A constant question from most business owners revolves around the need for SEO for their website – and how much should they pay for it – what is reasonable?
This can be daunting – as there is a very wide range of costs for this service, particularly in Denver, and business owners also need to have a better understanding of what they get when they contract an ethical and effective internet marketing specialist to perform SEO services.
There should be accountability for the service and reasonable expectations on both sides of the table. Since this is a frequent question in my field, I thought it would be good to address this in more detail to help readers gain clarity when considering SEO for their business.
WHAT IS SEO Anyway? What am I paying for?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a commercial process or method to help your website become found by users of search engines that have interest in the content or offerings available on your website. This process consists of several steps – the submitting of your site to be indexed and scored by the Search Engines, the preparation of your site and its material to be properly registered when the engines index it, and lastly, the tracking and monitoring of your site’s progress and the changing search trends, so that you can adjust your site to be found seasonally.
Commercial Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t free, and it isn’t easy either. It doesn’t happen with the click of a button, and it’s important to understand the work and steps that make up the process before you agree to hire an SEO specialist.
When shopping for SEO services, this is a breakdown of the absolute essentials you should expect to receive:
- Website/business interview: Speaking with a search engine optimizer is the first step. You’ll do this to set goals, outline your expectations, discuss deliverables, ask them the questions you need to know, and more.
- Detailed Keyword research: Once they know more about your business and what your goals are, an optimizer needs to conduct thorough research on keywords to target. The demand for these phrases changes periodically, or seasonally, as people’s interests change – sometimes this is referred to as “what is trending.”
- Competitive Phrase research: A significant part of keyword research and gauging ranking potential lies in researching the level of competition for each keyword to target. Some will be easier to rank under than others based on how many other sites are competing for the same phrase.
- Website research: Your optimization specialist should look at your site’s history, backlink profile, domain age and more to determine whether you have preexisting penalties with the search engines (and if fixes need to be made). In addition, the specialist should also identify weaknesses in your site’s content, linkage, or usability – issues that can affect your site’s overall ranking score.
- Content Advising: Existing on-site content plays greatly into optimization success. An optimizer should analyze your content and give informed suggestions to you on how to add or modify content to maximize performance on the chosen key phrases. If necessary, they may be able to help create or modify the content to target newer audiences.
- Sitemap, Metadata addition or alteration: This is the technical side of the process of SEO – it involves the insertion or alteration of code into the site involving title, description, authorship and social tag alterations (among others) to include the keywords you’re targeting, on a per page level of your site. This also ensures that when your site is indexed, it’s represented with a proper introduction description when listed on the search engine ranking lists.
- Accountability – Monitoring trends, tracking progress, and adjusting: SEO is a process – it takes time, and does not happen overnight. As a business owner, you are stepping into a “king of the hill” battle by trying to score higher against the search engines scoring algorithm than your competitors and to achieve a higher listing that is closer to the first page and first listing. It is important to look at ALL of the major engines, not just the frontrunner, Google. The other engines provide listings and links as this has a cumulative effect on each other, i.e. having good placement on Bing, Yahoo, and even AOL also has an impact on your Google ranking. A good, ethical SEO specialist will provide you with detailed monthly ranking reports and will share quarterly reports regarding the changing interest trends in your phrases. They will use this information to adjust your site’s code and sitemap, and advise you of changes needed in the content of your site to reach your goals.
Why is it a long process – why does it take so long?
Search Engines are literally bombarded with billions of requests each day to index and rank new and older sites, as these sites’ content changes. They also have to contend with the human interest factor – how people’s interests change day to day. On average, each time a change is made, it can take between 35-180 days for the engine to index and take note of your content changes or updates.
This timeframe can be very random to a business owner – but when a commercial SEO specialist is monitoring this process, they also should be resubmitting your site every month using a commercial license or submission software that also is updated to reflect the changing search engine requirements. By doing this with a commercial process, business owners cut the time to 30-40 days to see changes – and with each month, the results should get stronger as the ongoing process builds momentum.
What’s a realistic cost of SEO and Why?
Below are several business types and the typical price ranges for good SEO services both in the United States and abroad. These ranges are organized by business size or site size and are based on what I have experienced on a National average pricing level per month, over the last 20 years.
SEO for small to mid-size businesses (between $250 and $750 monthly): This pricing covers fundamental SEO implementation and maintenance for businesses with small to midsize websites (generally 1-20 pages). If content writing is needed as well, there can be a writer’s fee for well written material that is researched and prepared.
SEO for larger sized businesses (between $750 and $2,000 monthly): Larger businesses generally have larger sites and need significant more work. They will need a larger base of key phrases monitored, a wider geographic reach, and are in a much more competitive field. Because these sites are older, and more established generally, they may need their images and videos optimized, a focus on local search, older backlink cleanup, or possibly the resolution of some prior SEO work that was performed improperly, resulting in search engine penalties that may need to be addressed.
Enterprise SEO for large businesses (between $2,000 and $10,000+ monthly): This level of pricing is what’s necessary for large-scale operations, such as national corporations or big time ecommerce sites. The bottom line is, this requires a team of people working on the SEO process every day. The offerings are comprehensive and include constant maintenance for large sites, research, and implementation on vastly competitive keywords, loads of consultation, and often other types of marketing (such as content and social) to help increase the site’s ranking performance.
What Should I Expect? And What’s Too Good to Be True?
There are many things to watch for when considering an SEO specialist – you should look for the following red flags – and if you see these, pay close attention – you may be want to be wary.
- Page one ranking guarantees: No SEO company can provide a ranking guarantee, because no SEO company works directly with Google for organic rankings. It’s advisable to run away from a provider if they make this statement – it’s just not true.
- Promises for instant or fast results: Every site is different, and there is a lengthy number of factors that play into how a site ranks on Google. Optimizers and the sites they work on are ultimately at Google’s mercy, and must answer to the speed of their crawling spiders and ranking algorithms. And while some sites will see results in a matter of weeks, SEO implementation can take months before strong results are seen. It’s a process and the longer you run the process, the better your cumulative results.
- Ridiculously low prices: If you find services that are marginally lower than the industry standards discussed above, you should second-guess their credibility for your own good. Low pricing means a lower bottom line, often resulting from corner-cutting practices. Take these possibilities into account when you cross paths with “budget SEO” services – you get what you pay for. A qualified and reliable SEO agency will charge competitive pricing within the bounds of what was discussed above, where a less-experienced or fraudulent one will attempt to undercut competition by charging less. In this industry, you’ll pay fair prices for a dominant search engine presence, thorough execution, and a return on your investment. Conversely, shooting for unrealistic prices that are lower than the industry standards will leave your website’s success up to chance.
- Claims that SEO will do it all for you: SEO is not going to solve all your marketing problems, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or deceitful. Optimization is a necessary cog in the digital marketing machine, but it must be supplemented with other marketing efforts to reach its full potential. Not to mention the fact that once you get the readers to visit your site, you ALSO need to offer them the right product or service, at a good competitive price – if your product or service is not seen as a value, it does not matter how many people find you – they won’t buy it, or participate.
Hopefully, this provides some guidance and clarity into the world of SEO – and why it costs what it does, and what is involved in doing the work properly. This service is one of our most popular offerings, and we have had great success in promoting our clients. We stand behind our work, and strive to help our clients achieve results in a timely manner with a good return on their investment. We also provide upfront reporting on keyword research, and current placement for free for a client that is considering SEO for their site. If you are interested in getting a free analysis report, or would like to talk to us about your SEO needs, contact us directly – and we look forward to helping you.