Should your small business pay for SEO services?

Or, 4 Ways to Improve Your Google Searchability

To SEO or not to SEO, that is the question. Should your small business pay an SEO company to ‘improve your Google rankings’? The short answer: probably not. But hear me out before you make any decisions.

A lot of small businesses come to us with the question – “Company such-and-such has promised they can get our website to the first page of Google. Should we do it?” The answer is a little more complicated than yes or no, so I’d like to look at firstly what this actually means, and then give you some advice that might help in your decision making.

Firstly, we need to look at what SEO actually is.

What is SEO?

In essence, SEO is optimising your website so that Google will bring up your site as the first (or second or third or fifth) result when someone searches for a certain phrase. These are called organic rankings, and the idea of SEO is that you can adjust your website to make it more likely that this organic ranking will be good. You can see the appeal – my website can be at the top of Google!

It sounds great, and I can hear you thinking “so what is the problem? I should definitely be doing SEO!” And yes, to some degree you should, but when an SEO company comes to you and makes you these big fancy promises, you need to look at what is actually achievable, and more importantly, what it’s going to cost.

The real problem with SEO: What does it cost?

For a small business, especially when digital marketing isn’t necessarily your area of expertise, SEO can look like the golden goose. SEO is a great idea and in theory it works well. But SEO is not cheap. Those companies that offer you a first page ranking – they aren’t doing it for free, and the chances are, they aren’t doing it cheaply either.

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against SEO companies – I think they offer an important service, and if you can afford it then you should go ahead!

But for small businesses with tight budgets, we need to look at the money you will be spending against the possible return.

Small business budgets: Is SEO worth the money?

Let’s face it – when you have a baby marketing budget, you want to approach marketing practically and get the most return for your money. So while SEO companies and their promises may look like a good investment, you have to look at the potential return and ask yourself whether or not it is worth the spend for you.

So what is the potential return? A first page ranking? Unless you are offering a completely unique service in a tiny niche industry, the chances are it’s already a saturated market. There is no guarantee that even the best SEO company can organically get you to the first page.

In my very humble opinion, if you are questioning whether you have the money for it or not, you probably don’t. Not to say that you can’t afford it, but your marketing budget would probably be better spent elsewhere because there are, in fact, a lot of ways you can make your small budget work AND get the most out of basic SEO.

So what should you do instead?

‘Getting onto Google’ and getting the most out of your digital budget

Here is my best advice to you on getting the most out of your digital marketing budget by making sure your SEO is done from the beginning and spending your money more effectively.

1. Invest in the SEO services when you are first building your website

Any web development company worth its salt should offer basic SEO services as part of the web development process. Find out how much they do offer and what they can offer additionally – things like copy optimisation, meta descriptions and keyword focus are not likely to be part of the basic service, but can probably be added for a small additional fee.

Don’t skimp on these services – it’s going to be a lot cheaper to get your copy optimised while your site is being built than to come back later with an SEO company and overhaul everything. But be aware that SEO may change your ideas for your website – optimisation will inevitably end up changing the copy and the structure of the site in some way – so if you want to do it, you need to be willing to make small sacrifices. But they probably really will be small.

2. Build a google business page

This is also an additional service you can discuss with your web developer, or you can set it up yourself. Creating a business page on Google My Business is a quick way to ensure Google knows about you. You can find it here: Google Business

3. Have a blog – and use it!

I use the term ‘blog’ loosely here, but the idea is to frequently add informative and interesting information to your website. New and original content on your site will go a long way towards your Google efforts – but make sure to pick topics that will be interesting and useful for your clients. Don’t just create content for the sake of it.

4. Adwords!

Google is pretty smart. They know that the markets are saturated and it’s often really, REALLY hard to get to the front page organically. So they made a way for you to do it ‘inorganically’ – Adwords! (If you don’t know anything about Adwords, you can read up on them here:

Instead of investing your budget in expensive SEO exercises that only might get you to the front page, look at investing the budget into a good Adwords campaign. You can do this yourself if you have the time and inclination, or you can work with a good Adwords company who will help you come up with a campaign and decide on your budget.

Too long, didn’t read?

If you’re a small business and have been offered the Golden SEO Goose – a first page ranking on Google – you might be better off saving your money and investing in a good Adwords campaign. Don’t forget a blog and Google business page too!