How much should you pay for SEO?

By Simon Ensor
SEO 03.03.2017

The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true for the majority of industries and SEO is certainly no different. There are a multitude of companies and lone wolves offering cheap SEO services with grand promises of first page rankings and fast. In reality, the only way to achieve such a promise is by employing suspect black-hat techniques, which can land you in big trouble with the Overlord Google. With cheap SEO your risk profile for penalties and ultimately ending up in a worse position than when you started increases substantially. Note that this is not some sort of extended justification of fees, we often tell prospects not to engage in an SEO campaign if there budget does not stretch to a reputable campaign!

Clients are often stung by black hat tactics due to a lack of understanding with regards to how it all works. For many clients, SEO seems a form of black magic, with the industry jargon and technical aspects only accessible to the techno-geeks of the world. This is simply not true. The basic principles can be understood by anyone but it takes a seasoned expert to implement an all-singing all-dancing campaign that will work for your business in the long term. SEO is a time intensive process. There is no quick fix and anyone who says there is should probably be avoided. In this post we will outline the reasons why SEO takes time and the warning signs of an SEO conman.


Onsite optimisation

One of the initial stages of a campaign, following the keyword research (where target search terms are agreed), onsite optimisation is crucial to the overall success of a long-term strategy. It is the only part of a campaign that is likely to achieve good short-term results, when done properly. Onsite optimisation is all the work that is done to your website itself and includes writing metadata, optimising images, tweaking the content and a myriad of other technical aspects such as load speed, coding errors and the implementation of structured data.

Onsite optimisation will most certainly be overlooked by cheap SEOs. It is a time intensive process and, to be frank, tedious. The result of a thorough onsite audit will be a lengthy document detailing all findings and recommendations. Think of onsite optimisation as the foundations of any campaign, with content creation and link-building as the building blocks of the house. You can build the most beautiful house, mansion or even a palace, but without the foundations in place, it will likely come tumbling down and fail to make it very far through the construction process. Without onsite optimisation, an SEO campaign will never reach its full potential.


High quality content

Any SEO will tell you the importance of content creation. No doubt you will have had the phrase ‘content is king’ thrown at you – possibly the most overused term in the SEO industry. If onsite optimisation is the foundations then content creation is the bricks. The difference between cheap SEO and reputable SEO is the quality of the content. We are not just talking about pushing out any old content. No, for a content strategy to work, it needs to be carefully planned and researched.

There are ways of cheating the content creation process. Automated machines are able to scrape content from the web, rehash it and ‘spin’ the content for your own site. Sound good? It’s not. Spun content is lazy and highly unprofessional, plus it will not benefit your SEO efforts in the slightest. Content creation is about researching the best content ideas, carrying out thorough research into your chosen topics and writing eloquent and accurate articles that offer an original perspective.

Why is content creation so important for SEO? To put it simply, if you are regularly pushing out relevant and valuable content on your website then Google will acknowledge you as a reliable and authoritative figure in your industry. Some clients like to write content themselves but if the idea of writing high quality articles on a weekly basis brings you out in a cold sweat then you will need a talented copywriter who is also SEO savvy. Any reputable SEO company will have fantastic writers as part of their team, so you should be in safe hands.


Time intensive link-building

Now we arrive at the most infamous aspect of SEO: link-building, a process that has become increasingly difficult over recent years. Cheap SEOs tend to use spammy techniques to generate links, which may achieve short-term results but will inevitably result in penalties and a knock to your rankings.

Good link-building is, you guessed it, time intensive. It is essentially like good PR – reaching out to publications and influencers for coverage and guest posts. This involves high volumes of research to establish the most appropriate contacts, followed by a substantial period of time over which that relationship builds. Securing high quality links is hard but necessary. Be super wary of promises of many links in a short period of time – this is a warning signal that black-hat techniques are being employed. Take our advice and run a mile. Dealing with penalties is a pain and should be avoided at all costs.

Quickly circling back to great content. If your website content is of the required standard your website will naturally earn links as people read your content, are suitably impressed and link to it off their own back. This is the holy grail of content creation and link building combined but won’t happen with poor quality content.


Not just about rankings

The vast majority of clients are usually very focussed on rankings. Their first thought is that they want to be number one on Google but it is important to have some perspective. There is a lot of competition in the search engine arena and anyone who gives you a ‘guarantee’ that they can get you to the top spot is, well, a crook. Google is constantly updating its algorithm and although any good SEO company will do their utmost to stay on top of updates and foresee any predictions, only the secret workers inside Google really know what’s going on.

Of course rankings are important and rising up the search engine results pages is the ultimate goal, it is not the only outcome of an SEO campaign. High quality content and links will become assets for your business, helping you to build authority and raise awareness as a result. This work is the perfect complement to your overall marketing strategy.

Furthermore, rankings can be used to disguise the real value of an SEO campaign. On the face of it being number one on Google is the goal of the campaign but this is simply not true. The real goal of an SEO campaign is to gain highly targeted website traffic from search engines, being number one for the best performing keywords facilitates this. Anyone can be number one for an obscure keyword with zero search volume and competition but you certainly won’t be gaining any true value from this.



As we have already mentioned, SEO should be seen as a long-term strategy. It is possible to generate results in the short term with good onsite optimisation, but ongoing content creation and link-building are key for long-term results. Accordingly, a solid SEO strategy should be integrated into your marketing strategy on a permanent basis. Never underestimate the importance of organic search to your business. It is one of the most valuable marketing tools you will ever use and can be extremely powerful in growing your business when leveraged correctly. If you can see the value in getting professionals to carry out the work and have the budget to invest then it is a very powerful marketing tool. If you don’t have the budget and previously thought that you might be able to save a few bucks by using a cheap agency, hopefully this article will have persuaded you to wait to do it properly. Do it cheap, do it twice.

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