How to Charge More for SEO

“Everyone wants cheap SEO!”
“Leads balk at my SEO prices!”
“Everyone wants to rank, but they don’t want to pay!”

If you’ve ever muttered these words to yourself, you’re not alone.

With cheap SEO services proliferating on the web like last-minute hotel deals, many clients wrongly believe that SEO is something you slap on a credit card for $99 a month while the ranking fairies do their work. If you’re a new freelancer or run an SEO company, this can feel disheartening as you wonder how to compete against the low-cost SEO guys.

I understand this situation 100%. When I was just starting out, I did SEO work for super cheap. Back then, my aim was to get clients through the door (while competing with those cheap SEO guys). But as time went on, I came to understand the bottom-line value (big dollars!) that I was bringing to my clients, and that it was time to charge properly for my work.

So, while you may be tempted to sell yourself short, I’m here to say you don’t have to wait until your self-confidence increases to charge fair prices for SEO. You should do it right from the get-go.

Reasons to Avoid Bargain Basement SEO

Besides the fact that cheap SEO is often associated with shady services offering sub-par performance, lowering your prices hurts the entire SEO market. If everyone were to lower their prices to compete with the fly-by-night SEO operations, we’d all lose the value of business: our income!

If you’re reading this, please don’t stoop to the level of the SEO scammers that charge $99 a month for crappy (yeah, I said it) SEO that doesn’t work — and more importantly, you don’t have to.

How do I know this?

Through years of experience working with clients, I’ve learned how it works:

A potential client contacts me for SEO help. By the time they pick up the phone to talk to me, they have burned through multiple cheap SEO companies. You know, the kind of SEO outfits with bad service and inexperienced implementation teams, all using a siloed approach to SEO that just doesn’t work.

Like so many others, they bought the lie of cheap SEO.

You can’t really blame them though. The fact is, most people don’t know the difference between good and bad SEO. Nor are they aware that really bad SEO could even get them penalized by Google. So, not knowing any better, they shop around and go with the cheapest SEO provider they can find.

But as time goes on, they don’t get any results. Frustrated, they quit the first company and choose another cheap SEO company, thinking it was just bad luck. Time goes on again, they get burned again — but this time, they throw up their hands and say, “This SEO stuff just doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, their competitors continue to outrank them. They hear customers, family, and friends gushing about how they found this or that cool thing on Google. They realize that other businesses are getting more visibility on search engines while they’re not, and they need to do something about it.

The light finally turns on and they realize that not doing SEO is costing them more than paying a fair market price for proper SEO. They are now ready to become your client.

Why Your Clients Want Conversions, Not SEO

Have you ever considered that conversions that lead to cold, hard cash for clients is the ultimate goal of the SEO process? While we don’t always think about it this way, SEO is in fact lead generation. Your clients are paying you so they’ll get more phone calls, more emails, more feet in the door, and more money in the bank.

Consider this: If you came knocking on their door to sell them legitimate business leads, you could charge anywhere from $5 to thousands of dollars per lead (depending on the type of business they run). The funny thing is, when you call it SEO, suddenly people don’t want to pay a fair price for the leads that SEO generates. There’s a big disconnect for most people until they understand the goal of SEO is conversions.

How to Charge Big Bucks for SEO

If you’re not getting as much compensation for your SEO work as you’d like, I’m fairly certain a big part of the problem is how you’re selling your SEO.

Are you selling it like this?

  • “Dear Mr. Jones, I can help increase your website rankings.”
  • “Dear Ms. Smith, I can get more people to your website.”

While those statements may be true, it’s not the most effective way to sell your services.

Instead, are you selling it like this?

  • “Dear Mr. Jones, what if I could get you an extra 50 phone calls to your business per month? Does that sound good?”
  • “Dear Ms. Smith, what if I could get 25 people per month to buy gluten-free bread from your online store? Would that help your bottom line?

Heck yeah! That’s going to get their attention.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the key to selling SEO is showing customers exactly what they’re actually paying for: Conversions. Of course, you can’t guarantee an exact number of conversions, but the takeaway here is:

Focusing on conversions will shift their focus from abstract clicks to concrete dollars. Talking to them this way changes everything.

Then, you can do some simple ROI calculations to determine what you can charge in exchange for this value.

For example, if you believe that your SEO work can bring in an extra 25 customers per month (worth $200 each), that’s $5000 more in your clients pocket. You can then base your fee on the predicted ROI. Make sure to be conservative. You don’t want to over promise and under deliver.

You could charge a percentage of those sales, an hourly rate or a flat monthly fee. But thinking about pricing this way will help you see more clearly about the value you’re creating and what you can charge for that value.

How Comparative SEO Pricing Gets Clients to Sign on the Dotted Line

While we’re on pricing, it’s a great idea to give your clients more than one price option. It’s a cool tactic called “comparative pricing.”

Comparative pricing involves offering a client two similar products, one with a high price and one with a low price. By positioning the higher-priced option next to the lower-priced one, it immediately makes the lower-priced one seem more attractive. After all, wouldn’t you rather get an SEO plan for $2000/mo. vs. $10,000/mo? Especially, if you feel the $2000 one will give you a similar value as the more expensive one?

It seems simplistic, but it’s a time-tested strategy that works, thanks to a cognitive bias known as “price anchoring.”

Price anchoring refers to the tendency for a person to place a greater emphasis on the first price they’re shown. For example, if you show someone a house selling for $600,000, then show them a similar one up the street for $350,000. They’ll think the second house is a bargain by comparison.

In this example, the $600,000 house works as the price anchor, which a buyer will use as the standard by which they compare other prices. This tactic even works on real estate professionals (they’re human, after all).

So, by placing your premium SEO options next to standard ones, you can help nudge your client toward the price option that not only fits their budget, but convinces them they’re getting a fair deal. This also helps them to feel more in control of the transaction and happier about any decision they ultimately make.

By using these smart pricing strategies and more, I believe that over time (and by sticking to our guns), the SEO industry will grow up and SEO scammers with their cheap prices will be old news.

Looking for more guidance on running a successful SEO business? Check out “Bring Home the Bacon“.

About Dani Owens

Dani Owens, the owner of Pigzilla, has been in the digital marketing field since 2011. Her resources have been mentioned and shared by local SEO experts such as Eric Ward, Darren Shaw, Phil Rozek, Marie Haynes, David Mihm and Local U. From small, independent Mom-and-Pop shops, to enterprises with thousands of locations, Dani Owens has years of experience strategizing and implementing reliable local SEO tactics that lead to increased organic traffic and conversions.