I’m reading this article “Small Business SEO: Costs, Expectations & Realities” by Matt McGee. In it he talks about the wide range of costs many small businesses complain about. I’ve had many phone calls with small business owners frustrated that one company will charge $75.00/month and others charge $1000.00/month! And because of the techno-babble they get from the salespeople, the small business owner just doesn’t understand what it is that he/she is buying.
That’s so frustrating to me! To all the SEO firms out there who love to throw around words that THEY KNOW are not common to non-seo folks, STOP IT! That doesn’t sell the service, it turns people off.
Anyway, back to SEO costs and this article.
Matt makes some points in his article that I would like to address…
1) “The price you’ll pay for SEO depends on the consultant’s business model.”
This is very true. There are several business models out there and depending on what model the SEO firm uses, well, that will impact the price you pay. So, when you’re looking for an SEO firm, find out what will they do for you?
a) Will they just be consulting you and giving you a written “how to” so that either you or your web designer will have to do the work?
b) Will they be going in and making the changes to your website as well as the SEO work. Some companies will do a complete re-design of a website in order to optimize it.
c) Do they base their fees on a percentage of the revenue that you bring in? This type of model is great for websites who sell physical products but it’s risky for the SEO firm. After all, the SEO firm can get the people to your website, but the sale is up to the business owner.
2) “The price you’ll pay for SEO services sometimes depends on geography.”
I thought this was interesting. He basically goes on to say that an SEO firm in a smaller town can charge less than an SEO firm in a larger city. I would love to see a study about this, if it’s true. It makes sense that it would be, but it would be great to find out if it is.
3) “I generally wouldn’t trust an SEO company that only charges $300/month.”
This one, I don’t agree with. Our SEO Services here at Eckweb are $135.00/month and we’re very proud to be able to offer this for our small business clients. Matt reports that the $300.00 fee is more an hourly fee for an SEO consultant, not a monthly fee! He goes on to report that if an SEO firm is charging less than $300.00/month then they aren’t “doing much for you.”
Hmmm – I beg to differ.
Here’s what we offer at Eckweb Designs, Inc. –
a) Initially, we provide you with a proposal which outlines the steps we need to take to optimize your website. The proposal gives you multiple options.
- You can choose whether we do the work on your site or your designer does
- You can choose whether our copywriter writes the content for your site or you do
- You can choose to simply purchase our written consultation
- You can choose to manage social media programs or let us help you with it
- You can choose the level of participation you want to have in your Internet marketing campaigns
Average time: 30 minutes
b) Once the proposal is approved we move ahead and if you chose for a full SEO package then we begin with a comprehensive keyword research on your website – this means we research what keyword phrases your target audience is typing in to search queries. We don’t just use Keyword tools for this, we also research your Internet competition. We then give you the list of keyword phrases that we have found and ask you to remove the phrases that are not appropriate.
Average time: 2-3 hours
c) We restructure and recode your website so that it is as streamlined as possible for the search engines. This sometimes requires a complete re-design of the website (although we do try to keep as many graphics as possible from the original site). If an SEO firm tells you that the website that was created 5 years ago doesn’t have to be changed in order to be marketed on the Internet, hang up the phone immediately.
Average time: 1-2 hours per website page
d) We then go through the process of the actual on page optimization which means placing the keyword phrases in strategic areas throughout the website pages, creating internal links, altering meta tags, and optimizing graphics.
Average time: 45 minutes per website page
e) In between these stages are emails and phone calls determining the plan that the site will take. But in reality, the majority of this plan is already written in the proposal acceptance. Many of our clients will call us with questions about the proposal and it is during this time that the plan begins to formulate. Matt includes planning as part of his time in his $300.00/hour estimate and I can see how that would be true if he was dealing with a 500 + page website but the truth is that the great majority of small business owners have a 20 page (or less) website and there simply isn’t much planning required for those small websites.
f) Once all the initial work is done we then begin the monthly marketing – which we only charge $135.00/month for. This monthly work entails…
- Manual submission to 5-10 directories which were chosen based on who your competitors are linked to
- Manual research for link exchanges which are also chosen based on your competitors
- Review of your website analytics mostly to review what pages are not working as well as they should
- Tweaking of a low ranking page which can include either changing a keyword phrase or adding an additional page for this theme (there is an extra charge of $60.00 for adding a new page)
- Creation of multiple reports including traffic analysis report, new keyword phrases report, tips and ideas report, and others.
Average time: 2-3 hours per website
Are our costs low? Yes – they are lower than the average SEO firm but we’re not the average SEO firm. We cater to small and home based businesses. Our goal is to serve small and home based businesses. We work very hard to streamline as much as possible the work that we do and we work VERY hard to keep our own costs low so that we can keep our prices low. There’s no magic, there’s no special program we use, it’s just plain hard work.
4) “Focus on ROI, not costs.”
This, I agree with and I always tell my clients to focus on the ROI. My focus is on conversions, not necessarily being on page 1 of Google for every keyword phrase we’re marketing. The latter, we can do. But if the keyword phrase isn’t bringing in clients who convert, what’s the point? The average ROI for Eckweb clients is 200% and I think for small businesses, that’s very good.
5) “No SEO can guarantee results.”
Absolutely true. How can a company guarantee results when their work is based on another company’s actions? Think about it. I can do the most amazing optimization job on your website, I can then submit the website and Google, Yahoo, and others will pick it up. But my optimization process is dependant on these search engines. If the search engines change their algorithims (their rules on how they rank websites) then the optimization I did may not work. So, how can I possibly guarantee that your site will rank for a certain number when I don’t have control over the company that’s doing the ranking? So, again, if an SEO firm tells you that they guarantee results, hang up immediately.
So, yes, I know, SEO is and can be very costly. If the SEO firm is also participating in PPC on your behalf, then yes it’ll cost more. If the SEO firm is writing articles and press releases and submitting them for you, then it’ll cost more. But small businesses cannot afford these “extras” and if they could, we can also accomodate them but the reality is, many businesses are still learning about the Internet and it’s impact. I know, they’re late but they’re coming around.
So, SEO costs don’t have to be out of reach. As a small business owner, you can participate in Internet marketing and do well.