Many webmasters don’t fully understand exactly what search engine optimization, or SEO services, are, or what their SEO specialist does, how he does it or how he charges for it. This should help answer many of those questions.
First comes some extensive research. This begins with you giving your SEO a crash-course on your business. That will include your products and services, your industry in general, your direct competition and any specific advantages or disadvantages you may have. It should also include your plans and desires for the future, in terms of what you hope to accomplish through his efforts.
Together, you’ll decide which market niche to concentrate on. That decision will be guided by your SEO’s specialized research into the keywords he’ll have identified from his initial familiarization with your operations. He will identify those keywords and keyword phrases most likely to be entered into search queries, particularly those encountering the least competition. These high-probability, low-competition keywords and keyphrases will be those that should be incorporated into your site’s pages, in several locations the SEO will specify.
There are two separate aspects to search engine optimization: on-page and off-page. On-page deals with the page and site structure and content, and pricing will typically be based upon your site’s size and intricacy. The SEO will usually price this work in accordance with the amount of time and the expertise level he’ll be putting forth, as well as competitive pricing. Off-page SEO addresses the awareness of your site’s existence in terms of visibility, and includes a number of facets.
Submitting of articles, blog posts, directory listings and news releases raise your site’s visibility, while acquiring links to you from other sites will increase your website’s popularity and authority, which is critical to your site’s placement in the SERPs. This is also the portion of the SEO’s work that will take the longest to show results.
At this point, your SEO will be able to prepare his plan of action, which will focus on the ultimate and intermediate goals, and should spell out exactly which tasks will be accomplished to get your site to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). The plan should identify the milestones by which progress can be measured, and billings will be issued.
Don’t be hesitant about asking for more detail or explanation at this point, as the milestones are essentially the only metric at your disposal to gauge your project’s progress. The tasks, milestones, responsibilities (of both parties) and the billing procedure should be clearly spelled out in a written agreement, and signed by both of you. Obviously, neither of you want or expect any conflicts, but it’s always better to answer questions beforehand, to avoid misunderstandings.
No responsible SEO will claim to be able to guarantee a particular result, as there are so many variables that are beyond their control. However, progress can be measured, and that should be a factor in the monthly (typical) billing process.
One very common approach you may see unfold, is that the SEO will divide the selected high-volume keywords and phrases into two groups of low and high competition. The first group will offer the quickest results, while the second group may offer the greatest overall benefit. Through the monthly reports you should receive, you’ll be able to monitor your site’s progress. Don’t expect massive changes overnight, however, as the various search engines may take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to show the results.
Since off-page SEO costs depend much more upon keyword competition, that means that you may see additional costs as you seek higher ratings for competitive terms. Most SEO firms will price their off-page work by the piece, such as ten in-bound links per month, or five articles per month. This incremental billing will make it easier for you and your SEO to track progress, and adjust strategy as required. It also helps you to spread out over several months, this very important investment in your company’s success.
Your SEO will probably plan your project to be completed over a six or twelve month period. The pricing for any maintenance efforts after that should reflect the fact that if the optimization project was well done, maintenance efforts are minimal in comparison. Remember, however, that SEO is not something that is done once, and then forgotten… it’s an ongoing project. There are many ongoing tasks that can be of increasing benefit to your business.
You owe it to yourself to be sure you full understand what your costs and benefits will be, in order to receive full benefit of your SEO project. If you select your SEO wisely and heed his advice, you will likely be astounded at the vast improvement in your business.