By Cliff Tillery, MakeItLoud.net
By now, you’ve probably at least heard the term “search engine optimization” or SEO, right?
You may still think it’s Voodoo magic (it is. Although the only chickens SEO nerds really sacrifice come in the form of a sandwich.)
You might even think your business could use some of these services. In most cases, you’re right. I mean, who doesn’t want their business on page one of the search results? (“No, no, not me! I want my business right there next to Jimmy Hoffa on page 2 and beyond!”)
So, while you may have heard of this marketing tool and understand how important it might be to your business, there are still some things that most nerds won’t tell you about when you’re trying to find the right provider- that is, until now.
This post is going to reveal what’s behind the curtain with the magic of search engine optimization. Moo-ha-ha! (That’s our evil cow laugh!). We really want you to see that all offerings around SEO aren’t the same which can really trap business owners into something they’re paying for that isn’t worth it.
What is SEO, and Why is it Important?
SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of making your website pleasing to the Search Engine Gods, so that your site earns one of the coveted spots on page one.
How do we do that? Well, it ain’t easy.
It’s like putting a 10,000 piece puzzle together of two polar bears mooning you in a blizzard… without the box as a guide.
Since most people turn to Google for their search results, that’s clearly the 900-pound polar bear we have to make the happiest. Bing is like a little baby polar bear- still important.
Being on the first page of Google serves the following purposes:
● Increasing the visibility of your business.
● Driving targeted traffic to your website. (These people are looking for what you do!)
● Providing more opportunities to gain customers.
● Growing brand awareness.
● Helps establish trust with your business (I mean, you’re ON the FIRST page!)
So, Is SEO Worth It?
We realize that if you ask this question to a company that provides this service, the answer is going to be an unequivocal “YES!!!”, but really, is it?
Yeah, it actually is. Why? Simple, for most businesses, it’s about sales (one way or another), so it’s a statistical fact that the more people that see your business on page one, the more likely they are to click on it and the more the people go through your digital front door, the more likely they are to buy your products or services. In the long run, SEO should pay for itself especially if your average client is in the thousands. Like any marketing element, you want to make sure that the math makes sense.
These are the very basics of SEO.
Before You Consider SEO
Before you consider hiring an SEO company to help you, there’s one very important thing you should know about this marketing element. Your website has to not suck. (Read more on whether your website sucks or not.)
A lot of people in this industry won’t tell you that.
Trying to get an ugly, poorly designed site that hurts your eyes on page one is like trying to fly an aircraft carrier. They just aren’t built for page one. It’s not about my tastes or yours. It’s about what Google wants.
Given that, there are a lot of SEO agencies out there that won’t tell you that your site’s dysfunctional and will gladly take your money. We still see websites that look horrible on your mobile device or don’t have SSL’s (if you don’t know what that is, it’s ok, but yeah, your site should start with “https://domain name.com.”). Learn more about web design.
Worse, they’ll give you the standard line, “It usually takes 3-6 months before we start seeing an increase in rankings” which essentially locks them into a guaranteed income for that amount of time before you start realizing that there’s not going to be any increases.
This kind of thing makes everyone in the industry look bad. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely trying to do the right thing, but like any industry, there are a few knuckleheads who try to pull this “churn and burn” trick.
Real digital marketers have this crazy thought that if we do right by our clients, they’ll actually KEEP us around to continue to do the right thing by them. This can be a major difference between providers. A key question here is “What is the average time your clients stay with you?” You’re looking for an answer of several “years” here.
So, the takeaway here is: before you hire a reputable SEO company like Make It Loud to get your business more visibility, make sure to ask them whether your website is good enough to actually BE on page one of the search results. We’ve had plenty of people ask us for these services and we have rejected them and told them to invest in a better website before looking at paying marketing elements that drive more traffic to the site.
What Exactly Do You “Do” For SEO?
This is a fair question to ask anyone you are considering hiring to do this work. The answer shouldn’t make you feel like you should’ve played more Scrabble as a kid and learned bigger words.
Far too many SEO nerds speak jargon. The goal here is simple: to sound smarter than their clients. For some, it’s a self-esteem thing. Just as a physician went to school for eons to learn how to save your life, he or she needs to be able to tell you in simple terms what’s wrong with you and how they’re going to fix it. Rather than baffling you with BS, it’s important that your SEO company can explain what they’re going to do in simple terms.
There are well over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to determine if your site deserves to be on page one or not. Even that sentence is misleading (probably on purpose by Google) because there are likely more than 400 elements they use to rank your site.
That being said, the answer you get to the question above should involve things like:
- Keyword research (words/phrases people search)
- Page Titles (meta tags) and meta descriptions
- Creating and editing good content for your site
- Technical SEO and other things to help improve your page speed
- Schema markup
- Website architecture
- Heading tags
- Foundational backlinks
- Niche and guest post backlinks (high-quality links)
- Linking your site to webmaster tools like Google search console and Google Analytics
- A bunch of other super nerdy-sounding stuff.
So, how much of that stuff is important and will help move your site to page one, and how much of it is fluff?
That’s the $1000/month question, isn’t it? (That’s around the average monthly cost most reputable companies charge for SEO. If they charge less, they do less, so you get what you pay for.)
A Tale Of Two SEO Companies
Look, all marketing is a trip to Vegas. While you’re there, you’re probably going to gamble, and if you gamble, you have a real shot at winning….and losing.
So the goal here is to hedge your bets and at the very least, do some educated gambling.
If we had to, we’d tell you a cautionary tale of two companies that both provide search engine optimization. The reality is that you, as a business owner, can’t naturally assume that just because both companies say they “do” SEO, that they actually do the same thing.
Both can baffle you with jargon that sounds really important but doesn’t move your site up the rankings. For us, the demarcation line that separates the good and the bad SEO firms is content.
The good ones write the necessary content for you. The bad ones make promises like, “we will get your business page one results in a month for the low, low price of $399/month.” Most good SEO nerds wouldn’t turn their laptops on for that much less be able to stay in business with all the work that’s involved.
How SEO is Sold
There are a few ways that SEO is offered to a business owner. Here are the most popular in order:
By Location & Industry: This is where we ask you, “Where do you want the most visibility for your business?” The point here is obvious. If you’re a dentist, people will only drive 5-15 miles to be tortured by a dentist, so having a dental practice in Buford, but showing up in downtown Atlanta makes no sense.
On the other hand, if you’re a roofer, you probably want as much visibility as you can afford to buy because you go to them.
The idea here is that we can focus our efforts to get you more visibility locally (around your business), regionally, or nationally. Obviously, it takes less work to get you ranked in Lawrenceville Georgia than it does in Gwinnett County, Atlanta, Georgia, the South, or nationally. As the pond gets bigger, there are more fish to compete with to get seen on page one.
The industry piece of the pricing equation comes into play when we think about the industry you’re in. This has to do with how competitive your industry is from Google’s perspective. Certain things like anything in competition with Viagra, weight loss, realtors, etc. are brutally competitive- so much so that many SEO nerds will tell you that they don’t even recommend you invest in this marketing element since the market is so saturated.
By Keywords: This approach to pricing can be straightforward, but there can also be some trickery involved. Some agencies will say, we will get you ranked by X number of keywords. Obviously, you would want prior approval of that keyword list so you could make sure these terms/phrases have enough search volume, are relevant to what you do, and can be conversion-friendly.
The potential trickery here is that we could get a dentist ranked for “pink tutu” pretty rapidly, but for most dentists, that phrase wouldn’t lead to more patients.
Some agencies have started experimenting with other models but these are the big ones.
The White Hat/Black Hat Thing
Years ago, people would advertise that they “only do white hat SEO” which was interesting because most people didn’t even know what “black hat SEO” even was.
While the reference is clear, white hat SEO means they only do things that Google considers “good SEO”. The problem is that Google hates SEO because it messes with their precious search results. Given that, Google would say there is no such thing as white hat SEO. When and if Google runs the world, there will only be Google Ads or Pay per click which is still how they earn 90+% of their revenue.
Black hat SEO puts your site at risk for being de-indexed entirely (and that’s just bad). Not only is that a terrible thing to do for your SEO clients, but it’s just dumb. The lawsuits that have been won on that kind of thing include far too many zeros to stay in business. Based on that, you don’t really have to worry about agencies that engage in black hat tactics. It’s like a bank saying “Hey come deposit your money! We promise not to steal it when you do!”
The digital marketing nerds at Make It Loud have been working with SEO for the past 15 years, and their SEO clients have been with them. This company handles the GABB’s SEO.Read More