The Internet has become the number one resource that we turn to to find out information.
Whether we’re looking for a good recipe to make for dinner tonight or the number for a local plumber to fix a clogged pipe.
The Internet is the place that we go to first.
There hasn’t been another resource that has grown at the same rate as the Internet has.
With only half of the world’s population currently having Internet connectivity, the upcoming growth rate of the web will continue to skyrocket.
Back in the early days of the web, even when there were only thousands of websites online, people began to realize they needed some method of sorting through all of this information. They came up with the idea of search engines.
Search engines: computer algorithms that analyze the information on websites, categorize them and then deliver relevant results to a person’s search inquiry.
Of the many search engines that were created 3 have survived and 1 has thrived.
Now that we have over a billion websites on the Internet, the ability to effectively sort through all of the information contained on them is extremely critical.
Without search engines, as we know them today, the Internet would be practically unusable.
No one would be able to get to a website unless they knew the exact domain name they needed to go to.
As we’ve shown, without search engines there would be no effective way of sorting through the billion websites on the Internet. This includes your website.
Because of search engines, you are able to do a search for your business name and find your website without having to know your website’s domain name.
However, in order for someone to search for your business’s name, they have to know about your business in the first place.
But how does a prospect find you if they don’t even know who you are?
This is why SEO (search engine optimization) is so important for your business!
SEO optimizes your website so that search engines, like Google, will place it in a higher position for a targeted search phrase that a prospect WILL type into a search engine.
Your prospects are likely not searching for your exact business name in Google. They are searching for a service or industry that they know will solve the problem that they currently have.
This is why SEO is one of the most profitable marketing avenues for your business.
When a prospect turns to a search engine to find a product or service that solves their problem, they are in a buying mode.
When you compare these numbers to traditional advertising methods, you’re likely not going to see these numbers. And that’s not surprising.
Let’s say you’re sitting down after a long day of work. You’re relaxing and watching a little bit of TV. When the commercial comes on for your local plumber, the likelihood of you picking up the phone right then and calling them…along with the chances of them still being open and you actually speaking with someone are pretty slim.
Maybe you’ll make a note, maybe you’ll go to their website, maybe you’ll call tomorrow.. you probably won’t.
However, in two weeks, after trying to deal with that slow drain yourself you finally do a search for a local plumber.
It’s possible you’ll call the same company you saw on TV, but it’s also very likely you won’t even remember them.
So if this scenario applies to you, isn’t it pretty likely it’s also going to be the same for your prospects?
Other advertisement mediums can be great, but it will be difficult to come by a marketing avenue that can effectively out-compete the ROI your business will see through strategic search engine optimization.
While we can’t give you exact pricing for how much your business should be budgeting for search engine optimization, we can give you some estimates that should help guide you along the way.
The first pricing consideration is going to be greatly dependent on how competitive the keyword or search phrase is you are wanting to rank for.
If your business needs to rank for low competition searches, then you will not need to spend as much.
However, if you’re trying to compete in highly competitive niches or for industry knowledge type keywords you’re going to need an expansive budget.
Let’s look at some examples:
Let’s start off by looking at a low competition keyword or another way to put it, an easy to rank for search phrase.
If you go to Google and you type in “boston dog walker” you will see some ads, a map listing of local dog walkers, 10 websites that Google thinks are most relevant for this search phrase and then some more ads to finish it off.
For this example, we’re going to just focus on the 10 websites in the search results, also referred to as “organic rankings,” and show you why this is an easy to rank for search phrase.
Out of the 10 returned results, 5 of these websites are authority websites.
Authority websites are large websites that are their own known brand on the web. Websites like these carry a lot of weight in the search engines because they are well known and trusted. The search engines assume they are going to have high-quality content and so are more apt to favor them in the returned search results.
The first 2 results are authority websites: Care.com and Yelp.com.
But then the 3rd result is a low authority website.
Out of the remaining 7 results, 3 are authority websites and 4 are low authority websites.
Looking at this search phrase, we see that Google is not completely favoring the large authority branded websites, but instead is equally sharing the top 10 returned results with relevant local websites even though they are low authority.
Just to clarify, low authority does not mean bad. It just doesn’t have the same type of established presence that a large authority website has.
For example, Yelp.com has over 86 million pages that Google has registered within its search index, while HappyPawsBoston.com only has 17. However, what HappyPawsBoston.com has going for it is keyword and location relevancy which is why it is ranking in the 3rd spot for this search phrase.
So looking over all of the returned results for “Boston dog walker” if I wanted to rank for this search phrase, I know that I can because I don’t need to do better than Care.com or Yelp.com I just need to do better than HappyPawsBoston.com. And having looked over all of the metrics for the ranking websites, I know that if I do much better than they are doing, based on what I can see from this keyword and the returned results, I will likely even rank above Yelp and Care.
We’re going to jump to the other end of the spectrum now and look over a very competitive search phrase.
This is an example of a search phrase that is extremely competitive.
While the returned results for this search phrase do not contain any super authority websites like Yelp, each of the organic results are very powerful websites that are themed and extremely relevant for the search phrase: mesothelioma lawyer.
Each of these websites makes between $50,000 to $1,000,000 per month from their entire website’s Google rankings.
Because mesothelioma lawsuits typically have payouts between $1,000,000 to $2,400,000 the attorneys ranking for these keywords are willing to pay incredible amounts of money to rank for the search terms like these.
Anytime a search phrase is around an item/product/service that is worth that much money, you’re going to be competing in a realm that most people can’t afford.
Another indication of the competitive nature of a search phrase is how much a company is willing to pay for Google AdWords.
The ads that run within the Google search results are typically priced per click. Meaning, when you click on one of these ads and go to the company’s website, the company is charged an amount of money. These kinds of ads generally run from $.25 to around $10 per click.
Looking at how much someone is willing to pay for CPC ads can give you a rough estimation on how difficult it will be to rank organically for that keyword. If someone is willing to spend $10 or more every time someone clicks on their ad, it’s pretty likely that it is because it’s not easy to get into the top organic rankings.
For a super competitive keyword like “mesothelioma lawyer,” the CPC cost is staggering.
The current cost-per-click for these ads is estimated to be $209.
Meaning, every time one of these ads is clicked, the company is charged up to $209.
So if someone is willing to spend $209 for one person to click on their ad, it’s safe to assume the competition for this keyword is extremely high.
I go through all of this detail to show that the cost of getting your business’s website ranked for profitable search phrases will be directly proportional to how much that search phrase is really worth to you and your competition
If you’re selling a $10 product and only a handful of people are going to buy it from you, then you probably won’t want to invest much in your SEO.
However, if you’re a profitable company with products/services that prospects are actually searching for right now then it is going to be worth investing a percentage of your revenue into search engine optimization.
I would recommend setting a budget similar to what you would pay to hire an SEO Specialist in-house.
The average base pay for an SEO Specialist is $65,200 a year. Breaking that down monthly it would be a little over $5000 a month. This would be dependent on your industry and keyword competition.
For medium to high competition keywords, this should be a sufficient budget.
For a low competition industry and keywords, you should be able to effectively rank for less than this.
For very high to extremely high competition niches and keywords, this will not be enough and you’ll need to budget more.
There are a few common paths that business owners take when it comes to their search engine optimization.
For small business owners and freelancers, this is often the route they take. They don’t have the budget to hire someone either in-house or an agency to handle their SEO so they try to do it themselves.
This can work for some types of low competition search phrases but can pose to be quite difficult.
The main problem with trying to do your own SEO comes down to time and finding accurate and up-to-date sources of information.
Learning how to optimize a website well can take a good amount of time to learn. Just as the products you offer weren’t developed overnight. Or the skills you need to deliver your services weren’t learned in a few days. The same applies to search engine optimization.
While there are some simple strategies that can be put in place relatively quickly and easily these will only help you for low competition keywords where your competition is not already doing these bare minimum strategies.
If you’re looking to rank for medium to high competition keywords you will need to be knowledgeable in SEO.
Becoming knowledgeable in SEO can also pose difficult.
There are many websites and videos claiming to be the ultimate resources for SEO; however, most of these contain outdated, ineffective or straight up wrong information. And when you’re first starting out, you have no idea what is what.
Your website’s search engine optimization is one area where you don’t want to implement the wrong strategies. Not only will they be ineffective, but they can also cause serious damage to your website’s relationship with Google. Google may even deindex your website, ie kick it out of the search engine so it won’t show up for any search terms.
So if you’re wanting to take the “do it yourself route” I would recommend getting a trusted SEO course.
Of the courses that I recommend, it will cost you between $1000 to $5000 depending on the type of business you have and what kinds of keywords you’re looking to rank for.
There will also be some additional costs associated with some various tools and services that you will need to purchase. These will cost you $700 to $3000 per month for most situations. Though this is very dependent on what you are trying to rank for.
Some businesses will go the in-house route and hire someone to do their SEO as an employee of the company.
Going this route can have some benefits.
To start with, the person you hire, you can impart your company’s culture into.
Instead of hiring an outside company this employee will be part of your company. If they succeed in getting you more business, your company succeeds and in turn, they succeed.
Additionally, you get access to more time and can give the employee additional responsibilities.
Many SEO Specialists will have experience with websites and also social media management.
The downsides of hiring someone in-house will be to find someone who has real-world experience actually ranking websites in Google.
Many people who claim SEO skills have experience designing websites, but very little understanding of how search engine optimization actually works.
The average base pay for an SEO Specialist is $65,200, but I wouldn’t recommend hiring one for less than $100,000 a year. If you can’t afford to do that than I would recommend staying away from this option.
Because any SEO expert who really knows what they are doing would understand how much money their skill can really generate.
If someone is willing to accept less money it means they likely don’t have the real world experience ranking websites.
Also, what many business owner’s don’t understand is that just because you hire an employee to do your SEO it doesn’t mean that their salary will be your only SEO related expense.
They will need tools and resources which will incur additional expenses.
Likely in the range of $700 to $3000 per month.
So even if you were able to hire an expert in SEO that actually knows their stuff for $65,200 a year, you would still have to consider the additional expenses of insurance, taxes, and job-related resources and tools.
Taking all of this into consideration you’ll likely be spending around $88,938 per year for this employee and the additional tool and resources needed.
All of this comes out to be $7400 a month.
If you have a business associated email address chances are you’ve received an email like this:
Now, I’m sure that Francis (or is it Garcia?), is sending out this email with the best of intentions to bring in clients for his business. Unfortunately, his best intentions will seriously screw up anyone’s website that ends up saying yes to an offer like this.
The problem with these kinds of offers isn’t the location of the company, but the strategies utilized.
It’s impossible to implement effective search engine optimization using cheap strategies.
The strategies offered through services like this at the very worst will end up tanking a website’s rankings and getting it deindexed from Google’s search results.
At best, these services will do absolutely nothing for your rankings.
There are some things like custom coding and design you can utilize inexpensive offshore outsourcing for, but your business’s visibility is not one of them.
Our absolute recommendation is to stay away from cheap SEO services.
The final option that many business owners choose, is to hire an SEO agency to optimize their website for Google.
Going this route will get you the most return on your investment, without requiring you to hire a new employee or learn a new skill yourself.
Now, we do recommend this option for most businesses, however, we don’t recommend this option for all businesses.
There are going to be cases where it may be best to go the do it yourself route or depending on the size of your company to hire on an SEO Specialist or to build a team of them.
But, for most businesses in the US hiring an agency is going to be the best route to go.
Since SEO agencies specialize in search optimization they are going to have the knowledge, tools, and resources at their disposal that they are already paying for to service their other clients in order to get your website ranking safely, effectively and as quickly as safely possible.
Using a company that specializes in SEO will allow you to bypass the learning curve required if you tried to do it yourself and also the additional expenses of going the employee route.
In the end, utilizing a solid agency will provide you with all of the benefits of SEO while saving you from the disadvantages of the other avenues.
We do want to throw out a warning though.
Do your due diligence when choosing an agency to work with.
As we’ve stressed, your SEO is critically important for your business.
Your website is your business online and search engine optimization is one of the most effective ways of bringing the right prospects to your business.
It’s still very important to research out any SEO agency before working with them.
We’ve compiled some key questions you should be asking an SEO agency before hiring them.
If you do a quick search for SEO services in your city you’ll find that there are numerous web design companies that also advertise search engine optimization services.
It’s not that this is a bad thing, but we do want to stress that search engine optimization is a completely different skill than website design.
There are many web designers who know the very basics of SEO and in order to get extra money, will add these services to their offerings.
The problem with this is that people are generally best at what their business’s “bread and butter” service is. If it’s website design, they are typically most focused on that.
They may have some skill in SEO, but they are not keeping up-to-date on the newest trends.
They are not running R&D.
They are not actively developing and utilizing SEO skills.
Instead, they are designing websites.
Which is great!
But just because you know how a website works, doesn’t mean you know how Google does.
Before hiring an SEO agency you want to make sure that they can actually do what they say they can. This proof will primarily be shown through the websites they have ranked.
You want to review some of the websites they have ranked.
You’ll want to pay attention to some factors of these rankings like, how competitive is the search term they show as an example. You want to make sure that it is at least as competitive or more competitive than what your website needs to rank for.
We have come across some SEO consultants who have had easy wins ranking very non-competitive keywords and will use these as keyword ranking examples.
Now, this is an area where we don’t fully comply.
We make non-disclosure agreements with our clients and don’t reveal their business or their rankings.
A business’s rankings are extremely important and we don’t want to do anything that could potentially compromise those rankings. Especially for our own gain.
So instead, we have ranked some sample websites that we use as an example of what we can do.
As far as I know, we’re the only company that does this, so if you’re researching out a competitor, feel free to push them in this area to show you the results they can deliver.
While researching out an agency, you want to make sure that they have actually reviewed your site before you hire them.
Why is that important?
Because search engine optimization isn’t cookie cutter.
There are some things that you will do across the board for every website when optimizing it, but because every website’s situation is different it’s important to have accurate information before beginning.
We have ballpark pricing for our SEO services.
But there are going to be some situations where some websites won’t fit into these pricing models.
For example, if a company comes to us and says they want to hire us to rank their plumbing business in Boston. We could just send them over a contract based on our pricing model and not look at their website until after they’ve paid us.
The problem with this is that if they had bad SEO done on their website previously they may have a penalty against their domain name. If they do, we can try to recover their website from the penalty, but this is not included in our pricing packages as this can be a great deal of extra work.
It’s also possible their domain name could be too far gone and we would only accept them as a client if they were willing to purchase a new domain name.
This may be a deal breaker for them.
If it is, then we don’t move forward by signing them up for our services.
Just as you’re interviewing agencies to make sure they are going to be able to deliver the best services for you, so the agency you’re interviewing should be analyzing your company to make sure that you’re the right fit for their services.
We believe that a relationship between you, your company and the SEO agency you choose should always be a win-win.
If it’s not, then walk away.
Every agency’s exact method is going to be a little bit different, but in the end, it should be addressing the following items:
On-page optimization – Tasks performed directly on your website. Some of these will include:
Off-page optimization – Tasks performed not directly on your website. Some of these will include:
There are additional items not on this list, but an effective SEO strategy will be addressing both on-page and off-page optimizations.
This question should tell you a good deal about the agency you’re interviewing.
On average it’s going to take 8 to 12 months to rank for search phrases that are medium to high difficulty.
However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Depending on how your website’s current SEO stands this could be shorter or longer, but the agency should be able to give you an idea of the time frame and why.
The problem to watch out for here will be agencies that are overselling their services.
The reality is that search engine optimization takes time and is not an overnight process.
Effective, long-lasting SEO is strategically implemented.
If they tell you they can rank your website quickly, they are likely overselling themselves. If they are not, they should be able to give you a logical reason why they can get it done quickly.
If they can’t give you a good reason, I would suggest not going with them.
There is likely no need for this to be a suggested question here as this is typically most business owner’s first question.
While I don’t believe this is the most important question, it is an important question to ask.
Not only because you need to know if you can afford the agency’s services, but also because you don’t want to hire someone who is not charging enough for their services.
SEO costs money to perform.
Not only in hourly work the agency will be performing, but also in hard costs.
Some of these costs will include external resources, paid directories, guest posts and new content for your website.
Depending on your niche and how competitive it is, the agency may need to purchase more external resources which will require a higher cost to perform your website’s SEO.
So it is important to make sure you can afford the services of the agency you’re interviewing, it’s also critical to make sure that they are not charging you too little as this will either delay your rankings beyond what it should typically take, or they are cutting corners which will come back to harm your website and your online business presence.
It’s good to establish what the agency’s process is when they’ve ranked your website.
It surprises many business owners that an SEO agency will continue to charge them even though their website is now ranking for their target keywords.
What the agency will tell you is that just because your website is ranking now, doesn’t guarantee it will continue to do so.
Your rankings will need continued SEO maintenance which is why they will continue to charge you.
We understand the perspective of both the business owner not wanting to get stuck in a never-ending bill and the agency that wants to make sure the rankings they worked hard to get you stay in the top spot.
The way we handle this is that once we have ranked your business’s website for your target search phrases we implement an SEO maintenance plan.
The maintenance plan’s fee is reduced compared to the normal monthly pricing.
This helps to save our clients money, while also allowing us to maintain those rankings.
The reason we recommend an SEO maintenance plan is that you’re likely not the only one who wants to be in the top spots for your target search phrases.
Your competition will be working hard to overtake those spots. So it’s important to be vigilant in maintaining your positioning.
Additionally, Google and other search engines are constantly updating their ranking algorithms. As they make changes, this can also adjust where your business’s website is ranking.
There have been many businesses who were ranking in the top position for their target keywords who lost those positions within moments after Google made a change to their algorithm.
Having a maintenance plan in place can help reduce the impact of Google algorithm updates.
Have You Ever Had Any Websites Receive A Manual Penalty?
You may not get an honest answer from this question, but it’s worth asking.
A manual penalty is what Google does to websites that it believes are breaking its terms of service and utilizing spammy or malicious SEO techniques.
When Google applies a manual penalty it removes the website from its search results and it will no longer show up for any search term.
Even its own name.
These penalties can be disastrous for businesses especially if they were ranking for their target keywords as they will no longer show up for the search terms that were previously making them money.
So to say the least manual penalties are very bad to get.
It is possible to recover from them by fixing the underlying issues and requesting Google to reevaluate your site; however, it is a great deal of work to accomplish this.
It’s much better to avoid manual penalties by only using safe SEO techniques.
If you ask this question and they affirm that they have gotten a manual penalty before, don’t immediately dismiss them. This shows you that they are willing to be honest.
Ask them what led to the manual penalty, what they learned from it and what they did after.
This should give you insight into their personality and their company culture.
We’ve personally never had any of our websites or client’s sites penalized, but we do know a number of other SEOs who have. Many of these are SEO experts that we refer business to when it makes sense.
So if an agency has had received a manual penalty in the past, don’t immediately dismiss them, but use the information as an opportunity to get to know them and their agency better.
The bottom line is that search engine optimization is critically important for your business’s success.
People are no longer turning to phonebooks or the yellow pages to find businesses like yours, instead, they’re using Google.
If you’re not showing up in the top of the search results for what your prospects are searching for, you’re missing out on ready to buy customers.
If you’re not currently optimizing your website what are you waiting for?
If you want to see your website’s current standing, use our free SEO audit tool now.