How Much Should I Spend On SEO?

The million dollar question that all Marketing & Digital Managers need to know. One of the conundrums that haunt board room and all size of businesses across the world is How Much Should I Spend On SEO. Depending on where you are in the development process of your website the answer could be markedly different.

How Much Should I Spend On SEOIt seems to have gained some mythical status and as a result, many people don’t trust the effectiveness of good on page search engine optimisation. Companies either end up spending too much because they do not understand it or too little because they just don’t believe that it is important. I think that part of this is down to the chequered history of the subject. When I started out working on the internet in the mid-1990’s it seemed that whatever you did online you had a very good chance of ranking reasonably well. We operated an online affiliate site for fashion footwear and it was so easy to set up varying URLs with the same content. It was easy to achieve a high collective page rank (as it was back then) and therefore traffic. There was an explosion of hyphenated domain named sites offering everything from cheap-holidays to discount-trainers, and every variation of dodgy looking domain name to boot.

When Google started to hone its algorithm then things started to get a little more difficult. By the time we got to Autumn 2012 and the infamous Penguin update then it became almost impossible to rank for anything other than a single non-exact domain name. Shortly afterwards affiliate, article sites and huge sites with skinny content got hammered altogether. SEO practices were similarly shady – you could write articles and slap them all over the net with back links knowing that you could get link juice from them.

Google tightened its ranking further over the next few years and back links from low-grade directories went against. To such as extent that many sites received physical penalties where someone at Google actually demoted them from the index. Cue a whole industry in back link removal and Penguin Recovery. It’s no wonder that the industry got a bad name. Those companies that had sent us all into the depths of hell were now called upon to help lift us out of it! Some were successful, other scuttled away into the dark corners of the web to do something else!

1. What Should My SEO Budget Be When My Site Is Being Developed?

Before the site has been launched is the ideal time to spend money on getting the structure set up correctly. I can’t tell you the number of companies I have seen who have built eCommerce sites and relied on the web developer to get the structure right without causing undue duplication. If you know anything about SEO you will know that the most important area of on site optimisation is not to have different pages fighting for ranking from the same keyword or small set of keywords.

You will not believe the number of web developers who simply do not understand this. To this day they still allow sites to be launched which have acres of duplication. It is madness. It’s possible that they are looking to get an SEO contract out of it. Frankly though, who would trust a company to perform basic SEO when they have ruined the launch of a website by building duplication in to the structure?

“It is so important to get the SEO in place before a site is launched!” 

When the website is being built is THE BEST TIME (I’m shouting it from the rooftops!) to engage with an SEO specialist. Or hammer the developers door down to assign properly trained optimisation staff to the project. I can not tell you how important this is!

Once the site is launched it is much much harder to make changes, why? because you have already paid for the development. The team is just not going to want to go back and make changes. If they do they will charge you and you will be re-uploading products, adding redirects, rewriting content and doing things that should have been done before launch.

If you are an eCommerce company with a budget of £10,000 to build a website then assign up to 30% of this on top for SEO!

This will allow for proper and I mean proper Meta to be written for every department, sub-department and brand. If brands also rely on the department structure then you will have brand>department and brand>department>sub-category to also consider. Do not underestimate the importance of getting this done, and getting it done correctly. Make sure that the way to develop your Meta automatically at style level is also handled correctly.

2. What Should My Budget Be For Onsite SEO?

Once your site has been developed and launched and you have been through the process above then the on site element of your optimization strategy will be vastly reduced. Mistakes will be made and even though you have employed an individual, SEO specialist or agency there will still be a requirement to employ an expert to keep the site from falling behind. Google changes its algorithm all of the time and you want to be ahead of the curve, not behind it. Assuming that you are making sales because you launched with a strong PPC proposition then you should have the funds to continue to employ the services of a good company whilst your site is live.

A good SEO specialist will charge between £500 and £750 per day depending on the length of contract and the amount of work that needs doing. 

This should at least buy you a monthly retainer to keep on top of issues on your website. It may well be that your onsite strategy is less important when you launch and that you want to let the site settle before taking further action. This may be a good strategy as it will take Google some time to settle on positions for your pages.

A good consultant or specialist will monitor the site and quickly correct any errors that have popped up since launch. You may find that you have too many pages in SERPS because of a rogue tag being turned on or maybe you have developed some duplication through sale or new in pages. With Google now dynamically ranking you will see movement all of the time, every day in fact, so it takes much less time for a site to start to rank where its natural position will end up.

“If you have launched without having spent the time correcting all of the errors before launch then you will be spending a considerable amount of money correcting them afterwards!”

If you just launched without employing a specialist it is likely that your shiny new site is a mess. One thing to quickly check is this – type into Google site:mynewwebsite.com and see how many pages are indexed. Better still keep an eye o indexing in Google Webmasters / Search console. This will give you a good indication on how many pages are being indexed by in SERPS. If you are seeing 20,000 pages and only have 200 products then you may well have a very big problem. For sure if you have not written content for all of those pages then it’s a big site with skinny and duplicate content and you are in trouble! you will never rank well! Time to call in the experts.

3. What Will an SEO Site Fix Cost Me?

So we are now in the realm of having launched without speaking to anyone. The first thing you are going to do is to bury your head in the sand for a couple of weeks while you lick your wounds and ask ‘Why wasn’t I told this stuff before launch?’ and do you know what the answer is? ‘Because you didn’t ask!’ – no amount of well nobody told me will matter a jot – if you are launching a site you need an SEO expert on board – simple. If you don’t you will suffer. Your shiny new site will be on position 51+ forever. Sure you’ll see the odd sale but it will not be the £1m you were hoping for!

A good SEO fix will cost between £2500 and £5,000 depending on the size and complexity of the website and the work involved. (SME level)

This will also depend on what resources you can throw at it from your own workforce as there will be a considerable amount of content writing.

4. How much Does Website Copywriting Cost?

Writing good copy is essential to great content. Whosoever is charged with doing this will need to carry out keyword research for every page and without keyword stuffing, insert those words and phrases on the page in an easy to read and professional manner. It is not as easy as you think and many a good writer has fallen foul of the odd bit of repetition. It’s also something that you can not do for 8 hours a day so it will take time and energy to complete.

External content writers are anything from £10 an hour to £25 an hour depending on the complexity of the subject

Also – for goodness sake, choose one whose mother tongue matches your website’s language. To write good copy you have to understand and write proficiently with relevant and contextually similar content for each page in order to rank for similarly grouped keywords. This is an art and a science in itself. It is not something that can be easily translated from another language no matter how competent the person sounds.

5. How Much Will Off Site SEO Cost Me?

This very much depends on how much you want to do. If you look at MOZ.com which has rapidly become the go to site for all things search related then you will see that they talk about Domain Authority and Page Authority. these two metrics are applied to every page of a website and they take backlink factors into account. Back links are important to establish a site’s worth to browsers. If someone is linking to you then it is a fair indication of your site’s worth to that site’s visitors. It is not the only ranking factor of course But it is a strong indicator to Google that your website is worth ranking. If the links are set through anchor text then that is also a reasonably strong ranking factor for the page to which the anchor text points. An example is ‘Visualsoft SEO‘  one of the terms we want to rank for. You will see that if you search for that in Google we are reasonably high up.

The positioning of your link on another website be that a directory, blog or web page is called a ‘citation’ it could be in the form of you address and location details if you are a local website, a partial citation could be a mention of your site name and home town or it could be a simple anchor text link back to a relevant page on your site.

A good SEO company will charge from £500 per month on off site link building and citations.

Frankly, if they are claiming that they can do this for a lot less than they will be using automation software and if you go down this route you could well find yourself back in 2012 all over again. I would always plump for a trusted company that will build links organically for you. You might have written a great piece of content – (like this one) really giving people an insight into your industry – something that is eminently shareable. If you do then fire it off to a blog, get it on Reddit and LinkedIn in and batter the bottom out of it!

Create interesting shareable content for the best results – some great piece of research or simply something funny and get it shared with links back to your site – you’d be amazed what you can do!

So there you have it – we have some a long way since the bad old days – there are still some charlatans out there who will take your money and leave you in the lurch. Hopefully, though they are falling away as company owners, webmasters and directors understand the true value of excellent and sustainable SEO.

The bottom line is that spending on SEO is front ended. If you sort out the basic problems before your site is launched then good for you. Whatever you read and whatever is suggested to you your should bear in mind that your online business needs to make a profit and if you simply can’t afford it then you better start reading up on how you yourself can help your own website with the minimum of cost.

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