SES: Show Me The SEM Money

    August 23, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

The search industry has attracted plenty of entrepreneurs who want to make a go of the SEM or SEO business. A session at SES San Jose talked about the all-important topic of what to charge for those services.

(Our on-scene WebProNews staff has passed along this latest news from SES San Jose 2007. If you can’t be there, you need to be here with WebProNews this week, for videos and reports.)

Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz led off the session by listing the types of services one might offer as an SEO:

1 – Standard SEO for keyword ranking

2 – Site auditing reports

3 – Standard consulting

4 – Keyword research reports

5 – Content creation and copywriting

6 – Link building

7 – Strategic planning / design

8 – Viral creation and promotion

9 – Social media marketing

10 – Reputation mangement/control

11 – Brand tracking/reporting

12 – Web development/web design

13 – Training and workshops

Pricing for such services, usually on an hourly basis, can vary greatly. Fishkin said rates range from $100 to $400 per hour, and in some places reach $1,000 an hour.

He offered examples of types of sites, the work they involve, and what would likely be charged. A travel industry site in need of keyword targeting, link-building, and a measurement/ROI calculation system could be a $24,000 prospect for the business.

Another property, a large media firm looking to train people internally on SEO, could generate a $25,000 fee for on-site SEO training, and consulting on search strategy. Follow-up consulting by phone and email would be part of the package.

Scalability of the services an SEO firm can offer has proved problematic. As the number of clients increase, the hours and the people in demand won’t be able to scale infinitely. It affects both what a client will pay, and what the SEO firm has to pay for talent to do the work.

Lance Loveday of Closed Loop Marketing talked about fees in general, saying they use a setup fee of two to three times what the monthly management fee will be.

Loveday also listed several variables that influence the fee: scale of work to be performed; new versus existing client; international or domestic reach; geo-targeting; size of client; estimate of time needed; he also jokingly noted the PITA factor as well.

Ken Jurina of Epiar said there are four typical ways to price search services:

1 – Retainer-based, 2k – 50k range

2 – Pay for performance (% sales increase etc)

3 – Fee for service models $2,500 – $1 million project based with finite scope

4 – Hourly consultation

Experience in the industry plays a part in what one can charge for search marketing. Jurina said those with an established role in it can charge market rates. Someone new to the industry may have to price a job at what they need to survive and grow for the future.

Mike Murray of Fathom SEO offered a suggestion in closing, on the topic of right-to-cancel policies. "I’d really suggest you don’t do those," he said. "They really suck."