What is Pay-For-Performance SEO?
Pay-for-performance SEO, sometimes known as performance-based SEO, is a payment model that guarantees you only pay for SEO services once you start seeing results.
If you’re a business owner, you’re probably thinking, ‘that sounds amazing.’
However, While the promise of only paying for SEO when it’s working is a mouthwatering offer, the harsh reality is that’s not how SEO works in reality.
Several risks accompany using pay-for-performance SEO, and it’s important to know what to look for when hiring an SEO agency.
Does Pay-For-Performance SEO Work?
Not all pay-for-performance SEO tactics are ‘bad.’
Every business has plenty of SEO opportunities that will give you a quick boost in traffic and rankings. Unfortunately, short term boosts don’t often last in the long run. Worse still, they are often mixed with ‘black hat’ SEO tactics.
The problem with pay-on-performance SEO comes back to pay-structure. The approach intrinsically values fast SEO results by any means necessary strategy with no repercussions for its tactics.
In the end, you can’t fool Google. Your website’s visibility is tantamount, and a penalty rank drop because of bad SEO is never worth it.
SEO in 2020 is all about knowing how Google values content and then playing by the rules.
How is ‘Traditional’ SEO Different?
A long term SEO campaign is an extremely valuable investment for a company.
But it’s not a quick fix, and that’s why many business owners don’t want to take the time. Unless you already have strong domain authority, new SEO results typically don’t see any pay-off for between 6 to 12 months.
Pay-for-performance often uses spammy techniques like keyword stuffing, duplicate content, link farming, and more. These strategies can sometimes provide quick results and rank increases that get Pay-for-Performance agencies paid.
Unfortunately, spammy tactics will often result in a Google penalization. These penalties range from losing rankings for keywords or even a complete site de-indexation (meaning searchers cannot find your page on Google’s search engine results page).
This is why ‘good’ SEO takes time and effort from trustworthy professionals.
Four Pay-For-Performance SEO Tactics to Avoid
1) Paid Links and PBNs
Link building is one of the most challenging and abused aspects of SEO. The most common practices are buying links and utilizing PBNs (Private Blog Networks).
PBN’s are essentially expired websites that anyone can purchase with the intent of sending links back to your site.
These sites were once live, which means they’ve had time to build up authority and provide a little extra ‘link juice.’ With the popularity of private blog networks came an increase in this link building tactic.
These tactics were abused until Google severely punished thousands of PBNs and deindexed sites towards the end of 2014.
2) Keyword Stuffing
In the early days of Google’s search algorithm, anyone could get away with shoving hundreds of irrelevant keywords into various pages on a site. At the time, the search engines could only understand simple signals like keyword density.
Nowadays, the practice is pointless as Google’s current algorithm easily differentiates between keywords that make sense on a page and those that don’t. The only thing you’re doing by keyword stuffing is putting out awful content.
In 2020, it’s essential to write for humans rather than search engines. With semantic search improvements, Google’s algorithm understands the text’s meaning, whether or not specific keywords are used.
Cloaking is an outdated SEO technique where the content presented to the search engine crawler bot is different from the one presented to the user’s browser for superior indexing. Once again, Google frowns upon the practice and will swiftly penalize your site among discovery.
Ex-head of spam at Google Matt Cutts had this to say about cloaking:
“White hat cloaking is a contradiction in terms of Google. We’ve never had to make an exception for “white hat” cloaking. If someone tells you that — that’s dangerous.”
4) Vanity Keywords
When it comes to keywords, volume and ranking difficulty are everything. Ideally, you want to take advantage of keywords with a decent amount of traffic without powerful domains already ranking for them.
Regarding pay-for-performance SEO, many practitioners will only target easy to rank excessively long-tail keywords. In other words, they will rank your site for keywords with low volume. This increases your keyword count and might look good on paper, but in reality, it won’t bring any traffic to your site.
Look For a Partnership Model
The best SEO campaigns are partnerships where the client and agency work together towards a long-term goal. A lack of communication between the two parties can lead to confusion and is often a quick way to lose a contract.
On the other hand, acting as a partner helps marketers stay passionate about their projects. It also allows time to gain a complete understanding of a client’s industry and business model.
How to Pick a Reputable SEO Agency
Here are five traits of the best SEO agencies that typically deliver what they promise:
1) Realistic Goals
SEO is a lengthy process that needs to be evaluated for success over a period of time. Look for an agency with a comprehensive long term strategy to bring visibility and traffic to your site.
2) Quality Referrals
Online reviews and directories should be taken with a grain of salt as agencies can pay to look more favorable. On the other hand, we suggest asking the agency if it would be ok to contact past clients and inquire about their work. This approach is the best way to gain first-hand knowledge of the reputability of the service.
Honesty and accountability are essential aspects of any client-agency relationship. An agency should be able to communicate the campaign’s goals, tactics, and results in a way that is easy to understand and digest. If an agency gives you generic answers and updates, it may be time to go in another direction.
4) Case Studies
A case study is a great way to evaluate how an agency tackles problems and what kind of success their strategies brought them. Look for agencies that publish case studies on their site, or at the very least see if they can provide one for you.
5) Industry Experience
SEO isn’t something you can study in school, and unlike PPC, you cannot obtain any reputable certifications. The best way to learn SEO is to do SEO. Therefore, look up the agency’s employees on LinkedIn to gain a feel for the team’s overall expertise and experience.