Until recently, search engine optimization (commonly known by the acronym “SEO”) was a fairly simple and inexpensive process. However, with the change to Google’s search protocols, this is no longer necessarily the case. The use of old SEO techniques to land on the front page of Google with any search (even tangentially related to your site) is firmly out of reach for most.
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Cheap Tactics Don’t Work
The landscape of the world of SEO was drastically changed by Panda and Penguin, two updates to Google which were unveiled in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Prior to this, SEO consisted largely of producing low-quality, fluffed and copied articles stuffed full of keywords. These keywords would then draw people to the site based on their searches while producing little or no useful material.
In order to counter this, Google introduced Panda, which was designed to ignore articles meeting low-quality criteria in order to return more useful search results.
The next year, Penguin refined the algorithmic changes introduced by Panda in order to better filter out those low-quality results.
Before Google unleashed their zoo animals, the effective SEO tactics were cheap. After all, even people with a rudimentary understanding of the English language could churn out content like that. And hiring such writers was easy and inexpensive. Not only that, but hiring an SEO “professional” in those days cost less. The tactics were easy to implement and didn’t require much effort, training, or expertise.
These days, Google has made it clear: cost-effective strategies won’t work. Many businesses who had utilized basic SEO tactics to influence Google results saw a considerable drop in their search engine rankings, and as a result, to the number of visitors to their sites.
What Is the Future of SEO?
The changes to Google have meant a revision of not only the methodology behind – but also to the basic goals of – SEO.
Unless you have literal piles of disposable money, easily ranking on the first page is no longer likely. Instead, businesses are finding the need to set more reasonable goals such as an increase of a set percentage in the traffic over a six month period. These new goals should be directly tied to the consideration of your return on investment.
If a customer searches for you by the name of your business, landing on the front page is not difficult. However, what about improving your results when people search by the name of your products?
SEO now is no longer a simple matter of keyword stuffing – careful research and analysis are vital if you expect to improve your searchability. You must dig to find areas of profitability and work to build a site that offers actual value to your customers. If you fail to offer anything of value to those who click on your site, you can expect to see your search engine rankings continue to plummet.
The time has passed when quick fixes like buying social media followers and submitting spun content to article directories yield results. Don’t cut corners; don’t buy facebook fans. Don’t try to cheat your way to the top. Instead, invest your money wisely in tactics that yield long-term results and build a solid SEO foundation.
So How Much Should SEO Really Cost?
How much you can expect to spend on SEO is really dependent on how committed you are to a long-term initiative. SEO is no longer about a fixed-price quick cure. How much you should spend on SEO is really dependent on what return you can expect on your investment.
In any business, there are certain costs which you must simply accept as a part of doing business, but the impact of these costs is offset by increased profit. Therefore, the question you should ask is “How much can I expect to make if I make a long-term investment in SEO?”
After all, SEO ultimately equates to a form of marketing, and as with any marketing initiative, the amount of the investment is determined by the expectation of a greater return.
Thanks for all your input everyone! 🙂
Nathan – I would like to elaborate a bit more on your comment. When dealing with clients, I think we need to be careful what we promise them. Some tactics do work quickly and easily – but are they (deep down) scams? For example, telling a client to pick 5 keywords and they’ll be able to rank well with at least one. Do they pick super specific keywords for their niche because they don’t know better? Sure, it might be easy and quick to rank for “laser dental bleaching,” but will anyone be searching for that? Wouldn’t “teeth whitening” be a more common search word – and therefore, more competitive?