Hi Jill,

Yesterday I met someone who is not willing to pay for SEO, but is willing to pay a commission for any sales (the company offers management courses) received via the website.

From an SEO point of view the website leaves a lot to be desired, so there will be a lot of effort involved there.

What do you think about such a proposal? One other thing -- there is no way I will be able to gauge if any queries were generated through the website or if these queries actually became orders.

I was going to decline this business, but I would appreciate your feedback if possible.

Thank you so much

Liz :)

Jill's Response

My original answer to Liz was simply, "Run like the wind! People who aren't willing to put any money up front are not serious about their business and you definitely don't want to work with them." However, it seemed that I might be able to expand upon that answer for others who may have been approached with similar offers.

There are various layers to this situation, many of which set off red flags for me. There's the original issue I already mentioned, where the client isn't willing to spend any money, making you wonder how serious they are about their business. Beyond that, there are issues of trust. This potential client doesn't trust the SEO company enough to pay them their normal fee, and/or they don't trust the whole SEO process.

Liz might be able to educate this client enough to trust her and the SEO process in general so that he might be willing to pay for her services up front, but that alone could take more time than it would be worth to her. She would need to provide many client references which state how much return on investment they have made while using her services, and she would also need to educate him on how SEO works. She'd have to be sure he understood the time involved, the structural changes it might be necessary to implement on his site, and the hit-or-miss nature of the search engine results.

This type of education is very draining and doesn't guarantee that the client will be willing to pay for the services. I'd be more inclined to point the client to the various articles and information at sites like my HighRankings.com and Search Engine Watch and tell them to come back when they have a better understanding of what SEO is all about, and when they're serious about fixing their site to be all it can be.

If Liz was absolutely positive that she could fix the site in question, and that the client would provide her with free reign to do exactly what she wanted, there would still be the problem with tracking the sales in a pay-for-performance gig. This would be necessary in order to determine how much she was to be paid once the revenues started rolling in. Most SEO companies that work with this type of model create completely new websites for their clients so they can track every single order or clickthrough. Unfortunately, there are problems with this as well, since you're basically creating something strictly for the search engines. You've got to come up with completely new content in order for the site to be different enough from the original site or the engines won't even bother with it. Plus, with Google's aging delay now, a new domain could take up to a year or possibly more to start seeing results.

All in all, it's generally just not cost effective to work with clients who don't already understand the value of search engine optimization, and who don't trust your ability to help their site gain targeted traffic and sales. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

May 13, 2005

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Pay-for-Performance SEO