How to choose a good SEO company that you can trust with your business and hard earned money?
I put together this little guide based on the questions I usually get from small business owners. If you think I missed something, or if you still have unanswered questions, then please feel free to comment below – or email me or send me a tweet – and I’ll try to do my best to update this guide.
I hope this guide will help you make the best decision on how to select someone to do search engine optimization for you. So let’s get to it…
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing consists of two disciplines:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, aka “organic” or “natural” search)
- PPC (Pay Per Click, aka “paid search” or “sponsored links”)
The two disciplines are strategically related, but in this guide we will focus on SEO.
The best SEO services will know some important facts
- It has nothing to do with “sponsored links”. The aim of SEO is to achieve the highest position possible in the “organic” listings on the search engine results pages, not in the “paid” listings.
*There is no charge for being displayed in the organic listings, and there is no charge when someone clicks on your website (unlike pay-per-click ads).
- Search Engine Optimization is much more complex than paid search.
*SEO is a longer-term play, it takes time to rank your website on the first page of Google, it doesn’t happen overnight.
- Search engines like Google, Bing (former MSN) or Yahoo do not reveal how their algorithms work, so SEO is a combination of reverse-engineering, experiments and educated guesswork.
*There is no guarantee that you will achieve a #1 or #2, etc. ranking (see previous bullet point).
- Google has more than 200 secret ranking factors, and some of those factors are more important than others.
*People love to search and when they do search they are about twice as likely to click on an organic result than on a paid advertising (pay-per-click ad).
- When people search using Google, they are in an “active” rather than “passive” state, which means that when they are looking for your products or services they are likely in a buying mode, they are researching their options, and they look for information to make the best possible buying decision.
*You don’t have to be number one in Google to do well (though a #1 position will definitely send you a great many people interested in your products and services).
- Plenty of evidence exists that shows, that for small businesses it is highly worth to invest in SEO (more on this later…).
How do SEO services deal with search engine optimization vs. pay-per-click?
Just to recap…
- SEO: clicks are free, but it is harder to get to the top
- PPC: each click costs you money, but it is easier to get to the top (with enough money basically you buy yourself into the top sponsored links)
Since SEO is not the fastest way to the top of search engines (but its the most cost effective), you need to be prepared to be patient. It isn’t particularly easy either to get to the top of Google, which is why many businesses hire an SEO expert.
With PPC you can get to the top within a few hours – you just need to set up an account (like Google AdWords) and buy your keywords. Your ads will be displayed alongside the organic listings, and placement is mainly determined by how much you are willing to pay for a click. You only pay when somebody clicks.
Google divides up the page to show both organic and paid listings.
10 reasons you need SEO services in Ireland?
1. Search can help you get more customers, more leads and more sales!
The internet is a huge marketplace and the search engines, specially Google, are the starting place for everyone looking for a product or service.
2. Visibility and findability!
About a quarter of all searches contain a brand term, such as a product name or company name. Should you really have to pay to be found for your brand terms? Also, when people add a product or company name to a generic keyword when searching Google it is a great indicator that they want to buy. Don’t allow your competitors to rank higher than you on your own products!
3. Competitor activity Your competitors are likely to be investing in SEO, even if you aren’t. And if they are, you need to quickly start to compete with them in this area, or they could take something of an entrenched position.
4. It pays off in the long-term…
In the long-term, organic listings will deliver a potentially higher volume of visitors to your website at a much much lower cost than paid listings. Organic clicks are essentially FREE!
5. Paid search is becoming more expensive!
There is greater competition in paid search these days, which means paid listings costs have increased in many sectors to a point where there is limited margin left for profit. Your ability to generate profits depends on how well your website converts visitors to customers, and paid search traffic can cost a huge amount of money.
6. People prefer the natural results
Users tend to choose the natural search results in preference to the paid search listings. On average, the organic listings receive 85-90% of the clicks, and only 15-10% of the clicks go to paid advertising.
7. You don’t need to come first to win
It isn’t a case of “first page or nothing” with SEO, so don’t let the challenge of making it onto the first page deter you from investing in search engine optimisation. (Although with the right SEO strategy–or expert on your side – you could dominate Google for every keyword that matters to your business!)
8. Concerns about PPC click fraud
Although the search engines are pretty good at detecting and minimizing the fraudulent clicks, there is still risk that one of your competitors is using one of the many programs designed to constantly click on your ads, and thus quickly burning your hard earned money.
9. People trust Google!
Specifically, people trust Google to deliver relevant results. It is the reason why Google became synonymous with search. With enough money anybody can buy himself into the paid listings, but you have to earn it to be among the first in the organic results. So if Google says your company is number one for “laser hair removal” for example, then in the mind of the searcher it probably is.
10. SEO helps you build a better website
You need to build a better website with quality content, better user experience and better usability in order to earn your first place ranking in Google. With a better website you get happy customers, and happy customers mean higher satisfaction rates and more repeat business. And this makes for a HAPPIER YOU… 🙂 !
Business Benefits of SEO Services in Ireland?
Search is certainly one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing, but there’s more to it than just marketing. You can derive many benefits from SEO, some more obvious than others, so let’s take a look at a few…
- Cost-effective customer acquisition
There is no payment for the search engines for being indexed. This is particularly important for terms that get high volume searches like “car insurance” for example, where the cost of SEO is very small compared to the paid listing costs.
But it is also useful for generating visitors on the long tail of search (people searching with a keyword that has three or more words in it), and generally people searching with long tail keywords are more likely to buy, than those who use a head term.
Remember this: people using head terms (eg: Lawnmowers) are in the research phase (looking for information, researching options), people using long tail terms (eg: Castelgarden EP414-B lawnmower) are in a buying phase (they already know what they want, their looking for prices and a trusted business to buy from).
- Fixed costs
The cost of SEO is relatively fixed, independent of click volume. Effectively, the cost per click from SEO declines through time after initial optimisation costs and lower ongoing optimisation costs. On the other hand, paid-search is a variable cost.
- Repeat business
Customers coming from search engines tend to stick around for longer. Increase customer lifetime revenues with SEO!
- Well targeted prospects
Search is demand driven, so anybody who comes from a search engine is hoping that they will find the information they need on your website. If you show them all the information they need to see, they may well become your next customer.
- Credibility / Company perception
Consumers expect trusted and reputable businesses to be prominently placed in Google, so what is the effect if you aren’t on the first page?
Search engines allow you to find relevant web pages even if you only remember snippets of information like a few words from an ad, a company name, a product review, a person….
Before you invest in SEO Services in Ireland….
Before you invest in SEO, make sure that you have fixed these small business website mistakes. The main goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website organically, but if that traffic pukes when arrives to your website, if that traffic does not convert because your website sucks then you’re wasting your time with SEO. First you need a website that converts visitors, then you can work on your SEO to drive traffic to that website.
SEO should not be the main focus of businesses that just started! Only invest in SEO if your sales are steady and you are looking for ways to grow and expand. For businesses that just started there are many other marketing strategies that are a way more cheaper and easier to implement then SEO. You can find those strategies in my “Double your customers in 60 days or less” training.
How Do SEO Services Select Keywords?
If you decide to invest in SEO, the first thing you need to do is decide which keywords you want to go after. You can start by coming up with some keywords by yourself, and then plugging these keywords into some free keyword suggestion tools like Google Keyword Planner or Übersuggest to get further keyword ideas.
Once you have your keyword list, the next step is to separate the converting keywords from the rest of the keywords. The best way to do this is to use Google AdWords. You plug these keywords into a PPC campaign and let it run for a while to collect some data.
So why do you need the converting keywords? The reason is because rank means nothing, traffic means nothing, only conversion matters, conversion means everything!
Let me explain:
- If you rank #1 for a keyword phrase but it produces zero traffic, is it worth anything? No!
- If your website gets 10,000 unique visitors a day and no one buys, is the traffic worth anything? No!
- If you get dozens of leads each day and all are completely unqualified, is your rank and traffic worth anything? No!
So let me say it again: rank on its own means nothing. Traffic on its own means nothing. All that matters is conversion and return on your investment. Getting customers and keeping customers is the lifeblood of any business, and that is why you need to focus on your converting keywords first.
Once you have enough data, you group your converting keywords into categories based on their cost per click data. For example:
- Best keywords are €4.00+ per click
- Good keywords are €1.50 – €3.99 per click
- Above average keywords are €0.90 – €1.49 per click
- Average keywords are €0.50 – €0.89 per click
- Below average keywords are €0.49 or below per click
Now that you have your categories and your converting keywords in those categories, you focus your SEO efforts on your best keywords first, and then you work your way down to your last category.
The reason you focus on your best keywords first is because once you achieve a top ranking for a keyword phrase that converts at €4.00 a click at PPC, you can stop paying for that keyword and you can take that marketing budget and spend it on other areas that will further increase your market share. It all boils down to cash flow and making intelligent business decisions.
Should you ignore professional SEO services and go DIY?
If you decide to do SEO for yourself then you have two main areas to focus on:
- fixing your website from an SEO perspective, and getting on-page SEO right.
- marketing your content and getting off-page SEO right – also known as link building.
Fixing your website and getting on-page SEO right
The first thing to fix your website is to make sure that your website is rank worthy. What this means is that you need to have unique and valuable content on your website. By unique I mean it’s written by you, by your staff, or by someone you hired, and that this content can’t be found anywhere else on the internet. By valuable I mean that it solves your customers’s problem, answers their questions, helps them make a good decision, guides them through a purchase, etc.
The easiest way to create such content is to get a piece of paper, and list at least ten questions that your customers frequently ask, before they make the first purchase:
- how does it work?
- which one is better?
- what accessories do I need with it?
- which one should I choose?
- how and what should I start with?
Now you have the questions your customers come up with by themselves. But to really make your website valuable you need to go further then that. The next thing you do is on the same paper you list yet another ten questions, but this time you list questions that your customers should have asked but they didn’t!
These are questions that “open their eyes”, and make them understand why to choose you, why a high quality but bit pricier product or service is better then a cheap one? For example:
- 10 things you should insist on if you choose service / company X.
- Why is feature/attribute/capability X important in a product like this?
- How much money should I spend on flowers/birthdays/anniversaries?
- Why is 24 hour customer service important when choosing a hosting service?
- 5 signs by which you can judge the quality of a suit.
You focus your reader’s attention to your higher priced goods, and on things your company or your product is better at then your competition. You help your readers to make a better purchase decision! Make sure that you highlight all the things that a typical customer doesn’t know, but if he would know, he would buy the higher priced products.
And there you have it: a huge list of valuable content that you can go now and create.
When you are finished with creating your content, you go and rewrite or “optimize” the content. I’m not going to go into details how you do that here, there’s a bunch of free information about on-page SEO on the Internet, I suggest you start with this article about the perfectly optimized page.
Getting off-page SEO right, and building links
Link building is where most people usually get stuck, so here are a few ways to build links for yourself the “search engines approved” way:
- Share and market your valuable content on social networks – duh, right?
- Ask your customers. Most people nowadays have a blog, if they were happy with your business ask them to write about their experiences doing business with you, to write about the product and the service they bought, and then link back to you.
- Ask your business partners and suppliers. If you’re in business you probably have an accountant, a lawyer, a company that you rent your office from, another one that cleans your office, etc. Ask them to link back to you. Or better yet, write a testimonial for them about how happy you are with their services which they can put on their website. It’s a win-win situation for both of you!
- If you are a member of any association or organization make sure they link back to you.
- Donate money to charities and non-profits, sponsor an event, or set up a scholarship. Then create a press release about it and send it to the local radio, newspaper, etc. Also most charities or events have a website where they list their donors and sponsors.
- Search for blogs and forums that your potential customers read and contribute, add value to the discussion. Where relevant and you think you can help, link back to your services.
- Guest post or trade articles with non-direct competitors (eg: they serve another area of the country)
- Give products away for reviews, or for schools, non-profits, etc. Again, create a press release about it, and send it to the local radio, newspaper, etc.
- Add your business to local and niche directories – yes, some of them still work.
- Look at your competitors’s pages and find out which pages attract links and why? Figure out how can you get a link from the same sources as well?
- Use your customer or sales data to find interesting insights about your market or industry. Create pretty charts/graphs and make them available for everyone to use for free as long as they link back to the original source, you. Create a press release about the insight and send it to news agencies.
- Get your competitors to link to you – interview the top players of your industry (yes your competitors) about a topic and then publish an article about the interviews. Most people will link to that article because of their ego.
- Find old content that is valuable to your target market and create an updated version of it. Then go tell those who link to the old content about your new updated version.
As you can see link building is not that hard, you just have to think creatively a bit.
Outsourcing SEO to an SEO consultant or SEO agency in Ireland?
Most business owners find it easier to just outsource the whole SEO shebang to an SEO consultant or to an SEO agency and then be done with it. While outsourcing can certainly take a huge amount of work off of your shoulders, there are a few things that you should know and check before you hand your website over to someone else:
SEO costs and SEO prices in Dublin and in Ireland
Usually there are four things that you are paying for when buying SEO:
- knowledge – pretty straight forward
- development costs – for fixing your website (like getting rid of duplicate content or making your website accessible for search engines, etc.)
- content creation costs – making sure that your website has the quality and useful information that people want to see
- content marketing (also known as link building) – making sure that your content (pages on your website) is linked to by many relevant and trusted websites, thus telling Google and the other search engines, that your website is a good resource for people and worthy for high rankings.
Some web design companies sell web design with SEO, but in these cases almost every time SEO only means search engine friendly development (coding) and if you’re lucky then maybe content optimization (but no content creation), and almost never includes link building or off-page optimization. Make sure you ask before you buy!
The typical pricing models that SEO companies use in Ireland:
- pricing by the number of web pages and the number of keywords you want to rank those webpages for – this is the most common pricing model in Ireland. Prices range from €200 to €6,500 (if you have many pages like an e-commerce website) per month.
- pricing by the number of hours with a fix hourly rate (hourly consulting) – hourly rates in the field of SEO vary greatly starting from €20 all the way up to €400 based on the knowledge level and reputation of the consultant or agency.
- pricing by a fixed price usually paid in monthly installments (also known as project based pricing) – the price is usually calculated based on the number of people involved in the project and by the time and effort these people need to put in, in order to complete the project.
- pricing by the number of links they build for you – this one varies greatly as well starting from €30 with low quality useless links, all the way to €500 for which you get a set amount of high quality links from topic relevant pages. Watch out for these, there are many snake oil salesman here who do more harm than good!
- Monthly retainer pricing – the retainer fee is a fixed amount of money charged monthly and includes a complete SEO package (or several options). This is a pricing model that a few good SEO companies use and it is based on a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
As you can see there are several SEO service pricing models and SEO prices vary greatly, which makes them hard to compare. So how do you choose?
First of all, you should never make a decision by the price only! With that said, keep in mind that…
- SEO is not a one-off cost. It’s a long term investment that you’ll need to do or pay for, for at least a few months in order to get lasting results.
- You need a minimum of two to six months before the results of SEO really kick in.
- Expect to pay at least €300 per month for a good SEO company that uses Google approved methods to rank your website.
How to make sure you choose a good SEO company?
- Look for someone who can give you a whole range of internet marketing services like web design, SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, etc. SEO is only one marketing channel you can use to get more customers online, you’ll want someone who can give you a whole strategy using all the channels that might be a fit for your business. Even if you don’t need most of the services right now you might never know what the future holds for you. And I really wish for a bright future for you! And when that happens, you’ll need someone who already knows you, knows your business, and can help you grow fast.
- Look for someone who shares his knowledge and who you can constantly learn from.
- Try to discuss pricing with your SEO, ask why they have chosen to use certain pricing models and not others. It can be helpful in coming up with the best pricing arrangement for you and may help you find options that are better suited for your budget.
- Ask your SEO to tell you about the different methods he is going to use to rank your website and stay away from those who plan on using shady and black hat methods (remember if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is).
- Ask for references and past SEO work. Check if those websites still rank. Call and ask those references if they recommend the SEO company.
- Look for someone who you can really talk with and who can explain stuff to you without the usual tech talk. You want to be able to understand what an SEO is going to do and why.
- Continuously measure the performance of SEO and use performance indicators that actually matter to your business. Don’t let anyone deceive you with fancy looking metrics that are not actionable and do not mean anything to your business.
- Make sure that you will have access to all the webmaster tools, social media, etc. accounts all the time. If you decide to move on and let your SEO go you still want to have access to all these accounts an you don’t want anyone else changing things without you knowing about it (believe me, I’ve seen it happen)! Check out our other blog on SEO in Northern Ireland.