Many of my clients are surprised to learn about the cost of Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing.
To better understand why the cost is what it is let’s have a look at what exactly is involved to improve your rankings in Search Engines.
Search Engine Optimisation focuses on improving your organic (non-paid) rankings in Search Engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and others. To do so there are on-site and off-site factors to be considered.
This work concentrates on the structure of your web pages, the correct use of html tags and meaningful content with a desired level of ‘keyword density’ for the targeted search term. It also focuses on content creation. Search Engines will rank a site higher if it has continuous new content added to it. Blogs are great for doing so.
Typical this includes choosing one page on your site to focus on a specific keyword. Ensure the keyword is used within the URL, Title Tag, the content of the page and image alt tags. Further the code would be checked to ensure meaningful html tags are used that search engines know how to interpret. For example the use of <h1><h2><h3>… tags, <b>, <strong> and the like tell search engines these are headings and bolded text.
One dilemma of On-Site search engine optimised content is it may clash with the style of your site. Writing text for SEO purposes may include repeating certain keywords or phrases. To the site visitor it may seem slightly odd. Similarly, sites that don’t want much written content on pages have an issue. Search Engines index content. That’s what they are after. One way around this problem is to setup pages that are user accessible, but primarily focused towards search engines. So called landing pages. Caution is in order though. Search engines do test pages against certain criteria and if your page tips the scale and looks like it was written solely for indexing purposes, search engines will penalise and ban your page.
For this reason it is vitally important to distinguish between White Hat and Black Hat practices. Cheap services offering ‘guaranteed listings‘ and offers that seem amazing often exploit some loophole to get your site ranking high quickly. The issue though, if they ‘cheated’ the search engines into giving you a high ranking, sooner or later Search Engines will adjust their algorithms and you end up being penalised for exactly that. Your rankings will just disappear over night. So White Hat SEO is about playing by the rules, being ethical and building meaningful content that is good for the users and schematically right for optimal indexing. And this takes much time and effort. Click here to read more about White Hat & Black Hat.
These techniques are all about other websites linking into your site. It shows search engines how connected you are. How popular. Again, it is important to have meaningful links coming in. Adding your site to any and all ‘link-farms’ out there can actually penalise your listing. So steer clear from any services offering 1000 link-backs for only $9.99!! Black Hat all the way!!
So legitimate and meaningful Off-Site optimisation consists of the following:
Social Networking: Setup Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goolge+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Blog, or any other social networking enabling you to share meaningful content with interested and potential clients, linking back to your site. One important thing to note is maintaining these can take a lot of time. There is nothing worse than a facebook page with no likes and no entries. So if you are not committed, don’t go there. It will look bad.
Business Listings: Submit your business including a link back to your site to directories such as Yellow Pages, Google Places, Where Is, Industry Specific Directories, DMOZ. It will allow potential clients to find you but also improve your link-backs.
Be active: Contribute to online forums, Yahoo Answers, Wiki’s, Article submissions to knowledge bases such as Ezine. It’s all about getting sites with a good reputation linking back to your site.
You can see now the money and effort you can spend are limitless. But what do most businesses spend on Search Engine Marketing? SEOmoz ran a survey of over 600 consultants and agencies in 2011 to answer this exact question. Further I reference an article by Jayson DeMers on Search Engine Watch.
Project Based Work: This would typically involve the initial site analysis, keyword / phrase research, initial page optimisation, directory listings and other start of period setups. The survey found $1000 – $7500 the most common cost.
Monthly Retainers: $250 – $5000 per month with the most common categories according to the survey being $251-$500/month and $2501-$5000. Typically this would include performance monitoring, page tweaking, link building and in the higher categories copywriting & content creation.
Hourly Rates: These varied widely according to the survey but most commonly in the western world was the $76-$200/hour category.
Needless to say these type of costs feel very steep to small business. Over a year it would add up to $3000 at the lowest level, which doesn’t buy much at all.
Firstly it is important to define your goals. Do you truly expect to get business form Search Engines or are you in a very specialised market and require more of a online business card? Is the main aim that you can be found if someone searches for your type of business in your area or do you need to show up on Google for product / service specific searches within all of Australia?
Once the goals are defined a strategy can be devised. At the least though, we recommend:
If SEO is important to you then commit to:
Obtain a ranking report after 3 months and recommendations on how to improve rankings. Consider a monthly SEO plan if business generated by your site is too low.