Price Points, Branding, & Comodification

This does not have much to do with SEO, but has a ton to do with marketing any business.

All too often online businesses use the "cheap price" branding / sales angle. There will always be someone else who is cheaper. Cheap is not an effective longterm business strategy for most businesses... especially online.

I have been pricing my ebook at $40 because I wanted to make it cheap and affordable to a maximum number of people. While my sales have well exceeded my expectation many of my friends have been telling me that it is the wrong price point.

I could try to sell my ebook for $10, but likely most people would not buy it because at that price most people would think it is garbage.

I do understand the concept that it is better to push value than price... I am not really doing anyone a favor if a low price is turning people off. The price is arbitrary. It is the value that is important. A higher price may give a higher perceived value.

A couple other SEO ebooks are selling at higher price points ($67 or $97). A bunch of my friends stated that I should price my ebook at $67 and a few think I should charge $97 and an ongoing subscription fee.

I will likely raise the price of my ebook soon, but I am going to wait until after I talk to that cool cat NFFC from SEO Roadshow.

A couple good threads / articles / books on the concept of branding and / or price points:

Published: September 11, 2004 by Aaron Wall in marketing


October 30, 2004 - 3:25am

aaron, gurtie is in the UK. it's a currency situation. they pay more for everything there.

to put it another way, the air you breathe saves your life every day - every hours - every minute.

it's priceless. so yes, your advice does save money. but so do lots of things. if we have to pay full rates for everything that "saved us" x amount of dollars, we'd all have broken our annual budget by the end of each month.

it's a faulty line of reasoning.

henry ford, aaron. provide a good product at a good price and they will come.

now you are just another overpriced ebook. better than some, but hopelessly overpriced.

i've also noticed that since you increased the price the blog has gotten worse. fewer entries, less information.

greed can often be the bane of quality. or put another way, the poorest people are often the most generous. money corrupts. a question mark for now.

it will be interesting to watch things develop here.

October 30, 2004 - 4:09am

"now you are just another overpriced ebook. better than some, but hopelessly overpriced."

what made it such a bargain at $40 that makes it so overpriced at $80?

"i've also noticed that since you increased the price the blog has gotten worse. fewer entries, less information."

many reasons for that

  • Not as much news has came out.
  • As I have learned more and built more of an archives I have covered a more broad range of topics and I learn slower.
  • I have been involved in many projects. Its not always easy doing everything you want to. Today I have a list of about 40 things I want to do tomorrow. I will probably do about 20 of them. I have tried hard to put this blog high on the priority list.
  • Other businesses and people also depend on me. One of my clients was in the hospital yesterday debating the life of his mother...whether or not / what he should do. While working to keep his business up I also was the one he spoke with for advice as it relates to his mother. Not a normal SEO / client relationship there. Thats giving more, not less...of course that normally does not make it into blog posts

I am still rather young and new to the web. Whatever I find as a happy balance will be different than what most others find perfect for me. I will make errors.

>greed can often be the bane of quality. or put another way, the poorest people are often the most generous. money corrupts. a question mark for now.

If I can spend more time focusing on things that interest me and truely enjoy life is that greed. Should I work 16 hours a day, every day? To put things into persective a bit... my bed I sleep on right now... it cost $40.

I don't think you realize how much money I give away or how many people I support.

September 12, 2004 - 12:34am's business strategy when it comes to prices :

"At the end of the day, this is the thing that people will continue to care about. They don't necessarily need to be the very lowest price, but they do need to be cost competitive at all times, while giving customers an experience that is reliable ...

They believe that price is such an important factor in getting people to their site that they enable third parties to sell directly competitive products through their site *even* if it means that they undercut Amazon's own price." - Third Annual Emetrics Summit

September 12, 2004 - 2:13am

"they do need to be cost competitive"

and since they are a general retailer of commodity items that makes sense.

It makes sense that they should offer a variety of price points and purchase options within their site.

If they did not take that market position someone else would have and that would have hurt Amazon in the long run.

Amazon knows this and thus wants to make a profit off that market position...and they do. I buy many NEW and USED books from Amazon (while buying used books I often purchase new ones too).

I do not think it hurts their new book sales or profits much to offer the third party products. Imagine if someone else took that market position from them...a bunch cheaper to bite a bit of the bullet and protect marketshare than it is to fight to get lost market share back.

Also Amazon sells books that for the most part you can get anywhere. When you buy at Amazon you are usually buying a commodity item and paying a premium for their excelent service.

Nobody else is selling my specific ebook. The concept I am selling with my ebook is much different than "average book you can get anywhere."

September 12, 2004 - 6:07am


i think you are at an attractive price point. you are just starting to reap the benefits of the extensive peer and forum reviews of your book.

your branding is that of no bs - no pose straight talking about SEO. the demystifier, as it were. if you raise the price, you have to change the profile to match the guys selling the overpriced stuff.

i think that would be a pity. we are talking about an ebook for heaven's sake. absolutely no printing or warehousing costs.

if you wanted to create some kind of additional subscription based product with all the latest algorithms that would be fine, but for now you cover that in your blog.

so either you gut the blog of significant content, or you don't have the content for the subscription service.

and there are guys who are doing just that (planet ocean, search engine watch, etc...)

i might suggest partnering with some programmers to sell subscription based online ranking tools. a good starting point would be the Web-CEO ranking tool which is very good but a total pain to use as it is a program on your computer and an unwieldy resource hog (in fairness i use it under VPC which doesn't make any programs shine).

the digitalpoint tool is free and is good for google but covers only google. i would sign up for such an online ranking happily if it existed. at reasonable rates with good printable results. there's some competition out there at $100/domain per year. crazy. should be more like $100/account/year.

that's just one niche that i've noticed. you've got a great platform now to sell such tools of your own.

your real market is to continue to sell the book at its current price - and become the best seller in the field - and use it as a come-on and reference for your own services.

you should be able to do very well as a SEO in your own right now. there are only so many hours in a day so you might just have to hire assistants to help you with the drudge work (linking, directories, etc.).

so my vote is strongly not to raise the price of the book. and i've already bought it. you're doing great just the way things are.

cheers, alec

September 12, 2004 - 6:50am

Hi Alec
I am doing ok with SEO right now. I actually turn away a ton of work because I can only do so much. To do well on the web long term I think it is important to make as much income as possible through passive means.

I do like the tools idea. The one negative is that any tool that is made can be rendered useless at any given time by search engines.

Part of the problem with using the ebook as a service come on is that the services (if you do a good job) are extremely time consuming.

I also am uncertain as to my ability / desire to hire people and run a company. <--- not wanting / needing that kind of stress

Right now I am absurdly efficient and am not willing to give that up.

The two down sides to my current ebook price are that
1.) it may turn some people off (of course any price may do this)
2.) it may not be expensive enough to leave adequate room for broad based affiliate support

I do appreciate your feedback and will consider that in any decision that is made. If only I could get a bunch more feedback like yours :)

September 13, 2004 - 2:18am


I purchased your ebook this past week. I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

I just want to say that I think the 40 dollar price was just right for me. It hurt my budget just a little, but gave the right value perception.

September 13, 2004 - 2:43am

Hi Pete
thanks for your feedback :)

September 13, 2004 - 11:19am

I personally think the price is well thought out - it is high enough to say "quality work", yet low enough to be accessible.

People like Jill whalen and Mike Grehan can charge more at least partly because they are far more established in the industry.

SEO Book, IMO, is well priced for someone looking to make a mark on the industry and establish their own name.

As a branding tool I think it's working very well, too.

Btw - my big new site should be up within 2 weeks max - I'll have a review of SEO Book online then - I'll give you a sneak peek before the site goes live. :)

September 14, 2004 - 10:38am

I think you should, or certainly could, raise the price Aaron (evidently contrary to most people). I know I convert to sterling but $40 is incredibly cheap for the information you're providing (try buying something giving even half the information you supply from Amazon and see what the cost is) plus the freebies you give are all worthwhile.

Jill Whalen et al are more established than you, agreed, but then they started a few years before you did! I would say pretty much everyone knows your name now and respects your opinions - so you're also established - if you wait for the 'more established' people to retire before you raise your fees then you may as well go paint boats.

And the info you provide can save people $100(0)'s in SEO fees and gain them $100(0)'s in revenue. Just go with your gut feeling on what to charge - you know enough about both SEO and Marketing to get it right....

September 14, 2004 - 3:12pm

Hi Gurtie
thanks for vote of confidence :)
are you going to SEO Roadshow?

September 15, 2004 - 10:29am

I don't know too many 120 page books that cost more than 40 dollars. I haven't checked out SEO books specifically (because all necessary information is online somewhere) so I can't say how you compare to two or three specific SEO books, but if you're targeting a fairly wide market chances are that many people, like me, will not know that there's 100 dollar ebook. But we do know that we can go to a bookstore and buy a fancy hardcover book for 20 or 30 dollars...

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