How to claim tax relief on SEO and PPC campaigns

By Adrian Williamson of Jumpstart

Search engine optimisation and pay per click campaigns are nowadays core elements in the marketing mix. However SEO and digital agencies may be unaware that they can claim tax relief for their work in some cases.

While the rules on R&D tax credits are complex, the trick is to understand the type of activities that might be eligible and speak to an expert to check if you have a claim.

As a general rule, the day to day SEO and PPC activities do not qualify for relief – in these cases, practices are well established and you will have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. The projects most likely to be eligible are the complex and challenging campaigns, where you are required to come up with innovative solutions and where there is uncertainty about how effective it will be or whether it will work at all.

To illustrate the point, here are some common areas for claims:

1. Unclear guidelines
Google and other search engines change their algorithms frequently and their guidelines are often ambiguous. In some cases, established techniques such as the use of keywords may fail to deliver the expected results and SEO specialists may have to experiment to find out what works while being mindful of those unpredictable and unexpected risks.

2. Overseas SEO
Dealing with western search engines can be difficult enough but improving rankings on sites such as Yandex or Baidu is a lot more challenging and uncertain. Again, the work may involve experiments and trialling different solutions to find what’s most effective.

3. Developing SEO tools
Clever SEO agencies are increasingly developing their own tools to automate the process or measure some aspect of performance which they can then offer as standalone products to generate ongoing income. This type of product development work is a common theme in R&D tax credit claims.

4. Ranking pay per click
Many clients are surprised to find that the success of pay per click campaigns may depend on their website ranking – if Google considers it’s not so relevant for the target audience, their ads will achieve little visibility. In some cases, resolving the problem is not so straightforward and again, will involve a process of systematic trials.

Do you recognise any of these situations or have a project that may fit the bill? If so, speak to a specialist adviser as interpreting the rules correctly and using the right terminology is crucial to success with any claim.

Adrian Williamson has over 30 years’ experience as a software engineer. He is now an expert on R&D tax credits, advising clients in web and app development, third party integration, IT infrastructure, SEO and cloud technology.

To book a free consultation with Adrian, contact Ian Wolfendale on 07531 448 053 or email