What Do We Buy From An SEO Agency? - Semalt Expert 

The most vulnerable and painful topic for customers of SEO services will always be their money. By and large, businesses don't care who they pay. But how much, when and, most importantly, for what - this is the first thing that interests customers, and for good reason. The market for SEO services is so saturated with different offers that it is not enough to just choose the cheapest option or contact the most famous company.

For the contractor's services to meet the format and tasks of the business as much as possible, in addition to everything else, you will have to understand the specifics of pricing and the terms of payment for services.

SEO service payment formats

There are several payment options based on different KPIs. Each of them has logic, each has its advantages, risks, and pitfalls. Let's take a closer look at the four most commonly used payment models.

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1. Payment for positions

This payment scheme is as old as SEO itself. The customer contributes to the subscription fee plus remuneration or requests that the SEO Company has brought to the top of the search results for the agreed period.

How does it work?

The list of key phrases is discussed at the initial stage of cooperation. In the course of its work, the SEO Company daily collects information about the positions of the site according to the agreed pool of requests and, at the end of the month, issues an invoice to the client for those keys that during this period occupied top positions in the search.

It is important to bear in mind here that the price of promotion to the top of different key phrases is not the same. It will depend on the competitiveness of the topic, the region of promotion, and the frequency of the request.

What sort of difficulties can be met?
  • It is a real art to agree on a pool of keywords that will suit both the customer and the SEO. If the client is eager to be at the top at once for all high-frequency queries in the topic, then the SEO agency wants to work with keywords that are easier to promote. Here it is important to find a compromise in which the business gets the right positions, and the contractor gets a commensurate salary for his labor.
  • It is very difficult to collect reliable statistics on query positions. The first reason is personalized search results. Even for users from the same demographic and region, search results can vary greatly. The second reason is the different search algorithms for mobile and desktop devices.
  • The release of requests to the top cannot always be confidently called the agency's merit. Sometimes the reason may be external factors that do not depend on the efforts of optimizers: a change in the search engine algorithm, seasonal demand, and even the socio-political situation in the country.
  • When paying for positions, the risk of playing in gray SEO is too high, when the contractor tries to achieve the result by cheating on behavioral factors, mass buying links, creating satellites, etc. All this is quite easily recognized by search engines, and sooner or later the site will come under sanctions.
Spare yourself the problems associated with SEO agencies by visiting semalt.com today.

2. Pay for organic traffic

A younger, but also common form of payment for SEO services. Here, the basis for the calculation is the volume of traffic that came to the site from a search engine during a month. To this price is added a fixed subscription fee, which the customer is obliged to make regardless of the results of the promotion.

How does it work?

At the start of the work, SEO specialists measure the current traffic on the site and take it as a starting point. It is believed that all organic non-branded traffic that came to the site over this amount is the result of search engine promotion, while unscrupulous contractors consider the growth of all traffic to be the result of the work.

Then, taking into account the theme, seasonality, and other factors, the price of each unique visitor to the site is calculated. At the end of the reporting period, the resulting value is multiplied by the amount of traffic attracted. It is regarded that the more unique visitors came to the site, the better the agency has performed and the more reward it will receive.

What sort of difficulties can be met?

It would seem that everything is extremely logical and fair: if there is traffic - the client pays, there is no traffic - the client will still receive a minimum set of work with the site corresponding to the monthly fee (optimization, content, etc.). Everything is so if you do not take into account the important nuances:
  • Website traffic is highly dependent on seasonality and niche trends. At the height of the season or during the hype around the topic, the number of visitors will grow, and the customer will pay extra money for those indicators that would have been achieved without the participation of the agency.
  • In bad months, when traffic growth is weak, you still have to pay the subscription fee. At the same time, the business will receive a sharp jump in the cost of one visitor.
  • The amount of traffic is not equal to quality. Even if the influx of visitors to the site exceeds all the wildest expectations of the client, there is no guarantee that as a result, the business will benefit from this in the form of real deals and profits. The customer can hedge himself by offering the agency to include the conversion in the contract. But this indicator is influenced by too many factors (pricing policy, site design, etc.) that optimizers cannot influence within the framework of one SEO. Therefore, agencies are very reluctant to make concessions to customers.
  • If an agency practices gray-scale SEO, chances are high that traffic will be artificially driven. For the customer, this means not just a waste of the budget and lost profits, but also the risk of falling under search engine filters.
Indeed, this is the main reason that justifies making sure to collaborate with professional SEO agencies such as Semalt, which offers services out of the ordinary.

3. Pay for leads

Another completely transparent payment scheme that is especially popular among marketers. In this case, the client will pay a subscription fee and premium for targeted actions committed by site visitors.

How does it work?

When drawing up a contract, the customer and the agency agree on a list of leads that will be monitored. Then the client will have to pay only for these actions. The lead can be leaving contact information, calling, ordering from the site, requesting a consultation, etc.

It is much more difficult for an agency to provide targeted actions than traffic or positions in the top, so the cost of a lead and the size of a monthly fee will always be higher with this form of payment.

What sort difficulties can be met?

  • This format of work requires the agency to attract strong analysts and SEO specialists, as well as a large support team, ready to quickly make improvements on the site. Due to the high resource consumption, agencies agree to work on this payment scheme with only a small number of clients. As a rule, these are well-known brands or strong businesses.
  • Getting a lead doesn't mean that the purchase will be made. There are several times more paid targeted actions than orders. Taking into account the relatively high cost of the targeted action (add a subscription fee to it), those "blank shots" can be costly for the business.
  • When cooperating with unscrupulous agencies, there is a risk of artificially increasing the volume of applications. Given that contractors are not responsible for converting leads into real customers, the temptation to "complete the plan" this way is very strong.

4. Payment for work

By contacting an SEO agency with this payment option, the customer will have to pay for a fixed scope of work... Their goal is to achieve a certain result, which is not directly spelled out in the contract. The SEO agency is responsible for the client only for the complete and timely completion of the work.

Fulfillment of the full list of site work on time is the only thing that entirely depends on the agency. This is the only way an SEO company can give a 100% guarantee. With this option, the provision of SEO services is as transparent as possible.

How does it work?

The list of services is formed taking into account what kind of promotion budget the client is ready to allocate. At the stage of approval, the entire pool of works is evenly distributed over several months (usually at least six). At the same time, the customer takes an active part in the work of the contractor on the project: promptly approves or makes improvements on the website on his own. Every month, the client is provided with a report on what has been done over the past period. Close cooperation between the client and the contractor is one of the principles of the project approach, which we wrote about earlier.

Another option for distributing the budget is in the areas of optimization: for technical improvements, content support, and the purchase of links. A larger amount of funds is allocated to the direction that sags more, or to the one from which the best effect is expected.

What sort of difficulties can be met?
  • When promoting with payment for work, all participants are maximally involved in the process, including the customer himself. It will not work just to pay money and wait for the result. Communication between the agency and the client should be perfectly established, and the client should be ready to react with lightning speed to the recommendations of specialists. It is good if the company has a full-time marketer who can be fully responsible for interaction with the contractor.
  • If the site has a large number of technical problems, fixing them may not fit into the promotion budget. Therefore, the client must have additional funds necessary to improve the site, or the company must have its own web developer.

How are SEO services priced?

For the successful promotion of the project, it is necessary to do a certain amount of work, individual for each site. The list and scope of these works are formed based on the results of the iterative analysis. In this case, the price tag for SEO services is formed depending on which specialists will participate in the work on the project and how many hours must be spent on the work. Then the number of man-hours of each specialist is multiplied by the hour rate.

As a rule, several specialists take part in the work on a project.

1. Leading SEO specialist

Performs the bulk of the work, forms the core of requests, and is responsible for the entire site optimization strategy.

2. Junior SEO Specialist

Assists the leading specialist, takes on some of the optimization tasks.

3. Account manager

It is the link between clients and the agency. He answers customer questions, is responsible for the timely approval of improvements, collects feedback.

4. Copywriters and Editors 

Responsible for writing high-quality texts on terms of reference for SEO-optimizers. Copywriters and Editors... Responsible for writing high-quality texts on terms of reference for SEO-optimizers.

5. Link-builder

Its task is to compose and implement a link strategy.

6. Developer 

Carries out the completion of the site (speed optimization, changes in the structure, setting up response codes, displaying tags, and headers).

Also, the cost of SEO services includes additional items of expenses for the revision of the site, the purchase of links (if necessary), web analytics, and automation services. All these costs are present at almost every stage of promotion. From month to month, only their percentage changes. For example, at the start of work, a lot of money will be spent on writing texts and less on purchasing links, then the situation changes, and with it the distribution of the budget. At the same time, the working hours of the project team remain the basis for pricing.


Alas, the ideal payment model for SEO services, which would be equally profitable and convenient for all parties to the contract, has not yet been invented. Each of the described schemes has its own advantages and disadvantages. The option that will be optimal for a large federal company will not suit the newly created online store. Therefore, customers will have to weigh the pros and cons and choose the option that best suits their needs and capabilities.

In this case, the ideal for entrepreneurs is to refer to professional SEO people such as Semalt in order to avoid the many problems related to expenses without expected results.

When choosing a contractor with one or another form of payment, we recommend starting from how the proposed model is:
  • understandable and transparent... Ask yourself the question: "Do I know exactly what I'm paying for?";
  • financially adequate... Calculate how much the final result of the work will cost you;
  • meets the long-term development goals of the project... Analyze how much the promised result will bring you closer to your strategic goal.
Evaluate each suggestion on these three points and make a decision. But remember: the blind pursuit of the lowest price is a direct path to low results and overpayment in the future.

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