While small organizations have every right to be skeptical of prolonged engagements with marketing agencies, prioritizing budget over quality of work is not the way to go. This is especially true since marketing agencies can be pricey.
This is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Like all marketing or business development endeavors, SEO needs to be handled strategically and methodically. An agency should begin by performing a variety of audits to gauge the health of your website. These may include, a site-speed audit, a technical SEO audit, or search engine ranking audits. After compiling these reports, they’ll prioritize issues and tasks to address.
Any company that says they can optimize your website for a flat fee of $100 per year is misrepresenting the most fundamental principle of SEO:
Optimization is a process, and there is no state of “best”
Google changes their search algorithms daily and over 200 factors are considered when determining a page’s rank. The only way to reach the first search engine results page (SERP) is to make consistent, data-driven changes over time. This is optimization.
So, instead of hiring an agency who can do EVERYTHING for cheap, find an agency that can deliver 80% of the value while doing 20% of the work. Save the easy stuff for your own team or intern to do between projects.
Here’s a breakdown of what SEO tasks drive value
Technical SEO – 60% of the value, 20% of the time investment
Technical SEO is essentially everything that’s “under the hood” as it relates to your website. Having a website that loads quickly and is easy for search engines to crawl understand is critical.
Technical SEO tasks can include:
- Reducing Site Speed & Load Time – If a webpage takes 10 seconds or longer to load, how likely are you to go to another site or lose interest? This is exactly why having a fast site is important both for users and search engines alike.
- Image Caching and Reduction – Reducing the amount of data that has to be downloaded before a page can be displayed makes a big difference in overall performance, especially if you have a big website. Reducing an image by 75% of its size can have a huge impact on a page.
- Fixing 404 Errors and Redirects – Broken pages are frustrating for users because they don’t find what they thought they
- Integrating Google Analytics and Search Console – If you do one thing after reading this post, it would be to make sure you have Google Analytics and Google Search Console integrated with your website. These platforms tell you everything you need to know about how people find your site, how they use it and what actions they take. With these tools, you’ll have all the information necessary to make drastic improvements in SEO.
Experienced SEOs or web developers can make significant progress in these areas relatively quickly. This will drastically increase a search engines’ ability to navigate your website and accommodating your user’s ever-shortening attention span.
If you’re going to outsource anything when it comes to SEO, discuss technical SEO or ask for specific improvements.
On-Page SEO – 20% of the value, 20% of the time investment
On-page SEO involves taking basic text and coding it correctly so that:
- Google can see how you’re prioritizing various words and
- Users can understand what you’re going to be discussing without having to read the entire page.
These days, making a page ‘scannable’ is a must, and the most important thing for search engines when determining your rank is positive user interactions.
On-page SEO tasks include:
- Header Implementation – If your blogs have 800 words in 2 paragraphs, consider reorganizing your content and adding header tags. Not only do they indicate to Google that your page has structure, they make it much easier for your reader to understand.
- Image Implementation – As they say, “a picture is worth a 1000 words”. If you’re discussing topics that are relatively complex, adding a few graphics that visualize the process does wonders for your readability. Those graphics are also great to reuse on your social media profiles.
- Spacing – Essentially, good spacing means avoiding overly dense paragraphs and proper use of white space on a page.
On most content management systems (CMS), these aspects are built into your ‘theme’ and are automatically applied if you use the correct settings.
If these are not yet on your website, they’ll still provide a huge boost to the overall quality of your page, but not as much as taking your page-load speed from 10 seconds to 1.5 seconds. An SEO agency should be able to implement them and provide an example of what your content should look like in the future.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, this is an initiative that can be handled by a novice if you’re willing to do some homework. These are easy to implement, but there’s a big difference between doing it, and doing it well.
Content Optimization – 20% of the value, 60% of the time investment
Optimizing content involves looking at the data regarding how users interact with your page, or how they find it, and making changes to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
When answering “how did someone find my page on Google” there are generally 4 metrics you can look at in Search Console: Clicks, Impressions, Position and Click-Through-Rate (CTR). Google Search Console tells you how your site or a page performs when someone searches for a given keyword. Based on those metrics, you determine what changes could help a page perform better for a certain keyword.
Content optimization tasks include:
- Revising Meta-Data – If you have a ton of impressions for a given page but not many clicks, consider changing your meta-description or meta-title to be more enticing to potential readers.
- Formatting – Make sure that your header tags within your content contain your keywords, but be sure not to overuse them. That’s called keyword stuffing and is frowned upon in the SEO community.
- Updating content for relevancy – Google and other search engines like fresh content. Sites that are updated frequently get crawled the most often, and when Google likes what it sees, it rewards you. Thus, if you wrote a post about computers back in the 90’s, consider updating the references you use to be more current, change the links to higher profile websites, add images and speak to your audience.
So how do you find affordable SEO services?
The answer is absolutely not “go with a cheaper agency”. Instead, have the agency do all of the things that truly require expertise, especially when it comes to technical SEO. For on-page SEO and content optimization, you may choose to have the agency outline best practices, develop a process and guidelines for you. However, you’ll save yourself a lot of money, by learning some of the basics and doing the easy stuff yourself.
This is the crux of what I mean when I say there’s no such state as ‘best’. Things can always be better. Rewriting sentences to include certain keywords, while important for the long-term success of your content, takes up the majority of your time and provides the least amount of value.
Remember, anyone whose key differentiator is “we’re cheap” will just leave you disappointed in the long run.