SEO – at least good SEO – doesn’t fit nicely into a box. It can’t come prepackaged, predetermined or wrapped nicely with a cute little bow. SEO can barely be predicted! It can’t ever be guaranteed*, and it isn’t a magical way to reach the next billion dollar IPO.
(*Technically you can guarantee a certain result, but those who do typically offer enough small print to make any such guarantee basically useless.)
Put simply, SEO is fluid. It needs room to maneuver, to expand, to contract, to change based on the particular needs of any given time. Which means, putting an SEO into a box can be quite messy, but some form of containment is a good thing.
SEO Is All Over the Place
One of the things that makes SEO frustrating is that it’s very difficult to put a hard price on it. So many potential clients I talk to find this a major sticking point of moving forward with a new SEO provider. They talk to ten SEO companies and get ten different pricing options with ten different scopes of work.
Getting a quote for SEO can sometimes be like getting a quote to get someone to mow your lawn. Sounds simple, right? But as soon as quotes start pouring in, you realize how many options there are. One person gives you a quote for mowing the lawn, another gives you a quote for mowing and trimming around trees. Someone else adds in weeding your flower bed, and a fourth includes lawn fertilizer, rodent control or any combination of these options.
The question then becomes: do you need all these services? Or are you fine with just the lawn mowing, sans fixing the rest of the problems found with your yard?
In SEO, you have to know if the cheapest option is really going to give you what you want. Not only do you have to consider how well it works, but how quickly. A smaller investment may get you rolling, but it might take you a while to reach your destination. The problem is that SEO is a race, not a journey. You can take as long as you want to get around the race course, but in doing so you’ve already been lapped twice by a competitor who’s investing more aggressively.
To really see the value in any SEO package, it really comes down to results. Lower cost equals lower results. That’s not to say all expensive SEO is valuable, but cheap SEO almost never is.
SEO Can Be Contained
Since every SEO company configures their services differently, it’s not easy to compare one with another. But it can be done. All SEO revolves around a few basic components:
- Keyword Research
- Site Architecture
- On-page Optimization
- Link Building
These four components are essential to SEO success. Some SEO packages may include only two or three of these, but you have to understand that without all four, you’ll be missing a key component of your success. That’s not to say there isn’t value in any of these as a singular service, but until you have all four, you’re just building a marketing campaign, not actually running it on the course.
These four pillars of SEO are the containment that provides you the ability to measure one SEO quote against another. First, you must establish which of these are a component in the quote(s) you’re looking at. That’s your starting point. If one of these is missing from your SEO quote, then you have to judge its value accordingly. Don’t throw it out, just know what it is you’re getting into and what the cost (both in terms of money and results) will be.
SEO Must Remain Fluid
It’s impossible to get a straight answer when you ask, “How much does SEO cost?” There are just too many variables. Too often SEO companies like to create one-size fits all packages, and, frankly, that just doesn’t work.
Every website is unique and requires a unique approach. The four pillars above are a great foundation, but how you work within each of those pillars changes based on site, time and circumstances.
Not only are the SEO needs different for every site, they also might be different six months after you start. And that’s where you really have to let SEO be fluid. You may need one thing early in an SEO campaign, but later realize that a shift is required. SEOs that operate with SEO-in-a-box aren’t too good at shifting from one focus to the next.
Keeping SEO fluid is essential for a successful SEO campaign. But fluidity has its limits. If you use the basic structure of a solid SEO campaign, there is a lot of room to maneuver around based on particular wants and needs. Without that structure, there is no containment and the SEO will likely not be as successful as you like.
By keeping the basic structure in mind, you’re better able to compare SEO services, being sure that you’re getting (or delivering) what matters while being flexible enough to adapt to whatever needs arise to keep your campaign successful.
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