Thinking about investing in SEO but not sure if you should?
SEO, also known as search engine optimization, is one of those things that is simple in concept but difficult in practice. SEO also means lots of things to different people. A social media strategist will most likely have a much different definition of what SEO is compared to someone with a background in outreach and link building. SEO encompasses so many areas that even many so-called “experts” have a hard time actually defining what makes up SEO.
SEO can also be done on your own if you're willing to take the time to learn how to do it. It's not rocket science, but it takes a lot of time and dedication to learning all of the little technical things that, when added together, form a solid SEO strategy.
But the truth is, most businesses don't have the time to learn how to do SEO properly, at best they may learn a part of it and do that part well, which may be good enough if you are not in a competitive industry/market. But if you are in a competitive market and you want to make SEO a core part on your marketing strategy, you'll have to either really dedicate the time to learn about it or invest the money in hiring someone who does.
Small businesses don't have a lot of extra money lying around, so they tend to search out affordable SEO solutions. Unfortunately, the majority of affordable SEO solutions don't work, some may even be a complete ripoff. You can watch this video to learn more about how much SEO should cost.
Good practice is to speak to similar companies investing in SEO and that are having success with it. If their company is a similar size and market as yours and they are spending $2,000 a month on SEO, then don't expect to spend $200 a month and be an SEO rock star.
Before you decide to invest your time and money on SEO, read some of the tips below to learn more about what you are getting into.
It Won't Fix a Broken Business
If your business is struggling and paying for SEO is your last ditch effort to save your business, then you can probably kiss it goodbye. For starters, SEO can take several months to start to show any sort of returns (see below) and it's not going to fix underlying problems going on with your business. If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or have trouble closing deals, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities. It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water you need from the faucet by cranking up the water pressure, you're going to have a big mess on your hands. Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.
Many times businesses will approach us wanting SEO, but once we examine their business we realize that there are more serious issues that need to be addressed before starting an SEO campaign. If you have poor customer service, terrible online reviews or can't close a deal to save your life, then all of those things need to be fixed before you invest in any sort of lead generation activities. It's like having a leaky pipe and trying to get the water pressure you need from the faucet by cranking up the water volume. You'll get water out of the faucet, but you're going to have a big mess on your hands. Fix the leaky pipe before you crank up the pressure.
Don't Expect Meaningful ROI the First Few Months
If you need online leads now, then concentrate on Pay Per Click advertising or some other form of advertising where you can generate business fast. SEO isn't a quick win, it doesn't return an immediate ROI like advertising and the results during the first several months can seem ambiguous. But this is also the same reason most businesses never do it, or at least do it properly, they only think in the short term.
SEO can pay major dividends, just ask anyone doing it successfully, but you need to have the time, patience and money to let it develop. It's a long term investment and will return the best ROI for you if you give it enough time. SEO is like a Flywheel, it's really hard to move in the beginning, but as you slowly turn it, it starts to pick up momentum where eventually it's spinning like crazy even with minimal effort on your part.
SEO is Not Cheap
No, you're not going to create an online empire by paying an overseas company $300 a month to “optimize” a dozen keywords for you. SEO, when done right, is labor intensive and requires a lot of expertise to do right. It's not rocket science, anyone can do it if they spend enough time learning about it (think years), but there are so many factors involved in good SEO and so many things that will either waste your time or get you in trouble. So you either need to spend the time to do it right or pay the right people to do it for you.
Factors involved in pricing SEO services:
Industry – Some industries like finance, legal and healthcare are extremely competitive online so it's harder to establish yourself with high search engine rankings. There are much more highly competitive industries, these are just some examples. Industries with a high potential return when acquiring a new customer (real estate, finance, etc), tend to be very competitive online, which requires more expertise and work to compete with established players.
Location – If you're in a big city like New York or Toronto, then your potential audience is much larger, which also means increased competition. The bigger the potential payday, the more competition, the more time and energy it will usually take to get good search engine rankings. So if you want to compete nationally, expect to pay a lot more for SEO than if you wanted to compete in just your city or a section of your city.
Competitors – How you stack up against your competition also plays a role in how much you will pay for SEO services. If you are just starting out online and your competitors have been building their online presence for years, you will have a pretty big gap that needs to be filled in order to catch up with them. It's like starting a marathon where you competitors had a 6-hour head start, you'll need to haul ass just to catch up with them, let alone beat them.
Understand What Metrics Really Matter
You need to know what metrics to track so you can understand what progress is. SEO is not like advertising where you pay for an ad and then track how many leads are generated. Pretty cut and dry. With SEO, the work (and money you spend) now may not create results for several weeks or months down the road. So what do you track? Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword. The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to
So what do you track? Most people would say individual keywords, it's easy to wrap your head around a single keyword. The problem is that keyword tracking is getting less and less accurate as the search engines continue to localize and personalize search results. And Google has all but removed organic keyword tracking inside Google Analytics, so it is very difficult to measure results at the keyword level even if you were ranking #1 for that search term.
Besides, ranking well for a single keyword is unlikely to get you the results you're looking for. A better metric to track is overall organic growth traffic, measured over time. You can also do page level tracking, where you track the metrics on individual landing pages on your site that you know you rank high in the search engines for. You'll also want to measure non-branded search terms, general terms like, “plumbers in Austin”, vs, “Joe's plumbing in Austin”. The idea with SEO is to attract new customers who don't know you, so you want to remove searches by people that already know you (branded search terms).
You Have To Participate For It To Succeed
If you love the idea of ranking high in the search engines and getting a steady supply of traffic and leads each month through organic search, then you need to commit to it as a marketing channel for your business. Businesses that fail when it comes to SEO usually do so because they either had the wrong strategy or they didn't commit enough resources (time and money) for a long enough time for it to really take hold.
SEO is not like advertising, where you run a newspaper ad for 3 months and then stop if it didn't produce the kind leads you wanted. When it comes to SEO, there is a period of time where you have to commit to it without really knowing if it is going to work. That could be many months, depending on your industry and the resources you put towards it. There will also be many times when you think you should pull the plug on it because you're not seeing results. As long as you know you have the right strategy and are working with the right people, SEO is about time and effort. Almost anyone who is successful with SEO can tell you that in the beginning, they had no idea if it was going to work and had doubts about continuing. What they will all tell you is that they are glad they stuck to it.
Is SEO a good option for your business?
SEO is not for everyone. Hopefully, you learned a few things here that will help you make a better decision when it comes time to invest in SEO for your business.
Have questions about SEO or looking to speak to someone about how it can help grow your business? Contact us here to learn more.
Latest posts by Gary (see all)
- Online Advertising Roundup – April 2017 - April 24, 2017
- The Small Business Toolbox #91 - April 19, 2017
- 5 Things Every Small Business Should Be Blogging About - April 14, 2017