SEO Services Paradigm – A Study of Cost vs Quality vs Time

It’s the same I suppose, across all industries, not just SEO Services.  You work hard for each and every sale.  You make contact, build trust, present your ideas/solutions, negotiate pricing and then get the contract signed.  Anyone want to guess what comes next?  That’s right…the very next question is “how long before I start to see results?”  Or, “why am I not seeing results sooner?”  Now we, like any reputable SEO company out there would, do a pretty good job of explaining the process of SEO and estimating time frames for ranking results during the sales process.  However, that still does not stop the questions or comments about why and exactly how long it is taking to start seeing results.  So in the spirit of sharing some “tid-bits” of information I have learned over the years, the following article is all about the question “why am I not seeing results yet?” 

“In a perfect world, you would be able to place your order for SEO on Monday and by the time you came into the office on Tuesday, you would be ranked number #1.  Oh wait, that’s PPC!”

So let’s take a look at the SEO paradigm and break it down a little so we can understand what goes into an SEO package (if done properly) and what three factors play a role in the deliverables of any good SEO Services program. 


Pick any two



In the above graphic, please note the four tiers of the SEO Triangle (more on each of these in a later post).  They are the basic building blocks of any successful SEO program.  The problem is that they all take time, money and energy to create good quality (or better yet…GREAT Quality) results.  So if we agree that we have to have great quality results, that we want those results as quickly as possible and that we want to pay only what we absolutely have to and not a penny more…how do we decide what happens next? 

“When it comes right down to it, you cannot have all of the above three triangle points (Quality, Speed and Low Cost).  I tell my clients who don’t understand this that they can pick any two.  Here’s what I mean by that…”

Pick any two!  That’s right, you can only have two out of the three items on the triangle (Quality, Cost and Time).  Which ones do you want?  They invariably look at me like I have lost my mind, but after a quick explanation they understand and then make their selections and we go to work.  Here is how I break it down; 

Option 1 – I Want High Quality and I Want it Fast 

Easy enough.  If you don’t care what the cost is or have an unlimited budget, we can go as fast as possible (while still maintaining a natural look to Google) and get right to work to accelerate your SEO program.  Again, your price is likely to be very high for this work.  There is also an element of risk with any “accelerated” SEO program because Google may flag too much activity as un-natural and penalize your site for that activity.  Only go this route with an experienced SEO that knows where the edge of the  envelope is so you don’t fall off! 

Option 2 – I Want it Fast and I Do Not Want to Pay a Lot 

This is where most people get into trouble.  There are a lot of SEO’s out there who promise you fast results like “top of Google in 30 days”.  The bad part is that some people actually fall for this stuff.  Let me explain one scenario that I have seen over and over again.  Let’s say you own a web site that sells baby products like diapers, clothes, feeding bottles and more.  Maybe you built the site yourself or had someone else build it, either way, the site has never been optimized for search engines.  What these low level (I hesitate to call them scammers) SEO’s do is promise you top of Google in 30 days for only $250.00 or your money back!  Or worse, no charge until you are on top and then it’s $250.00/month while you stay there.  Let’s face it folks, anyone can get a web site to rank for “Tallahassee Baby Supplies by Joan, Inc.” in less than 30 days but how much traffic is that going to bring you?  Is that a keyword that Google has indexed and shown as having “X” amount of traffic per month?  I highly doubt it. 

Option 3 – I Want High Quality and Low Cost 

You can have a high quality SEO program at a very affordable rate if you don’t care that it takes 5 years to rank well for your keywords.  Again, an effective SEO program does require a lot of effort and expense.  The longer you allow for results the more the work can be spread out over a greater period of time and thus you have a lower monthly out lay.  Please note that in the end, you may actually end up spending more for the final product.


“You get what you pay for.  I grew up hearing my dad say that over and over.  I learned that lesson at a very early age and it has served me well over the years.  When I do get the occasional urge to try and skimp somewhere, it almost always comes back and bites me.”

Pick your SEO Services firm carefully.  Make sure you ask the kind of questions that will give you the comfort level you need.   A little bit of research on your part will go a long way and empower you to be able to ask some of these questions.  In the end, people usually do business with people they trust.  If your SEO Services vendor has not yet earned that trust, then why would you give them your business? 

One last thought on cost…most SEO Firms will evaluate each customer individually and are capable of building custom plans that allow even the smallest of businesses to begin an SEO Program regardless of pricing shown on their web site or printed materials.  If you think you cannot afford SEO, ask your SEO Vendor for a custom “starter plan”.  If they are reputable, know what they are doing, they should be able to craft a plan that you can afford that will deliver some benefit to your SEO program.  From there you can grow your business and therefore the SEO can EARN more business from you once you start to grow.

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  1. Good post. You DO get what you pay for, so ALWAYS ALWAYS keep that in the forefront of your mind. My bread & butter saying that guided me was ‘if it sounds too easy, it probably isn’t worth it’.

    These should keep you out of trouble.

    Mike, an idea for a future post:
    Could you elaborate on WHAT questions the normal consumer should ask perspective SEO companies so that they would have a consistent score sheet to gauge services opposite cost?


    • Hi Jeff! Great idea for a future post! I did one like that a long time agao on another blog. It maybe be time to reva,p it and repost.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Jason E.

    Great Point Mike! I would like to also add that “Quality” is almost always worth the wait. Very rarely should you ever sacrifice quality for money or time, esp. in business. It almost always come back and bites you in the RUMP.

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. Thanks Jason. You are correct, saving a dime hear and there is hardly worth it in the long run.

    Thanks for reading and the comment!


  4. Eric Mullins

    Great way to look at it Mike. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It is all too true and can even be applied across many industries and services.

  5. Hi Eric! Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.