It was an interesting conversation between a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) business development person and a prospective customer. The prospective customer had scoffed at the SEO person’s sales pitch about them offering “Performance Based SEO Services”, saying Performance Based Services of any kind in life is not a luxury but a fundamental requirement. When a courier company takes in a parcel, they are expected to perform, not take a chance with the delivery of the parcel and say, “you pay only if we manage to deliver this parcel!
The business development person, for a moment taken aback, stood firm his ground. He asked the prospect, “Can you find a tutor to your daughter who will take his or her fees only if your daughter stands first in class exams?, Can you find a football coach for your son’s university team, who is ready to be compensated only if the team becomes the champions in the regional tournament?” It was a good counter attack by the SEO person, for the prospect started seeing merit in his argument.
Broadly, you can classify most of the functions into two classes –
1. Functions, whose result is not given to chance and can be predicted and
2. Functions, whose results are given to chance and can’t be predicted with certainty.
If delivering a courier comes in the first class of functions, coaching a football comes in the second class. One of the common factors among the second class of functions is that there is competition, leading to uncertainty. Your courier is not subjected to competition with other parcels, thus you can control the end result, whereas the football team has to compete with other teams and its own performance depends on other teams’, on which you have no control.
The role of a search engine optimizers is also more or less similar to that of a tutor’s. The website (football team) has to perform in a search engine (the tournament). The standing of the website in a search engine is not a function of its own performance, but is in relation with other websites’ performance. Given these uncertainties, the SEO (Coach), cannot depend on an uncertain result to meet their certain day-to-day expenses, but charge a retainer fee. Better the reputation of a Coach based on past performance, the higher his fees.
Is Performance Based SEO possible then? Yes, possible. Lets imagine a football coach. He offers to take up a result-based compensation. But before doing so, he wants to assess the team he is going to coach, know about their opponents and the resources available to coach the team. If he can convince himself that he can coach the team he is given using the resources available to be good enough to beat the teams they are up against, he will take up the job. If the opponents are too strong, and/or given team is too weak, he will decline the job. Similarly, if an SEO company can convince themselves as they can get a website to rank for a given set of keywords (objective), using given resources, they may offer a performance based SEO.