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Do you give ballpark SEO quotes...?

September 2, 2009
Recently, High Rankings was approached by a website design firm to provide a ballpark SEO quote for one of their client's websites. We asked them to fill out our contact form to provide the necessary info we need in order to have some idea of the scope of the project. The company filled out the form, but neglected to put the website URL in, nor a proposed budget. So we asked again for the website URL, but they did not want to provide it.

I've been in the SEO biz for over 14 years and I don't recall someone ever asking for pricing (beyond what we already supply on our website...which is a lot more than most companies) without allowing us to quickly look at the site. Since we only take on sites when we believe we can actually achieve the desired results, we can't quote for a site that we can't see.

But beyond that, we don't work via a cookie-cutter method, so each SEO program is priced based on its specific needs. A ballpark cost could be anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 depending on hundreds of factors. Unfortunately, they wanted specific line-item pricing (although still ballpark), which, in my opinion, was impossible to provide.

So I got to wondering what other companies do in this situation and sent the following out to the Twitterverse:

"Do you give 'ballpark' SEO quotes to companies if/when they won't tell you what the website is? It's kinda necessary, no?"

Here are some responses:

@UprightSEO: I give them a ballpark that will at least weed out the time wasters who think they can get a quality program for $1,000.

@rishil: I just quote hour / day rates if it's consultation.

@DavidWallace: In that case I always quote it "way out of the ballpark." ;)

@andrew_thomson: Why would you want to partner with someone who clearly doesn't trust you anyway?

@sjachille: Would a dentist give you a ballpark figure without looking at your teeth?

@winotone: Like trying to fix a car without seeing it...I quote the max as I'm not sure I want that client anyway.

@jacobstoops: I'd let them know you need to see the site in order to do their quote justice & make it accurate. Red flags if they still refuse.

@ann_donnelly: Ballpark yes – detailed quote only if I get more details. It takes time to do that and you need to weed out time wasters.

@BParrishKell: To me, you can't give line item w/o seeing what the problems are or they give you exact problems. Can only promise confidentiality.

@SEOHack: You really want to work w/a company if they're not even going to tell you that kind of important info? I'd tell 'em get bent.

@StoneyD: It's pretty necessary. Otherwise you can break it down by service that you'll provide and guestimate worse-case scenarios.

@milwaukeeseo: So you think it's just a pricing game they're playing? Sort of an informal RFP? Personally, I wouldn't ballpark it. Site a must.

@bncarvin: You have to have some way to screen for competitors fishing for information on your business. Legit prospect would give URL.

I think that last one really summed it up for me, as well as the analogies to the dentist and auto mechanic. Our time is valuable. We don't mind providing a legitimate quote for a legitimate website if we believe we're a good fit for that company, and that we have a chance of getting the work somewhere down the line. But this situation had too many red flags for us to consider it could lead to anything productive.

Want to participate in the Twitter Question of the Week? Follow @jillwhalen on Twitter.