How you will know if it’s real SEO

For the majority of small businesses, and most mid-size businesses, an effective SEO program is not cheap to develop. Here’s why.

Nearly every day there’s a query on one of writers’ lists I follow asking for the name of someone who can “do” search engine optimization (SEO) for websites. It’s apparent that the person thinks that “doing SEO” involves producing a list of keywords so the web producer can stick the keywords on the client’s website.

Soon thereafter, I hear that the writers and producers were rather miffed when the better SEO practitioners quoted them a stiff price. C’mon, how expensive can a list of keywords be?

Admittedly, there are a number of small business websites for which a fairly simple list of keywords will suffice. (I’ll be talking about this in a small-business SEO seminar I’m developing.)

But for the majority of small businesses, and most mid-size businesses, an effective SEO program is not cheap to develop. Here’s why:

  1. You’ve got to start with good data analyses. You need data analyses of not just the client’s site, but the competitors’ sites as well. Knowing what keyword searches are taking customers to competing websites is crucial to deciding what keywords to put on your own site.
  2. You need an expert to recommend how to use the keywords on your site. Some sites need keyworded blog posts, while others merely need keyword-rich content. Others (based on their names and their industries) can’t be helped much by keyworded site elements. These folks will  need to buckle down and buy some Google ads. A good SEO practitioner can provide valuable guidance on creating and testing a Google ad campaign.
  3. You need to set up a web analytics program  — before any SEO work is done. It’s critical that you know the baseline of your site’s web traffic. That way, after you fix the site, or buy ads, you can immediately see and quantify the differences, and measure the effectiveness of the SEO program.

There are a wide variety of SEO firms out there, some good, and some bad. How do you find the right one?

  • Go into it with a budget. You’ll drive away the better SEO folks by expecting their solutions to be cheap.
  • Start by asking: Can my business be helped by SEO, and, if so, how much? Listen carefully to the answers. Some businesses can get enormous benefits from SEO; for others, SEO is nowhere near as cost-effective as improvements to print advertising, signage, word of mouth, product quality, or customer service.
  • Be wary of one-size-fits-all SEO solutions. An SEO solution needs to be customized to match your business needs and your capacity and willingness to spend resources on a social media or SEO program.
  • Don’t be intimidated by SEO practitioners who say their analyses and strategies are too complex for you to understand. If they can’t explain SEO to a client, they have competitors who can.
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