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 and visibly improve your site’s overall SEO health?

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 or performance-based SEO means.

Key points discussed –

• The pay-for-performance SEO model isn’t vouched for in the overall 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?

Pay for performance based SEO requires SEO agencies to get paid upon reaching the desired target – based on the success of your SEO. 

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 goalsYou 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?

Pay for performance SEO meme

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?

Short Term Goals

SEO agencies that ask you to pay for performance might help you achieve some basic goals. They can boost metrics like site traffic, but they often overlook technical SEO like user experience. These pay for SEO performance agencies don’t focus on improving your user experience or increasing your conversion rate.

As a result, the traffic they generate won’t convert into leads because visitors won’t stay on your site long enough to be impressed.

Also, if you don’t have basic knowledge of digital marketing, pay per performance SEO providers might try to convince you that traffic and keywords are all you need. However, it’s essential to track and report other SEO success metrics and KPIs. Achieving good long-term results comes from gradually improving all key metrics together.

Tunnel Vision

Pay for performance SEO

Agencies with pay-for-performance models have one goal: high rankings in search engine results, and they get tunnel-visioned in pursuit of that.

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

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, knowing it’s too good to be true, but new businesses may succumb to this scam. 

Pay for performance SEO meme

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 pay-for-results SEO is actively trying to use unfair means to rank high. 

Black Hat SEO Techniques

Black Hat SEO Practices.

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.


Cost of pay for performance SEOAnother dead giveaway that the agency will not be of any use to your business is the amount they charge.

Realistically, the performance-based SEO pricing 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 experts 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:

pay for performance SEO

Source: GreenBanana 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 or agency that practices such tactics. They are cheap and rely on business owners’ gullibility. A partnership model is the only way to go if you want to rank your websites through an agency or 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:


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

Choosing an SEO company to enhance performance of the SEO involves keeping in mind your company’s performance metrics or key performance indicators.

SEO Goal pyramid

The SEO Goal pyramid

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.


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 chosen 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

Custom SEO Strategy

Custom SEO Strategy

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 of SEO investment 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 performance based 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.

There is no free SEO. A reliable SEO 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. 


  1. 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.
  2. How to improve SEO performance?
    There are several ways you can improve 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.3. 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.

Last Updated on June 12, 2024 by Gaby

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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