There are 3 types of SEO companies: cheap, affordable, and expensive.
An affordable SEO company that is able to produce an ROI with your budget is the ideal SEO company to work with.
Just because an SEO company is “cheap” doesn’t mean you are going to “get your money’s worth”.
“You get what you pay for” holds true when it comes to cheap SEO.
Alternatively, expensive SEO companies won’t produce the best ROI for many small and medium businesses.
Today I am going to explain why most business owners should avoid cheap and expensive SEO companies. Meanwhile providing guidance on finding the best affordable SEO company for your needs.
Weeding Out Cheap SEO Companies
Who Needs Expensive SEO Services
Avoid High Volume Link Packages
Questions to Ask SEO Companies
Determine Your SEO Goals
Vet SEO Companies’ Reviews
Weeding Out Cheap SEO Companies
If you do a Google search for “cheap SEO services” here is what you will find:
$49 for SEO to grow my business, oh my, what a deal! That is less than I pay for dry cleaning every month…
And you will certainly get less service than your dry cleaners provide too.
However, the example I gave was for “cheap” which doesn’t have the same meaning as “affordable”.
According to the dictionary, here is the difference in meanings.
- Cheap = of low quality: not worth a lot of money
- Affordable = that can be afforded; believed to be within one’s financial means
Which would you prefer?
Low-quality services that aren’t worth much? -OR-
Quality services that you can afford within your financial means?
Any savvy business person will agree with me when I say, “give me affordable because I can’t afford cheap.”
Trust me. Cheap will cost you more than affordable in the long run.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to utilize cheap SEO services. Below is a list of red flags to look out for when determining if an SEO provider is low-quality:
- Pricing under $500 per month
- No dedicated account manager
- No discovery process to learn about your business and objectives
- They don’t practice high-quality content marketing on their website
- Offerings consist of generic packages, not custom solutions
- No customer reviews or poor customer reviews
- No phone number listed on website
- Company is based in another country (especially a non-English speaking country)
Who Needs Expensive SEO Services?
On the flipside of cheap SEO companies, there are just as many SEO agencies out there that will charge premium rates when providing good SEO services. Rates of 5 and 6 figures per year are not uncommon.
For most small and medium businesses or startups with a limited budget, this is also not what you want.
Let’s compare the definition of expensive with affordable to see why.
- Expensive = entailing great expense; very high-priced; costly:
- Affordable = that can be afforded; believed to be within one’s financial means
It is obvious if you had to choose between the two. You’d choose affordable. All day, every day.
Sure, there are instances for fortune 500’s and large e-commerce businesses generating large amounts of cash flow online when it makes sense to invest 5 figures into SEO.
But for many small businesses, startups, entrepreneurs, and even some medium sized businesses a smaller monthly investment in their SEO will return results.
This article in Entrepreneur is correct in saying expensive SEO is “worth it”. However, it is speaking to big brands with tons of cash flow that can easily afford a 5 figure monthly SEO budget because they generate millions in revenue online.
Example of Business Overspending on SEO Services
This isn’t true for most businesses. Here, let’s look at an example.
I’ve taken on a local client in plumbing and HVAC who told me that before switching to my service he was paying over $4K a month for SEO. When I took over this was a real blog post on his website:
Go see it for yourself here.
$4K a month for over-optimized crap 💩
Ew that stinks.
Now I realize (well, pray) that most agencies charging $4K a month to a local Plumbing and HVAC company are at least creating good content, implementing best practices, and getting results.
But don’t you think it is possible for a local plumbing and HVAC business to get traction with SEO without spending nearly $50K annually?
I thought it was. So, I advised him to try out Volume SEO services and the rest is history.
No more crap blog posts. Just good content his visitors enjoy and engage with.
And more importantly, affordable SEO that works by driving traffic that is generating leads and revenue for his business.
But most importantly, he didn’t have to refinance his house to try our SEO services.
In fact, he freed up cash flow by making the decision to switch to us.
Some expensive SEO companies actually provide good service while serving a market and a need.
But primarily speaking that is for big brands, large e-commerce stores, high growth start-ups, large publishers and a few more competitive online businesses.
For the small to mid market that most businesses fall into, neither cheap nor expensive is good.
DON’T Purchase “Link Packages” or Stand Alone Link Building
Ok, before I get into some of the strategy you can use to find the best affordable SEO company, let me get this one out of the way.
DO NOT BUY LINKS. Not link packages, not link building by itself, not 1 link, not 2 links, or 3 links and definitely NOT 1,000 links!
This is not the article to explain what link building is. But what I will say is that links are absolutely essential to your SEO success.
However, most companies that are selling link packages are often selling spam. Link packages often consist of automated tools that spam the web and build links to your website.
This is the fastest method to get a Google penalty which would mean your website stops ranking and your leads stop flowing.
Find Quality Linkbuilding Services
Because links are essential to your success, you need to find a company that is going to strategically earn links rather than go out and spam links.
The easiest way to find out if a company does this right is to see how they advertise their link building OR to straight up ask them to see examples of links they’ve built.
Advertising link packages with guaranteed numbers of links is often a dead giveaway that they offer spammy cheap SEO services.
Ask a provider to show examples of their link building and a good SEO will point you to some high-quality articles on high-quality websites with relevant links in them.
A bad SEO will run. Or keep talking without showing you examples, in which case,
So, the takeaway with links is YES you absolutely need a good SEO company to be acquiring (earning) links for you.
To ensure this is what you will be getting, always ask any SEO company to provide examples of their link building services. Especially when they advertise link building packages, or tell you guaranteed numbers of links they’ll provide.
Avoid Affordable SEO Packages – Get Custom Solutions
If you’re looking into affordable SEO companies then you probably know that many offer “affordable SEO packages”.
This should be a red flag when researching SEO companies. The #1 requirement you need in an SEO company is custom tailored solutions, no pre-packaged services.
A company that sells a complete SEO package with a bunch of fixed offerings which may not be beneficial in any way to your business’ needs is one you should avoid.
Why pay for services your business doesn’t need?
Instead, find a company which is willing to scale services to what you need and what you can afford. Any quality SEO company should take a unique approach to your project so that your business gets the results it needs.
You need to make sure that the company you are entrusting with your SEO offers targeted high-quality services. A broad range of low-quality services will not produce results.
Especially when low-quality SEO services have been proven to cost you more in the long run. Yea that is right, cheap SEO will get you a Google penalty that will damage your site’s reputation, reduce organic traffic, and stop your flow of inbound leads dead in its tracks.
This is what your traffic looks like when you get a penalty: Good, Good, Good, GONE!
I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to spend my hard earned cash on a crap service that is going to damage my business that I’ve worked hard to build.
I’d rather save my money and avoid the damage altogether than jump in bed with a cheap SEO company who couldn’t care less about my brand.
The best way to review an SEO company’s work quality is to request samples of previous work as this will help you get an idea of what the company offers and exactly what you can expect in terms of content quality and backlink quality.
A Good Affordable SEO Company is Transparent
Here are some general questions to ask every SEO company that you review before choosing one:
- Ask about their experience. Do they do local SEO? National SEO? What is the biggest website they’ve worked on in terms of traffic and number of webpages?
- Are they brand new? How long has the company been offering SEO services?
- Learn their tactics. Does their service include social media marketing, content marketing, and targeted outreach? Ask them the specific tactics they will use.
- Do you get account management? Many cheap SEO companies won’t even hold strategy calls with you let alone offer you a dedicated account manager. But if they do, make sure to ask what is the experience of the person or team that will deal with your needs?
- Can they prove their results? Do they have any case studies from past SEO campaigns that they can show you?
- What do their customers say? Check their online reviews to see what their customers say and who their customers are.
Figuring Out Your Business Goals in an Affordable SEO Service
If you’re walking into the sales call with no clue what your business objectives are with an SEO service, cancel the call.
Take the time to create a business plan for exactly what you need from an SEO company before researching any SEO providers.
Potential Business Objectives in an SEO Campaign:
- Need to appear above your competition for your branded search terms?
- Need an increase in leads by 40% over the next 8 months?
- Do you want your sales to grow by 30% over the next 18 months?
- Do you want to increase your rankings for some specific keywords?
- Do you want an increase in phone calls from organic search traffic?
- Do you just want the boss to know that someone is working on SEO so you can “check the box” and move on to other tasks?
Have a specific goal, or multiple goals, in mind by which you will use to measure the success of your engagement with your SEO firm. Make that goal the center of your communication with them from the initial sales call, before you agree to anything.
Discuss their reporting methods and which KPIs matter for your campaign. Make sure they can report on the specific KPIs that matter to your business.
We offer custom reporting tailored to each of our client’s individual needs. Below are some examples of the SEO KPIs we report on.
Phone Calls Tracked by Keyword Searches
Leads From Organic Search Traffic
Keyword Rankings in Google
Organic Search Traffic Increases
Vet All SEO Client Testimonials and References
When I sign up a new client, I get excited.
Sometimes, maybe too excited.
I text my mom, I talk to my dog as if she can understand me (and cares about what I’m saying). Hell, sometimes I even get out of my chair and do a happy dance.
Ok, seriously though. Clients are what make my business go ‘round.
I love my clients. My clients love me. Together we make it happen.
When I do something awesome for a client, I ask them for a testimonial or a reference. This way I can show off to prospects what I’m capable of and what they can expect before they jump onboard.
Like when I helped Big Sky Ranch avoid real estate agent fees by building them a fully functional real estate website that marketed over $2 Million in land sales, I got a testimonial, a reference, and a renewed contract 🙂
This helps me prove to prospects that I offer more than just affordable SEO prices, I actually offer satisfaction and results.
Any quality SEO company will be able to show you real testimonials and provide client references for you to perform your due diligence.
So, when you are researching SEO agencies and find one who cannot provide real testimonials or references, you know they aren’t quality and you move on.
Vetting your SEO service provider by checking their client testimonials, and even asking for references to speak with, is an essential part of your decision process in choosing an affordable SEO provider.
But don’t immediately check the box when you see that a company has testimonials on their website. Vet them yourself first.
Example of Vetting SEO Client Testimonials
For example, let’s look at our trusty $69 SEO service that came up #2 in my search for “cheap seo services”
Looks nice right? You’re probably ready to sign up. But I’m not.
Because I’m weird, I never trust businesses immediately when reading their websites. (What a weirdo right!)
I always dig around myself to see what I can find about the company online. And sure enough, in this case it doesn’t take much digging for me to find out that this testimonial is not one I would rely on for a $69 SEO service.
As it turns out, bodywrapsboutique.com was offline at the time of doing research for this post. And even though it may have been live at one time, I don’t trust the owner’s advice considering they aren’t in business anymore.
At the time of publishing, the domain was back up with a different owner, not Ursula Bell, the person who supposedly gave the client testimonial.
You want testimonials from real businesses that are ALSO succeeding. Just having a testimonial isn’t enough. Especially a testimonial to a website that doesn’t exist.
Would you take financial advice from your friend who’s been in debt constantly since they got their first credit card? Probably not.
And following suit, I won’t accept advice for my business from someone who is no longer operating their business.
SEO Client Testimonial Vetting Process
So, when you are researching SEO companies, first look for testimonials. Then validate the testimonials by researching the business and person who left the testimonial. Ask yourself the following:
- How does this client’s website look? (does it exist?)
- How does the content read? (Is it well written compelling content with custom graphics?)
- Does their website show up in Google for branded searches or any relevant keyword searches to their business?
- Is there contact information on their site that I can use to reach out to them and discuss their experience with X SEO company?
- If not, will X SEO company provide you with contact information to any client references?
Follow the above guidelines when vetting SEO companies and you should be able to find some winners who are helping their clients win too.
Over to You
Finding an affordable SEO company that can deliver the results you need and a positive ROI is no easy task.
Many companies are simply cheap and use outdated spammy tactics that will hurt not help your website’s search engine rankings.
Alternatively, many SEO agencies are very expensive and their services will only produce an ROI for extremely competitive online businesses. For example, fortune 500’s, large established eCommerce sites, and startups with millions of dollars in capital and high growth expectations.
For the majority of small and medium business owners, the following checklist will help you to find an affordable SEO company that can get the specific results your business needs and produces an ROI with your budget.