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How much to pay search engine optimizers?

10:29 pm on Jun 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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How much do search engine optimization companies charge? I have never used one but wondering how you pay them. Is it worth paying upfront? What if they get no results? Should pay be based on performance?

I know anyone can pass themselves off as one, but there must surely be some reputable ones out there who have a good track record of producing results for their clients.

I have good traffic but am not a good SEO'er. I am sure someone with great optimization skills will be able to boost traffic very significantly on my two main sites.
12:24 am on June 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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A lot depends on what you expect from an SEO - whether it's consulting study and advice that you then execute, or hands-on work that they execute. The first is usually of the highest caliber, but it also comes with the highest price tag. The second comes with risks, because they can help a lot but they can also do a lot of damage that you don't know about until the problems come along months later.

Most top shelf SEOs I know will not give a guarantee about rankings, nor will they work on a performance basis which pretty much amounts to the same thing. They won't do it because they're held hostage to the client's willingness or ability to execute.

At the same time, you have a right to expect improved traffic and/or conversions over time. My own preference is for SEO work that sets up the site owner to engage a process that continues for the life of their business. This means appropriate analytics and an internal business structure that allows agile response to changing conditions - with lots of training and reference documents to preserve that business process through personnel changes.

So a really good SEO is actually a corporate change consultant - helping the business design their processes to make excellent use of their website... indefinitely into the future. This kind of work is worth many hundreds of dollars per hour, and depending on the size of the business, more than that. On location work would be at a day rate of several thousand plus expenses.
1:57 am on June 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Extremely sound advice there from Tedster ( as to be expected ) ..an addition I'd make, is that "increased traffic" by itself is of no use to you unless it is the "right sort"..( unless your revenue model is pure CPM )..

That means traffic that you can convert or that you can be shown how to convert or take advantage of..Which is why the "studying and advising" type of SEO is more expensive ..but gives a better ROI..if you are willing to follow some recommendations.

The rates will depend on where you are ..but tedsters are reasonable for good advice..to use the old master plumber analogy ..you are not paying for the time spent with the wrench ..you are paying for the knowledge of where to tap the boiler..or which pipes need changing or tightening to make the boiler more efficient.

Money spent on a site and business assessment can repay itself many many times over ..
5:32 pm on June 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Why dont you engage in some pre-sales with a few companies , as well as finding the answer to your question you will learn quite a bit.

Is it worth paying upfront? I dont pay for anything upfront :)

What if they get no results? They should provide the deliverables you agree in the contract. As a buyer you need to specifiy what it is you want in a little more detail. If you cant do this then you need to pay a daily rate for a consultant to help put together an ITT or simple requirement document that is feasible, has performance metrics and of use to an SEO.

Should pay be based on performance? Always (except for consulting)
6:43 pm on June 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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pay for performance

Never. There are too many factors involved. An SEO never has total control over the site or the search engines for that matter. A change made by the site owner or someone in their organization could have a dramatic effect on things that are out of the SEO's control. Same with the search engines (Panda for example).

I always require payment upfront as do most others I've met in the industry. Not necessarily the entire amount. I think of it as a retainer similar to a Lawyer allowing as to provide the requested service knowing the funds are available.
7:28 pm on June 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If they're not expensive, don't go near them. The good ones don't come cheap.

Even with the expensive ones you need to be careful, not all the expensive ones are low risk or quality returns.

But if you're looking at an SEO firm and your first reaction isn't 'OMG that's brutally expensive', I'm pretty sure you've got the wrong SEO firm.