The High Risk SEO Merchant Accounts
Voted the #1 High Risk Credit Card Processor in 2013, 2014, and 2015, Soar Payments offers high risk merchant accounts for SEO, SEM, Web Design and Web Development businesses. Because of our narrow industry focus, Soar Payments offers unique, reliable and affordable comprehensive credit card processing, ACH, payment gateway and chargeback management services tailored exclusively to the needs of high risk merchants like SEOs, SEMs and other web marketers.
Our goal is to be the undisputed best merchant account provider for SEO / SEM / Web Development businesses. To accomplish that, we have to understand and cater to the unique needs of the online marketing community that we specialize in. For the web marketing merchants specifically, we put together the below “SEO Merchant Account Cheat Sheet”. It’s designed to give web marketing business owners a single place to obtain all the information they’ll need to obtain a high risk merchant account for SEO and be successful for the long term accepting credit and debit card payments with an SEO merchant account.
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A Note From Our CEO
Adam CarlsonSoar Payments, CEO
Managing an SEO, SEM or Web Dev business is tough.
Consistently that’s what web marketing business owners tell me. (In fact, I’m personally friends with a guy who walked away from a small shop doing nearly $2 million a year in revenue because of the hassles.)
So maybe it’s not that bad for everyone, but the point is, there are a ton of pitfalls that can trip you up as a web marketer / designer if you don’t have a good game plan. Things like:
- Getting approved to take credit cards as a startup
- Getting bombarded by “friendly” chargebacks
- Being able to accept more payments as your business grows
The good news is, these problems are all solve-able. It took me about 10 hours of research, but I put together the below “cheatsheet for SEO merchant accounts” for entrepreneurs in the search engine optimization, search engine marketing, web design, and web development industries to help you avoid these pitfalls.
It’s my sincere hope that you find this article useful (because I’ve got a lot of work in it)… and if you need help with your high risk credit card processing, I’d love to help you with that, too.
P.S. If you own an SEO, SEM, Web Design, or Development business, and want affordable and reliable high risk credit card processing we can help you (in fact, we specialize in your business type). Click here to begin a free online application.
March 07, 2016
Who Needs a High Risk Merchant Account?
SEO / SEM and Web Development companies are universally categorized as high risk in the credit card processing industry. In fact, the label high risk applies to any business with one or more of the following characteristics:
- a history of high chargebacks,
- irregular very high-ticket sales,
- in an industry that US sponsor banks and processors are unwilling to support,
- highly regulated industry,
- an industry with long delays between billing and delivery of the good or service, or
- an industry that relies upon recurring billing, free trials, or memberships, or
With respect to web development, SEO and SEM businesses, typically they have large ticket sizes (aka large average transactions), they have a significant delay between billing and delivery of the good or service, and as a general rule most US sponsor banks are unwilling to write these businesses. For those reasons, SEM, SEO and Web Design / Development businesses are almost universally characterized as high risk businesses, meaning they need a high risk merchant account.
Common Web Marketing Industries
While any business involved in web marketing is an appropriate fit for our high risk merchant account, startup and existing businesses in the following sub-industries are some of our most common clients:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Search Engine Marketing
- Website Design
- Template Design
- Web Development
- Software Development
- Mobile & Desktop App Development
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FAQ About SEO, SEM, & Web Marketing Merchant Accounts
Why are SEO Credit Card Processing Accounts Considered High-Risk?
Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, and other email or web marketing services are increasingly a central component to business marketing. These services are provided by SEO / SEM / Email and web marketing companies that provide valuable services by bringing businesses new customers.
Unfortunately, there are also some less-reputable companies in the space, which have engaged in a fair amount of fraud, or regularly failed to deliver services, and as a result, the entire industry finds it difficult to obtain reliable affordable credit card processing services because many sponsor banks simply refuse to underwrite SEO / SEM companies altogether. And because of the heightened concern for fraud with these accounts from the banks that will write web marketing businesses, SEOs frequently have their merchant accounts shut down by their processor at the first sign of chargebacks or problems with recurring billing. Thankfully, Soar Payments is one of the few providers of reliable US and offshore merchant accounts for SEOs, SEMs, Email Marketers and other web marketing agencies.
What is an underwriter looking for when reviewing my web marketing merchant account application?
An underwriter’s job is to assess and minimize risk from the credit card processor’s perspective. Specifically that means looking at the regulatory risk or unsecured chargeback risk of a specific business. Unlike a low risk processor, a high risk credit card processor for SEO companies will understand that some level of chargebacks are inevitable. However, what they fear most is chargebacks that the merchant cannot pay for on their own, thus making the credit card processor liable. So, for an underwriter reviewing an application for a merchant account for a search engine optimization, web marketing, design or web development company, they are looking to make sure that there is a fully developed business model (if a startup) with clear pricing, products, return policies, etc. or for existing businesses a clear track-record of successful processing. Additionally, they will be looking at bank statements to determine whether there is a regular positive balance in the checking account (so that chargebacks or returns will be paid).
Are there volume minimums and maximums with SEO / SEM merchant accounts?
Merchant accounts for SEO / SEM / web design and web development companies typically do not have a significant monthly minimum. If you literally process $0 per month, your account may be terminated, but as long as you’re using your high risk merchant accounts regularly, there is effectively no minimum. By contrast, there is typically a maximum amount of permitted processing each month. That maximum is first requested on the merchant account application by you and the salesperson that is assisting you, and then ultimately set by the individual underwriter who reviews your account.
Are there integration / application fees with SEO / SEM merchant accounts?
Most domestic SEO merchant accounts do not have an integration or application fee, this is typically reserved for offshore merchant accounts. Therefore, if you are a US based web marketing merchant you shouldn’t expect to pay any application or integration fees for high risk merchant accounts for SEO.
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Question? Ask Away. We’re Ready to Help.
If you’ve got a question about a high risk payment gateway, CRM, chargeback management tool, merchant account or anything else related to growing your web marketing business, and want some advice, email me your question directly: AdamCarlson@soarpay.com.
Ready to Get Started?
Ready to Get Started?Ready to start accepting payments at your company, Click here to begin a free online application.
Getting High Risk Merchant Accounts for SEO
How do I get a SEM, SEO, Web Design, or Web Development merchant account?
The shortest answer is simply to tell you to apply at a merchant account provider. But if you’re reading this, you probably already know that the real answer isn’t quite that simple. That’s because the vast majority of banks and credit card processors won’t take on search engine optimization, marketing, web design or web development businesses. So, the first step is to find a high risk merchant account provider that accepts web marketing clients generally, and your specific business type within that niche.
How do I find an SEO, SEM, Design, Web Dev merchant account provider?
If you owned a business in a low risk industry you’d have plenty of options, including processors sponsored by big national banks like Chase or Wells Fargo. Unfortunately, because web marketing, design and development are considered high-risk industries, most big banks and their credit card processors won’t touch your business. So, you need a high risk merchant account provider for your SEO business. What makes them a high risk credit card processor? The first thing, is that a high risk merchant account provider generally works with a smaller bank that is willing to underwrite a broader array of business types. And secondly, they are prepared for and thus more tolerant of eCommerce, MoTo, high-ticket, and high chargeback businesses. So, the first step is typically looking for a business that advertises that they want SEO merchant accounts. But even then, because underwriting guidelines change so rapidly, ask the sales person, for example, “Do you write high risk SEO merchant accounts?” Then, “How many SEO businesses have you, personally, successfully boarded in the last month?”. The reason, to ask the second follow-up question is simply because a lot of sales people, when asked whether they can write a certain type of business will default answer “yes”. But when pressed, they actually have no idea. So if the person hasn’t actually boarded any SEO merchant accounts recently, chances are, they probably can’t board this type of merchant. In any case, perhaps ask for a different salesperson that has so you don’t waste your time.
Does Soar Payments offer Web Development, Web Design, SEM, SEO merchant accounts?
Yes, at Soar Payments we provide all-inclusive high risk credit card processing services to hundreds of web marketing merchants, ranging from startups to businesses processing millions of dollars a month. The process is simple, just complete our 5 minute free online application, then we’ll email you a PDF copy which lists all terms and pricing for your electronic signature. Once approved, you can begin processing. We’ll handle setting up your chargeback management tools and your high risk payment gateway, making the process easy and simple.
Everything a Web Marketer Needs to Know About Chargebacks
Merchants who offer search engine optimization, marketing, web dev or web design have to be aware of their chargeback ratio, because, most often, excessive chargebacks are what causes a high risk merchant to have their merchant account closed by the processor.
How to Calculate My Chargeback Ratio?
Your chargeback ratio is the number of chargebacks per month divided by the total number of monthly transactions. The dollar amount of the chargeback is irrelevant, as is whether or not you win, lose, or don’t fight the chargeback. Once a chargeback has been initiated it counts as a chargeback. So, if your high risk business has 100 transactions in a month, and 4 customers have initiated a chargeback dispute in a given month, you have a 4% chargeback ratio for that month, regardless of whether you fight, lose, or win those chargeback disputes.
Why does a high risk credit card processor care what my chargeback ratio is?
Your credit card processor will terminate your account if your chargeback ratio consistently exceeds 2%. That’s because if they don’t they face potentially massive fines by Visa / MasterCard. Those fines are significantly larger than the amount of money they make on you as a merchant, so almost without exception, your will be terminated. So the key, is to keep your chargeback ratio below 2% consistently.
Why do web marketing businesses get lots of chargebacks?
Businesses in high-risk industries like search engine marketing and web design or development, are prone to high chargebacks for any of a few reasons,
- Web marketing business often accept payments over the phone or web payments which are prone to higher levels of chargebacks and fraud just due to the nature of the payment method
- Web marketing businesses often have large average transactions, which means that any customer who is even moderately dissatisfied has a large financial incentive to seek a refund. And moreover, less scrupulous customers have an incentive to claim that they never received the service or that it was defective in order to receive the expensive service for free
- Many web marketing customers are small, and don’t have great name recognition. Therefore, customers may forget that they ordered something from that particular provider,
- Web marketing business owners, particularly startups, may not understand or employ the full suite of techniques and services that are available to keep chargeback ratios low,
- Many startup or small web marketing business owners do not understand that a chargeback, regardless of whether won or lost, contributes to their chargeback ratio, thus they do not immediately grant refunds or otherwise aggressively take corrective action to make sure the customer is satisfied,
How do I keep my chargeback ratio low?
There are a number of techniques that web marketers can use to keep their merchant account’s chargeback ratio low. Below are just a few ideas organized when they can be employed, either prior, during, or after the sales process.
- Before the Sale: For web design or web development companies, where the customer is going to receive something tangible (for example a logo design) they can be the victim of intentional fraud in which the service is ordered with a stolen credit card. So, the key is to identify suspicious transactions before they are accepted, or at least before the product is delivered. If you’re using a high-risk payment gateway a lot of those fraud prevention services can be automatically integrated. For example, Soar Payments offers a product called iSpyFraud that is built into our gateway. The goal of this software is to either flag suspicious transactions for manual review, or never have them complete in the first place.
- During the Sale: This should be obvious, but during the sale, the goal is to fully deliver on the promises made, both implicit and explicit to the customer. For an SEO, SEM, web design or web marketing firm that can be difficult, because often the customer has unrealistic expectations about what you can achieve within their budget. So, one key is to be very clear about what the scope of work you are providing, what quality or satisfaction guarantees you are or are not making, etc. And then being as communicative as possible throughout the process so that there are no surprises. And finally, consider not taking payment until the service is delivered, that way there can be no question that the customer was happy with the final product.
- After the Sale: Once the sale is made and the product or service is delivered, the goal is to make sure that you stay in front of the customer as much as possible to make sure that if they have a complaint, they complain to you, and not their credit card provider. That means making sure your billing support department’s phone number is listed on all receipts and on the website, (note: if you don’t have a dedicated billing support center or you can use an (outsourced billing support center)). It means sending a follow up customer satisfaction email, and generally being willing to take additional steps, perform revisions, etc. all in an effort to keep the customer happy.
- After the Customer Complains: For most SEO, SEM, web dev and web design companies, you can significantly reduce the number of chargebacks in your business through the above steps, but you’ll never completely eliminate them. For those customers that do complain, you can consider offering purchase guarantee protection which will better ensure that dissatisfied customers can receive a refund. But for those that, despite your best efforts, still complain to their issuing bank you can use a chargeback alert system, which will provide you, the business owner, with a 3 day window during which time you can, if you choose, issue a full refund to the customer. The big benefit to issuing this refund, is that if you do, the chargeback will not initiate and won’t count against your chargeback ratio.
- Maintain high transaction counts: Remember, your chargeback ratio is determined by the percentage of your total monthly transactions that result in a chargeback, in most cases regardless of the dollar amount of those chargebacks. So, if you’re a small web development company that only does, say 10 sales a month, and 1 of those sales result in a chargeback, you have a 10% chargeback ratio. Obviously, you can’t simply will your business to be 5x larger than it is, but it’s important to remember that as a small business, you need to maintain your sales each month, particularly if you have a chargeback in that month.
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Need Web Marketing Merchant Services?
We’ve Got You Covered.
Soar Payments provides all-inclusive credit card processing services to hundreds of web marketing, design and development merchants, ranging from startups to businesses processing millions of dollars a month. So when you’re ready, we’re ready.