By Ralph Burgess
Search engine optimization does not need to be over complicated or costly to be worthwhile. So how come so many online marketing companies get away with charging from $600 all the way to $1,500 each and every month simply to ensure your site ranks well for a small group of keywords? Well, the old joke in the SEO industry goes like this.
“Why is SEO so expensive? Because it’s worth it!”
And you know, honestly, that isn’t really even a joke. People charge that much for their services because they can. But what if there was a better way? Well, there is. Several better ways in fact.
Before we get to them however, let’s look at why Google does not like it when you do SEO. Think about it for a minute. For every visit you get from organic search (SEO driven) that is one more targeted visit you did not have to pay for through their pay- per-click advertising (PPC). Maybe it’s only a click you would have paid fifty cents for, but get ten of those a day and all of a sudden that’s $150 in one month they lost out on. And that’s just for one keyword! Heaven forbid you get a great SEO company that works with themes or topic-based SEO where just one theme or topic gives dozens of keywords. Now you’re denying Google thousands per month.
By the way, I don’t even know the last time I saw a good keyword go for fifty cents. Most go for a few dollars a click or more, depending on your industry.
Anyway, I digress. Let’s look at your options for more affordable SEO.
Most people immediately jump to offshore options, but we’ll save that as a last resort. If you can afford it, always use a company located in the same country as your business. If for no other reason, it’s nice to have someone who is a native writer and speaker of your language and knows how to show that in his or her SEO work. Aside from that, it’s nice to have a native speaker if you do need to call.
But, the fact is, there ARE other reasons beyond writing and speech skills. And very good reasons at that! If you have a local business in the US for example, it looks pretty strange (to the search engines) to have 90% of your links coming in from Southeast Asia. It looks even stranger to see the incredibly crappy articles and blog posts those links come from. This is stuff typically written by people who have only the faintest grasp of the English language and it shows! Not only does such a poor link usually not add value, Google will follow it to your site and potentially blacklist you for it because they can only assume you paid to have a link of any kind to your site, and that’s a big No-No in Google’s book.
What worked six months ago can now get your site banned. It’s a nightmare.
Enough scary stuff. You can usually find smaller local SEO companies or consultants who can get you setup for a thousand or so dollars and then charge $400 to $700 per month, which is better than the $600 to $1,500 per month that started this little rant of mine. Just make sure they are qualified. After the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000′s just about every website designer who lost their job decided to hang out a shingle claiming to be an SEO expert. And, big surprise, a lot of them are not.
As for the interviewing process, it’s somewhat the opposite of what you might think. If they have gads of testimonials on their site, RUN. The last thing you need is to work with someone who is going to blab your business all over the Web for your competitors and Google to see. If you want to get a feel for how good they are, ask some pointed questions. Here are three, along with good answers.
Question 1. What is your link building strategy?
Answer 1. It’s varied and really a trade secret that makes our services so valuable. But what I can tell you is that we ethically obtain links from key sectors including Web 2.0 sites, articles, forums, private blog networks and a lot of social media.
Question 2. Does social media influence SEO results?
Answer 2. This is a great question because a couple short years ago, the answer would have been “not really.” Now however, links from social media sites play a big part in ranking results for reasons including popularity of site and the fact that Google is trying to take on Facebook head to head through Google +.
Question 3. What is your ranking guarantee?
Answer 3. We cannot make guarantees about rankings. Only Google can do that and anyone who tells you different is lying.
Number three is a harsh reality but one you need to be ready for. As the old saying goes “Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.”
You will get different answers of course. Just be your own best judge. Turn on your “BS detector” and keep asking questions before you spend a nickel.
Try a national low cost SEO provider. There are a few reputable ones out there to choose from. One example in the US is 295SEO.com. As the name implies, it’s $295 per month. They get their business from word-of-mouth and organic rankings so that eliminates sales commissions, and expense accounts as well as marketing expenses. I don’t know much else about them, but whether it’s them or another outfit, finding affordable SEO in your own country is always going to be worth looking into, or at least a country with the same native speakers and writers.
Of course, there are also advantages to working with an SEO company that resides in a country where you want to get business from. If you are in the US and want to get the bulk of your business from the UK, hire a UK based company and vice-versa.
Again, ask the three questions above and look for the best answers.
As a last resort, let’s take a look at offshore options. Now, just to clarify, this is not necessarily a “better” option – but it is almost always a cheaper one and that counts for something. The secret to success here is to make sure you choose to work with the right company. Simply put, find your offshore SEO provider by using a freelancer website and you can choose from among hundreds and even interview each one and get instant references.
Visit a freelancer website like eLance.com or Vworker.com. There are plenty out there. Just do a Google search for “freelancers” and you will have more than enough choices. Next, sign up for an account. This should be free. If not, move onto another one that is. Next you will want to post the details of your job. Be specific here. Don’t just go with “SEO for XYZ.com.” You want to provide as much information as possible. Here is a good, general requirements template you can follow:
Purpose: To provide Organic Whitehat SEO services for XYZ.com
1.) Provide keyword research for highest ROI search terms the site can rank for with minimal ongoing expense.
2.) Once approved, optimize site for keywords though onsite content development and alteration, Meta tag enhancement and other necessary elements.
3.) Register site with Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as XX additional search engines.
4.) Develop unique custom profiles for entry into directories.
5.) Develop link building strategy that adheres to Google’s latest algorithm updates; Post Panda.
6.) Develop ongoing SEO strategy not to exceed $X per month. This should include no fewer that XX directory submissions per month and XX inbound one-way links from optimal resources.
If you don’t want the ongoing monthly services, then by all means adjust the last few points. Just a heads up though, SEO is not a “set in and forget it” thing. You might get some initial rankings but they will tend to drop like a rock without ongoing efforts, updates and high quality link building. Which reminds me – not all link building is created equal. Doing this wrong can get your site blacklisted by Google so choose carefully. If you are in Dayton Ohio, just remember that Mumbai India is a long way to travel to have a face-to-face with the guy that just cost you your business. And calling him might not help since your 12 O’clock Noon is his 12 O’clock midnight.
Affordable SEO is out there. You just need to be willing to hold out for the best option to fit your needs and avoid hiring someone that will get you in trouble.
Ralph Burgess is the founder of Natural Link Building Network and a SEO professional with fourteen years in the business.