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Don't choose an SEO company without knowing this

I've worked in search engine optimisation (SEO) services for a long time, and in preparation for writing this page about how to choose the right SEO service I've been looking at other SEO agencies. Here's what's bugging me. (Here's more general SEO information if you need it.)

Looking at an example competitor providing a national SEO service (I won't name them), their website looks great (yep, mine (this one) looks rubbish .. I know) and the SEO cost of £149 per month looks affordable until you realise there's another £200 setup, it's plus VAT (but aimed at small companies that probably can't claim it back). And that's the 'from' price. That feels like affordable SEO but I'm not sure it really is.

Don't get suckered into buying ongoing SEO services if you don't need them

I provided Search Engine Optimisation services for the red-dotted accounts here for that sort of figure (except I didn't charge an SEO setup fee or VAT and worked just for six months):

Search results for Opticians Scarborough

I haven't provided any SEO services (or charged anything, of course) on these accounts since February 2018 and they are still top of the search engines (in August 2018) for their key phrase.

Don't get me wrong, in a competitive market SEO services absolutely need to be ongoing .. it's fierce, you have to go faster than your competitors .. but I reckon there are plenty of companies in local markets paying £178.80 every month for SEO services out of a general marketing budget because .. just because, where the SEO company just trundles along not doing much at all.

Focus on the money, know which are your profitable search phrases and only optimise for them, don't pay for SEO services you don't need

For an insurance company client, I've been tying together SEO with their sales data. In this very competitive, commoditised market I can see which search terms are profitable for them and I've been developing their SEO position for those terms by writing SEO-driven how-to pages and explanatory guides (something which I assume would cost extra from a 'normal' SEO agency).

Literally, for this insurance company I can see (and yes, provide an SEO report which shows) which search phrases have turned into online enquiries or phone enquiries.

Also note, it's me that gets to know you and does the writing, not the intern.

Search engine optimisation theory goes that prospects search first with a 'research phrase' which they refine until they see search results that seem to fit, and then they start clicking (and buying). There are 'obvious' search phrases (which tend to be the headline phrases clients want to rank for but which may be unprofitable) and then the longer moneymaking search phrases that signal a buyer and are easier to rank for and more profitable (usually it would require a page of SEO content focussed on that search phrase). These are called long-tail phrases. By following the money, I make life easier for me and cheaper and more profitable for you.

Give up on big. SEO is lots of tiny

Be prepared for this, it's a bit of a wrestle. Traditional marketing has been about bigging yourself up. SEO can feel like making yourself ever smaller and more specific. It doesn't feel good to the un-woke.

That gives us an SEO strategy. Two actually.

First, SEO success isn't about tricks. It's about being genuinely deserving of your place on Google's search results page for a particular search phrase. That's a marketing thing that a specialist SEO service won't really 'get'. It will see you through those turbulent mornings when Google changes its algorithm to knock down the spammers. People around you will moan they've fallen. You will likely be fine, if not gain search position.

Second, in a highly competitive search market where there's serious money to be made, it's really tough to break in. You do it by opening up a toehold by ranking for a long-tail search phrase. Then another. And another. Each successful SEO position brings you more profit.

My SEO service is entirely bespoke (here's how I work out my SEO pricing). That approach came out well at my last visit to Brighton SEO. SEO varies by industry and it's becoming more varied. But here's the thing.

The SEO world is full of data analysis, for example "SEO articles should be 500 words long and contain the target search phrase 4 times".

I don't think those are the most important search ranking factors. Let me pick a random industry: let say you're a haulier. What do buyers want to know? Can you take A from B to C on Tuesday and how much? So let's create an online quoter to save the calls and faff (I'm a programmer/web developer too). Imagine it automatically shows spare space on booked journeys as a list, and people can sign up for those 'offers'. People will link to all of that to save them time. Links help with SEO. Sorted. No further SEO work necessary.

What I'm saying is, if you are useful (or entertaining), people will link to you.

I'm currently proposing that a lip balm company use performance poetry.

(OK, of course I do have a system for getting you inbound links anyway and I do know my place if you've got all your marketing sorted.)

Deserve it

One more SEO thing, then I'll shut up. This is the most important thing to understand if you want SEO success. Google may rank you for a search phrase. It's a test. Google watches how many people click to go to your website AND IT WATCHES HOW MANY COME BACK AGAIN to click somewhere else. That tells Google "when I sent that enquirer who entered that search phrase to that website, it didn't satisfy them" and Google may decide not to do that again, to lower your search ranking. Google's business is delivering satisfying answers to search queries. You win at SEO by helping Google, yes by getting on the search results page but that's only a temporary first step. You won't stay there long unless you are persuasive on the search engine results page so people click (optimise your page title and make your meta description ultra persuasive), and then your landing page satisfies your prospect.

In other words, SEO isn't really about SEO. It's about all the usual stuff: brilliant marketing, fabulous service, doing great work. If you do that, people will link to you, share you, click to you and stay with you, and that's your SEO mostly sorted. Check out Stitch Fix a $3bn company. Does she say she owes it all to SEO? No. She had a viral idea that people shared and linked to.

For that you need a marketer who understands SEO (hi {waves}), not a narrow SEO service (and it seems (I may be wrong) top SEO companies just do SEO).

So let's recap. I meet lots of people who say they bought SEO services in the past and feel disappointed, even burnt, by the experience. Anyone can call themselves an SEO expert. I seem to live in this space, I got the same when I was a PR guy. I'm saying I offer expert SEO guidance so you get just the SEO services you need. I'll follow the money on your behalf to make SEO a demonstrably profitable part of your business. My success comes from your profitable SEO and from you being so excited by the potential of good SEO that you tell your friends.

If that sounds kinda interesting, get in touch:

(That's all before we even start on search in LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook.)