You’ve heard about SEO. You’re convinced SEO works very well for different kinds of online business. What you probably wonder is why it’s so powerful.

SEO

That’s why I wrote this report – to show you not one, not five, not ten… but twenty-nine different reasons to buy
SEO. To see why SEO is so powerful. To spotlight the role it can play in marketing and communicating.

A few weeks ago, Search Engine Land carried my article about the difficulty of pricing SEO servicesand it got a lot of positive response.

People reached out with new questions, and shared challenges they faced along the SEO sales process, as they struggled to convince internal managers and CEOs about the value of optimizing for search engines, and getting them to expand their marketing budgets for SEO.

Those questions and issues are addressed in this article – beginning with the most compelling reason  why buying SEO is such a good idea.

1.  SEO Is Not A Cost But An Investment

An investment with a high return. By tying in SEO to Web analytics data, you may observe certain keywords having great conversion rates for which you rank only on page #2 on Google and know that you’re leaving money on the table.

Lifting your rank to the top 3 spots on the first page, where most clicks go, can provide a massive return on your modest investment into SEO. It’s why SEO has been likened to investing in real estate – the returns can be truly stupendous when you get it right.

2.  SEO Turns The Spotlight On Your Sales Rockstar

And who would that be? Your website!

Think about it. It’s open 7 days a week, all year long, and never calls in sick or reports late to work. It does whatever it’s told to do, and pulls in sales, leads and opt-ins like clockwork. Your website is your ‘perfect employee’, multitasking effectively, tackling thousands of prospects at once, and only limited by what you ask of it.

Search engine optimization lavishes attention on your sales rock-star, generating the highest performance by giving it the right emphasis and focus in your marketing arsenal.

3.  SEO Is A Crucial Part Of Your Marketing Mix

If you’ve read my other posts here on Search Engine Land, you’ll already know that I’m clear about the importance of SEO for marketing any business. SEO is the master when it comes to pulling in prospects, and can help boost conversions too.

But I also believe that SEO is not the only game in town! SEO alone cannot help you reach your highest marketing potential. Social media, branding and other marketing strategies segue into and complement SEO, the combination strengthening and reinforcing each element to grow your business exponentially… faster.

As a manager or CEO then, your challenge isn’t about picking one over another, but how best to intelligently integrate SEO into your marketing mix to reap rich rewards.

And that’s why this isn’t a ‘battle between marketers’, with specialists in each branch trying to out-sell the other to their clients, but rather an opportunity for collaboration and partnership in leading a business manager or CEO towards the right mix of marketing services – including SEO – that will bring the highest cumulative benefit.

Instead of always “giving customers what they want”, it’s time to face the fact that, often, clients do not know how to select from the diverse options at their disposal.

As professionals, marketers and SEO consultants must not be dismissive or misleading about other specialties than their own, but instead help clients build the right foundation, mix and plan, and then guide them to effectively implement and manage the most cost effective, high-return strategies and tactics that are aligned with their overall business goals.

A part of the responsibility professional marketers share is to steer clients away from danger, or stop them from embracing populist tactics that will actually turn out to be a quagmire in which their business gets stuck, or quicksand into which it gradually sinks without a trace. In my opinion, ‘not telling the full truth’ is just the same as ‘lying’. This approach may not work for every company. Some might even frown at your desire to step outside your scope and field of expertise.

But for small and medium businesses and start ups, by adopting such an advisory/consultative role and offering professional advice, reaching out a helping hand to offer “business development” advice, and showing rock-solid proof to back up your offerings, prices and advice, you can go a long way in building trust. At that point, clients will be willing to follow you, even when you suggest an approach that points in another direction than what they believed would be the right choice.

It bears to always keep in mind that clients are buying a consultant’s expertise only because they don’t have it themselves, and therefore they are (logically) unable to ask for the “perfect offer”.  Selling them whatever they ask for is often not in their best interests. And this is just as true for big brands with internal staff as it is for smaller businesses.

4.  SEO Impacts The Research/Buying Cycle

SEO will increase your sales without proportionately increasing your marketing costs, thereby growing profits exponentially and over time. SEO can further all your business goals at a better ROI than most other comparable forms of online marketing because of this fundamental effect of better conversions and more sales at little incremental cost.

Assuming that everybody has heard about your brand or thinks that you’re the best place to buy can be a very costly mistake. People are constantly researching good deals, and are using the social-driven Web for comparison shopping. And price conscious shopping behavior is more common in tough financial times, when consumers spend their money more cautiously.

SEO plays an important role in this research and buying cycle. It’s like a prospect magnet, attracting potential buyers to your website through critical and relevant keywords and phrases ranked high in search engines where searchers are already looking for information about them. It’s about being where your customers are, and directing them towards solutions you offer them.

5.  SEO Pricing Is Variable

Pricing SEO services is difficult (even though some argue that it’s really simple, as you can see from the discussion around my earlier post titled, How Much Does SEO Cost?).

There are no universal standards by which you can fix a ‘rate card’ for SEO services. Keyword analysis, link building and other SEO activities are unique, customized and tailored differently for specific situations. And even among SEO providers, there is a wide range in quality. There are seasoned professionals and there are scammers, amateurs and ignorant practitioners.

But as the person in charge of your company’s SEO, you are the most ‘dangerous’ person involved… because the responsibility for your choices rests on your shoulders! Before you pick the cheapest or most expensive proposal, the limited or more comprehensive one, the one from experienced pros versus an SEO-savvy cousin or friend, be sure to read How Much Does SEO Cost? to understand the nuances and nitty gritty details.

As a specialized service, SEO involves teams of people working behind the scenes. Giving them a small budget practically ties their hands, and you cannot expect stellar results from their restrained effort.

If you are not yet convinced about the synergies involved and how these facets interact together, then don’t be afraid to ask for an SEO pre-analysis, even if it means paying a modest fee for it.  That’s a safe investment and worth more if it convinces you about the real value in adopting an SEO strategy.

Misconceptions about SEO abound, and this excellent book called “The Art of SEO” has really great examples. Some popular myths include:

  • SEO goals (“we’ll build you 100 links per month”) matter more than business goals (“we’ll grow your profits by 5%”).
  • SEO exists in a vacuum and doesn’t integrate with other parts of the enterprise.
  • SEO techniques are better implemented on marketing concepts and product titles, regardless of search volumes and popularity.
  • SEO activities can be carried out without need for co-ordination and oversight by a supervisor.
  • Leave SEO to the developers (“Trust them, everything will be ok!”).

There are many more in the article, 24 Ways To Make Life Hard For Your SEO Team.

6.  SEO Is Never Too Costly!

Nowhere else in marketing is it likely to pay off by being a contrarian as with choosing the right SEO company. In comparing several companies, you’re often tempted to pick the least expensive pitch, while it may actually be a smart choice to pick the most expensive one!

How? SEO is not a cost. It’s an investment. And even if the highest priced SEO company charges you twice as much as the rest, as a marketing manager or decision maker, you should look deeper into why they are so expensive. What makes them so confident as to pitch you with an offer others would toss into the dust-bin without a second thought?

If the more expensive SEO company helps you reach your financial goals and growth targets in half the time at twice the price, is it really ‘expensive’? Let’s say I offer to pay you $4 for every dollar you give me, how much money would you give me today, assuming you’re convinced I won’t take your cash and run away?

That’s where SEO pre-analysis can help. If the study proves that your market is big enough to drive enough volume, the competition is weak enough for you to fight and win, and your experience with SEO consultants and SEO firms over time shows that you are getting a larger amount of targeted traffic from their efforts. If this traffic converts at a high rate into sales and profit, then the impact on your business from this SEO campaign will be responsible for well more than “4 dollars for one” over time.

Is it time, then, to step back and take a harder look at the allocation of your marketing budget? Should you be looking to reap the potential of SEO, and grab the low hanging fruit within your easy reach?

This isn’t an emotional decision. It’s based on logic and hard data. ‘Costly’ SEO is like buying an automobile. Why does a Ferrari cost more than a VW Beetle? There are many good reasons and similar ones apply to SEO.

7.  SEO Isn’t Icing On The Cake – It’s An Important Ingredient

Ok, now that you’ve spent a fortune on your new website (and it looks great!), the last thing you want is to listen to a consultant who asks you to invest even more money to be visible on search engines.

But Google needs help in understanding your business. SEO that’s effectively woven into your site’s DNA can help showcase your business on search engines in the best possible light.

As an SEO consultant, I get called in by companies that have built a “state of art” website and want SEO slapped on it. But that isn’t how it works. You don’t bake your cake first, and then pour beaten eggs over it, or sprinkle sugar on top. No. You mix those ingredients in with the batter itself.

Taking SEO into consideration even while planning your website structure, content management system (CMS), URL syntax, and Web design gives the best results for your business. It can help you map old URLs to new ones, tailor your landing pages to user intent, lead prospects along a ‘buying slope’ and preserve old rankings that took years of work to achieve.

While an SEO consultant can help you (a lot) even if you started in the wrong order, it will take more time, more effort, more money, and some major restructuring work to get it done later on.

8.  SEO Is More Than Just SEO-Friendly CMS

So your CMS vendor told you it was SEO friendly and optimized? Don’t be fooled. That isn’t all the SEO you need. Not by a long country mile! They should know (by now) that SEO is not only about code. Google doesn’t look for ‘code’, it looks for ‘content’.

There are over 200 ranking factors, and algorithms change many times every year. CMS code is just a fraction of the whole. By providing the right framework for your site, an SEO friendly CMS can help. But it takes a lot more to dominate search engines.

Chief among those ‘other things’ is content. Content is king. The devil is in the detail – keywords, neighborhood, and your overall marketing mix. Your CMS has little to do with these. You wouldn’t buy a great frying pan and food processor, then hope they’ll magically turn you into a Michelin star chef!

SEO isn’t new. Yet many CEOs and managers haven’t formally been taught the importance of good SEO for online business. Yes, CMS vendors may misguide and mislead. After all, this is a highly technical and sophisticated marketing technology, and if you can’t wrap your head around it, you are not alone.

But if you ask the right questions, you’ll win through in the end.

9.  SEO Can Multiply Your Impact

How much did it cost to print your visiting cards? Or your marketing brochures? I’ll bet it wasn’t much compared to how much you invested in your website.

Did you carefully proof-read those cards, brochures or flyers before sending them off to the printing agency (or get someone else to review it for you)? I’ll bet you did.

But you didn’t have a search specialist “proof read” your expensive, infinitely more powerful marketing tool – your website – before you launched it!

Would you design and order all those visiting cards and brochures at considerable expense, and then just lock them up in a shelf? Of course not.

By ignoring SEO, that’s exactly what you’re doing with your fancy new website. A website that could have been viewed by thousands of your best prospects and ideal clients. A website that you’re now leaving to the whim and fancy of Google to rank at its will.

Just because you own top of the line printing equipment, would you print your business cards yourself? No, I’m sure you don’t. You probably order them from a professional company with long experience with printing.

SEO is your digital calling card. It can multiply your impact massively by getting your website in front of targeted eyeballs. There’s good reason to have it handled by professionals who know their job.

They will ensure that your website appeals to the right audience, and gets viewed by a wide segment of it, so that your digital visiting card best performs the critical task your business assigned to it – getting qualified leads and converting them into cash-spending customers.

10.  SEO Keeps You From Missing Out On Free Advertising

Would you trust another agency to write your door sign, or decide what goes on your visiting card? Will you allow your competitor to design your display ads, or decide who sees your storefront?

If you don’t strategically craft your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, that’s what you’re permitting. And that’s not good for business at all. It’s like leaving “lorem ipsum” text on your printed marketing materials!

SEO lets you dictate how your business should be featured on search results. If thousands of your prospects are viewing “random text”, you’re leaving money on the table. You’re letting a wonderful chance to get free advertising slip through your fingers.

The good news is that once you’re aware of this, it’s easy to fix. SEO hands you back the controls, so you can steer your business along the right path.

11.  SEO Leverages Social Sharing

Are you engaged in social media like Facebook? SEO plays an important role here. Content shared by users on social networks are directly related to SEO specific parameters like title tags and meta descriptions. This is what you see when people share posts and stories on their Wall, Google+ profile, or in a tweet or share.

An SEO strategist will help you manage this process, in collaboration with your marketing and communications department. Through SEO you get to control what people read, think and do on social sites and spread through their networks at the speed of light.

12.  SEO Will Help People Find Your Website

Your website is the first point of contact with your audience online. It can generate leads, qualify prospects and attract potential new customers, partners or investors.

But unless people can find it, your website is good for nothing. SEO plays an invaluable role here.

No longer is SEO just about ranking a site in search results, getting more clicks and views, or keeping ‘bounce rates’ optimal. That’s a dangerous misconception. Modern, effective SEO should be rooted in the company’s goals and strategies, and swivels on the psychology of individuals in the target market and segment.

SEO gets your business found, noticed, and loved.

13.  SEO Goes To The Heart Of Your Business

Great SEO demands more than just coding skills and a search-friendly CMS. It’s no longer something a tech-savvy cousin or well-meaning friend can fix up for you over a weekend, for a couple of beers. Professional SEO is serious business.

SEO is like a heart surgery. If organic search is responsible for more than half of your website’s traffic, SEO lies at the heart of your business. Without a good heart surgeon you could die.

Without a specialist handling your SEO, your business could die. Just as you’d hunt for the best heart surgeon to operate on you, you should seek out the best SEO consultant or strategist, rather than trying to do it yourself!

Whoever is responsible for buying SEO at your company must know that it involves marketing and communication, an understanding of business and economics, strategic thought, and the ability to think outside the box, all the while keeping their focus on the business’ overall goals and targets. The individual overseeing your SEO campaigns will become your “extended marketing manager”, financial advisor and more.

Not everyone can do this. And finding a competent person is hard. To casually hand over this challenging task to an in-house Web developer or designer can be unwise. Even though many Web developers and designers are learning more about SEO, it can be a critical mistake to make SEO a “second priority” and install it by ticking boxes on a checklist someone handed you at a seminar!

Sure, you may look on it as a way to cut costs. But this not only “saves you money”,  it also dramatically lowers your profit potential! This is very common, and I see it often in my practice.

Clients view SEO as “shelf-ware” and a “push-button install” that anyone who knows a bit of Web design and HTML coding can fix for them. That’s like using string and duct-tape to fix your car, or your house, when it needs repairs. You’ll risk your safety by doing that. And taking a similar approach to SEO, you’re risking your business (revenue and growth).

14.  SEO Builds Trust & Credibility

SEO can make your brand stronger, better and well recognized. The eventual goal should be that, when people search for business critical and relevant keywords and phrases, they should find you at the top of search results. Then, psychology takes over and prospects will believe that you’re the best.

Your website’s title and meta description tags can telegraph a powerful statement that strengthens your brand, while helping communicate a marketing message that’s in line with your strategic business goals.

Then prospects will believe that you’re the best.

These days, everybody “Googles it”. If you’re there, right on top of the SERPs, it goes a long way in boosting your credibility. If you’re right where your customers are, at the right moment, with the right solution, you’ll win big.

But being there is only part of the puzzle. You need more. You must get inside the heads of your prospects. Speak their language. Feel their pain. Present them with a solution. Once you do, your credibility with your audience skyrockets.

15.  SEO Makes You Ubiquitous

We intuitively sense that a #1 ranking indicates top class. An athlete who wins the gold medal is a champion. Silver and bronze winners are runners-up. All the rest are ‘also rans’… and no one cares about them!

Search engine rankings are similar. The top spot on Google SERPs gets 36.4% of all clicks, the #2 spot gets 12.5%, #3 takes 9.5%, and from there it declines quickly. Being at the top of the heap wins you ‘front of mind’ recall and brand awareness and wins you more sales.

If your website doesn’t pop up on the first page of Google for your business critical keywords and phrases, then it’s… “Houston, we have a problem!”

On the off-chance that you’re running a healthy business even without good search engine visibility for your high search volume keywords, then imagine how much more money you could make when you rank for them and reach those extra customers and make more sales. Remember… if you’re not there, your competitors are, ready to take your money!

16.  SEO Helps Build Your Brand

Branding is often complex, costly and chaotic. You throw many things at consumers, hoping enough will stick in their minds and be recalled when it’s time for a purchase. SEO can help accelerate your branding campaign and make you memorable.

When more people visit your site, get familiar with your business, and order from you, then you have more people likely to come back again and tell their friends about you. SEO is an effective way to get this ball rolling, by ranking your website high and attracting a flood of Web traffic.

It can then turn this initial impression into lasting recall through presenting the most relevant and useful information that a visitor is seeking through search engines, thereby earning ‘mind share’ and securing a lasting place in their heart.

17.  SEO Is A Long-Term Strategy

SEO can deliver quick results. It can be effective in the short term and help businesses who need results now. And that’s the primary appeal of SEO to certain types of business owners. But SEO has one serious advantage over other marketing with a ‘short term’ focus… it delivers an ongoing ROI over the long term also.

While PPC and other advertising methods are quick at driving Web traffic, they are also expensive. Also, in the Tamar 2008 Search Attitude report, 91% of survey respondents said they preferred natural search results while looking to buy a product or service online. SEO can ensure you grab these plum spots.

Done correctly, SEO can be long lasting. With proper SEO analysis up front, you can stay on the front page of search results for years, without spending money in the future. Even after you stop your SEO work, your website can still rank high on your chosen keywords, though you’re better off continuing with the services of an SEO consultant or in-house team, or you’ll risk losing your search ranking.

Again, this isn’t an expense, but an investment. A quick and simple calculation will show you how quickly you’ll earn back your investment into effective SEO by way of increased earnings.

18.  SEO Drives Offline Sales

Good SEO starts with smart purchasing decisions. Today, more sales offline are driven by research initiated on the Web. A WebVisible/Nielsen study in 2008 found that 86% of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses from which to buy offline. Yes, in the store!

It’s why most offline businesses cannot afford to ignore online marketing, and also why SEO forms the cornerstone of every offline company’s digital marketing strategy. Your website acts as a never-resting salesperson, working day and night to deliver qualified leads to your business.

These are people actively seeking out solutions that you offer to their most pressing problems and needs. SEO can bring many more of them to your virtual doorstep, for your business to enamor, service and delight.

19.  SEO Attracts Relevant Traffic With High Conversion Potential

SEO is highly targeted, down to minor details. Using keyword analysis, you can find just how big a “market” is, how many people are searching for that exact keyword, how competitive the arena is (in SERPs), and with some keen deductive reasoning, even identify the intent behind keyword searches.

It’s not all intuitive and obvious, and the devil is in the details. That’s why having an insightful SEO consultant can generate huge returns on your marketing dollars spent on optimization.

Web traffic from a good SEO campaign has high conversion potential. And by correctly tapping into ‘searcher intent’, addressing your audience’s concerns and problems, building trust, and convincing prospects that your company is the right one to do business with, you can enjoy a high rate of visitor-to-sales conversion that’s the envy of your industry.

For example, a well-planned SEO campaign for a hotel will reach potential customers looking to take a vacation, lead them to your website, and to the right section that addresses exactly what they’re looking for. In this way, SEO acts like a hybrid of a guide, receptionist, concierge, marketing executive and salesperson.

Without SEO, finding your website in the tourism industry will be hunting for a needle in a haystack. Without fully understanding the intent behind your visitor’s search and their unique and individual needs, the chances of losing the prospect forever is high. Getting them both right means more visitors, and more sales.

20.  SEO Is Measurable Marketing

Every element of your SEO can be measured, evaluated and corrected. By doing this continuously, you can find out your return on every SEO dollar invested.

21. Your SEO Consultant Is A ‘Secret Weapon’

A professional SEO consultant will be a great asset in developing your business. Your SEO consultant can find lucrative keywords and niches with great ROI where you can make money easily, carry out detailed market research and competitive analysis, and help you build content to pull in traffic that will close big deals for you.

A skilled SEO consultant can run in-depth analyses of your business competitors, study their strategy, and more. Your consultant can mock up a “war” and test your strategies in battle against your competition… and if those computations work in your favor, it’s time to go to war!

It can also show you if the strategy is ineffective or the competition too well entrenched to unseat. This will save you money and time wasted in pursuing ownership of that keyword or niche, leaving you to focus energy on more profitable areas. Such market pre-analysis can be priceless to the right company or business.

Remember what Al Ries and Jack Trout highlight in their timeless book, “Marketing Warfare” – Marketing is a war! And just as you won’t think about going to war without conventional weapons, you can’t enter a competitive market armed only with a tommy gun!

At the same time, using old fashioned weaponry will only prolong the suffering and lead to an inevitable defeat. You need powerful, state of art, effective weapons to win. And in the digital battleground, cutting-edge SEO will give you an edge.

22.  SEO Is Cost Effective

Over years, SEO has been proven to be one of the most cost effective forms of online marketing, delivering a higher return for every dollar invested into it over time.

Your Web hosting, design and content creation expenses are similar, whether your site is visited by one hundred people, one thousand, or one million.

You pay the same for each visitor to your website, whether they join your list, buy your product or interact with your brand.

Your marketing costs are identical whether one visitor in a thousand buys from you, or one in a hundred, or one in every five.

Effective SEO can attract thousands, even millions of targeted prospects to your business website, and increase your conversion rates by delivering the exact solution to problems they are facing.

Better still, the ongoing effect and impact of SEO continues far beyond the time you invest into a campaign, because the momentum will sustain for many weeks, often years, making SEO very cost efficient as a marketing choice.

23.  SEO Can Be Outsourced To Run Hands-Free

An SEO company will work 24/7 with SEO, all year long. That’s what gives them an edge over hobbyists. They are up to date with the newest algorithm changes, negative and positive ranking factors, and know what’s needed right now while being proficient at predicting what will be needed in the future.

Also, an SEO company will get the work done faster because they have dedicated teams executing your plan, and will get you to your financial and business targets earlier. Buying cheap SEO services will apparently save you money upfront, but it will also hold you back from making a lot of money. In SEO, there is a pretty good correlation between investment and revenue.

Giving your SEO consultant enough time and the right mandate will add value to other parts of your marketing. It’s how you’ll sow and reap synergies across all your business building activities.

In SEO, there is a pretty good correlation between investment and revenue.

24.  SEO Can Be Made To Work For You

Yes, even if it didn’t work for you before, SEO can be tweaked and twisted into a form that benefits your business. I’ve heard it so often from clients that I simply ignore that objection and offer to prove my point through an inexpensive test.

Most often, the reason why SEO didn’t work is because the company invested too little time or money or resource into it. To blame SEO after neglecting it, not doing it properly, or simply fearing it as “something new” is unfair.

Assuming you did everything right in your implementation of SEO, it could have failed through improper planning. In SEO, failing to plan is planning to fail. That’s why it is important to assign a budget, study the market and search volumes, analyze the competitiveness and anchor your SEO campaign to business goals and strategy. This will prevent the campaign from going off the track.

An expert SEO consultant will steer you away from markets that are too small, competition that is too tough, or where revenue potential is tiny.

You’ll avoid wasting time and money chasing after the wrong targets, like more traffic that won’t convert, or higher rankings that don’t deliver the right prospects. Guesswork can lead to painful and costly surprises. SEO strategy eliminates these surprises and provides constant, reliable results.

25.  SEO Can Convince Even Skeptics

If you’re not quite sure if SEO can deliver on the promise, you can have your SEO consultant simulate or forecast both expenses and projected income before you invest big money into it. Your simulation report will cover competition analysis, market size studies, trends and future predictions, and more data that will help you make an informed decision.

This simulation can be done in a short time (maybe just a few hours, depending on the size of your business, the nature of your service or product, and the competition in your marketplace) and will laser focus your SEO campaign where it will give you the most bang for your buck.

Equally important, it will be great insurance against investing in non-lucrative strategies and tactics. In a marketing war, you cannot afford to squander precious (and limited) resources on wasteful initiatives.  Don’t risk it!

26.  SEO Provides Endless Opportunity

SEO is a continuous process. It’s like the machinery you use to drill for oil, or mine for gold. You’ll need more powerful equipment if you are to go through granite or hard rock, your engines will require frequent maintenance, and the drill-bit may get worn out and need replacing from time to time.

Your SEO is just the same. It will need constant tweaks, reviews and shifts to keep it moving in the right direction, so that it continues to deliver stellar results.

Sometimes the ground may be so hard that you need diamond-tipped drills to break through. And yes, diamond drill-bits are more expensive. But as long as research shows the presence of a vein of gold, or a large reservoir of oil, the drilling must proceed if riches are to be tapped.

In the same way, in tough markets, the SEO you need might be more expensive because of tougher competition. Yet the ‘hidden treasure’ you’re seeking will be more precious, making it worth mining for. Research and analysis by expert SEO advisors can tell you if there’s a gold mine there or not.

That’s how your investment in expensive SEO consultants pays off. At first, they may look bad on your budget sheet, because they appear as a “cost”. But if the impact of their research is to correctly guide you to the most profitable niches and avenues to mine for wealth and profit, then it will multiply your modest investment ten times over, or more!

Good SEO is like a fine-tuned engine. Unless you take good care, it won’t be able to keep going and will burn out. When you embark upon an SEO driven strategy, be prepared to hunker down for a long fight. You’ll take some hits along the way, but you’ll throw harder punches and score more wins. Eventually, that’s what matters.

27.  SEO Beats Paid Traffic

Maybe you already use Google Adwords (or other PPC advertising) very successfully. Even so, it’s paradoxical that SEO, which drives 75% of search traffic, garners less than 15% of an average SEM marketing budget, while PPC that provides barely 25% earns 80% of it.

An exclusive focus on PPC ignores the large hidden component of the iceberg that’s search traffic. Just think about it. If dominating the source of one-quarter of overall traffic gives you such excellent rewards, how much better will they get when you also control the rest?

28.  SEO Is Rooted In User Intent

Where many forms of online marketing are based interrupting a prospect with a sales pitch, SEO is aligned with the intent of a searcher, meeting your audience halfway with a relevant, targeted message that appeals to their interest and delivers a solution they are already seeking.

Being there with the right information and facts may prevent dissemination of myths and false information, become valuable in reputation management, and build a stronger brand.

Good SEO fits the various types of search intent, including:

  • Navigational
  • Informational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial

In that respect, SEO is able to generate the highest conversion rate of any targeted digital marketing initiative, which is what makes SEO a high return effort.

Quick, cheap SEO is ineffective and has little lasting value, but healthy SEO costs more but has a longer term impact.

29.  SEO Helps You Capitalize On Weak Competition

SEO can let you reap what your competitors sow! When your competition has a smaller marketing budget, they will make mistakes (or overlook opportunities). Good SEO can help you take advantage of these weaknesses. This makes SEO a smart move for small and medium sized businesses in competitive branches.

Take the case of clueless marketing campaigns that run expensive TV commercials, mass media display advertising, billboards and the like. These ads serve to activate interest in the market niche, in general, or broadly in a product or service category. Usually the company developing these ads are unconnected with search marketing divisions. This leaves a wide open hole for you to fill.

A study by market research firm Ipsos OTX based on a survey of 5,000 US smart phone users found that 71% of users search because of an ad they’ve seen online or offline. When interested people turn to search engines for more information, you can use SEO to position yourself to harvest the traffic.

This is like casting a fish net into waters that are teeming with sea-life and hauling back a rich catch!

The approach does not involve sneaky or stealthy practices such as targeting other business’ brand names. No. These are generic keyword searches sparked off by mass advertising and you can target this traffic through an intelligent mix of organic SEO and pay-per-click ad campaigns (because these are often faster and instant in impact).

The Business Case For SEO

Hopefully, these compelling reasons have convinced you about the value and benefits of an integrated SEO strategy in growing your business and taking your company to new heights of profitability, branding and success.

SEO is like music. The foundations haven’t changed much since the inception. But the application of SEO has evolved over time. I’ve traced some of this complex journey in my article called How Much Does SEO Cost?

On a personal note, I don’t believe a discussion about which marketing tactic is “the best” is of much value. As business owners, CEOs and managers, what we need to focus on is how to reach the best result by talking and working together. We’ll do ourselves a huge favor by not arguing over the most effective technique, but instead exploring how we can successfully integrate the best mix and exploit it to the fullest potential in growing business and revenues.

One last thing to keep in mind. Handing someone a guitar doesn’t mean they’ll start playing great music. If you want great music, hire a rock star. If you want top notch SEO, hire SEO Rock Stars.  Then give them the budget they need to deliver great results.

Should You Hire an SEO Agency?

You get a wide array of knowledge. Strategic SEO is so much more than simply knowing how to research keywords. An experienced agency team will bring their extensive knowledge of the digital marketing sphere to your campaign. Their extensive familiarity with mobile, digital advertising, as well as general tech news will help them align your goals with current standards. Furthermore, this will help them seize opportunities for growth.

A good SEO agency will also have experience working with many different clients across many different industries. This will grant them the unique perspective they need to apply their vast SEO know-how to your business.

You get a team of SEO experts up to date on the latest algorithmic changes. Full-service SEO agencies can be comprised of Account Managers, Content Writers, Web Developers, and many more, all of whom have practical working knowledge of what they can contribute to improve your SEO campaign.

With Google and other search engines constantly tweaking their algorithms, having a team that is always in-the-know can prove invaluable when responding to sudden changes.

Additionally, when working with an agency, SEO is rarely the only service you could take advantage of. During the course of your campaign, you may discover your website needs to implement a new key feature. Implementing it could be as easy as a phone call and an amendment to the agency’s scope of work. Basically, you get a bit more flexibility in what you can do with your SEO when you work with an agency.

Hiring an agency is often cheaper than hiring an in-house SEO specialist. Bringing on an in-house SEO specialist can be costly. You may have to scale up their pay according to their experience or salary demands to secure the right person for the job, and that’s not even counting benefits, bonuses, or pay raises. With an agency, you’ll only pay for their services, usually in the form of a monthly fee.

You can usually escalate issues up the chain of command. Problems may arise while working with your SEO agency. Maybe you have a disagreement about something in the contract, or your main point of contact isn’t answering your calls and emails. All the while, your campaign is suffering during this dispute. However, there is a simple solution—if your contact is being problematic, you can let their boss know.

Is the Account Manager not answering your calls lately? Reach out to the Senior Account Manager. Keep going up the hierarchy until you get the answers you need. You might not be able to get all the way up to the CEO just to get your calls answered, but with an agency, you’ll find it easier to get your campaign back on the right track.

You can fire your agency if they fail to deliver. Ultimately, if an SEO agency isn’t getting the results you want, you can fire them. Maybe deadlines aren’t being met, or the quality of their work doesn’t match what was promised. Maybe you just don’t get along. Since you’re paying for agency to provide a service, it’s not unreasonable to cut them loose when that service isn’t working.

How to Choose a Good SEO Company for Your Business

Don’t make these mistakes

Mistake #1: Using Google as your filter

The logic makes a lot of sense here if you think about it simplistically. Simplistic thinking is a good SEO company will do a great job ranking for SEO company or SEO consultant or SEO consultant plus my city name. So if I’m looking for the best SEO in Seattle, I have only to Google “best SEO Seattle” and surely the number-one company will show up at the top. But, unfortunately, what happens is most of the very good companies, the ones that are in high demand, the ones that do consistently great work and get great referrals, they don’t actually need to rank here. They’re overwhelmed with clients all the time because their clients refer them to people and lots of people in their network refer folks to them. They have a high retention of clients. Lots of people are very satisfied. They’re making plenty of money and they’re incredibly busy, so they don’t spend any work optimizing their own website to get new clients.

As a result, you are often left with some of the dregs here. Many of the companies that rank well for best SEO plus city name or best SEO plus a region or plus a particular specialty, like best ecommerce SEO, are not the best. They are, in fact, the folks who are simply without any client work and so they’re concentrating all their energy on trying to get new clients. Sometimes, maybe, you can find some good folks in there. It’s just not a great filter.

Mistake #2: Trusting “Top SEO” lists

Many people will search for “best SEOs” or “best SEO consultants” or “best SEO companies,” “best SEO companies United States.” They’ll get to a website like, I don’t know, bestSEOs.com or topSEOs.com. There are a number of these types of websites that are essentially just aggregators. Their business model is they try and rank for terms like this, and then they sell those listings, the listings on their page, to SEO firms and companies. Back when Moz was a consulting company many, many years ago, they’d call us up and they’d say, “Hey, do you want to be number 3, we can make you number 3 on the best SEO companies list for $20,000 a year. Or we can make you number 1, but you’re going to have to pay $75,000 a year.”

That is not a great… I mean it’s a great model for them. Don’t get me wrong. But that pay-to-play scheme is not trustworthy for you as a consumer of SEO companies. You would never trust someone that said, “Oh well, what’s the best restaurant in this particular region?” You’d never go to a list where the restaurants just paid. That would give you the conglomerates and the people who can afford to spend the most and the worst. Don’t trust those types of lists.

 

Mistake number three is believing the sales pitch that unfortunately many I’m going to say low-quality SEO consultants use, which is there’s a secret sauce. There are no secret sauces in SEO. If you hear like, “This is how Google works blah, blah, blah, and then here’s how we do our secret optimization techniques. I can’t tell you what those are. It’s a proprietary methodology, but it works really well,” that’s baloney. You should reject that. If you ask, “How do you do it,” and they say, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you, it’s a secret or it’s proprietary,” that is a very, very bad sign. No one has a secret proprietary process. SEO is a very, very open field. It’s well understood. It has origins in a lot of secrecy, but that is not the way it is today and you should never accept that as an answer. That is a red flag.

My recommended process for choosing an SEO company:

Step 1

I want you to establish, sit down with your team, with your CEO, with your executive team, your board, whoever you’ve got, and figure out the goals you’re trying to achieve with SEO. Why do you want to do SEO? Why do you want to rank organically for keywords? Then, figure out how you’re going to judge success versus failure. In this process, there are good goals and bad goals.

Good goals:

  • I want to get in front of a lot of people who are researching this, and so we need traffic from these specific groups. I know that they perform searches for this. Great.
  • We’re trying to boost revenue, and we’re trying to boost it through new sales and SEO is a sales driving channel. Fine, great.
  • We’re trying to boost downloads or free sign-ups or free trials. Also a fine goal.
  • We’re trying to boost sentiment for our brand. Maybe if you Googled some of our branded terms today, there are some poor reviews, there’s lots of good reviews that rank below them, and we want to push the good reviews up and the bad reviews down. Fine. Sentiment, that could be something you’re driving as well. You know a lot of people are researching your brand or branded terms. Those are all good goals.

Bad goals:

  • We just want traffic, more traffic. Why? Well, because we want it. Terrible, terrible goal. Traffic is not a goal in and of itself. If you say, “Well, we want more traffic because we know search traffic converts well for us and here are the statistics on it,” fine, terrific. Now it’s a revenue driving thing.
  • Rankings alone, unfortunately this is a vanity thing that many people have where they want to rank for something simply because they want to rank for it. Usually a bad sign for SEO companies considering clients. You shouldn’t have that on your goals list. That’s not a positive goal.
  • Beating a particular competitor out for specific keywords or phrases. Again, not a great goal. Doesn’t drive directly to revenue. Doesn’t drive directly to organizational goals.
  • Vanity metrics. I still see people who are saying, “Hey, does anyone know a great SEO company that can help bring our domain authority up or our Majestic trust flow up or, worst of all, our Google PageRank up?” Google dropped PageRank years ago. It’s terrible. Vanity metrics, bad ideas too.

Step 2

Once you have a list of these good goals that you’re trying to optimize for, my suggestion is that you should assemble a list of usually three to five is I think sort of the right comfort zone. You can do more if you have the bandwidth to evaluate more, but three to five, at least, consultants or agencies. Those could be by a bunch of criteria. You might say, “Hey, look we really need someone in our region so that we can meet with them in person or at least someone who can fly to us on a regular basis.” Maybe that’s a requirement for you. Or you might say, “That’s not important. Remote is great.” Fine, wonderful. You might say something like, “Our price range or our budget is this particular thing.”

You want to find whatever those criteria are and make sure you’ve got a list of three to five folks that you can consider against one another. Have some conversations with them and dig into references.

Good sources:

  • Your friends and personal networks and professional networks as well.
  • Similar non-competitive companies. You will find that if you’re, for example, in a B2B space or in an ecommerce space and there’s a non-competitive ecommerce company whom you’re friendly with, you can build those relationships. You should certainly already have those relationships. Talking to those folks about who they use and whether they were successful, great way to find some good people.
  • Industry insiders. If you’re watching Whiteboard Friday here on Moz, chances are good that you follow some great SEO people on Twitter, which is a very popular network for SEOs, or that you read SEO blogs. You can reach out to some of those influential insiders with whom you have a relationship or whose opinion you really like and care about and ask them who they would recommend.

Good questions to ask:

  • By the way, I like asking SEO companies: What process are you going to use to accomplish our goals, and why do you use those particular processes? That’s a really smart one to start with.
  • Ask them about their communication and reporting process. How often? What’s their cadence like? What metrics do they report on? What do they need you to collect? Why do they collect those metrics? How do those match up to your goals and how do they align?
  • What work and resources will you have to commit internally? You should know that before you go into any arrangement, because it could get very complex. If your SEO company says, “Great here’s a list of recommendations,” and you say, “Fine, we don’t have the development bandwidth, or we don’t have the content creation bandwidth, or we don’t have the visual or UI or UX exchange bandwidth to make any of those. So what do we do?” Well, now you’re road blocked. You should’ve had that conversation much earlier in time. *By the way, SEO usually requires some intensive resource allotment. So you should plan for that ahead of time.
  • What do you do when things aren’t working? I love asking that question, and I like asking for specific examples of when things haven’t gone right and what they’ve done to fix that in the past and work around it.
  • I like asking broadly. Especially when you open a conversation, especially if you’re feeling like, hey I want to get to know this company’s approach to SEO and their understanding of Google, you can ask them something like, “Hey, tell me how does Google rank results, and how do you as a company influence them?” You should hear good answers about, yes, this is how Google does things, and here’s how we know that and here’s how we do our process of influencing those results. That’s great.

Step 3

I like to recommend that folks choose on these four things:

  1. The trust that you’ve established with a company. That’s through references, through the conversation, through people that you’ve talked to in your network.
  2. Through referrals. If you hear great referrals and you trust those referral sources, that’s a wonderful signal.
  3. Through communication style match. If your communication style, even if everything else is good, but when you have conversations, you walk away from them feeling a little frustrated, maybe you got the things you needed, but it didn’t flow smoothly, I would suggest that maybe that’s a cultural mismatch and you should look for another provider.
  4. Price and contract structure. Many SEO firms have a contract structure that’s month-to-month and that has a certain length of time. You should expect to pay some upfront payment and then some ongoing monthly fee. There’s usually a time at which the payment will recur and the contract will renew. It’s pretty similar to a lot of other services, consulting types of agreements, so you should expect that. If you’re seeing very non-standard stuff, that can be a bad thing sometimes, but not always. A lot of times SEOs have more creative pricing, and that’s all right.

Pro tips

Three pro tips:

  1. If SEO needs to be a core competency at your company, bring it in-house. An agency or consultant can never do as much with as much resources, with as much communication, as someone in-house can do. Starting with a consultant externally and then bringing someone in-house is a fine way to go.
  2. If the quality SEO folks that you’re considering are too pricy, my suggestion might be to say, “Okay, how about you just advise us on the work, and we’ll hire an in-house person, maybe who’s more beginner-level and you coach that person?” That can work well, again especially if you have that budget to bring that person in-house.
  3. Remember that SEO is not for everyone. SEO is extremely competitive. Page 1 gets 95% plus of the clicks. The top 3 or 4 results are getting more than 70% of those clicks, 65% or 70%. So a lot of the time, if you can’t afford yet to do SEO or to engage in it seriously, it may not be all that valuable to go from ranking on page five for a lot of your key terms to page two or the bottom of page one. Unless you have the budget and the energy to really commit yourself to SEO, it might be a channel you consider later down the road.