Monday, September 20, 2010

How Much is Too Much to Pay for SEO?

How much is too much to pay for SEO? (…or should you try to do it yourself first?)
Yes, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be an excellent way of getting leads.
Yes, good SEO can level the playing field between you and competitors.
Yes, you should do some level of SEO.
…but how much is too much?
Too much? Good question.
You’ll find that everybody that uses the word “Internet” is going to suggest that you engage in SEO and many will make you an offer to do it for you. There’s nothing wrong with that as far it goes. But what you have to decide is how much you should pay for having it done.
Some Perspectives On Paying For SEO
Here are a few important tips to help you decide the answer to that question:
(1) First, make sure you really do need outside assistance. If you’re looking for better SEO placement for relatively unique or so-called “long tail” key words (e.g. “pine street rental condominiums” ) it might be worth trying it yourself before you involve an SEO consultant or SEO firm.
(2) SEO is not rocket-science. Mostly it’s monotonous drudgery. So what you pay should not be about hiring “expertise”. The SEO effort is more like 90% drudgery, 8% experience, and 2% expertise and you should compensate accordingly.
(3) The value of SEO boils down to “clicks” – preferably clicks that result in a sale conversion. SEO should be measured on the same cost-per-click basis any search-engine-marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click (PPC) campaign would be – i.e. the basis of ROI. If you don’t know how many clicks or orders you want, do not engage SEO until you do.
(4) SEO is not static and optimization is competitive. You may be on the first page today but your competitors aren’t necessarily going to sit still forever. You could be bumped at any time. So if you’re not prepared to maintain an ongoing and strategic SEO effort – no matter what the competition does – then save your money.
(5) Search engine “secrets” are just that – secret. The search engines aren’t telling them and anybody that claims to know the secrets is just guessing. It doesn’t mean they can’t help but it’s not as if they have some special advantage. Impossible.
(6) Frankly, from the search engine point-of-view, if your site doesn’t have enough useful and relevant content to be on the first page, ethical SEO notwithstanding, eventually it won’t be. This is the objective of the search engines and there’s little likelihood that the SEO “expert” pitching you is going to out-think Google, Yahoo!, Bing and others in the long run.
Is Doing SEO Yourself An Option?
It’s almost always worth taking a first crack at SEO yourself. Often only a little effort can make a significant difference. If you do want to make the effort, invest a few dollars in a do-it-yourself SEO guide and try to adhere to the following minimum suggestions:
(1) Focus on keywords that are realistic. You’re not likely to get a good placement with a keyword like “real estate” but you might get first page with a keyword like “Hill street real estate”;
(2) Make sure your keyword is mentioned in the link to your page. Instead of saying “click HERE” make sure the text for the link says something like “for more information about HILL STREET REAL ESTATE”;
(3) Make sure your keyword is mentioned in your page title, your keyword list, your page content, bolded page content;
(4) For every keyword you’re interested in, make sure you have an appropriate page to focus on it (and that it complies with #1, #2, and #3 above)
(5) Register with search engine webmaster accounts so that you can submit your site to them quickly and efficiently (search for “google webmaster”, “bing webmaster”, or “yahoo webmaster” to find the details).
Don’t Forget Links
Lastly, if you going to make an initial stab yourself, understand that quality links to your site are a vital factor in your ultimate placement. The more the merrier. To get a head-start on building links to your site, do the following:
(1) Enroll in all relevant local or regional directories – (search “free directories” to find lists of these); many will be free, some will want nominal fees or backlinks. You decide.
(2) Ensure that any press releases and announcements you make refer to your site and specific pages within it.
(3) Post pages of your site to delicious.com or to digg.com and to similar bookmarking sites.
(4) Ask local friends and business acquaintances if they will exchange links with you.
(5) On the other hand, DO NOT sign up for paid links without the guidance of someone experienced in Internet marketing.
Do these things sound particularly difficult? No.
And well worth taking a stab at by yourself. From there you can decide whether its desirable or worth the cost to pay for SEO services from a 3rd-party.
No Matter What You Do…
You need to think in terms of what kind of return you are going to get on your investment. The calculation is simple: Divide the total SEO cost (yours or a 3rd-party’s) by the number of orders/sales you’ve received as a result of the effort. Then compare that cost-per-sale against your margin-per-sale. If you have margin left over, you’re in the right territory. If you don’t, you’ve got a problem.
The bottom line is that when you talk with any SEO service provider, you must think in terms of ROI. Not in terms of “secrets” or first pages or top spots, but ROI. (Note: it is theoretically possible to be on the 3rd page and still get a positive ROI – not likely, but possible) If the ROI doesn’t work, then search engine optimization may not be for you and other Internet marketing methods might yield better results and a better ROI.

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