If you're considering getting some SEO work done, but working to a tight budget, here's a look at the key issues, and trouble-spots to look out for.
Buying Professional SEO Services
If you're short on time, or SEO skills, or inclination, then you may be looking at getting an eternal supplier to undertake SEO work. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for, and SEO is no exception. There is also a danger you could get a whole lot less, of course.
Like any profession, there are many great operators, and many poor ones.
Set Clear Business Goals
Start by writing down the goals you want to achieve. What business problem are you trying to solve? Do you need more conversions? More traffic? Higher rankings? Only one of those requirements is likely to make you any money.
Traffic and higher rankings can make you money, but can just as likely make no difference to your business, whatsoever, unless they are tied into your website strategy. For example, you may receive more traffic after engaging an SEO, but if this traffic isn't interested in what you offer, they will click back. Likewise, you could gain high rankings for keywords that no one searches on. This will result in no traffic increase, and no new business.
Devise your own metrics for success. Some SEOs will devise metrics for success that are easy for them to achieve, but make no real difference to your business.
Watch Out For Hidden Costs
If you have an existing site, you may need to make changes to your design and layout. Depending on how your site has been built, these changes may be minor or significant in terms of cost to rectify.
The Problem With Cheap
Whilst high cost alone will not guarantee you good results, there's a high probability that low cost will almost guarantee poor results.
SEO is labour intensive and requires skill and knowledge. As a rough ballpark, a small site, that doesn't have design issues, that has had no previous SEO work, could take, at very least, five days of full-time SEO work. This work involves link building, adding keywords and content to the site, and other external promotional activities. Get the SEO to breakdown the work into hours and tasks, and see if the amount charged equates to the work required.
If the SEO is pricing significantly under their competitors, there may be a legitimate reason. They may use cheaper labour, often located in emerging economies. This is fine, however make sure any firm you do use has a good knowledge of the country and culture in which you operate. Marketing, SEO or otherwise, requires an intimate knowledge of language use, culture and location, so ask to see previous work, and check references.
On the other hand, there are agencies that will charge like a wounded bull for essentially the same tasks as everyone else. Obtain a few quotes and compare, as pricing can be all over the place. The industry is not standardized.
Do It Yourself
Anyone can do SEO. However, that doesn't mean that everyone should.
What does SEO involve? It can involve restructuring a site, coding, content creation, marking up content, market research, strategy, link building, and public relations. Do you have the time, or the inclination to do this? The learning curve, for the beginner, is steep. It's also time consuming. How much is your time worth?
However, there are many aspects you can do yourself. Start with a good, solid SEO course ;) Join forums where other SEOs hang out. Look for content management software that is reasonably SEO friendly, out of the box, such as Wordpress (free). Using SEO friendly software means you'll avoid a lot of technical problems that can be expensive to rectify if you use software the search engines find difficult to crawl.
Search engines like content. Generally speaking, the more pages you publish, the more chances you'll have to be seen. If appropriate, adopt a strategy similar to that of magazine publishing. Publish often.
Once your business case and site content are established, you need to build links. A site without links is pretty much invisible. Here are a few link building strategies. In summary, submit your site to directories, get your partners to link to you, issue press releases featuring links back to your site, put links in your online signature. You can never have too many links, so long as they accurately represent the content is on your site, and they appear in places your audience hangs out.
You can go a long way by buying in some help, and doing the rest yourself.
Pay for a few hours of consulting where an SEO evaluates your site and your market niche. It's well worth paying top dollar, for someone good, for this part - as it most likely only takes a few hours. Setting off on the right course can pay high dividends, whilst heading down the wrong path can be difficult, and costly, to recover from. Engage them in an advisory-only role, and ask them to provide you with a strategy. Some SEOs will do this, some won't.
The most important thing is to ensure they establish your site has no technical issues that will prevent it being crawled, and that your content is structured correctly. Once these problems are ironed out, SEO becomes a lot less troublesome.
Only you know your skills, but the following areas are reasonably straightforward for those with a little web knowledge. Keyword research is easy enough to do yourself, using readily available keyword tools, as is content generation.
Simply write on topic and sprinkle keywords through your content and headings, or have your copywriter do so.
You may also wish to undertake link building yourself. This involves requesting links, submitting your site to directories, and building effective partnerships. It can be a good idea to get consultancy as to where you should focus your link building energies. Some links are worth a lot more than others, and there is a strategy to it.
Like any complex professional service, you'll still need to monitor and measure, even if you do opt for expensive, comprehensive outsourced options. There's no sitting back with marketing, and that includes SEO.
Whatever path you choose, make sure the SEO work is aligned with your business goals.
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