Pay-for-Performance SEO Strategy: Pros and Cons

While some in the SEO/digital marketing industry may see the words “pay-per-performance SEO” and instantly write it off, the reality is that—when done correctly and in conjunction with other marketing strategies—this model can have its strengths. 

Typical pay-for-performance SEO (or performance-based SEO) is a short-term “contract” in which you only pay for SEO services once you start seeing results—as in, an increase in rankings, traffic, and revenue. Only paying when you see results- sounds like a dream, right? The only problem is that many of the SEO agencies that offer these services will resort to “black hat” tactics that will end up hurting your digital presence more than helping it. 

The good, the bad and the ugly 

With that being said, not all pay-for-performance SEO tactics are objectively bad. When incorporated into a fully-fledged long term SEO and general marketing strategy, initial pay-for-performance SEO strategies can end up having long term benefits. At the end of the day, cookie-cutter marketing isn’t going to cut it in the current competitive digital sphere. Determining your company’s needs and finding an agency with integrity that will cater to those needs is the most important thing you can do when navigating the constantly changing digital marketing world. 

Any SEO work should be part of a long-term strategy—and where pay-for-performance SEO often gets a bad rap is in the fact that it typically only considers the short-term. Pay-for-performance SEO that only considers fast results (and by any means necessary—even sketchy ones) is risky, and also doesn’t have much payoff. Good SEO often takes time, which means you may not see instant results. If an agency seems to be just looking for a quick buck—and making a lot of promises that seem too good to be true (SEO-related and otherwise)—that should be a red flag. 

Shoddy SEO is easy for Google (and humans) to spot 

SEO strategy has significantly shifted in the past few years, as Google has shifted its algorithm and gotten a bit smarter. Now, search engines can spot—and will penalize—shoddy SEO work fairly easily. 

A few years ago, jamming your keyword in as many times as you could to drive site traffic could fool Google. Now, the updated algorithm can easily distinguish between words that actually make sense on a page and ones that don’t—which means that while strategies like keyword stuffing and link farming may still deliver instant “results,” they will often result in a penalization down the line—which could be dropping for hundreds of keywords or even complete removal of your page from Google’s search results. 

In a shifting and competitive digital landscape where good content has become king, the risks of these outdated tricks are way too high—all you’re doing is creating bad content at the cost of potentially damaging your business’ success and reputation. 

The bottom line

Good SEO work is well-researched and is part of a strategy—even if it is working in the short-term, it should support long-term goals. Finding an agency that clearly has your business’ long-term interests in mind and doesn’t seem like it is trying to cut corners to make a quick buck is the most important thing you can do to ensure that your business navigates the world of digital marketing successfully. An agency that feels like an extension of your team rather than an entity you have to fight against to meet your goals will lead to positive results in both the short and long-term.