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.
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.
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.
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.
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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