Search Engine Optimization: Get Out Your Checkbook

October 5, 2015

No traffic? Low traffic? No mobile traffic? Can’t find your site on Bing or Google?

If these questions poke your marketing nerve, you may consider hiring an “expert” to help you out. Most of the traffic and “find you in Google” specialists are doing business as SEO experts. Personally I would skip the SEO baloney and just buy traffic love via Google Adwords.

Search engine optimization is a catch all to address expensive Web sites which no one visits. Yikes. Considering that most traffic on the Web flows to five percent of the billion plus Web sites, traffic to a personal or small business Web site is terrible.

What’s the fix?

The SEO crowd wants you to spend money with them, not Adwords. Google’s approach is different. The company wants to sell you traffic. The two ideas are intertwined, but you would not know this by reading “How Much Does Good SEO Cost?”

The write up summarizes a number of ball park costs; for example:

  • Hire a full time employee: Maybe $50,000 to $100,000. How’s that fit your budget, gentle reader.
  • Hire an agency: No cost given. Use your imagination.
  • Hire a dedicated SEO firm: No cost given. Use your imagination again.

But the way to go is to set aside money for an expert consultant / practitioner. At each stair step, the customer gets more SEO goodness. Exactly what the payoff is, is not clear to me. But here are the suggested price levels spelled out in the write up:

  • Put folks on a monthly retainer. Less than $500 per month. Cheaper than a daily Starbuck’s coffee
  • A retainer for $1,000 to $5,000 per month: This is SEO hog heaven for an outfit with 10 clients, the SEO wizard may generate more free cash than your business
  • $5,000 to $10,000 per month: “Ambitious goals”. You bet
  • $10,000 to $20,000 per month: The owners will retire early if their customers pay their bills.

The canny business owner in search of SEO love can sign a contract. This is interesting. Here are the price points from the article which I assume are based on thorough research in fees charged by a statistically valid sample of SEO firms. (Somehow I question the rigor of the information gathering process.) Let’s look at the benchmarked fees:

  • Link profile audits: $2,500 to $7,500
  • SEO / Web site audits: $2,500 to $7,500 or higher, gentle reader
  • Link building: $250 to $2,000 per link. Wowza
  • Per page optimization and implementation: $100 to $250. (Fascinating since some content management systems make per page operations pretty darned exciting for a skilled programmer. For dabblers, think about downtime, gentle reader.)
  • Copywriting: $0.75 to $1.00 per word.

If you are on a budget, you can hire a consultant for an hour; for example, a $100 to $300 fee seems to be normal. Keep in mind that there are roughly 2,000 billable hours per year, so this fee range is designed to compensate an expert in SEO at a minimum of  $200,000 per year. Ready to abandon your day job, gentle reader?

Now these costs spark several thoughts in this addled goose’s mind.

First, exactly what is the payoff from SEO versus spending the money for Google Adwords?

Second, what specific changes the SEO expert makes results in “more” traffic, likes, or whatever? How is an SEO action tied to a payoff?

Third, what happens to the client’s Web site if the SEO activity gets the site down checked, blackballed, or less traffic?

Dear old Google wants folks to make Web sites so it takes Google as little computing time as possible to index the site, extract data, and do all the Googley things which makes me love the company so darned much.

My experience is that making a change to a site or putting up a new site leads to a bit of Google love. After a couple of indexing cycles, the traffic declines. Desperate site owners embrace SEO. After that doesn’t work, the road leads back to buying traffic via Adwords.

Thus, the Google likes anything that does not work as well as buying traffic.

Perhaps the SEO crowd should just sell Adwords? But that may not be as lucrative or create opportunities for the client to engage in the “Why isn’t your work producing traffic meetings?” I bet those are fun and inevitable too.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2015


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