Peanuts, monkeys, tailors and charging for SEO

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  • May 16, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Knowing how to charge for search engine optimisation services is the key to building a profitable agency. Keeping your clients happy and profitable should be the number 1 priority.

Let me tell you a story about 4 men who wanted to look smart for a job interview. They all had the same budget of £100.

The first man didn’t want to spend £100 on a smart suit so he went out and bought some material and spent a week learning about how to sew the material together to make a nice suit. He didn’t think being a tailor could be that hard and was sure he could make a better job himself.

Unfortunately making a suit was harder than he expected and the results were less than impressive. He ended up making a mess of it and the interviewer didn’t give him the job.

The second man spent a week scouring the town to find the cheapest tailor he could. Having got a number of quotes he mangaged to find somebody who would make him a suit for £50 which he thought was a great deal, especially when some tailors were charging £200.

Unfortunately the cheap tailor didn’t do a good job of the suit and it was very badly fitted and used cheap materials. The man had just £50 left and couldn’t afford a second suit so he went to the interview anyway and, needless to say, didn’t get the job.

The third man also spent a week looking round the town to find a good tailor. He didn’t want to go with the cheapest but he wasn’t prepared to pay the top price either. He went to the best tailor in town who quoted £200 for a really special suit. The man only had £100 and he spent hours discussing the quote until eventually the tailor agreed to make him a suit for £100.

Because the tailor was on a limited budget he wasn’t able to devote his usual resources and high quality materials to making the suit and it was nowhere near the usual standard. As a result the third man looked just as scruffy as the others and didn’t get the job.

The fourth man wanted to look really smart so he spent a couple of days scouring the town for the best possible tailor. When he found out the suit cost £200 he went to the bank and took out a loan for the money.

The man ended up getting top quality service and a smart suit. He also got the job.

SEO isn’t about getting the cheapest deal. It’s about getting to the top of the search engines.

When you look at a competitive industry do you think the sites ranking at the top are the ones who paid the least or the ones who are paying a skilled company at the price they quoted?

It might seem better to pay £200 a month for SEO services but if you don’t get good results then the £200 (and probably a lot of time) has been wasted. On the other hand if you paid £2000 a month and got to the top of Google then that was the better deal.

A potential client of ours was shocked when we quoted a substantial 5 figure sum for SEO last week. His main rival makes £5 million a year from organic search. He said he couldn’t afford to pay our fees – I said he couldn’t afford not to pay them.

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