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SEO Pricing Models - Finding the Best Bang for Your Buck!

Mar 20, 2008
Getting the highest ROI (return on investment) for your marketing efforts is the ultimate goal of internet marketing. But with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) pricing models all across the board, it may be like trying to find a needle in the haystack.

The Search for Competitive SEO Rates

The search begins (for most businesses) by locating a qualified SEO company that specializes in the types of services you require. Some SEO firms specialize in PPC others prefer Organic SEO, while other firms are more versed in custom SEO Web Design or link building services.

Even after you refine your choices, is your business ready to embrace SEO or the changes that may be required in order to polish your value proposition and step up your collaborated marketing efforts?

Sometimes you have to let go (of an older site or an older approach that has seen better days) and work with a medium that is more pliable, modern and efficient for acquiring long-term benefits in search engines.

Otherwise, the approach of putting lipstick on a pig is an unlikely combination for producing viable increases in conversion (as customers are less likely to fall for the facade). Even with traffic, if your site has poor navigation a bad color scheme or is screaming "hey I'm from 1999", then no amount of SEO is going to make things right.

Much in the same light, if you want to tune/optimize your site for top 10 positioning, honing your websites programming platform and writing some fresh content is a starting point for optimization, but it is a pivotal milestone at best. SEO is a holistic process involving hundreds of layers of coordinated components (for those who dominate the top 10) and cutting corners just keeps your pages that much further away from reaching the top.

An objective analysis using a problem / solution based approach can help to shed light on this matter.

1. The Challenge - The company or individual is starting fresh with limited content or web presence, has no clue about content or relevance yet wants to rank in the top 10. This is definitely the most difficult starting point for SEO.

In this scenario - Your looking at 6 months (minimum) to make an organic impact in a larger playing field and more importantly, you will have to work harder to play catch up by augmenting your site with content (articles, offers, promotions or links). Not to mention you will need to receive endorsement from the various piers in your industry in order to establish trust in the eyes of search engines and get a real lift into the top 10. By far the most costly endeavor (be prepared to spend 20-30K to truly compete in a competitive market 5-10K to establish moderate keywords over 6 months).

2. The Challenge- Website exists but has sparse content or hasn't changed it in ages (challenging, but with an infusion of content rankings can be developed).

In this scenario - just working with the existing content is a plus, you can tweak the code, optimize the internal links as well as add a blog and start developing inroads with search engines and new potential clients using social media, RSS feeds and viral marketing to kick up exposure for your brand.

3. The Challenge - The company is active online, has a website and uses PPC advertising (at least they are in the ballpark and understand the art of the deal and how to hone your pitch and make adjustments to fine tune conversion).

In this scenario - The company has a great start, has a degree of online branding and visibility in place. For starters the website will require a bit of polishing through a content development strategy (x amount of posts or articles per week), some targeted SEO copy writing to pull it all together (5-10K well spent could bolster the organic rankings you seek).

4. The Challenge - The company has an understanding of internet marketing, has honed content that is experiencing marginal results but needs direction and traffic (the ideal SEO client).

In this scenario - The suggestion would be to start fresh, create an all out assault using a new site, a giveaway or promotion, a full scale link building campaign and 6-8 months of targeting a series of a high flying traffic bearing phrases to grow into (expect to spend up to 40K to get the exposure, but what you stand to yield by comparison is well worth it).

Starting fresh (with a new site) allows you to clearly identify competitive keywords and factor them into the site architecture, so even when the site is in between links flowing in from external sources, the age factor alone from it's own dynamic internal links can push it up the ladder.

Just like traditional marketing, exposure is one of the metrics used to determine if the campaign is yielding a high degree of relevant traffic, generating solid leads or conversion for your efforts.

Price is commensurate to exposure, but only as long as the visibility can be leveraged and the results have the ability to warrant the cost. With prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to up to $50,000 dollars for an SEO campaign (from a large SEO firm). What matters the most is determining where you are (in your marketing stance), where you want to be (the end result desired) and what your budget is to set the stage for hitting the search engines running using a small business SEO campaign.

Most typical SEO / Client relationships start like this. The prospect (who has marginal visibility for a narrow range of keywords) wants to extend visibility for their site and funnel additional / relevant traffic by adding competitive traffic bearing terms to their pages.

Nine times out of 10, this impulse was inspired as a result of an emerging competitor dominating the top 10.

So, with the "why should they get all of the pie incentive" the prospect starts screening SEO companies to assess the benefit to cost ratio and potential return on investment. Unlike their corporate counterparts who may have millions to allocate for marketing or internet marketing, a more realistic budget for most businesses is $15-30,000 per year, granted that they can double or triple their return on investment.

However, you have to weigh the pros and the cons and understand that the long term investment of time, energy and optimization take time to mature and to fully appreciate the impact it can have on a local and national level takes patience (no matter how much you spend).

SEO is not always the ultimate solution, not all traffic converts, so sure you could have a top 10 position for a less competitive phrase and just break even, or you could go through the natural stages of adding a strategic array of traffic bearing keywords until your site gains enough authority to finally hits the top 10 like the big dogs (for multiple terms) so you can recover your investment.

So as long as you understand it is all about visibility and pairing your produces or services with those who have a need for it, as long as your value proposition is polished tried and true you chances of success are far greater than just waiting for traffic to beat a path to your door.

But before considering SEO, I encourage small business owners to consider an objective analysis of their motives for wanting to compete, but also for creating a game plan that is realistic for their stage of the game. One model suggests allocating 10% of your total revenues is a fair percentage to dedicate to internet marketing, for others up to 20% is the norm.

Aside from being ready to handle the influx of new traffic and leads you should (a) have a product that is worthy, (b) have invested in a professional and compelling website that encourages engagement and sales conversion, and (c) above all else has an alternate method to augment sales aside from strictly using online promotion.

This way, in all fairness you give optimization the ability to systematically increase traffic and exposure the way it was designed (over time).

It requires multiple rounds of SEO in the beginning (to jump start a campaign) as well as a maintenance factor to ensure your rankings don't slip as a result of competition, changes to algorithms, or market conditions.

So, when considering a time line, it is always better to work on 3-6 month blocks to track your results after all the dust to settles so you can gauge just what steps are required for the next quarter.

There will be exceptions (if you sell e-books or gadgets for example) but the bottom line is if you have the margin and you are experiencing a slow season, then SEO is a perfect way to augment visibility in your niche that if performed properly is one of the most cost effective advertising mediums in existence.

My suggestion is, for anyone interested in optimization to educate themselves about the basics, the more information you have, the more informed your SEO company can involve you covering all of the steps along the way.

A good SEO company can perform keyword research, competitive analysis, perform some reconnaissance to determine which phrases have traction for your competitors and emulate a strategy for you.

But the real value in SEO is to establish authority for your site, so that instead of the old, "let's build some links", mentality, you can accomplish more by adding one page to your site that would have taken months of SEO work from a nuts and bolts worker bee mentality.

When you optimize a keyword for a website, you are in fact targeting the type of consumer who would type those keywords in a search box, so by the very nature of the phrases, you can determine to a great extent the motives of the visitors that frequent your pages. Another important lesson is, be where your at, but make sure you aim high enough for the main root phrases and climb that ladder over time.

Although many may find it discouraging that many SEO companies will not reveal their SEO rates online. Mainly because the shock value for those with the Mc Donald's mentality walking into a five star restaurant (with the four dollar burger mentality) similarly may have the same alarming reaction when they get the bill.

If you can see the value in SEO, then at some point, you will inevitably have to put your money where your mouth is, learn how to do it yourself (which is not always the best use of resources and time) or just skip the whole SEO thing and be happy where you rank.

The statement that you get what you pay for is merely one side of the equation. Just because you pay $50,000 for SEO services doesn't mean that you could not have received the same results for $20,000 respectively.

But in all seriousness, how many small businesses have that kind of capital to invest? The answer, the ones who performed some due diligence, found their stride, identified a market and used SEO as a means to reach a larger more targeted audience. That is the value of competitive SEO and competitive SEO rates.
About the Author
Aside from offering clients Competitive SEO Rates, Jeffrey L. Smith of SEO Design Solutions SEO Company in Chicago has his hands full managing the growth of their premier Search Engine Optimization Company. For more information, call 866-471-5377 toll free or get a FREE SEO Price Quote .
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