Pay for Performance SEO (What Is It, Top Services & Pricing)

In this article, you’ll learn all about pay for performance SEO.

Not only will you get the definition of performance based SEO, but you’ll also get a list of the top advantages and disadvantages of using a search engine optimization company that offers this pricing model for digital marketing.

Additionally, you’ll find some of the top providers that offer performance based SEO services along with a sample pricing chart so you know how much money you can expect to pay to increase your keyword rankings and website traffic if you do decide to hire one of these types of companies.

Consider this your ultimate pay for performance SEO information guide to help you make the best decision possible for outsourcing your search engine optimization tasks.

Pay for performance SEO

What Is Pay for Performance SEO?

Pay for performance SEO is a payment model that guarantees you only pay for SEO services after you see results for your website. Performance based SEO services and pricing works by setting goals based on increases in search engine rankings, website traffic, or revenue.

Advantages of Performance Based SEO

No Initial Payment Contracts

The top advantage of performance based SEO is that there are no payment contracts. This is a great benefit for the client because you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for SEO services.

In the standard agency SEO pricing model, the client has to pay a retainer for the hours the agency performs for keyword research, link building, on-page optimization, and technical SEO updates.

Guaranteed Results

Another reason people like to use pay for performance SEO companies is because results are practically guaranteed.

From the client’s perspective: No results equals no payment.

Cancel Any Time Without a Fee

If you look at the contact for many SEO agencies that use the standard paid pricing model for search engine optimization services, you’ll often find a clause that says you must give at least 30 days notice before canceling the contract. There may also be a cancellation fee regardless if you give that formal notice or not.

This is not so with performance based SEO marketing agencies. Because the results are based on results, you can typically cancel at any time without incurring a fee if you’re not seeing positive results from the SEO campaign.

Higher Keyword Rankings

Another advantage of investing in pay for perfomance SEO is that the company has a strong incentive to get you higher keyword rankings. Ranking high in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing is the cornerstone to receiving more website traffic and revenue for your business.

Therefore, you’re almost guaranteed to get higher keyword rankings when you’re using a performance based SEO agency. Again, if rankings go down or stay the same, you don’t pay anything.

More Website Traffic

Similar to the previous benefit, a pay-as-you-go SEO model will help you get more website traffic because the agency has an incentive to drive more organic visitors to your website. If traffic goes down or stays flat, then the company won’t receive any money for their services.

Increased Conversions

Another advantage of using performance SEO agencies is the potential increase in conversions. Not every benchmark for success has to be measured by keyword rankings and traffic.

With some companies, you can make the conversion rate a top priority for your website which will incentive the team to drive the most qualified traffic to your highest performing web pages and work on ways to make them convert more visitors into customers.

Disadvantages of Performance Based SEO

Only Focused On Short-Term Results

The main disadvantage of performance based SEO pricing model is that these types of agencies are typically focused on short-term results for their clients. They are not thinking about the long-term results that a particular search engine optimization strategy can lead to.

Under the pay for performance SEO mindset, strategic partnerships or tactics that could lead to exponential growth in the future are often neglected in exchange for a quick win so the agency can earn your money.

However, good SEO should also be thought of as a long-term business strategy. It can take time to build up website domain authority and a strong presence for your brand in the search engines, which may not bring immediate benefits based on short-term SEO tactics.

SEO Budget Can Be More Than Expected

Another problem with performance based SEO is that it’s hard to budget for as a business. One month you may owe nothing to the agency because no results were attained; however the next month you may pay an exorbitant amount of money because a lot of good results came in for your website. So it can be difficult to estimate exactly how much do SEO services cost when choosing this pricing model.

Many SEO agencies that use this performance pricing model do not cap their fees for the month because it’s results-oriented. That means you must pay the fee regardless if your business can afford it or not.

Additionally, some companies will charge you indefinitely for a certain result that’s been achieved. For example, you may pay $500 to reach the top 1-5 ranking positions on Google for a target keyword and then be billed every month in the future while that position is being maintained. (See the “Performance Based SEO Pricing” table at the end of this guide for more details.)

Narrowly Focused SEO Performance

Pay-as-you-go SEO programs are almost entirely focused on a particular result. That means none of the other important SEO or user experience metrics matter.

For example, you may hire a peformance based SEO service to help your website rank higher in Google for a specific keyword that matters most for your business. Or, you may agree that a certain number of daily visitors must be achieved to receive payment for services rendered.

While there’s nothing wrong with aiming for those particular outcomes, being so narrowly focused on a single result can come at the expense of other areas of your website faltering. For instance, you may see an increase in rankings in the SERPs for one target keyword but other keyword positions fall because their not getting proper optimization.

Similarly, in this other article on the topic of how much does Google My Business cost, it shows the average Googe My Business pricing for hiring out GMB management, which only includes SEO for ranking a GMB profile; not the website itself.

Poor Keyword Targeting

A common tactic some performance SEO agencies use to gain credibility with their clients—and easy money—is to target obscure or really long tail keywords during the SEO campaign. This allows them to rank high in the SERPs, often in the #1 to #3 positions, and bill their client for the work.

While those high rankings may seem like the SEO company is doing a great job for your website, the truth is that these keyword positions are nothing more than a vanity metric. If users are not actively searching for those keywords on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, then having a #1 ranking position for the search queries will not bring any positive benefit to your business.

In other words, the agency gets paid while you get no positive return on your investment.

SEO Benchmarks Can Be Ambiguous

In this other guide on SEO benchmarks, you’ll find a list of 25 key performance indicators (KPIs) you can measure for search engine optimization peformance. However, in the world of digital marketing, it can often be ambiguous as to what action led to a particular result.

For example, you may be working with a performance based agency that’s doing on-page optimization for a specific URL on your website. But then that web page gets shared on social media by one of your visitors which leads to a massive increase in traffic.

As you can imagine, the person who gets credit for this positive result can be questionable. Was it the agency’s SEO team who better optimized the page or was it the visitor who shared the link on social media?

Regardless of what action actually helped your website get more traffic, you’ll probably find yourself having to pay the SEO service for the improved visibility. Even if you can prove through Google Analytics that the traffic came from social media, the agency may attribute their on-page SEO updates to why the web page got found in the first place. As you can see, things can get sticky here when you pay for results according to a specific SEO metric.

Black Hat SEO Tactics Could Be at Play

Referring back to the first disadvantage of using pay for performance SEO service, a program like this requires the agency to get fast results for their website clients. And unfortunately, that pressure can cause the company to take shortcuts by using black hat SEO techniques that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

When black hat SEO is being used to manipulate search engine algorithms into ranking a website higher than it should for certain keywords or sending traffic to a web page that it doesn’t deserve, the end results can be devastating for the site owner.

Shady SEO tactics often cause a manual or algorithmic penalty that leads to a severe drop in rankings and/or a website disappearing from search results by being completely deindexed.

Therefore, if you ever choose to use a pay for performance SEO service, then you should demand complete transparency for every search engine optimization technique that’s being used. And if the company won’t provide those details to you, then you should not enter into an agreement with them for their services.

Peformance Based SEO Services

A quick Google search shows multiple performance based SEO services you can choose between to manage your search engine optimization tasks. Below are the top results for these types of companies so you can do further research and compare quotes to get the best deal.

  • Digital Exchange UK
  • Elite Site Optimizer
  • Fiverr sellers
  • Green Banana SEO
  • Mind Mingles
  • RankPay
  • Search Engine Monkey
  • SEOGame
  • SERP Wizard
  • ThinkBigSites

Performance Based SEO Pricing

Below is an example of performance based SEO pricing for keyword rankings and website traffic goals. Every agency will have its own pricing schedules; however, this table can give you a general idea of what you can expect to pay for certain types of performance results.

TypeSEO Performance MetricPrice
Keyword RankingsPositions #1-3$500
Keyword RankingsPositions #4-6$300
Keyword RankingsPositions #7-10$200
Keyword RankingsPositions #10-20$100
Keyword RankingsPositions #21-30$50
Website TrafficDaily Page Visitors 501+$1,000
Website Traffic Daily Page Visitors 101-500$700
Website Traffic Daily Page Visitors 51-100$300
Website Traffic Daily Page Visitors 11-50$200
Website Traffic Daily Page Visitors 5-10$50

Note: This pay for performance SEO table does not include every benchmark you can measure for search engine optimization. For example, you may want to work with an agency that can deliver higher conversion rates for a specific web page. In that case, the terms of the payment agreement will vary based on the value of those customers. The price may be based on a commission rate rather than a flat fee.

Performance Based SEO

Pay for Performance SEO Summary

I hope you enjoyed this guide on pay for performance SEO.

As you discovered, performance based SEO services have their pros and cons with the top advantage being that you only have to pay for positive results. However, even though it may seem like you’re guaranteed to have success with an SEO campaign like this, the pay performance SEO pricing model doesn’t incentive long-term or holistic digital marketing strategies.

The results of pay-as-you-go SEO are meant to be quick for both the client (for higher keyword rankings and traffic) and the agency (to get paid) and the methods of attaining a target goal may not always include the best SEO practices. Therefore, having complete transparency with the SEO service you choose is important for the long-term health and performance of your website.