As an SEO guy these days it’s hard to come upon a business that doesn’t have a story that goes something like this:

“I’ve already worked with 2-3 firms who all made me promises and then did nothing.”

Now they’re reluctant to work with anyone else, and if they do hire another firm those first few months are viewed with suspicion. The common thread in almost all of these cases: those firms they worked with offered them some kind of wonderful “deal”.

I’ll give it to you straight with no BS.

When most people think of SEO they imagine a guy at a desk typing away furiously at web code, constantly changing things to jump a site’s ranking. There’s more to SEO than code, though. Actually, good SEO is far more about communication than code. Good web design and successful SEO campaigns go hand in hand; every visual element plays into conversion. (This is why I prefer to campaign with a quality site redesign or initial build unless the site already looks great.)

Only focusing on code might get you traffic, but it won’t get you business.

If SEOs that you’ve met or worked with only show you Google Analytics reports of site traffic, it’s a red flag. Traffic alone is only a cursory marker of success, and pretty useless without measuring engagement. Where does your site rank for target keywords, and is the traffic you’re getting even coming from those words? Of the traffic you’re getting, do you have a method of tracking conversion?

Too often a site “accidentally” gets some traffic from ranking for irrelevant keywords in other geographic regions than are useful to the business owner. But the traffic reports look pretty, so no questions are asked.

SEO consulting - boost traffic and sales

It doesn’t matter if your site gets 50,000 views per month or 50 views per month if none of that traffic is converting. Unless you’re running a personal blog with no monetary goals, presumably if you’ve hired an SEO company it’s because you’re a business looking for more business.

What are the marketing goals?

Ok, so I’ve said all that to say this: don’t settle for just an SEO guy. SEO in itself is completely teachable, and the basics are… basic. You need more than just traffic. You need well-crafted content that speaks to your audience as a piece of a coherent marketing message.

Ideally, this means your SEO person needs to be a good writer who has also studied marketing. It doesn’t hurt to have a background in design a well. More ideally, your “SEO person” is actually a team.

The skill set needed for powerful SEO that converts — as well as the time needed each month to do it right — is simply beyond the reach of any “basement Bob”. Not because it’s impossible for Bob to be that good, but because if Bob were that good he wouldn’t be charging $200/month for a “full blown” campaign. If Bob charges that little it’s because he’s done some reading and knows a trick or two and hopes that this is enough.

With the number of stories I hear from unhappy customers, I can safely say that it will not be enough.

Think about the math behind it. If it can take 10-20+ hours per month to build a solid campaign, Mr. $200/month is making $10/hour before you even consider the cost of monitoring software and everything else needed. This is part of why he probably doesn’t have much for software.

Put bluntly, do you want someone that values themselves at $10/hour managing your marketing? What a price point like this really means is one of two things:

  • Bob isn’t really doing that much work each month, meaning the results will be minimal.
  • Bob is indeed spending that many man hours, but is using cheap labor in a foreign country to do it, meaning the quality of the content is likely poor. Also, that detachment creates quality control issues.

How much you’re “getting” has to relate to the actual goal that made you seek the service in the first place. Being given a special price or so many months of free service is a ploy if the real results are absent.

It’s like those dating site commercials that say if you don’t get a match in 6 months you’ll get 6 more months free. If in 6 months it couldn’t deliver results, what good will 6 more months do? You’d be better off cutting your losses and spending money elsewhere to actually see results than sitting there spinning your wheels for free.

Remember that tried and true saying: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.