500 Dollar SEO?

By | August 10, 2019

Today I want to talk about $500 SEO. Now, that $500, it could be $400, it could
be $300. I want to talk about the three types of service
providers that sell $500-a-month SEO, and which are safe and which you should avoid. I want to talk about why people think that
SEO should cost $500, and the practical reasons why you’re unlikely to get good SEO for $500
or less. I’m also going to go into what it takes to
run an SEO agency, or even just being an SEO freelancer, some of the costs and why charging
people $500, $400, $300 a month is really unsustainable. Then, we’re going to talk a little bit about
why people find it hard to break out of this mental model of thinking that $500 is the
most that they should pay for any form of digital marketing, and the types of organizations
that happily pay up to 10 times that amount, or 100 times that amount. So let’s get into it. A $500 SEO. The reason why I’m bringing this up, this
has been kind of bubbling up in me for a while. I wanted to talk about it. I see a lot of my friends that are running
small agencies, or they’re freelancers, and a lot of people that were traditionally building
websites are branching out into SEO. That’s one characteristic of it. A lot of people that are younger, say they’re
under 30 years old, are looking at digital marketing as a way to help people and to make
money for themselves. There’s a lot of SEO software out there. There’s do-it-yourself SEO courses. There’s about a zillion blog posts on SEO. So with all this information, I think that
there’s a lot of people doing SEO that didn’t do SEO in the past. But I want to talk about the types of businesses
that I run into the most. The types of businesses that I run into are
usually family-based. There’s some sort of family dynamic. They’re smaller businesses, they’re under
$15 million in revenue. $15 million in annual revenue for these businesses
is a big step. Some of these are doing $250,000 a year in
revenue. Some of them are doing $1 million. Some of them are doing $2 million, or $3 million,
or $4 million, or $5 million. The infrastructure of their organization has
not grown to the point where they have internal marketing teams. They might have 5, or 10, or 20 employees,
but they don’t have an internal marketing team. So a lot of them are exploring different things
that they can do with digital marketing. Some of that is social media, some of it might
be AdWords, and some of it might be SEO. What I’ve found is there are some organizations
that are very open to spending an appropriate amount on SEO, and then there are some organizations
that have a real hard time imagining that SEO or social media or any type of digital
marketing could cost $1,000 a month, much less $2,000 or $5,000. That’s just too much money in their mind. So what these organizations are looking for
is someone who can do SEO for $400 or less, you know, $200, $300, $400, or $500 a month. And there’s three types of these providers
that I’ve identified. Before we go into the three types, I want
to clarify really quickly. For $500 or less for an American-based consultant,
freelancer, or SEO agency, these organizations are generally going to be a one or two-person
team with outsourced help, or one person by themselves, generally speaking. Larger agencies, 10, 12, 20, 25, 50 people,
they simply cannot compete at a price point of $500. We’re going to go into the cost model a little
bit later, but let’s talk about the three types of providers at this price point. The first one is what I call the Up and Comer. The Up and Comer is probably less than 5%
of all the providers selling SEO at $500 a month or less. Generally speaking, this is a person that
maybe they’ve been building websites and they’re branching out into SEO and they’re trying
to get practice, they’re trying to get their confidence and learn how it really works. It could be a younger person like I talked
about before, in their 20s, maybe they’re out of college, they’re trying to learn digital
marketing, maybe they interned somewhere at an agency and they’re going out on their own. These Up and Comers, the diamonds in the rough,
as I like to call them, they’re going to practice SEO in what we call the “white hat” way. They’re going to follow the rules that Google
has laid out. But at that $500 price point, they’re not
going to be able to do a whole lot and stay profitable. These are the type of people that you should
seek out. But again, this is going to be by far the
smallest percentage of people in this category selling SEO or digital marketing services
at this price point. For the most part, what I see people doing
at this price point is they might be taking your existing content, optimizing it, making
sure that you have correct keywords. They might be giving you keyword research,
they might be telling you what type of content you need to be creating. But they’re probably not going to be creating
content on their own for your site. They’re not going to be redesigning your site. They’re probably not going to be doing a whole
ton of web development. They might do a little bit, but they might
not be doing a whole ton. They might optimize some of your other profiles
out there, like your Google My Business or your Yelp. I want to say this really quick, too. The people that are doing white hat SEO, they’re
Up and Comers, they’re diamonds in the rough, they’re doing a good job. These sorts of people generally raise their
prices after getting a little bit of practice underneath their belt. They’re not going to stay at that $500 price
point very long, because they do bring value in what they do. A lot of people that are doing SEO for $300,
$400, or $500 a month are generally helping local businesses to rank within their ZIP
Code. In other words, it’s small businesses, they
need local SEO, they need to rank within their ZIP Code. But generally speaking, you’re not going to
be able to do an international campaign for $500 a month. Those sorts of campaigns are going to run
four, five, or even six figures a month, and generally speaking, those are going to go
to larger agencies, not solo consultants. They’re going to go to teams. This brings me to the second type of profile
in the $500-a-month SEO bucket, and that is what I call the First-Time Outsourcer. Now, I see a lot of these in Facebook groups,
they’re in Reddit threads, they’re in internet forums, and these people are really good at
sales, they’re really good at telling you what you want to hear. I’ve seen a few of these people at Chamber
of Commerce events before. Now, they have probably taken some sort of
course, or joined some sort of SEO membership, they’ve had somebody teach them how to sell
SEO really well. Now, what they lack is the ability to do SEO
in a way that’s not going to get you Google penalized. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. A lot of times, they’re relying on what we
call private blog networks to build links, which are basically fake blogs, which will
get you Google penalized if you’re getting a big influx of links from this type of source. Now, these people, generally speaking, they’re
good at making the sales, and what they’ll do is they’ll go into the Facebook group and
say, like, “Hey, I got an SEO client. Does anybody here do white-label SEO?” They want to offload all the actual SEO work
to somebody else. This kind of crosses over into the third type
of $500 SEO organization, what I call the experienced outsourcer. As I mentioned previously, this is usually
one, or maybe two people at the most, and they have a system of making sales, and they’ll
sell SEO packages to local businesses at $400 or $500 a month, but what they’re going to
do is they’re going to outsource it to a developing country, an organization there or a freelancer
there for $99, or $199 a month, and they’re going to pocket the difference. Now, I hate to burst your bubble with how
the sausage is made, but this is the vast majority. These last two categories are the vast majority
of people selling SEO at $500 a month. In other words, it’s the blind leading the
blind. The reason why so many small businesses fall
victim to this is they don’t really understand what goes into SEO. SEO in its concept is very simple, but in
its execution, it’s very difficult. SEO is not about playing tricks on Google
or trying to fool it into thinking that you’re better than you are. It’s about actually making your website, and
your content, and your product offerings, and the sentiment around your brand the best
that it can be. That means good content on your site, a site
that looks and performs and satisfies your customers as much as possible, getting links
from authoritative websites, building up your brand in a way that most people are searching
for it. This sounds really simple in a concept, but
in practice it’s really difficult to do all of this, because it does involve a little
bit of work. It does involve work. It usually involves a lot of things in your
codebase, in your content, in your marketing, in your overall marketing. SEO is really becoming more and more about
your overall marketing position. Someone who understands that or an agency
that understands that is going to be a vital ally for you. But, as I mentioned, a lot of people don’t
know how to analyze what they’re even getting. A lot of people don’t understand SEO. They throw money at situations and they hope
for the best. They have no way of evaluating what they’re
getting. So this leads me into the next section, which
is, “Why do people think that SEO should only cost $500?” There are as many ways to help people improve
their SEO as there are musical styles or artistic styles. There’s many different things that you can
do to improve SEO. Now, some people just do technical SEO, they
improve your site speed, they might change your URL structure. Some people are good at content. Some people focus primarily on building backlinks. Some people are good at design. Some people are good at integrated marketing
and public relations strategy. There’s all different ways to go about SEO. But people think that SEO costs $500 because
it’s an intangible product. It’s esoteric. What I mean by that is if you’re building
a house, you know that you’re going to have to pay the workers. You’re going to have to pay for the concrete,
the lumber, the shingles, the electricians, the plumbers, all those people have to come
in and do their work. You know that you have to buy the land underneath
it. You understand those concepts of those costs,
in the same way if you’re getting a part or a product manufactured, you understand that
you have to pay for the metal, the rivets, the CNC machines at the manufacturing plant. You have to have people there doing quality
assurance testing. You understand those types of costs: raw material,
skilled labor. I think what happens with a lot of digital
marketing, if people can’t see the tangible product, it’s just coming out of code and
content, the work that you’re doing online, I think it’s less tangible to people. Also, what people see are a lot of mixed messages,
because they don’t know how to evaluate SEO, they don’t know how to evaluate marketing,
except if the phone rings or it doesn’t ring, and they see a lot of Google ads out there
for people who are selling SEO for $99 a month, or $199 a month, or $299 a month, or they
see GoDaddy selling a service like Get Found for $19.99 a month, and they think that this
is what SEO should cost all the way around the board. But the ugly reality is, is what you get for
$99, or $199 is people that are building up spammy backlinks on spammy sites, remember
I mentioned before private blog networks. This is a thing that Google started penalizing
very heavily about four years ago. If your SEO company is building links using
that method, using methods that were working in 1999 but they’re not working in 2019, then
eventually you’re either going to see your rankings … whatever ranking improvement
that you had, it’s going to disappear. Or, you might even get a manual penalty from
Google. But worse-case scenario, your site gets de-indexed
completely. These are the things that can happen when
you try and cut corners with marketing and you’re not following best practices, white
hat type of things. So without a way to compare quality in a tangible
way, people try to minimize risk, and so they go with an SEO company that only costs $199
a month as opposed to $1,999 a month, meaning like, $200 versus $2,000. They’re going to minimize risk. But the problem is, is with digital marketing
it’s just like anything else, you get what you pay for. If you’re paying next to nothing, you’re going
to get next to nothing. In fact, in a lot of cases you might end up
in a worse position than if you had simply done nothing at all, because a lot of these
practices that people employ, they’re out of date, they’re things that Google actively
penalizes sites for, and it’s a lot of bad information. The quality of material that you put into
stuff is the same with a digital product or digital marketing as if you were making a
product in the real world. This brings me to another thing that I want
to talk about, which is the cost of doing business as an SEO agency. Now, I think a lot of people misunderstand
this, and I can say with certainty that even other people who have careers building websites
don’t understand this fully. The simple way to describe it is there’s a
cost of materials that goes into running an SEO agency, or a web design agency, or any
type of marketing endeavor like that. This is my full-time job. This isn’t a side gig. This isn’t a side hustle. I don’t do this from my mom’s basement. This is my full-time living that supports
me and my family, and there’s tools that I need to monitor the progress of SEO, to find
out valuable information about you and your competitors if you’re a client of mine. I’ll run down the list. I think I’m going to show some screenshots
here in the video. I don’t have it in front of me right now,
but I think most of the tools that are out there for monitoring SEO, for finding out
what’s going on with your site, for looking at your competitors and evaluating them, whether
it’s Moz Pro, whether it’s Majestic, SEM Rush, or Ahrefs, all these cost somewhere between
$199 and $399 a month for someone who has a client roster that I do. If you have a small client roster, say if
you have one person, you might be able to get by with spending $200 a month. But if you have any number of clients on your
roster, you’re going to have to spend at least $400 or $500 a month just to have some basic
tools to do your job. So that’s reason number one: there’s the cost
of doing business, with just the tools. Now, if you’re running an SEO agency, like
a larger agency, and you’re renting commercial space, and you’re paying employees’ salaries,
you’re not just hiring freelancers, then those costs are going to go up. Having talent on your team is what you’re
paying for. Those overheads are going to be larger. But there’s more oversight, there’s more people,
there’s more resources. Generally speaking, the more that you pay
for, the more resources you get. If you’re an SEO consultant who’s just starting
this, you’re a freelancer, or you’re a one or two-person shop and you’re trying to stretch
out into this, it’s very important that you charge enough to be profitable. Giving your work away for free, it’s not going
to do you any favors. It’s going to devalue your work, and you’re
going to take a loss for all those months that you’re doing it. If I was to … Let’s just say that I was
going into business doing SEO brand new, having a tool like Ahrefs or SEM Rush, which those
are the two that I think are probably the best overall tools, those are going to set
you back anywhere from $200 to $400 a month, just starting off. So it’s very important to actually turn a
profit. I think most business owners, when you put
it to them in those sorts of terms, they’re going to understand that a little bit better. But again, there’s a lot of companies out
there that are completely outsourced. When it comes to the actual oversight of the
work, you want to make sure that people are doing things that are not cutting corners,
that are not going to end up penalizing your SEO or tanking your ratings later, and again,
it’s about risk mitigation. This brings me to another point. I think there’s a psychology with people. If we don’t understand what we’re purchasing,
we want to mitigate risk, and I totally understand that. If you don’t know what you’re buying, then
you want to waste as little money on it as possible. So if you’ve never bought SEO before, if you’ve
never done digital marketing, what I would encourage you to do is research. You should read as much information as possible
so at least you have a sense of whether you’re getting something good or bad. With any SEO agency, don’t let them use too
much jargon. Have people explain what their process is. Have them explain exactly what you’re getting. But before you spend any money on digital
marketing, at least understand what you’re getting. Do some research on it so you can evaluate
whether you’re getting ripped off or not. I think with larger organizations, they’re
more prone to go with a larger web agency or a larger SEO agency, digital marketing
agency. They want to mitigate risk by not spending
a small amount. They want to spend an amount that’s congruent
with the rest of their investments. If you’re a large organization, you want to
mitigate risk by spending enough to make sure that there’s going to be people handling it,
there’s going to be oversight, there’s going to be checks and balances that make sure that
the work is getting done correctly. I think it’s more the smaller businesses where
they’re more prone to spend less on it, because if you don’t understand it the way to mitigate
risk is to spend less. I totally get that. I see cases where I’ve had prospects tell
me that, where people have said that they’re going to go with a cheaper option. Then, I track what their SEO agency is actually
doing. And every single time, and I mean every single
time that I’ve seen this happen, they’re building spammy links on the private blog networks
like I mentioned, the rankings actually don’t go up, nothing happens. Those businesses really would have been better
off just either doing nothing, or taking their money and lighting it on fire. I hate to say that, but it’s true. You have to do a little research on what you’re
getting. I’m not saying that everybody who charges
$500 or less is bad, far from it. There are a lot of people that I know that
will do a good job, not going to get you Google penalized, they’re going to do things to improve
you. But generally speaking, they’re people who
are doing local SEO and not national SEO. Those companies are more like maybe 5% of
the SEO agencies at the low end. I want to leave you with this: I would rather
compete on being the best than competing on price. I’d rather be the best than be the cheapest. If you are trying to compete by being the
cheapest, you’re in a race to the bottom, and you’re always going to lose. If you’re competing on being the absolute
cheapest, then that’s the only thing you have to compete on. But I think at the end of the day, we’re all
trying to improve our businesses in the best way that we know how. I hope all this makes sense to you, and I
hope I’m not coming off as derogatory toward anybody that’s selling SEO for less. Just because you sell SEO for less doesn’t
mean that you’re a bad person or you’re scamming people. But I do know a lot of people that are. It is an industry that’s filled with a lot
of snake oil. And again, it’s people preying on business
owners’ fear, it’s people preying on the fact that a lot of people don’t understand SEO,
they don’t understand how Google works. But Google is really just trying to find the
best result for people. That’s it. They’re trying to deliver the best result
for your customers. There’s no shortcut to it, there’s no magic
bag of SEO dust that I reach into and I shake the SEO fairy dust over a website and it starts
to rocket to number one. It’s not like that at all. It usually involves a lot of work improving
their site, improving their brand, improving their authority, making their site have a
great experience for their customers. Those are all the things that go into SEO. You always have room to improve your site
and your brand. Hopefully all that makes sense. My name’s John Locke. My business is Lockedown Design and SEO. If you have an SEO question that you’d like
to see us answer, please leave it in the comments below. We’ll answer it out in a future video for
you. Thanks again for tuning in. Until next time, peace.

2 thoughts on “500 Dollar SEO?

  1. Jason Resnick Post author

    Excellent job on explaining and framing the aspects that go into the cost. Pulling back the curtain a bit on who is charging these rates and what you should expect is great insight.

  2. Chris Badgett Post author

    How do we determine the best content titles and topics to create that will best serve our business from a SEO perspective?


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