What advice would you give newcomers to the SEM & SEO industry when pricing a SEO/SEM project to a client ? Do you prefer big businesses & brands SEO/ SEM or smaller niche sites SEO/ SEM ?

seo pricing

Shaun Anderson, Hobo-web

The more you charge, typically the more is expected of you. But no matter what a client is paying you, they expect a campaign to produce results, so make sure you're as transparent as possible and manage expectations from the outset.

I charge clients for how many hours I use in the studio to do various things. I prefer smaller clients with an obsessive aim to become the best in their field – with a moderate budget to invest – who keep you on your toes until you know their business inside out – and then leave you alone when they have 100% confidence in you. You become a very important part of a small client's business success, your more likely to keep the client for years, and I like that.


Will Critchlow, Distilled

Most newcomers under-price. I definitely did. If you don't have a lot of business experience (as well as being new to the SEO field), you probably don't really understand big company budgets or have a grasp on quite how much money you can make your clients!

We probably have the most fun working with high energy start-ups where we can influence the entire business. But we probably make the most money for established brands who need a nudge or two in the right direction.


Neil Walker, SEO Mad

Traditionally I have worked on the SEM market as appose to big business SEO, but I do have experience in both.

Cost is difficult, smaller clients seem infatuated with where specific keyword rank and expect a lot for the small budget they are paying, however Big businesses are difficult to move forward quickly.

In terms of costing there are various models, my advice would be set an hourly rate for consultation and base a sale around the traffic generation (people want leads but this fall slightly into CRO) and with changes to personal search specific, keyword rankings become less important as appose to lots of ranking under head, mid and long tail terms.


Neil Pursey, Web Growth

Focus on value for money. When you are starting out as a small business, get clients that are small and dynamic. If you own a large agency or development/design house and have corporate clients already, then employ a good SEO strategist and content team that understands SEO.

From there build on structures and disciplines within the team. The key for any size SEO company is to manage the clients expectations and communicate clearly with them. Clients don't understand what we do so putting everything in lay mans terms really helps.

We've also found that keeping a time sheet and details into what was completed for the month has helped us remain accountable and it's clear to the client that they are getting their return on investment.


Tom Critchlow, Distilled

I think pricing should be all about ROI. Look at what the client can pay and figure out something that will bring them value within that range. There’s no use in pitching the “perfect” SEO project if they can’t afford it, or worse that they agree to pay it but it’s too much money for them to get return from it.


Peter Handley, The Media Flow

Up until this stage of my career, I’ve not been involved in the pricing aspects of a campaign, and in my former role, we had a fully managed model. This is going to change moving forwards in my new role, but its not something I yet have enough experience with to offer an informed enough opinion.

Do I prefer Big Business SEO or Small Niche sites is a tough question. I’ve worked with both types of clients over the years, and each has its pros and cons. Big sites that I’ve worked on, with tons of authority already in place have been swift to gain “quick wins” as a result of dialling the on page items that may be hampering top notch performance. But as I have mentioned above in an earlier answer, at times it can be cumbersome to get that work pushed through and you often have to make compromises in places where you would rather not have too.

Working with smaller more niche sites can be more challenging in terms of the competition you can come up against in terms of brands.
But if its a niche that only gets partly covered by a big brand you can really carve that niche out for yourself and dominate the search results through a mix of techniques – your typically on page work, but also utilising universal search to grab more of that page 1 “real estate”.


Sam Crocker, samuelcrocker.com

I like a bit of both to be honest. In my day job I work pretty much exclusively with big businesses and brands but all of the freelance work that I take on is for smaller (sometimes hungrier) newcomers.

Pricing is difficult but knowing your worth is essential. At the end of the day I like to tie everything back to the value that I’m adding and the overall worth of the channel (usually non-brand SEO, new content, etc.) before naming my price.

However, for freelance work I tend to stick to an hourly rate that varies somewhat on the project. If I have free time and really want experience, I’ll make it clear to the client and go in with a fairly affordable price (that would be competitive in the market). If I don’t have the free time or I’m not dying to get involved in the vertical then I’ll often try to price myself out of the market – and if they happen to take me on anyways, I give it my all and try to ensure that the value I add outweighs my cost to the client.

When working with big clients the best advice I can offer is to put part of your fee on the line in a performance related fee (PRF) or similar model. It shows your investment in making it work for the brand.

Finally, always try to tie it back to dollars and cents and make sure everyone understands WHY the client is investing in online marketing and be honest with them about whether it is the right time for them to be dropping a huge chunk of money on SEO or PPC if they don’t have any KPIs or opportunities to convert in any valuable sense on their online properties.


Paul Rogers, GPMD

I would always do that little bit of extra work with the data to illustrate the potential of the work you're doing – selling is always easier if you let the figures do the talking. I would also stress that it is ok to turn down work if you don't have lots of time or it means compromising the work you're doing for existing clients.

Bigger brands are great, however I personally would prefer to work on a client that is fully behind what I'm doing, has a strong team and product and is ambitious about moving forward, over a big brand that comes with restrictions. Having said this, my experience of working with large brands is limited.


Steve Lock, Analyticsseo (iseo)

Great question! This is really tough, but research I have read suggests that across digital marketing agencies a little over 50% of contracts are over-serviced i.e. too much time is spent on them. The way to combat this is to constantly review and get good at breaking projects down, then estimating each part. Then quoting future projects based on previous ones.

Pricing services and calculating ROI on projects can be almost as challenging as the SEO itself. This combined with managing client expectations are parts of the industry that are really difficult to get right without experience and, as a result, are really easy to get wrong at the start.


Grant Whiteside, Amber Green

We prefer big companies; smaller websites are so much hard work with massive expectations and
tiny budgets.


Hamlet Batista

If you are starting out, work for free for charities or churches that you care about. Document the results you get for them and use them as references to paying clients. Try not to price your work based on the number of hours you work, but based on a realistic ROI that you can get for your client. You will be taken more seriously if your proposal is more inline with the client's business goals.

I prefer to work for big businesses and brands, but you won't sign a single one if you don't have client references.


Nickolass Jensen

Advice: Make them pay for a small SEO Audit, or a SEO analysis where you take everything into consideration. Ask the about their prioritized target groups and their competion. Other marketrelated efforts. Compare it to the market.

Do a SWOT and show it. Tell them where they can compete in the short term, and in the longterm, and tell them what you think it takes to take them there. Don't boast, just stick to facts and trends and give them an idea about how you can help them, and what consequenses it will have.

Ask them how needy or how patient they are. Do they need immediate sales boosting, or long term brand building. If the want immediate sales boost – ask them if they are able to handle more requests. Do the have a smooth organization in order to grant user satisfaction?

I prefer new areas with little competition. This gives my clients an advantage.


Paddy Moogan, Distilled

I prefer somewhere in the middle. I like clients who have a decent size budget but are still agile enough to take our recommendations and run with them. Well funded startups have been my most successful products because they are small enough to get stuff done quickly and understand the value of SEO.


Dixon Jones, Majestic SEO

If I had this advice nailed, I would be much richer.


Barry Schwartz, Rusty Brick/ SMX

Not sure I can answer this.

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