Charging for SEO can seem confusing, cant it?
I mean, unlike something that can be quantified, like web design, or perhaps designing a logo where you can actually sit down ahead of time and map out the hours involved, charging for search engine optimisation seems more difficult.
I think the reason for this is that SEO, unlike a lot of other services, could be conceived as a non tangible entity. The work is often substantially different between clients, the processes can vary dramatically between projects, and lastly, you’re usually always faced with everchanging markets, trends and fierce competition.
In addition to this, regardless of your qualifications, there’s really no gaurantee that the work performed will yield the desired outcome, therefore the results can become somewhat uncertain.
All of these elements combined can make the whole process of being able to adequately provide your client with an accurate quote an absolute nightmare.
I mean, you sure don’t want to get it wrong and overcharge, as its likely you'll probably lose the client completely, and you certainly don’t want to under quote as you’ll end up stuck, alone, in the office til 2am each night, putting in countless hours at $1.30 an hour. Definitely not an ideal situation.
This is why its important to address this issue of how to charge ahead of time, and invest your efforts towards structuring a pricing strategy that will work with each project, and will see you making profits, enjoying your work, and attracting more clientele.
Okay, so how is this possible?
Without entering into the debate of whether or not you should be charging hourly, per performance, or otherwise, Im going to share with you, the way I handle pricing personally within my own business, and how I go about calculating how much I should be charging for each project.
This system is based upon separating both the onsite element of search engine optimisation and the offsite element.
Breaking it down.
Firstly, I'll address the onsite element.
It's this part of the process, where I intend on implementing my hourly rate pricing structure. At this point, I'll be addressing any issues that require corrective measures, or in any case, improvements on the clients website.
This always involves performing a comprehensive evaluation, or audit of the site that requires optimising. Typically I'll look at things such as the existing meta tag structure, header tags, how the images are optimised, page load times, sitemaps, robots.txt files, url structuring and naming conventions. Furthermore, I'll also be making notes of other marketing strategies that the client may want to consider, but this will only be supplemental to that of the basic requirements.
So in summary, for example sake, let's say that I have performed a complete evaluation of the clients website and determined that in order to fix any onsite issues, and optimise the website effectively, that its going to take roughly 25 hours. As this work is procedural, it can be easily quantified into workable hours, so given my calculations, the onsite element can easily be worked out as follows.
25 hours at say, $120 an hour is $3,000.
So at this point, my quote stands at $3,000. Lets now move onto the next phase of preparing our quote.
Next, I'll consider the easiest part of the process, and that is factoring in the cost for offsite optimisation. Now here’s where I'll shift from an hourly rate structure over to my fixed pricing structure.
I do this for two main reasons. They are:
- I follow a systematical offsite optimisation process, that I perform on each project that I work on. I try to always follow this process to prevent scope creep and change requests. It also helps me to expidite and ensure my work is thorough. The main benefit is that this process rarely changes, if at all.
- Following a systematical process allows me to accurately determine in advance, the time and costs required in order to perform the work.
This then positions me favourably because I now know my exact costs for :
- Onsite optimisation
- Offsite optimisation
Having said that, I know that my costs involved to perform the offsite optimisation process is $3,500.
Crunching the numbers.
Therefore, to produce the final estimate, I can go ahead and quote the client a total sum of $6,500 to perform the work. Of course, these figures are presented merely from a hypothetical point of view, but the basic principle applies.
If you can roughly determine how long it will take you to implement changes onsite to make the site search engine friendly, and you have refined a systematical approach to your offsite optimisation process, then preparing an accurate quote for your client shouldn’t be too difficult.
Sure, you may make miscalculations, and mistakes, but take note each time you do. Learn from them, and ammend your pricing structure to suit. Over time, with each project, you'll find yourself quoting more confidentally, and attracting better clients as a result.
Don’t forget lastly, that you can always factor in service level agreements, maintenance and monthly retainers.