SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the practice of improving how a website appears in search results. Google, Bing, and other search engines have specific criteria that determine what websites show up first. No one knows all of the criteria, but we know that things like site speed, the structure of your site, and making sure you use specific keywords in the correct spot on your website make a huge impact.
It's important to consistently update and optimize your website because it helps customers find your website. The difference between being on the first page of Google and the second can make a massive impact on your bottom line.
SEO has many different facets and, depending on the agency's strategy, can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousand dollars per month. On average, you're looking at between $400 and $10,000/month.
Some of the things that can contribute to the price are how aggressive you'd like to be on your SEO strategy and how competitive space is. For example, a local small business will probably have a smaller budget spend than a national brand because there is less competition.
We recommend evaluating a few things when deciding what you should spend on SEO. The first being what your marketing goal and sales goals are. SEO, while vital to your success, is a long-term strategy. If you need sales right away, we recommend putting a portion of your budget towards SEO while being more aggressive with advertising and sales strategies.
Another item to consider is how competitive your market is. Are you a small pizza chain up against national brands? Are you in a niche market with little competition? Creating realistic goals will help you determine exactly how much you should be spending on your SEO.
In short - the average small business isn't spending more than $5,000/month on content and SEO, with most spending significantly less.
Depending on the age of your website and competition, it can take anywhere from 6 months to years to rank on the first few pages of Google. A small business in a rural area will rank far quicker than a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles.
While some businesses see results within a few months, we recommend budgeting at least 12 months of work to get the best results. After that 12 months, if the agency did well, you'll likely want to continue building on your success.
First and foremost, integrity is a must when looking at SEO agencies. Many agencies will charge a retainer and do 2-3 hours of work a month while claiming they are working 30+ hours. Ask if they provide detailed reports of their work and make sure they educate you along the way.
The second most important thing when looking for an SEO agency is their proactiveness. If a Google update is coming, they should be prepared for it and let you know what they are doing months ahead of time.
SEO is a very detailed process, so a detail-oriented agency will serve you far better than one that isn't.
Many agencies will charge you premium prices while outsourcing your SEO services to an offshore team. Additionally, some agencies have a cookie-cutter strategy for SEO, while others do in-depth research on your customer and what they are searching for on Google.
Typically, if an agency spends more time talking about your potential results and the tools they use rather than the process and ideas they have, they probably aren't as impressive as they sound.
You don't necessarily need to know the ins & outs of search engine optimization. However, you should know the basics to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. Learn the basics about what an agency should be doing and how much work should go into SEO.Read our SEO White Paper
You don't get to be featured on Small Business Mentor if you settle for mediocre. All of the agencies featured on our site have incredible results with case studies and reviews to support them. Whether it's incredible design or getting their customers a massive return on investment, success is the number one goal. They put in the extra effort to make sure you're successful, and they don't stop until the job is done. If the results don't blow us away, or they settle for "good enough," they don't make the cut.
Contracts shouldn't be 40 pages long with a bunch of fine print. Agencies should give friendly and clear reminders about upcoming renewals, deadlines, and results. If the agency messed up, they should make it right. Your ad budget shouldn't be increased just because the agency wants to make more money off of you, and they should audit their work regularly. We believe you shouldn't have to watch over an agency's shoulder to make sure they aren't ripping you off.
You should be able to ask for specific pricing for each service that is being given. Retainers are okay if they can specify how many hours they spent on each of the services they delivered to you. That way, you and the agency can make data-driven decisions on how to spend your hard-earned money. Any agency that can't give you specific pricing or help you calculate an accurate return on investment isn't looking out for your best interests.
Any business owner knows that the customer isn't always right. However, if you need help with something small and the agency starts referencing the contract you signed, we don't think that's fair. Even better, if the agency is proactive and you don't even have to ask, they get a gold star. The agency should be there to help and support you (within reason) to help you accomplish your goals. Additionally, the agency should include all services needed to perform the job well in the original contract. If they knew they were running your advertising, didn't include landing page design in your contract, and then blamed poor results on not having landing pages - they aren't looking out for you.