First, it helps to understand the difference between internal SEO and external SEO.
The internal process of optimizing your website (by making adjustments to your website’s coding, content and site structure) is actually something that should be easily completed within the first month or two (unless you have thousands of pages). Because this process can be completed so quickly, the overall cost of properly optimizing a typical small website (internally speaking) should really be no more than a one-time fee of $1,000 to $5,000 depending on how many pages you have and/or the need for additional content.
It takes a lot more than just internal tweaking of your website to rank at the top of Google’s search results. Google’s original claim to fame was that they were the first search engine to look beyond on-page criteria and instead focus on inbound links as a crucial ingredient to their ranking factors, similar to a voting process. To this day, Google still looks at inbound links as an important metric on who should rank above who (along with hundreds of other factors such as social signals and brand signals). However, Google has said from day one that they want these links to be unsolicited and EARNED based on your website’s content and the value it has to offer. In the last few years Google has very successfully cracked down on what they call manipulative link schemes (i.e. what many call ‘link building’).
In the old days (when you could still get away with it), inbound link building services were all the rage and fairly inexpensive due to how easy they were to generate. However, today the cost of earning unsolicited links (through content marketing, social media marketing, branding efforts, etc.) involves a lot more time, thought and labor. The good news is that even though it now cost more and takes longer, the benefits are still worth the extra investment. Not only will unsolicited links be far more valuable in the long-run, but the act of earning them (by improving your website, offering better content, engaging with your target audience through popular social media channels and more) will all do wonders to improve your overall brand, reputation and visitor-to-lead conversion rates. A typical multi-faceted campaign including content marketing, social media efforts and other forms of branding/promotion can range from as little as a few thousand dollars per month to upwards of $20,000 per month or more depending on the volume (and quality) of content, social posts and advertising efforts being provided.
You get what you pay for, right?
This popular phrase should imply that if you chose an SEO company for $1,000 per month over the company that quoted you $3,000 per month, you should get about one-third of the quantity of work …or one-third of the value. Unfortunately, we’ve seen in many cases where choosing the wrong company can get your website penalized by Google. The reason? Many of these ‘cheaper’ SEO companies still use outdated link building tactics that Google cracked down on years ago. Many unknowing businesses end up experiencing a huge drop in their traffic because they unknowingly violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Red flags you should watch out for:
- You only heard of them because they spammed you
If you’re like most of us, you receive weekly, if not daily emails from supposed SEO experts promising you top rankings on Google. These emails are typically sent out to hundreds of thousands of people at the same time and often state that they noticed problems on your website, even though they’ve never once looked at your website. Their emails are typically void of any specific company information as they are first waiting to see if you even respond with any interest before pulling back the curtain to who is behind their spam. Do us all a favor, hit ‘Block Sender’ and choose a reputable company that has been around for a while.
- Link Building Services
As we have learned earlier, Google is all for the idea of earning inbound links by providing amazing and helpful content and using outreach efforts to promote and amplify your useful content. However, Google is very much against manipulative link building tactics and as far back as 3 to 4 years ago they successfully won the war at spotting, ignoring and penalizing 99% of all the common link building tactics that are still sadly being offered by SEO companies who should know better. Yes, there are a FEW acceptable methods of link building that still work (such as manually asking other website owners for a link), but just know that begging for links can be extremely time consuming and typically generates less than hoped for results. Most, and I repeat MOST, ‘link building services’ being offered today are the same old tactics that Google cracked down on years ago and will now do more damage than good to your rankings. Examples include: social bookmarking, blog/forum bookmarking, mass directory submissions, article link building, link exchanges, blog links (which are typically purchased links that Google can easily recognize blogs that sell links), etc. Here is Google’s official stance on manual link building: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en
- A high volume of monthly hours offered for a questionably low hourly rate
Be wary of any proposals promising to give you 20, 30 or 40 hours or more of work per month for under $2,000 per month. According to SearchEngineWatch.com, the average SEO consultant (whether they are individuals or agencies) typically charge between $100 per hour to $300 per hour. Run the math and if an SEO company is promising you an hourly rate of $10 – $40 per hour, you would be correct in raising an eyebrow. Even if they are outsourcing to India or the Philippines, it is still highly unlikely that they are going to give you anywhere close to that many hours at such a low cost. Think about it. Auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers …any legitimate service company is going to charge you upwards of $150 /hour or more for professional services. So why would you trust your entire business into the hands of a questionably dishonest SEO company? Especially when your entire financial livelihood can be altered by their success or failure.
- Claims of needing to continually optimize your website month after month
We have seen first-hand where some SEO companies propose a long list of SEO related things they will supposedly do over and over again, month-after-month, which to the unknowing business owner, seems very impressive. The only problem is we have seen these fluffed up bullet lists are typically just a simple list of basic ‘Internal SEO 101’ steps that should easily be completed within the first month or two and rarely need to be touched again, unless additional pages are added in the future. If they claim your website needs to be (internally) optimized month after month, run don’t walk to the nearest exit.
To sum things up:
- Stay away from companies who spammed you to get your attention.
- Avoid SEO companies who still offer outdated link building services versus strategic link ‘earning’ services.
- Question the integrity of a company who proposes hourly rates as low as $10 – $40 per hour.
- Avoid companies who charge you an on-going monthly fee for internal SEO services. We offer affordable SEO packages that are a one-time fee.
Want to learn a little more about the history of SEO and how things have changed through the years? I highly recommend sparing another four minutes and watch our video called History of SEO.
If you like to receive a free SEO quote or custom proposal for your online marketing needs, click here.
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