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Is SEO worth paying for?

 4:28 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Given the recent trauma that Google has inflicted in our lives (50%+ of some our sites suddenly disapeared from the index, then reapeared - then disapeared again!) what's everyone's feeling with regard to paying for SEO - for those that do pay for this service - what do you look for in your provider and do you try to pin them down (and pay them) according to performance? Does anyone truly understand Google's algo's and inner workings? or is it akin to turning bronze into Gold?



 6:11 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

It is still a practice where proven and tested practices work. It's more of a combination of rules now than before where there was one silver bullet.

Look at SEO as a recipe made of different ingredients. It's not just chocolate sauce anymore. It's garlic, onions, thyme, oregano, olive oil, brandy and white wine now.

An experienced optimiser will apply multiple techniques to get you to the top.

That said, go at your own peril my friend and I hope you come right.

I know what I am doing...


 6:44 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

The days of paying someone to edit your meta tags and get you a few hundred links are hopefully fast receding. There is much more to it than that.


 6:51 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I get these firms calling me all the time. Typically they don't know alot compared to many here on this message board. There is no silver bullet and many promise just that. I would personally never pay someone to do it, its to easy to research and do for yourself. They can't guarentee anything either but they will claim pretty much anything to get your business.

Maybe once upon a time they made sense but today its a dieing business.


 9:03 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't recommend them to anyone purely because you don't know what lengths they will go to to show you they can do any good. I seem to remember a post on here a while back where someone had a penalised site a year after appointing an SEO to assist. Turned out they had spammed the link to a load of rubbish sites and some other stuff.

I've heard other companies have set up hundreds of sites for link strategies, or have access to such. And I guess others, when you stop employing them would remove all these links so you plummet again.

I'm sure there are good ones, but it's too risky if you ask me.

I usually have a good laugh when they phone me up...I start asking them stuff like how they would approach the canonical URL problem and how would they approach dupe content penalties with two geo-targeteted domains. It normally gets a "erm....sorry?", a "I'm not sure we can help you", maybe "can you hang on just one second" or they hang up :)

[edited by: Simsi at 9:09 pm (utc) on Oct. 11, 2006]


 9:09 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

There's a huge difference between the SEO you locate on your own through networking.and recommendations -- and hiring an SEO who cold calls you.

Of course no one understand all the intricacies of the Google algorithm -- maybe not even any one person at Google. But someone whose core focus is on what helps a site present a "strong signal" to Google can make a big difference. And a fresh set of eyes alone can be extremely valuable.


 9:19 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

If I were to hire an SEO, I would also hire someone else to audit what they do. Make sure that you are really getting what you are paying for, and nothing that will endanger your site later on.

Oliver Henniges

 9:52 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'd say this very much depends on the nature of your particular business and the level, at which you're playing.

If someone else asked me to bring in my seo-knowledge and train his employees on the basic dos and don'ts, I definitely wouldn't do it for less than some low/mid four figures a day; but if I think about an external company trying to improve my own chaotic but successful website, I see no way such tarifs might be justified concerning ROI.

One of the key tasks today is, to constantly improve a website with fresh content driven from the indutry-specific long tail. No computer- or SEO-expert will ever have a clue about any of those industry-specific details.

All such an expert could do, is set up a content-management-system, which provides efficient means to add such content, and efficient means to account for the ever-tinkering google employees. But that is a huge project, justified only for companies calculating beyond eight figures of annual ecommerce-gross-profits.

(Thus I'm always wondering, why so many of the big bricks and mortar players still appear among the sponsored links.)

On the other hand, I also guess many of those industry-specific to-dos require much more than just textual information: For example, one of our most successful websites comprises a highly specific dynamic page on imprinting widgets, where visitors might choose various options like product or material to be printed on, number of colours and so forth. The page is actually quite badly designed in terms of SEO, but very unique, very successful and amazingly well ranked.

From this experience I draw the conclusion, that usability and tracking user behaviour (via toolbar) are some of the key issues of good SEO and good ranking nowadays: My visitors spent a lot of time on this single page clicking thru the options, and google noticed: "This page seems to be very interesing."

Take the travelling business for example: Did you really find your desires matched by the options on the forms offered on those websites? Do you really care about the country if you just seek sun and relaxation? How could an SEO-expert know about your personal desires? On what basis should the programmer of the options/forms decide what is relevant and what is not?

The key issue is communication between search-engine-friendly programming of websites on the one hand, and industry-specific expert-knowledge on the other.


 9:57 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

first off anyone who knows exactly how to rank at the top of google isnt go to tell you imo - they would rather do if for their own sites and clean up!

most of them just tweak on page factors and sell you back link services or pay per click campaigns! worse still some use black hat that can get you banned all together.

A good acid test is to see where they rank for their own site, do they rank for the keywords "seo services", "search engine optimization" etc, etc, etc - if they dont then you know that they arent very good at it!

Good positioning for your site is down to hard work and dedication - to live and breath your website business and frankly no one will do that as well as you will.

Work at it yourself, read the threads here, share findings and learn seo yourself the hard way.a) you will enjoy the journey and b) you will enjoy the outcome


 11:13 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

That's funny, Simsi, I do the same thing when I get calls.


 11:44 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Maybe once upon a time they made sense but today its a dieing business.

Anyone can pick up a brush and put paint on their walls. Absolutely anyone.

But can you be bothered? do you have the time? and would the end result be as good as employing a professional?

Pretty much anyone can do anything if they really want to.

I think you'll find most business owners concentrate on making their business work - which often doesn't involve studying search engines and rectifying associated problems.

There's millions of businesses out there who would rather either employ a company to look after SEO or take on a full time member of staff (an SEO professional with experience) instead.

Calling it a dieing business seems unrealistic to me.


 12:28 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

good SEOs don't have time to cold call. Also, always double check what the SEO tells you; never give him a blank check in doing whatever he wants as you will regret it.

Jordo needs a drink

 1:02 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I really think it's a time vs. money issue.

Do you have the time to do your own research (read this and other similar forums) and make and test the needed changes? Because if you do, why hire an SEO?

Do you not have the time, but do have the money to hire one? May be worth it, if you can find a decent one that won't black hat you into oblivion...

No time and no money? Read this board occasionally, and look for the important stuff.

Me personally, I know there are SEO experts out there that could instantly get my sites to #1 or #2 on google. But I'm doing this more as a hobby that generates a little extra income. Since it's a hobby, I'm spending no money on SEO, but alot of time.


 1:36 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

The key issue is communication between search-engine-friendly programming of websites on the one hand, and industry-specific expert-knowledge on the other.

What a good SEO will do is not talk about Search Engines and lists of keyphrases but will work at understanding your business, identifying your uniqueness, studying your target market(s), your competitors, your market position and your website to ensure that you will end up with not only high solid positioning that's going to work for the long term - but an excellent increase in business.

But then that is not your average SEO! You might try looking for a real Internet Marketing Consultant that will care about your business as much as you do.

You know your business, but if you do not have the marketing skills and time to get that knowledge out of your brain - then their are folks who can do that and make it all happen for you.


 4:21 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Why hire an SEO when you have what we have here? Tedster, G1SMD, BigDave, incrediBill, Brett Tabke, martinibuster, steveb, and the many others I fail to mention help each and everyone of us with their wisdom of which I am very grateful. A personal thank you to all who share your wisdom. This board is great! I have hired a few SEO's and to be honest they cold called me. One of which was TP and we all know what happened there. There was another that I hired that guaranteed results and provided me with absolutely NADA for $6000 but we had to go to North Carolina to take them to court. And I'm not wasting my time nor my resources for $6000. I honestly would not hire an SEO again unless it came from a member of this board and to be honest I have thought about PM'ing a few that are highly active on this board for their SEO services as I cannot sometimes keep up with running 10+ sites. We all know SEO works, we can build our knowledge from reading boards such as this one. It's honestly a matter of if you have the time to do SEO. If you do, learn here and the many other boards. If not, do your diligence in finding the right SEO that will not simply change your meta tags and provide a few paragraphs of copy for each page. Ask them for their blueprint of success and if they will not reveal what they are going to do with your site I think that says alot! Simply putting some text on a few pages and changing your meta tags doesn't cut it!

My life depends on my SEO efforts as I've learned things that work and things that don't. I'm also very aware that I do not know all that I need to know, but with due diligence and keeping up with the SE algo tweaks it has certainly paid it's dividends for me.

Again, thank all of you for sharing your wealth of information. I certainly appreciate everyone of you.

### WOW ###
Certainly a cheesy post, but sincere.

[edited by: MLHmptn at 4:31 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


 4:31 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Simply putting some text on a few pages and changing your meta tags doesn't cut it!

It depends ... the value of those would depend on what condition the site was in, and what its competitive context was like. For some sites, either or both could be a vital ingredient in SEO progress.

SEO is like raising children. Some basic principles will apply across the board, but in the end you have to tailor your approach to suit the unique needs of the situation.


 4:44 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

It depends ... the value of those would depend on what condition the site was in, and what its competitive context was like. For some sites, either or both could be a vital ingredient in SEO progress.

So what your saying is that just meta tags and some copy is going to make me #1? Interesting....Sounds like what the SEO did for me. copy and metatags....$6000 down the chute. 0 results.

Not trying to flame you back buckworks but that didn't work for the SEO that I hired...A well known one at that.

[edited by: MLHmptn at 4:46 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


 4:59 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

So what your saying is that just meta tags and some copy is going to make me #1?

Nope, that's not what I'm saying. But it's entirely possible that weaknesses in those areas could be part of what's holding a site back.


 5:16 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

To be perfectly honest, in answer to the question posed, SEO is *definitely* not always worth paying for. A good part depends on the site. Quite frankly, SEO is very time-consuming and therefore, is not CHEAP - and some sites flat out do not have the potential for income to justify the expense.

Even in the times when I'll do cut-rate when warranted (which I've always done and always will for some, where appropriate), there are sites I'll straight away flatly (but nicely) turn down without hesitation and advise to learn themselves because their income potential will never, ever, ever justify the cost of SEO services or give them a reasonable ROI. Some markets don't naturally have a good rate of productivity level or conversions for one thing, and may also have such a low mark-up or profit margin that there's a limit not only to gross sales per annum but regardless of gross have a limit to net when crunching the numbers.

Also, please, please, please keep in mind that people who *appear* to be an "expert" in forum posts may not actually be such. High post counts and/or frequent posting, even (especially) in "popular" topics or subject areas, are not reliable indicators or criteria for assessment. There are people who know how to "work forums" very well. Everyone should learn for themselves so they're not taken in by veiled, well disguised sales pitches.

There is a wealth of information here to self-educate, and the more anyone educates themselves the less apt they are to be "bamboozled" by over-hyped and self-promotional appearances of expertise - regardless of post frequency or post count, which don't mean squat.

[edited by: Marcia at 5:33 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


 5:17 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nope, that's not what I'm saying. But it's entirely possible that weaknesses in those areas could be part of what's holding a site back.

I would have to agree with that but I think your understanding what I'm saying. There are too many factors involved beyond just meta and copy but without them a page is nothing.


 5:23 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Also, please, please, please keep in mind that people who *appear* to be an "expert" in forum posts may not actually be such.

I would also have to agree with that. And your another member here who I follow Marcia. Your posts have been very helpful and insightful. I'm only saying there have been many here that I have learned from and will continue to learn from. Just because someone has 112341324 posts here does not mean they are an expert. :> Rather, taking and learning from what others say here and experimenting on your own works! SEO is simply learn from your failures. Find out what works and what doesn't work for you. If you have the time to apply what many cover here you can do it yourself. If you don't have time, hire an SEO that you feel comfortable knowing a little about. Do not hire the cold caller.


 5:28 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

SEO is very time-consuming

A lot of time would often be saved if someone with even basic SEO knowledge had some input when the site was designed in the first place.

A simple example: Tedster recently described how it helped a site's rankings when he was able to get the navigation menu changed from javascript rollovers to CSS-styled text links that created the same look. If that company had had someone on the design team who was SEO-savvy they'd have done that the first time round.


 5:57 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

SEO is very time consuming? News to me*. I don't put a whole lot of time in on it at all, for me or clients, and we do very well indeed, thank you.

(*Assumes I'm not dealing with an existing large site that needs to be ranked for a couple dozen highly-competitive keywords.)


 6:09 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

A lot of people reading this thread may be thinking about a 1-person operation or even a 10-person operation. One of the interesting challenges for SEO can be the large, dynamic, corporate site -- or even a stable of sites.

In many cases there's no rocket science involved in knowing some of the things that need to be changed, at least for "Phase I". Still, being able to extract specific action items from a huge mountain of data is a skill all on its own. Sometimes a new kind of data collection needs to be put in place first, before anything serious can be determined.

Then how to prioritize and accomplish the needed changes when there are cross-departmental issues that need to be resolved? That also can be a big deal. Other server issues may also interfere -- such as load balancing, fraud protection, tracking methods, CRM applications, CMS effects in the url (and corporate CMS can be a knotty thing), test versions of the site, on and on and on. Sometimes a major corporate will be outsourcing their server hosting with a specific Service Level Agreement -- and that third party host is not about to let them add, say, an IIS rewrite function or whatever, without a half year of vetting.

So, many times corporate clients are not primarily paying for the SEO knowledge. They are mainly paying for the consulting savvy, project management chops, diplomacy and all the other components that go into actually getting SEO knowledge effectively deployed, all the while negotiating the particular corporate culture.

Getting a major site beyond the early phases of SEO and into some of the finer points can also be well worth the money a corporation spends. When the potential return or loss is in the tens of millions of dollars or even more, a company doesn't need someone who is just playing around. Outsourcing their SEO work to a solid third party who can take a look from outside their corporate culture, but still get results from within the culture? That is often a very intelligent move -- especially if the knowledge they buy is full and well rounded.


 6:17 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I guess therein lies the difference. I don't deal with large corporations. Probably a good thing. I am positive I wouldn't fit in well in a buttoned-down big business environment. Hahahaha.

[edited by: Beachboy at 6:21 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


 8:01 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes - If it's good advice based, on good knowledge and converts your business to a good return on investment. Keep it in proportion to your expectations. It can be expensive.

SEO is not free. Google is in effect not free and therefore many folks choose the SEM route.

You can try to do it yourself or without an SEO. You may learn quick, but you may end up in a catastrophic mess.

The best thing is to identify professional SEO's that demonstrate a technical understanding and have a good reputation, IMHO. You may have to hang around a bit and pick people's brains to find out which way to go. And when you find one, the best folks will tell you that they don't know everything and back up their statements with either evidence or disclosure that they are going with gut feeling based on x/y/z or simply do not know, but won't rest 'til they find a satisfactory answer.

To do this, they must have a strong network of complimentary knowledge, like any good consultancy.

It is potentially quite complex, as Tedster above suggests, so if you are small with great expectations be mindful of how you would want to scale in the various facets of your web presence. Likewise if you have a large business - it needs to be professionally contributed to - and the knowledge carefully managed, documented and protected.

The one's that say they know everything are the one's to avoid. Unfortunately there's a lot of "snake oil" salesman out there, waiting to take your money.

That's why so many good webmasters are here and/or learning. Some you don't see ... they just read :)

btw - I'm no SEO [ as many folks here realised long ago ].

[edited by: Whitey at 8:26 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


 8:20 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

A good acid test is to see where they rank for their own site, do they rank for the keywords "seo services", "search engine optimization" etc, etc, etc - if they dont then you know that they arent very good at it!

No no no no, it's not always the case.

I run a SEO business, our clients are all multi-nationals and very VERY big companies.

My company website consists of one page which ranks for nothing but the name of the company. Why? Because we do not have the time or will to build up a site and optimize it for SEO related keywords.

All our business comes from word of mouth, nothing else and we have a massive demand for what we do because of the results we achieve for clients.


 8:33 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)



trust a service that creates authority sites otherwise stay away.


 8:46 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

trust a service that creates authority sites otherwise stay away.

Really? Aside from the "telemarketing" issue, how does one *create* authority? Okay, so then if "authority" is it, please give us the definition of what an authority site is.

According to Kleinberg's definition, back in his day it *was* a site with authority status based on IBLs. Has that changed? If it's changed, then tell us what it is today. Please.

[edited by: Marcia at 8:52 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]


 8:47 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with Deester - if you are good you get business & don't need to make calls or look for clients...personally - my website (If found)has a "closed" sign on it.

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