Pay for performance SEO services, also known as performance-based SEO, is nothing new under the sun. Some call it pay for results or pay for rankings.

Reasons pay for performance SEO services fail.Nevertheless, the goal of pay for performance SEO services is lessening the risk of standard SEO services by requiring customers to not pay until they have been ranked.

This sounds good at first glance, as pay for performance SEO services sounds like a no brainer that is sure to keep money in your pocket until SEOs perform their work.

I mean after all, companies have pay for performance pay structures that pay regular or bonus pay based on meeting certain company objectives.

So surely if it works for companies paying employees, then surely pay for performance can work for SEO services.

To some extent, we’ve all had an experience with some sort of pay for performance type of an agreement.

Some of us have had good experiences while others have had either bad or downright nightmares of being had by pay for performance agreements.

In this post, I share my top six (6) reasons why pay for performance SEO services fail for both SEOs and customers, and how both parties should go about structuring sound pay for performance SEO services and agreements to ensure a real “win-win” scenario and working relationship.

Customers engage and do business with SEO scammers

Much like the email phishing scams where scammers ask that you send your bank account number, routing number, and social security, the same type of scams happen in SEO although subtle.

Most of the time, SEO scammers are out to get you to pay a setup fee of some sort. Once you pay the setup fee, you never hear from them again, or it becomes a challenge to get SEO scammers to respond in any form of communication.

I can’t tell you the number of potential customer and customer calls I’ve received from people who have been duped by SEO scammers claiming to be white-hat SEO professionals.

Most of the time these so-called SEO professionals are pushing low-budget pay for performance SEO services that have a low monthly cost and a moderate to high setup cost. The catch is often a long-term agreement of twelve (12) or more months.

The SEO scammer customers have an agreement with are often not the ones performing the services. The low-budget pay for performance SEO services and agreements are often outsourced to other SEO companies or SEO services.

You don’t want a one-stop shop, but you sure don’t want the SEO professional outsourcing the core competency of the pay for performance SEO services.

One way to find out whether or not you’re dealing with a SEO scammer is to run a search on the company or person’s name. Try to find negative reviews or articles on the person or company so that you know what you’re dealing with.

In addition, be sure when you run a search to look beyond the first three (3) pages of search results. SEO scammers are typically smart enough to create positive content to suppress negative reviews and search results beyond page three (3) should any exist, also known as seo reputation management.

Customers don’t vet the full process of pay for performance SEO services

Regardless the type of SEO services your company is in search of, whether it be fixed price SEO, SEO retainer, pay for performance SEO, or SEO leased websites, it is important that you as the customer thoroughly understand the SEO services to be rendered in their entirety.

Another great example of pay for performance SEO services failing is due to the fact that customers don’t understand what they are signing up for.

Pay for performance SEO services sounds good in comparison to other SEO offerings. Most companies make the decision to enter into a pay for performance SEO services agreement based on the fact that there is not much, if any, upfront investment at all. Customers tend to be blinded by the “don’t pay until results happen” line.

Not every SEO professional or company offering pay for performance SEO services are out to screw you and your company over, but it is your responsibility to understand in complete transparency the full process of a pay for performance SEO services agreement.

No company offering pay for performance SEO services should ever offer you paid links of any type. If their service is predominantly paid links or solely nothing more than a link building strategy of buying or exchanging links, stay of this company as they are not offering white-hat pay for performance SEO services.

Many times, SEO scammers may disguise paid links as white-hat guest blogging, content scraping, forum and blog comment spamming, link wheels, minisites or buffer sites.

In short, ask many questions from a variety of angles when vetting a company’s pay for performance SEO services. Asking the right questions will help you position yourself and your company for optimal pay for performance SEO services success.

Lack of trust between customer and SEO Professional

I often have to decline work with customers who seek Kickstart Commerce’s pay for performance SEO services. I do so based on the lack of trust I have in our interactions.

For the few that I’ve not been able to trust, I find that we are unable to move forward due to dishonesty. Many times these potential customers fail to tell me that they’ve worked with other SEO agencies, unknowingly or knowingly participated in black-hat SEO, or lie about their premise.

For instance, I have had potential customers to want to engage in pay for performance services and blatantly neglect to tell me that the domain name they are using is only for churn and burn or has been a churn and burn website that was a part of bad seo link wheels.

In short, a churn and burn website is typically optimized using black-hat SEO tactics and have been severely penalized or de-indexed by search engines.

If potential clients don’t tell me detrimental things like this upfront, we both waste our time trying to rank something that cannot be ranked.

Another great example is customers that refuse to tell me they are working with multiple SEO professionals, both white-hat and black-hat SEOs, for the same website. How can you expect honest results when you’re not being honest in how you conduct business?

The same can be said for SEO professionals who don’t tell the truth and are not transparent about what types of tactics and strategies are used within their pay for performance SEO services.

For both customers and SEO professionals to be successful, there has to be a level of trust between both parties. Both parties have to put the other’s interest before their own, and do their very best to ensure integrity at all times. When there is not a level of trust between the customer and SEO professional, everyone loses.

Customers expect immediate results opposed to long-term results

I want your pay for performance SEO services, because I need results and I need results like yesterday. It’s the ole’ call me on a Monday, and expect results by Friday mentality without one regard for how search engines work, how long it takes to for SEO to work, and cost of SEO services.

I can tell you from experience that this is an SEO’s worst nightmare and customer from hell. This customer has no clue or concept that SEO is a long-term investment of time, money, and labor that never ends and is forever changing.

When I encounter this type of customer, I politely end the conversation and redirect them to my blog for some happy reading and education. Simply put, I don’t have time for customers with false SEO expectations that have not taken or made time to thoroughly investigate and understand the nuances of SEO.

Customers who expect “quick fix” results in weeks or months are focusing on the wrong SEO metrics. I say this because “results” is a relative term for both customers and SEOs.

Results could mean a traffic increase of X percent. Results could mean a conversion rate of X percent. Results could mean a revenue increase of X percent. Results could mean an increase in search rankings and results. And on and on and on.

My point is that results vary from customer to customer, and results should be considered on a case by case basis. No two customers or industries will ever look the same search marketing wise.

There is no one-size-fits-all pay for performance SEO services and the expected results to garner from implementing such SEO tactics and strategies. It’s imperative that pay for performance SEO services and results be in alignment with your company’s respective business plan and model.

Because no one has a lock on search engines or finite ranking manipulation, customers and SEOs must find common ground to level set on clear and concise expectations of pay for performance SEO services and expected results.

Websites are optimized and rank for irrelevant keywords

One of the biggest areas of concern for both SEOs and customers when entering into a pay for performance SEO services agreement is keywords.

Keywords are a crucial to the SEO success of pay for performance SEO services. If both the customer and SEO cannot agree on keyword terms, then the pay for performance SEO services is going to end on a sour note, an expensive one at that.

SEOs should be able to provide you with keyword matrix containing the number of competing pages and monthly search volume for each keyword. SEOs should not only provide you with those metrics for the keywords you provide the SEO, but the SEO should also provided you recommended keywords in addition.

I’ve seen a number of potential customers call Kickstart Commerce after engaging in pay for performance SEO services that ranked their website for irrelevant keywords or keywords that had low to no search volume.

The potential customers found their websites ranked and paying exuberant amounts of money for keywords that couldn’t produce an accidental visit. Simply put, the SEO disguised their pay for performance SEO services, yet took the easy way out, ranking their website for low competing keywords that had low to no search volume. This is blatant fraud and SEOs peddling such deceptive SEO services should be reported!

I always advise potential customers and customers to do your own keyword research when considering pay for performance SEO services. Tools such as, Google Keyword Planner, and are simple tools to use to find keyword search volume, competition, and competing page metrics.

Pay for Performance SEO Services agreement led to black-hat activity

One of the most common issues I see in pay for performance SEO services is the propensity for both SEOs and customers to be put in a place to apply black-hat activity.

Much like compensation in the workplace, if a compensation plan is not thoroughly thought through, planned, executed, measured, changed when needed, and sustained, then there will always be those employees that work the system and its loopholes to their advantage.

Just as the cheating and working of the system can be detrimental to a company’s financial health and employee morale, the same can be said for pay for performance SEO services when either the SEO or customer tries to work the system in their favor executing deceptive SEO strategies.

No matter the service offering, everyone, both customers and SEOs, has to have skin in the game. Everyone having skin in the game keeps everyone pure and honest.

It’s when pay for performance SEO services agreements aren’t agreed too or executed in a manner where risk is equally spread that both parties end up cheating the system to achieve what they deserve.

Sometimes this cheating of the system is to apply black-hat tactics and strategies all for the sake of ranking which then leads to payment.

I’ve seen potential customers have their websites ranked one month and lose rankings all because an SEO wanted to get paid in the short-term. I’ve also seen customers hire additional SEO help, breaching their contract, to get out of paying SEOs who performed an honest SEO towards ranking their website.

Everyone, both SEOs and customers, must consider, recognize and agree to the risk involved in executing pay for performance SEO services for everyone to win and not lose in any aspect of the agreement.

Timeline, keywords, cost of keywords, SEO tactics and strategies, payment obligation, investment terms in regards to time, money and effort, breach of contract terms, and clear expectations of results and result metrics, all of these things must be considered, agreed and adhered to by both parties for pay for performance SEO services not to fail.


Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.