The Reality Of Pay-For-Performance And Performance-Based SEO Services

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Are you seeking an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) agency that will boost your website’s ranking on the SERPs? Then you probably have heard about several Performance-based agencies that promise to do it for you in a short amount of time.

PFP or Pay-for-performance SEO agencies strive for the motto: We (the agency) get paid when you (the customer) are satisfied with the results.

Let’s discuss in detail what pay-for-performance SEO means.

Key points discussed –

• The pay for SEO model is frowned upon in the SEO industry, and rightly so, as it uses shady techniques to rank high quickly. In doing so, the chances of a website receiving a penalty from search engines increase, which can also jeopardize the website’s domain authority.

• This results-based SEO strategy has pros and cons, so proceed only when the agency comes clean with the terms and conditions.

• Instead, business owners should aim for long-term SEO strategies that cater to their personal needs and build a strategy specifically tailored to the business. 

What is PFP SEO?

PFP SEO is a strategy wherein SEO agencies get paid upon reaching the customer’s desired target. 

Let’s understand this with an example: 

Gym owners get paid at the beginning or the end of the month, regardless of gym attendance, and your body goals are entirely in your hands. 

Let’s assume another case where you’ll pay the gym owner when you reach your desired goals

You may specify the details, such as your goal, how many months you plan on working out, and more. And then, based on the results, the gym owner will get paid. In this case, it’s a pay on performance strategy. You are paying the gym owner to give you the output you desire. This method ensures that both of you are getting the benefit. 

Why is Pay-for-Performance SEO service controversial?

When you first encounter agencies that promise to give you results in a short time and don’t ask you to pay if they fail to meet your goals, it sounds perfect. First, you get tangible results in a few weeks; second, if the agency fails to fulfill your expectations, you don’t have to pay!

So what’s the catch?

Tunnel Vision

Image source: Image by johnstocker on Freepik

Tunnel Vision

Pay-for-performance agencies have one goal: high rankings, and in pursuit of that, they get tunnel-visioned.

Aiming to rank high is okay; it is one of the most important goals of SEO, but there are other goals. You have (in no particular order) increasing organic traffic, decreasing bounce rate, better conversion rates, better mobile optimization, content relevance, keyword targeting, and many more.

Unlike traditional SEO services, performance SEO services rely on using only high-ranking keywords to become visible on search results pages. In theory, this SEO model sounds fantastic, but you need to look beyond the high-ranking keywords.

Yes, using high-ranking keywords will help your website rank higher. Still, it won’t necessarily bring good organic traffic. By good organic traffic, I mean users who will benefit from your content.

Time Period

Image Source:  Freepik

Time Period

Another promise these pay-on-result SEO agencies make is that “we’ll help rank your website high in a short period.” Businesses aware of this immediately catch on to this misinformation, but new businesses may succumb to this scam. 

Remember: SEO is not a sprint but rather a marathon.

To rank fast, the agencies use self-explanatory and not-so-original SEO methods like keyword stuffing (discussed in the previous section), link spam, and some more black-hat SEO techniques that we’ll discuss next. While these techniques may help your website rank high, search engines have come a long way and can tell if someone is actively trying to use unfair means to rank high. 

Black hat SEO techniques

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Black hat SEO

Users go to this website in order to learn about black-hat SEO practices

It is the manipulation of search engine algorithms to achieve higher rankings for a website using unfair techniques. The following are some of them:

• Keywords Stuffing: Filling the content with excessive keywords, often resulting in poor content;

• Link Farming: Creating or participating in networks of websites that exist solely to link to each other, artificially boosting link popularity;

• Link Manipulation (Buying Links): Purchasing links to artificially inflate a website’s link profile, violating search engine guidelines;

• Spammy or Irrelevant Content: Generating low-quality or irrelevant content solely to attract search engine traffic;

• Cloaking: Presenting different content to search engines and users, misleading about the actual content of a page, and more

They may not use every black hat technique. However, it still doesn’t matter since using even one of these techniques makes you liable to be penalized by Google or other search engines.


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CostAnother dead giveaway that the agency will not be of any use to your business is the amount they charge.

Realistically, the price varies from service to service. It also depends on the agency you are planning to work with. But, to make a rough estimate, a typical SEO campaign costs about $4k- $10k a month.

So, if the pay-for-performance SEO agency that you chose offers to do the job for, say, $500 – $1000? You should know there’s a very high chance that your website gets penalized.

Is there anything good about pay for performance SEO?

Despite all the caveats we just discussed, apparently, there are pay-for-performance SEO companies that don’t delve into unfair means to help you rank! They are very hard to find, but they do exist.

If you were to visit the websites of these performance-based SEO service providers, you’d see that they are very upfront with what they have to offer. They don’t try to hide any information and do not, at any point, force you to invest.

For example:

Image source: GreenBanana SEO

pay for performance SEO

In the above screenshot, you can see that they have mentioned that results are not guaranteed. Most SEO agencies skip this because their whole business model floats on the claim that they can rank the websites high!

I don’t believe in any company/agency that practices such tactics. It is cheap, and it relies on the gullibility of business owners. A partnership model is the only way to go if you want to rank your websites through an agency/company.

The partnership model

Let me make one thing clear: no method will help your website rank high overnight or in a week. So stop your search for that quick route to success. SEO takes time to show results.

Successful SEO firms work on a partnership model, which means that you and the agency will work closely to ensure that you get maximum outputs from them. There are a few things that they make sure you are aware of:


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SEO goals

The first and foremost thing you will discuss with them is the SEO strategy for your business.

What is your goal regarding your website? How much time are you willing to dedicate? Do you have the budget for it?

When both parties share what they expect, they form trust. This way, the success rate increases significantly.


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Unlike pay for performance SEO companies, partnership-based SEO focuses on giving you a clear idea of their SEO pricing models and doesn’t have hidden costs that pop up on the payment page.
Based on your selected SEO program, the company will break down prices and let you know where your pennies are going, ensuring transparency between you and the agency.

This kind of SEO effort cements the relationship between the agency and its clients.

Personalized approach

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Personalized Approach


A good SEO agency will thoroughly review your business to develop the best SEO strategies tailored to your company’s operations. In doing so, they showcase their competency and the fact that they want what’s best for you. It’s better to drop a decent amount on a company that caters to your business personally instead of using shady SEO tactics.

To sum it up

A pay-for-performance SEO may seem like THE SEO GOAL for your business, and in an ideal world, it would be. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world, so there are better ways to move up than relying on such principles of SEO. 

When it comes to SEO, patience is critical, along with investing your time and resources. SEO is a long-term process and cannot be rushed to give results in a span of a few weeks.

A company or an agency will not work for you without taking funds. They may call it an advance, but they will charge you because how else will the agency pay their employees for the work they put in? Success is not guaranteed in SEO, so the agency cannot just keep accepting requests and not get paid every time they fail. 


What does performance SEO mean?

Pay-for-Performance SEO or pay-on-results SEO is: You ask an SEO agency to rank your website based on the parameters you set, and failure to do so results in no payment. 

How to improve SEO performance?

There are several ways you can go about improving SEO performance.

• Keywords: Track keywords that are ranking high as well as extended keywords

• Update Content: Keep updating your content from time to time, letting search engines know that you are keeping your article up-to-date

• Use good quality images: You must use only high-quality pictures in your article.

• Get referrals: Getting referrals from other, more reputable websites is another way to ensure your content performs well. 

What are Black hat SEO techniques?

Techniques that manipulate search engine algorithms to achieve higher rankings for a website are called black hat techniques. The aim is to prioritize quick results over long-term results with the help of link spamming, PBNs, keyword stuffing, and more, which can result in penalties or bans. 

Gaby Alexander

Gaby Alexander

Gaby is a search marketing enthusiast with a passion for helping agencies improve their ROI through effective link-building strategies. With expertise in Google Campaign Manager, HubSpot Inbound Marketing, and SEMrush, Gaby provides valuable insights and guidance to optimize search marketing campaigns.

Gaby Alexander

Gaby Alexander

Gaby is a search marketing enthusiast with a passion for helping agencies improve their ROI through effective link-building strategies. With expertise in Google Campaign Manager, HubSpot Inbound Marketing, and SEMrush, Gaby provides valuable insights and guidance to optimize search marketing campaigns.

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