August 04, 2017 in Strategy by

I know you, as a small business owner, don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing. I know this from my experience in working with small businesses, like yours. I also know this as a small business owner, myself.

Since our budget is small, it’s tempting to take advantage of cheap SEO services. We convince ourselves by thinking, “At only $10 an hour, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Let me tell you what might happen…

(This post was inspired by an article by Dani Owens. I don’t know her but her article about the true cost of SEO is spot-on. If you don’t believe what I say, below, maybe you’ll believe her.)

Some cheap SEO services don’t do anything at all

As a small business owner, even as one who provides SEO services, I get these solicitations all the time, too. “We’ll submit your site to Google for only $6 a month!”, they tell me.

Before you do, please read what Google is says about this “service”:

Google doesn’t even allow you to submit URLs directly to them any longer. Now this is done by submitting a website through their free Google Search Console tool.

The fact is, many companies are happy to take a small service fee from you each month, in return for nothing. Sure, they might send you a report of your status. They might have pretty charts. Still, pretty charts don’t become new customers.

Other cheap SEO services produce a low quality product

Some business owners get savvy to the “do nothing”, low-cost SEO services. When they interview their next cheap SEO company, they begin to ask questions like, “what will you be doing?” or “how many THINGS will I get, each month?”

These are fair questions. You need to know what you’re going to get in exchange for the money you are spending. THINGS might mean:

The problem is, if the focus is on the quantity of items delivered, they become a commodity. Any Economics class will tell you that as products become commodities, prices go down. So do their quality.

Some cheap SEO agencies cost so little because they outsource their work to other countries. Some publish the same article on all their clients’ sites. Sometimes they skip the QA process. Some blindly write for you rather than uniquely for your audience. They’ve got to cut corners somewhere, after all.

The same thing is true for links. When someone is “on the hook” to deliver a quantity of links, their pressure is to complete the task as quickly as possible. That means they’re only concerned about quantity, not quality. This gets worse when they have to build a finite quantity of links for several clients, at the same time. This is where cheap SEO services cut corners and build bad links.

At best, these efforts won’t help you. Google is smart. As part of Google’s decision to serve your business to the search engine users, they are judging it’s quality. Is it full of grammatical mistakes? Is it the same content as is on another website? Does it say anything at all? If not, you might as well not put it on your site. It won’t help, anyway. The same thing is true for links. Google recently made the Penguin penalty (dealing with links) a permanent part of their algorithm. That means many bad links no longer benefit you, at all. Your SEO program might be cheap, to you, but it might not be accomplishing anything, either.

At worst, these efforts could hurt you. Google considers itself a champion for web quality. In some cases, Google will penalize or ban websites that it believes is trying to cheat their algorithm. One of the ways people try to cheat is with low-quality content. Some websites cheat with low-quality and irrelevant links. If you take the cheap route, you might find yourself banned from Google. Recovery from this is expensive. As a rule, I don’t take clients who have been banned by Google. Sorry.

Some other cheap SEO services control your assets

Another way some companies provide low-cost SEO is by controlling your company’s assets. They cut costs by buying things in bulk, which they pass on to you as a discount. Sometimes this means you don’t own your website- you’re only renting it. Other times this means they hold the keys to your analytics, business listings, and other important tools.

While this might seem appealing, let’s remember that good marketing is long-term. SEO is an investment over time. One of teh nice things about SEO is that things you do today will help you over the next few years. SEO efforts build over time to bring you the results you’re looking for.

Let’s be optimistic and suggest that a cheap SEO’s efforts actually help. In fact, let’s hope this works so well that you outgrow that company’s ability to service you. In this case, they control all your company’s online assets. You can’t take them with you. If you start with another company, you have to start-over, from scratch. That means you wasted your previous money. Your “SEO investment account balance” starts again, at zero.

You should never rent assets or services from any marketing company. Here are some things you need to make sure you have complete control over:

[As I write this I’m realizing I’ve purchased a couple domain names, for some friends. I need to transfer the ownership to them.]

But I can’t afford anything more

I get it. Marketing can be expensive. Or, should I say, productive marketing can be expensive. That’s the key- how productive is your marketing?

Many small businesses waste money on marketing that doesn’t work. Maybe they’re spending $1,000 a month on a billboard. They could be spending hundreds a year on the phone book. If they took time to measure their ROI on these they’d find they were not making any money. If they put this money into productive marketing channels, they would have a budget after all.

And I’m not even mentioning the cost to your business if your cheap SEO services get your website banned from Google.

I might be able to help

Small business owners, who are looking for cheap SEO services in Charlotte, are not my target market. Having said that, I empathize with small business owners. There are few effective options available for them to do online marketing.

This is why I’ve developed Curious Ants. This will guide you through your own SEO campaign. You save money by doing it yourself. If you ever have to hire someone to do your SEO for you (perhaps because it’s working and you no longer have time to do it yourself) Curious Ants will have taught you all you need to know so you are sure to hire the best person for the job.

Harvard Business Club of Charlotte MDP

David Zimmerman participated in the Management Development Program by the Harvard Business Club of Charlotte in 2018.

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