What is SEO and how much does it cost? | SEO COURSE 2020 【Lesson #2】
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What is SEO and how much does it cost? | SEO COURSE 2020 【Lesson #2】


Just flat out, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
consists of a set of practices aimed to optimize one’s website in order to improve its position
within search results, and thus getting a greater number of visitors. These techniques make it easier to appear
on Google search pages (SERP) in increasingly higher positions and to become more visible
to navigators. I don’t want to seem trivial, but I know from
experience that certain concepts need to be reiterated more than once, especially to beginners. Search engines offer spaces reserved for paid
advertisements where, with pay per click (PPC) campaigns, advertisers spend money to bring
every single visitor on their company webpages. On the contrary, the organic search space
presents a list of relevant results, based on a specific keyword entered by the user,
and sorted according to an algorithm, which is constantly updated, in order to offer the
best solutions for those who are doing online research, responding to their needs. Therefore, in this summary preview, you should
have already understood that there are two ways of finding a website on Google: the first
way is the “paid” option, through PPC campaigns and the second option is “free”, achievable
through a series of practices which, together, stand for the so-called SEO. At this point, you’re probably wondering:
which one is the most convenient? As I was working on my first e-commerce back
in 2007, I found myself saying “I want to do SEO because advertising costs too much”.
And it kind of made sense. In some cases, this may be true and then,
it is really worth studying the opportunity of doing SEO on a website, but not always! When you find yourself in the situation of
having to choose between PPC and SEO, you will surely bump into with the fairly intuitive
concept of return on investment (ROI) and then you will ask yourself “which way will
I earn the most money considering the investment required?” For example, if I spend € 1000 on advertising
in a PPC campaign in order to get 1000 users and I earn € 1200, it means I have a margin
of € 200. On the other hand, if I could position myself on the same searches with
an SEO campaign, and get 1000 users with a revenue of € 1200, I would have a margin
of € 1200. Right? Well, no… Although at first glance the SEO looks like
the simplest and most profitable way to go, we must consider that “doing the optimization”
is not quite enough to get everything perfect forever, because the algorithms change over
the years, the competitors are born every day and besides, there are many other variables
that come into play. Therefore, we need continuous monitoring and also some actions. At this point, there are two options: “I learn
about SEO and take care of it myself, on my own time” or “I pay someone who already knows
how to do it”. Nothing new so far. So what changed nowadays? ● Mobile-first Indexing: since March 2018,
Google has been using the mobile version of webpages for the indexing and ranking process.
You should have received a notification about this from your Google Search Console account
⁽¹⁾. Big G has focused a lot on this aspect. This means that you will have to pay
close attention to the mobile version of your website in order to verify and confirm that
the user experience of those who use smartphones or tablets is optimal.
●Website Speed: nowadays, the user experience is one of the most important ranking factors
for Google and certainly the opening speed of the webpages is an element that should
not be underestimated. Without having to implement Google AMP technology ⁽²⁾ (mobile page
accelerator), particularly adopted by news websites, you can simply use a lightweight,
and optimized, responsive template. ● GDPR: with the European legislation in
force since May 25th, 2018 it is now mandatory to insert a detailed privacy statement, in
addition to the various banners asking for consent to the acquisition of personal data.
● Vocal Search: we are now seeing an exponential growth of vocal searches on Google. This involves
an increased use of long tail keywords, for example “where to go eat in Milan”, which
require a different content optimization compared to the past.
● Featured Snippets: often, within the search results already, there are some hints like
tables or short sentences, with a link to the source website. These previews offer great
visibility to the website that contains them and they will be increasingly used.
2.2 Why is SEO still convenient? You should know that the average CPC (cost
per click, also known as pay per click or PPC) on Google Ads and Facebook Ads has increased
exponentially in the last 5 years, as there are more and more advertisers who compete
in the auctions for gaining visibility. In my humble opinion, in the coming years,
the competition in auctions will be increasingly fierce, thus not all businesses will be able
to support PPC campaigns. Instead, they will have to look for other options and, in this
case, SEO will be one of the main alternatives. Depending on your activity, here are some
reasons for which you might consider using SEO: ● E-commerce: if you have an online store
of any kind, you probably already know that in a pay per click campaign on Google Ads
you will pay for every single visitor you receive, even if, eventually, this visitor
does not buy your product. This means that you will have to do a great job with your
conversion rate optimization (CRO) in order to still have a good profit margin, considering
advertising costs and taxes. Therefore, SEO could be a good way for you to go, and you
may be able to maintain a good margin, even if you are not a guru in conversion optimization.
● Lead generation: for example, if you are a consultant, such as a tax consultant, you
may be interested in not spending € 0.75 for each visitor coming from a PPC campaign.
In this case, creating a blog with a series of webpages indexed on specific keywords could
provide you with enough traffic in order to guarantee an interesting number of quote requests,
which could increase, little by little, day by day.
● Branding: when someone searches for your company name on a search engine, it is essential
to appear before anyone else, especially because those who have been looking for you are probably
interested in buying your products and, evidently, they have already heard of your brand.
● Affiliate marketing: Personally, without SEO, I would have never succeeded in procuring
sales for the various e-commerce companies I’ve partnered with along the years. Practically,
the high costs of PPC campaigns, have been zeroed out with an SEO campaign.
I could go on and on, with other cases and examples in which SEO plays a key role, but
I’m sure that the most illustrative way to explain the convenience of doing SEO is precisely
the following slice of real life. In 2017, I had a colleague who was dedicated
to software development, in the Northern Italy. We are talking about a freelancer with a sole
proprietorship. He basically promoted his work with a landing
webpage containing a contact form to request a quote, which was normally followed by a
phone call to make the sale. Furthermore, it received traffic from a Google Ads pay
per click campaign and spent around € 350 a month. It always brings a smile to my face when I
remember how he used to say: “…and again, I have to take out $350 from my pockets, to
pay Google”. Let’s talk a little bit about numbers: my
colleague has spent over $4,000 annually from the beginning of the campaign so, most likely
a total of $12,000 in these three years of activity. For a structured company this amount
is probably peanuts, but for an individual company it certainly does not fall into the
category of neglectable costs. What we can learn from this experience is
that paid Google Ads have been a great advantage for my colleague in allowing him to find out
which keywords are the best converters and therefore procure sales. On the other hand, one year after starting
this campaign, it would have probably been appropriate to evaluate the possibility to
complement or even replace the paid campaign with a good SEO ranking of its landing webpage,
precisely for the best keywords identified with the paid campaign. This practice is considered an intervention
that can provide considerable cost savings for an individual company an increase of the
number of conversions and, consequently, sales. In this particular case, doing SEO on the
landing webpage would provide excellent search results based on those keywords thus offering
better conversion rates, generating visits, conversions and sales in automatic, without
having to actually pay the bill to Google for advertising campaigns. I would like to point out to you that “without
having to pay Google the bill for advertising campaigns” is not synonymous with “free of
charge”. The optimization of a website is a constant work, which will probably be less
expensive than a pay per click campaign (although this is not true for all markets), but it
still requires resources, like your time, or the money to pay someone else to do it
for you. How much does it cost and how much time does
it take? Anyone who wants to do SEO can choose between
these two different paths: They can either learn on their own by investing their time
or they can choose to pay someone else to do it for them. In terms of time the factors vary, depending
on the market niche, the number of pages and few other variables, but ultimately we can
say that, generally, or at least from my experience, on the European market some minimum results
can be seen after three months from the first intervention, and reaching the final goal
occurs after 6-12 months. Listed below is an example of my new project
on “religion”, which, with a few hours of initial optimization and zero backlinks, has
started showing improvement in terms of traffic, after the fourth month. In general, the intervention requires an important
initial optimization work and a periodic monitoring afterwards, on a weekly basis at least. The
exact number of hours required depends on the complexity of the SEO project. According to Ahrefs.com ⁽³⁾ , if we speak
of prices instead, we can choose between the following options: ● Monthly fee: regardless of the actions
performed, or the number of hours dedicated to the work, a professional requires a monthly
fee with a variable cost between $ 500 and $ 1000, depending on the candidate. I would
like to emphasize that an SEO agency requires higher quotas than the sole consultant.
● Hourly payment: some professionals or SEO agencies require a specific compensation
for every hour worked, which is usually around 100$/h. By outsourcing in Latin America or
India, it might be possible to reduce the costs down to 60$/h.
The figures described above refer to the SEO market in the United States, which is considerably
more competitive than the European one. Another significant impact on prices may come from
the professional’s experience, the type of SEO campaign, the competitiveness of the niche
market, the number of keywords and many other variables.

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