What should I budget for SEO?

I’m still a little amazed at people that come to me and ask me to get their (new) website to ranking at the top of the first page of Google and then state they have a budget of $200. I have to explain to them that is probably not a distinct possibility and anyone that says they can do it is most likely going to rip them off $200.

The first limitation in this scenario is that it is a new website. Google generally does not give the same amount of credibility to a new website as it does to a well established website and for good reason. In fact, a lot of the methodology behind really good SEO is simply common sense and logic. If new websites could easily outrank well established websites then search engine rankings would be all over the place all of the time. Acquiring top search engine rankings is generally an earned position.

However, there are a few things you can do in order to “jumpstart” your credibility and get Google to take notice of you. One of the first is simply how long you purchase your domain name for. Google does not give as much credibility to websites that purchase their domain names for only one year at a time. The reasoning behind this is simply that more of these tend to go away more quickly so why give them credibility or rankings? So we suggest you purchase your domain name for at least 2 years at a time.

The second thing to do is to get your website crawled by Google quickly so they will index it and know it exists. This assumes you’ve already built it with the best practices of SEO in mind, the content is well written and credible and related. And by related I mean that it is highly relevant to what the visitor you are seeking to attract will find relevant to their query. There are companies that offer to notify all of the search engines about your website and often it is touted as a big part of an introductory search engine marketing package which usually includes getting you listed in a bunch of directories to jumpstart your business.

We personally do not agree with either of these methods and frown upon its use. Anyone can go and get their site listed in a search engine easily and for free but we do not recommend it as a strategy because it simply puts you in a queue and means you might have to wait days or weeks or even months before the search engine actually crawls your website. Our suggestion is to find someone that is already well indexed in Google and gets crawled regularly, even daily and have them link to your website. That is the best way to get crawled quickly and adds the extra credibility to your website since someone Google already recognizes as credible is linking to you. This is how we do it by simply inking our new client from our website which is crawled weekly if not daily. Usually our new client will start showing in the search engines the first week they go online.

The reason we don’t like directories is that in spite of their purported traffic statistics no one really uses them all that much to find anything. Lets face it Google gets the majority of market share when it comes to getting relevant search traffic. Secondly, over the past few years directories have taken huge hits in a negative since from Google with respect to being a good place to link to your site from. They used to be great in that respect but over abuse has caused them to not be as good anymore and in some if not many cases if the directory has taken big hits from Google it might even be a negative factor to your website to list there.

In a lot of cases a backlink to your website from a directory might even be classified as an unnatural link and if it is then it will have no value for you and could even harm your rankings. So a “mass” linking scheme to a bunch of directories is probably not going to help and even harm you. First, too many links too soon is always bad. Second, is the directory relevant to your business? If a directory is relevant to your business such as an industry related directory then it could be a good thing as long as you are certain the directory itself is ranking well and not being sandboxed or otherwise losing rankings in Google. And third, does the directory use anchor links? Anchor links are text where the text is a link and has keywords related to your business. Those are now bad because they are considered to be spammy. Better to simply have relevant text related to your business or products then a link for people to get to you and the link be your domain and nothing else. Here is a link where Matt Cutts of Google talks about linking in directories. (Notice I DID use anchor text in that link!).

Good SEO is a process. It is doing alot of things and doing alot of them over and over again until you get the right results. It requires a lot of diligence not only “on-page” such as writing and positioning of content, but  also “off-page” such as optimization of the page code for example. And it should include ongoing web analytics, split testing of page designs, conversion testing of product or services. And it requires that you either do it well or have someone you can trust to do it well and then having a lot of patience. It can take months or even years to build a good strong position in major search engines. If you do it right you can jumpstart this process and start to have gains almost immediately but it still takes time to build and grow an online business.

And because there is so much required and it is very specialized if you actually have someone that actually has the talent, knowledge, skill and work ethic (because it is time consuming) to do all of the right things it can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be so expensive you cannot afford to win. A good seo practitioner will likely have affordable programs even for small businesses but you still have to figure on spending at least $300 to $500 a month for at least 6 months if you want to jumpstart your business. And if you want to really grow it and be successful plan on at least a year.Just be sure you are hiring someone that is going to do all of the right things and work hard to help you succeed. For example, we offer a small business plan starting at $350 a month that applies all of the best practices of SEO, provides monthly web analytics and works closely with you to help you monitor the results and grow your conversions and does all of the same things our higher priced plans do. The only difference is how much time we are able to spend on you each month so it simply takes a little longer to achieve the same success we can get more quickly for companies with larger budgets on a more aggressive plan.

So unless you are going to learn and apply seo for yourself (the long haul) then plan on budgeting at least $300 a month for professional seo services.