Choosing a SEO to manage your website marketing has never been easy, but during these tough economic times it's more important than ever to choose wisely. No one wants to be the guy at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, who chose the wrong chalice. You're site will be nothing but a shell of it's old self with the Knights of SEO standing over you saying, "He chose... poorly." Uh, yeah... "Information that would have been helpful yesterday!" (to mix my movie quotes.)
If you're a small business shopping around for the right SEO to help you out, there are a lot of things you need to consider before jumping in and hiring a SEO subcontractor or firm. Even if you're on a tighter-than-normal budget--and really, who isn't right about now--you can't shop for SEO simply on costs alone. That's like buying an economy car when you really need a mini-van. You just need to find the mini-van that offers the best features at the right price.
Not all SEO providers are the same and not all sites require the same type of SEO service. All thing must be taken into proper consideration. Here are five things that are relevant to the overall pricing and success of your optimization campaign.
Size of your site
The size of your site will be a significant factor in how much work will be necessary to optimize. The smaller the site the easier the overall optimization will be. But if you're dealing with a site with lots of pages or products then the optimization becomes much more complex. Even the pre-optimization work on larger site's is more time consuming.
The difference between optimizing small and larger sites can literally be thousands of dollars per month. As you start shopping around and getting quotes for SEO, you need to be aware of the size of the task that you're being quoted on.
Condition of site
While size of the site has an effect, so does the site's overall condition. I've run across many smaller sites that were so completely screwed up that nothing short of a complete re-development was in order. This sucks for the small business owner, but when you didn't invest in developing the site properly the first time, it means you either have to do it again correctly or simply suffer through ineffective SEO. Of course, you're still paying for that SEO so you're better off going for the re-development.
If your site is in relatively stable condition, from an architectural standpoint, then that will cut down the cost significantly. This is especially true for larger site's where one change can be implemented across thousands of pages instantly.
There are a lot of factors that are considered when looking at the site's condition. Things such as the architecture, usability, design appeal, usage and customization of title and description tags, page content, site navigation and internal linkage, all need to be considered when analyzing the condition of the site and what needs to be done to get it into proper order..
There is a huge difference in optimizing a site for a few dozen keywords, versus optimizing a site for several thousand. There are many sites in niche industries where keywords are pretty limited. Usually we can still come up with a list of a few hundred, but sometimes it's even fewer than that. But in other industries the keyword variables are wide open and there can literally be an unlimited number of keywords that can be targeted.
The more keyword options there are for your site, and how quickly you want to get any and all of those keywords optimized and performing in the search results, will be a contributing factor in the cost of your campaign. If you are fine with a slower approach then costs can be reduced significantly. But if you want to be more aggressive, optimizing more keywords more quickly, then the cost will go up significantly.
Experience/Skill of SEO
Some SEOs charge $25/hour while others charge several hundred, and there is every shade in between. Not all SEO firms charge by the hour, but the quote for services is based on the number of hours of work estimated and how much the SEO believes they are worth for that amount of time, so essentially, everything is hourly based.
While you may not want to pay $200/hour for services when you can get it for $50, there is a skill factor involved in each pricing structure. Not everybody who charges a lot is worth it, but very few are worth more than they charge. Selecting a SEO with the skill level necessary to do the job and do it effectively is essential to your long-term success. Keep in mind, also, that more skilled SEOs will not only charge more per hour, but they will likely get more done in less time. At the same time, they are more likely to find and fix problems that would be left unaddressed by the lesser skilled providers.
Another factor to consider is the difference between hiring a solo-SEO consultant and a SEO firm. While firms tend to have more overhead that needs to be paid for, they often have a wider skill range to work from. It's often difficult for one person to be an expert in SEO, architecture, copywriting, usability, link building, and social media all at the same time. In such cases these jobs will often be farmed out at a profit for both individuals/companies doing and managing the work, or simply performed less effectively.
The amount of services offered in a SEO contract can vary from company to company. It's not too difficult to reduce costs of the SEO service by cutting out non-essential services. But frequently enough, essential services are cut as well, in order to get costs down. Cutting costs by cutting essential services is bad for everybody. Not only will you not be performing but then you'll blame the SEO who will in turn point out that you may need to purchase additional services in order to perform.
While not every service is necessary for every kind of SEO contract, you need to make sure that the essential services are in place. And from there, you still need to keep an open mind if other services may need to be added to give your campaign an added boost.
All of these factors weigh heavily in the overall cost of any SEO and online marketing campaign. If your funds are limited then you may be tempted to go with a budget SEO provider. But keep in mind that SEO is an investment. If you invest little, you'll likely get little. But as you increase your investment then your return usually becomes exponentially greater.
Everybody needs to budget and you don't want to get into a contract that you simply cannot afford to pay. Considering each of the areas above carefully will ensure you're selecting an SEO provider that will provide you the best service, giving you the most value for your invested dollar. The last thing you want is to be budgeted out of success.
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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