Affordable SEO Services: Do They Work?
Everyone’s telling you that you need SEO. Your boss is telling you that you need affordable SEO.
You can’t argue with SEO’s numbers – 33% of search traffic goes to the first result.
But the real question is whether cheap SEO and good SEO are the same things.
What is Affordable SEO?
Well, for starters, no one can actually agree on what affordable SEO actually means (and FYI, if you’re late to the party and need a few details clarified about SEO, like what it even means, click here).
There are the under-the-radar, fly-by-night agencies who take a couple hundred a month. Then there are those that bill you a cool $5,000 as a minimum fee to make it worth getting their people out of bed in the morning.
If your head is imploding at the $5,000+, bear in mind that many companies who pay several thousand a month are the same companies generating millions in revenue annually. Your $500 is their $5,000.
It’s good to be king, isn’t it?
Point being, everyone’s willing to pay something different depending on what they want and what their budget looks like.
Which brings us to the original question: is low-cost SEO worth it?
The Risks of “Affordable SEO”
Let’s be clear: cheap SEO comes at a price. Not just the sticker price you report back to your boss either.
When it comes to apparently affordable SEO, in many cases, you get what you pay for.
And when you keep that in mind, you start to realize that cheap SEO isn’t as smart of a business decision as you thought it was.
SEO is based almost exclusively on content. Specifically, high-quality content.
Here’s the thing about high-quality content. It takes time to make. A lot of time.
We’re talking research, writing, and editing, plus the extensive work of keeping up with new trends in SEO to make sure your ranking stays where you want it to be.
High-quality content makes you an authority. It earns you links because you’re a trusted creator of quality content and provider of good information.
If you pay $10 for an article, you cannot expect a $200 article.
That’s the issue with affordable SEO.
No Money = No Service
You get what you pay for.
And if you pay for the bare minimum, guess what kind of SEO you’re going to get?
The bare minimum.
As a wise man said, skilled people aren’t cheap and cheap people aren’t skilled.
Furthermore, you can’t do much if you don’t pay for it.
As an example: technical SEO is a complex process. For that, you’re going to need a proper web developer.
Surprise: web developers cost money. Besides the fact that this is their job and they’ve got bills to pay, they aren’t going to give you top-tier work for bargain basement pay.
Black Hat SEO
Yes, it’s literally as obvious as it sounds.
Black hats. White hats.
Stereotypically shady guys, stereotypically good guys.
Okay, maybe not quite that obvious.
Look. Let’s get real. There are a lot of ways to do SEO (have 101 of them. It’s not as fun as 101 Dalmatian puppies but we do what we have to do).
There are even plenty of ways to do affordable SEO.
Unsurprisingly, there are also plenty of shady ways to do SEO.
Black hat SEO is unsubtly questionable. As in, they go directly against Google’s policies and include tactics like keyword stuffing and link spamming.
It will give you a booster in the short term. In the long term, Google will catch on and blacklist you.
Scalability = Cookie Cutter
You’re a cupcake shop, not a yacht retailer. Or vice versa.
Your SEO tactics will be different. As will your budgets and priorities.
An SEO approach that treats a cupcake shop and a yacht retailer, in the same way, is bound to fail.
The problem with most affordable SEO companies is that they really like scalable SEO strategies. It’s not a coincidence that these are also cookie cutter strategies.
It’s hard to scale if you have to do creative work every time and customize to the individual client.
And a cookie cutter approach will be both unresponsive (because they’re not here to respond to what you need from them) and it will be low-quality (because they’re not responding to what you need).
You Lose in the Long Haul
We’ve been driving at it the entire time. But in case the point wasn’t obvious, let’s put it in writing.
If you get what you pay for, and you pay basement floor prices for sticky, smelly basement floor affordable SEO, you’re going to wind up with exactly what you pay for.
And guess who pays the price for that SEO?
The person whose name is on the site.
You, when Google shuts you down for being extremely questionable.
How Much Should You Spend on SEO?
Spending money on SEO isn’t an if, it’s a when.
Let’s get something out of the way before we ever talk about pricing: quality SEO is going to cost you. It’s a lot of time and effort to build quality SEO, and agencies that are worth the cost will charge accordingly.
Types of SEO Payment
Before we talk about SEO price tags on the ground, you have to understand the various ways in which you might pay an agency, which can dramatically change how much you’re paying (and what services you’re getting for that money).
Here are the four types of payment models most SEO agencies use.
It’s all in the name – in this payment model, you pay your SEO consultant an hourly fee in exchange for their services.
The next step up is project pricing, which is, again, basically what the name implies.
You’re hiring someone to do SEO for you for the duration of a project. They get a fixed fee based on completing that project.
But don’t get it confused with contract services – in project pricing, the project is customized for each individual client.
This is among the most common of the four types of SEO payment methods. Most agencies out there will offer contracts, but not all.
Usually, you’ll see an agency listing the services they offer along with the prices for each service, which is a fixed contract rate for x period of time.
On a scale of a one-night stand to getting married tomorrow, monthly retainers lean towards a serious relationship.
It’s sort of a blend of hourly consulting and project pricing, except more and longer (like we said, a serious relationship).
It’s also the most common because it has the highest ROI.
In this payment setup, clients pay a fixed fee each month for an agreed-upon set of services. Things like this will often include analytics reports, link building, keyword research, optimization, and other related services.
What Should SEO Cost?
The first question isn’t actually, “What should affordable SEO cost?” It’s, “How much will we spend on SEO?” or, rather, “How much are we willing to spend on SEO?”
On average, the price ranges based on what type of payment model you’re using. But there’s generally an average, acceptable range that most agencies will use.
For hourly consulting, an average, decent SEO consultant as an individual or agency will typically charge between $100 and $300 an hour.
For project-based pricing, the cost is widely variable based on the project, the scale and how long-term it is, but most projects cost between $1,000 to $30,000 per project (if you cringed at the high end of the range, remember you get what you pay for with SEO).
Contract services are also variable pricing, and many businesses will try contracts to test the waters. Services usually include things like a site content audit ($500 to $7,500), a link profile audit ($500 to $7,500), SEO copywriting ($0.15 to $0.50 per word) and social media site setup ($500 to $3,000).
For a monthly retainer, you can expect to pay between $500 and $7,500 per month on average. Where you fall within that range depends on how big your company is and how many different services the agency is doing for you.
And when all else fails, the date-before-you-marry rule is always applicable (or the have-the-awkward-conversation-before-you-ghost rule if you’re considering breaking up with your current agency).
Basically, you should be asking questions throughout the process to ensure you’re getting the service you want.
Affordable SEO Red Flags
When you’re looking at SEO, there are a few warning signs that the agency you’re looking into isn’t worth the time and money you’re investing in them.
Here are a few to watch out for.
Let’s be perfectly clear: no SEO agency can guarantee you anything except the hard work they’re going to put in to get you ranked as well as possible.
The industry is changing constantly. Anyone guaranteeing you something is trying to sell you snake oil.
#1 Google Ranking
For the same reason listed above.
A firm can’t promise you an exact number ranking. The industry changes too often to promise that.
It’s like how the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.
The only time SEO results are instant is when you game the system with black hat SEO.
Which is great for a short-term boost but will always come back to bite you in the end. Always. Every. Single. Time.
Don’t do it.
Less than $750
If someone tells you the services they’re offering you are worth at least double what they’re going to charge for them, ask why they aren’t charging what the service is worth.
Then move on.
Because if they can’t sell the service for what it’s worth, the service isn’t worth it. And you want SEO that will be worth the investment.
Build Your Own Affordable SEO
Of course, there is one way to game the system (that isn’t actually black hat SEO!)
And that’s building some of your own affordable SEO.
Now, before you jump off the deep end, there are plenty of more advanced SEO tasks, including technical SEO. For those, you’ll want to bring in someone who knows their stuff.
But there are some more basic SEO best practices you can do on your own, so you can leave your specialist to the heavy stuff.
High-Quality Content Creation
There’s a reason you’ve heard content is king so often it’s invading your dreams.
All the keyword research in the world won’t help you if you don’t have good content to back it up.
See, SEO ranking isn’t just about how often people click on your site. It’s about how long they stay there.
How do you get people to spend more time on your site?
By providing them high-quality, useful information that will answer the question that brought them to you.
It sounds basic. But if everyone did it, we wouldn’t be here.
Think about the last time you read a huge block of text when you didn’t have the threat of failing college biology hanging over your head.
No one wants to read that.
Especially on the Internet, where attention spans are short and scannability is vital (for humans and web crawlers alike).
For an SEO double-whammy, you can even include keywords in the header.
Do an SEO Audit
If you know where you’re going (but not sure where to start or keep going on SEO) then it’s high time for an SEO audit.
An SEO audit is an in-depth look at your site’s technical structure and how it appears in search engines. This will tell you where you need to improve and help you measure the success of your SEO.
For a free SEO audit, click here.
Getting Great SEO
Once you’ve done what you can to make your own affordable SEO, nothing beats bringing in someone who knows their stuff.
We’re a full-service SEO agency with all the certifications and experience you need to rest assured that your site is in good hands.
For great SEO resources, check out our Ultimate Guide to SEO ebook.
For our currently available offers, check out our offers page.
But if you’re ready to take your SEO to the next level, get in touch with us through our contact page.
This post was published by Donald Kim at Optimized Webmedia. Optimized Webmedia is a customer centric, 360° Digital Marketing agency, specializing in SEO, Google Ads PPC, Content Writing, Social Media Marketing, and Website Design. To learn how Optimized Webmedia can help optimize your website to attract more visitors, book a free consultation and ask for our free SEO Site Audit.