In this article, I want to cover the basics of SEO for the majority of small businesses. There are 5 main questions I want to answer.
• What is SEO?
• Do I need SEO?
• Should I pay for SEO?
• How much will it cost me?
• How Do I Find an SEO Expert?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it means exactly that. It is the practice of optimizing your website for better performance on the major search engines such as Google and Bing. This in turn, results in more referrals from searches pertaining to your business. It is not an exact science because search engines like Google do not release all aspects of the algorithms used to produce search results but thanks to lots of open data, historical practices, and testing performed by SEO companies, we do have some solid guidelines to follow in order to get the most out of our efforts. This brings us to our next question.....
Do I need SEO?
The simple and straight forward answer is YES, but there are some variables. Regardless of your level of SEO (if any), your website will make it on to Google search. The question is "where will it show up?". It could be on page 3 or page 112. In some instances within very niche areas or exact searches, you may even be the 1st result. There is no way of really knowing where it will show up unless your page has been optimized for particular keywords and phrases, and even then, even experts can only give you an average position. The key point is to take a look at your own behaviors while conducting searches. How many times do you look past the first page of Google search results? If your answer is "seldomly" or "none" then you need SEO to gain a first page position and maintain that position over time.
Should I Pay for SEO?
The answer to this question is dependent on you. If you own /operate/work at a generally small business, have the time to learn about SEO best practices and how to implement them, and possess the time available to do the work all while keeping up with the newest trends and Search Engine algorithm updates, then your answer is easily no. You do not need to pay for SEO services. If you do not meet the criteria i just listed, then you may want to consider contracting your SEO out to a third party or hiring someone to focus on this aspect of marketing for your business.
How Much Does SEO Cost?
Plain and simple; SEO can cost anywhere from $500 to more than $1500 per month and there is no standard cost. There is also no guarantees of where your website will come up in search results for particular keywords because of all the factors and variables involved in producing search results. Even your business location and number of quality reviews on your Google business listing can be factors. If you have a quality SEO manager though, he/she will be able to produce quality and trackable results over time.
I want to make sure that you have a solid understanding of the true costs here. An SEO expert can spend several hours a day focusing on SEO for your company. It is labor intensive and requires a large amount of research and planning. Doing some simple math, an expert spending 3 hours a day focused on your account and working at $25 and hour (industry low) is making $1500 a month before subtracting overhead costs and taxes.
How to find an SEO Expert
As I said, SEO is not an exact science. It takes experience and research to gain the knowledge necessary for quality search engine optimization and that is the key factor here. There are more so-called SEO experts out there than I care to count only because there is no defining credentials required to do the work (or claim to do the work). Also, it is extremely easy to drum up fake statistics showing that there is improvements to pull the whool over the eyes of those not with little understanding of SEO. Therein lies the dilema.
Before you hire someone to handle your SEO, make sure they are reputable. Due diligence is a big part of this. Look them up on Google. You may find that their address is in the middle of a boat yard (yes, this actually happened). Look for reviews on their google business listing. If there is no Google business listing, it's a red flag.
Find them on Facebook and take a look at conversations about them if there are any. Social media plays a large part in SEO. If they have no social media accounts, it's a red flag.
Ask for a list of clients and then follow up with those clients. Make a quick phone call to see how theu feel about their current level of service. If the SEO "expert" says something like "we don't give out client information, then more than likely, they have no satisfied clients. Another red flag.
In some cases, you will find that a company or person is new to the world of SEO and digital marketing. This can be a good thing for you if you are looking to save money and are not looking for great results within the first year. Pay this person accordingly though. A new company with little to no experience should not be receiving $1500 per month for services. You may even work out a deal and get a few months of free service to prove their value before paying. SEO is npt a one time thing and a relationship like this could be a valuable one in the future.
SEO takes time, knowledge, and the ability to adapt to constant changes in the online world. It shifts almost daily and while there are many scammers out there looking for an easy paycheck, some due diligence will help to ensure that your SEO expert is truly capable of handling your SEO needs.
Thanks for your time,