This is a tricky question as it really depends on the types of services you offer. There is such a variety of SEO services and thus payment options that you have to choose from. At Shane Media, we’re always experimenting with different SEO service offerings and different ways of charging for those services. For the most part, we’ve found that it’s good to be flexible, because every client has different needs.
Here’s a little info on how we do it, which might help you better sort out how you could do it. Much of our SEO work is done in the form of site reviews and recommendations. Our years of experience in the field make it easy for us to look at any website and know right away what its major challenges are in terms of it gaining more targeted search engine traffic. We’ve found that, depending on a client’s budget and the severity of the problems inherent in their website, offering different levels of review seems to be helpful.Right now we offer a type of review that comes with our recommendations provided solely by phone, and it’s charged in one up-front payment.
However, we’ve found that many clients like to have some written information about what’s wrong with their site and what they need to do to fix it, so we provide info in writing as well, for an additional fee. Then for those who have more complicated sites and want a complete copywriting review, plus a full usability review, we offer a full site audit report package. This is our premium offering. Our fees are generally paid up-front, but I know of some companies who will charge half up-front and half upon delivery of the recommendations, especially if it’s an expensive service.
For full-service SEO campaigns it’s slightly different and really depends on what you offer. I’m not sure that any 2 SEO companies offer exactly the same services, which certainly must make it confusing to potential clients. We’ve tried a number of different ways of offering full-service SEO, and have found a bundle of different deliverables that nearly every client can put to good use. Nearly all of our full-service SEO campaigns start outwith the full site audit report because we’ve found that this helps us to gather enough information about the site to create a complete SEO strategy from there.
The client will generally have to pay for the audit when signing the contract.After the audit is completed, we decide upon the exact deliverables that are necessary to gain the targeted traffic the client is looking for, and we work on them in sequential order. For instance, in-depth keyword research is usually one of the first deliverables and payment for that would be due before we get started. We have a number of other deliverables that follow in the same manner.
For most clients we’ve gotten away from charging monthly rates, as our deliverable method seems to be more appropriate. However, there are some exceptions, mostly for brand-new companies that don’t have an existing website. In those cases, it’s a different story as we can’t “audit” what doesn’t exist! So for those clients we work as SEO consultants on a monthly
retainer fee and basically work with the developers as they program the site, making sure they do it in a crawler-friendly manner. Much of our SEO work involves strategising the SEO plan, and then implementing it incrementally over time. We’d generally ask for at least a year’s commitment for this type of work, but that can also be adjusted as necessary. You’ll notice that we charge for everything in advance and this is for a very good reason — basically, we’ve been burned when we didn’t do this!
No matter how big a company is, nor how much you trust them, and even if you have an airtight contract — stuff happens and sometimes they simply don’t pay. I used to not mind doing the work in advance if we had a purchase order and contract set up with the client, but recently got burned on one of those as well, when the company got embroiled in a hostile takeover! You just never know what can happen, unfortunately.
We’re still trying to recover what they owe us for the work we completed, but I’m not holding out a whole lot of hope. All that said, many clients may not be prepared (or trust you enough) to pay in advance, so you’ll need to play that one by ear and use your own judgment.
If you have a good reputation in the industry you should at least be able to get a good portion paid up-front; if nothing else, you should certainly shoot for this and back down only if absolutely necessary when the company has good reason not to pay in advance.Hope this provides you with some ideas of how to charge for your own SEO services.