SEO Guide

SEO Guide: Spend Wisely

SEO budgetMy SEO guide, “Are You Wasting Money on SEO,”  looks at 10 key considerations, including:

  • Misconceptions about how SEO is or isn’t integrated into web development
  • Unrealistic keyword phrase preferences
  • How to look at SEO in view of other successful online marketing efforts
  • Why SEO isn’t a one-time exercise
  • Sizing up the SEO talent
  • Understanding the project scope

1. Build It and They Will Come – NOT

If that’s your attitude, don’t think for a second that SEO is going to be your cure to online marketing ills.

It doesn’t happen often, but I still speak with small business owners who mistakenly believe that SEO will just kind of happen when a web site is built. Maybe they read an article or attended a free seminar at a hotel. The executives put a few SEO techniques into play and think they will be at the top of Bing, Google and Yahoo! for their favorite keyword phrases.

It’s such a shortsighted perspective.

2. Leaving SEO in the Hands of Web Developers

I’m not saying web developers can’t succeed with SEO. Many won’t for one simple reason: they’re not keyword professionals. Knowing the mechanics of SEO like page titles and keyword-rich URLs will only take you so far.

Too often, business owners have told me they assumed their web developer took care of the SEO. What good is it to pay for some SEO if you don’t rank for relevant keyword phrases? If you rank poorly, other web sites benefit from the search engine traffic, not you. Where is the return on investment?

3. It’s Just Not A Priority

Sometimes other marketing consumes budgets and resources. If you spend a little on SEO – and refuse to make a commitment – then the limited amount that you do free up could be a poor use of your money.

Representatives of a Fortune 500 company reached out to me in 2013 and confirmed that the company doesn’t have an SEO strategy. Really? I guess SEO will seem like a complete waste of time and money if it doesn’t make your radar. A highly competitive keyword phrase ranked #5 on Google for them. The problem was that they didn’t have a plan to pursue

related keyword phrases that could perform better with some effort.

SEO sometimes needs to take a backseat.

Often, companies know all about SEO and would like to consider it. But it doesn’t get on the priority plate when other forms of marketing work well – and rightfully eat up limited resources (time and money).

For example, if your email marketing programs are pulling their weight, why divert money from them for SEO? Of course, the company’s overall budget could be reviewed and some money allocated to SEO. But if other efforts are working, SEO may not be needed – at least not now.

Unfortunately, businesses will never know what SEO could accomplish.

4. Is Your Baby Ugly?

People take pride in their Internet presence, just like a proud parent would never say his or her baby is ugly.

But let’s be real here. Is your web site hideous? Is it a disaster? Is it trite? Does it look like an 8th grader gave it his best shot and came up short?

If your web site design sucks, maybe you should hold back on the SEO. It sounds like you may have a better option for the money. Hire a web site designer.

Sure, you can get more search engine traffic, but will the visitors stick around? Will they respond if you have compelling calls to action?

Can you imagine this scenario? A web site like yours gets 5,000 visitors a month from search engines and sells a product 12 times. That’s what happens when your design has issues.

Yes, you can get more sales with more search engine traffic. But spruce up your design and you will get more sales before you spend another dime on SEO.

5. Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations?

What kind of keywords do you want to rank for on Google? What criteria did you use? If it’s just a notion or you’re shooting from the hip, you should stop. Ego and presumption can work out well (your business instincts can help). But you can also blow through the cash just because you think you know what keywords you should target.

Hire someone to help you put some serious thought into keyword research and selection before you commit to a long-term plan and possibly waste a lot of money.

Can you imagine picking out pie-in-the-sky keyword phrases and paying someone to shoot for first page rankings? They may not succeed after charging you a hefty fee.

6. Do You Think SEO Is a One-Time Event?

Your patience or impatience could have an adverse effect on your SEO efforts. If you think search engine optimization is a short-term endeavor, you’re dead wrong.

Maybe you’ll sign up for three months and cancel the whole thing. Talk about wasting cash. Great, so you got on the first page of Google? Don’t you think the highest rankings get the most search engine traffic? Why settle for a #9 ranking? Worse, you could be ranking #99 (like anyone will ever find you that deep).

What if the SEO consulting firm gets you to #15 after four months? But you decide you’re not getting your money’s worth. Your speed to the top depends on all sorts of factors like the competitiveness of the keyword phrase, your content and the ranking favor you get from a growing mix of inbound links from authoritative web sites.

7. What ROI Do You Need to Beat?

You should know what to expect from SEO before you decide to throw cash at it.

How successful is your other online advertising? If you don’t know, that’s a problem. Please don’t evaluate SEO based on how many of your favorite keywords rank well on Google.

If you do document your ROI with other advertising, SEO should at least match or exceed that performance. Get the data before giving your SEO money to someone.

If you don’t have a good handle on your ROI, it’s time to start. Sure, you can experiment with SEO if you have nothing else to reference. But you can still think about your true costs, not just what you need to pay for SEO. Make note of the cost of products and services you sell, including your overhead. In other words, you hardly want to spend $1,000 a month on SEO and only get back $3,000. A “return” like that could be awful when you look closely at all of the financial data.

8. Size Up Your Talent

Why pay an SEO consultant like me to do work that your staff can handle? Do employees already have some skills that you can leverage?

Ask someone to research some keywords so you can pay the SEO expert less money for less time. Be prepared to write your own meta descriptions. Post your own updates.

Of course, there could be “opportunity costs” If you require someone on your team to perform SEO tasks (so you save some money), he may not tackle something else that’s just as important to you. Or, if you’re the owner of a small business – and you decide to dive into SEO – be sure to think about the networking, planning, and sales opportunities that you’re not pursuing while getting engrossed in an SEO self-study.

9. Focus on Copywriting

It’s one of the most overlooked skill sets. Dreadful text content is almost as bad as a second-rate web site design.

If you produce and post considerable information, you will generate some search engine traffic.

Besides, why ask an SEO professional to write the copy when you may be the subject matter expert? Or, you could pay a writer who really understands your business? A good copywriter isn’t inexpensive, but the value will be evident.

The SEO consultant can manipulate the content to get the highest possible rankings.

If you don’t provide a search engine optimization consultant with ample content, your SEO campaign will likely fall well below your expectations.

10. Document the Scope

You need to get a handle on what you’re buying if you’re going to spend money on SEO.

Agencies are big on packages because that makes it “easy” for companies to digest what they’re buying. And agencies love packages because they don’t need to create a custom proposal for each prospect.

The reality is that packages aren’t perfect for everyone. In other words, just because a consulting firm offers something in a package doesn’t mean you need that particular service.

For example, there is nothing wrong with including a competitor analysis. Who wouldn’t want one? But what does it cover? How much effort is going into that in light of everything else in the package? What about link building? How much is offered and what is it supposed to accomplish?

Packages need to be scrutinized. How are keywords determined? Can they be revised? How often? Who writes the content? Who makes changes to the web site? Who handles the CSS? How will the agency work with your existing developer who maybe doesn’t understand all of the technical and visible content considerations for SEO?

Make sure you’re very comfortable with the terminology and the amount of work an agency pledges to provide.

In one sense, you really just want to achieve the ROI you agree to target with the agency. But make sure they deliver what they promise as well. Otherwise, you may find yourself looking at some reports with no certainty that you got your money’s worth.


Take care of your money and don’t be too quick to spend it on search engine optimization. Make sure you have a web site that’s worth sending people to in the first place.

If you’re going to invest in SEO, start small and deal with the most critical elements. Hopefully, any consultant you decide to pay will be flexible so you only need to pay for what you need.

If agencies require long-term contracts, that’s completely reasonable given their existing overhead, teams, and business structure. But you can locate qualified experts who will find a way to help you and your company leverage what SEO can offer – at the right time and the right price.