For many companies, search engine optimization is one of those things that’s perpetually on the “to do” list – but always gets bumped off in favor of higher priority projects. And really, this is totally understandable! After all, as a business owner or professional, you’ve got tons of competing demands on your time – all of which play a vital role in your organization’s success.
However, this mindset turns into trouble if you fail to seek out other opportunities to have this important SEO work completed on your website. Failing to implement the latest SEO best practices could have a serious impact on your website’s overall performance, resulting in traffic decreases, potential penalties and lost revenue.
So what’s the solution? Most companies that find themselves in this situation will benefit from outsourcing their SEO needs to qualified consultants or agencies. Outsourcing the process entirely frees up internal resources to work on other priorities, while still ensuring that the SEO techniques needed for a website to thrive are carried out correctly.
Be aware, though, that hiring an SEO consultant isn’t as simple as plucking one out of the Google search results and signing a contract. There are plenty of different options out there, from simple services that carry out only a single SEO element to established agencies that can revolutionize your company’s digital marketing campaigns.
One great way to think about the different types of SEO consultants that are out there is with the analogy of buying a car, which offers several different options at several different price points:
Low-End Clunkers = Fly-by-Night SEO Services
I’ll be the first to admit that the “4 Sale 4 Cheap” clunker parked outside your local auto shop has its place. Sometimes you just need a car that’ll get you from point A to point B until you can afford something more reliable.
Of course, if you’re buying these types of cars, you know that they come with limitations. You aren’t buying a cheap car because you want to put another 100,000 miles on it – and you certainly wouldn’t expect this type of car to drive perfectly without future mechanical issues popping up when you least expect them.
The same goes for what I like to call “fly-by-night” SEO services. You’ll see these types of programs advertised all around the web, but they typically involve tons of links for a low price (for example, “10,000 links for $10) or set prices paid for a guaranteed number of page views or social profile followers. Generally, they’re pitched as being cheap alternatives that provide the same results as more expensive SEO services – though you should recognize this as the same type of hype that used car salesmen use to get you into a cheap, unreliable car.
The problem with low-end SEO services is that, while they might provide a short-term boost to your website’s performance, their results either won’t last or will get you in trouble with the search engines later on. That is, if they do anything at all in the first place! Most of the low-end SEO services I’ve seen are automated programs that do nothing for your website but spit out BS reports and charge you on a monthly basis.
For nearly all reputable websites, I’d recommend steering clear of these SEO “solutions,” as there are far better uses of your company’s limited budget.
Mid-Range Models = New or Unproven Consultants
In the car buying world, most of the automobiles on the market fall into this middle-of-the-road category. Say, for example, you head to a dealership in search of a new ride. You want something that’s a little more reliable than the bottom-of-the-barrel rust-bucket described above, but you don’t have quite enough money to buy something new.
At this price point, your options are nearly endless – from roomy sedans with 75,000 miles to SUVs that are just a few model years away from being new themselves. You still won’t be expecting to get something new for the cost of these cars, but you assume that you’ll wind up with something that’s reasonably reliable and will last for years to come.
The same “mid-range” exists in the world of SEO consultants and services. In this field, you’ve got everything from your next-door neighbor’s kid who picked up a few SEO tricks by browsing industry blogs online to established agencies whose limited successes haven’t quite set them apart from better-known brands. You’ll pay more than you would for one-off SEO services to work with providers, but still less than you will to work with a bigger name in the field.
But are these services worth it? That depends. If you absolutely can’t afford to work with top-tier SEO consultants or agencies, hiring these alternatives is a far more sustainable option than purchasing backlink packages and other cheap SEO products. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find an up-and-coming consultant or agency that hasn’t been discovered yet whose skills are still good enough to qualify for the upper echelons of the SEO industry.
You will, however, need to keep a close eye on your company’s SEO ROI when hiring new or unproven SEO consultants. Many of the players in this field aren’t top-tier because their skills aren’t good enough – picking up a few wins isn’t the same as carrying out effective campaigns over the long run for high-level clients. Experience is a vital factor in SEO success, which makes hitching your wagon to an unproven consultant a big risk for your marketing budget.
As a result, it’s important to make sure your consultants are producing measurable results – not just hot air!
Top-of-the-Line Sports Cars = Established SEO Agencies
Finally, if you’ve got the cash to burn, you can have it all – whether you’re looking to purchase a shiny new sports car or to work with the brightest minds working as SEO consultants (or both!).
It’s impossible for me to understate what a difference these top SEO strategists can have on your business’s overall performance. I’ve seen good SEO consultants take a website from dull and underperforming to completely revitalized and raking in the dollars.
Obviously, though, you pay for this privilege. Just like you won’t come flying off the lot in a new BMW M3 without the cash to back it up, working with the best SEO consultants and agencies isn’t a cheap proposition. However, what you have to keep in mind is the ROI of this investment. When you work with top-tier SEOs, it’s totally possible to turn an investment of $10k into a $25k return for your company’s bottom line – a rate of return that’s pretty hard for most companies to argue with!
Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you which option is right for your company. Only you know what resources your business has access to and whether or not it makes more sense to carry out SEO techniques internally or to outsource the process entirely.
What I will tell you, though, is that – as with the car buying process – when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Realistically, you’re never going to achieve great SEO results using cheap fly-by-night services, just as you can’t expect an inexperienced consultant to perform work of the same caliber as an established agency.
What you can do, though, is to take the time to clearly determine what you hope to get out of your SEO campaigns, as well as how these specific results can be managed. If, for example, your goal is to simply get more visitors on your website, you can use your desired benchmark to measure whether or not the consultant you work with is meeting your expectations – no matter what price point you’ve decided to work in.
By carefully tracking changes in your key metrics, you’ll be better able to judge whether your SEO investments have been successful – or whether you need to pull the plug and reassess your SEO outsourcing process.