Expectations in Search Engine Optimization

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I have been in this industry for several years now and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is people’s expectations when it comes to search engine optimization (also known as SEO).   Search engine optimization is the art and science of adjusting a website’s internal components in combination with creating enough relevant “Link Juice” or page rank so that Google or other search engines deem your site credible enough to rank well for the phrases pages in the website are focused towards.Just as a little background on myself, I originally started in this industry working at an SEO “chop shop” where I would handle 60-80 clients on average.  The monthly service fees were very low, around the $200-$600 range.   Not surprisingly this was some of the only affordable SEO packages that very small businesses and startups would be able to afford.   I would provide keyword research, title tags, description tags, optimized content, structural recommendations and some of the basic SEO services.  For sites that had some credibility, meaning some existing Page Rank, we could see great results and very nice gains in positioning.

These businesses that were already around for a couple of years, had some Page Rank and already had a solid business plan that was already proving effective, understood that SEO was a way to enhance their positioning and drive more traffic.  They didn’t have the expectations that this single marketing channel would either make or break their business venture.

The problem was with the smaller business owners and startups who would place all of there hope and success of their business in this theory that they could go out and find the cheapest SEO packages available, and expect for their website to all of a sudden rank on the first page of Google for very competitive phrases. There are several inherent problems with this idea.  First and foremost, if any SEO could easily optimize a start-up website with only 5-10 hours per month without a significant budget for paid links, and get first page results in Google for any phrases that generate traffic, you wouldn’t be able to hire that person.   They would be too busy making tons of money working for themselves doing exactly that.   Creating a website and loading content is easy. If that’s your only asset and you come to an SEO with dreams of generating thousands of daily visits without a functional business and marketing plan with serious investment in time or money, your expectations are significantly skewed.

The second problem with this is that there is already a hundreds if not thousands of other websites that already have the same idea, are targeting the same keyword phrases, and have the same title tags, description tags, and optimized content.   What sets apart the websites that rank high for the phrases you want is credibility and trust.  Credibility is given based on how long your site has existed and the number and quality of other sites that link to you.  Without some serious blackhat search engine optimization efforts, you won’t be able to increase the age associated with your site or see a sizable difference in your backlink structure without a large budget for purchasing backlinks.  Neither of which you are going to get with a low end SEO package. Businesses that are already established and have a strong brand develop a quality external link structure and continue to build organic links on a daily basis.

The last major issue I see with the expectations of low budget SEO packages are the values associated with being successful.   If you can successfully rank for all the phrases that are relevant towards your business, it could potentially mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue if you are an ecommerce business or generate profits via ad revenue.   If a company could provide that level of success, they would be charging a lot more because they would know the value of their services.

I’m not suggesting all low end search engine optimization packages are worthless, I just think that your expectations should be correctly set.  What you will get will be some keyword research, some title tags, maybe some structural recommendations, and if your lucky, some optimized content.   If your site has a strong brand with a good bit of Google Page Rank supporting your site, you might be able to see a good impact.  But if you’re in that boat, you certainly don’t want to stop there.  You need to be analyzing your traffic, running A/B and multivariate tests, calculating your cost per conversions, identifying your ROI per channels/keywords and spending much more time than any low budget SEO program will allow for because you are the company that will benefit the most from more time spent on these areas.

On the other hand, if your site is brand new, it’s going to require a lot more effort, time, and investment to see any type of significant results.  Either way, a low budget SEO package that spends less than 5 hrs per month won’t be able to generate the results that their marketing may lead you to believe.    One last thing to note, “Search Engine Submission” should be a dead giveaway that you need to steer clear.