November 7, 2013
Getting your site to rank high in the search engines gets harder and harder with each Google update and with each new competitor that enters the market. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the surest way to guarantee that your website will appear when someone is looking for it — but it will cost you. The biggest SEO firms can charge tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Use this guide to finding out how your current scheme is working, what adjustments you should make, and the type of firm you want to handle your SEO.
Make Small, Incremental Goals
Identifying return on investment from SEO is difficult in the short-term because no matter what your barometer — income, traffic, social media gains — it’s not always possible to establish a cause-and-effect, action-reaction pattern. Every dip and increase could be the result of a million outside factors that have nothing to do with your SEO investment.
On the flip side, however, waiting too long means money is being wasted if the strategy isn’t producing. If you can’t tell after a week, and you don’t want to wait 12 months, find some goals and barometers in between. Whether it’s every month or every quarter, establish realistic goals over realistic periods of time to measure your progress.
Google Analytics is a sophisticated tool that allows you to track your website’s traffic origins. When you use it, measure in small segments such as weeks to avoid grabbing just samples. Do this by using the drop-down menu and setting it to ‘weeks.’ Use the same drop-down menu to switch between measuring keywords used, ad content, visitor type, and landing page.
By using Google Analytics to determine how your visitors arrived at your site, by what means, and from where, you’ll have a much better gauge on whether or not your SEO strategy is working. From there, you can decide on any necessary budget adjustments.
Using a metrics dashboard such as HubSpot will allow you to dig much deeper into your SEO strategy. By analyzing your competitors, how difficult your keywords are to rank well, and ranking your keywords against each other, you’ll be able to see if your SEO plan is working through undeniable numbers.
SEO software that uses reporting platforms such as Analytics SEO can not only rank your keywords and analyze your strategy, but do auditing on a daily basis. Even more, they can usually identify automated links prospects to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for with linking and backlinking as well.
Choose the Right Firm
Now that you’ve analyzed how much bang you’re getting for your buck, it’s time to take a good, hard look at how much muscle you really need. The biggest SEO firms charge a minimum of $50,000 a month. If you’re a small business, chances are you’re not swimming in water that deep, but it’s time to take a look at whether you need as much SEO as you’re buying — or any at all.
Your product and your market have a lot to do with how far SEO can take you. If you paid top dollar for an excellent firm and haven’t seen a great deal of results, you may be in an industry that doesn’t require a major SEO presence. If you sell supplements or do credit repair, SEO could make you or break you. If you sell stationary in Toledo, OH, you may be able to do it on your own — or at least downsize.
SEO budgets can be tricky to set and hard to prepare for in the future. No matter what the software companies say, there is no surefire way to determine exactly what the return on your SEO investment is. Set short goals as part of a long-term strategy, use software to analyze who your visitors are and where they came from, and always make sure your firm isn’t overselling you.