Affordable SEO Services: Where Are You?

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My son’s favorite game is hide-and-seek — he is an expert at jumping out of the most unexpected spots to give you the shock of your life. I’m sure some of you have felt that way when you found and opened a quote from a new search engine optimization agency. Double-clicking on the attachment can leave you anxious about what you might see when the document opens. Affordable SEO services seem to be very hard to find. It begs two questions: Why are prices so high, and where do you find reasonably priced services?

Now, I’m not going to join the 33,300,000 blog posts that write about the costs of search engine optimization packages, but it’s important to understand all that goes into search engine optimization before you can understand why the “affordable SEO services” agency you contacted sent you a quote for more than you were anticipating.

SEO Behind the Scenes

Like anything else, the cost of SEO is based on multiple factors.

  • Expertise of the SEO agency
  • Experience of the SEO agency
  • Complexity of the services being requested
  • The SEO agency’s proficiency in completing the requested services
  • Bundles of multiple services

Before deeming a concerted SEO campaign as affordable or expensive, it’s important to remember that everyone’s views the cut-off between these two options differently. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, value and pricing are relative. Two small companies, even with the same operating budget, might have distinct opinions on the best investment area for their funds. One may choose to sink money into raw materials; the other might recognize the value and results that come from a well-planned and organized SEO campaign.

At the same time, someone might think that spending $15,00 on an SEO campaign is outrageous; another company won’t blink twice at writing a check for $25,000.

Likewise. your friends or colleagues may have told you the prices they are paying for an SEO boost. Remember, that doesn’t mean you’ll be paying the same. Each company is different — which means each campaign, Web site, ability, and priority is different.

What Makes Up SEO Package Prices?

With such a broad field, more than meets the eye goes into the prices an SEO agency sets.

SEO Updates

Search engine optimization is a detailed, ever-changing field. Check out Moz’s blog of Google’s algorithm change history, a brief snapshot of each update since 2000. Just in the first three months of the year, we’ve seen four major changes; some, like the February change, were felt by different segments of the SEO industry (in this case, many of those using black hat tactics were reporting drastic differences in the results the were seeing from their tactics). The next update, though, in March, which focused on link quality, seems to have affected a much larger group of people.

Even Google officials note that they average about three updates a day.

Imagine the amount of time that goes into seeing the effects of these major and minor updates, especially because Google doesn’t confirm updates. SEO experts keep their ear to the ground, monitoring fluctuations and conversations from others in the industry, while following automated tracking tools. Sites will notice hits in their search engine rankings; others will find that they’ve been penalized, even when their sites were ranking well the day before.

Since Google doesn’t even confirm updates, don’t expect to find out what changes were made, either. Each time chatter indicates an update, all we can do is to guess what Google may have decided to enhance or change.

When you think about the time it takes to not only follow these trends, but make sure each client’s SEO tactics are compliant, each time, with the search engine’s algorithm updates, you’re looking at a significant amount of minutes just watching the industry’s shifts and gauging how they’ll affect each customer. And if the site is penalized? The SEO specialist could be investing serious time in rebuilding ranking results.

Paying an SEO Agency

There are several different structures agencies use when determining how they will charge their customers.

  • By the hour: You’ll find this is the most expensive payment model. Should you choose this, you’ll be paying for each hour of consulting or work done by the agency.
  • Per project fees: In this custom package, you’ll work with an SEO agency to design a specific project to reach a certain goal. Maybe you want keyword research done, you want to create optimized blog posts and content, or you want to make the most of new local options. After determining the depth and length of the project, the agency will set a price based on the amount of time it will take to complete the project.
  • Contracted services: This is one of the most popular options for working with a search engine optimization agency. This usually includes several different services, bundled into one place; an audit of your Web site, keyword research, and social media marketing are all examples.
  • Monthly services: The most expansive of the service options, you’ll pay a monthly fee, but will get the biggest bang for your buck. Typically, this price works out to be lower than the a la carte price for each individual SEO component. In a monthly service retainer, you can expect to find Web site audits, keyword research, content creation and improvements, link building, social media, publicity, and regular reports.

Each category has a wide range of expected prices; you could see anywhere from $100 to $400 per hour if you pay by-the-hour to anywhere from $500 to $5,000 per month, based on the extent of the work and the agency’s abilities. Service- and project-based prices are highly variable; you might find one copywriting company that has a set monthly fee for unlimited articles, while another charges per word. Projects can go anywhere from $500 to $50,000, depending on the duration of the project and the involvement necessary to complete the job.

One of the most important things you need to keep in mind when you’re looking to hire someone to improve your search engine results is that good search engine results take time. As much as you’d love to see your brand jump to the top of the search engine result page, understand that with a one-hour consultation, that’s highly unlikely. True SEO success comes from consistent, regular, customer-centric actions.

How to Find Affordable SEO Services

One way people find affordable SEO services is to type that into their search engine and click on whoever comes up first. While you could do that — you might not want to. Here’s why it’s important to look beyond the Internet claims about search engine optimization:

  • SEO doesn’t get you to the number one spot overnight, and a company that promises you that spot isn’t always the most trustworthy. Consider how quickly search engine rankings can change. While you might be sitting in a consistent range, new Web sites and competitors regularly enter and leave the field. This change makes it hard for a site to follow through on any guarantees or promises.
  • Companies that offer the lowest possible prices don’t always follow the legitimate and approved SEO tactics. Sure, you might be gaining links, but you could also be penalized at any given moment if your agency is using unethical business practices. Ask them about their specific strategy and request results. You’ll also want to look at pricing. A company that’s operating above-board understands the importance of regular monitoring and updates. Providing comprehensive services that include on- and off-page, as well as technical SEO, is not going to be cheap, initially. Many reputable agencies will invest a greater chunk of time at the beginning cleaning up previous work and bringing it up to industry standards.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Just because one tactic worked well for one customer doesn’t mean you’ll see the same results. While each solution can offer benefits, wouldn’t it be better if your SEO goals were focused on improving your business, not just the business of all of the agency’s customers? And consider the ramifications of using a company who isn’t as up-to-date on new tactics. If your Web site isn’t properly designed, maintained, or utilized, you could find your results suffering and your investment being used to clean up a mess of punishments.
  • SEO isn’t something you can choose to ignore. Sure, not investing in SEO won’t cost you a penny. You could write a few blog posts, update your social media, and call it a day. However, the rapid expansion of the mobile world, along with the weight search engines are putting on criteria like giving users the best possible experience, means that foregoing any SEO work isn’t the best way to gain recognition. It may save you some money initially, but think about the long-term cost to your business if you divert a leader or employee’s time away from their actual job, asking them to focus even on just one tactic. Their area will suffer, their lack of experience or enthusiasm for SEO will leave your online presence suffering, and, in the long your business probably will suffer, too.

So, Where Does That Leave You?

There’s nothing wrong with a quick Internet search. Sure, you’ll get tons of names. But it’s what you do next that will determine whether or not you find an affordable SEO services agency.

  • Ask for reviews from friends and colleagues: Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool; I’m sure you’ve made plenty of recommendations to your own friends and family. Why not reach out to your network to find out who your friends and family like. They’ll give you honest feedback that will shape your decision.
  • Once you’ve pinpointed a few companies, ask for references. You may or may not have gotten a favorable recommendation for the agency, but you can ask the agency to connect you with a recent customer, who is usually more than happy to tell you about their experience with the agency.
  • Get more in-depth info from the agency. A good agency should be able to tell you how many Web sites they’ve optimized, the extent of their employees’ knowledge and education into the services you’ve contracted, and their work style.
  • Identify your true needs. While beefing up your social media presence and link-building may seem to be the culprit behind under-performing keywords and lower-than-expected search engine results, you might find that your true need lies somewhere else, say, content marketing, which is a key component in building your search engine results. Once you know what your Web site truly needs to improve your search engine rankings, you can find an agency that has an outstanding reputation for providing that service. Remember, though, that search engine optimization is comprised of many different areas of focus — even if the agency specializes in one thing, employees should have a wide understanding of these areas.
  • Don’t be scared. There are a lot of components involved in successful search engine optimization. You might not understand or have experience in some — or most — of them. That’s ok. Most people don’t. But, don’t be scared of the outsourcing process. It’s a great period of time to take a look at what you’re doing and really build your brand.
  • Be open-minded. When you’re looking for affordable SEO services, the biggest thing you need is open-mindedness. It goes beyond finding your Web site’s true needs to contracting and securing an SEO agency who truly understands your unique needs and wants to help you reach your goals.

That’s why, for a limited time, we’re offering a free SEO analysis. Our experts will take a look at what you’ve been doing, see where you stand, and will work with you to set and accomplish your search engine results goals.

What challenges have you experienced when you’re looking for affordable SEO services? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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