SEO is expensive — let’s just establish that now and get it out of the way. A quick Google search for “search engine optimization companies” will turn up results ranging from agencies that have a minimum monthly engagement fee of $5,000 to fly-by-night operations offering SEO for the ridiculously low price of a couple hundred dollars a month.
Why the huge discrepancy in pricing? It all comes down to the quality and effectiveness of what is being offered. SEO is so content driven these days that pure logic explains why SEO services priced at just a couple hundred dollars a month (and costing less than what one single piece of quality content costs) can’t possible be good for your website.
There are three different kinds of SEO providers:
The experienced SEO agency. These companies have a genuine interest in the brands they work with. They are looking to build a long-term business relationship and deliver a return on investment. Lots of analytical data, conversion tracking and measurable results should be expected when working with one of these providers. It is good sign when your SEO agency wants to win just as bad as you do.
The SEO company that doesn’t know any better. There are a lot of SEO companies that outsource everything they do. Since they aren’t actually performing the work they have zero control of the campaign and are at the mercy of the providers, who aren’t always delivering the highest quality work. While they don’t mean to deliver amateur SEO, that is exactly what they do.
The SEO provider just looking to collect money. These are the SEO companies that will tell you anything you want to hear. Want to rank number one on Google for the keyword “Google” within 72 hours? Not a problem! Heck, if you pay now (by Western Union preferably) you even get a free bonus — a unicorn and magic leprechaun.
CEOs and executives that aren’t familiar with the current SEO landscape and focus solely on price will get burnt. This ends up costing the company much more in the long run than it would have if they just went with an experienced, initially more expensive SEO agency from the beginning.
Here are four reasons amateur SEO is more expensive than professional SEO:
1. Link audits aren’t cheap.
Let’s compare a poorly performing website to a car that isn’t running well. How do you fix it? First, you need to find out what is going on — look under the hood, so to speak. A link audit involves inspecting all of the inbound links coming to a website and identifying the toxic ones. There are several automated software solutions on the market, but they aren’t always accurate.
A thorough audit needs to be done manually and by someone that understands what he or she is looking for. It is a very tedious and labor-intensive process, which is why some agencies charge several thousands of dollars to perform a site-wide audit. If you would like to learn more about what a complete audit involves, I suggest you read this link-audit guide.
2. Complete link clean-ups are even more expensive.
If the link audit turns up a lot of toxic links, they have to be removed. Google allows webmasters to disavow backlinks that are believed to be harmful and out of their control. It isn’t that simple, though. To stand a chance at regaining rankings a solid effort to manually request the removal of links is required.
Google makes it perfectly clear that it expects the website owner to make a valiant effort to clean up unnatural links and not just simply upload a list via a disavow file. This is a very time-consuming process that involves reaching out to each website owner and requesting that they remove the links, hence the reason why some SEO agencies charge between $5,000 and $20,000 for a complete link clean up.
3. Penalties can make website traffic disappear overnight.
Back in February of 2011, Google penalized Overstock for offering discounts to schools that placed anchor-specific links on their websites. Overstock was MIA from the first page of Google’s search results for a period of two months. It estimated that its revenue was impacted by as much as 5 percent, which is a substantial amount of money — all because of an instant drop in website traffic.
The majority of business owners that approach my company for an audit after their traffic drops used low-quality SEO services.
4. De-indexation of your website can ruin your brand.
What would you do if your website didn’t show up in Google search at all? Imagine no traffic coming from Google search. Zero. Nada. Zilch. If Google determines that a website doesn’t meet its quality guidelines, it will remove it completely from the search results.
You can read Google’s webmaster guidelines for complete information. If your SEO is in the hands of a company that is using low-quality spammy techniques, either knowingly or unknowingly, you are putting your brand at great risk of disappearing from Google search entirely.
Credit: Jonathan Long