After dealing with thousands of customers over the last ten years, We heard many horror stories from clients locally and internationally.
From poor quality campaigns to terrible customer service that the so-called ‘marketing companies’ are delivering to unsuspecting small-business owners who don’t know any better when it comes to Digital Marketing.
We decided to help out our fellow business owners by creating a Beginners Guide To SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.
This post will focus on what you should expect when hiring an SEO Agency or SEO company in your local areas such as Perth or Mandurah. We will try and answer the most common questions when it comes to choosing a company to do your SEO for your business or online store.
- What is SEO?
- Whitehat and Blackhat SEO
- Why you should always go for Whitehat Strategies
- What comes with Whitehat SEO?
- How much should I pay for SEO?
- Why is SEO so expensive?
- How long do I need to wait to see the results?
- What do we need to do after we achieved our rankings?
- How can I choose the right SEO company? [Checklist]
Before we start this article, we want to introduce ourselves. We’ve been in the SEO or Digital Marketing industry since 2009. We mainly deal with home service businesses ranging from 1 man business to a corporate level one.
Working with different range of companies have taught us what business owners like yourself need, and how to make sure we are achieving the business goals.
Unfortunately, over the years, we have seen clients paying thousands of dollars every month with little to no results as they don’t know what to expect when buying SEO for their business.
So we want to educate business owners on what to look for when choosing an SEO agency or SEO company. We want to start with…
What is SEO?
To put it simply, SEO is the steps or process you need to implement to improve the ranking of your website in a search engine result ( mostly Google or Bing ).
First, let’s discuss On-Page SEO
This is very straightforward, and most SEO pros agree on what is the best practices when it comes to On-Page SEO techniques.
This means that your website needs to have sections it needs for good rankings such as:
- Page Titles
- Meta description ( or page description )
- Image alt-tags ( Image description that matches your main keyword )
- Linking structure
- and HTML tags ( H1, H2 and so on)
Different SEO communities and experts somewhat agree that the factors above are some of the most important ones and should be implemented on an excellent on-page SEO strategy.
Now that we have discussed the On-Page, it’s time to talk about Off-page SEO. This is the part where different experts have different strategies on what works and what doesn’t. This is what happens outside of your website, such as links or mentions from other websites.
What is Off-Page SEO?
When google chooses whom to rank on the search results, it looks for specific terms. It looks for connections or links that websites have.
For example, if you are trying to rank for the keyword “Best Vacuum Cleaner” it would benefit you if other vacuum websites are linking to your website via mentions or blog posts.
We could create five more blog posts talking about Off-Page SEO strategies, and it still wouldn’t cover everything, so for beginners, we want to keep it very simple.
To make sure you are making the right decision when hiring an SEO Agency in Perth.
2.Whitehat and Blackhat SEO
After marketers figured out that Google’s ranking factor is links from other websites, things got a bit out of hand.
Back in the days, it was as easy as generating a few links back to your main website, and your website will start ranking.
Marketers then realized that if they start creating more and more links, they will get better rankings. And guess what. It worked.
Next thing you know, marketers are creating thousands and thousands of links using shady practices to skyrocket their websites on to the 1st page of Google. This practice is now called Blackhat SEO.
What is the Black-Hat SEO Techniques?
Black hat SEO is a practice against search engine guidelines, used to get a site ranking higher in search results. These unethical tactics don’t solve for the searcher and often end in a penalty from search engines. Black hat techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking, and using private link networks.
Some of the most common Black-hat SEO strategies are:
- Keyword Stuffing
- Sneaky Redirects
- Low-quality content
- Paid Backlinks
- Blog Comment Spams
- and the most famous of all PBN or Private Blog Networks.
Why You Should Avoid Black-Hat for a “real” business
While black hat SEO is not illegal, it does violate webmaster guidelines set out by search engines. In other words, it’s still against the rules.
This means that if you engage in black hat SEO, you must be willing to get hit with a nasty penalty as punishment.
Getting a penalty from search engines will cause your website to drop down in the search results or, worse, it could be removed completely. This means your website will gain less traffic and, ultimately, fewer customers.
Search engines have gotten better and better at spotting black hat SEO techniques. Nowadays, getting caught for practicing black hat SEO is pretty much unavoidable.
Black hat SEO does not solve for the searcher, nor does it solve for the search engine. While you may see short-term gains from black hat SEO over time, search engines will pick up on your black hat ways damaging your presence in search.
3. Why you should always go for Whitehat Strategies
When you choose white hat SEO for your business, you are choosing results that last, from a provider who cares about high-quality marketing, and bringing the best results, not the fastest or cheapest.
In most cases, those that perform WhiteHat SEO will be more reputable by nature. They are the organizations that will want to go the extra mile with your company for years to come and are passionate about delivering the highest quality SEO available. For the most part, they aren’t interested in quick results, quick sales, and then never speaking to you again. They want a lasting relationship that is beneficial for both parties over a long period. Real businesses last for a long time, they are not a flash in the pan operation, and their marketing shouldn’t be either.
Beware ‘Grey Hat’ firms who fly the WhiteHat flag and lead you to believe you’re getting a high-quality campaign. The’Checklist’ part of this post will help you to avoid such organizations.
4. What Comes with Whitehat SEO?
We’ve already discussed most of the process of Whitehat campaigns but here’s a quick recap:
- High-quality connections with other related and authoritative sites.
- Steady, slower results.
- Results that will last.
- Results that won’t harm your business in the long term.
- Work is manually performed, without software.
- All content used in campaigns is written by a skilled writer.
- No auto-generation software is used for written content.
5. How much is a Whitehat SEO?
Whitehat SEO practice is expensive; this is why you should be cautious of companies offering a $500 per month SEO package.
But at the end of the day, you are hiring a company that will focus on bringing a bunch of qualified leads. Statistically, organic customers have the highest conversion rate compared to paid ads.
Most business owners assume that SEO is cheap because they’ve been so used to shady companies calling them offering a $500 first page guaranteed SEO campaigns.
It surprises us when we speak to business owners how little time, effort, and money they are willing to put in this area of business and how some of them are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars for offline promotions that typically doesn’t bring the same results.
What we always suggest to our clients is if you aren’t willing to spend a decent budget on a good quality campaign, it’s better if you don’t do it at all.
It’s better for your business to have no SEO campaign than a shady company that practices Blackhat strategies.
A reputable SEO company usually doesn’t go out there actively looking for clients since they focus on long-term relationships as opposed to churn and burn tactics of a cheap SEO company.
They usually organize a monthly retainer fee, with the minimum project that generally lasts around six months. The minimum you should expect to pay for a good quality SEO campaign should be $1,500 – $2,000 per month.
This is mainly for low competition keywords and for higher competition campaigns such as lawyers & dentists coming in at around $3,000 to $10,000 per month.
For multi-national brand and campaigns, a typical SEO campaign goes for around $50,000+
You might be thinking to yourself. There is no way I am paying that much for an SEO campaign. Again these are campaigns that can potentially bring you thousands of highly targeted visitors who are actively looking for the type of service you provide.
A good SEO company should advise you whether a $2000 investment on SEO is worth it by calculating the potential ROI of the campaign.
6. Why is Whitehat SEO so expensive?
You are probably asking yourself why Whitehat SEO comes with a costly price tag. The simple explanation is Whitehat strategies is because it uses an expensive approach.
It’s very easy to create an online marketing campaign with a few hundred dollars.
Auto-generated content and auto backlink programs that will blast links to your website.
This strategy is probably going to cost you roughly around $50. However, this is a black-hat strategy.
If you want to build a short term business, make as much money as possible and then repeat then sure this can work. But, if you want a long-term online marketing strategy for your business, then you should stay away.
Here are some of the elements of a White-hat strategy.
A large amount of the SEO budget is spent on creating top quality engaging material . Remember a moment ago we discussed creating ‘connections’ or ‘links’ from high quality sites? Well placing your link in a contextual blog or post, does wonders to establish that connection.
A high quality and engaging content is not cheap. You are looking at anywhere between $25 -$99+ each article. . Therefore to take an verage of $10 per article, $100 will only enable you to get 10 articles and if you want a very engaging content it will roughly cost you around $200 – $300 for 3 pcs of high quality content.
A large amount of the funding is spent on creating top quality engaging material . Remember a moment ago we discussed construction ‘connections’ from high quality sites? Well placing your link in a single body of high quality text, does wonders to establish that connection. Premium quality writers aren’t cheap? You are looking at anywhere between $25 -$25+ each article. . Therefore to take an average of $10 per article, $100 will only enable you to get 10 articles (or even 10 bodies of text to put your linking link into). . Starting to find exactly why it’s really costly?
As mentioned in the press release section, quality partners and networks make up a good deal of WhiteHat SEO, finding placements for your business and ensuring maximum benefit from these connections takes time and effort. You are also paying for exclusivity, gaining access to authoritative websites that others are not able to make connections with.
The company has qualified staff, researchers, web designers, programmers, and many other overheads to take into account. There is a huge distinction between hiring a digital marketing firm who can undergo your campaign at careful detail, offering advice and guidance during the years, and hiring a one-off freelancer, who’ll proceed to do what you paid him’ and leave.
7.How long do I need to wait to see the results?
How long is a piece of string? This is a very complicated question to answer since there are lots of factors outside of the SEO companies control that can affect how long it takes to generate the results. For a general answer, usually between 4-9 months is considered a fair average for most campaigns using Whitehat strategies.
The reason it takes that long is to build your authority naturally. We always recommend to our clients that if they are looking for results within the next weeks or first two months they are better off running a PPC campaign.
There are hundreds of companies that will promise you results in this time, but you can guess the type of tactics they will employ to achieve this.. In most cases, it’s not ‘natural’ to rank this quickly and the procedure necessary to see results like this will almost always harm your site in the long run.. You may experience great results for a few months, but once the string starts to unravel, it can take just days before you’re standing there naked, with only one sleeve of your sweatshirt left and a whole lot of wool in a heap beside you..
To be blunt; slow, steady results last. Quick results fade. (In most cases).
8. What do we need to do after we achieved our rankings?
Any good marketing company should have a well thought out action plan to be rolled out after results are achieved. Often referred to as ‘maintenance campaigns’, these aim to keep the current rankings where they are by sending continued positive signals toward the site and maintaining withstanding connections. Again, with BlackHat SEO this is rarely factored into the equation, since it is rare for a website to last this long when such techniques are employed and often ‘maintaining’ results is the last thing on the marketer’s mind ? simply achieving them is viewed as the goal.
You can estimate spending a fraction of the initial monthly cost of your campaign when in ‘maintenance mode’ since far less work needs to be done. The main reason for this further campaign is to show Google that you are still relevant and deserve the position you’ve been given. It’s a bad sign for a site to receive a lot of activity surrounding it, shoot to the top of the results and then go completely quiet. Google sees this as very unnatural. This is of course another benefit of WhiteHat campaigns, they are carried out in such as way as to stimulate real interaction in the first place, so a maintenance campaign furthers this work.
9. How Can I choose the right SEO company?
There are tons of great companies out there who can work wonders for your website and business delivering excellent results and even doubling or tripling your income! But.. there are also thousands that will do the opposite, eating up your budget then spitting out your website.. Here’s how to make sure you’re in the first camp, with our checklist!
- Do they immediately quote you a price, or do they need time to review your needs?
- Have they researched your niche/market?
- Have they built a campaign around your needs and aims?
- Do they talk about on-site SEO and changes that must be made to your site?
- Do they offer these ‘on-site’ changes as part of the campaign?
- Are their promises ‘too good’?
- Is their time frame too quick?
- Do they have a plan for after you rank? Do they even mention this?
- How secretive are they about their campaigns and the actual work they do?
- Do they use ‘buzz’ words and ‘waffle’?
- Are they pleasant to speak with?
- Do they require you to sign a contract?
- Do they say ‘no’ if your demands are unrealistic?
- Do they quote realistic prices?
Below are the questions that you should ask yourself and/or the potential marketing company ? if they haven’t covered something below, or you feel there answer is a bit strange, it may be time to search for another organisation.. If on the other hand they pass with flying colours, you may have just found your digital marketing firm!
Do they immediately quote you a price, or do they need time to review your needs?
Be alarmed if a company is able to instantly quote you a price! Unless on the rare occasion they have just finished an extremely similar campaign, they shouldn’t be able to quote you an exact price straight away! This is because it takes time to research the market and niche before the cost can be calculated. A rough ball-park figure is okay, but an exact price is a warning sign!
Have they researched your niche/market?
Continuing from the point above, they should have thoroughly researched your niche before going ahead with any proposals from their side. If they don’t take the time to look into your specific market and needs then they can’t truly know how much it should cost, or what they’ll need to do ? you are dealing with a company whose ethos is based around a ‘one size fits all’ mentality! Avoid!
Have they built a campaign around your needs and aims?
They might have researched your niche, and they may know what they will need to do to rank a website highly in your market. But do they understand you? Do they understand why you want to be ranked? Good digital marketing companies will go the extra mile to find out what it is you’re selling or what service you provide, this will enable them to not only bring you traffic, but ensure relevant, targeted traffic that is more likely to convert.
Fantastic digital marketing companies will go the extra mile and make some rough calculations to see if such a campaign will be profitable.. There are many scenarios where the ROI will be negative based on the cost of the campaign vs the possible profit from products/services sold.. Does the marketing company mention anything about possible ROI? Have they gone this extra mile to learn your business and understand what you’re trying to achieve?
Do they talk about on-site SEO and changes that must be made to your site?
If they ignore your site, and purely focus on ‘off-page’ elements, something is wrong. Unless, in the extremely rare case, your website is already perfect, they should go through necessary changes that should be made. These are SEO basics.
Do they offer these ‘on-site’ changes as part of the campaign?
It’s all very well talking to you about these changes, but will they implement them for you? If a company doesn’t really care about the state of your website, then it can’t really be concerned with the success of the campaign since these two elements go hand in hand.
Are their promises ‘too good’?
Be suspicious of any company that promises you ‘the moon’. The adage, ‘if it seems too good to be true’, comes to mind, and should be considered when reviewing proposals.
Is their time frame too quick?
Again, if the time frame is too quick, alarm bells should sound. They are either performing some techniques that you don’t want associated with your business, or they are flat out lying to you.
Do they have a plan for after you rank? Do they even mention this?
It’s important to understand how they view you as a client. Do they want a long-term business relationship, keeping you on top of the SERPs for years to come, or are they after a ‘wam, bam, thank you mam’ type deal. Have they informed you of what happens after the results are achieved? If they have not, then perhaps they don’t want any long term commitments, or they haven’t thought about this element; two reasons to say ‘goodbye’.
How secretive are they about their campaigns and the actual work they do?
Online marketing companies aren’t going to lay down their exact plan for you, this rarely happens, after all you could be a competitor looking to benefit from their hard work and tried & tested models. However, they should be open with you about what they do and happy to have a chat about what work is carried out and how they achieve results to some degree. Beware of companies who just want to take your money, while snapping at you if you ask too many questions. Firstly, it’s just bad etiquette, and secondly there may be something more sinister behind their silence.. such as lack of real understanding themselves!
Do they use ‘buzz’ words and ‘waffle’?
Watch out for companies who try and palm off your questions with ‘buzz’ words and meaningless descriptions. They may ‘talk the talk’, but you run the same risks as mentioned in the previous point.
Are they pleasant to speak with?
If you’re going to be using this company for a long time, you’ll probably spend a decent amount of time on the phone with them. It makes for a better business relationship if they’re pleasant to speak with, you don’t want to feel like you’re annoying them every time you call or have a question. They don’t have to be a barrel of laughs, but someone you enjoy discussing your business with is a definite plus!
Do they require you to sign a contract?
If there’s no contract, then it’s very strange. There are some exceptions to this rule, but as a whole you’d expect a legit company to operate with a legally binding contract. This is for your security and theirs.. Tread carefully if there’s no contract as you could find yourself with no legal recourse.
Do they say ‘no’ if your demands are unrealistic?
A good company will not take your money if your demands are unrealistic. If you ask for a golden spaceship, lunch with the queen and an unlimited supply of cherry flavoured limited edition Star Wars candies, you should be turned down. Be very wary of a company that nods and smiles at your every request. They’re most likely trying to get your money as fast as possible without a single intention of doing what you ask.. If you think what you’re getting is too good be true.. you know the rest.
Do they quote realistic prices?
Again, based on the rough pricing figures I mentioned earlier on, do their prices seem realistic? There are very few circumstances where you’ll get legitimate WhiteHat SEO for under $1,000 a month.. You’ve seen what this stuff costs, so if you’re able to get a campaign for $500, question how they’re able to do that while still making a profit.. Simple answer; they’re cutting corners at some point.
Well, that’s the end of our ‘Beginners Guide to SEO’, We hope you’ve found it useful! At the end of the day, you should work with a marketing company that you feel comfortable with and are happy to trust with the reputation of your business. After all, the work they do will result in how your brand is perceived online by millions of people. If you think the marketing company you are dealing with is a good reflection of the quality and standing of your business and that they truly understand your aims, market and business model then they are the right fit for your organization! Along the same lines, make sure you understand how they work too. There is an old saying, ‘never invest in things you do not understand’ and it definitely applies here when contemplating this important business decision.
And my final piece of advice: Buying no SEO at all is better than buying bad SEO.