Financial Data
Updated 29 Feb 2020


What to pay for search engine optimisation

You have a good-looking website and a great product, but you're just not making it into the top results of the search engine listings. What to do? And more importantly, what's it going to cost you?


05 April 2010  Share  2 comments  Print


All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

A Small Capital member recently asked if there were any guidelines on what to pay for a search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign. Mike Perk, from World Wide Creative, offers the following response:

Occasionally I am asked this question after someone has expected their website company to do SEO as part of a new website development. An equally important question, however, is whether or not you SHOULD expect this. My answer is NO.

Building a website is a design and technical process, whereas SEO is a specialist skill in its own right. For example, if you were starting up a new retail business, an architect and construction team would build the actual structure, and you might appoint an interior designer to make it look good. But you wouldn't want any of those parties in charge of your marketing campaign. Persuading people to visit your new store (much like your new website) requires a very different skill.

What you CAN expect from your website developer, however, is reassurance that you won't lose any Google rankings that your existing site might already have. I have seen businesses that rely on search engine traffic go under because their new website change wasn't managed properly. Your developer therefore needs to make sure that the new site keeps Google happy.

So, once your new website is up and running, and you're ready to do some serious SEO, what can you expect to pay for it?

This is the proverbial "how long is a piece of string" question. Costs can vary greatly depending on the size of the firm you are dealing with and their experience. It can range from R100 per hour for a less experienced supplier to over R2 000 per hour for the "in-demand" SEO companies.

Most companies will charge a project base fee, where they estimate the time and cost to them over the course of the project, and then bill at certain points during that contract (site review, keyword analysis, implementation of on-site optimisation, implementation of off-site optimisation). Total cost could range from R10 000 to R100 000 or more over a period of 12 months.

There are other options you can explore, such as profit sharing, which normally requires a small deposit and in terms of which the SEO company is paid related to their success. A results-based agreement is also an option, but be prepared to pay more if results are good. With both of these options you need to be very clear on what the agreed results and payment terms are.

The final option is to do your search engine optimisation yourself. It will only cost you your time and a small outlay for a bit of expert guidance. This makes sense if you have more time on your hands than money. The Internet is full of great resources that can be tapped for this purpose. For example, I have a good friend in the UK who couldn't afford our services to boost her wooden flooring business, but what she did have was spare time normally spent manning the showroom when no customers were around. With a bit of guidance she learnt the ropes herself and her website now provides over 50% of her business turnover.

How do you choose the right SEO partner?

"Partner" is an important word here. SEO is not a short-term process, it is an ongoing exercise. Choosing the right SEO company to work with is essential. Budget will obvious dictate your choice to a certain extent, but as with all things in life, you don't always get what you pay for. This is why it is important to work through the following checklist before making a final decision:

  1. Your first question should be: "Is search engine optimisation the best way to spend this money?". Think about web marketing holistically. A successful web strategy should do four things: generate traffic, convert traffic, engender loyalty and measure success or failure. You can pay a fortune on generating traffic to your site but if it is not going to convert, your money is wasted. Think about all four of these aspects before you spend anything on SEO and ensure that budget is allocated to each of these elements. A good web marketing company should be able to help you do this.
  2. The next step is to do a bit of homework. If you have an understanding of SEO basics it will help you to spot the frauds and understand more of what is being sold to you.
  3. Be clear about your website objectives and the goals for the SEO campaign. Is it to increase traffic by a specific percentage or is it to dominate the market for a particular keyword? And does this tie in with your overall website objectives of increasing conversions of certain types of customers?
  4. Ask around. Speak to colleagues and people within your business networks. Who did they use? Do they recommend them? Did they get the results they wanted? Did they get a good return on their investment?
  5. Ask the SEO companies for case studies. Read through the results (are they tangible?) and contact the companies involved. A great thing to ask an SEO company is about their failed projects. No company has a 100% success rate. If they tell you they do, they are lying or have only been in the business a very short time. Knowing how a business responded to or improved upon a failed campaign indicates their determination to improve.

A word of warning

Avoid outrageous claims of guarantees to get on the first page of Google. With SEO there are no guarantees. A good SEO company should be honest and transparent in all that they do for you.

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