Is a monthly SEO fee necessary to have qualified traffic to your website?
Some Search Engine Optimization experts (SEOs) will argue that SEO doesn’t have anything to do with Web Design, is a totally different issue and you need a monthly fee in order to rank high on Google and have qualified traffic. Traditional SEO services can charge thousands and usually provide 3-6 months of service and link building packaged in.
Submitting news articles, press releases and directory listings are all types of SEO strategies as long as they are not spammy and keyword rich. These things take time to do, and in a competitive market, must be reviewed on a daily basis.
Let’s discuss our methodology. When someone designs a website with us, we take care of all the details like keyword research with Google AdWords Tool, optimized CSS/XHTML code, website architecture, meta description tags, title pages, keywords targeted, etc. This means proper web design. META and TITLE tags, H1 and H2 tags, are HTML markup language not SEO tags. After going live, we place some good links in our portfolio and on some relative websites and web design galleries and that’s it.
In a couple of months the website will rank great, usually on the first page of Google search results and the client doesn’t pay any monthly fee for qualified traffic. Down the road we analyze Google Analytics data and recommend improvements. The traffic will stay there, it won’t just disappear when search engine optimization process stops.
A couple of weeks ago, someone contacted one of my clients and told him that his website is not optimized for search engines and he can rank much better for a couple of hundreds monthly fee. He is on the first page on Google Search Results. Search on Google “Termite Inspection Raleigh” or “Pest Control Raleigh”. Is he on the first page? So, what more would the SEO company do? Will a monthly SEO fee get them a better deal?
Read and watch this recent interview with a well known Google engineer in USA Today. Try and find something that makes sense for a monthly fee. I couldn’t.
I am aware there are lots of SEO professionals out there that do a good job for their clients, especially for medium businesses. All I’m saying is that someone who modifies title tags and meta descriptions, and builds some links, shouldn’t be paid a monthly fee unless he has a comprehensive SEO plan and is able to explain what exactly he will do and what results you might expect. Giving client access to Google Analytics and explaining basic search principles is a must for any honest SEO professional. Google AdWords plus search engine optimization plus a great-looking optimized website definitely leads to success.
I would like to hear some comments about this issue. Maybe I don’t get it right, but then, how some websites rank high and do well on Google without any monthly fee? Read more about Search Engine Optimization in Raleigh-Durham.
The monthly retainer, or fee, is because seo work is done over time. X number of links built per month, selecting new keywords based on month to month search volume, etc
. Plus, Google’s algo changes, so strategies need to be reworked. Why do so many of your clients rank well in Google? I’m just guessing but maybe they are one of a very few pages that are actually targeting a specific keyphrase. 99% of sites built by 99% of all ‘web design’ firms have ZERO thought put into any SEO at all. True, just a smidge mixed with age is all it takes some times, but in the more competitive fields, it takes a lot more than ‘just good content’ (sorry, it’s true) or a few ‘good links’ to get REAL traffic. Usually, the monthly fee is month to month, with no commitment. So, if you don’t get the results, the traffic you’re looking for, I get fired.
I can see how you might have a lot of questions about seo, and by all means seo is full of shysters, but good seo people will always charge a monthly fee. A lot of people in the design side, HATE seo people and the industry, because they don’t understand, and quite simply, there’s a lot of money in it if you can provide results. Typically SEO people do NOT do design, because there is a lot less money in it, and it can be outsourced to India for pennies, which makes it harder and harder to make money at it. SEO, totally different.
PS. Thanks for raising these questions.
Building links is a practice not approved by Google. In fact here is what Google says: “It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links“.
Why don’t you explain what specifically you charge clients a montly fee for. This way you can bring some light to the subject. From your comment I see you charge a monthly fee for building links and selecting new keywords. Is that all?
No, it’s to keep them at the top. I pride myself on honesty, and tell clients and prospects before they hire me, that after they get to the first page of Google and stay there. So we agree to a initial commitment of 2-6 months, and then it’s a month to month basis. Every month they get their reports showing their progress in the SE’s for their target keywords, as well as their stats showing what keywords delivered what traffic, as well as a report showing my link building efforts and anything else we did to make this happen.
But, some clients are on pay for performance model, meaning they get charged for the number of new visitors, leads, etc, or they pay when a certain ranking is accomplished. There are many ways of working with a client, and each is different. Different industries, different budgets, different goals.
SEO takes time in competitive markets, and that’s a fact. Some industries and their key phrases take 1000’s of links to be competitive. If you built these links in one month, you would shoot to the top of the search results, and be de-indexed within 60 days. Slow and steady while being prolific works.
Any 5 year old can put keywords in a title and on page. In fact, I actually let my five year old ‘help dad’ by putting keywords in page titles, headings, etc. Of course I double check, but you’re missing the point: my five year old can do it.
When it comes to link building, a different story. That’s why 99% of ‘web design’ companies do not offer SEO. It’s because link building takes time…and lots of effort.
This is why Google values incoming links as more important than the ‘words on a page’. Their algo is 80 percent based on incoming links and anchor text, that’s why they don’t want people doing it.
That’s why it works!
That’s why it’s important to take your time and do it right.
Bear in mind, I don’t care what Google says about anything, I only care about results. I openly admit that I manipulate Google’s results. I am very good at it. True, it is NOT ONLY the number of links, but ALSO the quality of the links. Both have importance. The bottom line is that a small business owner doesn’t have the time to learn and then do this, and since it is real work to find good links (especially the non reciprocal variety) it has a high value when it translates into traffic.
I don’t want to have any type of adversarial relationship with anyone, so please don’t misunderstand my tone, by the way. I enjoy your blog, even if your comment links are no follows.
I hope this helps to shed some light.
I enjoy this discussion. My point is that in the long run, link building doesn’t work. You know this is true. You can get fair amounts of traffic by building links but all that traffic will disappear the moment you stop the campaign.
We have different perspectives about SEO, that’s all. I focus more on the long run… in having a steady amount of qualified traffic from search engines without building links.
And what about potential clients, the visitors you should value most? This is how I measure the results, asking my client how many new clients did he get from his website. Traffic… doesn’t matter. I used to lose precious time on details just to be sure the website would be accepted in a design gallery and the client would get hundreds of visitors per day for free. No one contacted the client. All that traffic didn’t help at all.
It is my strong opinion that SEO and Web Design should go hand in hand if you want a successful website that will generate some business.
I have to admit I disagree with you here Chip.
I’m not sure where the animosity comes from between web designers and SEO’s. I have had many discussions with the owner of a local web design firm here in Central Florida. And before we started having drinks / lunch from time to time, he felt the same way. Not we frequently refer clients and work to eachother. Perhaps it’s the fact that some in the SEO field place blame for poor rankings (oftne unfairly) with web designers.
And let’s also face the reality that there are many people out there who read an ebook and a few forums and believe they are a SEO Guru. (The same can be said of someone who reads a basic html book and downloads a pirated copy of dreamweaver)
So in reality both of our fields have bad apples, I think we can agree on that. But after reading this blog post and some of your previous ones, I get a feeling that you are taking the bad for the whole.
A SEO service conducted on a 30 day pay basis has many benefits.
Traditional SEO services can charge thousands and usually provide 3-6 months of service and link building packaged in. Going month to month spreads that out, and as you know it’s difficult for many small businesses to afford a huge outlay of cash especially today.
So there is the price point, so long as there is no long term commitment I think it’s a positive over the “one time charge”.
Another benefit is accountability. If a large seo firm charges a business $3000 for services, once they’ve completed it, they are typically done and move on.
Having payment spread out, keeps the company active and ensures services are delivered.. otherwise the client will cancel and probably chargeback. A problem I have never had with in my firm.
My company provides a slew of services.
We do content management, adding additional (original content) to client sites. There original web designer built the foundation and made the site beautiful, we help flesh it out with great content for people (and search engines)
We offer monitoring of stats (this applies more in specialized fields such as with Car Dealers, who use third party hosts and often don’t have acceess to server logs or a cpanel.
We offer continuous link building services. Local and regional directories help send real traffic. We also use social media, bookmarking, offsite blogs, microblogs, etc. to spread the word and put their name everywhere we can.
This helps more with search engines then actual traffic. But of course having higher search rankings is the goal because that is where real traffic comes from, not directories or galleries.
Generally speaking building links does not generate real direct traffic. If I create a link from a custom national targeted blog about a car driving tips and point to a car dealer in orlando, the odds of it generate a lot of real direct traffic are low (even less that that person would be local and convert to buy a car) As I said Chip – link building is just about pushing up the rankings, and it’s links from content rich sites and pages that take real work to create.
We help them control their name (many companies I come across don’t even rank for their name!) then we focus on their business type and city, then their neighboring cities, county, and metro areas nearby, before turning towards their competition directly with microsites.
Our campaigns are run like a war room, we do not sit idly by.
We also do reputation management, especially with car dealers, helping them to push negative reviews off the front pages of the search engines.
Our service is just as much an on-going offsite marketing campaign as it is a technical adjustment to their website.
It’s true that basic SEO can be done by anyone. Just like basic web design can be done by anyone with dreamweaver.
The truth is though, that truly effective service in both cases requires a professional.
I’m disappointed you’ve run across optimizers that have given you a bad taste. Is our service a form of manipulation? Sure. It’s a form of advertising.. what advertising isin’t a form of manipulation?
One last thing.. jumping back to link building, you had said you rank fairly well without any link building.
I would interject that you have 908 incoming links to your website, the vast vast majority of which from your client websites saying
Web Design: Better Image
In this case your harvesting links just by doing business. Your business is the exception because of it’s field. A typical business doesn’t get this naturally Chip.
I know on my website I don’t give put Stationary by: Office Depot
Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m just saying that maybe you are under estimating some of the inadvertant seo that apply you you and don’t to your clients. (Not saying your clients don’t rank well either, just making a point.)
Look forward to this convo.. even though it’s on track to kill one of my keywords with this rich content and activity. Ahh well.
Thanks for your great reply. You definitely bring some light to the subject. Actually, you are able to explain to visitors what a good SEO campaign is about.
Please don’t get me wrong. I used to do link building, but in the last three years I realized that once a website is established, link building will not make any difference. Everything is about on page optimization… Google knows you are good, now you just have to show it what your website is about.
My blog post was mostly intended for my clients who keep receiving emails that tell them they can rank much better and have hundreds of visitors per day if they will pay a “small” monthly fee.
I just don’t want my clients to fall for this. In fact, I will point them to your comment to read what good SEO strategy is about.
I appreciate the kind words. It’s a shame there are those out there that make it difficult for both of us.
Feel free to e-mail me if you ever wish to continue the discussion.
I’m always open to working with established web designers that I can have confidence in recommending to my clients. As stated, when it comes to beautiful, awe-inspring websites, I leave it to experts such as yourself.
Ok…I work for a very well respected Ethical SEO and stumbled on your article. Email me privately if you want proof. I agree with you totally about some SEOs charging monthly fees for “maintenance” and doing nothing but these are a minority. However your article is very poor and very biased – no research and smacks of ignorance of the SEO industry.
You claim websites don’t need SEO so I took a peek through your website. So…lets start with the sites you showcase on your front page. The first one for example ranks Number 1 for the phrase “termite inspection raleigh”. On google the raw competition is 74K. Do an “allinanchor: termite inspection raleigh” and this dilutes to 9.7k . Next check overture, wordtracker or any other word analyser and they show up 0 searches for that term in the last month. (Yes ZERO). All the sites you claim to have number 1 rankings are almost identical – even “web design raleigh” had zero searches last month.
So…lets go a little deeper. Raleigh appears on local search so the serps are heavily diluted. A googling of the local population shows 308K so it’s rather a small catchment area in the grand scheme of the USA.
So what’s my point here? Well…this is exactly how the scammers convince small businesses they can get them to the top of Google. They pick low value key phrases that are easy to get to the top of Google then show off on their websites how good they are.
You sell CMS from $2499 yet you install wordpress! Don’t you think that’s a bit hypocritical? WordPress is free. Our web design department installs and creates a custom theme for around $1000. When you say “FREE SEO” wordpress is already brilliantly coded for SEO so the work’s already been done for you. BUT…you’re still claiming credit in your website.
So…you claim to have achieved these results for your client? By default your are using negative advertising techniques to obtain work for yourself and it could easily be construed that you are using the SEO aspect to justify the cost of your web designs.
Your article presents a very one sided view about SEO and you tell your clients they don’t need it at all to rank. This in itself is highly unethical because you give your clients the impression they will receive new business.To quote from your website “We are confident that you will be on the first page of Google Search Results* and actually have visitors asking about your services.”
Now your clients must be thinking – great I don’t need to worry – my website does everything. Take the termite company for example. I know for a fact that the key phrases they SHOULD be targeting are nowhere in your site. So effectively you are preventing your client from obtaining new business from google! You ddi no competitor analysis at all – email me if you wish to know how I know.
It’s obvious when you built the site you did no keyword research either – hence the result. This client would benefit from some proper research so that he can attract targetted business.
Ontological research, a/b testing on landing pages, keyword proximity & prominence research, and long tail analysis would cost a few hundred dollars and provide your client with a decent ROI for the fee. Monthly adjustments would fine tune and react to market variances.
So what’s my overall point? Web designers are equally as bad as the scammers who rip clients off on monthly SEO fees. You charge $2000 for a website and tell your clients they will receive business because they don’t need SEO. I’d be a very angry client if you made that promise to me!
Have you any evidence your client’s have had a ROI for the website. I wager no! Has it been measured? I doubt it. Do you have any data to support the enquiries? I doubt it. .Sorry my friend but this article is as unethical the people you criticise in the first instance.
Since you’re giving SEOs such bad press – did you ever consider the effects it could have? Your article could be picked up on forums and before you know it you could be google bombed by the black hats.
People in Glass houses…!
David I’m going to repeat this for you: “I am aware there are lots of SEO professionals out there that do a good job for their clients, especially for medium businesses. All I’m saying is that someone who modifies title tags and meta descriptions, and builds some links, shouldn’t be paid a monthly fee unless he has a comprehensive SEO plan and is able to explain what exactly he will do and what results you might expect.”
I’m designing a custom WordPress theme for $2499 not just installing WordPress.
I don’t see why my article bothers you so much. I’m talking about small business websites, not big websites that need comprehensive research and analysis.
I agree with you totally about these guys charging for doing no work. Highly unethical. Your article doens’t bother me that much and there’s nothing personal. I just think it is very one sided and not very accurate.
To address your point about changing keywords, meta tags etc. Sorry but this is incorrect. We have disproven the age trust theory so many times its become boring.We’ve ran two sites on two domains but using different key phrases for over 3 years.(avoids duplicate content penalty) The easy phrases will rank in a few weeks. The sought after phrases never rank . There have been thousands of similar experiments with the exact same outcome.
You say small business sites don’t need monthly SEO. Again this is incorrect. What about shops? Have you ever uploaded to Google base? These xml files have to be hand coded.
You slag off the SEO company for approaching your termite company and make it look like you’v done a great job for them. Er…sorry but you haven’t. I pointed out to you nearlier that the key phrase you claim success for has ZERO searches on overture and wordtracker. This means that NOBODY has used this phrase in a search other than you and probably your client. Install GA on his site and see how much traffic they get from search.
If you knew your stuff then you could do a little KW analysis, some long tail analysis (that’s a bell curve) and realise that your clients website is targeting a totally unproductive phrase.
Monthly SEO – even for small businesses involves spreadsheeting kw’s, using ontologial phrases, setting proximities and prominences – and for very modest fees. nIt can take 6 months to a year to get it spot on but during that time there will be measureable results. You will never get this using the trust method – it’s just not true.
Here’s a wager for you – you leave your client’s website up to the trust theory. Get another domain, duplicate the site and get an seo to apply monthly KW strategy to this and lets see how much business it brings in.
I note your point about designing a custom wp theme – I already said we do the same thing for less than half your price earlier. You can get a custom theme built on line from any of the guys on css many a for a few hundred dollars – every bit as good as anything we’ve done or seen.
I agree with you that some SEOs out there are ready for a quick buck. They don’t provide any service and try to trick clients into something worthless.
There are other companies however that are far from that. Online marketing is extremely important to generate qualified traffic and increase business. Website Design Optimization is not enough.
Alex Centeno MBA.
Digital Media Director
Alex, do you consider Online Marketing to be the same as SEO? I’m discussing SEO for small business not Google Adwords campaigns. The two are connected but are not the same thing. I would never advise a client not to run a PPC campaign, from the contrary.
It seems that the SEO reps posting are hosting advertising campaigns, pulling in traffic from all corners of the internet. Isn’t this less about optimizing the site for a search engine and more about marketing?
I understand that in the world of SEO, there may be a blending of those services, but it seems like most of this discussion is about semantics.
SEO IS MARKETING!
(or at least SHOULD be)
I applaud any organization that “takes care of SEO” for their client…however I don’t know how you can do so without engaging the client in the process, SEO is far more than rank…it is positioning and earning the click (not just top rankings) from the most qualified targets…after all for most businesses and website models, what good is a million clicks if you can’t convert a single one of them?
In highly competitive local, regional and national marketplaces, a one-time SEO effort will never be enough, even if you achieve top rankings.
Think about it…whomever you have replaced upon achieving top rankings is not going to just accept the loss of business…they are going to reoptimize their website.
Not to mention the ongoing addition of content that can dilute SEO if not optimized, and the inevevitable event of algorithm changes.
We work with designers, global advertising agencies, developers and webmasters from businesses of all sizes across North America and I can tell you that although many believe they are doing SEO, most will admit to me (privately of course) that their mastery is mostly guessing and rarely strategic.
SEO is a function of marketing…it must target qualified audiences, differentiate from the competition…and at the end of the day promote conversion.
We actually measure and optimize with our clients continually…and achieve measurable results for every client.
There are many firms that do work diligently for their clients on a monthly basis. Sadly there are many that “scam”…but just like traditional marketing, Search Engine Marketing is a process not an event.
Unfortunately, those “guys” that don’t do a darn thing and charge monthly fees make it difficult to legitimately perform these services at a fair fee. Luckily, we earn the trust of our clients and they appreciate the efforts. I agree, those burned by unethical money-focused SEO’s have given the profession a bad reputation.
I realize there are not as many out there, but many of us are marketing professionals who approach these methods ethically and diligently.
As a marketing firm that specializes in these practices, I can tell you that our clients depend on us to leverage their website to leverage SEO, SEM, Usability and Conversion…to deliver results and improve the bottom line.
You are talking about people that pose as seo experts. They have little or no seo knowledge and they usually act as predators. They target their victims after seeing they don’t know squat about SEO. I know this kind of people all to well.
Chip, I can see your point but let’s not forget:
This kind of people that you are talking about is a very rare kind. Most seo experts that do a monthly seo fee plan, do actually work. I mean continuous work. I am in the seo business myself. And we do have plans and a lot of work ahead of us.
But when you are in such a competitive business like seo is, you tend to keep the client in the dark regarding the sensitive details of your work. You never know, he might become the next seo expert and take your work. So you see, it could be fairly easy to mistake the real thing with the impostor (or at least it can in the start. A short talk with the expert will tell you all there is to know about him/her)
I know it is kind of late. My beliefs are yes, if you design a website properly, it will (help) SEO, however monthly retainers are there to keep progress going, updating site content, submitting new directory listings and finding other ways to build links. Google has never said they look down upon link building strategies, as a proper link building strategy is to build good content others will want.
All that said, before you go into saying don’t pay a monthly SEO fee, no disrespect intended, but make sure you actually know what SEO is first. YES THERE ARE BAD SEO “PROFESSIONALS” OUT THERE THAT WILL CHARGE A CRAZY MONTHLY FEE, SO TO THOSE… STAY AWAY. But all it takes is a little research of the company to see if they are legit. Not too hard to ask for a quick client reference. Ask for a website they have done the work for, check out their site, and check some keywords you would think they should show up for. And there you have it.. knowing, is only half the battle.
As far as SEO goes, SEO can be comprised of many different strategies, especially in a competitive market, where one literally fights with competition on a daily basis for better rankings. Submitting news articles, press releases and directory listings are all types of white-hat SEO as long as they are not spammy and keyword rich. These things take time to do, and again, in a competitive market, must be reviewed on a daily basis, and in my opinion, would require a monthly fee as I’m for sure not going to do 40 hours of work a month for free.
Just my 2c.
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