Small business owners have to walk a digital tightrope these days. Even brick and mortar businesses need an online presence, and that means more than a simple website and a Facebook profile.
Sure, creating an online identity is pretty easy now, but knowing how to manage it properly and leverage it to build brand recognition and drive traffic is another matter entirely. That's where search engine optimization comes into the equation. But again, there's that troublesome digital tightrope.
Good SEO isn't cheap, and most small business owners are working with a fairly strict budget. Any businessperson could be forgiven for trying to find a way to save money on their SEO services. But cutting corners when it comes to SEO can be hazardous, and hiring an amateur to do a professional's job can ultimately cost you much more than money.
The Amateur's Promise
The amateur SEO's promise is simple and straightforward — for a nominal fee they will take your business to the top of the SERPs and drive hordes of customers to your virtual (or brick and mortar) doors.
Better yet, they'll deliver on that promise so quickly your head will spin. If you catch the whiff of a seedy second hand car dealer there you're not far off. The amateur SEO is promising the impossible.
SEO, by its very nature, is a long and painstaking process. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets that will catapult anyone's website to the top of the SERPs. The most an amateur SEO can deliver in this scenario are a few black hat tricks that may, or may not, give your website a little temporary forward momentum.
Ultimately, however, those tricks are going to backfire. If you're lucky, your website will merely stall in the rankings and fail to deliver any actionable leads. If you're unlucky, you'll be hit with a wave of penalties that forces your website out of the SERP running all together. Again, the amateur SEO is like a second hand car dealer; they can slap on a fresh coat of paint, but if the engine is shot, your car (website) is going nowhere.
The Amateur Effect
Before you get the idea that I'm just railing against low cost SEO firms, that's not the case. Naturally, small businesses need to watch their bottom line. Quality SEO isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth it. When you hire an amateur to save a little money, you generally get what you pay for.
Let's look at a few examples of what you should expect from a professional SEO firm, and what you're likely to get from an amateur.
Link Building Takes Time
Solid link building takes time and a great deal of experience. Particularly now, when Google and other search engines are cracking down on spam and anything that looks like spam.
An experienced SEO will have a solid network of connections for outreach opportunities through which they can begin building a positive link profile. Without these connections and experience, an amateur will rely on suspect link building schemes (buying links, etc.) to produce results. But those results will be limited, and are apt to result in a wave of Google Penguin penalties. True link building takes time and a thorough understanding of your brand to build high relevance that will increase your rankings.
Good Content Creates Conversions
Quality content drives traffic. I know, we’re all sick of hearing it, but it’s true. It’s not "let’s just a post once a week for content’s sake." This area must be nurtured through proper keyword research to build authoritative content to engage your visitors and bring them into your conversion funnel. Good content also helps to establish your brand and raise your online profile, along with understanding concepts such as LSI.
For years, people got away with stuffing their websites with low-quality content that neither entertained nor informed. In the wake of Google Panda, this simply does not work, and will result in penalties. The professional SEO knows how to deliver effective quality content in the Panda environment, and even re-work your existing content.
The amateur, on the other hand, is more likely to fall back on half-assed content that does nothing to enhance your online presence, and fails to engage readers or deliver any actionable leads or new business. Worse, they may rely on auto-generated material or even plagiarism to deliver a steady stream of cheap content, and that will quickly land you in the hot seat.
On-page optimization can be complicated, and requires close attention to detail. It is also constantly changing, with new rules and techniques being introduced on almost a daily basis. Professional SEOs are up to date with current optimization techniques, and understand the dangers of relying on outdated methods to score some prime SERP real estate and drive traffic for their clients.
The amateur is rarely up to date with current SEO practices. If they were, they'd naturally turn professional. The amateur may cost less than a professional, but relying on outdated tricks and techniques bringing one definite result — poor online performance and Google penalties.
Don’t believe me? I bet if you look at over 50% of websites, they still use the keyword meta tag. Why is that still being used? Or, redirect loops with poorly formatted XML sitemaps or robots.txt files, and the list goes one. When was the last time your SEO reported on site errors? Good SEOs understand advanced concepts such as structured data and JSON-LD, along with how to integrate your mobile app with your website properly, and much more such as analyzing server logs.
There’s So Much More…Final Thoughts
For small busines,s owners the lure of saving money is hard to resist. However, as any good business person knows, cutting corners results in a shoddy product, and that can backfire in a major way — ultimately doing more harm than good and even getting your website completely de-indexed!
The right SEO firm can make or break your digital marketing campaign, and hiring an amateur just to save money is a dangerous choice. Reputable SEO firms know how to ask the right questions and offer services that maximize ROI (and can calculate it). Professional SEOs are prepared to work with their clients over the long haul to deliver positive results. When it comes to your business, and your SEO needs, beware of the cheap amateur who promises something for cheap. The ultimate costs are too high to pay.
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