I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of time, energy and raw hours that go into properly marketing a website online. The thing that gets me the most is that with SEO and other forms of online marketing, there really is no situation when you can sit back and say “we’ve arrived.” Once you optimize a site, there are still so many things that can be assessed, analyzed, uncovered and corrected that you never really can say, “It’s Miller time!”
This is what I envy about web designers. They get to produce a finished work, then go and collect awards for their work. But, online marketing – that’s a different ballgame all together. Sure, we can celebrate top rankings, but tomorrow there is another keyword that needs improvement!
Making a Smart Purchasing Decision
Ninety percent of the online marketing services my company provides are based on the amount of time we guesstimate the job will take to get results. There are a few expenditures the clients may have to buy into (directory submission fees, requested analytics tools, etc.), but most of the cost associated with SEO services comes down to determining how many hours are needed on a month-to-month basis.
We look at time needed for researching, writing, analyzing, tweaking, optimizing, communicating, reporting and linking, just to name a few. Sometimes I think it’s difficult for clients to fully appreciate the time invested in doing a job properly, especially when they see “less expensive” options floating round. Sure, you can hire some kid down the street to mow your lawn, or you can hire the gardener to take care of your lawn, garden and flowerbeds and to get rid of unwanted rodents, weeds and other pests while making sure everything is properly fertilized and pruned each week. The time difference between the two is substantial.
The problem comes, in SEO at least, when many people are expecting to hire the gardener at lawn mower kid wages. There is just no way the gardener can do their job effectively in the time it takes for the kid to mow the neighbors lawn across the street. Can’t happen.
How Much Time Does a (Good) Job Take?
When it comes to purchasing an SEO or SEM strategy for your online business, there are two things to consider: How many hours does it take to meet your expectations, and how much are you willing to pay for each hour that goes into meeting those expectations?
Many SEOs charge a pre-determined package price. That just means they have pre-determined how many hours they will be providing you for their service. If you purchase an SEO package for $3000 per month, you can get anywhere from 30 hours ($100/hour) to 10 hours ($300/hour). The question you have to ask yourself is – can the $100/hour guy get the same results as the $300/hour team?
If you can confidently say yes, then maybe that’s your guy. If not, maybe you need to consider the more “expensive” option. But we all know, cheap and ineffective usually turns out to cost a lot more than the expensive option that gets results!
Ten hours per month on SEO or SEM doesn’t seem like much, but in the right hands, a lot can be accomplished. Here is a simple breakdown of what I would consider the average, high-quality SEO campaign:
- Site Architecture and Site-Wide SEO: five to 10 hours needed at the onset to analyze the initial site architectural problems and create a concatenation schema to make all pages “search engine friendly.”
- Keyword Research: initially, up to five hours to research the site’s core terms, determine which pages/keywords are a top priority for optimization and create an optimization plan moving forward. An additional 30-60 minutes of keyword research can go into each specific page being optimized.
- On-Page Optimization: one to two hours per page to optimize keywords into the text, streamline the code (if necessary) and implement onto the site.
- SEO Maintenance: two to four hours each month to review past optimization efforts and implement tweaks and changes designed to improve site performance. This also includes reviewing site usability and conversion issues.
- Link Building/Social Media: five to six hours each month, at a minimum. New or competitive sites can, and often do, need much stronger link building or social media campaigns.
- Analytics and Testing: three to five hours per month. No SEO campaign is complete without some way to analyze the overall performance of the optimization, usability and conversion improvement efforts that are being invested. The better the analysis, the more hours that must be invested.
These numbers can fluctuate depending on the size of the site, but this is what we would consider a pretty basic campaign. If you’re looking for the best pricing option, how much from this do you feel you can cut before you’re cutting into your success?
That’s the key question. If you’re looking solely at pricing and not factoring in the actual work, you’re bound to make a bad purchasing decision. The real question is, will the price you’re paying (or willing to pay) give you the ROI you need to make a profit? It’s probably not a good idea to purchase SEO until you can answer that question affirmatively.
Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll discuss your options for hiring in-house vs. outsourcing, and making sure you’re spending your SEO budget wisely in an uncertain economy.