Assessing an SEO campaign – Is it Value for Money
Search engine optimization (SEO) has become the norm for professional webmasters as the only way to stay on top on the search engine results pages (SERPs), but there is a slight difference between value for money SEO campaigns and campaigns that push your website to the first position. The first makes efficient use of your resources to fulfill your goal—a rise in traffic, high conversion ratios, more organic backlinks, etc., while the other spares no expense to make your site first. After the so-called “hitting the link wall” phenomenon1, ranking higher is much more expensive.
The first step to evaluating an SEO campaign is to define the evaluation criteria. Most commonly, websites require that SEO campaigns increase their traffic. However, different websites require different things; some need subscriptions, others sell products, still others are news and ad-driven, so you should choose the criteria which directly impacts your revenue or business. Adding a time dimension to the criteria will ensure a swift completion.
Having identified the main criteria, you could consider additional criteria that will better evaluate the long-term effect of the SEO. Optimization campaigns must achieve high rankings in the popular search engines with medium to high traffic, and with competitive keywords2. Furthermore, this standing must remain stable over a period of time, even if the campaign abruptly stops. Beware of practices that promise sudden, drastic changes, as these are usually black hat SEO techniques, which are forbidden by search engines.
SEO companies usually give previous case studies to showcase their abilities, and you can use these to evaluate the effectiveness of their methods. Begin by examining their testimonials. Do the websites still rank highly for the specific keywords; is there a mention of the firm on the optimized website; is there a thorough comparison of the before and after websites, etc.? An example in your field means that the company has experience and knowledge, and can keep your costs down. Alternatively, if the company’s main focus is somewhere else, they could need more time to get used to your niche, which will result in higher expenses for you.
As mentioned already, the duration of the effects of the SEO campaign is vital to determining its effectiveness. Consider having to fund the campaign continuously and doing it every other month. Obviously the second option is half as expensive. Long lasting SEO campaigns try to build valuable links both to and from your site to direct users, and decrease your dependence on search engine traffic. They further build communities on forums, blogs, and social media, and gather e-mail addresses so that your website has a lot of regular readers and advocates. Word of mouth is more powerful than any marketing technique.
Nevertheless, website owners must not fall prey to the misconception that SEO lasts forever3 and is a one-off investment. Therefore, when considering its value for money, you should take into account ongoing maintenance as well. For example, some firms could want low initial rates but overcharge for maintenance, as other companies would find it hard to take over afterwards. In that respect, choosing a premium company, which optimizes the website so that you can easily change vendors, is actually value for money as you are not locked in with one vendor.
Numbers and site statistics can be influenced by a number of things apart from the SEO campaign and may not reflect the whole picture. As a rule of thumb, if the SEO campaign adds value to customers or drives in new, profitable customers, it is value for money. Conversely, if it brings traffic but no sales or high bounce rates, then it is not value for money.