Hi there, Like every other startup founder, my time is very limited, and while I'd love to learn all the intricacies of SEO and work on it daily, my schedule just doesn't allow for it. On the other hand, i understand the value of ranking highly in Google and I definitely don't want to overlook it. That said, I've been working with a developer in India through Upwork on some minor changes to the website (adding an Instagram feed section, new fonts, etc), and I like the work he's done (he also has great reviews). He told me he has someone who works with him who is experienced in SEO, and that it would cost $800/month for the work. Below is how he described the process: "It basically works in the following way : 1. It is an ongoing work. 2. We'll work regularly on our site on different things. 3. Developers and SEO guys, both are included in this work. 4. Work will go for regular 8 hours a day. 5. Output shows in around 4 minimum months as Google Indexing ..etc, takes time." I asked him what methods the person would use, and he said he wasn't sure, but he would ask him and get back to me (not too surprising, I suppose, as he's not the SEO expert). My plan is to speak with someone on clarity regarding some basic SEO methods I can learn so that i can at least be informed enough to track his progress, and keep an eye on what's being done through weekly reports. So my question is: Does this sound legit? And what are some additional questions I can ask to determine this? I'm self-funded and have a very small budget, so I'm really trying to ensure that i don't waste my hard-earned money on snake oil. Thanks in advance! Tanya
The cost of SEO depends a great deal on three things:
1) The specific services being offered (SEO, social media, content strategy, etc.)
2) The degree in which those services will be implemented (how many hours per month)
3) the skill and experience level of the SEOs involved.
$800/month is a pretty small investment if you consider all the layers to making a web marketing campaign successful.
My company will usually not touch any fully-managed web marketing campaign for less than $1500/month and that's at the low end of the aggressiveness meter even for a pretty basic site. A larger ecommerce site might start around $5K and go up from there.
Overall, you want to look for value and results. You'll want to know how long the SEO has been in business and when looking at proposals you need to understand the amount of time the company will be investing in the campaign.
You also want to spell out your goals and establish the expectations on how/when those goals will be achieved. When the SEO and client don't have the same expectations, that can lead to issues later on. But if you know what the goals are you can both be on the same page from the start.
Hi Tanya, SEO has become much less of a game than it used to be, and pretty much anyone can do it these days. Provide your customers with unique, well-written copy and you have done most of the job. Using a site like moz.com you can easily do the keyword and competition analysis yourself, so I'm really not sure what someone would be working 8 hours a day on. Building backlinks is the trickiest part of the process, and that is usually best done by you as well - posting in forums, guest posts in blogs, getting your link on trade web sites, etc.
If you do decide to go with an SEO firm, you should speak to two or three references who can provide real feedback on exactly what this firm has done for them. You should also get a breakdown of exactly what they will be doing for you as well. Does it include copywriting? Keyword research? Link building? Adwords/FB advertising management?
The danger of hiring an unknown firm, particularly from overseas is that they will use 'black hat' techniques which will provide quick results, but will get you banned in Google. Based on what you have said above about this firm, I would be very cautious.
Hi Tanya, I agree with the other answers here but want to point out that a reasonable price depends on what you hope to achieve from the SEO work along with a few other factors.
If you only have a small budget, you should first consider where your best sales conversions come from. I have seen a lot of people become enamored with the idea of SEO and spend a lot of money on it only to find out that their best customer comes from a different source.
Also, the best marketing program is going to have a level of diversity and be consistent. If your entire marketing budget is $800 than spending $800 on SEO is not reasonable. On the other hand, if you have a specific objective and SEO is the best way to achieve it than $1,500 can be very inexpensive.
On the point of 'specific objective,' it doesn't matter if this offer comes from India or next door if you are not clear on what you are optimizing for. Not to assume that you are not clear but this is an important consideration because if you are indecisive, you have to allow for a margin of adjustment since even the best-intentioned and most experienced SEO expert may miss the mark in these circumstances.
First to address the first point proposition you were given
"1. It is an ongoing work.
2. We'll work regularly on our site on different things.
3. Developers and SEO guys, both are included in this work.
4. Work will go for regular 8 hours a day.
5. Output shows in around 4 minimum months as Google Indexing ..etc, takes time."
These are not clear statements from someone who knows about best practice SEO strategy.
Understanding the 3 key elements of SEO strategy:
I would expect someone to speak to you about the 3 key elements of SEO strategy to begin with, being:
1. Best Practice SEO Technical Website Structure Setup
2. On-page content optimisation
3. Off-page Optimisation / Link Strategy
In terms of costs I think would depend on the size of your website and also what industry it is in.
Website Size - Smaller websites will require less optimisation work. Larger websites will have more pages that can act as organic landing pages for more target search keyword groups and therefore will require more content optimisation work and larger sites usually mean there is more technical SEO work to structure or untangle.
Website industry - some industries are more competitive than others in the organic search results and so more resource sometimes needs to be put into targeting product and service keyword themes that are known to be more competitive in terms of targeting better organic search rankings for.
In terms of a cost range we usually see campaigns starting from around $1000 to $4,000 per month depending on the amount of tasks needed.
Getting Full Transparency:
For our clients we provide them with a fully transparent Gantt chart broken down by individual tasks within each of the 3 key elements of SEO, stating how many hours we believe each task will take and assign these tasks to a standard hourly rate which provides the total monthly fee paid.
In terms of reducing costs as you can do quite a lot of things yourself but this will obviously take time to do and also to learn.
What you can do:
Some areas you may want to look at doing yourself are:
- Learn how to do good keyword research
- Use your keyword research to help you write optimised content on your key target organic landing pages
- Writing (and more importantly promoting) regular blogs can help you to promote specific products and services and help you link to your key product and service pages
- If you think you would benefit from more local type search then you may want to set up your business location on Google My Business Center and then list your business in local niche directory to help appear in local rankings in Google
- If you are an ecommerce site then concentrate on optimising your product pages with unique content and product descriptions
Areas you may wish to get external support on:
Areas that may be having an SEO specialist or digital agency look at would be:
- Optimising your website page load speed
- Optimising your site for Google mobile searches
- Ensuring Google can crawl your website as efficiently as possible
- Optimise how the internal linking structure works on your website
- Providing guidance and consultancy on the best things you can do in-house yourself that can be done by you over a longer period of time
- Ensuring someone provides you a clear picture into what work has been done, what benefit work completed will provide and what the focus should be in the future
In terms of whether focusing on SEO is the right choice for you at this moment in time, you should understand that improving organic search visibility is likely to take at least 3 months before you see any real tangible results (particularly if you are new site and a startup).
For SEO investment needs to be made expecting low ROI in the first 3 to 6 months and from then you can expect to get much higher ROI after 6 months and in the coming years.
So you need to decide whether you need more immediate impacts than that are it's something you can afford to invest time and money in now to reap greater benefits for a longer period of time in the future.
Please let me know if you need any further advice and I would be happy to help.
SEO is a tough one to hire for.
The reason being that there's so much noise out there, and so many who say they can do it, ranging from cheap outsourced people on Upwork to big New York City ad agencies who claim it's something they'll through into your contract with them.
What also make it tough is that yes, it's generally true that it takes 4-12 months to really see organic traffic results from SEO. Google itself says this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piSvFxV_M04
So when you hire someone, even if they're doing quality work, it can be 4 months before you know for sure, and you've already spent that money.
If you are on a really tight budget, you have to either learn the basics yourself so that you can filter out the cruft, or rely on a trusted friend who used someone and can prove the improvements through Google Analytics reports.
To learn SEO, you should read sites like Moz.com and Backlinko.com, but you also need to get in the weeds and do it yourself - at least for a few months.
As far as a reasonable price, it all comes down to ROI. It's truly a difficult question to answer. I've thought about this a lot, and I think the best way to do it is to measure the value you'll get by ranking just your most important page for just your most important keywords. Focus on that small, narrow page first before expanding to your whole site. The concept here is that you may find that, hey if we get to the #3 ranking for these 10 keywords for this page, that will bring in 2,000 visits a month, which at a 3% conversion rate is worth $24,000 a month for our business. (Plug in your own numbers)
This epic post and ebook and template from Siege Media perfectly illustrates that -- http://www.siegemedia.com/seo/seo-roi-from-content-marketing
On average, a USA based SEO agency won't offer services for less than $1,500 a month. I would say the average reputable agency or consultant would charge $2,500 - 15,000/month for their services. But this can go all the way up to $100k+/month if you were a globo corp.
For a startup, you may want to look a solid smaller agencies or consultants or look outside the USA. The problem with finding cheaper labor on Upwork, especially for SEO, is that the results can be negative or very marginal. So does it matter that it's only $800/mo if it produces almost nothing, when a $2,500/mo service produces 50x more?
You won't know how to evaluate unless you learn the basics and run the numbers.
The best thing you as a business owner can do is be very clear up front what your best products or services are, what you need to get to break even, and what your ideal timeline is. If you're not clear on your average order value, customer lifetime value, or profit margins, you can't expect the SEO to figure that you, and if nobody knows these things, then all the efforts are not tied to business metrics, which makes things complex and without a solid strategy.