A Reasonable Price to Pay for SEO?

    January 24, 2007

SEO Question: What is a reasonable price to pay for professional SEO services?

SEO Answer: There is never a cut and dry answer to the question, but typically the range should be somewhere along the amount of value it adds to your business. For example, if you are only paying a few hundred dollars and expect the person to add millions of dollars to your business, then you are also expecting them to be naive and ignorant to marketing and their market value.

If they are ignorant to marketing and their market value then the odds of them being a great marketer or providing great results are going to be pretty low. As SEO evolves it is becoming more about marketing and understanding markets. If an SEO can’t sell themselves for a decent rate then how are they going to know your market well enough to integrate your business into your marketplace?

Good Marketing is an Investment:

An alternate angle to look at the price of SEO is to look at it from an investment standpoint. For many businesses it is a price outside of their reach because most SEOs do not offer much in the line of guarantees AND most sites are easy to clone. The easy to clone concept is one you don’t hear discussed much because most businesses probably do not customers to think they would use potential customers for competitive research and niche discovery, but why wouldn’t you?

Bad Marketing is a Cost:

I recently emailed back and forth with a new SEO who was trying to outsource the SEO on his own SEO service website. It is going to be hard to add value and understand how social networks work if you don’t at least do it well on one of your own sites. But if a person does SEO for their own SEO site it makes it easier to visualize the hubs and authorities in other markets.

When you hire someone you are paying them both to work and to learn. If they are well versed in their trade they are learning how to apply what they know about their industry to your business. If they are not you are paying them to (at least try to) learn about their industry. I write that both as a person who has been paid a premium to apply trade knowledge, and as a person who provided lower value services as a low price point while getting paid to learn.

What Value Does Your Business Offer?

If I can have no interest in a topic, start from scratch, and clone the market position of a business in under a week then they have not done a good job of building value on their end, and if I have to add near endless value to their business for their business to have any value at all I am better off creating a similar site myself, such that

  • I can work on it whenever I want
  • I can market it as aggressively as I want
  • I can add value where the client was unwilling to because they thought it was too risky
  • if it looks like it is going to fail I can stop working on it at any time
  • I don’t have client approvals slowing me down
  • I keep all the profits
  • it can create a passive recurring revenue stream
  • even if it does fail I can use the site for nepotistic reasons down the road

When you think about it over half the businesses around the world are probable just arbitrage plays (depending on how loosely you define arbitrage). The difference between SEO and most other arbitrage business models is that SEO is cheaper, more targeted, and more scalable. But it only stays scalable and fun if you realize the value of what you do and place yourself high on the value chain.

If a business does not add much real value and is easy to replicate then they should view everyone they talk to as a potential competitor, at least until their business has some tangible value that takes significant investment to replicate.

As an SEO or affiliate marketer one of the first questions you have to ask when evaluating a competitive market or potential customer is how hard would it be to clone what they are doing. If a business is easy to clone you are probably better off just creating your own business that would be harder to clone, outrank them, and then sell leads.



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Aaron Wall is the author of SEO Book, an ebook offering the latest
search engine optimization tips and strategies. From SEOBook.com Aaron
gives away free advice and search engine optimization tools. He is a
regular conference speaker, partner in Clientside SEM, and runs the
Threadwatch community.