Cheap SEO: it’s about quality, not price
by Brian Turner
The big problem with SEO as a service is that there is no standard like with PPC.
It’s not at all a case of different companies offering the same service simply at different prices – SEO is a service covering many specialities.
This means that SEO cannot be bought and sold on price points alone – and why it is essential that companies looking for SEO services determine what they are actually looking for.
A brief set of pointers may include any of the following:
- Basic on-page SEO
- SEO copyriting
- Site architecture
- Link development
- Keyword research
- URL rewriting/dynamic solutions
Once such a list is determined, it’s important to then seek not a “SEO company” but a company that provides specific SEO services that you actually need – and is proven to be competent at delivering such services.
Price points a no-no
The big danger next is that the prospective client will shop around on price – and in B2B services if you buy on price, you’re in real danger of living out the mantra of “pay peanuts, get monkeys”.
Buying SEO services by price point alone is definitely in invitation for poor quality services, and even worse, can invite a penalty in Google.
India has probably done more than any other country to position itself as the “SEO spam” capital, with a huge number of companies fighting to offer the cheapest service that delivers the smallest results.
Clients end up paying for something that looks cheap, but it’s just dung.
And what can seem like a bargain deal doesn’t simply waste money – it wastes time enough to allow your competitors to gain an increasingly lead on you.
It’s one thing for a SEO company to deliver poor results, but there is always the danger that incompetent SEO companies can get a business website banned from Google.
It is unfortuntely common, and a small business with a banned website will struggle to get back into Google’s index, even once they clean up.
SEO sales – all promise, no substance
Like most internet services, SEO services has become a band wagon for quick cash-in cowboys.
There are a large number of companies claiming to offer “SEO services”, but only a minority with any real competence.
And competent SEO companies usually do not engage in aggressive sales practices such as email spam campaigns or telesales cold-calling.
Such tactics are an indicator of a sales-focused company, and says nothing of their ability to deliver on sales promises.
In a sales environment, those promises are likely exaggerated beyond the ability of the technical teams to deliver.
Typical promises include “guaranteed rankings” or “money-back guarantee” – but it’s all sales gimmick, with no substance.
Sales people offer these slogans just to get at your cash, regardless of consequential failure.
No one guarantees Google’s search results excepting for Google. And good luck trying to get your money back when it doesn’t work.
Competent SEO’s guarantee the dedication of years of knowledge and experience in working positively with Google results. It’s an expert position that is so sought after that the job market in experienced SEO’s is totally dry.
Not every SEO company can cover all specialities
Most SEO companies will cover a range of SEO specialities, but only specialise in one or two of these at best.
One area of failing common to SEO companies is trying to offer specialist services they do not have a real competence in.
A common experience with this is link development work.
I can state categorically and without fear of contradiction that there are a lot of branded SEO companies who are selling link development as part of their SEO package to corporate clients – and then engage in link development work that is sloppy, clumsy, inadequate – or outright dangerous.
Engaging the social web via is another speciality where there are those who specialise and those who don’t. Having a Digg account and submitting something once to Digg does not a social media marketer make you, or your company.
Finding reputable SEO’s
There are a lot of good SEO’s out there who are little known, not least because they are more interested in work than public recognition.
While they may not appear readily in blog posts, a simple way to look for them is to ask for recommendations from other companies.
That way you can get a clear idea of what exact service was performed, what the fruits of the service were, and what sort of return on investment was gained.
Of course, there are a number of SEO figures in the public eye, but be careful to look in the right public places.
SEO’s who have a speaking record at industry events such as Search Engine Strategies, WebMasterWorld, and SMX usually carry the respect of the SEO industry itself, and generally regarded as experts, if not, leading figures.
Such methods are a good way to find quality through third-party validation.
Social media – not the place to find services
Social media sites, blogs, and forums, can see a lot of active chatter on SEO topics, but the warning is that some of the people leading these discussions only have limited SEO experience in working on their own website(s), and have never worked in the commercial deep end.
Accomplished SEO’s rarely have time to blog or post in communities – they are usually too busy and there are better things to do with their time.
However, some do make a point of keeping a public presence, not least because their business model demands attention on their position within the industry.
The warning is, accomplished SEO’s don’t necessarily carry the respect of any online community, but do carry the respect of their clients, and sometimes even have industry recognition as well.
The threat of losing clients to SEO vultures
SEO as an industry already suffers an image problem – to many, at best SEO is about “spamming”, and at worse, outright fraud.
However, while competent SEO’s continue to deliver expert services, they remain under threat from client demands for bigger, better – and cheaper.
This is even more the case where clients have engaged in successful SEO services – and are lulled into a false sense of security that they can then either get the same SEO services cheaper elsewhere, or else even do it themselves.
I’ve been pretty shocked to receive a couple of communications from clients this year raising these very issues, so I’ve had to spend valuable time in communications re-assuring them of the quality of work, pointing to indicators we use to measure success – and pointing out the difference between “competent SEO” and “cheap SEO”.
While I can only advise people outside of the SEO industry to shop on quality, rather than price, my own experience suggests that within the SEO industry itself, client communications and reinforcement of relationships is becoming an increasingly accentuated part of the job.
I already thought I was good at that – now I need to become better.
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