Every once in a while my company comes across a web marketing prospect looking for SEO, link building and social media services to get their uber-competitive keywords ranked #1 on Google. And then the bomb drops - their budget is a whopping $500! Whenever I come across these people who want so much for so little I want to wave my magic wand, click my heals together and rub the magic lamp sitting on my desk so that I can wish for an intravenous injection of whatever kool-aid they've been drinking.
Good SEO isn't cheap, but that doesn't mean it has to be expensive, either. Getting a quality SEO campaign isn't so much about cost as it is about the value that the SEO campaign brings to the site. If the SEO campaign is profitable, then it really doesn't matter how much it costs. Heck, if someone could promise me $5 in return for every $1 I spend, I'd mortgage my house, my car and even my brother to pull together every bit of cash I have. Unfortunately, I've already mortgaged my brother, and even the best SEOs cannot make such guarantees!
But that doesn't mean SEO isn't profitable. Done right, it is. In fact, SEO is one of the least expensive forms of marketing out there. Why so many website owners still refuse to invest as heavily in SEO as they do other marketing, I'll never know.
Many small businesses spend more on building their website then they do on turning it into a business generator. Without SEO, your website is just a brochure. But an optimized website is a lead generator and a ridiculously awesome sales machine. Brochures are great and all, but I'd put my money on sales!
But many small businesses are "strapped" for money to invest into marketing. I get it, I've been there. But marketing has to be seen as an investment, rather than an expense. Smart investments are not always cheap investments. You can play the penny stocks all day and make $5, or you can invest in a company that's going to return dividends of thousands.
Quality SEO isn't difficult but it does take both knowledge and the time necessary to implement that knowledge. Essentially, SEO is a combination of research, diagnosis and implementation. All three of these are necessary to create an effective optimization campaign.
Without getting getting answers to these questions, you might find your vehicle is prepped for the wrong kind of race. You might have paid $500 to be the winner of the pinewood derby! Yay!
Everybody wants to be a winner, but unfortunately, that's $500 wasted because your mechanic (SEO) didn't do the needed research - not only find out what you're racing against, but also to figure out what needs to be done to get your vehicle (website) prepared to compete properly.
There are a lot of tools available to help you diagnose website problems, but these may not always find the core problem. Or they might find multiple problems. A good SEO needs to be able to identify and diagnose issues, and this ability comes from spending time educating themselves about good website marketing strategies. You don't know what's wrong if you don't really know what's right.
Show a website to a "cheap" SEO and they might tell you that your tags need to be better optimized. Show the same site to an experienced SEO and they might spend a couple hours doing some digging to find the real problem. The more educated the SEO is, the more likely he or she will be able to provide a proper site diagnosis.
What good is that to you? Sure, you know what needs to be done, but until you actually do it, you're not going to get the benefit out of the research and diagnosis. SEO is no different. Unless the SEO recommendations are implemented, either by you or someone else, the diagnosis and research are all for nothing.
The cost of quality SEO is almost directly proportional to the skill level of the SEO and the time it takes to do the work. A low-skill SEO might charge you only $50 per hour, but might take 50 hours to do the job. A high-skilled SEO might charge an "outrageous" $200 per hour, but can get the same job done in just 10 hours.
While the $50-per-hour SEO might sound like a good deal, once you do the math, you realize you just spend more money on the same job. To top it off, the low-skilled SEO very likely didn't do as good of a job, so you just paid more for less. That's not good value!
SEO often has more value than the sum of its parts. Investing in research, diagnosis and implementation can appear to cost a great deal, but the returns are often exponentially greater. The idea is to consider SEO an investment, rather than a cost. Any good investment gives a good return. And as long as SEO is delivering ROI, there truly is no cost at all. With that, every small business can afford enterprise level SEO. How much you invest isn't a matter of how much you have, but how much return you want.
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Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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