How to Make Sure Your SEO Delivers the ROI You Are Seeking
If you are building a business, you know that you need to develop a multifaceted and progressive marketing plan that makes it easier for customers to find your company in practically any medium. That means knowing when it is time to make room for a new investment, and how much to invest. This is true whether you are shopping for print advertising, SEO, or management services that allow you to set a marketing plan and monitor it while outsourced labor carries it out. Every new avenue for your marketing efforts is unique, too, meaning that you will need to learn to understand how to invest wisely every single time you start working on a new type of marketing.
Preparing for Search Engine Optimization
The first thing to understand about search engine optimization is that it is one part of digital marketing, but it is not the whole thing. For it to be useful, you will need to have a constellation of digital marketing tools already developed, including:
- Social media platforms built on popular networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
- A basic web site, preferably with some kind of blog
- Online contact information, including but not limited to an email
If you have not set these elements of your company’s digital profile in place yet, many SEO companies will offer to build them from scratch for you. It’s important to note, though, that if you are starting from scratch, your investment will have a little more overhead and take a little longer. It may be worthwhile to start with DIY optimization strategies until these components are all in place.
“White Hat” vs. “Black Hat” Operations
The other important thing to understand about services that help you with search engine management is that they do not all operate alike. “White hat” operations use link building strategies and search engine optimization strategies that abide by Google’s best practices, ensuring that their results are lasting and that the search engines will not fight back against your efforts. “Black hat” strategies are aggressive techniques that take advantage of the search engine algorithm with tactics that work on the search engine without providing any content for human interaction.
Black hat techniques include, but are not limited to:
- Link Farms: A group of websites that create massive numbers of links to all the sites in the group
- Hidden Text: Text that is optimized with keyword content but then hidden in the background by making the text color the same as the background color
- Keyword Stuffing: Putting keywords in the headers and metadata where they will not be seen by anyone or anything other than the search engine bots
- Blog Spam: Posting spam links in the comments of blogs that are unrelated to your goods or services
- Parasite Hosting: Hosting a website on someone else’s server without their consent
- Scraping: Stealing content from another site, either to take advantage of its design features or its literal text
- Cloaking: This is when the content presented to the search engine’s bots is different from that experienced by the user.
White hat techniques, on the other hand, involve respecting the terms of service and operating in ways that preserve the transparency of your business model and provide quality content to human users. They include:
- Guest Blogging: You can create links back to your site easily by blogging on other sites because this spreads your company’s name and contact information across a network of sites for people with relevant interests
- Link Baiting: When you write something or post something that will get people linking to your site, that is link baiting
- Internal Linking: Creating links to other pages on your site within each page
- Quality Content: The more useful and insightful your content is, the more you will find users sharing and linking to it, and the easier it will be to optimize your company’s efforts
- Site Optimization: By rewriting your site with the best practices for search engine optimization in mind, service providers can keep your content fresh while keeping the right balance of keywords in it
How Much Should You Invest in an SEO Plan?
There are a variety of ways to approach search engine optimization, but one of the most common is to look at what you get at the bottom line. In this way, you can see what kinds of efforts you are likely to earn at each level when you turn over your online presence to a management company. What you need to remember is that like most other investments, you tend to get what you put in as long as you are conscientious about who you work with.
The best way to figure out what you should be spending is to set a goal and then to get a quote to see what kind of costs you will incur. It’s understandable that this approach is not always possible. In that case, you might want to pay to outsource as much of your digital marketing as you can while retaining a few efforts for your in-house team as a way of saving money.
Here is a general look at what you can expect for service at each price tier:
- Below $500 per Month: Odds are, at this price you are better off taking a class and doing what you can do on your own. That’s because services at this level tend to use a lot of black hat techniques, and their efforts may eventually hurt your rankings if they break search engine terms of service.
- Between $1k and $5k per Month: If your website is not complex and your business is small with low to medium competition, this is about where you want to be spending. This kind of budget will see you move forward with the most important steps, like internal linking and site optimization.
- $5k to $10k per Month: At this price point, you are dealing with experienced companies that can provide you with all the services you need and proof of success in their past partnerships.
- $10k to $20k per Month: This is the level where you can count on turning your marketing operations over to the experts and reaping the rewards.
Keep in mind that if you are developing an in-house marketing team to take over any of the white hat strategies above, you can also work with a marketing partner for a la carte services. That way, you can develop the exact marketing strategy your company needs.