One of my clients asked me an excellent question this morning: “What would you recommend as a low cost/highly effective approach for our ongoing SEO?”
My answer to her had to do with her particular circumstances, but the general question is a good one for most of us. In the modern world, all businesses need SEO. That doesn’t mean that all businesses can find room in the budget for the cost of full-time SEO. How can you get the most bang for your online marketing buck?
After pondering the question for a while, I have the answer.
Here’s a common situation. Imagine a professional service provider who needs new web content. We can do what they need done for just a little bit less than the profit from one new client. They have been contemplating for a couple of weeks now, and have not had any new clients coming in from their website. How many clients did they lose by failing to have their website up and visible? If they are able to find someone to do it for them for free next week, they will still have lost money by delaying. And that’s assuming they find someone free and just as good, and you know good SEO writers don’t grow on trees.
Consider another case. Let’s say hypothetically that you’re a jazz guitarist, willing to play private parties in the town where I live. You invest in a series of clever and popular YouTube entries showing that you are a “ninja guitarpicker” and comment all over the social sites as “ninja guitarpicker,” gaining a bunch of links in the process. Perhaps you congratulate yourself on having done all this SEO yourself, at the cost only of a hundred hours of your own time and sandwiches for your cameraman. When I go to my favorite search engine and type in something like, “jazz guitarist for private parties in Fayetteville,” your #1 ranking at Yahoo for “ninja guitarpicker” won’t mean a thing. You will be invisible to me.
Neither of these cases is actually economical SEO, even if they chose cheap options.
Choosing effective SEO
So your least expensive option, considering ROI and opportunity cost, is probably to hire an expert like me to come up with a strategy for you. Then set one of your less expensive employees to do the basic things that don’t take expertise: submitting to directories, for example, inviting your current customers to visit your website, signing your company up at professional networking sites, and stamping your URL on everything you ever give out that will take ink.
Once you begin to see the return on your investment, you can determine what part of your marketing budget ought to go toward online marketing rather than print or TV. But you can’t make that determination without having done some effective SEO first. And without keeping good track of your results, you won’t know which efforts paid off best and should be ongoing. So at the very least you should begin with some expert analysis and some foundational SEO using current best practices.
SEO, after all, is marketing. If you wouldn’t advertise your dental practice in Catfancy magazine, don’t rely on random blog comment spam and think you’ve tried SEO. If you wouldn’t stand on the corner saying, “Pssst! Wanna buy a Rolex cheap?” then don’t use blackhat techniques and think you’ve done online marketing. And don’t try a one-shot approach and hope for long term results.
Instead, do what you do with any marketing plan. Use available data to determine an effective strategy, commit to a long-term effort, test, and adjust for new data. This is the way to make sure you get the best return on your investment — and that’s what marketing is all about.