To most SEOs, the above image represents a very familiar feeling. On the one side, you have SEO that works right now, that can be done affordably, that’s scalable…but that really won’t last long-term. This is your grey hat, or even black hat, SEO. On the other side, you have sparkly white hat SEO, which can have great benefits long-term, but that costs a crap ton more and is often slow to bear fruit.
The challenge, unfortunately, is that it really isn’t as cut and dry as some of the sparkly white SEO folks out there try to make it. It isn’t an easy decision, as you’ll soon see. Let’s start with an example, your typical small business client.
The vast, vast majority of businesses qualify as small businesses. And as anyone who has ever worked with a small business knows, they pretty much all want the world for pennies on the dollar. Alas, good SEO just isn’t cheap. I don’t know an SEO that I would recommend who charges less than $150/hr, and in my experience you need at least 15-20 hours per month to do enough quality SEO work to move the needle for most clients, and that’s really the low end. For a competitive space, you might need 30-40 hours or more. In my experience, “good” SEO starts in the $3,000-$5,000 a month range, and can go all the way up to $100,000-$200,000 a month. Not cheap, and difficult for the typical small business to justify.
At the same time, your typical small SEO company or consultant often doesn’t have the ability financially (and/or the strength of will) to say no to someone who really shouldn’t be a client, so many SEOs out there attempt to provide SEO on budgets that are insufficient. In order to show the short term benefits (or enough work volume) so that the client doesn’t leave, they resort to inferior tactics that can sometimes cause long-term harm. They rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak.
It’s a shitty situation all around, and quite frankly the blame rests on both sides of the table. Clients need to grasp that good SEO isn’t cheap, and bad SEO can cost you your business, so if you truly need SEO for your business to succeed then you bloody well better invest in quality. At the same time, clients also need to understand that SEO isn’t a trick or a gimmick…it’s about actually making their online presence BETTER. Not faking it, but making it, and making things better has a price.
SEOs on the other hand need to grow a pair and do whatever it takes to effectively educate potential clients about the cost and value of great SEO. If you can’t get the message across, then you just need to say no, even if it hurts the bottom line. Taking on a client that you can’t safely help just isn’t worth it. I’ve literally seen multimillion dollar businesses fold because of bad SEO, and it really sucks.
I’ve been doing SEO for over a decade, and I’ve yet to meet an SEO who didn’t genuinely want to help a client to make their site better. I don’t know an SEO who actually wants to take shortcuts and use risky tactics…but many that I’ve spoken to just feel like they don’t have a choice. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, between client’s with no budget and bosses who want more revenue, and so they often have to take cheap clients and make the best of a less than ideal situation.
That sort of situation sucks, and it really shouldn’t exist.
Clients, stop putting your SEOs in shitty situations. If you can’t afford good SEO, don’t do SEO.
SEOs, do a better job of educating your clients and potential clients, and stop taking clients who can’t afford to do SEO the right way.
The flow of crap needs to stop, and both sides are going to have to work together to fix the problem.