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KPIs, Price and All Things Nice

Posted on January 01, 2014

There are two distinct kinds of clients: those who are OCD about meeting arbitrary KPIs, and those who are interested in SEO/PPC efforts getting them more customers - The latter require less contact time as they consume as and when they need clarification.  You can imagine my dismay when the former starts ringing my phone.

Now please don't get me wrong, clients are great (they keep the lights on after all), however we'd all be lying if we said there were not a set of our customer base that we'd sooner exchange for others that are more likeable, for whatever reason.  You don't have to love all your clients equally.  But something that every client should know is that you are not a wizard and you don't work for free.  Something that you should educate your customers about is setting effective KPIs and justifying why you charge what you charge - It will prove enlightening throughout your client engagement!

KPIs are important if that's all you care about

So many people are focussed on meeting arbitrary KPIs they set for their SEO or PPC campaigns - And I keep asking myself where the numbers come from - Why do you need a CTR of 5% or more?  Is 5% the point at which you imagine you will break even?  What allowance have you made for traffic that doesn't convert?  How did you arrive at that figure?  Is it as superfluous as plucking 5% out of the air in the first place?

KPIs are important for sure, they are a helpful measure, but the fallacy is believing the KPIs you've set actually measure something effective.  Remember that your KPIs are to measure progress, not necessarily to be achieved in their own right.  And the other golden rule is don't be fooled by KPIs having any cut and dry meaning when it comes to SEO in particular - You want to focus on business.  Just because you get improvement in rankings, that doesn't solve the business problem of netting more customers, so why is this not a KPI also?  Instead of just looking at your rank on Google, look at what you are trying to rank for and determine first if that is what is going to get you the right customers.

You see, Google is a complex beast, and it's any SEO's job to try and ensure that your website is as relevant for particular searches as possible.  It is impossible to guarantee any particular movements, it's also unrealistic to expect someone to guarantee anything with SEO - And that's just for the terms you have chosen to optimise for (these may be completely wrong).  PPC is much easier to measure but again just because it's easier to measure doesn't mean the benchmarks you're using are effective.  Ask yourself the following key set of questions to determine effective benchmarks.

For SEO:

  1. Have I got the right keywords? Am I optimising for what I want the customer to search for or what customers are actually searching for?
  2. What is a realistic amount of traffic I would want to see?
  3. Why do I want to see this amount of traffic? What amount of that traffic do I expect to interact with my site (fill in a form, sign up, buy something)?
  4. What timeframe do I want to see this amount of traffic in?
  5. If I get close to, but don't reach this traffic rate, is it a failure?  What if I don't get the traffic but double the anticipated conversion, is it still a fail? For PPC:
  6. Have I got the right keywords? Am I advertising for what I want the customer to search for or what customers are actually searching for?
  7. What is a realistic amount of clicks I would want to see?
  8. Why do I want to see this amount of clicks? What amount of conversions do I expect to get?
  9. What timeframe do I want to see these clicks in?
  10. How am I actually converting them into a sale once they are on my site?
  11. If I get close to, but don't reach my desired CTR, is it a failure?  What if I don't get the CTR but double the anticipated conversion, is it still a fail?

Now keep in mind these are not the benchmarks themselves, but these questions should keep the right kinds of information in your mind when determining what KPIs to measure against.  The worst thing is sticking to KPIs that turn out to be relatively arbitrary in the greater scheme of things.


The SEO and PPC management market is filled with wildly varied pricing from $65/mth to several thousand.  What makes up these different prices?  Well my friend, I'm glad you asked.  It's time, and unfortunately SEOs or PPC managers are not homogenous, so they all don't cost the same per hour.  Clients seem to have certain KPIs about what they are paying for and this is all well and good - Just set them before engaging, or you will end up disappointed.

Something I find constantly confusing is why people bargain down on price for SEO.  I mean I understand the fundamental benefits of bargaining, but it just doesn't work that well for pure service business, and even less so where those pure services are doing work that's not entirely measurable.  And by no means stop trying to get the most bang for your buck, just don't apply the rule in a blanket fashion to every external party you engage.

Let's take a look at bargaining.  When you get the price down on a car, you still get the full car, heck you might even get the price down and floormats thrown in!  When you bargain down on a service it's a bit different.  Some services can cut down their offering to deliver less, and others can't.  A drycleaner can only press the entire shirt, not just the sleeves.  A babysitter can't look after your baby and not clean up the poop (actually, they probably could hehe).  An SEO agency can't get you ranking without putting effort into all the elements that get you ranking.  Why?  Because all the elements work together to bring you overall rank up.  It's that simple.

About the Author

James Richardson

Sales Director

James Richardson started his online career by running online Sports Fan sites (luckily none are still online today), with the pinnacle of the site being a write up in the Sunday Herald Sun 'Wired' column.

His professional career began at a ASX listed company, Melbourne IT, where he held various senior roles across the Sales and Marketing teams, before deciding to venture out on his own.

Running several successful online websites and businesses himself, he is well placed at understanding your business needs.

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