seo-costs

Why is there such a large difference in SEO pricing?

This is one of the major questions that lead me to get into this industry. It’s near and dear to my heart.

From Selling to Doing The History of How We Started Doing SEO

Back in 2007 or so, I was selling digital products for a bunch of lying liars. I was young and believed the lies they told me, so in turn I went out into Tucson and told them to you. I am sorry if I ever lead any of you astray. I have learned a lot since then.

Among their product offerings were websites, PPC Advertising and SEO.

seo-lessons-learned

Sorry about that, fam.

The first two products, I understood fine. We build you a website. We deliver it to you. PPC we pick your keywords based on your industry and we place them on search engines. If someone clicks on the ad, it comes out of the bank of money you gave them every month. This is obviously a vast oversimplification, but this post is already long enough.

The Mysterious and Opaque SEO

The third one was mysterious and strange to me. How could someone rank a site higher than another in the organic section? How does Google choose who to rank first? How does this company know how to do that? And how much does it cost?

Their answer was, “It depends on what type of business. It varies.” That was good enough for me. I was a dumb kid.

I jumped on the phone and called someone who decided that she was going to stick with her current PPC vendor, but she had asked if I knew how to rank organically. I was so excited to tell her we finally had the method by which she could receive unlimited clicks.

I set the appointment up with a digital specialist who was going to teleconference in and basically sell this for me. I was going to be the hero of the boiler room, hurrah! It was a slam dunk. This was a well established solar company that was booming and she wanted to be on the first page of Google!

We went through the the early part of his presentation. I sat there mostly quiet and listening as the guy from corporate gave his ham handed spiel carefully designed to put together an ROI. It’s a slimy method of sales that is thankfully more rarely used today.

This lady was having none of it. She was a seasoned veteran of vendors coming into her office asking, “How much is a lead worth to you?” She cut this guy quickly and put him in his place. “How much is it?” Him weaseling and fumbling for his words desperately trying to gain back the lead. “HOW MUCH IS IT?” she asked. “But, but, but, but. I need more information first.” he sputtered. My dreams of being the boiler room hero quickly started circling down the drain. “You set this appointment. You have my industry. I am not in the mood for you to try to twist my words later in this conversation. HOW MUCH IS IT?”

What came next made my jaw drop. He said meekly, “$5500 a month.” That is the equivalent of $7,033 in 2020’s money. She had to stifle her laughter. She asked (she was so much smarter than me), “What all is included in that pricing?” Again, he weaseled.

His answer came down to, “It’s classified. We can’t give away our secrets. Just trust us. Don’t you trust us?!”

No one trusted them at all and especially some shyster from corporate.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the deal. I walked out red faced and wondering how on earth these people could be asking so much. Our average deal with this company was around $500 in monthly reoccurring revenue and here they were asking 10x that much.

I did some searching that night and I found the other end of the spectrum. On Google I found a company advertising SEO for $99 a month. Talk about demoralizing. They could get the “same exact thing” for $99 a month! I mean, SEO is SEO, right? There’s no difference in it, is there?

We didn’t even know what we didn’t know about SEO then

Thankfully, I was able to ask a couple of excellent people about this. My friend in Iowa with a marketing background was also highly interested in this. He was able to ask some people he knew in the online marketing world what all was included in the $99 package. They explained exactly how it was garbage and all stuff someone could do one time and never touch again. It was about an hour’s worth of work and they collect $1200 a year for it.

We were never able to figure out what all was in the $5500 package, because my company acted like it was some sort of top state secret and wouldn’t leave the report behind.

So we knew that SEO cost somewhere between $99 and $5500 a month.

But why?! 

This is what I have learned in the past 13 years of studying this subject.

Technical Issues

There are bunch of services and sites online that will do an audit of your site and tell you what all is technically wrong with it. It’s a way to beat you up and overwhelm you with technical jargon and then laugh at your lack of knowledge about our industry. Many of them will say things like, “Here is your report. You are welcome to fix any of these issues.”

The thing is, so many of those “issues” on the report are things that can be fixed with a few hours of work or a plugin. Just because you don’t know what “CSS minification or Java minification means” doesn’t mean you have to be a brain surgeon to know how to fix it. Someone just has to tell you. Spoilers, you need a cache plugin. I recommend Rocket Cache.

Other issues are not really issues at all. Things like, “This page could not be crawled” are not necessarily a problem. You may not want Google’s bot crawling your login page or your privacy policy. Again, you just need someone to explain it in plain English.

Every SEO agency I know of works to eliminate these problems. They make the report stop saying how bad your site is and you can feel better and sleep at night for only $299 a month.

But are you moving up in the rankings? Those technical issues are one tiny piece of the puzzle.

Otherwise your “SEO” people are just cashing your check every month and putting up a half assed blog post to check it off their list.

Content

We say it on the front page, “Content is King” If your content is not written in such a way to attract Google’s attention, it will never rank and your site will never rank outside of a narrow focus.

And the reason real SEO costs more.

Backlinks

Google started by ranking sites almost solely by how many other sites were linking to it.

So look. I just gave Google a backlink. I linked from my site to Google.

This was, of course, abused to no end. Sites would rank regardless of the quality or relevancy of the site that were linking back toward them. It was “the more the better”.

Now, it’s nothing like that. Backlinks have to be relevant and they have to come from quality sites. Not the comments section of your auto spammed blog will do.

Certain people will tell you that just creating “quality content” will naturally get people to link back to your website. So the more click baity they write it, the more they can get it to “go viral”.

Nah, you can’t. I am sorry. There is no way you are going to make a post about a Dentist or Plumbing “go viral”, unless it’s for the wrong reasons. Plus, if the content is off topic for your site, Google thinks you’re trying to fool it. Google does not reward those who try to fool it. So cute cat pics won’t do anything either.

That is where we come in. We can get you the right backlinks without resorting to scary tactics, like using robots to spam blogs where they accidentally left the commenting turned on.

Because with cheap SEO you will get no backlinks. Low quality spammy ones. Or downright scary ones.

Most of the time, it’s the first one, which will do nothing for you. If it’s latter two, it can send you backward in the rankings quickly.

What we eventually learned

We aren’t the cheapest. We are one of the most expensive in town. But if you compare what we do with what our competition oftentimes calls SEO, you can’t afford not to have us. You may as well take your money and light it on fire for what some of these companies call SEO.

BUT WHAT DOES IT COST?!

It depends on what you are trying to rank for is the cost. That much remains true. HVAC, Plumbing, Real Estate, Attorneys and etc are the most expensive, because they are the most competitive. If you have a dog walking service in Sahuarita, it’s going to cost a lot less.

How we have changed the way digital marketing agencies in Tucson operate.

You’re welcome

We never lock you into a contract. If we aren’t delivering, get rid of us. If you are so busy, let us go with a referral. We also don’t try to lock down your site within our hosting and try to take over your life, so you have to go to us for any and every thing. You will always own everything without us as the gatekeepers.

If you find that a digital marketing company in town is offering no contract marketing work, you’re welcome. Chances are, they weren’t 3 years ago when we quit our jobs and took our service public. It was standard business practice to lock everyone down for 6 months to a year.

We also work on exclusivity. We are loyal to our customers. If we are working for you, we will not work for your direct competitors. We will only have one HVAC, one Plumber, one locksmith, and etc. It would be unethical for us to work for your direct competitor also, because in that case, who do we really work for?

Ask your SEO people what they are actually doing with your money.

No, that report that shows all the checkmarks is nothing. A bunch of technical jargon over your head is nothing. A blog post that no one reads and doesn’t help the bottom line is nothing.

Are they actually doing things on a monthly basis to help your business or are they just cashing your checks?