SEO services are supposed to facilitate getting your website found and indexed by Google and other search engines, and getting it to appear in a top position on the search engine result pages (SERPs). I don’t think I need to explain the benefits of having your business rank #1, right? Well, maybe we should think about this a bit more.
Before determining how much you’ll need to spend on SEO services, you first need to figure out what your online business goals are and how ranking in Google would help achieve those goals.
Where do your clients come from?
The first question you need to answer is where do your clients come from? That’s going to depend on the kind of business you’re in. If you own a “brick and mortar” establishment (like a restaurant or retail store) or you are a service provider in a particular area (ex. plumber, accountant) then your clients for the most part come from your local area. They’ve either seen your store or sign, heard of you from friends or seen one of your ads in a local newspaper or directory. The directory most often used these days is Google’s local listings.
For example, when I type in “web design” into Google on my laptop, I see a few paid ads for web design companies and then a map highlighting local web design companies in my radius. The screenshot below the first listing — “Teaneck Web Design” — represents one of our branch locations (where I am working at the moment) and the third listing is our Hackensack, NJ main office.
These local listings are what will drive local traffic to your local business, so you definitely must appear there. To do that will require some basic SEO services including setting up a Google My Business listing and putting your business address and contact info on your website. There’s a bit more to it, but you shouldn’t have to spend a ton of money getting listed on Google for your local area.
If your clientele is national or international or if you are engaged in ecommerce, simply appearing in your local area listings isn’t going to cut it.
Below the Google local listings is where you’ll see the list of organic (non paid) search results. These primarily include national brands or companies who in most cases have invested heavily in content and SEO services.
Studies of the billions of daily Google searches show that 95% of searchers click on organic links as opposed to the paid ones and 95% of those clickers don’t get past the top 3 organic search results on page one. In other words, ranking in the top 3 organically can potentially drive a lot of traffic to your site, but ranking below the top 3 might not be worth the effort and investment.
To compete with the “big boys” for search terms (keywords) such as “web design” or “shoes” or “home improvement” is probably not going to be feasible for most companies, even those willing to invest a substantial amount (the reasons for that are beyond the scope of this post). You might, however, be able to rank for longer and more specific search terms, known as long tailed keyword phrases. For example, while ranking for “shoes” is probably impossible, if you sell “shoes made of snake skin made in Africa” — that might be a phrase that you could show up first for. It probably won’t get you a ton of traffic, but here’s the point: you are only really looking for the person who is looking to purchase your type of product.
Trying to rank in order to get traffic simply for sake of getting lots of traffic is not a good reason to invest in SEO services.
The reason for investing in SEO is because you know (based on data or research) that it will help you get more clients or sell more products. If that’s not the case then there’s no reason to waste your money. For example, a company that represents international drug manufacturers and gets its clients through relationships and personal sales probably has no good reason to invest in ranking for relevant keywords other than the pride of seeing their company at the top of a search. Unless, of course, they want to modify their marketing strategy to try and broaden their client base. But driving traffic without a strategy for converting that traffic into clients or customers is not a good reason for investing in SEO. SEO Guru Rand Fishkin discusses this and other related stuff in his video – How to Choose a Good SEO Company for Your Business or Website.
Assuming that you want (need) to drive search traffic to your site as part of a plan to increase revenue, you’ll need to invest in SEO. So back to our initial question: how much will you need to invest in SEO Services?
There are basically three areas of work included in SEO:
3. Links and Distribution
OnPage SEO includes optimizing the text, tag and code on a particular web page. It includes crafting unique title tags and meta descriptions that utilize the keyword or keyword phrase you’re targeting for that specific page. It also includes creating appropriate header tags, alt image text, internal links to relevant content on your site and external links.
An experienced SEO pro will suggest additional content and images when necessary, to improve your pages potential ranking. He or she will also make sure that all of your images and code is optimized to load quickly and display correctly on mobile devices.
The most important factor in getting your page ranked highly in Google search engine results is the substance and quality of your content. Through various changes to its search algorithm, Google has made it clear that its mission is to answer search queries with the most relevant content — and it’s taking that mission very seriously. The days of throwing together stings of keywords in non sensical sentences and paragraphs for the sole purpose of getting ranked are gone. Doing that now might even get you penalized or banned from the Google index.
The only sure way to get your content ranked highly by Google is to make sure that the content is well structured and composed and most importantly, provides valuable information that users are searching for. So basically, SEO and content creation have joined forces and in many way actually become one and the same. You simply cannot Search Engine Optimize unless you have the right content to optimize. Therefore, a large part of your SEO strategy and the SEO services your need to invest in will be related to the creation of quality content. Keep in mind that the content you create for SEO purposes will also have to convert readers into leads and customers. So it needs to be informative, engaging and marketing oriented.
Here’s another reason why your content needs to be informative and substantive. Google tracks what happens after a searcher clicks on your link and goes to your site. Does he stay there for a couple of seconds and bounce somewhere else, or does he remain on your site to read your content? If most people coming to your site from Google aren’t sticking around to read, it sends a signal to Google that your content probably isn’t that great after all. Google will then drop you in their rankings, because you’re obviously not provided their users with information they want to read.
There’s no way around it. A winning SEO strategy revolves around quality content. Creating that type of content requires an investment.
Links and Distribution
The Google search algorithm determines the trustworthiness and authority of your content at least partially by the amount of other relevant, quality sites that link to it.
For example, say you write a post about how to choose a family car, and Ford, GM, Edmunds.com and ConsumerReports.org all link to it. That means it’s probably worthwhile content that Google wants to present to relevant searchers. Getting a link from tshirts4u.com is probably not going to be very helpful SEO-wise.
The only way to get authoritative sites to link to your content is to create truly awesome content and then let them know about it. Reaching out to authoritative sites to get them to link to your content requires research (to find the right ones), skill (to draft the right email pitch), persistence (to send a ton of requests hoping to get a few responses) and luck (you always need luck).
Distributing your content on social media and other relevant platforms can also earn you links, if the right people see it. An effective social media strategy can get your content in front of the right people, who might then link to it.
So in addition to creating or modifying code, tags and keywords on web pages, SEO services includes content creation, relationship building, outreach and social media. All of these skill sets come together to form an effective SEO strategy.
How much would you pay for all that?