Home – New Forums Tech talk Do you really have to pay for SEO?

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  • #1070976
    JanF
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    Hi John

    Thanks for such a comprehensive reply!

    JohnW, post: 89015 wrote:
    Hi JanF,
    The real tragedy is that there are so many incompetants, ignorants and shams out there calling themselves SEO experts that you felt compelled to invest all this time yourself.

    I agree with what you say. However, for me the real tragedy was the inability to get an SEO “expert” to give me a basic understanding of SEO and what was involved to be successful. Maybe our clients and I are expecting too much by wanting some input, manageability and control over our SEO spend (be it time or dollars). Good SEO is expensive – especially if you outsource copy and SEO. As it all starts (or should start) with the marketing concept behind the website design and most of our clients simply had a website done by someone (because the competition had a site), when it got to SEO time and they realise they should have understood a lot more before they ever started on their site, frustration levels are obviously high.

    We needed a broader understanding of SEO to be able to support and educate our customers through the process (to avoid repeating mistakes and ensure expectaions were realistically set) and as we couldn’t get the answers from the “experts”, we decided to DIY.

    JohnW, post: 89015 wrote:
    Unfortunately, you will need to invest a lot more time in understanding how to deliver your information to people via search engines. From the foregoing posts there are large information gaps and misunderstandings that you need to rectify.

    I must admit I wish I had posted a thread on here earlier!

    JohnW, post: 89015 wrote:
    Effective SEO is NOT about ranking top of the most used search phrases it is about ranking top of the most WIDELY used and RELEVANT search phrases. Even then, a high ranking page will be a waste of time if people don’t click through to it or leave it immediately because they don’t like what they see when they arrive there.

    That was obvious early on, but the first step is ensuring you get people to your site, understanding how they found you and then analysing what they are looking at. We are getting more and more hits from our keywords (this improved dramatically after the site was completely redone 3 months ago), so now it is time to sit back and look at what is working/not working for us.

    JohnW, post: 89015 wrote:
    The location of any business coaches’ service will be a major attribute that potential clients will be using to make their selection of one.

    It is interesting that only 1 of the top 10 websites for the search phrase “small business coaches” tells us where they are located in their Google results. I find it even more extraordinary that the first 5 don’t make their location obvious on their home pages.

    How many of these search phrase users will be potential clients for you? Only 18% of them will live in Melbourne for a start. Are they looking for jobs, education or a thousand other possibilities that would exclude them as potential clients? I don’t know what you would end up with but I suspect it would perhaps be as low as 10%.

    So why do people target non-specific phrase like that? It’s because Google told them it was a frequently used keyword. All many of the sellers of Google ad programs want is your advertising dollar and they want you to spend all your monthly budget. They don’t care if it is wasted on ad clickers who are not potential clients. They also want advertisers to bid up the cost per click on frequently used search phrases. This has nothing to do with SEO and the best an SEO can take from the keyword tool is some general information about the different search methods and some guides as to the use of some individual words.

    In reality this is what most people will do with the example search phrase. They will scan a few page titles, find they are not seeing any location words in them, then change their search phrase to include words like “Melbourne” or “Melbourne eastern suburbs” or even a suburb name. There will be 500 suburbs in Melbourne so by the time you waterdown the search numbers for phrases that include a suburb name, the specific search phrases don’t get reported by Google.

    You need to work “Melbourne” and other relevant location words into your site. At present it is only used on a couple of PDF files and 1 web page.

    We understand how people can be looking for something completely different and start by using the keywords we are targeting or that content can drive erroneous traffic to your site. This was evident early on when one of our “info” pages jumped to number 1 and got so many hits it wasn’t funny. We suspect it was mostly students, as we know it wasn’t something most of our target audience would know about.

    The locations stuff has been a quandry for us, but we have an idea of how we might address that without having to pepper the site with all the suburbs and towns throughout Victoria that we service. Google Places worked really well for 2 months until the competion caught on! :)

    Everyone (esp. Google) is after your money. That’s just the world we live in. :)

    JohnW, post: 89015 wrote:
    Good luck with your learning journey.

    Thanks! I love a challenge!

    JohnW, post: 89015 wrote:
    BTW, you need to bone up on what Google Webmaster Tools does. It is primarily a site diagnostic tool. You need to set you site up with Google Analytics or similar website traffic program if you are going to embark on SEO.

    Regs,
    JohnW

    We use both Google Webmaster Tools and Urchin. WMT mainly for monitoring crawl errors (and I wish someone had told me NOT to do a major site change after Google had gone live with your site!), checking backlinks from other sites and the keywords Google associates with our site. Urchin we use to understand how traffic is getting to us and what happens once someone lands on the site.

    I get almost 100% of my clients by referral and that keeps me busy enough and I am convinced from the low volume of searches and the fact that there are more competitors than searches in our field that we are barking up the wrong tree trying to use the web for new client acquisition. However, there are ways we think we can actually generate income via the web. We are currently reviewing our whole Marketing and Sales Strategy now that we have a better understanding of how things work, what we can do ourselves, and where we will need outside help (copywriters, SEO support etc) to maximise our chance of success.

    At least I can now understand most of what the SEO “experts” are saying. :)

    #1070977
    JohnW
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    JanF, post: 89173 wrote:
    However, for me the real tragedy was the inability to get an SEO “expert” to give me a basic understanding of SEO and what was involved to be successful. Maybe our clients and I are expecting too much by wanting some input, manageability and control over our SEO spend (be it time or dollars).
    Hi Jan,
    A lot of what I do is teaching people how to implement SEO.

    This includes the topics:
    * SEO audits of their site and their competition
    * How to identify search methods
    * SEO strategies and tactics
    * Implementing SEO into site design and structure
    * Guidelines for people-friendly copy
    * Guidelines for writing SEO-friendly copy
    * Content development strategies
    * How to get the most SEO value from your content management system/shopping cart
    * Link building strategies and services assessment
    * Keeping up with SE changes
    * Interpretation of traffic reports
    * Assessing Adwords campaigns

    I love to find business coaches and consultants who may find my services of value to their clients.

    JanF, post: 89173 wrote:
    …but the first step is ensuring you get people to your site, understanding how they found you and then analysing what they are looking at. We are getting more and more hits from our keywords (this improved dramatically after the site was completely redone 3 months ago), so now it is time to sit back and look at what is working/not working for us.
    This comment raises the issue of the purchasing process.

    In most cases you would want your site to be found by potential clients at all stages as they progress through their purchasing cycle. Someone in the early stages of deciding whether a business coach would be beneficial may be looking for a lot more detailed information and case studies/examples on a broad range of topics than someone who has reached the point of deciding they want a business coach. At this point they have switched into simply assessing which business coach they want.

    Now ALL you need to do is make sure your or your client’s site content, structure and design appeals to visitors in all purchasing process stages. :-)

    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1070978
    JanF
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    JohnW, post: 89241 wrote:
    Hi Jan,

    I love to find business coaches and consultants who may find my services of value to their clients.

    Expect to hear from me soon!

    JohnW, post: 89241 wrote:
    In most cases you would want your site to be found by potential clients at all stages as they progress through their purchasing cycle. Someone in the early stages of deciding whether a business coach would be beneficial may be looking for a lot more detailed information and case studies/examples on a broad range of topics than someone who has reached the point of deciding they want a business coach. At this point they have switched into simply assessing which business coach they want.

    Now ALL you need to do is make sure your or your client’s site content, structure and design appeals to visitors in all purchasing process stages. :-)

    This is something we understood from the outset, as well as the differing needs of customers (from the “10 second scanners” to the “love lots of detail”).

    Our first attempt was a “drill-down if you wanted more info” approach. Google did not respond positively to this. When we went to the current approach, Google started to notice us big time.

    We are now getting more hits, so now it is time to rethink content (though this time I am thinking we get some help as we now have data to evaluate).

    Thanks again for your input!

    #1070979
    lutrov
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    Just an observation.

    It only seems to have taken 1 week for you to disappear from page 1. I can’t make out your domain name from that screendump, but assuming it’s “proximgroup.com.au”, you’re currently on page 4 for that phrase.

    As you might already suspect, it’s actually a lot tougher to stay at the top than to get there.

    #1070980
    profitclicks
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    Aidan, post: 88759 wrote:
    Hi Jan,

    I see your site at position 27 for “small business consultant” – are you by chance looking at personalised results? (Your own and other often used pages tend to rank highly for you alone!)

    You might not be aware but most directories are not worth ANY effort, very few actually pass any significant juice and by the way what Google reports may only be a fraction of the real picture in any event.

    Directories don’t “submit links to Google” either whether you pay or not, the link is either on an indexed page and ‘followable’ or it is not! It is then up to the search engines whether they wish to use that info or not.

    I hope that helps clarify the value of directory backlinks.

    Good luck with your SEO efforts.

    Agree with Aidan on this one – I could not see your site on the position you mentioned.

    The other thing that I will mention is that as other SEO gurus on here have mentioned, it is quite easy to get found on less competitive keyword searches like this. I see the role of an SEO company as being to help educate clients on the current algorithm changes brought about by Google. We saw many changes to Google over the last 2 years including the Panda update, Farmer, Caffeine. As a business owner, I know that if I wasn’t in the industry, I would not have a clue as to what all of this means. My advice to listen to the SEO community here, glean what you can from forums and above all, test and measure! Combine what you know with what you can see happening and what you hear Google is coming out with next :)

    #1070981
    JohnW
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    lutrov, post: 89747 wrote:
    It only seems to have taken 1 week for you to disappear from page 1. I can’t make out your domain name from that screendump, but assuming it’s “proximgroup.com.au”, you’re currently on page 4 for that phrase.

    As you might already suspect, it’s actually a lot tougher to stay at the top than to get there.
    Hi Lutrov,

    Even more curious is the fact that when this thread started it was the site’s Home page that ranked in the top 10. The top ranked one on page four is http://www.proximgroup.com.au/Choosing-a-Business-Consultant-or-Coach-Request.php.

    I also checked the site’s ranking on my mobile phone. No page from the site ranked in the top 100.

    Not surprising as there are only 2 pages that rank top 10 for the search phrase “small business consultant” on both a mobile search and a desk top search on Google.

    Google is in the fastest rate of change right now than at any time in its 11-12 year history. People do not realise how many different search results Google is delivering now and they keep expanding them.

    Sure keeps us SEOs in business. Something to think about…

    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1070982
    websitedesigner
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    This has been an interesting read. I think it makes a good case for having some SEO expertise.

    A small monthly fee to an SEO consultant would have at the very least ensured that you get good information on working out where your site is actually ranking and saved you a lot of time going through Google’s personalised results. BTW this personalised results thing got me a few years ago as well I was devastated – it’s a cruel feature!!

    But I think the main thing is getting some advice on choosing keywords.

    Using some really rough numbers, even if your site was ranking on the front page for a keyword that gets 100 searches per month, this will probably only bring you 10 or so visitors a month. Using Adwords you could achieve this for $20 or so. Hardly worth the time optimising a site for the sake of $20 / month IMO.

    Choosing the keywords is one of the hardest things to do I think and the more I learn about SEO the more I think people should get some external advice on it. I am a bit biased of course but it’s blown me away how much there is to learn about this stuff. And not only that, good information is very hard to find as people play their cards pretty close to their chest with this stuff.

    All the best in the future and keep us updated with how it goes for you.

    One final thought.

    One of the things I’m going to try to explain to my clients is SEO is about competition and there are various levels of sophistication with SEO.

    For example if you do nothing but a little bit of on-page stuff but your competitor has done that as well as built a whole lot of easy to get, low quality links to their site, they will probably outrank you.

    If you have done onsite optimisation and built a lot of links but your competitor has done that as well as achieved some high quality links, they will beat you.

    It’s all about what you have done in relation to what people competing for the same keywords have done so while onsite stuff might be ok for now (for low traffic keywords) if you want to compete for higher traffic keywords you will find you need to get more sophisticated with your efforts. Similarly if your competitors see you out ranking them by just doing basic onpage and they go an engage an SEO to build links, you will have to ramp your efforts to get back in front.

    Hope that helps.

    #1070983
    DigitalDomination
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    I love the subject of SEO and it amazes me people don’t pay for it or invest serious time to get it done internally.

    Actually, I think most businesses don’t really understand their CPA costs of traditional marketing, or else they’d be jumping all over SEO instead of saying ludicrous things like ‘I only want to pay $150 per month and I expect to be #1 on Google which is going to pinpoint my target audience and drive qualified prospective buyers to my website’.

    Try saying to a newspaper ‘I want to be on your front page each week for a year and I only want to spend $150 p/month’. $30 p/week wouldn’t even get you 3 lines in a classifieds ad.

    #1070984
    Aidan
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    DigitalDomination, post: 89840 wrote:
    … most businesses don’t really understand their CPA costs of traditional marketing… Try saying to a newspaper ‘I want to be on your front page each week for a year and I only want to spend $150 p/month’

    Ay there’s the rub (with apologies to Bill Shakespeare)!

    Some folk just don’t “get it” and have great difficulty understanding the reality of the value involved in some keyword listings and the effort required to access that value!

    I remember some time ago a chap ask me to help get him ranked for a common single word commodity, he thought that he could have it just because he wanted it.

    I pointed out the serious mega brands holding the first SERPs pages and the seriously great sites and industry connections (and links) they have versus his “Welcome to my site” type setup… he still did not get it…

    He is probably some poor SEO’s nightmare right now even though others will have pointed out how he’ll need to spend a couple of million on content research and production as well as offline brand development!

    #1070985
    JanF
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    This topic has raised a lot of interesting issues and I have learned an awful lot! Thank you to everyone that has contributed!

    The question of SEO spend is I think an important one. Many of our clients focus on the “Yellow Pages” or other media advertising without assessing whether that is really the best way to get customers, or what their return on investment is. It should boil down to what the most effective spend for their marketing/advertising budget and strategy is.

    #1070986
    JohnW
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    JanF, post: 90011 wrote:
    The question of SEO spend is I think an important one.
    Hi Jan,
    Even more important is when you spend it.

    If you bring SEO into the website implementation process after the design and development phase, you have left it too late to get optimimum results.

    It is an extremley rare web designer who understands the impact of design and site structure on SEO. Most often an SEO consultant is introduced after the event and ends up going into the ranking battle armed with a butter knife when everyone else has bazookas.

    There have been times when I’ve had to advise a prospective client that their most cost-effective solution is to redesign their brand new website all over again.

    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1070987
    JanF
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    JohnW, post: 90024 wrote:
    Hi Jan,
    Even more important is when you spend it.

    If you bring SEO into the website implementation process after the design and development phase, you have left it too late to get optimimum results.

    It is an extremley rare web designer who understands the impact of design and site structure on SEO. Most often an SEO consultant is introduced after the event and ends up going into the ranking battle armed with a butter knife when everyone else has bazookas.

    There have been times when I’ve had to advise a prospective client that their most cost-effective solution is to redesign their brand new website all over again.

    Regs,
    JohnW

    Unfortunately, I am sure recommending a complete redesign to optimise SEO is not unusual.

    I suspect this stems from how few potential web developer’s clients understand how to market/sell on the web and the “I need it now and I don’t have time to put a lot of effort into it” attitude. You can’t optimise SEO if you don’t understand your client’s customer base and how their potential customers are searching for their products. No-one wants to spend money on copy and SEO upfront as there is this wild misconception out there that once you have a website, everything else happens automatically.

    Then there is the “I can’t afford to spend much on a website”. So if someone is offering to give you a 5 page website for $399 and $50 per month, you assume you are getting the whole deal – including SEO. And of course the web developers would rather have $399 and the $50 per month than not have it. The underlying assumption is, I think, that customers will eventually spend the money on copy and SEO. More likely the customers will just be disappointed and upset that they have to pay lots more to get what they wanted (and thought they were getting) in the first place. We have seen this time and time again.

    Personally, I think web developers would do their clients a better service if they explained a lot more about the right way to go about building a website upfront (including SEO optimisation). Such as the steps suggested earlier in this topic.

    #1070988
    DigitalDomination
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    JanF, post: 90036 wrote:
    Personally, I think web developers would do their clients a better service if they explained a lot more about the right way to go about building a website upfront (including SEO optimisation). Such as the steps suggested earlier in this topic.

    I totally agree with this Jan. This was my pet peeve and the reason i started DD. There’s a real shortfall with online marketing and i’ll try to explain why;

    A lot of web designers only do web design – but often don’t know anything at all about SEO.

    SEO guys aren’t always worried about conversions, they’re simply a lead generation tool.

    PPC guys don’t always have access to the web design, so can’t optimise or create landing pages to make campaigns more effective.

    Social Media guys don’t always understand the SEO, Web Design or PPC strategies with their campaigns, and may only point people to your social media pages, when in some cases (not all) they might be better off channelled the other way.

    Web designers aren’t always providing analytics to split test and optimise for conversion.

    Content creation is often secondary, but it should be one of the most primary concerns for any website, PPC or SEO campaign!

    The list goes on!

    That’s why DD provides all the above as a one stop shop who does the lot. It reduces costs and provides far greater synergy across the board. We also provide a hell of a lot of training for on-page SEO so business owners can regularly add content and then our monthly review only involves small bits of tweaking here and there.

    #1070989
    JohnSheppard
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    JanF, post: 90036 wrote:
    Personally, I think web developers would do their clients a better service if they explained a lot more about the right way to go about building a website upfront (including SEO optimisation). Such as the steps suggested earlier in this topic.

    Better service = higher cost. People like to bury their heads in their sand in regards to this.

    #1070990
    JanF
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    JohnSheppard, post: 90058 wrote:
    Better service = higher cost. People like to bury their heads in their sand in regards to this.

    Actually I think Better Service = More Income!

    The key is always to enable a customer to make an informed decision.

    1. The benefits of SEO should at least be presented to a customer before any web development work starts – a one pager would more than suffice.
    2. Submission of a site to Search Engines should also be part of every web build – it is a five minute job and starts to build information that can be used to explain things later. Provided the customer does not sell hundreds of different products, a one page questionnaire could provide enough information to do a 10 to 20 minute keyword suggestions excercise so that a customer could be told what words need to be included in their copy.
    3. Getting the web sites of a customers main competitors and doing a back link search on those (this is not magic and my bet is that most SEO experts use software to help them with this), would provide the customer with a list of the main web directories they should add their site to.

    This way the learning foundation for SEO would already be in place.

    Checking and tracking the customers website ranking on a weekly basis (and again SEO’s use software for this) would again only take a few minutes. Making a phone call or sending an email to the customer every few weeks to inform them how their site is fairing would keep the relationship going (the fact that their site actually climbs in the rankings even if from spot 500 to spot 400 will re-inforce the fact that what you told them to do as a minimum works). When their site ranking stops climbing they will want to do something about it.

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