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Stephen Logan

Can SEO Ever Really Ever be Cheap?

10th Feb 2011 SEO Blog 5 minutes to read

Search Engine Optimisation is a process. To some, including Koozai, it is a service. As with any process or service, an investment is required. Whether that’s time or money, SEO requires input.

Whenever you buy a product or service, cost is an inevitable factor; and it’s only human nature to seek out the best possible deal. However, cutting costs can also lead to a reduction in the quality of the end product. This means that you have to weigh up the amount you’re paying against what you’re actually receiving.

When it comes to cheap SEO, you will almost always get what you pay for.

To explain this further let’s use a Copywriter’s favourite tool – the analogy.

Imagine you’ve bought some land and want to build a store on it. That’s pretty much what you do when you get yourself a domain and prepare to setup an ecommerce site. Straightforward so far.

Now, you’ve got three options:

1) You learn the skills required and do it yourself
2) You hire an accredited professional to do the work for you
3) You hire a cut-rate labourer

The first option is entirely plausible and is popular amongst many. However, it will take a long time to learn the basics of masonry (content writing), electrical wiring (navigation) and plumbing (link building) as well as the small, fiddly jobs. Then of course you have to actually carry out the work.

This is undoubtedly the cheapest option. Unfortunately though, instead of being a financial investment, it is in fact a major investment of time. For many, time is a far more precious commodity than money; others though have plenty to spare – particularly where their business is concerned.

One issue with the DIY method though is that you can never be completely sure that what you’re doing is correct. It might look fine, it might even follow most of the guidelines, but one small structural error and the rest of your hard work may be undermined.

So for instance, you may not have read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and were therefore oblivious to the fact that you shouldn’t buy all your links or pay for entry into a friendly link farm. Small errors of judgement can undermine your entire site. This could see you bumped off of Google for a short period or have rankings lowered across the board – either way, not great [for a genuine example see: When Gambling with Paid Links Backfires (and What Lessons Can Be Learnt)].

Therefore, this isn’t an ideal choice for many individuals or companies – particularly those with limited time and/or patience. But DIY SEO is certainly viable if are prepared to learn and implement everything to the letter.

Choosing to go Cheap

If you were to go down the route of hiring an SEO agency or consultant to manage your site’s optimisation affairs, then the financial implications come to the forefront. When you’re operating on a tight budget, as many small to medium sized businesses are, you want to make sure that you get value for every penny you invest.

This is where you might encounter the myth of cheap SEO. Charlatans touting guaranteed Google rankings for £200.

Returning to our analogy, this would be like hiring a builder who only works for cash in hand (“if anyone asks, I was never here, right?”). Fine, they may well deliver what they promise; but if you look closely at the scrawled notes on the tattered invoice, you’ll see that their original promise wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

More often than not your ranking will come by way of a Google Places listing. That’s great. However, it’s also free and easy to do yourself. Their total input will be to insert the information you’ve provided, email Google and then request payment. There is zero value in this, regardless of how little it costs.

If they do actually do some SEO work on your site, then the outcome can be equally underwhelming. Assuming they don’t ruin your content by slapping keywords in everywhere or flood the site with worthless/improperly sourced links, the only ranking you’re likely to get is a random long-tail phrase that gets a few searches each year.

This would be like having your cash in hand labourer build the store out of ultra-realistic polystyrene blocks. On the surface everything looks good, but your long-term future is far from uncertain. There again it is so much cheaper than building with bricks and mortar, plus it could work, right?

In reality though, it’s fine until the next storm (i.e. Google finds your dirty deeds) when your business will be scattered all over the place and nobody will find you.

But the final option comes at a substantial cost. It’s a huge investment to make and certainly not one that can be taken lightly. This is where you bring in a reputable SEO.

Choosing the Premium SEO Option

It is akin to getting the best local builders to create and fit out your store. They’ve done it successfully for most other businesses in your area, so why not? Well, cost for one.

Experience and expertise in any industry will cost money. Things may even still go wrong, so why is this any better than choosing somebody who charges a fraction of the price and is willing to make incredible guarantees?

It’s true that in SEO, nothing is guaranteed. Just as I couldn’t promise you a number one ranking, I also couldn’t 100% confirm that an influx of strong links will help you along the way – it absolutely should, but that doesn’t constitute a watertight guarantee. You are at the mercy of the search engines, everybody is. But an SEO expert knows what it is that the search engine is looking for and can help your site meet these expectations. This is where they can really earn their crust.

Cheap SEO and the cost of SEO generally have little to do with performance guarantees. If you’re serious about your online business, then you have to give it the respect it deserves. You wouldn’t hand your high street store over to cowboy builders, so why should that be any different online? An unattainable guarantee is unattainable in any environment.

By buying into SEO whole heartedly, whether implementing it yourself or investing in a reputable expert, you should get more out of it. Perhaps not overnight, but almost certainly over the long-term (taking care not to provide an absolute guarantee). It has worked for tens of thousands of companies throughout the world, so why not you?

Don’t make the mistake of believing unrealistic sales patter. You won’t get something for nothing, no matter how simple it may sound. SEO comes at a cost and a high one at that. However, that is weighed up against reward – that’s why so many continue to invest in it. By all means seek out the best value, but don’t fall prey to a scammers, shysters and con artists who offer nothing more than a list of empty guarantees and polystyrene buildings.

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