SEO stands for search engine optimisation and virtually all websites need at least some SEO work done to achieve visibility in search results. SEO services can work out quite expensive which makes affordable SEO something many businesses can only hope for if they want to hire a freelancer or agency to do the work.
So how does a business make SEO affordable?
A lot will depend on the business type, how much money can be allocated to the SEO project and the amount of resources available to do SEO work in house if necessary. So, let’s look at the 3 ways SEO is done and judge how affordable these three methods are.
- In house or doing it yourself
- Use a freelance or independent SEO consultant
- Use a web design or SEO agency
First up let’s look at…
Doing SEO work in house
For startups and small businesses on a tight budget, hiring an SEO with sufficient expertise to actually make a real difference can be cost prohibitive in much the same way as getting a web design agency to build a website.
Extensive research on the best SEO providers might yield some affordable options, but generally outsourcing SEO to an SEO agency is going to cost an arm and a leg and outsourcing it to a freelancer can be a leap into the unknown. The SEO industry is also completely unregulated and any person with half the knowledge to set up a website can claim to be an expert.
So doing the work in-house can often be just as effective as taking a leap into the unknown and certainly won’t cost any more.
Doing SEO yourself however is far from an easy task and you will need to learn what is required from scratch. The first place to start to gain a basic knowledge of what Google requires to rank a site can be found here in their webmaster guidelines.
Once the basic webmaster guidelines are mastered than you may be ready to look at websites such as MOZ which offer a wealth of advice on particular aspects of SEO not necessarily covered in Google’s basic guidelines.
All of this can make SEO much more affordable if you have the time to run a business and digest all of this information.
Once you feel ready to have a go yourself, you will certainly require SEO tools to help with the process. These are becoming more and more expensive and don’t necessarily offer value for money for those running smaller businesses and websites with only a handful of pages.
Let’s take the example of SEMrush. This is a popular all round SEO tool used by many SEO professionals to help manage campaigns.
Their entry level package aimed at freelancers and startups works out at $99 a month once the free trial expires. This can be a significant outlay for a startup and should be considered in terms of can I afford to be spending $99 a month on my site and take that out of my small business profits every month?
For most startups and small businesses the costs of using the various tools required to do SEO at a professional level is going to be too high without being able to generate profits from organic search which are often low to begin with.
Some alternative SEO tools include:
AHrefs – starts at $99 a month
This does much the same as SEMrush at a comparable price. They do offer 7 days for $7 dollars to get you hooked but you’ll need longer than that to get the full benefit of what they offer.
Deep Crawl – £100 a year or £10 a month
This allows you to deep dive into the more technical aspects of SEO. It doesn’t offer the comprehensive all-round versatility of the previous tools but is a cheap tool to get started with.
Woorank – £59.99 per month
This is another SEO tool that does pretty much what SEMrush and Ahrefs does but slightly cheaper at £59.99 a month. Still s substantial outlay each month and as with Deepcrawl you’re limited on the amount of urls and can only track 50 keywords for that price.
So in terms of affordability, to go it alone you are going to need at least one of these tools to do SEO work on your website. Also factor in the time needed to study SEO and you will get an approximate idea of how much it will cost.
SEO Affordability – Variable, can be low if time is invested in learning the skill sets
Using An SEO Freelancer
SEO freelancers are not going to be equal in their levels of ability and will come from a variety of backgrounds. Some will be former employees used to working in SEO in a particular industry sector, Others may have genuinely high levels of expertise and many will be chancers. Lack of regulation in the sector means you will have to figure this out for yourself.
SEO freelancers might also have gained a solid grounding in one type of business but not necessarily in others where particular expertise unique to that sector is needed. This is a danger if you higher the wrong type of SEO specialist.
Some SEO’s who go it alone may come from more of a content background where there skills lie more in content marketing than anything technical. This can lead to misunderstandings that the person skilled in writing and distributing content can also do the technical work required to improve a website.
An SEO freelancer, due to the nature of the work is also going to be limited in the projects they can take on and still be hands-on. They will also need to invest in SEO tools themselves to ensure they are delivering a professional service and one where results are tracked and audits take place on a regular basis to ensure campaigns are still on track.
In terms of SEO affordability, this varies depending on how in-demand the SEO freelancer is. You also won’t necessarily get what you pay for. Some SEO specialists are not going to bother getting out of bed for less that £1,500 a month while others do it for an impossibly low figure of £50 a month which usually means you get next to no SEO done on your site.
SEO Affordability Level – intermediate. Forget paying £50 or even £100 a month, SEO simply cannot be done meaningfully on these sorts of budgets.
Using an SEO or Web Design Agency
So this leaves us with the option of using an SEO agency or a web design company that offers SEO as an extra add-on service. For some more established businesses with substantial budgets allocated for marketing, an agency may well provide them with a viable option but for smaller businesses, using an SEO agency could be financial suicide.
The benefits of SEO are often only seen several months after work is done and a business needs to be in a particularly robust position to be paying £2000 – 3,000 a month while waiting for results to happen.
I was once present in a meeting with a client who had come to an agreement with an agency to work on their SEO. The cost came in at in excess of £2,000 a month for writing local landing pages and a half-hearted attempt at a content marketing plan which lacked any understanding of the industry.
When called out on this lack of understanding the said agency shrugged their shoulders and said the contract had been signed and there was no way back.
Agencies can be good and bad. Using a specialist SEO agency or web design company is going to cost at least £2,000 a month or it really won’t be worth their time. Even then, not all of this is going to be spent on your SEO when the costs of employing staff, plus SEO tools. When profit margins are also taken into account and these will be substantial, you’re not going to have much left over for them to actually spend time doing the work required.
In the worst cases an agency might offer SEO but not have anyone sufficiently qualified to do the work and merely offer it because every other agency does. In these cases results may not be achieved and the whole investment can end up down the drain.
Affordability level – Only suitable for larger businesses with deep pockets with rates in excess of £150 and hour.
Affordable SEO is there really such a thing? As you can see SEO can be affordable but whichever route you choose, there will be drawbacks even if you decide to go it alone.
It can sometimes work out cheaper to use a good freelancer to work on your project because you get none of the big agency overheads to cover and you won’t have to educate yourself for several months to gain the SEO knowledge required.
Much is written about ROI on investment in digital marketing and investment in SEO should over time yield long term results. Eventually, if done correctly, the work should more than pay for itself over time but it should never be seen as a quick fix even for the best SEOs out there.