Are SEO Packages Worth The Money?
I often get asked if I offer “SEO packages”. This is understandable. People want to know what they will get for their money and how much it will cost.
The trouble is, however appealing a bundled package might sound, the reason agencies offer services in this way is because it allows them to make easy profits.
These “packages” usually include a list of features that might look impressive, but most of the work is outsourced to Asian or East European firms who use automated “black hat” software. Outsourcing tasks, such as low quality backlinking and generating spun, keyword-stuffed blog content is dirt cheap. This allows the agency you’re buying from to make a whopping big margin, without actually having to do any work.
Worse still, the tactics used are likely to get you penalised or even de-indexed completely by Google.
False economy? You bet.
I don’t offer generic SEO packages and here are three reasons why:
1. Every Website is Different
With SEO, there is no one size fits all solution. Each website is as unique as the next and every industry, niche or geographical area a website is competing within requires a completely different strategy.
Take the example of two clients looking to improve their rankings for some different keywords. The first is an insurance broker trying to get high Google ranking for the term “car insurance ireland”. The second is a Galway based locksmith wanting to rank well for “locksmith galway”. The exact term “car insurance ireland” is searched on average 14,800 times per month on Google (source: Google Keyword Planner Tool). The sites that dominate the organic search results currently are national brands such as “nononsense.ie”, “aviva.ie, “123.ie” etc which have massive online marketing budgets at their disposal. Compare this with the enquirer looking to rank for “locksmith galway” which is searched 260 times per month on average and whose organic search positions are made up of small/medium regional businesses with limited marketing spend.
How on earth can an agency offer the same SEO package to both clients in the above example? Do they expect us to believe that the same tactics and strategy required to get a client top google rankings for a highly competitive term with many thousands of searches per month, dominated by massive companies, is the same as getting top Google position for a niche keyword where competition is significantly less?
2. Has Your Website Ranking Suffered Due to Poorly Executed SEO?
I understand why businesses are attracted by the “€199 per month” type of SEO packages. In truth, if I knew nothing about SEO and wanted my website to rank better, there’s a good chance I’d sign up. There’s also a good chance I’d massively regret the decision, like many others who put their trust in these so-called SEO agencies only to be very disappointed later.
The experience many people have when they sign up to “cheap” SEO agencies is as follows:
- Positive Initial Signs
There is an initial improvement in ranking, due to automated backlinking which sees many thousands of new spam links being flung at the website. At this stage, all Google sees is a big increase in the number of backlinks so, until it can assess their quality, it will give the site the benefit of the doubt and improve search position temporarily. At this point, the client is understandably happy with the improvement in rankings and his faith in the new SEO agency grows.
- Then Google Senses Something’s Not Right
After a short while Google performs a quality audit on the “new” links pointing to the site to assess their rank-worthiness. If these links were coming from “clean” sites and were pointing to quality, original content such as a well written blog article or clever infographic then it will continue to rank the website well for relevant keywords. But, in this instance, Google sees that the links are “unnatural” as they come from link directories, dodgy blog networks and automated spam comments. This triggers a rather unpleasant chain of events. In some instances, if the website is set up in Google webmaster tools, the webmaster will receive an “Unatural Links” notification. But, more often than not, Google just penalises the website without warning, or reasoning, by dropping its ranking to the dark depths of the search results pages (page 10 and below). Ever seen those nature programmes about strange life forms that exist at the bottom of the deepest oceans? Try getting visitors when your website plummets to those murky depths!
- The Inevitable Messy Break-Up
Then the blame game really begins in earnest. Communication from the SEO agency, which was pleasant enough initially when they were trying to get you signed up, turns more sporadic. They don’t reply to your emails which demand answers to why you’re now getting a small proportion of the visitors you were getting before paying for their so-called SEO services. When you do hear back from them, instead of being able to report positively about an improvement in rankings, the tone of the communication turns negative. They blame everyone and everything (apart from themselves of course) for the drop in rankings. The usual excuses are:
- “Google has moved the goalposts with a new algorithm”
- “Your competitors must be targetting you with negative SEO”
- “The budget is too low, so you’ll need to pay more to see an improvement”
- “Your web host is the problem”
What then follows is a downward spiral of mistrust, miscommunication, blame and threats. At the same time, your website languishes in the nether regions of Google’s search results and your online enquiries and sales diminishes to a faint trickle. You end up blaming yourself for your gullibility and for not having the wherewithal to see that the €199 per month offer was too good to be true.
The upshot of all this is that if I’m asked to work on a website which has already been tarnished by the “efforts” of a cheap SEO agency employing negative backlinking or over-optimisation tactics, I will need to think long and hard before taking on the job of untangling the mess and getting the Google penalties overturned. If I do decide to take on the project, the cost will carry a premium due to the considerable amount of extra work involved in reversing the ranking downgrades and getting the site back in Google’s top positions.
3. SEO is a Lot More Than Just Pressing Buttons
I’ve preached many times before about the amount of (unrecognised) work that goes into running an effective SEO project. 9 times out of 10, when I get asked to review a site, it’s clear there are fundamental problems with the coding, content management platform (or lack of one) and the design & layout. If I find that these elements are negatively affecting the site’s ranking, I always recommend a complete rebuild. It’s a bit like a construction engineer assessing the build quality of a house and noticing that the foundation has been laid badly. There’s no point trying to improve elements of any structure whose very foundation is unstable. Not only will it make structural improvements more complicated (and costly), it will be a short-lived superficial exercise which won’t have a happy ending.
When I take on a project, it often involves managing and building a complete website rebuild. There is no point trying to retrospectively “fit” a website with SEO. That is not how SEO works. SEO is a combination of many variables, some managed “on-site” and others dictated by “off-site” factors over which you have less control, but need to be managed effectively.
As a WordPress web designer, aswell as an SEO consultant, I’m uniquely positioned to be able to build a website to advanced best-practice design standards while also managing all other related SEO and conversion issues such as meta tag optimisation, quality content creation, social media signalling, traffic engagement, social media signalling and “call to action” implementation. In short, when you hire me, you get the optimal website SEO & website design package. This means, not only will you get a website that will drive traffic by ranking highly in Google for the keywords your prospects are using to find your services, you’ll also get a website which will engage and convert your prospects. Trust me, if you’re looking for long-term sustainable growth in your online business, one can not exist without the other.
OK, I Get What You Say. But What Do You Charge?
I’m not able to give a firm quote for any project without knowing the specific details. As I’ve tried to explain above, every project is different and prices vary according to your current SEO performance, competition within your industry, keywords being targeted, whether a complete site revamp is required etc.
However I know many of you are keen to get some inkling or ballpark idea of cost so you can decide whether to get in touch or not. So, here’s a pricing guide (Note: all rates exclude VAT @23% and serve as guidelines only):
- Up to 1 Hour: €85.00
- 2-5 Hours: €80.00 per hour
- 5-10 Hours: €75.00 per hour
- 10 Hours+: €70.00 per hour
A full SEO audit will take anything from 15 – 40 hours, depending on the size of the site, your current ranking performance and the competitiveness of the keywords you’re looking to target. The areas covered are:
- Technical issues such as site load speed, content management, 404 errors, Google search console settings etc.
- Site architecture and page layout.
- Keywords/search phrases you ought to be targeting.
- Current rankings for relevant keywords.
- Current traffic volume & visitor engagement (requires access to your Google Analytics & webmaster tools accounts).
- “On-site” SEO – Meta titles, meta descriptions, URL structure, H tags, keyword density, internal linking etc.
- Quality & volume of relevant links from 3rd party websites.
- Social Media signals.
- Content development & promotional activities.
- Credibility signals (customer testimonials, awards etc.).
- Strategy & strength of competing websites.
Once the audit’s done, you’ll get a report outlining how well your site performs in each of the above areas, along with a list of practical recommendations and a coherent plan to improve rankings and visitor engagement.
Then it’s up to you to decide how and who you want to implement the audit recommendations. If you hire me to carry out the work, my rates are:
- 10 hours per month: €750.00 (minimum monthly retainer)
- 15 hours per month: €1,050.00
- 20 hours per month: €1,400.00
- Over 20 hours per month: Fee Negotiable
How many hours of my time you will need per month, and for how long, will depend on the complexity of the project and the nature of the tasks required.Still Interested In Hiring Me To Improve Your Rankings?