5 Reasons Why Pay-On-Results SEO is a Death Sentence for Your Business

I’m occasionally asked about pay-on-results SEO and unsurprisingly it’s mostly small startups that make this type of enquiry. We’re all looking to get the best deal and that’s part of how we grow in business. However, what may seem at first glance like a potentially lucrative arrangement, may turn out to be another nail in the coffin.

Here are 5 reasons why:

1) Rigid Workload.

If a client calls me to let me know they’re releasing a new product and some new keywords need attention, that’s never a problem and it can be accommodated very easily within the monthly fee. However, if the SEO provider’s income from this project is already contractually based on the performance of a set keyword list, there’s zero incentive to accommodate their client’s request.

 2) Client Activity.

It’s only normal that a client may want to make changes to the website such as product updates, special offer details etc. But what if these changes have negative effects on the SEO? Either the SEO company has full control over the website or the client has full control in which case the SEO company

3) Technique Veto.

My clients have the right to ask me not to use a specific technique as it may go against their brand guidelines or may interfere technically which is completely reasonable and the implications are understood and agreed by my clients. In a results based model, this couldn’t work as the SEO company would find it difficult to factor this in especially if it came to light after the agreement was signed.

4) Term of Engagement.

There are two ways of determining engagement time, the first being payment becoming due when a certain set of criteria are met and the second being an ongoing premium being paid when results are maintained.

The first method allows low quality and unsustainable techniques to be used that get impressively speedy results thus satisfying the payment criteria but leaving you high and dry when your site is penalised. Given that the SEO company fulfilled their contractual obligations, there’s no recourse, legal or otherwise.

The second method gives rise to a conundrum of how long the engagement has to be as the SEO needs to be given enough time to achieve the results and have enough time to achieve a profit. The work done at the start of the project is going to have an effect on the rest of the site’s life.


When something is too good to be true, it’s certainly worth an in-depth look before committing to anything to save yourself from unforeseen issues. My advice is to work on either an ongoing monthly fee or an hourly rate which avoids the conflict which is almost guaranteed with the pay-on-results model.