Raising Prices in a Recession? WTF ;)

Jul 25th

The #1 SEO Community

Since the end of last year (when we started working with Conversion Rate Experts) we went from sorta not caring too much about conversion rates to making it a priority. Part of the reason we originally did not worry about it was just because I wanted to keep adding value to the service and make sure that the quality of the site was far better than any competing site. That goal has been achieved, and recognized by our customers and in the marketplace amongst SEO experts. Today I just saw Wiep Knol write this, and it motivated me to write this post.

Small & Tight Knit > Big & Bloated

After improving conversion rates we started growing briskly, and we are getting close to our upper limit of 1,000 subscribers. Since we are a small(ish) company we don't want to grow too quickly, or get bloated to the point it harms the quality of our customer experience.

Many competing services want to act like a Wal-Mart or McDonalds, and have 10,000's of customers that they quick serve. But I like to keep things small and cozy. We want maintain the current atmosphere where we have established a more limited and higher value site where we have the ability to interact directly with our customers every day to create a deeper, richer, and more valuable experience.

Our Customers Love the Site

Last week one of our customers made this video, which helped up realize that our customers are seeing the site the way we hoped.

Under-pricing

Originally we under-priced the site to ensure we could get enough people through the door to build a strong and sustainable community. If you fail the launch its hard to get a second try. But given that we have one of the 5 strongest brands in the space and that we work directly with our customers it does not make a lot of sense to be priced as a value play, especially after our membership has been growing so rapidly.

Most SEO firms take $10,000 (or more) and then do virtually nothing with the money. There are some good ones on the market, but very few of them are looking for customers. Almost every week I hear another story about $10K or $15K down the drain and it only further reminds me how little we charge for the value we offer.

Our site educates webmasters and is interactive to ensure returns. When customers participate on the forums the value they get will exceed what most get for $10,000 at the average SEO firm.

Unlike most large SEO firms, we do not have 1 person working the conference scene to generate leads and send them back to interns and fresh college graduates. When you join our site you interact ***directly*** with us. In a little over a year I have made over 10,000 posts in the forums.

"You saved my site, seriously, I don't know if this ever would have been solved otherwise - every SEO company I have been in touch with (50+) over the past six months was unable to identify the problem and you picked it apart in five seconds.

I'll be recommending your site to everyone I know in this business! Thanks so much again Aaron, you saved my site"
- Daniel E. from Toronto

On the value for money scale this site is just the opposite of most SEO firms...we pour our hearts and souls into it and go out of our way to be helpful. And many of our members are amazing SEOs who are gracious & share a lot of great tips & strategies.

"I wanted to learn, so I could see what they were doing, having spent over a grand!! I can now see they have really done very little.

In a couple weeks with your training program I'm actually starting to see results, and I've not even started the link building side. It makes me wonder what on Earth my SEO company have been doing for the last 6months!!! I'm going to go it alone and just use the seobook.

So thanks for producing such a great site to help people like me : ) " - Michelle

Price as a Signal of Value

There are a lot of $1,000 and $2,000 info-products on the market that are watered down re-hashes of what we offer, and most of them come with no customer support and no interactivity. Given that price acts as a signal of value and quality, currently we are way under-priced, particularly for the level of customer service we offer. Inside the forums when asked if we should increase our prices 100% of the responses were yes.

The good thing about increasing price is that the more something costs the more people respect it and act on it since the opportunity cost is higher. And when people listen to our advice they get a strong ROI.

"Everyone knows I love to razzz the black magic snake oil SEO industry but honestly out of the very small handful of guys that give a lot of value Aaron is at the top.

I HIGHLY recommend you check out his SEO training program."
- Jeremy Shoemaker

Aren't You Being Greedy? We Are in the Worst Recession Since the 1930's

Publishing a network of sites is a competitive strength we have over most SEO websites. We have real market data from a number of sites in many competitive markets, keep launching new sites, and have many commercial successes - driven through a wide array of strategies. This makes our understanding of the web far richer than a company which only runs a site about SEO.

Running this site is part of our competitive advantage for our other sites (because SEO is core to many of our marketing ideas), but when you adjust this site's returns for opportunity cost, this site's earnings are far below our other top websites. And sometimes the magnitude of difference is almost unbelievable. Sites we started many years after this site make similar amounts on far less effort with far less maintenance cost. This site is over 90% of my work time, but at most about 1/3 of our profits.

Higher Prices Increase Customer Quality

When I sold the ebook by itself the $79 price point was high enough to filter out pikers while still being accessible to many people. But when the get rich quick and make money online email list spamming internet marketers started hyping SEO it polluted the customer pool and was a big part of why we had to change our business model to deeper relationships with our customers at a higher price-point.

When we shifted our business model from ebook to a membership site our average customer quality increased sharply. We already have great customers, but figure that the best way to slow down & manage growth is to increase price. In August we will increase our prices to $150 a month. Search is a market worth $10's of billions of dollars a year, and SEO can provide amazing returns. But if this site is to keep consuming most of my work time then I need to increase its earnings.

We plan on adding lots of new content features and tools to the site throughout the remainder of the year. Current customers keep their current subscription rates, but subscribers after the August 1st date will have to pay 50% more than our current rate.

Published: July 25, 2009

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Comments

July 25, 2009 - 3:26am

Still the best deal going by far! In these ever changing times with lots of misdirection, outright lies, and smoke and mirrors you really need to get advice from pro's you can trust......

July 25, 2009 - 4:37am

I still learn a ton each day in the forum - even after 6 months of spending 2+ hours/day there.

There are so many people there who are experts in different aspects of SEO - so it really helps to give different perspectives on each idea. Also, they are from all over the world - which adds a diverse perspective to each dialogue. Most importantly, they are honest & direct about their answers - which is rare in SEO.

Aaron is so constantly involved that I swear he hasn't taken more than 24 hours off from the forum in the 6 months I've been there. He must post 25-40 items a day in responses to members' questions.

Not that I'm making a guarantee that he will post within 24 hours - I think that he deserves a vacation at some point!

July 25, 2009 - 1:38pm

No need to hard sell the increase so much, Aaron. The value seobook.com delivers is truly immeasurable. I am glad I got in as one of the early birds two years ago although I am yet to make full use of the gold mine of learning you offer.

The three-letter word in the title made me wince, though. What, even good old Aaron needs them three and four letter words to capture attention? :-)

July 25, 2009 - 4:49pm

The relief of finally getting to SEO Book after so much spin and downright bloated self serving trickery on the web is worth every penny and more. Thank you for the opportunity to join.

July 25, 2009 - 4:56pm

Thanks for the kind comments everyone! :)

July 25, 2009 - 10:31pm

If you're serious about SEO results, there's no better place to spend your money!

-gerrid

July 26, 2009 - 4:47am

Even at $150/month, you community is still a great bargain. Not only because of your insight, excellent advice and analysis, but also because of the large number of your senior members who share their knowledge with the community out of respect for you and because you have inspired us, taught us and provoked us to think.

I am not sure where you find the patient to help so many of us, but I am sure you do not here "thank you" nearly as often as you deserve.

July 26, 2009 - 6:52pm

I've been a paying member for over a year now. I've said it in the forum before, and will say it again here: The paid community is worth many times $100 or $150. Even if the price for current members was raised 3, 4, or 5 times what it is now, it would be worth it. For many businesses, the forum alone is worth way over $1000/month. It would be for mine.

I'm saving more than $200/month in recurring business costs from tips I got on the forums, and that has nothing to do with the ranking increases directly due to tips, strategies, etc., new industries I've gone into as a result of the community, etc. The $100/month I spend here is the best money I've EVER spent. Period.

July 26, 2009 - 10:53pm

"Even at $150/month, you community is still a great bargain. Not only because of your insight, excellent advice and analysis, but also because of the large number of your senior members who share their knowledge with the community"

This is a great point; I have a limited amount of time to dedicate to the forums but every time I read 3-5 threads I see an idea or insight from Aaron or others that pays for the entire month multi-fold, and the idea that you have all of that knowledge/experience on "retainer" for 150 a month is certainly a steal. Additionally there is access to a collection of tools (SEM Rush for SEO, a series of SEO Book tools) and coupons that can easily push and even exceed 150 in value if you make proper use of them.

Good luck with the new price-point, Aaron.

Tom

July 27, 2009 - 12:25am

I agree, best forum I've ever been part of.

One other reason it's worth it is you don't have to worry about the quality or authenticity of information and you can totally eliminate the pain of having to scour for information and assessing the credibility each time.

regards,
Jackmo
Aaron Wall Fanboi

July 27, 2009 - 2:16pm

Like the others, I've also said it many times, that this is the best thing going for the money. I spend at LEAST a couple hours a day in here during the week, and I get a ton of inspiration from seeing what others are going thru. I too, have taken away easily much more more than I could ever put in, and I learn something almost every single day in there - something of value and insight. And just for the sake of argument, I think Aaron has personally answered every single question I have ever asked - easily worth more than the price of admission. Belonging to this forum has quite literally changed the way I think about business, and I am very thankful for it.

July 29, 2009 - 2:44am

Glad I read this in time as I have been debating on finally joining after years of reading the blog so good to get in before the price increase.

July 29, 2009 - 7:05am

Welcome to the community Jesse. Thanks for the endorsements Martypants, Jackmo, Tom, Jonah, Maxmoritz, & Gerrid. :)

July 29, 2009 - 2:16pm

Thanks Aaron. I've just had a quick look around but already the materials have far exceeded my expectations. That's saying a lot as I already expected quite a bit knowing how thorough you are. The link building section alone is worth the initial cost.

July 30, 2009 - 12:57am

Glad you joined and glad you find the site valuable Jesse!

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