SEO - at least good SEO - doesn't fit nicely into a box. It can't come prepackaged, predetermined or wrapped nicely with a cute little bow. SEO can barely be predicted! It can't ever be guaranteed*, and it isn't a magical way to reach the next billion dollar IPO.

(*Technically you can guarantee a certain result, but those who do typically offer enough small print to make any such guarantee basically useless.)

Put simply, SEO is fluid. It needs room to maneuver, to expand, to contract, to change based on the particular needs of any given time. Which means, putting an SEO into a box can be quite messy, but some form of containment is a good thing.

SEO Is All Over the Place

One of the things that makes SEO frustrating is that it's very difficult to put a hard price on it. So many potential clients I talk to find this a major sticking point of moving forward with a new SEO provider. They talk to ten SEO companies and get ten different pricing options with ten different scopes of work.

Getting a quote for SEO can sometimes be like getting a quote to get someone to mow your lawn. Sounds simple, right? But as soon as quotes start pouring in, you realize how many options there are. One person gives you a quote for mowing the lawn, another gives you a quote for mowing and trimming around trees. Someone else adds in weeding your flower bed, and a fourth includes lawn fertilizer, rodent control or any combination of these options.

The question then becomes: do you need all these services? Or are you fine with just the lawn mowing, sans fixing the rest of the problems found with your yard?

In SEO, you have to know if the cheapest option is really going to give you what you want. Not only do you have to consider how well it works, but how quickly. A smaller investment may get you rolling, but it might take you a while to reach your destination. The problem is that SEO is a race, not a journey. You can take as long as you want to get around the race course, but in doing so you've already been lapped twice by a competitor who's investing more aggressively.

To really see the value in any SEO package, it really comes down to results. Lower cost equals lower results. That's not to say all expensive SEO is valuable, but cheap SEO almost never is.

SEO Can Be Contained

Since every SEO company configures their services differently, it's not easy to compare one with another. But it can be done. All SEO revolves around a few basic components:

  • Keyword Research

  • Site Architecture

  • On-page Optimization

  • Link Building

These four components are essential to SEO success. Some SEO packages may include only two or three of these, but you have to understand that without all four, you'll be missing a key component of your success. That's not to say there isn't value in any of these as a singular service, but until you have all four, you're just building a marketing campaign, not actually running it on the course.

These four pillars of SEO are the containment that provides you the ability to measure one SEO quote against another. First, you must establish which of these are a component in the quote(s) you're looking at. That's your starting point. If one of these is missing from your SEO quote, then you have to judge its value accordingly. Don't throw it out, just know what it is you're getting into and what the cost (both in terms of money and results) will be.

SEO Must Remain Fluid

It's impossible to get a straight answer when you ask, "How much does SEO cost?" There are just too many variables. Too often SEO companies like to create one-size fits all packages, and, frankly, that just doesn't work.

Every website is unique and requires a unique approach. The four pillars above are a great foundation, but how you work within each of those pillars changes based on site, time and circumstances.

Not only are the SEO needs different for every site, they also might be different six months after you start. And that's where you really have to let SEO be fluid. You may need one thing early in an SEO campaign, but later realize that a shift is required. SEOs that operate with SEO-in-a-box aren't too good at shifting from one focus to the next.

Keeping SEO fluid is essential for a successful SEO campaign. But fluidity has its limits. If you use the basic structure of a solid SEO campaign, there is a lot of room to maneuver around based on particular wants and needs. Without that structure, there is no containment and the SEO will likely not be as successful as you like.

By keeping the basic structure in mind, you're better able to compare SEO services, being sure that you're getting (or delivering) what matters while being flexible enough to adapt to whatever needs arise to keep your campaign successful.

August 29, 2012

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.


"That's not to say all expensive SEO is valuable, but cheap SEO almost never is."

Agreed. I know some sites don't have a huge budget for SEO, but going the "$49.95 for 500 links!" route is just a waste of what little budget you have. You do get what you pay for, especially when you aren't willing to pay much.

Yes agreed, In today’s fast paced world the public is bombarded with constant advertising and ruthless propaganda, it’s not easy for a company to leave a lasting impression on the consumer’s mind. Big MNCs spend millions only on advertising; however such extravagant expenses are not an option for their smaller counterparts. Small businesses have for decades depended only on word of mouth and maybe an occasional commercial or print advert. To increase sales and run any business profitably you need customers. To get customers you need a smart well thought out advertising strategy, you need to reach out to your potential customers and gain their trust.

Practical facts are represented in the blog. Many small and medium company has a poor knowledge about SEO tricks and SEO Campaign. Sometimes they spend little money into a specific seo trick ( Link 2 way or 3 way link building) and expected a fruitful outcome. But we know these days SEO is not so easy and emphasizing on a particular SEO tricks will not bring satisfactory result. So a planned approach is needed from client's end to start a SEO campaign. They must learn and do little survey about the market to take take decision how much money, time they should employ to get a considerable result. If the clients invest money without any planning or fare knowledge about SEO, their money may bring a ZERO in output.

SEO is certainly a mindset that is required when executing any type of communication or digital collateral online. With so many locations to have links, content and everything in between it is important to get a good grasp on any particular strategy you are trying to execute.

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