performance based SEO

Performance-Based SEO: Pros and Cons

Most of us start working on SEO with dreams of uncovering the perfect keyword, shooting to the top of the SERP, or beating our competitors and winning tons of traffic.

However, your very first SEO decision is whether you’re going to do your SEO or if you’ll hire someone to do it for you.

While this first step is much less glamorous, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make in SEO. It determines:

  • The amount of time and money you’ll spend on SEO
  • The keywords you’ll target
  • And sometimes even the success of your campaign!

If you’re even considering purchasing SEO services from a provider, you’ve already heard the term “performance-based SEO.”

If you’re wondering what performance-based SEO is and whether it’s worth your time and money, you’ve come to the right place! 

This article will explore:

the pros and cons of performance-based SEO and help you make the best decision for your business.

What Is Performance-Based SEO?

Performance-based SEO (also known as “pay for performance SEO,” Pay per results SEO,” and other similar names) is a type of SEO in which the customer only pays if the provider can provide the desired result.

But what exactly does that mean?

In regular SEO, you pay a flat fee based on time, keywords, or campaigns. Even if the provider doesn’t deliver the results you were hoping for, you still have to pay the agreed amount.

For example, let’s say you choose a performance-based SEO program and you agree that you will pay a specific fee for each keyword that the provider can rank in the top 3 within 1 year.

If 12 months go by and the results-based SEO company doesn’t get any of your keywords into the top 3, you don’t pay a dime.

Now you’re starting to see why performance-based SEO is an attractive option for many companies. 

But before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few more things you should know about pay-for-performance SEO.

How Much Does Performance-Based SEO Cost?

For most people thinking about hiring an SEO provider, the cost will be the most critical factor in their decision.

So how much does performance SEO cost?

The answer is a little disappointing: It depends.

Just like almost anything, performance-based SEO depends on many different factors:

  • The quality of the service
  • The reputation of the provider
  • The size of the job

Even though it’s impossible to nail down a specific price range, we can give you a few general ideas:

  1. Starting, you won’t pay anything.
  2. You will pay a high premium if your vendor delivers results (more on this in a minute)
  3. You may pay a commission-based fee for the sales made after hiring the vendor (which could result in very high costs).

Since it’s impossible to nail down a specific price range, we’ll be looking at both the pros and cons of the performance-based SEO pricing model throughout this article.

Pros of Performance-Based SEO

Let’s start out by talking about the pros of results-based SEO. 

Even though this type of SEO isn’t for everyone, there are some benefits that you should know about before making your decision.

In this section, we’re going to focus on 2 significant benefits of pay-on-performance SEO:

Lower Start-Up Cost

When you hear the words “low start-up costs,” what do you think?

$500? $250? $100?

How about $0?

As we mentioned before, performance-based SEO normally has a start-up cost of $0! That’s one of the things that attracts so many people to this type of SEO.

Small businesses will benefit the most from the low start-up costs of performance-based SEO. If your SEO budget is low because you aren’t currently making many sales, you can still hire a professional to work on your SEO.

As the pay-per-results SEO firm starts generating sales for you, your SEO budget can grow to pay the fees that come with positive results.

Only Pay for Results

Most SEO projects cost more than $5000, and hiring an SEO consultant can often cost upwards of $100/hour!

And that’s whether they deliver results or not!

On the other hand, pay-for-performance SEO only requires you to pay if the terms of the original agreement are met.

When establishing an agreement with a results-based SEO firm, make sure that the goals and fees associated with those goals are CRYSTAL CLEAR before signing on the dotted line!

Cons of Performance-Based SEO

Now that we’ve looked at some of the pros of performance-based SEO let’s look at some of the reasons why you should think carefully before making your decision.

This section will focus on 3 cons of performance SEO:

Let’s dive in!

It Could Incentivize Black Hat SEO Practices

If you’re new to SEO, you may not yet know that not all SEO practices are made equal. Some SEO can break Google’s rules. These are called “black hat SEO practices.”

Unfortunately, some low-quality performance-based SEO providers will use these black hat practices to increase the speed of the results.

From their end, this makes financial sense. Faster results = faster payment (because they don’t get paid unless you get results).

However, these black hat practices can destroy your SEO ranks over time, and they can even earn you a Google penalty that can remove your site from search results altogether!

Possible Short Term Results

Even if the SEO vendor doesn’t use black hat practices, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is well and good.

In an effort to make things go faster, vendors can also use low-quality SEO techniques that lead to short-term spikes in traffic but don’t create lasting results.

For example, they could use low-quality backlinks or keyword-stuffed web pages. Both can generate a temporary surge in traffic, but neither will improve your ranks over time.

It Can Be More Expensive in the Long-Term

Finally, performance-based SEO can be more expensive than traditional SEO in the long term. This isn’t always the case, but it is a possibility.

If your vendor manages to rank all your keywords, you could be required to dish out thousands of dollars for their efforts.

Not only that, but a commission-based contract could lead to long-term costs, which can eat into your profits.

If you decide to work with performance-based SEO vendors, make sure you count the cost of a successful campaign before committing. Ensure that you can afford it, or you could end up regretting your new high ranks!

Is It Worth Paying for SEO Based on Performance?

Whether working with a performance-based SEO vendor is worth it is ultimately up to you.

Make sure to consider both the pros and cons before making any decisions about the vendor you choose to work with.

Performance-based SEO can be a massive waste of time and effort if the vendor you choose leads to low-quality results or a Google penalty.

On the other hand, a small business that wants to rank for a couple of keywords might benefit significantly from performance-based SEO. The low upfront costs can give the company a ranking boost to jump-start organic traffic before costs escalate too much.

Our recommendation is to contact a few different vendors to explore their pricing options. Then, read online reviews for any company before even considering hiring them.

Finally, run from any company that has received complaints about black hat SEO!

How to Measure Performance from an SEO Vendor

If you choose to work with a vendor, you should always ensure that you’re measuring the results produced by their work.

Measuring SEO results can seem complicated, but you must keep track of only a few key metrics to stay on top of your SEO results.

In this section, we’ll look at 3 metrics you should be measuring to ensure your vendor is providing the results you’re looking for:

Conversions and Sales

Here’s your SEO 101 lesson for the day: if your SEO isn’t generating sales, it’s not working!

That’s why the very first things you need to measure are your conversions and sales.

Fortunately, it should be straightforward to notice an increase in conversions and sales.

You can measure sales by the total number of sales and the total value of all sales. By measuring both, you get a good picture of how your income and customer base change month-to-month.

Rankings for Important Keywords (Especially Bottom of the Funnel keywords)

The goal of your keyword strategy isn’t necessarily to show your website to the maximum number of people. Instead, you’re trying to get exposed to people who are ready to buy whatever you’re selling.

The keywords that bring in these customers are highly targeted long-tail keywords. Your ranks for these long-tail keywords are much more important than your ranks for general keywords.

Measuring your ranks for these bottom-of-the-funnel keywords will give you a good idea of how successful your SEO strategy is at the moment. If you’re ranking highly for important keywords, you can expect to see an increase in sales.

If your number of keywords is very low (if you’re a small business), it’s possible to keep track of your ranks for your most important keywords manually.

For example, let’s say you sell running shoes for older runners. You can just search “running shoes for men over 40” to see how high you rank for that search term.

We’ll talk about a much easier way to track your ranks for these keywords in just a moment.

Traffic (& Traffic Quality)

As you work with a performance-based SEO vendor, you should see an increase in traffic and traffic quality.

You can get a measurement of traffic from most web hosts. For example, Squarespace offers traffic analytics to all its users:

However, an increase in traffic doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is getting healthier. For example, if your bounce rate is higher than around 30-40% (like the website pictured here), it means that your traffic isn’t very specific.

In other words, it’s low-quality traffic that isn’t very interested in your content or product. 

Measuring both traffic and traffic quality gives you a more accurate picture of your website’s health. 

ProRankTracker: A Better Way to MEASURE Performance

Measuring keyword performance is a crucial part of any SEO strategy. Even if you’re working with a performance-based SEO vendor, you should be keeping up with your ranks!

If you keep up with your ranks, you will have a better idea about your website’s health and your vendor’s success. It also helps you avoid getting hoodwinked by seedy vendors (which, unfortunately, do exist).

Let’s look at 3 areas where ProRankTracker can make tracking keyword performance more manageable and more accurate!

Discover and Track Keywords

Before anything else, you need to make sure that you’re targeting the best keywords. More specific keywords will help you get higher-quality traffic.

The only problem is that it’s challenging to develop a list of great keywords off the top of your head.

To help solve this problem, you can use ProRankTracker’s Keyword Suggestion tool. All you have to do is enter your current keywords, and ProRankTracker will generate a list of highly-specific, long-tail keywords that you can add to your strategy.

When you find a keyword you want to track, just click on it to add it to your tracking list.

You can then use ProRankTracker’s URL View and Term View to track your keywords. It gives you valuable information like:

  • How the rank has changed in the last day, week, and month
  • Total search volume
  • Your current rank

Track Your Competitors

Another benefit of using ProRankTracker is the ability to track your competitors’ keyword strategies.

Competitor tracking ensures that your competitors don’t start beating you on some of your most valuable keywords.

Tracking your competitors is just as easy as monitoring your keywords. Using the Add Wizard, just add your competitors’ URLs and keywords that you want to track:

Then you can use the same tracking tools you use for your keywords to keep an eye on your competitors.

Save Time and Money

Finally, ProRankTracker is a great tracking solution because it can save you a ton of time and money. 

We mentioned earlier that it’s possible to keep track of your ranks. That’s true, but it can take hours to manually search all of your keywords and scroll through the results until you find yours.

ProRankTracker simplifies this process by making all your ranks available in one place. It also gives vital historical data that will keep you up-to-date on your progress.

Finally, ProRankTracker is cost-effective compared to other tools. But, even more importantly, it can save you the lost income of a poorly executed keyword strategy!


If you’re interested in performance-based SEO, you must weigh the pros and cons before you commit to anything!

By reading the positives and the negatives above and contacting companies for quotes, you can make the best decision for your business.

Most importantly, you should never neglect to keep up with your SEO progress. ProRankTracker can make it easier to keep up with your ranks whether you decide to hire an SEO vendor or not!

Try out ProRankTracker for free and see how much of a difference it can make!

Good luck!