Testimonial From Tracy Lange

Of all the wonderful and unusual places in the world, I first met Tracy Lange and her husband Norbert while on a boat trip in the Crystal Bay off the island of Comino. That was back in the summer of 2012.

Tracy is Managing Director of Salt Partners Limited, a corporate services firm based in Naxxar here in Malta. Their market is quite crowded with lots of law firms and consultancies competing for business. I began helping them with the SEO for their website in January.

Take it away Tracy…

“We began working with Stuart in January this year. At the time, we couldn’t find our site in the top 100 in Google for the phrases that we are interested in. By the start of February we had the elements Stuart recommended in place and we were ranking in the 70s. Some tweaks and some magic later and by early April we were ranking at number 2 for these phrases. The progress has been very impressive.”

Would You Rather Pay For SEO Tasks Or For SEO Results?

As a client, what do you want from an SEO provider?

A couple of days ago I was sent a proposal by a friend. Her organisation is looking for SEO help, has spoken to another firm and she very kindly wanted to know how I compared.

In many ways it was a standard proposal document from the competitor. It contained a list of tasks that would be performed once and another list of tasks that would be performed monthly, all for a set monthly fee and a twelve month commitment.

What was missing from the proposal document was any mention of whether the tasks being described result in consistently high search engine rankings. This is the issue though, isn’t it…?

Businesses seek out professional help because they have a problem and they would like it solved. In this instance, the problem could be stated as, “Our company website does not rank on page one of Google, we believe it is important that it does, but we do not know how to generate those SEO results and we need help”.

In contrast, the underlying message being provided by the firm’s proposal is something like this, “We will perform some tasks each month that relate to your website. The tasks we will perform may or may not help your website to rank more highly. We will find out together during the coming twelve months”.

Unfortunately for this particular company, the tasks they list could best be described as 2009 SEO, or pre-Panda-and-Penguin SEO. This means that actually, the tasks they list are not all that helpful to most websites and may actually result in more harm than good. Still, we’ll all find out in the coming twelve months!

This whole approach is one of the major problems with the SEO sector. There are just too many people selling services with little to no idea if they will actually generate any rankings. This particular firm is a great example.

By luck, they are also based here in Malta and in their presentation they mention the good rankings they have. As someone that checks the rankings for “SEO Malta” and related phrases several times per week (I like seeing my own sites ranking highly – it is shameless ego!) I have never heard of them. (Actually, I just checked and I can’t find them in the top 100 for any of the phrases in their homepage title tag – this is not a good sign.)

One size does not fit all
As much as I like the concept of productised service offerings, one size does not usually fit all – especially in SEO.

Figuring out what actions will work to rank a website includes understanding the relative strength and competitiveness of the site in question compared to the sites that are already ranking in the top ten for the target keywords. Just quoting companies with an attitude of “we do these tasks” leaves the buyers to understand and assess whether there is any value in the work being done themselves. This is clearly unfair on the purchasers since they are looking for advice and a solution. What they are being offered is avoidance from advice.

Comically, firms like this typically justify the situation by saying something like, “most of our clients choose this option”, which is another way of saying, “this is the thing we sell and our clients don’t know what they are buying”.

SEO is situational
In reality, there are many occasions where a search phrase is dominated by powerful and authoritative websites. These sites might be commercial, news or information based. If the client site is relatively weak in comparison, then what? Should you still sell the same package because, “this is what everybody else buys”? Of course not – the client will need to put in a lot more work and probably needs to spend a lot more money to see the rankings they want. This approach is – in my mind – in denial of reality.

A one size fits all approach only really works if the clients understand the topic well enough to already know that what you sell is what they need. In the world of SEO, if they know that, they probably don’t need to buy from you.

What is the solution to this? Personally, I think that SEOs should mostly be paid on results. That seems fair to me. There are many ways that this could be arranged, such as a low upfront fee and then a bonus on delivery of rankings or a monthly service tailored to the client where they pay an ongoing fee for rankings provided. I personally like the incentivised options that I have structured with some of my clients.

Clearly, only being paid on results has its limits. If your site is brand new and the competition is well established and tough, it might take twelve months or more of regular effort to achieve any sort of rankings, in which case, as a client you will not be offered a performance only deal. Additionally, for those new and weak sites, they will need a budget to be spent on all sorts of things as well – no consultant could be expected to take that on, unless the payoff for success was very, very significant.

What is clear to me is that since the Panda and Penguin updates by Google, most web design agencies have stopped offering SEO services because they realise that they no longer know how to generate the SEO results and rankings their clients are hoping for. These guys, it seems, haven’t figured that out yet either…

Testimonial From Bruce Beckett

I first met Bruce in London in 2011 at the SEO conference organised by myself and my Slovenian sparring partner, Tomaz Mencinger. Bruce is a super chap with a wonderful English sense of humour.

“I have benefited greatly from Stuart Langridge’s professional expertise, particularly in search engine optimisation. His knowledge is second to none, drawn from his many years on the frontline of SEO and website marketing. His speciality is offering practical solutions that work in the real world. I have no hesitation in recommending his services.”
Bruce Beckett, South London

Thanks Bruce :-)

The World’s Most Expensive Backlink?

In recent posts I have written about the rising costs of SEO and the lack of understanding of this by most small businesses. Today, I thought I would write about something bordering on the ridiculous that happened to me in 2009.

If there ever happens to be a competition for the world’s most expensive backlink, I would like this story to be entered…

At the time I was working for an online media firm based in Brussels, Belgium. The company runs an online news and policy portal that follows the movements of the European Commission. I was running both their brand new multi-user, multi-language blog platform and their job website.

The founder of the firm had been lobbying the European Commission for years to try and have them link back to his website more often. “We do so much for you, but what will you do for us?”

At the time, the civil servants had been loathe to give any ground. His was a commercial enterprise and they had no plans to favour one company over any others, even if it did report on them and sometimes even work for them. Despite this, there were instances where links had been placed from the official europa website back to the company site, without his asking. He wanted more and those few links were the proof that it was possible. A few months before I joined the firm he had been told that moves were underway to make it possible for outbound links to be built.

Bear in mind for a moment that this is a powerhouse website. It is as trusted a backlink as you can get online. The site has millions of pages, has inbound links from sites around the world and is the government of Europe. From an SEO perspective, this is the bomb. It is not an authority site. It is the authority. Literally.

In it’s defence, the firm I worked for had ten full-time journalists, a sub-editor, two editors, a graphic designer, a tech team, about 60,000 pages and was a genuine authority itself. It was worthy of the links.

A few weeks after I joined the firm, he sent me a pdf which contained details of the procedure to ask various parts of the EU for a link and, as the company’s web marketing guy, charged me with making it happen. The information was helpfully hidden about 190 pages into a 400 page pdf of procedures for civil servants.

The boss asked me to spend two mornings each week working on this. I did.

Needless to say, nobody I contacted within the EU knew of this document. Many refused to believe it existed. Several people named as contacts had already moved position, meaning that the contact list was out of date before it was published. I emailed people. I called and left messages.

Over the space of a few months I managed to meet with eight different people in differing parts of the EU machinery. None wanted to place any links. A few people sent their secretary’s trainee. A couple failed to show up, even though I went to meet them. One department was willing to place a single link if we traded them with 10,000 euros worth of banner advertising. Our journalists already wrote about their department roughly twice per week…

In the end, four months later I was given new priorities. Considering the efforts I put in, the years of occasional lobbying that my boss had made to people high up the food chain, the conversations that must have taken place inside the EU to agree to put his clause in a procedures document and the meetings I had with various people, the total cost of this exercise must have been in the tens of thousands of euros. The total number of links built?

Zero.

White hat SEO ain’t easy.

The Rising Cost Of SEO

This time last month I wrote about the rising cost of SEO (here). To anyone that understands SEO, this can’t be much of a surprise. As Google becomes ever more complex, the effort and skill required to build a website into something that deserves to rank highly and generate lots of visitors continues to mushroom.

In the last few days there have been two posts in the blog section of Moz.com that reinforce this perfectly. For now, more and more people within SEO are understanding that their work needs to be highly valued, it is just the purchasers of these services that are yet to catch on…

First comes this post about improving a site to try and prevent a Google penalty. As SEOs, we all expect penalties from time to time, no matter how good a job you are trying to do, but still, it is good to try and work the angles to prevent them.

The post itself is a whopper! It is indepth, very thoughtful, impressive and (to most clients) totally incomprehensible. I think I’ll show it to potential clients for a while to scare them ;-)

What is really interesting though when it comes to budget is to be found in the comments section. For example, “say we are working with several local dentists with 1 office. Their budget for SEO/Content is sub $600 per month. And some cringe every month writing the check, while others fully understand it could be MUCH more.”

That is answered with, “You ask a great question and I think the reality of the situation is something many people don’t want to hear- you just can’t do much SEO for $600 a month these days.”

In the next comment, “We have had to turn down a lot of businesses who either didn’t want to take the time to be educated because “they know a guy in their networking group who can do it for $200 a month” or they do get it, but don’t have the budget to define the means to invest.”

The author, Pratik, then chimes in with a thoughtful reply, including, “Your question is absolutely fair, but as Google is becoming more and more advanced with what they want from a business to do in order to stay up there in the search, it is becoming more and more difficult as time goes on order to deliver excellent/convincing results to a client having budget of $600 per month.”

He then offers a handful of tasks that would help a site in a very limited way, and this parting thought, “I still believe this would purely be based on who is helping this client out. If an SEO is charging $100 per hour, it would be impossible to do many of the things I mentioned above.”

In other words, if you are a small business with a budget of around US$600 per month (which is actually quite high for most small businesses) you can’t expect a professional to get very much work done.

The second post looks at the average salaries of people in the internet marketing space. None of the numbers are particularly high, especially considering the skills required to perform most of the functions on the list. Still, it is worth any reader noting that the days of finding a web professional for cheap are pretty much over.

The Thing That Small And Medium Sized Businesses Don’t Want To Know
The rising cost of SEO is just one aspect of a greater trend. The reality is that most skilled tech professionals are paid more than most of the managers and owners that need to hire them! There are reasons for this and the main one is that the work of a conversions specialist, or a growth hacker, or an SEO is much more difficult than the work of most middle managers.

Obviously, most small businesses will respond that they cannot afford such rates, which may be true. In which case, the business is probably in trouble (long-term) as their competitors that can pay for these skills are able to leverage the web more and more towards them and the smaller firms fail to keep up.

The internet is finally going to start forcing more and more small firms out of business and concentrating more and more commerce into the hands of the bigger and better financed companies that remain.

6 Ideas For Digital Marketers To Play In A Bigger League

“Software is eating the world”.

That was said, actually written, in an op-ed piece by Marc Andreessen in mid 20111. I often think about it and I thought that today I’d share a few of my thoughts and see what others think.

Before I write more, it is also important to this to know that I often think about Jay Abraham’s highest and best use theory. The idea behind that, for those that are unfamiliar with it, is that we only have so much time and so we all ought to be spending our time on activities that are our highest and best use. In other words, playing to our strengths. That might mean spending time with the family, or exercising, or only working on the tasks that we are best at.

Jay Abraham often uses the example of Julian Richer. He runs a chain of shops in the UK that sells technology products to consumers (TV’s, stereos, etc). He is famous for two things. 1, his shops hold the record for the highest amount of sales per square foot in the UK. 2, he has a driver get him to work everyday.

Why a driver? It enables him to spend the time sat in traffic on the phone and he can hold meetings with sales teams and management instead of just listening to the radio. Highest and best use.

How does this relate to software eating the world?

I often wonder what my highest and best use of time is. I help small firms with SEO, but the truth be told, almost none of them “get it”. Mostly, they view SEO as a luxury that comes after they have other things in place, amazingly. When they do want to go ahead, they typically think that SEO is worth a max of 200 euros per month and are astounded that I charge more.

The disconnect is what I find hard to understand. Most of these firms have paid thousands of euros per month in the past to advertise in the print media. It drove their business. Now they see that it doesn’t work as well, or at all, compared to years past. So if it took 3-5k per month in ad spend, why should it only cost 200 per month for me to get you into the top 5 of Google, which is where your marketplace now is…?

They have zero concept of the competitive nature of SEO or PPC.

When I meet owners / managers and they tell me that “we don’t need the web” a clock starts counting in my mind. How long have they got left in business? They don’t realise that software is eating the world and it will eat them too if they don’t adapt. The firms in their marketplace that adapt will grow and survive, whilst the firms that waited as long as possible before doing anything online, well, they are in deep doo-doo.

What we all see and know is that those that fail to adapt won’t still be in business in 10 years without a miracle.

So the question is, what should I (or we) be doing about it?

It is great for us to be able to build niche sites, or e-commerce sites, or some sort of service based offering and do it digitally from anywhere. Very cool. But the “real” economy remains much larger than the digital economy and will continue to do so for a very long time. No matter how things change, people will still want to meet a lawyer face to face, visit properties in person before they rent or buy, test drive cars on real roads and on and on.

Are we at a crossroads?

It feels to me as though we are and that the “old” economic sectors are coming around more and more to understand that digital marketing is both the present and the future.

How do we deal with that?

A few ideas:

1. Watch the people that don’t “get it” have their businesses crushed. Obviously.

2. Work for the pittances that they mistakenly seem to think digital marketing is worth. Not an option. Some aspects of digital marketing (such as search engine optimisation, conversion rate optimisation and growth hacking) are now amongst the highest value skillsets there are and are almost certainly much more valuable than the skillsets that exist within the actual businesses.

3. Work as consultants and freelancers. That has been my model to date and while I enjoy it, the reality is that it is not the best model. I am building no equity that can be sold in the future and no dividends will ever be paid to me.

4. Build firms that provide services to these companies and create equity for ourselves. This is better, we can create our own startup and culture and (hopefully) make a splash.

5. Work with firms that are getting it, but not as a consultant or outsourced solution, but as a partner. If marketing is “the juice” in business, which it is, why not earn a share of the company over time as we help to grow it?

6. Buy businesses with no digital marketing sophistication and then add that to their model, help them grow and find an exit? This would be great apart from the obvious fear that every digital marketer would have when they suddenly found themselves answering phone calls about rat catching, selling paint or whatever. Of course, it would also need capital and provides a reward, of sorts, to the business owner that has been driving the company into the ground. Not ideal.

7. Be involved in starting firms with partners that “get it” and build organisations that have a deeply help culture of digital marketing at their core. As the others gradually get crushed by their lack of digital sophistication, who is going to grab more market share?

8. Create a team of digital marketers, around an online/offline growth hacking model, similar to the genius business building work of Vishen Lakhiani at Mindvalley2 and then use that team to build multiple businesses using digital marketing at their core. This has the potential to create masses of equity in all sorts of sectors.

Just because I am not a lawyer, why shouldn’t I be a partner in a law firm? Just because I am not an accountant, why shouldn’t I be a partner in an accountancy practice?

Some of these possibilities seem to be better than others to me and some will be more or less suitable to individual preferences. If I can help them generate a few hundred thousand per year in revenues, I should be worth the equity.

Clearly, the tricky part lies in finding suitable and trustworthy business partners that understand and value the power of marketing and digital marketing. For this reason, my guess is that the power of this idea lies in finding partners that wish and are committed to start offline firms and then making them stand out using online methods.

For now, that is as far as I have got. Discuss…

SEO Is About To Become Much Harder And More Expensive

Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.”1

Woohoo!

Great news if you are even vaguely creative or competent as an SEO. Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s Anti-Spam team) has posted on his blog that he has had enough of guest blogging.

To be honest, I am surprised he hasn’t announced this a long time ago (in late 2011). By their standards of technological development, it couldn’t be that difficult to add into the algorithm a way to devalue every link that is in the same paragraph as the words “guest post” or “guest author”.

One would presume that Google must have the means in place to do this now and plans to start implementing it sooner or later. In which case, there are going to be a lot of problem links pointing into heavily SEO’d sites soon. If you are a penalty removal specialist, the good times are going to keep on rolling!

On another note, it is likely to become much harder for lots of SEO folks to deliver the results they are being paid for going forward. Or, to write that another way, there is going to be a premium on SEOers that can actually deliver results.

Considering the cost of building a blog network, or actually doing proper white hat SEO (which is bloody hard going and very time consuming), clients should expect SEO to become much more expensive in 2014. The game is so complicated now and the learning curve is so steep that only lunatics or the seriously competitive would embark on it as a career. That will be reflected much more in the prices being charged.

Testimonial From Lisa Inglis

A good friend of mine, Lisa Inglis, has just launched her own property management company in Malta, PremiumPM.com.mt. I began helping her a few weeks ago with a site and then SEO.

Take it away Lisa:

“I really have no idea how he did it, but Stuart took my brand new website to number 2 in Google for two important keywords and top 5 for others in just a few weeks. As I asked questions, he just told me it would be easy and to do what he told me to do. It worked!

It has moved so quickly that as a new start up business I am already at the top of Google amongst the long established companies in my field.”

EDIT (13/02/2014):

Search results property management in malta 13 Feb 2014

Can Your Business Turn New Leads Into Sales?

2014. A new year. Is this going to be the year when your business finally starts to make real progress online? The web is here to stay, that must have been proven by now even for the most hardcore denier. The question is whether or not your company will be a part of it, or left behind by your competitors as they harness it’s power.

What will it be?

Leads or no leads?

Generating leads or sales online isn’t free or necessarily easy, nothing is, but there is a great deal of opportunity in most economic sectors to generate new business by using the internet. These days, if we want something, we start our research online, mostly by using Google. The top five in Google is where your market congregates. Wherever you think they might be, it isn’t, your prospects are looking at the top five results in Google.

Regular readers will know that I am based in Malta. Over the last year I have performed SEO for a number of local companies. I am pleased to report that rankings have risen and visitor numbers are up.

It is a universal rule of search engine optimization that an industry or keyword is competitive to the extent that it is monetisable. In other words, the higher the potential rewards available, the harder everyone competes.

If you happen to live or work in Malta, then you will know that the most competitive business sector here is real estate (sales and rentals). There are lots of companies fighting hard in the space because of the high commissions available on property sales.

The following image shows the kind of results that are possible. Simply click on the image to view the expanded version and then press the back button to return to this page.

SEO Malta Traffic Jan 2012 to start Jan 2014

As you can see, the site in question had spent a very long time averaging around 800 visitors per week from Google before they met me. The red arrow shows when I started working with them. As you can also see, their December drop in 2013 was higher than their average traffic each week in 2012 or H1 2013. That steep climb upwards at the start of 2014 suggests that they will get many more visitors in 2014 than 2013.

When compared to many weeks in H1 2013, the visitor numbers in November were between 60% and 75% higher.

Those few spikes, once per quarter, relate to the timing of publishing a brochure that is distributed in the Sunday Times of Malta. From what I can gather, the costs to prepare, print and distribute that magazine are approaching €10,000 per issue. As you can see, I pushed visitor numbers well beyond those spikes and they are not paying me anything like €10,000 per week!

Search engine marketing can provide excellent value for money when it works well.

When I began, their site was sat on the middle of page 2 for lots of phrases, now it ranks on page 1, typically between numbers 4 and 7 for more than one hundred phrases. The reality is that both Frank Salt and Dhalia have such strong websites compared to everyone else, that number 3 is as high as they can expect to rank for most terms.

The question is, if your website were to rank more highly in Google and receive lots of extra targeted visitors, can you turn those leads into money?

If you think you can, we should speak. Leave a comment below with your name and contact information (I won’t publish your details) and a couple of sentences about your website and I will get in touch. It might be the most profitable thing you do this year!

6 Reasons Why Businesses Should Not Attempt SEO On Their Website

Summary: If you are a local business and are contemplating working on the SEO of your website, this post is going to explain to you why it is a bad idea for you to do it and why you should get the best help you can. It is written for the people that want to spend an hour or two each month and get the job done. I hope it saves you a lot of headaches.

(You don’t need to be a mad-SEO-professor to know that most of the search engine action happens in Google, so while Bing and Yahoo! may be important in your location I am going to ignore them for now.)

1. SEO is a very complicated guessing game.
Google has a notoriously strict non-disclosure agreement for their staff. Everything that goes on is within a secret mathematical code that very few people are allowed to talk about for reasons of competitive advantage. Think of this as being similar to the ingredients in Coca-Cola.

That mathematical code was – and continues to be – created by a small army of PhD computer scientists and mathematicians. It is a very serious business. (The game of SEO).

Back in 2010 Google admitted publicly that there were around 200 factors in their algorithm. Things have changed since then and I doubt many SEOers would think it is only 200 now. Also back in 2010 Google admitted that their algorithm changed over 500 times the year before, in large part to stop people guessing how it worked. At 500 changes per year, there is no such thing as set and forget in SEO. You will need to keep at it every week and every month. It is a guessing game with moving goalposts.

tl;dr – SEO is ridiculously complicated (look at this!), secret and changes all the time.

2. You will need assets.
If it so complicated, how do people know what works? Simple. They / we build lots of different sites and when big changes are made we can see what works now and what has been penalised. I personally have around 80 websites at the moment. I know people with several hundred. And we compare notes to pass ideas back and forth and help each other. No man is an island.

If you suddenly feel inadequate that’s ok. We all went through that once. However, if your hope is to work on just one website and see and learn everything you need to know, that is unlikely in the modern Google.

As you start working on all these sites, expect to spend several thousand US$ and many months building it all. (The SEO blog network phenomenon).

tl;dr – you’ll need infrastructure and that includes some smart friends that know what they are doing.

3. The learning curve is very steep.
You want to get to grips with SEO for your business? Then you’ll need to start looking into:

- domain names
- keyword research
- competitive research
- site structure
- content creation (written, photographs, video, YouTube, infographics)
- blogging
- Information Retrieval
- linguistics
- statistics
- copywriting, psychology and sales
- marketing
- internal linking
- inbound linking
- social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+)
- “local” factors such as Yelp
- anchor text
- taxonomy
- graphic design
- coding
- schema
- user experience
- conversion
- analytics

You might not need all of those elements, you might need others as well, but the more competitive your sector is, the more likely you are to need to understand lots of those factors.

If you know a little bit about SEO, you were probably scanning that list for the one thing you recognise, META details. And I didn’t even put them on the list! If your SEO knowledge starts and stops at META details, you only have about 99.98% of the rest still to learn…

Most of us have spent years building up these areas of knowledge and we still work on our SEO smarts every week and learn as we go from our work. I am now confident enough in my skills that I openly call myself a marketing genius. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but good SEOers are generally very smart multi-disciplinary people with plenty of intellectual horsepower. If they are willing to work for $10 per hour you don’t want them – they won’t be good enough. (How much should SEO cost?).

tl;dr – whoa! This is one heck of a skill-set. If you get good at it, you’ll probably quit your office job and do this instead because there clearly are not that many people that will become good or great, so you will expect to earn more money.

4. It is more expensive than you imagine.
Once you start taking SEO seriously you’ll need tools. Some of these tools will help you to automate grunt work, some will help you to perform analysis (rankings, backlinks, content, etc).

Once you have a full suite of tools you will probably be paying around US$1,000 per month at the low end to perhaps US$3,000 per month if you are in a competitive niche and want some fancy link building gadgets.

Speaking of links, you’ll need some. Who knows how many…?

These days, most bloggers know that they can sell ‘guest posts’ to businesses that want to compete online. Depending upon the website and the niche, placing a post might cost anywhere from US$50 to US$350. That is for one link. Alas, you’ll need a lot of links, from dozens to hundreds. (There are many ways to build links and this is just one piece of the pie, but it is illuminating).

I know a guy that runs a firm that sells these links. I think it best that I don’t name his firm (if you ask I’ll recommend him to you), but suffice to say that they are doing some very cool stuff with big data analysis of links. The two following paragraphs have been copied from his company’s facebook page:

“LINK DEAL: travel, general, family themed sites – Ideal for a travel brand: 40 sites, DA40+, PR4+, Trust Flow 15+ – £9,500″

and

“Urgent: Sport Betting Text Link Clearance – I’ve got 100 links, all DA35+ TrustFlow:17+ Sports links that I need to sell today at £250 per link, all will be placed in 300 words of well written content. £25,000 for the job lot!”

Hold on! I bet your site falls under the category of “travel, general, family themed”. That might mean you need to spend amounts like this too.

I have once seen him advertise a link bundle for gaming sites at £54,000. In the real world, that buys a Lexus or a Mercedes. Online, that is monthly link spend in a competitive niche.

His company obviously aims at firms that are in very competitive spaces. But still, if you plan to do this yourself to save a few hundred quid you will be in for a very rude surprise. In a space where the winner takes most, the ability to spend more money more wisely than the competition is a business advantage. In fact, many businesses literally try to buy their way to the top – being number 1 is worth that much to them.

His firm also has a high-end SERP monitoring tool aimed at gaming firms. It uses some really cool tech and mathematical analysis. He hasn’t launched fully yet, but he tells me that the tool will be priced at GBP3,490 per month. That is just analysis – no actual work is being done.

I know another guy that does affiliate marketing in Sweden. I won’t say what niche. To help support his money sites he has built a monster network of blogs. He tells me that he buys around 30 expiring domains every day and that his hosting costs are around 600 euros per month. This is serious stuff.

tl;dr – there is no such thing as free SEO. If you plan to spend zero, your results will also likely be zero. If your competition are spending more than you (and spending it wisely) they will open a lead that will become very hard to close. The time and financial costs of tools and infrastructure is prohibitively expensive if you only have one website, but if you work on lots of sites the costs becomes more justifiable.

You know that if it goes well search engine traffic can power your business to new heights. If it has such potential your competition may be committing resources to it like the important channel it is. If they are idiots blowing money, you might be able to get an edge, but if they are smart and spending money what makes you think you’ll be able to beat them for free? This is especially true if you don’t yet know what you are doing. Your self-confidence is misplaced and failure is virtually guaranteed.

5. The costs of failure can be very high.
Going back in time to early to mid 2011 I lived mainly from the income from just one website. I had put in the hard work and things were paying off. It was great! Then I was hit by an unexpected algorithm change and my traffic (and income) plummeted. Down by around 90% in about two weeks. The result is that for this particular website, the only way I can fix it is to take it offline and start again on a new domain. It was a harsh lesson, now learned.

I know people that had to lay off members of staff and close companies due to that same algorithm change. Brutal.

One of the ways we learn SEO is to see the things we get wrong and not get them wrong in the future. As the game changes, so do we. The guys I know that were in SEO 3 years ago and still are today are very careful.

For most businesses, SEO needs to be very carefully considered and risk management is vital. If you get it wrong and the company is reliant on the leads generated, what might happen? Choose your tactics carefully (Should small businesses fear SEO link building?).

As if this were not enough, poor SEO can be a little like inflation. Day to day you don’t see or feel it, but over the long-term it is very costly. If you can’t make your site rank well, what advantages will your competitors build up when they grab a larger share of your market and potential customers? How far might you fall behind?

tl;dr – if you get SEO right, there will be more qualified leads into the business. Soon the company will come to rely on those leads and hire more staff etc. If it all suddenly goes wrong, the impact can be brutal. You need to know what you are doing.

6. What are you a specialist in?
If we are to believe Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations, then we all should be following the invisible hand that guides us to do the things we are personally good at.

You are, I hope, good at running your business. If you start to spend an extra 20-30 hours per week doing SEO related tasks, what impact will that have on your company? What customers will you overlook? What will your staff get wrong? What sales won’t you make?

Warren Buffett has been known to explain that opportunity cost is vital in investment. If a person invests their time or money in option A, what will this stop them from doing that might be important? In the case of a small business owner, if option A is running the firm and making sales, and option B is SEO, the choice ought to be obvious.

tl;dr – internet marketing is time consuming. If you plan to run your own SEO efforts, will that thinking also apply to other areas? Will you run and test your own facebook and pay per click ad campaigns? Will you write your own copy? Will you shoot your own videos for YouTube? Will you design your own banner ads? If the answer is yes, then are you already a web design agency? If not…

…hire a professional.

Read about my services here.