Search engine optimization has come a long way over the past two decades. When I entered the field in the mid 90’s most SEO was just entering a few lines of Meta tags and making sure your keywords were prominent on the page without overdoing it. Of course, back then there were maybe 25,000 to 50,000 competing web pages for any given keyword. Today typical competition ranges from 800,000 to 1,100,000. That’s a big difference! Go ahead and type in any keyword phrase into Google, Yahoo or Bing to see what I mean. Crazy, isn’t it?
OK, so we know that SEO has become a lot more complicated than it once was, while also becoming much more competitive. This is not exactly new news to most of us.
We already knew SEO was a big deal. Even if we did not know exactly how big a deal, it becomes apparent that it must be both valuable and difficult when you see how much it costs to pay an SEO company.
As of June 2011, the average cost of SEO services in the United States hovers around $9,000.- to $14,000.- per year for a typical service industry company such as plumber or electrician. It is also about the same (high-end at 14k to 18k) for accountants and even more for legal practices going after ultra competitive keywords that bring in the big bucks in clientele (20k plus!).
When all is said and done, the typical business owner will invest ten to twenty thousand dollars per year in SEO. And although it sounds steep, they would not be doing it if they were not making even more money in return. In most cases; much more money. As I guess as the old joke goes – why is SEO so expensive? Because it’s worth it.
But how does that help you? Unless you have the money to invest, it does not help you at all. In fact, it hurts your position because now you are competing against those with a huge advantage. And that advantage is helping them pull even further ahead, steal your customers and make even more money. You have heard the old saying about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? This is a great example of how it happens in business. But it does not have to be this way. They might have money but you have brains. Now if you are willing to match those smarts with a little hard work, you can take on your biggest competitor and never look back.
First of all, use a free keyword suggestion tool to find the best keywords to target. Just run a search for “free keyword tool” and try a couple out. If you use Google’s free keyword suggestion tool you can even just enter your domain name (or that of a competitor) and let it suggest which keywords are best to target.
Second, make a list of three to five keywords that you think are right up your alley. If you sell items locally, be sure the keywords include your geo… IE/ “plumber in Boston” or “Boston plumber”. Of course, make sure there is plenty of search volume for the whole keyword, including the geo qualifier (city, town, etc.)
Third, run a search for each of those keywords on Google, Yahoo and Bing to see if your site comes up. If you do not see it in the first page or two, there is no need to look any deeper because nobody is going to find it anyway. Tip: You can also look into a piece of SEO software to do this for you by running a search for “rank tracking software.”
Now, make note of the keywords that show the most promise and make this your target list.
Note: If any of these keywords show up within the top ten pages of the search engine results, then you probably do not have to do any onsite SEO like adding SEO copywriting or updating Meta tags. In fact, you can do it all by just building quality one-way inbound links so you can skip to that step.
Finally, if you find you need to update the on-page factors such as SEO copy and Meta tags, follow these simple steps.
1.) Make sure you have at least 300 words of text per page and that your keyword in question shows up at least once per 100 words (1.5 times is optimal), without going over five mentions total.
2.) Most search engines will expect to see your main keyword mentioned more at the top of the page and less as you get toward the bottom. Please note however that you need at least one mention in the final paragraph to keep it feeling legit.
3.) Pay special attention to your Title Meta tag and keep it simple. Having each keyword separated by a “pipe” is a great way to handle this tag with the company name put toward the end. Just don’t use the geo too often and feel free to follow-up with the state abbreviation and state name spelled out. For our example it might be “Boston Plumber | Boston Plumbing Company | Emergency Plumbers | Boston | MA | Massachusetts.”
4.) Get as many high quality backlinks as possible from authority sites. An easy way to do this is to register with as many directories as possible. Easy, but it can be very time consuming as it typically involves setting up a user account, writing a good title, writing an SEO optimized description, verifying your account setup through an email, submitting your request and entering a captcha code to prove you are human and not an automated bot, and finally verifying your submission via email.
There are plenty of other ways to get links, and you will need several to really succeed. If you do not mind spending $75 you can hire a link building company. If you don’t want to continue spending that money you might want to look into buying a piece of SEO software for $150 to $200. if you go this route, get one that does automatic rank tracking for you too and save a ton of time and effort.
Please note that as an SEO professional I am happiest when people choose to hire out the work. However, as a small business owner, I must say that if you can invest $150 or so, you can scoop up a tool that does it all for you. Most SEO professionals have at least this one in their toolbox; http://www.seoeliteweb.com but there are many out there.
Just shop around and spend wisely. You can save an absolute bundle on your SEO efforts, and eat your competition’s lunch, if you do.
Mike Little has been a search engine optimization professional since 1996. In 2003 he joined one of the oldest established SEO companies in the US; DotCom Pirates and has worked with over 200 companies worldwide since that time.