Price can be deceiving and in the murky world of SEO the price between different providers is extremely difficult to compare. We’ve even seen campaigns advertised for as low as the price of a cup of coffee. More often than not business owners attempt to compare suppliers based on price. Some go a little further by weighing up a list of campaign inclusions versus the quoted price, but just what is the difference between a $99 campaign and a $5000 campaign?
We find that most clients are simply asking the wrong question. Instead of asking themselves “how much does SEO cost?” the question they should be asking is, “How much do I need to pay in order to give an SEO company the resources they need to achieve my goals?”
We frequently find that business owners fail to put their campaign into perspective. Tradespeople are prime examples for failing to realise just how many direct competitors they have. If you want to be number 1 for the phrase ‘Plumbers Melbourne’ and you can afford $500/month, chances are the other 2976 plumbers in your city are spending much the same amount doing exactly the same thing. With only 10 spots on Page 1, you’re kidding yourself if you think that budget is going to go anywhere other than down the tubes.
Make no mistake, the Australian online marketplace is completely saturated. A notable absence from current TV news items is the formerly popular digital success story segment showcasing the stay-at-home wife making millions from her new baby-wear website. We hate to say it, but we’re going to pop that fantasy bubble right now because those days are long gone. More money is spent in Australia on online advertising than any other medium. Yes that includes, TV, Newspapers, Magazines and Radio. So if you’re just starting to use digital marketing for your business you are already way behind the 8 ball.
Unfortunately, gone are the days that you could purchase a digital quick fix which rockets you to success. Not too long ago (3+years) Google wasn’t as smart as it is today and far less people even knew what SEO was. Even fewer businesses had invested in SEO campaigns. It was a subject that was whispered in hallways and chatted about on Black Hat forums. Back then, some short-term focused, powerful SEO techniques were very effective and more importantly…cheap. The problem for business owners now is that Google doesn’t like giving away value for free. In fact, Google’s search algorithm is a quick and ferociously adaptive learner. Their purchase of Deep Mind in 2014 made headlines as this company arguably created a program that could learn. This should send a warning to anyone thinking they can easily dupe one of the biggest companies on the planet who relentlessly protect their intellectual property and would rather you to advertise on Adwords than benefit for free.
In our experience, only a handful of Australian technicians are moderately competent. Our estimates found that 95% of companies will tout their reputation and hold on to you for as long as they can without doing much at all, let alone having a positive effect on your rankings. Price is irrelevant if you are wanting a campaign which actually does something while providing a return on your investment. Put simply, the more you pay, the more resources your SEO firm has to use on your campaign. If you’re number 3 for a high quality search phrase and you want to be number 1, this is a completely different scenario to being number 100 for everything. Get a customised quote, provide a full brief to your SEO company and have realistic expectations.
One of the best measures would be Organic Traffic increases filtered for ‘new users’. However, that measure doesn’t account for brand name searches (phrases which include the name of your product/business) nor does it account for unqualified/irrelevant traffic. We frequently use online and offline surveys of new customers to measure how people are finding our client’s businesses. The results can be enlightening to say the least, while also helping focus your marketing spend in the right places.
Make no mistake, SEO is a long term process. With over 1 billion websites on the internet, Google doesn’t move as fast as you probably think and certainly not as fast as it used to. Unless you click on one of their ads, every time you use Google’s service you are costing them money. Nothing happens quickly in the SEO world, so you should give your company a fair chance before pulling the plug (around 3-6 months).
A wise marketing proverb says, ‘If it’s too good to be true, it’s too almost always too good to be true’. So if someone is offering you free or heavily discounted SEO, you need to ask yourself ‘what incentive am I giving them to provide value back to my business”? Read any long-term contracts and avoid being locked-in to anything that has the potential to end badly. A common scam is free or low priced SEO campaigns where you don’t pay until you get a page 1 ranking. More often or not, you’ll get a bunch of phrases that no-one searches for or once you’ve been ranked they will pull most of the resources they’ve put in place and transfer them to the next client. You then proceed to spend the next 9 months paying off your contract while watching your rankings steadily fall back to where they were before.
If you’re looking for cheap, effective SEO, we wish you luck because it doesn’t exist. You’re probably better off saving the money and putting it into something more worthwhile.
John James is the digital strategy director at James Hammon & Co. For independent digital marketing advice contact us today.