Is White Hat SEO Even Possible For A Small Business?

In recent days I have had two conversations about white hat SEO that have made me think. When I think, I write…

The first was a conversation with a potential client. I often find that a prospect or client has heard of “white” and “black” hat SEO and has been told to only have white work done. They generally have no idea what any of that means, they are just doing what they have been told to do. Fair enough.

However, what they want and the budget they have available have no relationship to each other at all.

For those that don’t know, pure lilly white SEO is really hard work, very time consuming and has (in my experience) no guarantee of success (read this for an idea). As a way of making a client angry and then losing them, performing white hat SEO for someone that does not understand what is going on is a sure-fire winner. When you have spent ten grand and only have four links to show for it, you won’t want any more of it either.

White hat SEO should really just be called content marketing. That is what it is. The problem is that content marketing involves content – the giveaway is in the name 😉

If content is going to be worth sharing and worth linking to by other firms, it is going to need to be pretty amazing. A $10 article from oDesk isn’t going to cut it. No. You need research, professional images or photographs, a professional writer or copywriter, editing, graphic design and more. To put it another way, most small businesses didn’t put in that much effort on their actual website, so it is going to be a real push to do all that on stuff that you will simply give away.

They are totally unprepared for the reality of white hat SEO for small business and trying to work within Google’s guidelines.

I don’t tend to quote for content marketing like this because I know the pitfalls much better than the clients. Still, I was asked to quote and stupidly I did. I suggested 1,000 euros per month for a minimum of six months with no rankings guarantees. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted saying them. The prospect thought that I was smoking drugs! 1,000 euros per month?? No, his budget was 250 euros maximum and he wanted results right away.

Phew! That saved me from “winning” that monster headache.

The second conversation was with an SEO consultant friend. He has been conducting a white hat campaign for a client and was moaning about it. He is charging US$1,500 per month and has been “losing my ass”. As he started to get help and put together the research for infographics, guest posts and the like, he realised that he needed to be spending more like US$2,500 per month. He likes the client and believes in honouring an agreement so he is taking the hit. His words to me, “I’ll never do a white hat campaign again for under US$5,000 per month”.

I have never yet met a small business owner that thought 1,000 per month on SEO was good value for money. But my friend now thinks that under 5,000 is a waste of his time. I have been writing on and off for months that the cost of performing SEO is going up, up, up. You can read about that here and here.

The reality is that small business owners often have no clue what is involved and so just make up a number in their mind and presume that will be enough. Often they are a very long way from the reality. It is this gap between expectations and budgets that makes me think that white hat SEO for small business is almost impossible these days.

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