Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why does SEO cost so much?

Internet Advertising = Search Engine Marketing

or search engine wizardry... to accomplish this in the great state of Maryland (and the entire world for that matter) requires Maryland Search Engine Optimization.

Let's break that last sentence down:

Maryland (self explanatory, I sell advertising in Maryland)

Search Engine (for 90% of us that means Google, although Microsoft's Bing is gaining ground)

Optimization= optimize your company website to be Google Friendly

Taken together it means Maryland SEO, but the optimization part has taken a back seat to link popularity/ link building/ building back links... in the artsy fartsy world of web design the derogatory term for what us SEO guys do is deemed :Link Spam

So what does Link Spam mean and is it bad for your site?

Links are currency, plain and simple, the more sites that link to your company site the better your ranking is going to be... but (and this is a HUGE but)

Inbound Links are NOT Created Equal: The quality of, the authority of the site that carries YOUR company website URL is not created equal. And what it takes to ferret out which "Quality", "Authority" sites to select for placement of YOUR company website is more art than science.

Knowing Where to Tap

There is a story popular in the marketing world where a newspaper was hours away from the deadline for the next edition. The printing machine broke. Frantically the head mechanic called in a consultant to get the printing machine fixed. Consultant walks in, taps on a pipe, the machine roars back to life.
Consultant hands the head mechanic a bill for $1005.00
Mechanic asks what's the $5 for?
Consultant explains: "$5 to tap the machine, $1000 for knowing WHERE to Tap!

SEO as a Marketing Art Form

Below are articles from popular SEO blogs I follow on the topic of how much it should cost to hire a web designer and/or SEO consultant

It’s like going to the doctor. If you tell the doctor you need a wart removed, he could tell you what the cost will be. If you tell the doctor you have a stomach pain, he can’t tell you the cost of treatment in advance of the appointment. He needs to examine you and run tests to make an accurate diagnosis which could range from indigestion (cheap) to a heart condition (expensive).

You can view me as website doctor. I can diagnose your website problem(s) in great detail but I don’t know how long the diagnosis will take me (and I charge by the hour) nor do I know how long it will take to fix the problem (and I charge by the hour).

Also, it’s hard to know in advance the type of client you might be. A certain level of client communication is part of every consulting engagement and this time isn’t billable. However, I don’t know if you’re the sort who will demand more phone time than is necessary for the job nor whether you are the sort who will try to increase the scope of the project without increasing the cost. That’s why “prix fixe” SEO scares me…every time I’ve done this, the time spent on the job doesn’t pencil back to my hourly rate.


It should be a goal of every freelancer to maximize his/her profits without sacrificing the number of clients they service, and yes, the balance between price and amount of work is a very hard one to make, but it is paramount to understand as a freelancer that what you do is an art: so price is ultimately dependent on your skill in your field of expertise.

Your Skill is an Art

The main reason why freelancers need to remind themselves that what they do is an art, is because it comes with one major advantage. It’s as simple as this, the better you are, the more you can charge. This means, that you can in theory become an excellent designer/coder/writer in a short space of time with a bit of dedication, and then end up charging your clients much more as a result.

Too many times I’ve seen designing (especially) being treated as a sort of mechanical process. Take for example in the template industry. There are a lot of people out there offering unique, custom designs for sale, but treat it as though the more designs they make in the shortest amount of time, the more money they’ll make. This is a total lopsided way of thinking when it comes to an art. Time should be taken when making a design (in this example), and you should be concentration on the quality of your work over the amount of work you produce; that way you can charge more for the template at hand and not have to work as much. The key idea here is don’t undersell yourself, the market has had enough of it already.

Take pride in your work

The work you do for a client ultimately represents you. Your personality, talent, interests, are all definable by your work; and you should, therefore, be taking great effort and pride in the work you produce. Focus on quality, not quantity, and you’ll see a nature growth in the number of clients requesting work.

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(the following is a guest post from Todd Mintz

Recently, I was chatting on the phone with a potential SEO client about some gig work. The conversation was going along fine until (in a roundabout way) he asked me for my “sales pitch” aka why he should use me as opposed to someone else. I don’t think my answer was particularly compelling…not because I didn’t have a good answer for him but because I had several answers that got jumbled together in a form of verbal mush. Since blogging gives me an opportunity for a “do-over” (a technique I’ve used before), I would like to recast my answer in a more powerful manner…

Hamlet does SEO

Dear client…let me count the ways..

…You asked me whether I might be a better SEO consultant than the other folks you’re considering. Since I don’t know who those folks are, I’m not able to give you much of an answer to that question. I do know that I’ve been doing SEO since the Year 2000 and I have no doubt that with an in-depth look at your analytics, I will be able to figure out your website “pain points” that you see as critical to the future health of your business.

You asked me about cost.

I told you my hourly rate which is (I believe) comparable to what others with my background and experience charge for their services.

One of my selling points is that I’m perfectly willing to sell you as little or as much of my time as you feel you need and I have no desire to lock you into any sort of long term contract. As busy as I am with multiple engagements, I’d gladly give you some flexibility in your working relationship with me…because I’d like the same flexibility in working with you. I think I can provide excellent results for you quickly and if you feel you got good value from me at an aggressive hourly rate, you’ll more likely to give me the referrals that I would desire.


Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.


The Devaluing of Web Design

June 22nd was a great day.

After weeks of small projects and a little bit of pro bono work, I ended Monday with four solid estimates out the door. I’ve never had that many legitimate potential client calls in one day. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

Oh wait, did I say legitimate? I meant typical.

Actually, that’s not fair. They weren’t all bad. Two of the estimates got the green light, one never materialized, and one stayed in that initial Q & A phase. That’s the one I want to focus on. This person had the typical “I want it all but I don’t want to spend anything” attitude, and I think this scenario warrants some in-depth analysis.

The original needs for his website were very straight forward. A “brochure” site and logo design. He asked about a content management system, but after our conversation he decided to go with a static site. I drafted up the estimate and emailed it to him.

After three days and a couple back and forth emails, I got the final word from him. He wanted logo, business card and letterhead design (we do logo design, but I don’t advertise print work), a content management system, blog, the web design, and SEO (which I included in the initial estimate). I responded via email and included a revised estimate along with a brief explanation of why there was such a price increase.

I quickly got two emails back, one saying that the new price was far beyond what he thought was needed for this project, and the next email asking why he couldn’t just use Wordpress and have total control, again adding that the new estimate seemed excessive. I’m not going to disclose the actual price, but I will say it was under $10,000.

Immediately the red flag started flying, so I responded with a few words about pricing and “Sorry we couldn’t help you.”

I’m not the greatest salesman in the world, but I know I could have worked with him on a price that he would have been happier with. But really, why bother? Every web designer has dealt with this type of client, and I’m one who avoids them at all costs.

But I can’t really blame him. His reaction is so typical that it’s become expected. The problem is the web design industry, on many levels, has been devalued to the point where smaller web agencies whose client base is comprised of small business owners simply can’t justify their prices, even though the prices are completely realistic.

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