SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 1
CONTENTS
3
CHAPTER 1
What is SEO and do you actually need it?
11
CHAPTER 2
What is the difference between an SEO Agency
an...
About this eBook
This eBook was written and prepared by Daniel Tolliday and Daniel Duckworth from
ServiceCrowd
Daniel Toll...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 4
What is SEO?
Put simply, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about making changes to a website in order to
increase se...
A good campaign requires research into your current website’s structure, your business industry, target
markets, buyer per...
Regular blog content is important because other types of content can take a long time to plan and execute.
This fills in t...
● How Do They Make Money? (simple interactive one-page site with hovercards explaining
revenue for each company
● The Smal...
Depending on your budget, industry and target keywords will determine your content strategy. Most
small businesses will fo...
6. Rinse and Repeat
SEO campaigns are really lots of ongoing campaigns that pretty much follow the structure above, with
s...
easily controlled. There are plenty of agencies out there who can help you create an AdWords campaign
with a good return o...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 12
How SEO Consultants Work
SEO consultants tend to focus on a high level strategy. They help to create a solid long-term SEO...
A smart consultant will utilise an affiliate program for the software they recommend (they get a kick back
if you buy the ...
Advantages of SEO Companies
Specialised Teams of Experts
A team of experts is going to produce better content and stay on ...
Good businesses optimise processes and minimise expenses. This means that if you wanted to try
something really unique and...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 17
SEO Pricing Overview
Unlike pay-per-click advertising (PPC), SEO is an investment in your business that will continue to g...
SEO Package 1
(10 Keywords)
SEO Package 2
(20 Keywords)
SEO Package 3
(30 Keywords)
3 Blog Posts 5 Blog Posts 7 Blog Posts...
2. SEO Project Based Pricing
An SEO project is a campaign designed around specific goals and the cost will depend on the p...
SEO Project Summary
● SEO projects revolve around mutually agreed deliverables
● SEO projects are accountable to predicted...
The SEO consultant suggests that instead of trying to compete with other consultants in the industry, the
software company...
This makes the monthly retainer simple and flexible.
You have the option of being able to add and remove resources as you ...
Most of the time, pricing for SEO consultants is cheaper than agencies. This is because they work for
themselves. They wil...
● Social media management (51,000)
In the end, it all depends on what you wish to accomplish with your online marketing en...
There’s currently 200 people signing up to the newsletter per month, and 20 of these people are
purchasing the product you...
Compared to Pay Per Click advertising (such as Google AdWords), SEO is about investing in your online
marketing for the lo...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 28
4 Gold Rules
When it comes to taking that big leap into the world of purchasing SEO services, many businesses (both
large ...
Page #1 Rankings Guarantee
Page 1 is great, but positions 7-10 are not.
It’s definitely an achievement to rank a keyword o...
If you look at the contract closely, it will likely stipulate that only a certain number (or percentage) of the
target key...
One of the most important elements of a link that points to your website is whether or not it is do-follow
(backlinks that...
To give you an idea of the type of websites that Google gives the highest authority to, check out the table
below:
Governm...
● Comment spam on blogs (comments that provide no value or insight to the blog post topic with
a link pointing back to the...
Company B, on the other hand, might provide you with all of the above, but throw in an extra keyword
for the same price.
B...
● Google+1s
● Facebook shares
● Facebook likes
● Tweets
● Pinterest pins
Google is becoming increasingly more social. With...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 37
So you know how much SEO costs, as well as the golden rules of buying SEO services. Now, let’s take a
look at how it all b...
3. Target Search Engines
Most are well-aware of the undeniable power that Google has within the search market. There are o...
4. Domains
Many business have their main website in addition to several other subsites or mini-sites. They can act as
lead...
You get the idea...
Your chosen SEO consultant or agency will let you know how much traffic each search term has the
poten...
SEO Questionnaire
Question #1. What Type of SEO Do You Require?
SEO is an area of online promotion that includes a variety...
Link Building and Outreach
The main role of the digital marketer is to find relevant websites to place your link on. This ...
Let’s have a look at why it is important to know who your competitors are.
For Link Profile Checking
The SEO provider will...
Who are you trying to reach with your products or services?
Generally, there are 3 types of audiences you can target:
● a ...
● Always focus on the benefits
● Ensure they’re original
● Keep them short (don’t overload your audience with unnecessary ...
● hotels
● wineries
Quality and Technological Advancement
● electronics companies
● car manufacturers
● technology compani...
Question #12. Where can information about your business be obtained?
(include links)
Do you have a website that details in...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 49
After working closely with a handful of SEO clients for several years, perhaps the most
interesting thing I’ve learnt is t...
Branding and Promotion
Most online marketers will testify that having your website at the top of search engines for a grou...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 52
Risk & Reward
Do you like to play roulette tables at the casino? Would you make a massive wager on, for example, the
numbe...
When a new technique has been found to game Google, they quickly update their algorithms accordingly.
Let’s take a quick l...
As you can see, there’s quite a lot of mention of penguins and pandas. These are anti-spam algorithms to
help keep Google ...
#2. From Bill Vasiliadis at SEO for Small Business
“So I guess it’s best to start at the beginning. Our client is in the f...
If you’re thinking about gaming Google - just remember - the house always wins.
Do you know of anyone who has gamed Google...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 58
I’m going to help you save some money on pain killers with this step-by-step guide on how to select the
best SEO provider ...
These elements are the backbone of your website. Most SEO companies and consultants will provide you
with a thorough analy...
SEO isn’t one part of online marketing, sitting by itself in the corner. It’s a mixture of different strategies,
all rolle...
Regardless of what industry you’re in, contracts generally have the same meaning; “If I do this and that
for you…then you ...
#1. Predefined Deliverables
Below is an example of what the deliverables section of your SEO contract might look like. Thi...
#2. Content Ownership and Copyright
Any content or (additional pages) produced and published to your website is owned by y...
#5. Reporting and Tracking
The SEO contract should advise you when reports will be delivered.
Most SEO providers send repo...
Link Building
Link building is the process of gaining off-site links to increase the authority of your website. Also known...
There’s an abundance of different types of SEO payment plans. The costs involved will be discussed with
you beforehand, an...
SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 68
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The SEO Buyer’s Guide Ebook is an unbiased guide that explains many of the mysteries and misunderstandings about SEO services. The guide includes 9 in-depth chapters that will make it easier for you to avoid common pitfalls and operate a successful outsourced SEO campaign.

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SEO Buyer’s Guide Ebook by ServiceCrowd

  1. 1. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 1
  2. 2. CONTENTS 3 CHAPTER 1 What is SEO and do you actually need it? 11 CHAPTER 2 What is the difference between an SEO Agency and an SEO Consultant? 16 CHAPTER 3 SEO Costs and Pricing Models 27 CHAPTER 4 4 Golden Rules of Buying SEO 36 CHAPTER 5 How to Prepare an SEO Brief 48 CHAPTER 6 How to Define SEO Goals Beyond Traffic 51 CHAPTER 7 Gaming Google & Taking Short Cuts: is it worth it? 57 CHAPTER 8 How to Choose the Right SEO Company or Consultant 61 CHAPTER 9 7 Must Have SEO Contract Clauses SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 2
  3. 3. About this eBook This eBook was written and prepared by Daniel Tolliday and Daniel Duckworth from ServiceCrowd Daniel Tolliday Daniel Tolliday has written content for digital marketing agencies and online brands, including Demand Media and Fairfax Media. Daniel works with ServiceCrowd as a Content Marketer. He provides valuable and informative content to educate businesses about creative services. Daniel Duckworth Daniel Duckworth is the founder of ServiceCrowd and is the in- house SEO and Content Marketing expert. To learn more about SEO, visit the Web Hub Blog by ServiceCrowd. To learn more about comparing quotes for local SEO Services visit our SEO Services page. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 3
  4. 4. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 4
  5. 5. What is SEO? Put simply, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about making changes to a website in order to increase search engine visibility. These changes take place on your own website (on-page optimisation and content creation) and on other peoples’ websites (contributor content, as well as links pointing to your website). Links and shares on major social media networks are big factors for increasing the visibility of a website on search engines. There’s a lot of SEO sales material that talks about increasing keyword rankings - but SEO goes far beyond just trying to rank for a few specific keywords. Today’s SEO is more about the technical aspects of a website. This includes the creation of valuable content for a targeted audience; in addition to working with the online community to increase the content’s exposure. Generally speaking, it is better to produce a greater number of visits from a larger set of “long-tail” keywords, rather than the highly competitive, commercial keywords. For example, “What is the difference between an SEO agency and an SEO consultant?” is a long-tail keyword. This chapter would contain many other combinations of keyword phrases that produce even more visibility in search engines. On the other hand, the term “SEO Service” is highly competitive and commercial in intent, so it would be difficult to write anything meaningful for it. It would also be quite difficult to get people to link to that content. So that’s the very basics of SEO. For the rest of this chapter, I’m going to talk about the kinds of tasks an outsourced SEO campaign will focus on, the level of commitment required from you, and how to determine whether or not SEO is a good strategy (and a wise investment) for your business at its current stage. What Does an SEO Agency or Consultant do? The next chapter goes into detail about the differences between consultants and agencies. For now, I’m going to focus on the typical tasks carried out during an outsourced SEO campaign. 1. Research and Strategy SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 5
  6. 6. A good campaign requires research into your current website’s structure, your business industry, target markets, buyer personas and keywords. Ideally, these all inform each other and help to map out building a website, or the optimisation of a website’s current content. Researching your industry and its competitors is extremely important. This is mainly because the agency needs to understand how SEO savvy your competitors are, and how difficult it will be to succeed. “Credit cards” for example is one of the most competitive industries around. ● Understanding competitor strategies will inform the strategy for your SEO campaign. ● Understanding your products will inform the keyword research. ● Understanding buyer personas will help to categorise keywords and help plan content around the specific needs of customer types. 2. Produce, Build and Execute Creating a solid plan with a specific strategy for your audience, means that your SEO team can begin optimising targeted pages for particular keywords and keyword groups. They can also create links between relevant pages on your website, create new valuable content aimed at groups of buyers, and begin building a list of website properties they want to get links from. These days, content is one of the most integral aspects of SEO. There are five major types of content used in SEO campaigns. You can expect your SEO team to help you plan, create and promote any of the following: 1. Press Release Content The goal of press release content has changed recently, which I wrote about a few weeks back. It used to be an easy way to get links to a website; but now it’s more about actually trying to get attention from media publishers, and ultimately getting them to link to your content. Minimum Resources Needed for Press Release Content: ● Copywriter ● PR person (ideally with lots of media contacts) 2. Regular Blog Content SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 6
  7. 7. Regular blog content is important because other types of content can take a long time to plan and execute. This fills in the gaps for smaller topics, but still needs to provide value to the reader and ideally have a logical connection to your products and services. Minimum Resources Needed for Blog Content: ● Copywriter/blogger 3. Linkbait Content Linkbait can be a bit cheeky, fun and usually has an X-factor that makes it irresistible for bloggers and media sites to link to. Coming up with linkbait can be tricky, and the line is a bit blurry between big content and linkbait - depending on the hook. Either way, it needs to be creative and irresistable, so that people are compelled into linking to it. Link Bait Content Examples: ● WUIW’s 100+ Ways to Conserve (water) ● Fake Facebook Conversation Generator ● Will it Blend? Videos ● What are the Odds infographic Minimum Resources Needed for Linkbait Content: ● Creative copywriter ● Graphic designer 4. Big Content Big content is well-researched, well-written content that is meaningful and provides the reader with long term value. It’s the kind of content that people will want to come back to for reference. Big content could be an extended white paper on a complex industry issue, or an in-depth guide with some video content and attractive graphics. Big content is valuable, industry recognised and linked to by media sites. More importantly, it is highly shareable on social media networks. Examples of Big Content: ● Wordpress for Small Businesses (interactive flowchart decision maker) SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 7
  8. 8. ● How Do They Make Money? (simple interactive one-page site with hovercards explaining revenue for each company ● The Small Business Productivity Series (mindmap of curated links to helpful resources) Minimum Resources Needed for Big Content: ● Copywriter ● Graphic designer ● CMS manager 5. Evergreen Content Evergreen content is the holy grail of content because it’s more than just a blog post, and it’s more than a really long in-depth guide or ebook. Evergreen content doesn’t become outdated (it might require ongoing updates) and usually includes some kind of dynamic data source, ideally from your own business. If it doesn’t have a data source, then it is likely to have user-generated content that keeps it fresh and up-to-date. The best evergreen could be some kind of visualised industry report that has regular data added to it in order to keep it current (hence the name, evergreen) and is particularly valuable to a certain type of audience. Given that evergreen content has real value, this makes it very attractive for other websites to link to, and makes it highly shareable on social media networks. It’s quite common to see entire new websites built dedicated to an evergreen content idea. Evergreen Content Examples: ● 4hourpeople (constant source of user generated answers about Tim Ferriss' book and concept of the 4 Hour Body) ● Grammar Goofs (considered evergreen because grammatical rules rarely change; so it’s always relevant) ● Openforum (An American Express sponsored business community) Minimum resources needed for Evergreen Content: ● Copywriter ● Graphic designer ● Web developer SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 8
  9. 9. Depending on your budget, industry and target keywords will determine your content strategy. Most small businesses will focus on creating regular blog content with some PR. This is the cheapest and can deliver good results pretty quickly. 3. Pre-launch and Launch of Strategy This is mostly a technical stage and requires technical SEO people to go through a checklist to ensure all pages and content are using best practice SEO methods. This includes: ● Making sure the website and content is accessible by search engines ● All pages have unique content, titles and descriptions ● They’re integrating with Google’s Webmaster Tools ● SEO files such as robots.txt (and a sitemap) are present for talking to search engines ● Website analytics such as Google Analytics is set up for measurement and reporting 4. Post Launch Promotion It’s necessary to promote content in order for it to gain traction and attract links. Building amazing content without a promotion strategy is bound to be a wasted effort. Promoting the content in communities, social networks, with bloggers and media publishers, should all be part of the plan. Link outreach is a big component here, and this is where your SEO team will help to find websites that have a natural synergy with the content and are willing to link to it. 5. SEO Reporting SEO reporting is crucial. Most people are interested in the keyword ranking report which indicates the position of a keyword in the search engine results page (also known as the SERPs). It’s nice to know how certain keywords are performing - but it doesn’t actually help all that much. “The success of an SEO campaign is not measured by keyword rankings, but by the number of visits earned by a keyword group and the goals achieved.” By goals, I mean things like: watched the demo video, visited at least 5 pages, requested a quote or bought product X. This kind of reporting makes it possible to assess the relative success of various content ideas and SEO strategies. Knowing how many leads and sales generated by different SEO campaigns will help refine your SEO strategy and increase long-term benefits. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 9
  10. 10. 6. Rinse and Repeat SEO campaigns are really lots of ongoing campaigns that pretty much follow the structure above, with some variations depending on the goals of the project. This is why I mentioned that there should be a level of commitment when engaging with an SEO agency or consultant. So in summary, an SEO agency or consultant will likely carry out any of the following: ● Technical changes to web pages for optimisation ● Planning content ● Creating content ● Promoting content ● Link outreach ● Managing website content via CMS ● Managing blog content via CMS ● SEO reporting How Committed to SEO Do I Need to Be? Depending on your goals, there will be different levels of commitment required. If you just want to optimise the current content for well-researched keywords, then it’s a 3 to 6 month project that will be relatively cheap. However, if you’re wanting to increase search engine presence or traffic, leads and sales, then you will need to be committed to a long term strategy that includes a content plan and a link outreach plan. This is a 6 to 12 month project depending on the depth of the content, as well as how competitive the industry is. It’s certainly worth doing the basics like on-site optimisation and keyword research. I also recommend getting some basic SEO training if you’re not ready for an ongoing campaign. This will ensure your website stays in shape until you’re ready to use a professional SEO team. While there are Small Business SEO plans available, the amount of time put into content and link outreach is minimal and the quality suffers. In some cases, it would be better to invest in working with a copywriter who can help you produce great content, then eventually move on to an SEO team. Should SEO be Part of My Web Strategy? If you’re in the startup phase and a bit strapped for cash, then I don’t recommend starting a full blown SEO campaign that could take 6 to 12 months to see any returns. Instead, focus on some small budget, pay-per click (PPC) advertising. This method is much more predictable, measurable and the budget is SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 10
  11. 11. easily controlled. There are plenty of agencies out there who can help you create an AdWords campaign with a good return on investment (ROI). Once you begin to see that after 12 months of advertising with Google, you have to keep paying them to get good traffic, you will start to notice the value of investing in a long-term SEO strategy. At the very least, you should get some keyword research done with a reputable SEO company or consultant, and do the basics of the onsite work. However, don’t expect this alone to generate lots of traffic. It’s simply laying the foundation of what is to come. There are some significant differences between SEO companies and SEO consultants in the way they work and in how they charge. There are advantages and disadvantages for working with both. Understanding these differences is the key to making a good decision, while ensuring you meet your SEO goals on time and on budget. Once you understand the differences - the advantages and disadvantages of each - you can answer a few simple questions that will make the decision easy for you. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 11
  12. 12. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 12
  13. 13. How SEO Consultants Work SEO consultants tend to focus on a high level strategy. They help to create a solid long-term SEO plan around target keywords. Consultants also tend to be a jack of all trades, but masters in none, which means they can create really effective and creative SEO campaigns, but may not have the resources to execute them on their own. If they work with some contractors, this is getting closer to the SEO company/agency model which revolves around a team of people. To give you an example, a consultant will look for some quick, easy keywords that generate good quality traffic which is likely to turn into leads. It won’t be a lot of traffic, but it will be quality traffic. Some consultants also have access to media contacts and other webmasters, making it possible for them to do some basic link outreach. However, if a consultant suggests doing any kind of large scale link building involving forums, social bookmarking, or directories - don’t go there. It’s not going to make much of a difference, and the time and money could be better spent creating content, or doing some quality link outreach in an attempt to find partners willing to link to your content. Advantages of an SEO Consultant Cheaper Consultants are usually cheaper than a company because they don’t have a full staff with overheads to pay. They also charge by the hour, making them really flexible to work with. Flexibility Consultants are very flexible in terms of availability. Consultants are unlikely to be handling the same number of clients as a company, and generally have more time. This means they can come to your office, and even work alongside your team which makes them a dynamic resource. Honest Advice Consultants are not tied to any company or any proprietary software which means they can give you really good strategic advice about SEO tools that will help your SEO goals. Typically, they will also provide training on how to use these tools. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 13
  14. 14. A smart consultant will utilise an affiliate program for the software they recommend (they get a kick back if you buy the software) and a good consultant will tell you that they do this, and assure you that it’s the right software - if they happen to have an affiliate relationship. Disadvantages of an SEO Consultant Lack of Resources A consultant is just one person and can never possess the same level of skill as a balanced SEO company. This means that they can help you learn about SEO and train your staff, help you build a brilliant strategy and teach you how to use tools, but they will have trouble putting an SEO plan into action (especially if it needs lots of content). Dependence on You Due to the nature of consulting, there will be a lot of back and forth between you (or your team) and the consultant, which means time management becomes an important issue. In some cases, I’ve seen consultants do brilliant work with a business, but the business hasn’t been about to manage their time well and implement the suggested strategies which ends up bringing little value for the business. How SEO Companies and SEO Agencies Work Companies are self-sufficient organisations with plenty of good resources and skills available. They’re even able to provide a dedicated project manager. Companies are ideal for tapping into rare skills and operating long-term SEO campaigns where reporting, evaluating and improving strategies efficiently is important. For example, an SEO company will assign you a project manager who will spend time getting to understand your business; in addition to your products, services and target markets. You will have one point of contact, making it easy to review campaign strategies and reports together. The project manager will then work with various resources (such as a web developer, graphic designer, or a copywriter) to execute an SEO campaign. However similar to a consultant, if they start suggesting any kind of large scale link building, don’t go there. I delve into this more in Chapter 6, Gaming Google & Taking Short Cuts: is it worth it? SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 14
  15. 15. Advantages of SEO Companies Specialised Teams of Experts A team of experts is going to produce better content and stay on top of project management much better than a person doing it alone. When it comes to long term SEO campaigns; in most cases, it’s better to work with a company who is capable of delivering on technical SEO, great content for SEO, and on ethical link building strategies. Efficient and Effective Processes Companies that have been in action for a while develop really efficient processes for project management and workflows, making them capable of producing excellent quality work at competitive rates. A lot of SEO companies and agencies will often outsource some processes to developing countries, in an effort to reduce their overheads and charge a cheaper price. If they outsource everything, they are not really worth working with. Stability A reputable company is not going to go out of business or go on a holiday. Consultants can come and go, and yes you can get the next consultant up to speed; but it’s not the same as having a dedicated team working on the project. When a company collects data, produces reports and improves strategies, the work you are paying for after 12 months has a lot more value than the work you were paying for at the start. Disadvantages of SEO Companies SEO Companies are More Expensive SEO companies need to pay rent, salaries, tax, superannuation, ASIC and lots of software expenses. Additionally, the company needs to maintain a healthy profit margin. This makes companies (unless they’re really efficient, without compromising quality) more expensive than consultants. Of course, it does depend on the consultant and their level of experience. SEO Companies can be Inflexible SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 15
  16. 16. Good businesses optimise processes and minimise expenses. This means that if you wanted to try something really unique and different, they wouldn’t be able to do it. For example, if you wanted to do an integrated digital campaign that tied AdWords, SEO, Content and Social Media together, they are unlikely to adapt their resources and processes for you. On the other hand, a consultant could train you or your team to help carry out some of the project deliverables. Lots of Clients Means Less Attention Companies want to bring on as many clients with big budgets as they can. This is because it provides them with stable income and means that they have a stable business. It also means that clients with smaller budgets inevitably get less attention than the clients with bigger budgets. A good consultant will dedicate a lot of time to you because they depend on fewer clients for their income. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 16
  17. 17. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 17
  18. 18. SEO Pricing Overview Unlike pay-per-click advertising (PPC), SEO is an investment in your business that will continue to grow over time. In the previous chapter, we discussed the difference between SEO agencies and SEO consultants - now let’s look at how much SEO costs. Pricing for SEO varies greatly and it will generally depend on the type of service you require. In my experience working in the SEO industry, I’ve noticed that there are four main types of pricing models: 1. A monthly package (ongoing monthly project deliverables) 2. Project based pricing (an agreed fixed price for a set of project deliverables) 3. Cost per hour consultation (usually involving an SEO consultant or strategist) 4. A monthly retainer (where you pay a fixed amount each month for use of resources) Let’s take a closer look at some of these pricing models before I explain how much SEO actually costs, and the pricing differences between SEO agencies and consultants. I will also show you how to get the most out of your SEO campaign with an increased return on investment (ROI). Types of SEO Pricing Explained The main purpose of having different types of pricing is to ensure all businesses can be catered to. There’s no “one size fits all”. Both large and small businesses will have varying degrees of requirements, goals and budgets. 1. SEO Package Pricing SEO Packages are the most common; especially for the small business market. An SEO package is usually a predefined set of project deliverables to be completed on a monthly basis. Before the recurring monthly tasks begin, there is some onsite work that needs to be done. This can include any of the following: ● Page optimisation ● Sitemap creation ● Rich snippets (such as authorship) ● Broken link checking Here is an example of some recurring tasks that often appear in SEO Packages: SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 18
  19. 19. SEO Package 1 (10 Keywords) SEO Package 2 (20 Keywords) SEO Package 3 (30 Keywords) 3 Blog Posts 5 Blog Posts 7 Blog Posts 1 Interview with Business 2 Interviews with Business 3 Interviews with Business 1 Review of Business 3 Reviews of Business 5 Reviews of Business 2 Placements of Content for Links 5 Placements of Content for Links 8 Placements of Content for Links 50 Social Bookmarks 150 Social Bookmarks 200 Social Bookmarks 1 Press Release 1 Promotional Video Created 2 Promotional Videos Created 3 Video Placements for Links 6 Video Placements for Links You will notice that the package includes both content for your own website, as well as content intended for other websites. Creating content to be distributed on other websites is the most cost effective way to generate links that point back to your own website. This is a big factor for keyword rankings. It’s important to point out here that packages are pretty inflexible. The links generated from these kinds of packages certainly have some value, but are not the same as spending time doing link outreach. This involves finding websites that have a natural synergy with yours, and will link to your website or content. This kind of work is really only done with the other types of SEO pricing, which is explained below. Packages can be tailored to suit the requirements of your business, and the price depends on specific tasks. For example, if you need regular sales copywriting, in addition to social media promotion, web development and SEO for 5 competitive keywords - you could be looking at paying well over $1000 per month. SEO Package Summary: ● SEO packages are designed for small businesses ● SEO packages use pre-defined deliverables ● SEO package deliverables are recurring tasks ● SEO packages are the most inflexible pricing model SEO Package Typical Cost: Approximately $600 - $3,000 per month SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 19
  20. 20. 2. SEO Project Based Pricing An SEO project is a campaign designed around specific goals and the cost will depend on the project’s deliverables. Project based pricing is often used in place of packages because they don’t require ongoing commitments and allow the client to decide if they want to continue with a second project, based on the results of the first. Here’s an example of what an SEO project based on deliverables might look like: Item Resource Time Keyword research report Web analyst 1 day SEO audit of website Technical SEO 2 days Technical onsite fixes Technical SEO 3 days 10 blog posts Copywriter 10 days 1 infographic Graphic designer & copywriter 5 days 10 editorial backlinks SEO manager 5 - 10 days The deliverables described above are similar to those in an SEO package, but the difference is that they are centred around mutually agreed goals including: ● Keyword X on first page of Google ● 2000 new visits per month ● Backlinks from media sites ● 15 web form enquiries When project goals are more aligned with project deliverables, the agency or consultant is made more accountable for the project. For example, gaining 10 links from social bookmarking websites is pretty easy, and doesn’t provide too much value. However, since the goals include “2000 new visits” and “15 web form enquiries”, the agency or consultant needs to provide links that have a lot of value (such as links from news and media websites) and which are likely to deliver traffic that is actually interested in the products or services offered. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 20
  21. 21. SEO Project Summary ● SEO projects revolve around mutually agreed deliverables ● SEO projects are accountable to predicted goals SEO Project Pricing, Typical Cost: Approximately $1,000 - $5,000 per project 3. Cost Per Hour SEO Consulting An SEO consultant is the most flexible offering. This is because it is mostly about collaboratively devising an SEO strategy, rather than being about the delivery of outcomes. The cost per hour method is especially useful for those who need training within a specific area of SEO, or who only have a small project to complete. Additionally, SEO consultants who work for themselves will usually just charge by the hour, instead of per day as some agencies do. The main purpose of the SEO consultant is to devise a strategy to target areas that require improvement. For example, your business might need a boost in ranking for local keywords, or you might need an online marketing plan created. Some people are skeptical about “strategy” consultants, believing that only very little value can be delivered. Here is an example of how an SEO consultant can provide valuable strategic advice. SEO Consultant Strategy Example - The Software Company Imagine a software company who is launching a new software product and plans to make their money from licence fees, custom development and consulting in the industry that the software serves. The SEO consultant will begin to plan ways to optimise the software company’s website for keywords that will produce clients who are interested in consulting, as well as in the software itself. While the consultant does some keyword research, they discover that keywords around consulting are very competitive. One of the big problems here is that it is difficult to get anyone to link to a webpage that targets “Industry X Consulting” because it is commercial in nature, and doesn’t contain interesting content. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 21
  22. 22. The SEO consultant suggests that instead of trying to compete with other consultants in the industry, the software company should partner with them and sell their software licences through them (a distribution channel). The software company decides to try the strategy, and the SEO consultant designs a plan around building a directory of consultants in the industry targeting the keyword “Industry X Consultants”. Collaboratively, the two build a directory of consultants and offer listings in the directory for free. It gets some momentum and industry blogs and communities begin to promote the directory. The directory starts ranking #1 for the target keyword phrase and it starts generating lots of traffic. The software company now has a big list of consulting partners that it is helping to send new clients to. In return, the consultants recommend the software. This is an example of a consultant being flexible with strategy - which is impossible with a standardised SEO package. SEO Consultant Summary ● SEO consultants are mostly focused on strategy ● SEO consultants can work in your office ● SEO consultants can train staff SEO Consultant Typical Rates: Approximately $150-$400 per hour 4. Monthly Retainer SEO Pricing Retainers are designed to be flexible and are based on the use of resources as they are needed. For example, a retainer can simply specify the number of days per month (i.e., 10) and the resources used each month might change depending on the goals. Resources used in a retainer arrangement may involve the following: ● SEO manager to track the effectiveness of your campaign (4 days per month) ● Copywriter to create blog content (10 days per month) ● Technical SEO expert to audit website pages (1 day per month) In the following months, the technical SEO expert may not be required - but instead - a social media expert is needed to help with reputation management. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 22
  23. 23. This makes the monthly retainer simple and flexible. You have the option of being able to add and remove resources as you go, to help you achieve the goals of your business. Monthly Retainer Summary ● Retainers are priced and based on the number of days you book resources ● Retainers are flexible and allow different resources to be allocated as needed SEO Monthly Retainer Typical Costs: Approximately $2,000 - $20,000 per month How Much Does SEO Actually Cost? We might as well ask how long a piece of string is. The amount that you should expect to pay for SEO services depends upon the amount of money you wish to make as a return from your investment (ROI). If you’re only paying $250 per month, it’s probably unrealistic to expect a big return anytime soon. But what also comes into the cost equation is the type of services you need. Let’s have a glance at the types of services that consultants and agencies have to offer. Cost of an SEO Consultant As discussed in the previous chapter; What is the Difference Between an SEO company and an SEO consultant? it was noted that individual SEO consultants usually charge by the hour. These costs will often depend on the skill level of the consultant. But as a guide, you should expect most SEO consultants to be able to provide the following services: ● Keyword research (your SEO consultant will search for keywords which are relevant to your industry, in addition to finding out how often they’re searched for within your geo-targeted area). ● Website/SEO audits (this is where your consultant will check for any inconsistencies - such as incorrect code, canonical pages or damaging backlinks - all of which can negatively affect rankings). ● Conversion rate optimisation (involves creating an experience for the people who visit your page, in a deliberate attempt to convert them into customers) ● Digital/SEO strategy creation (the backbone of your SEO campaign, the SEO strategy enables you to see the bigger picture; combined with goals and how you plan to achieve them with the resources at hand). SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 23
  24. 24. Most of the time, pricing for SEO consultants is cheaper than agencies. This is because they work for themselves. They will rarely need to pay others a share of the money they make and do not have to worry about other expenses (such as overheads like office space). There are three main price ranges for SEO consultants (according to research by AYTM Market Research): ● $75 to $100 per hour ● $150 to 200 per hour ● $500 to $750 per hour Cost of an SEO Agency Perhaps the biggest advantage of hiring an agency is that they have a larger amount of people working with them, who each specialise in a specific area. But what this means is that they need to charge accordingly. The main areas of an SEO agency include: ● Web design and development (adjusting the elements of your website, making it more user friendly, as well as creating new pages in order to target a particular keyword or a new product/service). ● Reporting and analytics (tracking and measuring the success of your campaign, in an effort to find out what works and what doesn’t). ● Media buying and planning (discovering websites with the potential to send plenty of qualified leads to your website, usually from others). ● Copywriting (creating web copy and content that reflects the voice and tone of your brand in order to make it appeal to your target market). ● Search marketing (advertising on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!) ● Social media management (creating and managing your social media network profiles on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). This is why SEO agencies charge more than consultants. As you can see, each area of SEO is covered; and this gives you a flexible range of options to choose from. The more hours required, the more it will cost. Below are some industry average wages for each of these sub-sections for SEO agencies (thanks to PayScale.com): ● Web design and development ($50,000 and $52,900 respectively) ● Reporting and web analytics ($60,000) ● Media buying and planning (65,000) ● Copywriter ($42,500) ● Search marketing ($49,700) SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 24
  25. 25. ● Social media management (51,000) In the end, it all depends on what you wish to accomplish with your online marketing endeavours. If you run a plumbing service in Melbourne and want to rank number one for a key-term such as ”Melbourne plumber” or “plumbing service Melbourne”, then it could take anywhere between 6 to 12 months, and might cost in-excess of $500 per month. But let’s talk about what your SEO investment is really all about… Profit! Getting a Return on Investment (ROI) from SEO Let’s face it - the main purpose of purchasing SEO services through an agency or from a consultant is to gain profit from the money you invest. For example, if you’re paying $700 a month for an SEO package, you should expect to eventually generate at least as much as that amount back in profit, every month. But it doesn’t always work like this. ROI is basically about spending X amount of money, and getting X back - be it 2, 3 or even 4 times the amount of the initial investment. Calculating ROI is more important than broadly monitoring conversions and sales, because it measures the cost of investment and the return generated. It’s vital to differentiate the returns that are a direct result of an outsourced SEO campaign, compared to that of other promotional activities. The return can be in the form of email leads, website sign-ups, social media likes/followers and of course; the money. An Example of Calculating ROI for SEO Calculating ROI involves collecting data prior to beginning an SEO project or consultation. If this information is not available, you cannot calculate the ROI. The following are great metrics to have available for comparison before and after the SEO project. 1. The current conversion rate of visitors to leads or sales from the website (prior to the new project). 2. The number of visits the website (or webpage) generates. 3. The number of unique keyword queries that deliver traffic to the website. 4. The value of each visit and conversion (for example, each conversion might make on average $76 per sale - or for every 5 visitors - 1 might sign up to your newsletter). Say for example you wanted to increase the amount of people who sign up to the newsletter on your website by 50%. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 25
  26. 26. There’s currently 200 people signing up to the newsletter per month, and 20 of these people are purchasing the product you are selling through this newsletter - which has a value of $46. This gives you a current return of $920 per month (and remember, you want to at least double this amount). A typical SEO campaign would identify some keywords that are being used by your target audience. A copywriter would create some content (perhaps a blog post) and the SEO team would help to promote the content through social media, while building links to the content, to increase the rankings for the target keywords. This results in new traffic to the blog post. The blog post includes an attractive call to action that encourages the visitors to sign up to the newsletter. If the new content is successful, it should generate around 500 new visits each month. If 20% of those visitors sign up to the newsletter, then the 100 new sign up mark has been achieved (a 50% increase). Now the website is generating a total of 300 newsletter sign ups, which leads to increased sales. Summary ● Increase newsletter subscriptions from 200 to 300 per month ● 10% of subscribers pay $46 for a product/service per month ● Additional sales value is $46 x 10 new customers per month ($460) Assume the cost of the project is $1,000. It will take 2 - 3 months to break even and eventually get a return on the investment. After 6 months, the ROI is calculated as follows: ROI = (Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment Gain from Investment: $2,760 Cost of Investment: $1,000 ($2,760 - $1,000) / 1000 = 1.76 Since the content will continue to generate traffic and newsletter subscribers each month, the ROI will increase each month if the traffic continues to stay steady. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 26
  27. 27. Compared to Pay Per Click advertising (such as Google AdWords), SEO is about investing in your online marketing for the long haul, and will produce a much higher ROI in the long term. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 27
  28. 28. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 28
  29. 29. 4 Gold Rules When it comes to taking that big leap into the world of purchasing SEO services, many businesses (both large and small) make the mistake of choosing an agency or consultant that has the best sales pitch without evaluating some vital criteria first. We’ve had a look at how much SEO costs in chapter 3, as well as the different types of SEO services available. In this chapter, I will discuss the 4 golden rules of buying SEO - of which I have compiled along my SEO journey - that you should consider prior to committing to an SEO project. Rule #1. Beware of “Guaranteed” Rankings Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of buying SEO is to realise that there’s no silver bullet. There’s no quick fix to really get results fast. Proper SEO takes time to implement, measure and then carry out. This means that companies or consultants that guarantee high rankings in a short amount of time should be treated with a healthy skepticism. You’d be surprised at how many companies I’ve seen that make such a claim in big bold letters on the front page of their websites. It’s basically a sales statement. A ploy to convert you to a customer as quickly as possible. They’re not exactly lying, but there is certainly some sleight of hand. There are two tactics being used here: ● Ranking for medium competitive keywords around position 10 (Page #1 Ranking Guarantee) ● Ranking for non-competitive keywords (Position #1 Ranking Guarantee) SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 29
  30. 30. Page #1 Rankings Guarantee Page 1 is great, but positions 7-10 are not. It’s definitely an achievement to rank a keyword on the first page of a search engine, but the sales pitch of a page #1 guarantee sounds a lot better than getting 2.4% of the traffic generated for a particular keyword. This is shown below by research from Chitika Insights: Google Page 1 Ranking Percentage of Average Traffic Share 1st 32.5% 2nd 17.6% 3rd 11.4% 4th 8.1% 5th 6.1% 6th 4.4% 7th 3.5% 8th 3.1% 9th 2.6% 10th 2.4% This research was undertaken by Chitika Insights in June, 2013. As you can see, the top 3 places on the first page rake in more than half of the total amount of traffic (61.5%). When it comes to looking beyond the first page of Google - most users don’t. In fact, Chitika Insights also reported that 91.5% of all traffic comes from the first page. This means that if your target keywords aren’t showing your website on the first page, you probably won’t be seen at all. Position #1 Rankings Guarantee This is another tactic used in sales pitches. Reaching the first position can be easily achieved by including non-competitive keywords as part of the project. “For an obscure keyword that no one is actually using, ranking at #1 doesn’t count for much.” SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 30
  31. 31. If you look at the contract closely, it will likely stipulate that only a certain number (or percentage) of the target keywords are guaranteed #1 rankings. So what does Google think about these brazen SEO companies who are using these sneaky sales pitches? A Word From the Big G’ Google describes a number of important factors to consider when you buy SEO services. Not only do they mention that no SEO company can guarantee a number 1 position on Google, they state quite clearly that you should be careful when deciding to purchase such services, and to always do your research beforehand. Here are a few other sales pitches that I would consider deceptive: Search Engine Submission (this was important five years ago, but not any more) When a particular SEO company tells you that they will submit your website to thousands of search engines, you will know that something’s not quite right. There are only 3 search engines that really matter - Google, Bing and Yahoo! First Page of Google in Under 24 Hours When SEO companies make this claim, in a sense they’re not actually lying. However, you will only be at the top of Google ads, and not at the top of the organic search listings. Ensure you always read the contract they send you prior to signing up, just to check for any strange inconsistencies such as this. So-Called “Secret Method” Claims ( ie, we know someone at Google, we’ve cracked Google’s algorithm!) If someone tells you this - it’s simply not true. They do not know someone at Google (who have no such relationship with any SEO agency) and they have not cracked Google’s algorithm. Additionally, I highly doubt anyone at Google would risk their job by giving any sensitive information to an SEO agency. However, if the agency refers to any correlative studies they have performed that provide evidence of factors that contribute to rankings, then it’s a sign they know what they are doing. Just be sure that it is actually their own research. Rule #2. Know Where the Links Come From If an SEO company is promising thousands of backlinks; this is a big red flag. Even if they do produce this many backlinks, they are likely to be of a very low quality. In some cases, they could even potentially damage your website’s authority with Google. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 31
  32. 32. One of the most important elements of a link that points to your website is whether or not it is do-follow (backlinks that pass authority from one page to another) or no-follow (backlinks that do not pass authority from one page to another). Although no-follow links don’t usually pass on any authority to your website, it is generally considered healthy to have a natural backlink profile, combining a mixture of do-follow and no-follow links. Of equal importance, the term PageRank (named after Google’s co-founder, Larry Page) is an algorithm used to determine the ranking/authority of each website. When a website is brand new, is it given a PageRank of 0; whereas high traffic websites with plenty of quality links pointing to it, may have page ranks ranging from anywhere between 1 and 10 (with 10 being the highest possible score). SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 32
  33. 33. To give you an idea of the type of websites that Google gives the highest authority to, check out the table below: Government Websites Education Websites Media Websites Consumer Websites Australia.gov.au PR8 Monash.edu.au PR8 ABC.net.au PR8 TripAdvisor.com.au PR8 NLA.gov.au PR8 Griffith.edu.au PR8 TheAge.com.au PR8 Google.com.au PR7 Business.gov.au PR8 Swinburne.edu.au PR8 SMH.com.au PR8 RealEstate.com.au PR7 VIC.gov.au PR8 RMIT.edu.au PR8 YellowPages.com.au PR8 Domain.com.au PR7 BOM.gov.au PR8 UniMelb.edu.au PR8 News.com.au PR7 SEEK.com.au PR7 NSW.gov.au PR8 Deakin.edu.au PR8 Yahoo.com.au PR7 AFL.com.au PR7 AEC.gov.au PR8 TafeNSW.edu.au PR7 HeraldSun.com.au PR7 Qantas.com.au PR7 ATO.gov.au PR8 LaTrobe.edu.au PR7 NineMSN.com.au PR6 eBay.com.au PR6 Directory.gov.au PR7 CQU.edu.au PR7 FairfaxMedia.com.au PR6 CrazyDomains.com.a u PR6 As you can see, government and education websites are given higher page ranks than most of the other websites. This is because they have authority and relevance amongst a wide range of people. In the SEO world, .gov and .edu links are highly prized - and extremely rare. Your chosen SEO provider should be 100% transparent about how they intend to build links to your website. If they’re secretive about this then it’s a sign that they are using methods which are not approved by Google, or the wider SEO community. These methods are sometimes known as “black hat”, while ethical methods are called “white hat”. This raises the question... What is Black Hat SEO? You can tell when someone is using black hat SEO techniques by observing the following: ● Creation of a poor user experience (i.e,. articles that don’t make sense and are full of keywords; this is also known as “keyword stuffing”). SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 33
  34. 34. ● Comment spam on blogs (comments that provide no value or insight to the blog post topic with a link pointing back to the target website.) ● Website Cloaking (showing content to Google’s indexing software that is different to the content shown to real people.) These types of SEO methods used to be widespread, and the techniques did actually work. This was until a number of people started to abuse them, and Google adjusted their algorithm accordingly. Consequently, websites that were using these techniques were penalised and had a really hard time getting back into Google’s search result pages. Black hat SEO can be enticing, but it only brings short term rewards and can cause headaches later on. I would recommend avoiding black hat SEO at all costs. Rule #3. Ask for Previous Client Case Studies (Proof of Performance) You wouldn’t want a doctor to perform heart surgery on you if he hadn’t done it before - so why purchase SEO services from someone who doesn’t have a proven track record of producing results? The best SEO companies will have testimonials and case studies for clients they have worked with in the past. If you’re looking to buy SEO services, then you should definitely take the time to read the case studies and understand what the provider did to help their previous clients. I would even go one step further and ask if you can contact some of their previous clients for a reference, since what they put on their website will be cherry picked from the best results. Rule 3 and a Half - Take Your Time and Shop Around You could compare shopping for SEO services to shopping for a new car. First you will have a look around at a few different dealers. You might find a car that looks good, so you test it out. It runs well, but you’re not ready to make a choice until you find the perfect one. This is how searching for SEO services should be. You need to find the right one for your business, because each agency or consultant will have a different approach and pricing model. Testing them out means comparing quotes and understanding the variety of services on offer. Company A - for example - might charge $400 per month for creating and managing a business listing on Google Maps, and the optimisation of one keyword. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 34
  35. 35. Company B, on the other hand, might provide you with all of the above, but throw in an extra keyword for the same price. But does Company B also have the qualities we discussed in rules 1 and 2? While it is good to get the best deal possible for the best price; just remember that it also depends upon the skill of the people working at the SEO company. Not all companies will have the experience in dealing with large-scale campaigns. They may also not be able to handle certain aspects of SEO - such as generating interest through various social media channels, or creating valuable content for your audience. This brings us to the final and (arguably) most important golden rule of SEO - the creation of valuable content. Rule #4. Content is King (Still) It’s probably the most overused saying in the SEO industry. But to this day, the phrase “content is king” rings as true as when it was first coined by Bill Gates in 1996. Back then, Microsoft dominated the world; and Yahoo! was the most popular search engine around. Google was a mere twinkle in the eyes of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. How times have changed… Google has stated publicly (many times) that quality content should be the main priority of anyone with a website who is wanting to get lots of traffic. Content fuels Google’s organic traffic, and their primary goal is to provide the people who use their search engine with the most accurate, informative and useful information possible. Websites without interesting content (i.e., a learning guitar website without video tutorials of popular songs from beginner level to advanced) will not be interesting to anyone, and will be unlikely to generate high quality links. A good SEO provider will help you in developing a plan to create good content. They will also show you how to effectively promote the content on social media channels. Social media signals (such as sharing, comments and reviews) are generally considered as factors that contribute to high rankings. According to a recent study by SearchMetrics, social signals are becoming increasingly relevant. However, the finer details of this topic is debated among SEO industry circles. According to the above study, it appears as though websites with the following attributes are receiving better rankings, compared to those who don’t have as strong of a social media presence. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 35
  36. 36. ● Google+1s ● Facebook shares ● Facebook likes ● Tweets ● Pinterest pins Google is becoming increasingly more social. With the evolution of their Google Plus network, it is clear that they’re attempting to compete with the other more popular forms of social media. Additionally, Google Plus is tied into Google Places, which makes it imperative for your business to have a presence on Google Plus, as Google Places will often have some of the highest rankings on the first page for particular local key-terms. That concludes our chapter on the 4 Golden Rules of SEO. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 36
  37. 37. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 37
  38. 38. So you know how much SEO costs, as well as the golden rules of buying SEO services. Now, let’s take a look at how it all begins… with an SEO brief. The following guide will teach you how to prepare your SEO brief. At the end of this article, you will have a solid grasp on how an SEO brief should be structured. This helps to give you the most accurate quote possible, with the primary intention of reaching the goals of your business. What Exactly is an SEO Brief? An SEO brief is an outline of your objectives for a particular project. When your brief has been completed, it is passed through to numerous SEO professionals who will review the brief and submit a quote, based upon the information you have provided. Sometimes these are also referred to as a Request for Proposal. The purpose of an SEO brief is to give you an indication of how much your project will cost and to determine how your goals can be reached. Sections of Your SEO Brief 1. Primary Objectives Name the main objectives of your business. These are the goals that you want to achieve from an SEO campaign. For example, you might want to convert traffic into sales leads or email subscribers. You might also want to increase traffic to particular pages that have been optimised to convert visitors into leads and subscribers. Primary objectives should also be measurable and achievable. If the objectives aren’t as important, they belong in the secondary objectives category. 2. Secondary Objectives Secondary objectives might include getting ranked for a particular keyword that isn’t as important as your main one, or could involve an SEO goal somewhere down the track that can be reached after the initial stages of the campaign has commenced. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 38
  39. 39. 3. Target Search Engines Most are well-aware of the undeniable power that Google has within the search market. There are other options in terms of search engines, and you could also consider having your website submitted to the best Australian business directories. The most popular search engines include: ● Bing.com ● Yahoo.com ● Ask.com ● AOL.com ● Excite.com ● DogPile.com Here are some search engines specific to the Australian market: ● Yahoo.com.au ● NineMSN.com.au ● WebWombat.com.au ● YellowPages.com.au (more of a directory than a search engine) Google has their main, U.S/international search engine (Google.com), but there are others based on location - if you intend to target a particular country; such as: ● Google.com.au (Australia) ● Google.com.br (Brazil) ● Google.ca (Canada) ● Google.cn (China) ● Google.fr (France) ● Google.de (Germany) ● Google.co.in (India) ● Google.it (Italy) ● Google.co.nz (New Zealand) ● Google.co.za (South Africa) ● Google.es (Spain) ● Google.co.uk (United Kingdom) If these lists seem overwhelming - don’t let them be. More than likely, you will just need to worry about focusing on the Australian version of Google if you’re only operating within the Australian market. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 39
  40. 40. 4. Domains Many business have their main website in addition to several other subsites or mini-sites. They can act as lead generators while providing visitors with extra information that isn’t available on the main website. For example, if you own a computer business, you could have details about your company on your main website, as well as brief information about the services you provide. However, you might wish to obtain other websites that can showcase a particular aspect of the services you provide. For example: ● www.ComputerRepairsExample.com ● www.HardDriveRecoveryExample.com ● www.BroadbandInstallation.com 5. Targeted Keyword Groups If you’re looking for local SEO services, consider using keywords such as “main keyword (city)”. But how many searches will these keywords get when compared to the more broader terms without the location’s name? Probably not as many. As a result, it’s best to target both the local keyword, as well as the general search term. Keyword research can be undertaken by the SEO professional - but you will still need to advise them of which products or services you are selling. If you’re selling umbrellas (for example) it would be best to include all of the different types of umbrellas you are trying to sell in a separate group; such as: ● automatic umbrellas ● sun umbrellas ● (colour) umbrellas ● artistic umbrellas ● golf umbrellas And in another group, you might like to focus on long-tail keywords (which make up 70% of all traffic) like: ● top 10 beaches in Melbourne ● most protective sunscreen ● summer beach accessories; and, ● how to prevent sunburn ● how to cure sunburn SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 40
  41. 41. You get the idea... Your chosen SEO consultant or agency will let you know how much traffic each search term has the potential for, and can recommend the best ones to target. 6. Total Monthly Budget Pricing for SEO services varies depending on the provider. You should specify your budget and the duration of your campaign. If your business is only just beginning to grow, you may wish to include a lower budget until it starts to thrive. As a rule of thumb, highly competitive keywords are going to cost more than less competitive keywords. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 41
  42. 42. SEO Questionnaire Question #1. What Type of SEO Do You Require? SEO is an area of online promotion that includes a variety of specialisations from both SEO consultants and SEO agencies. Your business might require assistance in any (or more than one) of the following areas: Keyword Research There could be a number of golden keywords that are yet to of been discovered. People who specialise in keyword research can find the best keywords to target. Competitor Research Competitor research involves analysing your competitor’s link profile, as well as examining their social media network strategies. This tactic is particularly useful if you’re in a competitive market that involves many competing businesses. SEO Content and Blogging Creating regular, useful content is the most fundamental aspect your SEO campaign. It includes copywriting to spice up the content on the front page of your website, and adding regular blog posts to keep readers engaged and informed. On-Page Optimisation If you have errors in the coding of your website, this is frowned upon by Google. On page optimisation involves adding a site title, a meta description and the keywords you want Google’s spiders to crawl when they visit your website. Penalty Recovery If you’ve lost rankings in the last 2 or 3 years, it could be from one of Google’s algorithm changes. Luckily, some SEO agencies specialise in this area, and will be able to help you recover from the penalty. Learn more from our post on Google recovery. Analytics and Reporting SEO experts can track the progress of your SEO campaign through reports and analytics, recommending changes where necessary. If there is a period of testing, the SEO provider will go through your analytics to determine where improvement is required. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 42
  43. 43. Link Building and Outreach The main role of the digital marketer is to find relevant websites to place your link on. This will increase both the traffic and authority through to your website. To find out more about backlinks and what they’re for, check out rule #2 in chapter 4. Reputation Management Received a few bad reviews? Is there a lack of engagement in the community you’re trying to establish? No problem. Many SEO professionals are more than apt at being able to generate a positive buzz to ensure your brand’s image remains healthy and trustworthy. Video SEO There’s more at your disposal that just YouTube. Other popular video networks include: ● Daily Motion ● Vevo ● Google Video ● Facebook ● Hulu ● Yahoo! Video Video SEO involves finding out where to post your videos, and what keywords you intend to target, by including them in the video’s description, for example. Local SEO If you run a business that operates locally, you can utilise local SEO services to increase your exposure. Google Places uses geo-targeted rankings to position pages according to their popularity on Google. Image SEO Image SEO has become increasingly important within the last few years. Image SEO involves adding ALT text to a particular image, reducing the file size, or sharing it amongst popular social media networks. Question #2. Who Are Your Main Competitors? It’s important for your SEO professional to know who the businesses are that you’re trying to compete with. If you’re unsure, simply Google your main keyword. For example, if you run a cafe that operates in Perth, you might want to Google “Perth cafes” and a list of the top businesses for that keyword will appear. These are your main competitors. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 43
  44. 44. Let’s have a look at why it is important to know who your competitors are. For Link Profile Checking The SEO provider will check how many backlinks your competitors have, and may even get a few ideas on where to gain them from, simply by looking at their link profile. To Examine Social Media Popularity Social media is now an integral part of increasing organic search rankings. It is important to check the social media presence of competitors to examine their methods for increasing awareness about your business. To Conduct Competitor Analysis This includes the previous 2 examples; in addition to working out how long it will take to equal or overtake competitors with a thorough analysis. Question #3. What industry is your business a part of? Be specific. If you’re selling nuts and bolts - do you only sell nuts and bolts? Or, do you sell spanners and screwdrivers as well? Some businesses cover a large range of products, while others specialise in just a few main areas. Question #4. What do you do? (include a description of your business) Create a description of your business by answering a number of questions, such as: ● How long have you been in business for? (i.e., when you started) ● What products or services do you have to offer? ● Why is your business unique? ● What areas do you service? The description of your business should highlight the most important points and give the reader a quick summary about how your company operates. As a general guide, the description shouldn’t be much longer than 4 or 5 sentences. Question #5. What is your target market? SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 44
  45. 45. Who are you trying to reach with your products or services? Generally, there are 3 types of audiences you can target: ● a local audience (for example a city, such as Melbourne) ● a national audience (the whole of Australia) ● an international audience (the entire world) The SEO expert can then determine which geographical location to target. This is a vital aspect, because some SEO professionals will specialise in local search (Google Places) while others will be more adept in the wider, international search market. Google is starting to become more personalised with its local search, so keep in mind that Google Places is a must-have for just about any local business. Additionally, there may be other relevant demographics to the products or services of your business. For example, you might decide to target women between the ages of 30 and 60, if you’re selling anti-wrinkle cream. On the other hand, if you’re trying to gain exposure for a motor sport brand, you’re more likely to concentrate on males between the ages of 13 and 45 (who live in rural areas). Question #6. What are the key messages you’re trying to communicate? Key messages are one of the most overlooked aspects of a communications strategy. But what are key messages? Key messages give you a chance to tell people what it is that you want them to know. Usually you will have three of four key messages that you need to communicate to your audience. The primary purpose of a key message is to: ● Inform your clients (both current and potential) ● Generate interest in your products or services ● Encourage them to take action Here are a few tips to consider when creating key messages: ● Avoid unnecessary jargon ● Keep your messages updated SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 45
  46. 46. ● Always focus on the benefits ● Ensure they’re original ● Keep them short (don’t overload your audience with unnecessary information) Question #7. What do you want visitors to do when they visit your website? What action do you want them to take? There are generally three main actions of a visitor when they reach your website. They will: ● Join the website ● Sign up to a newsletter; or, ● Make a purchase Question #8. Would you ever consider running any special promotions or offers? Promotions and offers are a great way to increase sales and generate leads. When they’re shared via social media networks, special offers have the potential to reach hundreds or thousands of people. Everyone loves a discount - and if it’s free - even better. If you can give something away for free, this will be an effective way of building brand loyalty with the consumer. It also increases the chance that they'll make a purchase from you at a later stage. Question #9. What image does your brand communicate? Does the branding of your company portray a particular image? Do you want to give the impression that you’re a customer-service orientated business focussing on providing first-class customer service; or do you want your want your clients to feel as though they can always depend on you to feel at ease? Below, you will find some examples of the types of branding for different industries: Comfort and Integrity ● funeral directors ● day spa operators ● masseuse ● psychotherapists Class and Exclusivity ● clothing labels ● resorts and clubs SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 46
  47. 47. ● hotels ● wineries Quality and Technological Advancement ● electronics companies ● car manufacturers ● technology companies ● manufacturers It’s vital to keep the image of your brand in mind - and it’s equally important for your SEO provider to know as much about your brand as possible. This will enable them to create a content plan in unison with the image you wish to portray. Question #10. What are your 3 main selling points? A selling point is basically the best thing about your product or service that consumers should know about. For example: ● A car’s main selling point could be its fuel efficiency. ● A cupcake company who provides treats that are low in fat or gluten-free could communicate the message of a healthier choice. ● An electronics company who have a limited-time special on big screen TVs would undoubtedly want to use that as a main selling point. Question #11. Have you received any awards or accreditations that you wish to boast about? Social proof is quickly becoming an important part of online marketing. When consumers see that others have used the product or service they’re considering, they are more relaxed and likely to make a purchase. Testimonials, awards, logos from other reputable companies, and even large amounts of Facebook likes on a website can have a significant impact upon a buyer’s decision to take action. If you’ve won awards or currently hold any accreditations associated with your industry, it’s good to let your SEO provider know about this. They can include the information with the communication materials they create and promote. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 47
  48. 48. Question #12. Where can information about your business be obtained? (include links) Do you have a website that details information about your business? “About” pages, web directories and review websites are examples of where information can be obtained. The more information that you can provide to your chosen SEO provider, the better off your SEO campaign will function. Question #13. Have you ever paid anyone to build links to your website? Search engines take into account the amount of backlinks you have pointing to your website in order to rank it accordingly. Google loathes all types of link schemes, including those where the buyer pays for links on a website with the intention of manipulating the SERPs. If you’ve paid for links in the past, they may need to be removed. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 48
  49. 49. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 49
  50. 50. After working closely with a handful of SEO clients for several years, perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve learnt is that reaching the top of Google will not always guarantee an increase in a company’s bottom line. Lots of traffic doesn’t always mean lots of sales. There’s traffic, and there’s targeted traffic; traffic that has an interest in your products or services. They’re more likely to complete the action you would like them to - such as a purchase something or sign up. Measuring traffic and setting goals based on the quantity of traffic received is not always such a good idea. It’s the quality that is of greater significance. Here’s a few important points to remember: ● A high Google ranking does not always equal success. ● Large amounts of traffic does not always equal success; and ● A high search ranking combined with traffic does not always equal success. There’s one extremely important metric missing from the above statements - the conversion rate. Conversion Rate The conversion rate can be defined by contrasting the amount of visitors your website receives, against the number of times those visitors do what you want them to (such as when they click a particular button, or fill out a survey/form). When utilising Google Analytics, for example, your conversion rate can be measured in the form of a predefined “goal”. Goals could be centred around an action such as a download or a registration, while sales goals are more eCommerce orientated. Sales can be tracked through the Javascript code, which collects information such as: ● History of purchased products ● Purchase amount ● Billing city, state and country SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 50
  51. 51. Branding and Promotion Most online marketers will testify that having your website at the top of search engines for a group of keywords relating to your brand is bound to have a positive impact. Not only does this increase brand awareness, it also lets web surfers (and Google) know that your brand is an authority figure on the subject. SEO for branding purposes can actually be one of the best ways of launching a new website. When creating content for a variety of industry related keywords, a new website should try and become an authority straight away - rather than building hundreds of suspicious looking backlinks. Reputation Management If a brand has been hit with a bunch of negative comments, reviews or mentions on the web, they will undoubtedly want to make this information more difficult to find. When someone types their main keyword into the search engine, and a negative review appears, it simply doesn’t look good. This is why SEO can be harnessed for reputation management. An agency or consultant might create a variety of articles to “knock down” the negative reviews from the first few pages. They could even create some more positive ones to outweigh the negative. While reputation management is one of the most popular forms of SEO, it can also be one of the more difficult. This is because the SEO provider will generally be trying to optimise a variety of different listings, rather than just one. SEO for Influence For anyone who wants to change public opinion, educate or influence people on certain subject matter, using SEO can be extremely powerful. Depending on the topic, having a high ranking for a popular search term or long-tail keyphrase such as “who should I vote for?” could potentially have a drastic effect on political campaigns (for example), by influencing a group of people’s perceptions. An example of this is when Anonymous conducted a campaign against Scientology (aka, Project Chanology). Anonymous made a large amount of content (including a very controversial video of Tom Cruise), bombarding Google with all types of information educating and warning people about Scientology. The Church of Scientology tried to sue just about everyone they could get their hands on. However, in most circumstances, it was to no avail. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 51
  52. 52. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 52
  53. 53. Risk & Reward Do you like to play roulette tables at the casino? Would you make a massive wager on, for example, the number 14? Would you bet your business on the number 14? Most of you probably wouldn’t; but you’d be quite surprised at how many people do. Sometimes, without realising it. Other times, out of pure desperation. Google has become so adept at flushing out the sneaky critters who try to game its search engine results, that they’re penalising harshly - without mercy. As you will see later on in this post, businesses can be completely destroyed when playing roulette with Google. The Times They are a-Changin’ They’re always changing. That’s the most important thing to remember about SEO, is that it’s constantly evolving. New algorithm updates are coming out quite frequently (almost monthly) and new ways to present information on websites is constantly evolving (for example, Rich Snippets). SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 53
  54. 54. When a new technique has been found to game Google, they quickly update their algorithms accordingly. Let’s take a quick look at the updates from the last few years. Year 2011 Year 2012 Year 2013 JAN: Overstock.com penality / Attribution update JAN: Panda 3.2 / 30-pack update / Ads above the fold / Search + personalisation JAN: Panda #24 FEB: Panda/Farmer update FEB: 17-pack update / Venice update / Panda 3.3 / 40-pack update FEB: None MAR: Google+ button update MAR: Search quality video update / Panda 3.4 MAR: Panda #25 APR: Panda 2.0 update APR: 50-pack update / Parked domain bug / Panda 3.5 / Penguin update / Panda 3.6 APR: None MAY: Panda 2.1 MAY: 52-pack update / Knowledge graph update / Penguin 1.1 MAY: “Phantom” update / Domain crowding update / Penguin 2.0 JUN: Schema.org update / Google Plus update / Panda 2.2 JUN: 39-pack update / Panda 3.7 / Panda 3.8 JUN: “Payday Loan”update / Panda Dance / Multi-week update JUL: Panda 2.3 JUL: Link warnings update / Panda 3.9 JUL: Unnamed update / Knowledge graph expansion / Panda recovery AUG: Expanded sitelinks update / Panda 2.4 AUG: 86-pack update / DCMA penalty / 7-result SERPs / Panda 3.9.1 AUG: In-depth articles update / Hummingbird SEP: Pagination elements / Panda 2.5 SEP: Panda 3.9.2 / Exact match domain update / Panda #20 SEP: None OCT: Query encryption / Panda “Flux” OCT: 65-pack update / Page layout #2 / Penguin #3 OCT: Penguin 2.1 NOV: Panda 3.1 / 10-pack of updates / Freshness update NOV: Panda #21 / Panda #22 NOV: tba DEC: 10-pack of updates DEC: Knowledge graph expansion / Panda #23 DEC: tba SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 54
  55. 55. As you can see, there’s quite a lot of mention of penguins and pandas. These are anti-spam algorithms to help keep Google as clean as possible, to avoid (and remove) inappropriate links, such as those from bad directory sites, or spammy blog comments that have no relevance to the topic. We’ve had a look at how much work Google puts into changing their search engine to make it as accurate and easy to use as possible. But this doesn’t mean people no longer use black hat techniques. In fact, there are plenty of people out there who do (even to this day). These are their stories... SEO Disaster Stories We spoke with several people about their experiences with algorithm changes and black hat techniques. What we found was interesting. Each one who had clients using black hat techniques in the past, noticed a very considerable drop in rankings; sometimes quickly, sometimes after several weeks. I’ve selected the two most interesting stories from the group we spoke with, and have included them here for you to read yourself. #1. From Nathanael Vanderkolk at Smart-SEO “We have a client in the pest control industry in Sydney (Forensic Pest Control), who had come to us after the Penguin 2.0 update. Their previous SEO provider didn’t assist them with the large number of spam links to their website which were made in very quick succession. The client knew something was up straight away and it clearly made a negative impact to their business. Not only did they lose rankings, but they were also notified by Google through webmaster tools of the penalisation. Our aim was to explain to them what had happened - clearly and succinctly. We ran through a number of backlink checks with tools like SEOmoz (now known as Moz), as well as our own backlinking tool. We told our client that all is not lost and that we can provide a solution - even though it was a bit of a sticky situation. The suggestion that we had was to copy their entire site from the old domain to a brand new domain. In addition to this, we rewrote all of the existing content and basically started from scratch. This would avoid all of the current penalties, allowing the client to move forward with their business. It’s still a work in progress and only early days since the site transfer; but the website is already indexed and ranking better than it did previously, which is a really good sign.” SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 55
  56. 56. #2. From Bill Vasiliadis at SEO for Small Business “So I guess it’s best to start at the beginning. Our client is in the family law industry, which is highly competitive (as you can imagine). They were affected by both the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates. At the time, our client was working with an offshore SEO company who didn’t provide them with much access in terms of tools or analytics. Our client noticed a significant drop in rankings, which in-turn made a huge impact, with a decrease in phone calls and leads. When they came to us, we noticed a lot of low quality content (on their website especially). Some of this included content that was posted to article directories, consisting of just 250 words that only concentrated on the same type of anchor text. This is a major red flag in the eyes of Google; so it’s no wonder why they were penalised. When the client came to us, they told us what had happened and straight away we tried to rectify the problem by identifying the spammy links. We approached sites who hosted them, and tried to have the links removed. Using Google’s link disavow tool was only used as a last resort. Then, we started created high quality content with a thorough content strategy. We also devised a branding campaign and attempted to balance out the concentration of anchor text. Within 6 months, things are looking much better. There’s a 250% increase in organic traffic; but the content and social media strategies will be a continuous, ongoing effort.” Is it Really Worth it? Not if you want long term results! Think of it this way... You can spend $100 and get short term results now and then have to spend another $100 fixing the problem later; and then re-investing another $100 on the next exploit. Or… You can spend $300 now, doing it by the book, and be rewarded with traffic forever. “Investing in the right kind of content and SEO will bring traffic for many years to come.” The temptation to game Google can become too strong to resist. Seven years ago, maybe you would have gotten away with it - but not anymore. Google is deliberately investing unimaginable amounts of money and time into making sure their search engine is the best in the business; and that it stays that way. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 56
  57. 57. If you’re thinking about gaming Google - just remember - the house always wins. Do you know of anyone who has gamed Google before? How did they go? Leave a comment and let us know. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 57
  58. 58. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 58
  59. 59. I’m going to help you save some money on pain killers with this step-by-step guide on how to select the best SEO provider for your business. In an earlier chapter, I taught you what the differences are between the two; but how do you know if a particular company or consultant is going to provide you with what you need to meet your short and long- term objectives? As with most things in life, the best way is to ask questions. But first, we need to look at what the actual goals of your business are. Step #1. Determine the Goals of Your Business Make your SEO goals both achievable and realistic. Obviously, it depends on the type of business you operate and what your budget is. Examples of achievable and realistic SEO goals include: ● Generate a bigger fan base through social media channels ● Create awareness around a new product or type of service ● Develop content that receives X amount of shares each month ● Boost sales and traffic by X amount within X months ● Decrease amount of negative business buzz to zero ● Increase newsletter subscribers within X amount of months Ensure the SEO expert you choose understands your goals completely, and has the capacity to help you reach them. Find out if they have the resources and knowledge required by asking a few questions to find out for sure. This brings us to step number two… Step #2. Create a List of Questions Devise a group of questions that align with the goals of your business. Just because you have a website - and even if you do obtain high rankings - it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get an increase in sales, conversions or profit. Here are a few example questions you might want to think about. The questions you ask should depend on the individual goals of your business, and the SEO provider will work with you to achieve them. “Will my SEO campaign include an initial analysis of my website’s code, design, content and backlinks?” SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 59
  60. 60. These elements are the backbone of your website. Most SEO companies and consultants will provide you with a thorough analysis of your website’s code, design, content and backlink profile - but it’s still good to ask first and make sure. In fact, an SEO company might even offer you a complimentary SEO audit prior to signing up with them, but don’t expect this from every provider you speak with. “Are you going to perform an analysis of my competitors, to examine how difficult it is to compete with them?” Some SEO professionals will provide this option for an additional fee. Competitor analysis is an important part of a long-term SEO strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you find an SEO company that doesn’t have this option at all, they’re probably not worth hiring. “Will you/your company be creating content yourself, or will you work with existing content?” When you encounter an SEO company who doesn’t at least have an in-house copywriter - consider looking elsewhere. Google loves crawling through fresh content. Always ensure that your SEO provider creates at least some of it. Working with existing content means they won’t be creating anything new or unique. “Fresh content is the silk that joins the entire web together.” “What sort of link building tactics will you be using in order to increase the authority of my website?” This is perhaps the most important question. When Black Hat techniques are implemented, they can do more harm than good. Steer clear of any companies or consultants who use shady link building techniques. Rule #2. of the Golden Rules of SEO chapter has more information about this subject matter. If the SEO provider responds to this question by telling you they intend to create unique and valuable content to distribute and attract links, then you’re on the right track to choosing an ideal SEO service. Step #3. Do Your Research Familiarise yourself with SEO as much as possible. Research some of the terminology that you haven’t fully grasped yet, and read articles about SEO. These can provide you with further information about how SEO works. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 60
  61. 61. SEO isn’t one part of online marketing, sitting by itself in the corner. It’s a mixture of different strategies, all rolled under one big umbrella. Most SEO campaigns will comprise of the following services: ● Content creation/promotion and copywriting ● Link building/outreach ● Research and competitor analysis ● Google Places optimisation ● On-page optimisation Some SEO companies and consultants specialise in different areas. For example, if your goals are to increase your fan base and lead new visitors to your website, they would need to be aligned with the content creation and promotional sub-section of SEO. Alternatively, if you want to focus on getting higher rankings on Google, you’ll find that a company with the link building/outreach specialisation can help you reach the goals created in Step #1. Step #4. Check Case Studies and References Don't always rely on testimonials posted on websites. Ask for a list of references and do some fact checking for yourself. It’s best to find out exactly who the client is that made the testimonial. Call them directly to find out how their experience really was. Step #5. Arrange a Meeting When you’ve finally managed to narrow your search down to just two or three SEO providers, arrange a convenient time for a meeting. Have your list of questions at hand, and think of some new ones to add to the mix. If you’re attending the meeting in person, pay particular attention to the size of their company, as this will give you an indication as to whether or not they outsource their work. Lastly, remember to bring a notepad, a pen, or even a sound recording device. It’s unlikely that you will recall everything discussed in the meeting, and may need to compare notes to those of the other SEO providers you speak with. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 61
  62. 62. Regardless of what industry you’re in, contracts generally have the same meaning; “If I do this and that for you…then you agree to pay me X amount of dollars in return”. An SEO contract is no different, and they benefit both parties. “Verbal SEO contracts are useless, and not worth the paper they’re printed on.” Understanding SEO contracts might be difficult for some (or even most), so in this chapter I’ll describe the most important sections to make it easily digestible. Keep in mind, this post should not be interpreted as legal advice. SEO contracts aren’t always the same, and you should always consult with your SEO provider (or your solicitor) if there’s anything you’re unsure of. But what should be included in an SEO contract? We’ll discuss the most important parts here. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 62
  63. 63. #1. Predefined Deliverables Below is an example of what the deliverables section of your SEO contract might look like. This section tells you what you should expect to get, and when you should expect to receive it by. “(SEO provider’s name) is committed to providing the following deliverables for (your business name). Deliverable 1 – Competitor Analysis Report by (due date). Each will follow with a description of what you should expect to receive. Deliverable 2 – Keyword Research Report by (due date). Deliverable 3 – Link Bait Content by (due date).” Other types of deliverables include: ● Website optimisation ● On-page optimisation ● Link building ● Other content development ● Social media optimisation ● SEO training ● SEO analysis ● Keyword research reports What Happens When Deliverables Are Not Being Met? A good SEO provider will always want to make sure that your deliverables are being met. When they’re not, it means they’re not holding up their end of the agreement. This could make you venture elsewhere. The SEO provider won’t want to lose you as a client. When deliverables aren’t being met and there is no sufficient explanation, it could be grounds for termination. Deliverables should be specific, and it is your responsibility to determine how detailed they are. More often than not, your SEO provider will work with you to ensure you’re completely satisfied. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 63
  64. 64. #2. Content Ownership and Copyright Any content or (additional pages) produced and published to your website is owned by your SEO provider. Under Australian intellectual property law, creators retain exclusive rights to the work produced. The only exception to this rule is when it’s noted otherwise in your SEO contract, or when they transfer ownership to you. Check this section of your SEO contract to see if your provider wants to retain copyright over content produced – such as articles and images. Remember, if your contract comes to an end, the SEO provider can legally remove any of the content they created from your website. #3. Client and 3rd Party Website Changes Adding web content (or editing it) is an everyday task for most businesses. But when changes are made, it’s possible to have a negative impact. You will be held accountable and may need to pay additional fees if the problem needs to be corrected. Your SEO contract will likely state that the SEO company or consultant will not be held responsible for any changes made by yourself or another party (such as your web designer). This is to protect the SEO provider in the case of changes being made. For example, changes to the coding or design structure that can negatively impact rankings. It’s always best to speak with your SEO provider directly before making any alterations, regardless of whether it is on-site or off-site. #4. Algorithmic Factors Affecting Rankings SEO contracts will usually include a disclaimer that describes algorithm changes made by search engines. The SEO provider has no control over these changes. Your website may lose rankings at any given time (for no apparent reason), and while it is possible for the SEO provider to help with recovery, they cannot be held responsible for the outcome. This is also why it is important that you find an SEO provider who deals only with white hat SEO methods. To learn more about what to look for when buying SEO, read our post on the 4 Golden Rules of Buying SEO. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 64
  65. 65. #5. Reporting and Tracking The SEO contract should advise you when reports will be delivered. Most SEO providers send reports on a quarterly or monthly basis. This includes keyword ranking reports, traffic data analysis and other types of analytics. They will help you determine the progress and tracking of your SEO campaign. Communication is an extremely important part of maintaining a mutually beneficial working relationship. Your SEO provider will understand this, and should keep you regularly updated on how things are going. #6. SEO Definitions Your SEO contract should include a section defining common SEO terms. This helps clarify any terminology that you (the client) might not fully understand. I’ll define the most frequently used terms here; but keep in mind that an SEO provider’s contract may contain others not listed. If you’re ever unsure about a particular term – consult your SEO provider directly. They’ll be more than willing help. Keyword Cannibalisation Keyword cannibalisation doesn’t occur when your keywords turn into zombies and start eating each other. Instead, it’s when a web page is targeting the same keywords as another. This is why it’s important to have your website’s pages optimised for keywords relevant to the page’s content (i.e., the topic of the page). URL Canonicalisation When you have two or more URLs on the same website with the same content, this is known as URL canonicalisation. Many websites, for example, will unknowingly have 2 home pages. The first one might be www.YourWebsite.com, and the second could be something like www.YourWebsite.com/index.html. Each page has the same content, but Google thinks it’s two separate pages which could result in duplicate content. Fortunately, your SEO provider will be able to fix this problem should it occur. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 65
  66. 66. Link Building Link building is the process of gaining off-site links to increase the authority of your website. Also known as “backlinks”, each one counts as a vote when search engines rank websites. Link Bait Link bait is usually a piece of content that encourages users to link back to it from their own website (which gives you a backlink). Link bait can be about almost anything, but is always interesting and catches the attention of visitors straight away. Website Usability This is fairly self explanatory. Website usability revolves around how easy it is for visitors to use your website. For example, can they find the content they need from your home page, or do they have to click on the menu to navigate elsewhere? Conversions Conversions are end-goals. They can include any (or all) of the following: ● Downloads ● Leads ● Page views ● Sign ups ● Orders KPI KPI stands for “key performance indicator.” It’s a term used to measure exactly how well your objectives are being met. Data is used to show where improvement is needed. Your SEO provider can show KPIs to improve upon weaker areas and may be included in your regular reports. #7. Payment Terms and Dates SEO is a time consuming process that includes a variety of different tasks. Your SEO provider will inform you (within your contract) when you should expect tasks to be completed. Your budget will determine the type and scope of work carried out. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 66
  67. 67. There’s an abundance of different types of SEO payment plans. The costs involved will be discussed with you beforehand, and included within your contract. In the meantime, feel free to check out our post on the different types of SEO pricing. The Easy Part Most people jump straight to this section of the contract – the part where you insert your signature. But when it comes to SEO, I would highly recommend actually reading (and completely understanding) the entirety of your SEO contract; to avoid any nasty surprises later down the track. You can’t say you weren’t warned. I hope you enjoyed our post about the importance of SEO contracts. If there’s anything you don’t understand, feel free to leave a comment below. SEO Buyer's Guide: How to Successfully Outsource SEO By ServiceCrowd .com.au 67
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