Many of our potential clients ask, “How much does it cost to get results with SEO?” The answer: it depends on your objectives.
Search Engine Optimisation offers outstanding value for many clients and is close to useless for others. In this article, I’ll help you gain a firmer understanding of how to get on page one and the expected investment in a traffic-increasing strategy per month.
What SEO includes
To understand how much SEO services cost, we first need to clarify what SEO experts do.
To be clear, SEO is not advertising. It is a long game strategy to build trust, reliability and findability with your users.
In essence, search engine optimisation (SEO) helps search engines to organically show your site when someone enters a relevant search term. The factors that search algorithms look for to ‘choose’ your website fit into two main areas: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
How to improve SEO
To begin, define the keywords for which you’d love to rank. These will form the basis of your SEO strategy. Don’t rely on your singular perspective; research what potential customers are Googling (or Binging). For example, we might want Juicebox to appear in results for ‘web design perth‘.
It’s wise to assess the search volumes (amount of searches) for your keywords before optimising. Higher search volumes can generate more website traffic. However, if those terms are too generic, you run the risk of your website not being relevant to the people who visit. Buh-bow. You’ll see your bounce rate (% of people who arrive and close your website without navigating to another page) increase.
Tip: you can assess search volumes using Google’s own Trends tool. This allows you to see monthly volumes as well as other recommended terms easily. It’s free.
A seasoned SEO provider will also consider the competition for a particular keyword. The volume may be there but that doesn’t mean you should choose that keyword if there is a lot of competition. It may take several months, sometimes years to rank for a highly sought after keyword. Typically you look to discover keywords where there is volume, less competition and therefore more opportunity for results.
Now that we have our terms, it’s time to start optimising.
Let’s start with on-page SEO
On-page SEO is editing and optimising your website itself. To drive page one results for your keywords, let’s decide which pages on your website should rank for which terms.
Search engines prefer individual pages to be optimised for individual terms rather than all of your pages optimised for many terms, it helps them to determine which page on your website to display for a specific term.
Focuses for good on-page SEO
Website page speed: How fast your website loads is essential to rankings and conversions. Optimising image sizes, compressing code and making changes to your server all make a difference.
Tip: a quick way to see how your website performs is by using Google Page Speed Insights (A score or 80 or more is ideal for mobile and desktop).
A good SEO provider will set a performance target and keep you updated with the changes made to get you to where you need to be.
Website page structure: This is commonly referred to as ‘crawlability’ or how easily search engines can review your website code and rank. One factor is ensuring a reasonable number of links throughout your website to relevant content. Another would be utilising code such as ‘schema markup’ which helps enhance how your page is displayed in search engines.
Website links: It’s important to ensure all of your website links are working (including old links indexed by search engines) to give you the best chance of ranking.
Page metadata: Metadata is the content which Google uses to display your website as results. These can be continually adjusted and experimented with to increase the click through rate (% of people who click your result over just seeing it).
Your ‘page title’ is the primary blue text whilst your ‘page description’ is the text below.
As a guide, aim for 60 characters maximum for your title and 150 characters for your description for the most effective results.
Page URL: Commonly referred to as the page ‘slug’ the page URL is the address in the top of your browser. This can be optimised to include the relevant keywords you are trying to rank for..
Page content: Your website content is critical in helping you achieve page one results. Ensuring you have the right amount of text and that it has a good keyword density (amount of and relevancy of keywords) is one key way to improve page content. Also, correctly assigning the right content to your ‘H1’ (or first heading) greatly assists in rankings.
Regularly adding updated content to your website in the form of blogs and refreshing existing service and product page content will also encourage search engines to crawl your website more regularly and help rank for your focus keywords.
Image ‘alt’ tags: Website images contain ‘alt’ or alternative tags to display text should the image not be able to be displayed. This text is descriptive of the content of the image and can be used as another way to optimise page content for your relevant keywords.
In any given month, a committed SEO provider will be constantly reviewing these factors and improving/adjusting them to perform better.
Tip: One excellent way to measure performance is to use a tool like WebCEO.
What about off-page SEO?
Now that your website itself is as optimised on-page, we need to think about its position in the broader internet. Search engines effectively work by analysing links. When a search engine sees many links related to certain keywords pointing to your website, it ranks the site higher for those keywords.
With that in mind, off-page SEO is the process of ensuring you have the most relevant links for the right keywords on other websites or services. A couple of key factors which a good SEO provider will optimise for are:
Link building: Despite what many online services promise, there’s no fast and cheap way to create effective backlinks. Be weary of providers offering you guaranteed page one results for $99. Quality backlinks take time and nothing is guaranteed with SEO. Search engines prefer backlinks that are genuine, their algorithms know when a page is stuffed with back-links to unrelated websites, which is generally what very cheap providers do. Utilising poor quality back-links can even have your website penalised in search results.
Creating awesome content will naturally attract other websites and blogs to link to yours, so a well thought out content strategy should be put in place.
Social media mentions: In addition to backlinks Google also looks at broader mentions for your brand online. This could be through any social media channel such as Facebook or LinkedIn, as well as online forums. Adding back-links to these helps, but mentions themselves are also powerful.
Citations: There are a plethora of services online which list your business details. These are commonly referred to as directories (think Yellow Pages online). Identifying new directories to add your details to (and ensuring they’re consistent) can help with rankings.
Tip: Google’s ‘My Business’ is a must for having your business details displayed in Google services.
How long do results take?
Again, be weary of providers selling page one results in two weeks for a very low cost. Anything is possible, but in our experience that is unlikely.
Google’s own recommendation is: “In most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefit.”
That’s right, four months to a year. Good things take time. However, we have had results sooner.
Here is a graph of one of our own clients from Google’s own Search Console tool. We commenced optimising the website around August, with impressions (display results) doubling around three months later.
So what’s the cost?
Now that we’ve run through the key factors in ranking your website on page one, what goes into it and how long results take, it should be easy to provide a cost for getting you on page one right? Well, again, it’s not so simple.
Like anything, all optimisation takes time. How much time is spent and the cost per hour generally determines the cost for a good SEO provider. SEO should also be considered as a monthly expense – once the optimisation stops, your competitors can quickly overtake you. It’s likely that they are already driven to make changes and optimisation for your preferred keywords because search engines prefer constantly updated websites.
All that being said, to cover all of the items above per month, you can expect the monthly hours to be between 8 to 16. If this cost is too high, then a good SEO provider will prioritise budget per month to get the most impact. With more time spent per month you can expect better results.
Most importantly, you should look for an SEO provider that is transparent in communication and reporting, mentions the good with the bad and tells you without jargon what they are doing.
We’re always happy to have a chat so if you have any questions about SEO and would like to speak with a consultant, why not contact us?