking about improving your SEO over the long term and talking about ROI (return on investment) then that’s a good start. If they’re talking about how a particular result might generate you a certain level of ROI, then at least you can see if it fits in with your budget that way. Also, if they’re talking about conducting SEO over a longer period of time, chances are that they will be dealing with lower risk strategies that will improve your website and your brand – not damage it.
What are your thoughts and opinions? In fact, if any ‘pay on results’ SEOs or their clients are reading this, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, and you’d like to argue the other side. Whatever the case, please do leave a comment below.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.