As most business owners know, search engine optimization is a key part of your digital marketing strategy. It helps get your content ranking on Google's first page, where it can be seen by your target audience in organic search results.
Without SEO, your website and digital content has no direction and can't compete in your niche. You also will receive little to no organic traffic. Yet, you may be worried about how SEO strategies will factor into your company's marketing budget. You may be tempted to cut costs by going with "affordable SEO services."
We've put "affordable SEO services" in brackets for a reason. While a small business' budget is very different from a large corporation and everyone has a different definition of what's affordable, "affordable" all too often actually means cheap. And cheap SEO services are a problem.
Naturally, your marketing budget will dictate how much your company can reasonably afford to spend on search engine optimization services. However, even within your budget there is a big difference between professional and cheap SEO services.
These days "cheap" has become synonymous with poor quality, and this is true when it comes to digital marketing as well. Cheap search engine optimization doesn't just refer to the price point. It also refers to the quality of customer service, work quality and results you will receive.
With high-quality, trusted SEO services, you can rely on the agency to implement strategies that actually work. They will genuinely have your best interests at heart and produce work your team will be proud to display on your various online platforms.
Alternatively, choosing a shady agency could be extremely detrimental to your business—especially if the company uses spammy tricks or tactics that infringe on Google's Terms of Services. Not only can this harm your company's reputation, but you're also throwing money down the drain on short-term tactics that won't get you the growth your business needs.
We've often encountered business owners who were looking to save a few dollars through hiring an "affordable SEO company," only to be disappointed with the results. Often less-expensive agencies are less experienced as well. In this sense, to purchase their services means you're essentially paying for someone else's learning curve. Also, there's no way an inexperienced SEO "expert" will be able to deliver the same results a real expert can.
Like any other craft, it takes years and countless hours to achieve the level of expertise needed to create an SEO strategy that actually improves search engine rankings and helps you achieve your business goals.
Even if you want to invest in a professional SEO agency, your marketing budget may not allow for the cost of expert services. However, that still doesn't mean you should opt for cheap SEO services. Even if the company is in your price range, they still won't be able to deliver the SEO strategy that your company needs to thrive. Instead of bothering with an affordable SEO package that ultimately lets you down, it's far better to opt for one of the following online marketing options.
If a full-time SEO agency isn't in your budget, but you still want the quality of professional services, consider hiring an SEO consultant instead. With an SEO consultant you'll pay an hourly fee for their services. Usually, this consultation includes identifying your pain points and highlighting the weak areas of your digital marketing strategy. The consultant will also let you know what opportunities are available to you, and help you come up with a framework for success.
Most consultants run anywhere between $90 to $200 per hour. However, at Digital Shift we are invested in helping our clients succeed—which is why we offer a free consultation. Even if you opt not to go with our services (although, we're pretty confident we can win you over), you'll still gain valuable insights that will set your company on the right path.
After meeting with the consultant, you'll have a good idea of what you should do next. You can take his or her recommendations to your team and get to work revamping your website or putting together a content calendar. For that next step, however, you'll need to embrace our next tip.
There are numerous resources online that can help you learn more about SEO—even if you do opt to hire a professional SEO service, you may want to educate yourself a bit about SEO. If hiring an expert is well out of your budget, you'll have to become the expert!
You may be thinking, "If hiring an SEO service is out of my budget, taking SEO courses is definitely not an option either." However, there are tons of free and inexpensive resources you and your team can access online. While a course will certainly offer you greater insight, and possibly provide hands-on training, you might as well start with the free options and get the ball rolling. As your business grows, you can then consider investing in further education or even hire a pro to take care of it for you.
Upon meeting with a consultant to gain direction, and investing in inexpensive and/or free online education for you and your team, you'll be able to take the final step in avoiding cheap SEO packages that you may come to regret later on: develop your own in-house content marketing strategy. While a successful SEO campaign has many moving parts, your brick-and-mortar or online business will benefit from an in-house team working on your SEO strategy.
Invest part of your marketing budget in tools that will help you research competitive keywords. You can also hire freelancers to reconstruct your website or write for your company's blog. Or, you could hire a content writer to work specifically for your team.
While there is no replacement for the expertise and quality that comes with hiring reputable SEO companies, you can mitigate SEO costs by investing in an in-house content marketing strategy. This is just one of the factors influencing whether in-house or outsourced SEO is right for your business.
If you're still not convinced that hiring an affordable SEO company is a bad idea, we've broken down the specific reasons why it's far wiser to hire professional services. Even large companies with a flexible marketing budget might be tempted to cheap out on SEO—especially if your manager doesn't fully understand its many benefits.
Read on to learn about the dangers of hiring a cheap SEO company, and why you should invest in a professional digital marketing agency.
Low-cost agencies have a different goal in mind than reputable companies. They are far more concerned with client acquisition than with building a long-term relationship with your company. This mentality has a variety of negative impacts. One of the biggest problems to arise from hiring a company that doesn't really care for your business' unique needs, is that you'll wind up with a cookie-cutter digital marketing strategy that isn't designed to give your company a competitive edge. To a cheap SEO company, your business' products/services, industry and competitors are just like everybody else—even though this is definitely not the case! You need an SEO plan and content strategy that is tailored to your unique business. What works for a plumbing company is likely not going to be successful for a hair salon.
A key factor for successful SEO campaigns is that your content needs to be unique. Google is incredibly smart, and it can tell when copy-paste approaches are being used. Likely, a low-cost agency simply doesn't have the time, resources or inclination to spend the right amount of time honing your content to make it stand out from the competition. Instead, it will wind-up sounding generic. The company will likely use templates and scripts they've used before to save time—because they aren't charging you enough to actually be invested in your content.
Comparatively, professional SEO agencies that offer a fair price for their work quality will have a completely different approach. They'll build your SEO campaign from scratch, completing the initial research that guides the direction your campaign takes. Furthermore, they will take the time to get to know you and your industry—earning your business rather than taking it for granted.
Experience tends to cost more. So if you choose a cheap service, you can expect the people the company hires to be inexperienced. Moreover, it's common for inexpensive agencies to use scripts, which means they won't hire experts such as high-quality content writers or SEO specialists. This is at odds with reputable companies, who build custom campaigns centered on targeting competitive keywords.
Not to mention, you're essentially paying for someone else's learning curve. Once the account manager becomes more experienced, he or she will move on to a better paying job at a professional agency. Then, they're replaced by another inexperienced account manager and the cycle continues.
Since SEO is a highly specialized industry, it makes zero sense to hire a company with employees who simply don't know what they are doing. It's very easy for mistakes to happen that could have catastrophic effects for your company.
Poor customer service can be incredibly frustrating—especially if you work in an industry where customer service is a key tenant of your business. When you pay for services, you should expect to be treated like that company's top priority. Yet, with cheap SEO services, you're likely not going to get good customer service. Why? Because all they want is to flip a quick buck. They will take your money and provide mediocre services that don't go above and beyond (because they're not charging a fair price for their services, but a low-cost option). Inexpensive agencies will not put in any more time than absolutely necessary. So if you have a question on the weekend, don't expect to hear back.
Furthermore, many cheap agencies won't provide a dedicated account manager that will take the time to build a relationship with you. This means you waste time while playing catch-up with the person you've got on the other end of the line whom you've never spoken to before. We've all been there, feeling increasingly frustrated when a simple task—like viewing your report—takes far longer than it needs to because of poor organization and communication.
Along with using generic scripts to save time while developing your SEO strategy, it's likely that a cheap SEO agency won't have adequate resources to invest in one of the most important parts of your campaign: off-page SEO.
You're likely familiar with on-page SEO by now, which basically encapsulates anything directly in your control. This includes writing relevant keyword informed blog posts or adjusting your website to improve user experience. But off-page SEO is much more nuanced—and requires significantly more time. Usually, it revolves around backlinking campaigns.
Backlinks, usually in the form of guest post links, are critical for a long-term strategy to be successful. They basically tell Google that other reputable sites think your content is valuable. While backlinks can happen organically, there is so much competition that it's not likely your content will get enough traction without a campaign. These campaigns take a significant amount of time and manpower—qualities that cheap services simply don't have.
It may not have been in the realm of SEO or digital marketing, but it's likely you've experienced a situation where a service you hired felt no accountability towards you. Usually, this lack of accountability is common when the service you've hired is inexpensive. Why? Because when you partner with a cheap company, they don't really care about their image or ensuring they have satisfied customers. Rather, they want to acquire as many on-off clients and short-term contracts as possible to earn money quickly, and then move on to the next unsuspecting business owner. They don't want to build a long-term relationship with your business, which means they don't care about listening to your needs, addressing questions and concerns or providing long-term value to your business.
As you've likely realized by now, a common theme with cheap SEO services is that they don't genuinely care about your business' success. Thus, they put less work into your SEO campaign. What should be a highly specialized, unique campaign that hinges on producing outstanding content becomes a cookie-cutter, half-baked plan with content riddled with errors. Once again, the less you pay for a service the less time you get put into your campaign. Rushed jobs, or content created by untrained employees means your copy will be poor quality—and this actually hurts your search engine rankings. Google looks for high-quality content to pull up on its first page as a result of a search query. Content that's no good will never make the cut.
Along with poor content, one of the greatest risks of partnering with a cheap SEO company is that they may employ black hat SEO marketing tactics. These tactics essentially try to manipulate a search engine into ranking one's content higher—even though the content is of poor quality or even in direct violation of Google's terms and services. Black hat tactics may look like they're working in the short-term, but it's only a matter of time until the Google algorithm realizes what's happening. Then, it will severely punish not just the page where the black hat tactic was used, but your entire online presence. Black hat tactics are very serious, and could irreparably damage your company's online reputation. And, unfortunately, they are all too commonly used by cheap SEO services because it looks like the campaign is working. But, by the time your business is punished by Google, the company will have already made off with your hard-earned money, and you're left trying to clean up a mess you didn't make.
Don't waste time and money on cheap SEO services that are guaranteed to disappoint you in the end—or worse, cause irreparable damage to your company's online reputation and business success. Instead, look for a company that hires expert SEO specialists and content writers, aims to provide long-term value and has a history of happy clients.
One such company is Digital Shift. We'd be happy to get to know you better and help you start implementing an SEO strategy that actually works. To get started today, book a free consultation by filling-out our no-obligation online form, or give us a call at 587-600-2050 to speak with an SEO expert today.