Affordable SEO, Cheap SEO or often advertised as Competitive SEO is a popular Google search for thousands of businesses every month. Each hoping to find an overnight solution to grow their business for minimum investment.
Unfortunately there can be grave penalties from using a Cheap SEO consultant. From the benign “waste of money” kinds to official enforcements from Google and potentially being removed from the index.
This post discusses:
- How you can spot “cheap” search engine optimsation vendors
- How “affordable SEO” services can hurt your website ranking
- What can you expect to pay for a good SEO consultant
1. What is Cheap SEO?
It seems to be a race to the bottom. A cheap search engine optimisation provider usually sets monthly recurring fees somewhere between £50 – £500 per month. You could probably even find a consultant for less on gig sites such as fiverr and upwork offering services as little as £25 per month. Or a one off SEO overhaul of your website (whatever that is??) for £5!
Many of these consultants are offshore or very new to SEO and will advertise themselves as “affordable SEO consultants”.
Many seo companies offer tiered packages for their services. The deliverable will typically be x number of blogposts, x number of guest post links and x number of local citations.
SEO really is quite complex and while these vendors have the bare bones figured out (fresh content, referring links and business listings), there is a lot more to it than suggested.
Why are Affordable SEO providers so cheap?
There are a couple of strategies that affordable SEO agencies use to combat costs – mainly hiring offshore labour. Don’t get me wrong, there are some absolute SEO superstars abroad and I’ve had the measure of meeting a few at various events but by large, cheap offshore workers are poorly-qualified and lack the local expertise and experience for successful campaigns.
The other way some agencies address cost is by outsourcing SEO campaigns to white label SEO service providers. This is a little more common among the more reputable complimentary agencies such as Branding, Advertising or PR firms who don’t have SEO expertise themselves but want a slice of the digital pie. The agencies used are usually again offshore presenting the issues discussed previously.
These cost cutting strategies generate poor results and not enough return for business owners whose livelihood depends on this investment.
Low cost gear and no idea
Premium SEO tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, MOZ and Screaming Frog are pricey at agency level which is one of the reasons it’s impossible to offer a cheap SEO service. Cheap SEO providers bypass this problem by relying on free tools or trial reports by the premium providers. While there’s nothiong wrong with using free tools (infact we recommend them if you are attempting to learn about SEO yourself) – the reports are quite limited and may miss some technical SEO issues that are hurting your ranking.
2. How Cheap SEO can hurt your ranking
Poor results are actually the least of your worries when it comes to cheap SEO. Changes to your website by inexperienced consultants can sometimes result in algorithmic penalties that are agonising to remove. These penalties can harm your organic value rather than grow it which means that potential customers are even less likely to find you than before.
You can usually expect the following outcomes from poor SEO work
What a waste of money!
The most common outcome with cheap SEO services is that they simply don’t deliver what they promise. You haven’t saved money, you’ve just wasted money and more often than not, you can’t recover the investment back.
Many Cheap SEO agencies will guarantee you a first place on Google search – this is however usually a branded search which covers their tracks for any refunds.
Say you were paying £300 per month for SEO services, this equates to £3600 wasted per year not to mention 12 months of valuable time.
When you consider what you could’ve done with this £3600 – maybe invested it in a 3 month PPC campaign – you would’ve had a much higher return on investment.
Making your business look a bit ropey
Another poor marketing service we hate is bad copywriting! It boils my blood that the art of writing has been priced down to as little as £12 for a blog post by some cowboys in our industry further devaluing the thorough and decent work we do.
Good marketing consultants specialise in presenting your brand in the best light, in a unique way. Cheap SEO businesses are more preoccupied with picking as many words from the keyword research list and stuffing them into short, pointless articles which actually don’t contain any useful information for the reader.
Amateur grade content is as damaging to your business as poor SEO tactics as people realise that you are just producing content to play with the Google algorithms rather than providing good advice/interesting reads.
Black Hat SEO Tactics
The frustrating thing about SEO is that it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s certainly not an overnight success and requires patience and belief that the rewards are pending. Of course, the Cheap SEO provider insists this isn’t the case so really have to work against time.
Many will resort to black hat link building schemes (those spammy website that just list thousands of links to your site in an attempt to make your site look authoritative). They may aslo plagerise another creator’s content that performs well.
These strategies are massively against Google Best Practices and unfortunately do work for a short time to buy in your belief that it’s working. Those Google spiders WILL catch you though and the penalties can be damaging. Why else do you think we’re always complaining about yet another Google Algorithim update?
Google Penalties are BAD NEWS
Google can tell if you are using cheap SEO link building strategies, and may penalize you for doing so. This is difficult to correct if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once the cheap links are in place pointing to your page, you have to manually disavow every link (there may be hundreds) OR you can contact the website owner to remove you. I guarantee you will not hear back.
Scarier than manual actions are algorithmic penalties. They provide very little information when they enforce these and it takes a real SEO guru to figure out the solution. (So glad you went for that affordable SEO consultant eh?).
These penalties can take weeks and months to resolve – its not simply a case of presenting your case, you have to wait for the algorthim to update again.
If you’re really taking the piss with your SEO strategy, Google could yank you off the index completely. This can be devastating for your business as it is now impossible for potential customers to find you. You and your newly hired SEO expert will have to search through the site with a fine toothed comb, remove every violation then send a very compelling sorry letter begging to be reinstated.
Once that’s done, you’re then completely back at square 1 with your SEO strategy. Probably a few thousand pounds down and wondering why you opted for the “cheap option”.
3. So how much does a Good SEO Agency Charge?
Here comes the annoying response – it depends! A good SEO agency will price according to your campaign needs (local, national, international), how competitive your industry is and take the current organic value of your website into consideration.
Time requirements are a good place to start. BE VERY WARY of SEO consultants who say they can deliver an SEO audit within a day. You don’t need a printout from a free SEO tool, you need a comprehensive investigation into how your website is structured and the data within it.
Good SEO agencies will take your marketing budget into account but local SEO services typically need 15-18 hours a month and national, at least 25. A good SEO consultant starts from around £45 per hour.
Having said this, the competitiveness of your industry is a deciding factor. It’s a lot easier to build up an SEO strategy for a niche, local bakery than an IT company offering Backup services.
And what about the results?
We need to stress at this point that you need to go into an SEO campaign with the understanding that it is a long term strategy. There are so many factors that influence page ranking and with constantly evolving Google Algorithims, it takes time to build your website towards an authoritative domain status.
SEO is an ongoing task – so much so that you don’t even have to rely on one agency. You can pass the baton if you feel you want some fresh ideas or a change of personalities on the team.
You do however have to be fully invested in the plan for ongoing SEO.
As the title suggests, No SEO really is more favourable than cheap SEO. I’ve met so many business owners who were stung by poor tactics and are now completely against the idea in investing in SEO again. Unfortunately that’s just the digital marketing industry. A race to rock bottom prices and a lack of appreciation for the value good marketing can bring.
It is well worth looking into SEO again for any business. You can drive 20 x the amount of traffic over time and if you add that same calculation to business leads, how much more revenue can you generate?
It can be expensive and I would like to say at this stage that if you can’t afford to pay for a reputable consultant, just leave it for now. Cheap SEO should never be the answer due to the harm it can cause your rankings.
There are also a tonne of other strategies that may be more beneficial at this stage. PPC is a fast, effective way to inject some leads into the pipeline – why not explore that for now?
N.B. Amazing “bad” artwork pulled from https://www.twitter.com/thebadrawer