Does Pay Per Performance SEO work?

Every other email I get sent is from an SEO company promising the earth. Every other telephone call seems to be from the same company. Every business forum has the ‘I run one site’ SEO expert posting do-it-yourself SEO tips, or the standard SEO company offering to promote your site for as little as £100.

No bloody wonder everyone is confused. I remember one of the first things my last client asked was, can anyone do SEO? Believe me, it’s harder and more time consuming than you might think especially in tougher markets.

With all the conflicting signals and the amount of business owners that have been on the wrong end of poor SEO service, it’s not surprising that many businesses owners feel at best sceptical of SEO and the value it provides.

Baring this in mind should you offer or agree to a Pay Per Performance deal and offset the risks to the client? After all you’re an experienced SEO and with a few client campaigns under your belt bringing results shouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve seen this question asked on many forums and it still raises it’s head, so here’s my take on it. At the least it’ll be interesting to look back and see what I’ve written and how my views might change.

Pay Per Performance might seem like an interesting temptation when the rewards are high and it’s an old established site with plenty of upside but on the whole this sort of deal leaves both the SEO and the client at risk.

There are plenty of metrics, such as page views, traffic, new links, keywords, pr, leads, sales, registrations that the client might want to see improved. As an SEO you need to think are these always measureable and can they be clearly defined. Will the offline sales be counted, how will they be counted and will the business owner give you full access to the sales reports? Do you understand the product, the market, will the product be poor, overpriced or too early?

The client also might not fully appreciate what he’s asking for so if he thinks he wants traffic and that’s the holy grail then the SEO might just concentrate on boosting traffic and use underhand tactics, which surely isn’t in the client’s interest.

Then there’s always the risk that the client or the web designer retains control of the site and makes unneccessary changes, overwrites a file, removes text and internal body copy links, gives the site a makeover without prior consultation or doesn’t listen to your suggestions. Is the SEO to be held responsible for the web designer’s decision to create a new file name, or go with a new CMS with different file extensions while leaving the SEO in the dark.

Hosting might also be outside the control of the SEO. Poor hosting can have a negative impact, I worked on a site that went down for days, it does happen.

In recent times with the economic downturn in the market online sales may take a dive, should an SEO be responsible for this unexpected turn of events.

PPP might work in some cases, and suit a newbie SEO that feels they need to prove their worth and get some experience but it definitely has it pitfalls. If the client does his research, and knows the competencies of the SEO and the sectors that they have worked in then they can make an informed choice and pay for all the experience that the SEO brings. A bonus system could work well on top of a standard fee but again it needs to be measurable.

PPP wouldn’t do it for me and I don’t think it would create the best working relationship either. What are your thoughts?

5 Responses to “Does Pay Per Performance SEO work?”

  1. David QuaidNo Gravatar Says:

    There’s a fine line between ppp and affiliate marketing – and I’m not sure if its always there. There are too many factors that could go wrong or conspire against the SEO. But a good SEO shouldn’t find themselves in this situation – the client’s expectations should have been addressed before and during an SEO campaign and the SEO should deliver on their agreed benchmarks and milestones.

  2. paul savageNo Gravatar Says:

    I haven’t done a pure PPP contract, but I have done ones where there is an extra bonus for performance. i.e. 20% more website traffic/leads/etc, X bonus , 50% more website traffic/leads/etc, 2*X bonus, 100% more website traffic/leads/etc 3-4*X bonus.

    Often you can see very quickly how a few changes could really help a customer. So doing 5 hours work could potentially bring you a nice increase in traffic. So in this case if wouldn’t be fair to tell a customer that if you get 100% more traffic, there should be a big bonus. Where you already were pretty sure that you wouldn’t have to do that much work for it. And it is in this case you can really abuse your position of power as a SEO.

    I like to be more open with customers, give them a rate, and say what I will do. And if they want to negotiate on price, part PPP is an option.


  3. Ireland travelNo Gravatar Says:

    I can see the issues with having the PPP “performance” based on issues unrelated to SEO like sales serviceetc. But If you could agree the deliverables upfront and as an SEO you could quote for the work based on the work you believe is required, would that not be a win-win? eg, page one google result for keyword xxxxxx. You get paid if you achieve you don’t if you don’t? At least you are being paid for SEO specifics?

  4. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    @Paul totally agree with on you SEO’s being able to abuse their position when a few title tags might just be what’s required in a uncompetitive market.

    @David, tell me about it seems that there’s always something unexpected when it’s not your own site and you don’t have total control over it.

  5. Scott HendisonNo Gravatar Says:

    I think stuff like this is (sadly) the future for the SEO consumer – ‘pay when it ranks’ – but the problem for the consultant doing PPP comes when after months of work, it begins to pay off well, and the client cuts you loose, enjoying the benefits of your linkbuilding forever, paying you zip.

    We have done some PPP in the past, and only been happy with about 1/3 of the arrangements. If we ever do any more, we’ll insist on the client signing an agreement stating payment will continue 90 days past the cancellation to protect ourselves.

Michael Wall

Michael Wall is an experienced SEO based in Belfast N.Ireland currently running his own SEO Agency.

Michael Wall is available for Internet Marketing, Google Adwords PPC and SEO work. Please call Belfast 02890 923383 or use the contact form.

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