From: Colleen Pelliccia

Hi Jill,

I'm glad I've found your website, it seems to be a great resource. I'm about to begin the development stages for my website. I can't figure out if learning to do SEO and copywriting would be the most cost and time efficient for me. There is so much involved in this that I'd rather pay someone else to do it, but how do I know who to trust? I've seen some SEO firms charging a minimum of $5k. That's twice as much as I can pay. Would it be best to pay for good copywriting and then do the SEO on my own? How do I select the right copywriter?

Thanks very much,

Colleen Pelliccia


~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for your questions. I was just trying to figure out what to write about today when I received your email. (Tip for others that want their questions answered in the newsletter...send them in on Wed. morning while I'm procrastinating!)

SEO firms are charging a minimum of $5k? Egad! Oh wait, you probably saw that on my site! Yes, I do charge a minimum of $5k, which seems to be in the middle range these days. Companies who charge a lot less tell me I'm gouging the customers, and companies who charge a whole lot more ($5k per month and up) tell me I should stop giving away my services. Ya just can't please everyone, except hopefully the client who finds the price to be just about right. It's important to note that the amount you pay to an SEO firm isn't always going to be a factor in how good a job they'll do for your site. I'm quite sure there are numerous small SEO firms that may charge you under $1k and do a perfectly good job. I'm also sure that some companies may charge thousands of dollars a month, and get you nothing but banned in the search engines.

So what's a small business to do?

If you have no interest in learning SEO (or simply don't have any spare time on your hands), I would suggest that you head on over to SEO Consultants and browse through the directory of pre-screened companies. You can be fairly certain that the companies listed there use only search-engine-approved techniques to get high rankings. It would be up to you to check references and some of their client ranking reports to make sure they don't simply rank highly for keyword phrases nobody is searching for.

If you're a hands-on kinda person and you're interested in search engine optimization, you might want to give it a whirl yourself. If you're designing your own Web site, you've already got a good start since you (hopefully) know some of the fundamentals of HTML and design. These are critical to the search engine optimization process, because there's no way to obtain high rankings for a site that does not have some search engine friendliness built into it.

SEO isn't hard. You've heard me say that a million times. If it was hard, do you think I'd be doing it? There's enough information in my articles and my archived newsletters to teach anyone how to get high rankings. But you gotta be willing to spend time on it and practice, practice, practice.

You asked if it would be best to hire someone to do the copywriting and then do the SEO yourself. Since so much of SEO is in the copy, this may work for you. However, before anyone can write copy for you, you need to understand how to do keyword research. Without knowing the best keyword phrases to optimize for, your copywriter will not be able to write keyword-rich copy. Don't assume that you know which keyword phrases are best for your site. Either hire someone to do that part for you, or sign up for a WordTracker subscription.

Once you're armed with a good list of highly relevant and specific keyword phrases, you'll be ready to have the copy written or to write it yourself. Make sure you hire a copywriter who really and truly understands how to write for the search engines and the readers. (You or they should probably read my Nitty-gritty report!) When you finally do get the keyword research, the friendly design and the copy all set then you're ready to do the tags. It's funny how people think doing the tags is the optimization when in reality, that's actually the easiest part of all! It's coordinating everything else to create a search-engine-friendly site that is the hard part.

Not sure if I directly answered your question, but hopefully this will give you some food for thought!

February 27, 2003

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ,, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Cost-Effectiveness of Learning Search Engine Optimization