Performance-based SEO: Why you should avoid it?

Performance-based search engine optimization

What is performance-based search engine optimization?

What is performance-based search engine optimization?

Performance-based SEO or Pay-for-performance SEO is an SEO pricing model in which a website owner is charged only for the organic traffic they generate. You will not be charged when your site doesn’t rank or you don’t generate any organic traffic whatsoever.

The most common practice is to pay for a ranked keyword. You will only pay for the rankings that you get. If you rank 1st, you will pay more than if you rank 5th. In some cases, PBSEO pricing models allow paying by impression (CPM).

It sounds amazing, but you need to have the bigger picture in order to understand what you are getting into.

The alternative of performance-based SEO is more traditional SEO, or SEO that uses traditional techniques such as improving the site’s content, improving on-page and off-page SEO and implementing a backlink strategy. In this traditional version of optimization, you pay per month, not per ranked keyword.

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of performance-based SEO.

Pros of performance-based search engine optimization

Pros of performance-based search engine optimization

The benefit of this pricing method is that you get to know exactly how much traffic you are paying for. It is also beneficial for companies who are just starting out in search engine optimization because in this case, they will be paying for a specific result (a ranked keyword) and not for an overall result.

Another benefit is that companies can select the keywords that they want to be ranked for. This means that they will have full control over what keywords they are optimizing for. If a keyword doesn’t perform well, just stop optimizing and paying for it.

In this method, you will be tracking your performance per keyword and not per month.

Cons of performance-based search engine optimization

Cons of performance-based search engine optimization

I think that the list of downsides is bigger than the benefits.

The bad side of performance-based search engine optimization is that you pay for specific keywords and the bigger your website gets and the more keywords you want to rank for, the higher the monthly bill will become. Of course, if you rank for anything at all.

Another bad side of performance-based SEO is that you will be paying for a ranking that you can lose at any given moment. Why? Because most of the companies that work on performance-based deals stop their efforts as soon as your rank and they focus on the next keyword. But your competitors are not stopping and soon enough you find yourself with worse rankings and then you have to wait for your website to be ranked again on that keyword.

It is not a sustainable way of running a business.

Why you shouldn’t choose performance-based SEO services?

Why you shouldn't choose performance-based SEO services?

Because the companies that you will hire will try to get fast results so they can get paid. That can lead to black hat SEO techniques that you will be paying for. These companies will try to rank you as fast as possible and they don’t care how they do it. And when you get a Google penalty, they will disappear as fast as your website vanishes from the index.

Is this method viable at all?

Most of the advanced SEO practices are based on topics not on keywords. That means that you need to find very specific topics about your industry or products. If you have many different products, services, or brands, you will need a lot of experts covering each topic separately. And if the company that you hired is only interested in few keywords that they get paid for they will most likely avoid spending additional time for that additional content. They will focus only on the things that they get paid for and you will never rank.

What to consider instead of performance-based search engine optimization?

What to consider instead of performance-based search engine optimization?

You want to find a company that wants to grow your business with you. You want to find a highly dedicated team of SEO experts that are willing to put in months and months of their time to give you long-lasting results. The only way to achieve that is by hiring a company that will implement traditional SEO practices instead of paying for the result.

If money is the problem then you can change the pricing model with your agency to be based on KPIs rather than keywords. Having goals that are reachable and achieving them together will create a strong bond between your business and the agency that is working for you. Rather than having the constant feeling that someone is here for your money, you will feel that you have partners that are putting in the work to see the results that you are so desperately needing to grow your business.


Performance-based SEO might be tempting but it won’t lead to long-lasting results because it will create issues with the quality of your SEO. If your goal is to get rankings, then you have to look for a company that has specialists that will implement their best practices together with you, rather than using black hat techniques to achieve their rankings and to get your money.

Do you have a different opinion? Let me know in the comment section below.

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