How much should I be paying for SEO?

SEO

Over the last decade or so, one of the areas which has evolved the most is search engine optimisation (SEO) – so it’s important to keep on top of changes.

The changes have been driven primarily by Google, but also as a consequence of SEO practitioners trying to game the system.

In the early days, to rank high on Google you merely had to attract a lot of backlinks (a link from one website to your website).

That led to huge ‘link farms’ where businesses paid peanuts to have a website in Russia about wrestling link back to their local business in Australia.

The consequences were that organic search results weren’t always reflective of what people wanted to find.

Google, wanting to improve the search experience all the time, put a stop to that and over the years has released more and more updates to the search algorithm to change the way it judges websites.

With all these refinements, the way companies approach SEO has changed.

Backlinks are still important, but the quality and legitimacy of these backlinks has been the focus, as opposed to the quantity.

No more Russian wrestling sites will be tolerated.

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Aside from the technical performance of the site, factors such as user experience, quality of content, and frequency of the site’s readership have become major factors.

That means to do it right, you need to take a truly holistic approach.

The costs associated with doing SEO the right way

A holistic approach to SEO means bringing in people who can tackle all those aspects – from creating great content to making sure the site loads faster than your competitors.

To make it easier, I’ve tried to break down the key requirements you’ll need to focus on if you’re recruiting an SEO company.

Technical

Once a site has been optimised for speed and user experience – which it may well have been done when it was launched – then it’s unlikely you’ll have to do it again.

Any optimisation in this space should be a one-off cost and there are a variety of tools with which you can test the site’s performance online.

Google has its own here but another commercial option is Moz. It’s not cheap at $99 a month, but well worth it.

On-site

This involves making sure your page descriptions, titles, headings and so on are all correct.

Again, this should be a one-off cost.

If the person building your website in the first instance knew what they were doing, it might only need a little bit of tweaking.

Content production

This is where you should invest if you can’t take the time to produce anything yourself.

There is a sliding scale with content production costs, where you essentially get what you pay for.

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You can find blog writers willing to write for $12 to $15 per 100 words, but be prepared to pay more if you want great content for users to find which portrays your company in a great light.

You can use Canva for graphics and Slide.ly for slides and galleries. Both of those sites operate on a ‘freemium’ model, where you can do a fair bit for free but if you want a more bespoke option it will cost.

Off-site

This is where, in my opinion, the bulk of investment should still occur and can still make a difference.

Passing authority from one website to another is still valuable as long as it’s done correctly.

This is also the area where costs can fluctuate wildly. One backlink could take two minutes, posting on a forum.

Another, more valuable link, could take weeks and require multiple pitches to a webmaster or publisher.

A final consideration when it comes to costs is the number of keywords you’re looking to optimise for.

Total cost expectations

If an organisation is charging you sub-$500 for SEO work, you might not be getting benefit from those fees.

It’s certainly plausible that an offshore resource could be building backlinks for you but they won’t be doing much more than that, and the quality of those links in the long term could be questionable.

Realistically, a bracket of $1,200 to $3,000 would be delivering better results; if you’re a larger corporate client, then that amount could run from $5,000 to $10,000.

All SEO agencies should also be reporting to you monthly, if not weekly.

And don’t accept a month-to-month comparison of results – ask to see the results back to the first month they started to work for you.

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