If a Client Asks for a Money-Back Guarantee in SEO

Gio
New client seeking a "money-back guarantee" from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Pay-Per-Click (PPC) on a 6-month campaign? Not sure how softly shut down this expectation…
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[filtered from 54 Answers]

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Chris M. Walker 👑
Yeah even if a money back guarantee was a good idea (it's not, no matter what some chest thumpers below may try to tell you) this person asking for it tells me the power dynamic will be off throughout the relationship.
Just say something like "I understand your hesitation; however you have to understand mine. If I work for 6 months I am putting in time, knowledge, and resources and I get results… but things change, and I can't recoup the time and resources used. You can trust in my ability and dedication and I will deliver for you too… if not I understand, and will be happy to refer you to someone else, no hard feelings."
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Gio ✍️
Chris M. Walker
Well said, this is exactly what I was feeling but couldn't put it into words. I appreciate help!
Jomz » Chris M. Walker
best answer so far… and I'm learning! Thanks 😀

Tony
I've had clients with great SEO results that had terrible Return on Investment (ROI), simply because their business did not have a decent system to handling and following up with leads. "Money-Back Guarantee" is not a reasonable expectation. Does Google Adwords offer any guarantee whatsoever? No. Neither should you.

Goldsmith » Tony
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If his sales/reception staff isn't competent at converting leads into sales, you are totally screwed.
Perhaps consider a smaller base fee and a commission off each lead which increases based on milestones. 0-5 leads you get $X, 6-10 leads per month you get $X+$Y, 11-15 $X+$Y+$Z, and so on.

Raut
It is all about probability, you charge them fix fee for handling the SEO & ppc and then add money based on the results…but no guarantees whatsoever!
Mast
"Sorry – we can't provide guarantees on results as there are many external factors – such as your competitors – that we can't control. We would be happy to guarantee the type and amount of service we perform on your site and provide verification of the work completed."
John
Ask him with all the money he has spent over the years or decades on paying for radio, TV, billboard, newspaper, yellow pages, magazine, and Return on Investment (ROI) advertising and direct mail, fax blasting, and door hanger marketing did any of those companies ever give him a money back guarantee? (crickets)
Kevin
Show him some of your past and current results and then explain why you believer you can get him similar results.
I reassure clients by explaining that while I completely appreciate their hesitance, there are just too many moving parts to make an accurate guess, let alone a guarantee.
If after that they're still squeamish, I thank them for their interest and move on.
Lees
I would say to the client, "No guarantees in advertising. But I don't lock you into a contract either. I earn my client's business each and every month, and that's why my clients do business with me for years and years."
Gio, I would never sell a campaign with a time limit, like 6 months or 9 months. I just assume that it's on-going indefinitely. Clients ask, "$2000 a month? How long do I have to do this for?" I answer, "For as long as you want to market your business" and leave it at that.

Alder » Christopher
as soon as people put contracts on things I run the other way. I run my agency the exact same way. If we deliver, you stay. If we don't, you leave. Keep it simple

Mian
Brother simply tell him
For SEO you can guarantee rankings in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). (Top 10).
For ppc
You can guarantee quality leads
(Make lead generation or conversion campaigns)
Put proper tracking via tag manager.
If keywords get ranked your r awesome and if he gets higher ppc conversion rate then still you had conversions ask him to increase the budget to get more.
Its 100% win win situation i do with my spam clients.
But before that thoroughly check everything. At times such domains or websites are already blocked by Google and facebook.
And take payment 100% in advance and all ppc payments to be paid with clients card.
Kevin
Just tell him, ok, how about each month I send you a report simply stating 3 things not even SEO metrics.
1. What you spent.
2. What it earned you.
3. How much more you want to spend?
Then you don't really need a money back guarantee. 😂

Green » Kevin
what happens when the result is
£300
£20
£0
Kevin » Green
I don't know? What do you do if someone mugs you in the street?
Green » Kevin
same thing when somebody mugs you online
Kevin » Green
Exactly. Point is, if you are good you can identify how to drive conversion, how to track the financial results, and finally, how to ask your client how much MORE they want to invest/make. Why did you even ask that?
Are you trying to tell him to call the cops/Google? Or were you really asking me how I handle robbery??? 😂
That's ok Its apparent there are 2 possible problems 4 you… Your not investing enough to get the quality you want. Either time or budget towards results but you are the only constant. Remember that and stop complaining.
I said time because I've done everything for my digital footprint and my website manually to save cost and it's got quite a lot of traffic. I'm an owner/operator of another home service business as well. I'm ranking on the first page of Google with certain search terms and my phone is ringing.

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Green
You're all very one sided money grabbing. As a client it is frustrating that we pay you to TRY with no results. I get that we pay you to put in the work but end of the day if the ranking doesn't improve it is just a waste of money

Daniel » Green
I totally get this but unfortunately its impossible to guarantee because there are too many factors that are out of anyone's control. You're essentially paying for someone's marketing expertise. Anyone offering a moneyback guarantee will either be shit, go out of business quickly or have to factor the uncertainty into their pricing (which often prices them out of the market). Unfortunately from a client perspective the market is saturated with marketers that don't really know what they are doing so it's hard to pick the good from the bad. You can see that from the marketers that post in groups such as these that have clients but still ask the most basic questions. All you can do is try out a few or learn how to do it yourself (or train up an employee to do it).
Green » Daniel
but to me that's saying even the most experienced SEO marketers you are simply paying to have a go I appreciate it's a moving market but I think this is something you should keep up with ( I'm an electrician and we have to retake the exam everytime a new edition to the book comes out, it's a constant changing market) . I'll pay you x amount this month to potentially get nothing back where as a guarantee says to me this person knows exactly what they're doing knows the market well and should there be no movement on the website then i haven't wasted any money.
To me it's like I go into a customer house not knowing the regulations and saying I'll give it a go but if it's wrong or i can't get power to the socket then it will still be charged
Federica
I guess that's the problem with SEO, people expect to pay specialist to gain money where you are paying them to complete a different role, like… Would you ever hire a recruiter to literally make you money or a web developer?? I believe the concept is wrong on people's mind. We do a Job and the serious one's do not promise money, because we do not work with money, unless you work with Ads probably.
Daniel » Green
unfortunately risk is higher in marketing than being a sparky. Imagine if the ac voltage from the national grid changed every other week and you had to go back to all the jobs you'd done two weeks ago to correct them for free. It's not black and white and you take on risk. Personally I totally sympathise with you but I sympathise with good marketers as well. That's why I don't do work for clients any more – too much disparity with expectations. I realised I can make a shitload more money marketing my own websites without the grief.
Green » Federica
no that's not quite what I'm saying. If you put in work over a few month for example and the website doesn't move. I'm not sure what the cost would be but if it is let's say £300pm then I'm working for that £300 to be wasted which is usually 1 to 2 days work for nothing yet you are saying it doesn't matter if you get results or not we still loose £300 I just don't see how that's fair
Federica » Green
I wouldn't say it doesn't matter. Some results don't just show straight away. I've just worked on a website for 3 month an results started to show around the second month. It's quite subjective to the kind of SEO work you do. If you pay, you definitely need to see a results. The problem is that the results isn't always live and it isn't always money.
Green » Federica
ok there's my point what if there are no results or even negative results
Federica » Green
have you got reports from the job that has been completed? Proof of what has been done, has it beeb explain to you the reasoning behind the actions? There could be many reasons behind no results (yet) or negative. One of them can be surely that someone hasn't done a proper job, but that's not the only one… You'll need to weight what job they've done and what kind of reports they offered…
Daniel » Green
a marketer can put in the time and work to best practice but still see no results. Would you be happier with a pay per lead structure? As no one can guarantee results what would you suggest is fair compensation?
Bryan » Daniel
the issue is all these SEO companies are making big promises to get people to buy…knowing that there could be zero results. It's interesting, a lot of people are confident in their results until someone asked for a guarantee lol.
Daniel » Bryan
it's because that is what clients want – a guarantee. I've never offered one because I believe it to be dishonest. Ultimately, it's a competitive industry. Only one firm can get the sale. Marketers just increase the chances that their clients get the sale but can never guarantee it. In a football tournament, only one team wins and there's a bit of luck involved but you don't ask the coaches of the 31 other teams to give backbtheir wages.
Green » Daniel
yes I think lead structure is definitely the way to go with somebody hesitant like myself
Daniel » Green
you see, I've done pay per lead before and after a while clients get upset that they have to keep paying out for it instead of a one time fee lol.
Green » Daniel
then they're idiot clients who want it for free I'd be happy paying per lead as to me that's a guarantee
Daniel » Green
there's also a risk to the marketer that the client won't be able to close the leads and then not pay. Or you send them more leads than they can handle and they don't pay for the ones they don't follow up. Glad I left all this behind me years ago lol. I think the most important thing is a client and marketer having a relationship built on mutual trust and good communication. Its not easy but if you find a good marketer pay them well because they are like gold dust 🙂
Green » Daniel
yes but to be fair again your talking about clients that want it for free. I've got somebody on my website at the moment and paying £300 per month( not sure if this good or bad ) if somebody would be interested in price per lead instead I'd be possibly be open to this
Daniel » Green
just to make you aware most people that do pay per lead will be setting up their own websites to collect the leads and then selling them to you. This insures them against the client going out of business, refusing to pay etc. Because they can then sell the leads to someone else instead.
James » Green
I haven't done client SEO for a couple of years so have no side in this debate, so I'll just put it to you from a technical point of view and use an analogy.
Let's say that you rank number 2 on Google for electrician and want to rank number 1.
I analyse your website and backlink profile and also do the same for the number one website.
I tell you that in order to rank above your competitor AS THINGS STAND you need four new articles written and pages created from those articles. You need a couple of hours of on site technical SEO done, and you need 30 backlinks.
The cost for this will be xxx.
You agree and I get to work.
A month later I have done all that was agreed, but the problem is the guy at number 1 has created 10 articles and built 300 new backlinks.
Also, the person that was at number 3 has done the same, and now that website has gone above you as well, so you're now in position 3.
To your untrained eye, you would probably think that my work has had a negative effect.
So here I'll use an analogy.
Imagine you are a sprinter that can run the 100 metres in 10 seconds. You are the second fastest sprinter as your opponent can run the 100 metres in 9.8 seconds.
So you pay me X amount to get your sprint time down to 9.7 seconds, which I do.
But in that time your opponent lowers his time to 9.5 seconds, and someone else lowers their time to 9.6 seconds, so you are now third fastest.
And even though I have done exactly what we agreed that I would do, you are now saying, well you've got nothing from it so it isn't fair and I shouldn't be paid.
Do you see the issue?
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Green » James
I completely understand. That's your point of view as somebody who creates the website. Doing it that way you don't loose out. However me as the customer loses out but not by your example because that website is already ranking high. Try the other more common scenario where the website is on the second page so basically never gets looked at. You spend just as much money and do just as much work to get to top 4 spaces and it doesn't move from the second page. Would you not agree that (if the client pays up of course ) it's the client that has lost out, the client doesn't know the market, the client doesn't know how well you know the market. A genuine guarantee or lead maker gives me full reassurance that you fully know the market and I'm not going to be wasting money
James » Green
Sure, but a guarantee can only be provided on the basis that
1. The SEO knows every factor so the results of his/her actions will be predictable. (He doesn't and they won't)
2. The competition does absolutely nothing in the meantime. (Possible but unlikely)
3. Google doesn't change it's algorithm in the mean time (I've personally lost a regular £30k per month overnight due to an algorithmic change).
So it's actually impossible for an SEO to provide a guarantee. Any that do are flat out lying to you.
All anyone can honestly say is that I believe that X is required and it will cost Y and take Z time.
You are paying for the person's time, (supposed) expertise, and predominantly backlinks which cost us a lot of money.
Green » James
so the bottom line with everybody on here is that you have a good idea but not an absolute solution to get the website to where the client wants to be, for me it's the top 4 spots. Therefore you'll take our money for some work that you THINK works but there's a possibility it will do nothing. We're supposed to pay you for this privilege to have a go and if no results it doesn't matter because it's not your money therefore what we should is throw some more money at it to keep trying solutions to get higher. Surely there's a point where you go we don't know the market as nobody can and what were doing isn't working.
James » Green
Like I said, I haven't done client SEO for years, and only rank my personal and company websites, and I'm in exactly the same situation as you are.
I'm not blowing my own trumpet, but I've been doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for 13 years and have ranked world wide for some of the most difficult search terms in the world like "online casino" and I believe I am as good as anyone, and even when I'm ranking my own websites the only guarantees that I have is how much backlinks are going to cost me.
I can roughly estimate how much it costs me to rank a specific website for a specific search term, and roughly how long it will take, but I can't even give myself guarantees.
So I do the work and spend the money and hope my forecasts come to fruition. More often than not it works. Sometimes it doesn't. That's the risk I take.
If you were to hire me (I'm not available) then I'd work out how much it was going to cost me and add X percent as my earnings, and you'd get the same results as if I was doing it for myself, but you'd never get guarantees as there are none.
Bryan » James
I completely agree with except most of these SEO experts have no problem making false promises when there isn't a legal agreement.
James » Bryan
I agree that a lot of SEO users aren't ethical, but I also think some responsibility for that has to rest with the customers for not doing any due diligence, and usually just choosing the cheapest option.
Tim
Hey Adam
, I totally understand what you're saying. The problem is marketing consists of testing each case individually – especially when it comes to local SEO. (it's not only industry but also area depending what people search for and how they interact (convert) with the content. )
The reason for that is that human behavior is so diverse it takes a lot of tests to finally come to a solution. Electricity problems on the other hand don't include human behavior and psychology which means they can be solved with a specific plan. (Because someone tested it for you years/months ago)
In addition to that, SEO (including the current website situation (bad links, penalty) is not 100% under our control which makes it impossible to guarantee something or make you only pay for results. Our work is to test – that can take a few months or even more than a year depending on competition, market, and how Google perceives the industry.
I mean put yourself in our shoes, would you want to work for free even if you know the best work in the world at a certain time can massively fail through a single search update? What everyone thinks is best for the user and Google's vision of a great search engine are 2 different things. So there is no one who could ever guarantee you something.
Bottom line is that you pay a good marketer for their pre-evaluation, trial and error and their expertise, not rankings. An honest evaluation tells you what's possible and trial and error eliminates useless tactics (data-based marketing is the only way to decrease the chance of failing.) Obviously, a good marketer knows mostly what they have to do to get the info quicker.
What may also be a problem is that I think a lot of business owners think that paying someone $500 a month would get them anywhere near the top 3 ranking positions within the next 5 months. What does an electician charge? ~$80/hour? That's 6 hours of work for an SEO per month – how would someone be able to get results within 6 hours? That could take 1,5-2 years to see steady results. But someone who works around 20 hours per month could increase the chance to get results by month 6 tremendously. Most business owners just don't want(or can't) to pay $1.5k+ per month. The alternative is learning. Good luck, Adam! 🙂
Derek
Labor costs money, regardless of the aim. If you don't see SEO labor as worth it, it's very lucky that SEO isn't essential to life! Just don't buy it.
Not much different than paying medical researchers to find a cure for something unsuccessfully. Would you hire a physical trainer under the conditions that you only pay if you reach your goal of being in the olympics?
Green » Derek
to be fair I appreciate what Tim
and James
have given as example although comparing yourselves to doctors is bit extreme 😂
Derek » Green
I'm not comparing myself to anything. I don't provide an SEO service, I just joined because I was curious about whether it might benefit any of my small lines of business.
The comparison isn't about the level of education required, it's about paying for labor compared to paying for results.

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Elvis
Narrow down what you can guarantee then work off that with extra payments for specific milestones.
It's also important that you and the client are invested in this relationship and both on your toes.
I've done this with a few clients and actually earn more this way. It keeps everyone on their toes and honest.
Gio ✍️
Update! I ran with Chris M. Walker approach and "SHE" was completely understanding and wanted to pay me 6-months in advance(though we settled on month to month). I love all the responses, this is why I love this group! Good luck all! » Chris
PPC, I don't guarantee anything. SEO I only guarantee landing pages that I feel confident I can bring to page 1 and charge a base fee of 20% up front that is non refundable. Then set the expectation that it might take some time and on-going effort to reach the goal. I've found people are willing to pay a lot more per page when they don't have to pay much until results are proven. Just make sure and sound confident in your work and easy going. Good luck!
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These may satisfy you:
» What Guarantee can You Afford to Convince Your SEO Client?
» SEO Guarantees Versus Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

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