This article outlines the basics of internet marketing so you may better understand why costs may vary widely company to company and what you need to look out for to avoid Search Engine Optimization (SEO) scams.

A fair number of website owners do not know much about SEO outside knowing that it’s important to being found on the internet. A fair number of search engine marketers take advantage of people knowing very little about SEO.


“SEO” Is A Buzzword

So what is search engine optimization? Many people use it in so many different ways. You have on page optimization, which put simply is making sure your website easily read by search engines and targeted toward specific keywords.  There’s also the process of QUALITY link building, updating other networks, social engagements, etc.

Bottom Line: There are several factors that play into SEO and each search engine-marketing specialist is going to have a slightly different approach. As most search engine marketers (SEMs) know, organic rankings take time and have grown more complex over the years with Google’s regular updates. It takes time and SEMs are constantly reading the latest developments to keep up with the rapidly changing industry.

So when some big name companies say they’ll provide you with SEO services for just $90-$150 per month. You are throwing your money out of the window. The reason “organic” (non-paid search page positioning) SEO has historically held higher costs is because there is a lot of labor and continuing education involved.


What They’re Really Doing For Cheap

We have a client who came to us who was using a $90/month SEO service. She had 82 visitors from search engines on keywords to her website over the course of a year. Let’s call the company she was using has a lot of mouths to feed, they’re not paying attention to her SEO. When I inquired as to what was doing for $90/month SEO, one of the call center representatives paused and said, “we check to make sure your page is optimized for keywords so Google can find you”.

“What keywords did you optimize the page for?”

“Well, I’m not sure. She has to call us and tell us what keywords she wants and talk to us more about the program.”

In this case you don’t even get with you pay for. Let’s assume that none of the 82 visitors were the owner of the domain. She paid $1,080 to for the year. That’s $12.80/visitor!!


There’s Other Cheap Scenarios

The SEMs are outsourced from other parts of the world. Those managing and creating your online presence to bring traffic to your site aren’t even in your country and may speak your language as a second language.

They may utilize bots and engage in spammy link building practices that will hurt your website in the long run.


There’s Ridiculously Expensive SEO

Organic rankings take time, but some companies charge a fortune to build organic rankings for their clients. For business owners who have the marketing budget to just throw money at the wall and see what sticks, these companies are great. For most small and medium-sized companies: it’s not realistic to dump $4,000+ in organic rankings: especially when they can be allocating some of those funds to other forms of digital advertising.


How Do I Know If Their Services Are A Scam?

First: If they guarantee first placement: RUN!!!!!

Google may display different results to different users. If a user is logged in, Google is going to display results based on the user’s search preferences. Someone googling “auto mechanic” in Cleveland, Ohio is not going to see the same results (or order) as someone googling from Miami, Florida because Google’s results are location driven.

If they’re getting first page results: what are the keywords or key phrases? Likely, not ones people use too often.

“See, you’re the first one listed under ‘I wanted to buy a new speedo because my old one didn’t fit!’”

In essence, number two: what keywords and key phrases is the company targeting?

“I wanted to buy a new speedo because my old one didn’t fit,” is not likely to be searched. The average user is going to simply type in “Speedo”.

In this scenario, depending on the size of your business and the commercialized nature of the keyword, you may be better off with pay per click (PPC) strategy as the click through rate (CTR) is typically higher with paid positioning on commercialized keywords.

Which brings us to the next question, what SPECIFICALLY am I getting for “x”? If the SEM can’t break it down line-for-line: adios! We’re not saying they write every little thing they do, because each person is a little different: but what kind of time are the SEMs putting for $4,000 worth of SEO? Does that include some PPC? What are you getting for $90?

Basically, a good internet marketing company is going to be up front and honest with you about the process and what they’re going to do with your funds, track the results of their efforts, and help you understand the return your getting on your marketing investment.