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I recently wrote about SEO Hourly Rates, and I received a lot of attention to the topic of SEO pricing methods. Now I would like to address one of the other popular SEO pricing methods, contingency SEO.
Contingency contracts have long been used by attorneys when a client either wishes to mitigate their investment risk in legal fees or cannot afford to pay for all of the legal cost upfront. Contingency contracts can also be leveraged properly for your search engine optimization (SEO). When the risk and the reward is equitably shared between the SEO professional and the client, a contingency SEO contract often makes sense. After all, it is easy to see why a professional will often do their best work when their income is dependent on winning.
Contingency SEO: The Client Perspective
Most companies understand paying a reasonable percentage of their profit to a sales representative, and contingency SEO is not so different in some ways. When the sales representative provides you with business, you provide them with remuneration.
Viewing your SEO provider as another sales representative is a simplified look at contingency SEO, but it is also important to give consideration to legal matters and preserving your company reputation. Ideally, you and the SEO company will have a unified long-term goal of success. Like sales reps, there are good and bad search engine optimizers, so it is important to have a similar approach to that of hiring a new sales representative, or more appropriately, taking on a new business partner.
Since proper SEO work requires a sizeable investment of time, you should be prepared to provide the SEO an upfront payment so that you are, indeed, sharing the cost equitably. Securing a contract with a quality SEO company would be too simple if not for an upfront cost. Clearly, all of your competitors would have done it by now if it was that easy.
Contingency SEO: The SEO Perspective
If I only had a nickel for every opportunity to provide my work upfront and receive a percentage of the profits, I would not offer hourly pricing for SEO services. Like the example of an attorney working for contingency, the SEO provider must be comfortable with the arrangement, and see good potential for gain. The SEO must consider the marketability of the product or service, how to measure the SEO results (gross profit, net profit, market share gain, etcetera), and accountability. There are a lot more ways for the SEO company to come out cheated in the end, so clear contracts and trust become important factors.
Because of the risks for the SEO professional, some ways that contingency SEO can be accounted for include full access to the client’s records, Website scripting to account for the traffic and report it to the SEO, or a separate Website owned by the SEO to measure the traffic and send it to the client. There are many other methods of accountability, but this is simply to say that accountability is often one of the greatest concerns for the SEO professional.
The Contingency SEO Contract
When approached with the opportunity for a proper and equitable SEO contingency contract, I take it very seriously, and I expect my client to do the same. After all, we should be in it together for mutual benefit. Just to be sure both parties understand the relationship, it is very important to spell it out in a contract. A well defined contract for contingency SEO will require much consideration of both parties’ interests, and will take some work for the contracting SEO provider. The client should expect to pay for this time, and for a careful review of the existing Website assets or liabilities. Without a thorough review and assessment of the client’s needs, expectations, and current market position, the SEO professional and client will not have all of the necessary facts to work with. The client should be reminded that if they are engaging the SEO, it is like calling the attorney of choice. It is best to call a great attorney rather than just the first one willing to take on your project. Similarly, the upfront retainer cost to review the case, as well as the depth of the assessment will vary.
Contingency SEO Bloodsuckers
Attorneys have often been referred to as bloodsuckers, and it may be the contingency contract that has caused their reputation. Attorneys are persecuted for receiving huge amounts of money for what looks like an easy job. To their credit, we must remember that there is always a reason the client asks for them to take the case on contingency. The risk is shared, and so must be the reward. Like the attorney, if the contingency SEO does not meet the expectations, neither party benefits. That means the professional has spent their time on the client’s behalf, with the only reward being lost time. The responsibility of maintaining a marketable product or service offering lies outside of the SEO professional’s control. This exposure to potential loss on the part of the SEO must be carefully considered.
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