It seems like everyone is selling SEO. I get emails all the time offering magical returns. How much should you spend on SEO?
I’ve seen some mad prices for search engine optimisation. From £100’s per month to £1000’s a month. Having done SEO for several of my own sites and a lot of clients I’ve never worked out what some companies do to justify the monthly charge.
To quickly break SEO into its most important parts you have:
- performance – how quickly the page loads and the quality of the code. e.g. use old technology, slow how, large images and google will penalise you.
- back links – websites linking to you and the authority and relevance to your content. e.g. if had a link from the BBC homepage it would be better than a link from a 3 month old blog
- Keywords – what keywords you use to make your web pages appear in the search listing and how they match with the amount of searches being made e.g. “free website builder” 246,000 monthly searches. ‘expensive website builder’ no searches.
- Content – how new and relevant your content is and how you position keywords within your pages e.g. its a good idea to put keywords in the main heading or H1 tag
This is a just a snapshot of what you need to do but it gives you a good overall impression. If you want to give your own website an SEO diagnosis these articles will help you use the free tools SEO Quake and Niblr.
There is a lot to do when setting your website for the best search results and therefore a cost is expected. Unless your SEO company is tweaking, testing and measuring, delivering back links or creating content what is the monthly charge for? Once you have set most of it up there is not a lot to keep doing.
My experience with SEO
I had a website in the top of Google for web design, logo design, SEO, graphic design in south london, south east london and a few boroughs. Apart from writing the blog, I didn’t do any ‘SEO’ for almost two years and it didn’t affect my ratings. I’ll say that again, I hardly touched the SEO side for two years and the results didn’t change.
This website is on the first page is on the first page for the keyword query ‘WordPress training’ amongst others. All the grunt work has been done, I just have to keep it ticking over with fresh content and a few minor tweaks now and again.
Its more than a numbers game
Different sectors have different values and behaviours that affect the way people search and have to be taken into account. For example locksmiths need to be the first or second result. Its no good being half way down the page. When you get locked out you want the first or second number. They will only get a few visitors but each visitor might be a customer. Pay per click advertising for locksmiths is the most expensive at a whopping £8 per click.
Before buying services people do a lot of shopping around and can contact the first five results in Google for prices and info. We all prefer recommendations from trusted friends. Search engines not very good filtering out the cowboys from the stars. A good result is only the start of the marketing journey as people don’t tend to buy services from the first website they land on. Being at the top although helpful does not translate into automatic business. You have to have a website that can convert that visitor into a more promising lead.
Its all about proportion
Some searches are competitive because a lot of people are looking for it, some are not. You can get a good result without a great deal of pain for search query that is not very popular. I used to get 500 visitors a month, mostly from Google which whilst isn’t an amazing amount of traffic, it was enough to keep a consistent amount of leads to my design business.
If you’re selling mobile phone contracts or the latest hot product and battling it out with the super brands then you need an SEO company that can monitor everything and put you right at the top because no doubt your competitors will be upping their game as well and the stakes are high. For a lot of us though its just not that complex and can be done yourself, especially with WordPress.
You can research your keyword queries with Google’s free keyword tracker tool. It will give you an idea how many people search for terms and how big or small the competition is. It will help you to evaluate the merit of your SEO strategy. A word of warning from someones who’s been using this tool for eight years. Don’t believe the hype. The figures the tool gives for some searches should be halved at least.
There is only so much traffic you can squeeze out of some keyword searches. like my old website that was optimised for ‘web design south london’. It was never going to get more than 500 visitors a month because it was not that popular. Knowing this can help you evaluate the ROI and how much of your resources you should spend.
SEO should be part of a marketing strategy, not all of it. If your website is not set up to capitalise on new visitors with relevant content or a way or capturing their email you may be wasting your money. Thats why just delivering traffic which is what SEO does it not enough anymore. So why should it command the crazy price?
If your competing in search results that are not the most popular you may not have to do much after the initial set up. So unless your SEO company knows someone high up in Google who can put in a good word, why keep paying a monthly fee? With SEO there is no magic just a lot of initial hard work to set it up and a way of producing new content now and again.
WordPress and SEO are a lethal combination. Google loves WordPress and the same technology used by leading experts are available to use for free. So with that in mind the cost is already going down. Its just a question of how much training and time you want to spend, because you can do it yourself for free.
Do you pay monthly for SEO? Are you getting the return on investment? Let me know in the comments below.