Why There’s No Such Thing as Cheap SEO or Link Building

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Search marketing matters.

As the owner of a local search engine optimization (SEO) consulting agency, it seems to me that it’s almost every day I hear potential clients say things like, “Well, I can get SEO done for $50 a month” or whatever price-range they have been given by a previous guru. After being in the SEO industry for a fairly long time, I have met more than a handful of marketers who outsource their SEO and link building, and most of them think they are getting such a great deal, but from the looks of things, it seems to me that none of them are making any money through any of their online efforts. When looked upon from afar, there’s really no such thing as cheap SEO or cheap link building.

Maybe it’s a good thing for those of you (close-minded) who “think” your’e getting a good deal, but the truth is, there’s no such thing as a cheap SEO plan. There are those who are very desperate, and they offer SEO services, as well as link building services, at a low rate, but if you’ve been doing business for any amount of time, you have hopefully come to learn that, you get what YOU pay for.

Are you coming out on top by hiring (outsourcing) a cheap SEO companywho doesn’t get you the results you need or the results you were promised? And then,  this results in you having to turn right back around and hire a different, more realistic SEO companynow that you don’t have any budget left? For those of you who haven’t really thought about it, let me just point out to you that in the long-run, it’s costing you “a lot more”, if you start off by making these simple mistakes, in the beginning.


Cheap SEO Scams

 image credit: seo.ericanfly.com

It’s true that only a very intelligent (experienced) Website owner will succeed on the “modern-day Web“, but being smart doesn’t have anything to do with being a tightwad. In fact, as an SEO, I’m not too sure I’d want someone performing my keyword research for the goals that I have set forth for myself and my website, by using a Google Translation tool. Now, let’s not assume that all freelance SEOs are low level and cheap. Many freelance SEO and link building professionals do what they do, extremely well.

When it comes to choosing an SEO company or a link builder, that’s right for you and your business plan, don’t let your budget make all those decisions for you. Price is obviously a concern for many people, and I’m more than aware of that, but you can’t let it single-handedly decide your future. If your budget is just too rigid, then I strongly advise you to put off hiring an SEO or link builder until you can afford to hire one who’s a professional, with at least – some experience.

Meanwhile, there are many ways you can work, to market your business and yourself. You might not be an expert, but I promise you, it’ll be well worth it when you look back on things, a year from now. But I digress

Why So Many Suffered from Penguin and Panda

The primary reason so many businesses and Websites suffered from Google’s Penguin and Panda updates is solely due to inexperienced SEOs (and Black Hat SEOs) attempting to experiment” on websites. Those of you who allowed this practice to take place are the primary cause of Panda and Penguin, and it was long overdue.

From a recent experiment we performed, it seemed to me that nearly 99% of all beginner SEOs experiment with Black Hat SEO at one point or another because it produces fast results. Beginners have to have somewhere to experiment (whether it’s on your site or someone else’s), and it’s also true that many outsourced SEOs don’t have their own websites, and if they do, it’s probably not ranking very highly in the SERPs.

I’m not implying that every real SEO in the world should rank #1 for local SEO, or any generic term for that matter, but what I am implying is that Penguins and Pandas wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for so many SEO secrets, tricks, and “wannabe” experts. SEO is a long-term strategy. I don’t care how you’d prefer to look at it.

Well, in order to separate the SEO experts from the SEO amateurs, you need to not only pay attention to the price of the services being offered to you, but you also need to do your job and do some “simple research.” Knowing what questions to ask is key to understanding whether you are dealing with an SEO expert or a Black Hat amateur. Most Black Hat SEOs won’t openly admit to you that they are Black hat (i.e lazy, broke, and scamming). Getting to the bottom of things is very important if you feel like you just have to search for an SEO outside the box.


Local SEO - Cheap  SEO?


How to Separate an SEO Professional from an SEO Faker

  • Pay close attention to the prices they offer.
  • Confirm their website by checking the URL and using a contact form to confirm that they own it, and then check their own website ranking.
  • Read the “About” page on their website to learn more about them.
  • Check their social media platforms and research them thoroughly.
  • Have a thorough chat with them using Skype and ask plenty of questions.
  • Ask if they are Google Adword Certified.
  • Learn some of the Dead Giveaways you’ll need to notice

These are some very basic things you should do when meeting someone for the very first time or when outsourcing via Odesk or Elance. I suggest that you forget about outsourcing the most important marketing strategy you’ll ever implement, and go with a reputable SEO consulting agency, one that pops up on the first page of Google results. That way you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to get took for an idiot. Take the time to find out who they are, and if the task seems like it’s too much an obstacle, then report them to Google – and move on with your goals. Common sense can go a very long way when you are attempting to hire someone via the Internet.

“The Pyramids of Egypt Wasn’t created over night”

And We As Marketers – Shall March Carefully!

SEO Is the “Wisest Investment” for Any Business Owner

Apart from social media implementation, search and search engine optimization are the most beneficial investments a business can make to receive the greatest R.O.I and benefits from their online promotions and their Website. If you own a Website, but you haven’t properly implemented SEO, then there’s really no reason for you to even have the site, because no one is going to see it. Your website is similar to that golden necklace lying at the bottom of a landfill. Sure, it might be a beauty and extremely valuable, but who gives a shit.

The point is that SEO is going to be your most successful investment, when it comes to you dropping the first little red cent into your site. With SEO, you have the opportunity to drive a ton of organic (FREE) traffic to your site by the droves, depending on your SEO strategy and implementation.

“My Conclusion”

Cheap SEOimage credit: digitalproductsreview.blogspot.com


So the next time you think of how awesome it would be to have hundreds of thousands or even millions of people browsing the pages of your website, think about how important it is that you understand – there is no such thing as cheap SEO.

If you have any questions, please feel free to use the comment section below. I will respond to each of you – as promptly as I can.

Gregory Smith
Gregory Smith is an industry veteran. He loves Search Engine Optimization and is an extremely passionate SEO and Creative Marketing Professional -- with nearly a... Read Full Bio
Gregory Smith
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  • Scott McKirahan

    i have mentioned this in other places. The reason so many don’t know what real SEO should cost is that virtually nobody but the cheap companies publish any prices. Many people do not want to leave contact information so that they can be “sold.” They see approximately the same low prices all over the place, so they assume that is what it should cost.

    While I realize that SEO is highly individualized, perhaps if some of the more reputable firms published packages, stating what they charge, or some sort of ballpark “starting from” price and also iterated why they are worth that much on their webpages, people might be more inclined to know the value of a true SEO company and how they are different from the cut-rate ones.

    I’ve heard some claim that they don’t want their competitors to know what their prices are, yet they are supposed to be giving me advice for an e commerce website that shows its prices to everyone? If you can’t can’t compete that way, what leads me to believe that you will be able to help me compete that way?

    • Mile

      What a great post, I wish I could explain this to my clients so elegantly. Seo isn’t just a few mouse clicks and boom you’re ranked #1. Nowadays online no one has patience for anything that takes time and the same goes for seo.

    • Norm

      I think these are some valid points, but I do see companies that at least look reputable, publish a pricing page or provide some idea of cost. As you know, the expectation of anyone who hires an SEO firm, is that they will get new business. It’s great to be on page one, but if your SEO firm get’s you on page one for phrases not being searched on, then it’s still a fail. Unfortunately not all client’s understand this.

      And clients often think they know what their best keywords are. They then provide you a list of extremely broad keywords, that when you search on them, it’s clear Google has a completely different idea of what the searcher’s intent really is. For example, I’ve had a tax preparer client think they wanted to rank for “income tax”. The only tax or accounting firms for that search are paid listings, and that is probably a waste of money.

      So one challenge is posting prices is every client’s needs are different. I’ve had some clients that simply needed proper on page seo and boom, they went right to the first page. Others require serious off page seo effort, and especially those, you still can’t guarantee that for a defined up front cost, that they will achieve the results they want. So you could certainly say $300 a month and require 12 months, but that would be overkill and beyond the budget of a lot of small local firms, and obviously barely scratch the surface for more competitive keywords/industries in a larger market area such as national.

      • Scott McKirahan

        I would consider $300/month a bargain, personally, realizing that it’ll likely be at least 6 months until there are any significant gains for even relatively uncompetitive keyword phrases. Frankly, I’d be a bit suspicious of a price like that!

        You are absolutely right, though, Norm; everybody IS different and some of us understand that “HD TV” has a completely different intent than “Buy HD TV” and that even if the search numbers for the latter are one tenth that of the former, the phrase with “buy” in it is a much more desirable term and likely to produce far more income than the phrase without it. It may very well be less competitive, too, since the majority of websites seem to have their SEO targeted for large search numbers instead of more targeted productive ones with smaller search numbers. I had a website where we targeted a phrase that only gets 20 exact match searches per day and it resulted in an extra 30 sales per month once we got the keyword phrase ranking well.

        I also realize that there are far more potential customers out there who actually understand more about off-page SEO than on-page (or at least think they do). Nobody really even teaches on-page anymore but it is something that has always been far more important than people give it credit for.

        If I saw an SEO firm’s website with a price that specifically stated the methods that theyy employed to increase a website’s exposure and SERP position along with why their methods work and not one that just said something generic like “we will get you top search positions using white hat techniques,” I would be far more likely to give them a call or provide my e-mail address and phone number, regardless of the price, because I would feel comfortable that they knew what they were doing. I would also think that SEO firms would much rather get that kind of lead where general expectations have already been set.

        I’m just trying to give people in the SEO industry a different perspective – one from a business owner who also understands SEO but simply doesn’t have the time or the staff to do it. I have hired good companies and bad companies and have also hired good companies that changed their philosophy at some point and became bad companies.

        Perhaps something with a price for on-page SEO analysis and redesign (if needed), another price for a small external campaign that included four guest posts per month and a half dozen real links from relevant websites (not blog comment posts or forum ones) and another one for twice that many articles and links would give those of us who know a little bit about SEO some idea of costs that we could evaluate. Some of us realize that 10 quality links per month blows away hundreds of crappy ones.

        Clearly, if you spell things out, any reasonable person realizes the costs that an SEO company would incur to implement a campaign and still make a profit. If the price is too low, I would be very suspicious of the quality, so it is not all about price. If I saw what a firm’s SEO plans were and had a general idea of what costs might be, I would welcome a call where we could discuss specific keyword strategies and further define costs.

        Maybe I’m wrong; I’m not in your shoes. Maybe the vast majority of the businesses you talk with are absolutely clueless in all aspects of website promotion. I just wonder if most decent SEO firms may be overlooking the businesses that DO have a clue. If I don’t have time for SEO, I certainly don’t have time to screen call after call from SEO firms and deal with their pitches.

  • Virginia

    Our sales exec was on the phone with a caller interested in a penalty assessment. He told him the cost of the service and the guy said, “Do you know how many links I could get for that?!” ROFL!

  • Black Hatter

    All so called “white SEOs” are hypocrites. A quick run of Majestic SEO on their customer showcase website reveals it all. The most noisy ones are usually worst offenders.

    Real SEO experts ARE black hat professional. Others are either white hat loudmouths (who don’t deliver results and poison the industry with their righteousness) or black hat wannabes (who just spam like there’s no tomorrow and deliver shitty results).

    Now I challenge you to approve this comment (there’s not even a link drop here).

    • Saif

      your comment has been approved Black hatter !

      Now i challenge you to comment here with your real profile link of website so that everyone can see who is black hat expert here !!!!

  • Revax media

    This is something we deal with on a daily basis either in the form of business owners not understanding the SEO price tag or the fact we have to pick up the pieces from shamble SEO for around $49 per month. If you pay cheaply for SEO prepare to pay twice.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    “If your budget is just too rigid, then I strongly advise you to put off hiring an SEO or link builder until you can afford to hire one who’s a professional, with at least – some experience.”

    I always tell clients they are besting investing a limited budget in their own education as opposed to hiring a cheap SEO provider. If you know what the “rules” of SEO are you’re much less likely to be taken in by an SEO scam. SEO is too important to risk on the cheapest option.

  • Gerry

    The problem with SEO consultants is there no mention of their rates on their website, including this website, not even a guideline, so people go for the cheapest.

  • Atchuthan Sris

    I understand you don’t get something for nothing. However, what would be a fair rate to pay for SEO services and what kind of parameters would you place on price? Also, why do you keep using the word outsourcing so much. Unless you hire someone to work in your office, all third party vendors are considered outsourcing. If your intent is to state that using a company that is not US based, then outsourcing occurs whenever you use a third party vendor because it is not inhouse. Perhaps the better word you may want to use is insourcing.

  • Search Analyst

    SEO is not rocket signs but at the same time it is not that simple. One guy came and said I know SEO but I want to you to do SEO (out of the box). In the first place, if he knows SEO, why did he approached any one else to do SEO for him. 🙂

  • Nu Studio

    This is a fantastic article. I have done a fair bit of research into SEO over the past 13 years, and I totally agree with everything said here. In fact, in the early days, the term SEO didn’t exist. It was simply called building a standards compliant website with decent content. All of these websites are the ones that still do well today; penguins, pandas or any other animals cannot stop them. SPAM is never a good option – ever! I try to teach my clients this every day.

    Onwards and upwards,


  • Sheree

    I have recently started a blog, the information you provide
    on this website has helped me tremendously. Thanks for
    all of your time & work.

  • Michael Ladd

    What the most affordable way to get traffic to new website about 2 weeks old. How is are traffic doing so far

    Any advice or suggestion on growing are business let us know OK

    Michael Ladd

  • Fabian

    Hi Gregory,

    great article! I totally agree, SEO has never been cheap. Sure you could trick Google for a while with black hat tactics but in the long run Google will always catch up on it and the value of those tactics is pretty much ZERO!

    As long as people understand that SEO is mainly about creating a quality and relevant website that is helpful to the enduser and provides useful information that is unique and “outstanding”, we’ve done a good job!

    Thanks for posting this…


  • AJ

    I hate to be dismissive, but every industry has people like that. I’ve started multiple businesses in different industries and you always get the cheapskates. I know I’m being too emotional about it, but I get turned off to internet business types because they’re often so fresh they don’t realize every business does have these issues. They act like it’s some internet phenomenon rather than a human phenomenon.

  • Paul R

    Hi, with the emergence of micro sites like fiverr, link building has become well (the illustration above does justice). I think that most people want something for nothing. I believe this stems from a feeling of mistrust online (understandable). There are many people peddling crappy links telling folks that they will get maximum link juice etc. This is funny and also tragic. Seeing that the rate of scamming online has risen exponentially in the last decade, I don’t see the mistrust going anywhere, lest the selling of phony balogna will most likely continue!

    Thanks for the write up.


  • Patrick

    Hi greg, While it’s true there are quite a few good companies out there, I concur with you when you assert that there are definitely a high proportionate number of scammers and schisters too. Real SEO is and will forever be expensive. Most folks do not want to pay for something even if it means that they are going to be getting more traffic and conversions. Since most folks never see money online and the majority of folks making money online keep it to themselves (like it’s gonna always work or something), there is a huge level of mistrust among consumers and so they don’t trust you whether you are legit or not.

    Thanks for the post. Nice write up…


  • Tom M

    Greg, You nailed it. And some people in the comments did too. There are too many huxsters out there ruining it for the real legit folks. I suppose this is just something that through sifting and sorting will be corrected over time but will never quite go away completely.

    Thanks and great job here.


  • Angel K

    Greg, you nailed it on the head with the huxster bit in SEO. I don’t think this is a problem that will go away anytime soon. Hopefully more organizations will pop up that look to form membership sites with companies and individuals that can show real credentials and real results!

    –Angel :))

  • Myles F

    Greg, I was taken by a firm a few months back. I got ZERO results and spent around 1500. Since these guys did such a good job of covering their behinds legally, I had no recourse. Thanks for bringing this up here. People need to be aware that sometimes you DON’T get what you pay for either. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!


  • Darwin R

    Nice post! I am TIRED of these crack pots stealing out from under good customers and delivering nothing! This is a travesty. I am almost tempted to start a site or consortium of qualified SEO’ers to have a message board for people that need answerfs to shady dealings with these sketchy fops. I am so tired of my clients questioning my tried and true methods going up against me with flimsy objections fed to them by these cretans. Thank for bringing this up. Very important and relevant topic here.


  • Norm

    Hi, I had a few friends that fell victim to a few of these SEO scams. These people are very good at what they do and know EXACTLY what to tell you (most of what they know you want to hear). Things like “We can get you to the first page of google instantly” and so on. Of course my comrades went for it and got NOTHING. They paid quite a bit too.

    thanks for bringing this out into the light!

  • michel

    Hi, thank you guys for your support and advice. I have been able to help my girlfriend start her business with the excellent info on this blog. Without it, it appears we could have spent too much money on things that did not work.


  • Dan Wan

    Hello, They say in the world of business that there is no free lunch. They are RIGHT. This is true. If you hear a person tell you they give you the moon and stars beware!! It is probably a lying business person. There are real SEO people and there are perople that claim to be the expert that are not. This article must need seen by many.

    thank you, Daniel W
    SEO guy for 12 years

  • Kylie

    Hi Greg, I had a >>>terrible<<< experience with a wannabe SEO guy once. Never again. Ask for documentation and PROOF! Also make sure they have a website or some type of public profile. I shelled out big bux and got diddly…squat.

  • jules

    Hey, my husband and i tried to do our own SEO and it didn’t go too good. Probably because we took advice from the wrong folks. Just want to reach out and thank you for your help on this topic. Confusing as it can be, there is a simplicity to it and it takes work!


  • Emery Sturner

    Gregory, I gotta tell ya mate, ya know your stuff. I have a few blokes here in Manchester that tell me all kinds of tall tales about how they are going to get to the first page of the big G. I have to laugh at them….

    I mean the SEO thing can be broken down pretty easy but it still takes work and consistency. Most blokes take a few days to do it and if they don’t pop up on page one they toss it in the can!

    You’re right, like them you get what you pay for (and that’s not much on their watch).


  • Burt Westlake

    You just can’t expect to get quality without paying for it. Its really that simple. I think part of the reason why people try and lowball everyone is because eveything online is a feakin scam and they’re just taking your temperature to see if theres any room you can move.

  • Cary f

    Hi Gregory – Your right – If someone is serious about their business they will put in the effort and will not take shortcuts to their business. Great SEO is a key factor in making this all fit together.

    Thanks for sharing


  • Cary f

    Hi Gregory – It is so true that if you are serious about your business there is no excuse for cutting corners when it comes to your SEO and having it high quality. Research is important.

    Thanks for sharing