As a website owner you can optimize your site a lot. You can even do link building to ensure that you get quite a few votes to your site, and this can get you a long way.
However, Google has been constantly improving their algorithms for a while and are already using machine learning to identify the best pages. Pages that will help their visitors with the best search results.
Watch our video about this or read on for many more tips!
It can therefore be wise to accept that you cannot know everything in this area yourself. It has become a whole study in which you have to take so much into account. Search engine optimization is a specialty.
You may outsource other specialisms, or you may have hired a dedicated employee. Accounting, a sales team, your taxes. It is exactly the same with search engine optimization.
Especially when you consider that a high position in Google is the key to profitable growth for your company. It’s an investment, but once on top of that, you’ll get tons of free visitors every month. Visitors that you might otherwise always have to advertise and incur permanent costs for.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Why has SEO become so much more difficult?
- 2 The right links are not easy to get
- 3 What you should take into account
- 4 What does SEO cost?
- 4.1 SEO on a budget: how much will it cost if you want to do it yourself?
- 4.2 Cost of tools you need
- 4.3 Cost of outsourcing SEO
- 4.4 Which party is right for me?
- 4.5 How do they do their link building?
- 4.6 Choose a party that looks at the long term
- 4.7 National or local?
- 4.8 Package or hourly rate?
- 4.9 Cheap or sustainable
- 4.10 Look beyond just one keyword
- 4.11 Directories and link pages or blogs?
- 4.12 A sustainable approach
Why has SEO become so much more difficult?
Links as a factor in their algorithm led to Google starting to dominate the search engine market in the late 1990s. One of the founders of Google, Larry Page, invented PageRank. PageRank was a score that Google always used to measure the quality of a page, based in part on the number of links pointing to it.
This metric was then used as part of the overall ranking algorithm and became a strong signal as it was a very good way to determine the quality of a page.
It was so effective because it was based on the idea that a link can be seen as a vote of confidence about a page. After all, a page only gets links to it if it deserves it. The theory is that when someone links to another website, it’s because they feel that page provides useful information that may also be of interest to their readers. Otherwise they wouldn’t refer to it, just like you wouldn’t send a friend to a bad restaurant.
And on the other hand, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant if someone you know doesn’t have good taste recommends the restaurant. This is also the case with a link from a website that Google does not trust.
Which kind of links are good and which are not, that’s something that Google has perfected in years of optimizing into a true art. That is why it is important to obtain the right links and not just try something yourself or outsource it to a cheap, but not such a reliable party.
SEO agencies quickly discovered how to manipulate PageRank and search results. As a result, a link to a website no longer always became a recommendation, but more of an artificial thing.
Google has been actively looking for ways to filter out tampered websites and has come up with regular updates. Updates to take out sites that weren’t worth showing.
So many companies now come to me that have done it themselves or have outsourced it to a cheap party. With many links from directory sites and start pages (startpagina.nl, uwpagina.nl, vindhetviahier.nl). In recent years, these have yielded nothing extra, but in recent months we have also seen a decrease in search results for websites with many of these links in their profile.
As a result, they receive fewer visitors than before, lose turnover and are worried. And rightly so, those free visitors you once counted on are suddenly gone!
Excessive manipulation that adds no value to the user experience is now actively punished. Google’s regular Penguin updates are one such example. Knowing which link building techniques to avoid and stay well within Google’s guidelines is therefore an important topic of any SEO campaign.
The right links are not easy to get, just as recommendations from important people are not easy to get. That is why Google has the best results using links as a ranking factor. Because “real” people will only link to you if they see value in what you have to offer.
In addition, they have become extremely good at distinguishing real people (sites) with real recommendations from those of fake sites with different links.
We don’t know the full algorithm Google uses to determine search results, which is the company’s secret sauce. But we SEOs have become very good at analyzing what works and what doesn’t.
Gurus in the field of search engine optimization and always a great source of knowledge for me and my team is still MOZ. They have recently made a good overview of the factors that you should all take into account:
What you should take into account
Domain-Level Link Features
(e.g. quantity of links to the domain, trust/quality of links to the domain, domain-level PageRank, etc.)
Page-Level Link Features
(e.g. PageRank, TrustRank, quantity of link links, anchor text distribution, quality of link sources, etc.)
Page-Level KW & Content Features
(e.g. TF*IDF, topic-modeling scores, on content, content quantity/relevance, etc.)
Page-Level, Keyword-Agnostic Features
(e.g. content length, readability, uniquness, load speed, etc.)
Domain-Level Brand Features
(e.g. offline usage of brand/domain name, mentions of brand/domain in news/media/press, entity association, etc.)
User, Usage, & Traffic Query Data<
(e.g. traffic/usage signals from browsers/toolbars/clickstream, quantity/diversity/CTR of queries, etc.)
(e.g. quantity/quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, Google +1s, etc.)
Domain-Level Keyword Usage
(e.g. exact match keyword domains, partial-keyword matches, etc.)
Domain-Level, Keyword-Agnostic Features
(e.g. domain name length, extension, domain HTTP response time, etc.)
There are so many things that are important and that all interact with each other. What words should you use on the page. Which words do you also need to include in order to cover a topic completely. Which words should you use with links that point to you and how do you make sure that you don’t over-optimize (always focus on one word combination so that Google can immediately see that you are trying to manipulate things).
They see manipulation immediately, a good strategy always has the user in mind. If you can help the user with logical redirects, logical text, and using your brand name on other RELATED sites, then Google will see that you help the user best.
Helping the best means being on top.
It is generally accepted that all other factors being equal, the volume and quality of the links pointing to a page will make the difference between who comes out on top and who doesn’t.
It’s more than just getting your site in order and getting a few links. It is the interplay between the type of links, the content on your site. How the page fits into your site and how you help a customer.
It’s a specialty. Something you can get so much more out of if you have it performed by a specialist.
What does SEO cost?
The one word with a low difficulty level may require little effort (and cost), while with a low approach you won’t even make a dent in the findability for a difficult keyword.
If you do too much, you have incurred unnecessary costs. If you do too little, you might as well not invest anything in your campaign. The rates and prices of an SEO company should therefore be geared to this.
SEO on a budget: how much will it cost if you want to do it yourself?
If you get started with SEO yourself, you may incur a lot less costs than if you outsource it.
However, don’t forget that search engine optimization is a specialty and you can spend quite a few hours getting really good at it.
But if you invest the hours yourself, only a few other costs remain:
- cost of tools you need the more serious you get
- cost of partnering with other websites to obtain links
And of course you should also include your own hours, which you could otherwise have spent on another part of your business, such as maybe Facebook advertising or other social media activities.
But regardless of what some SEO agencies may say, you can do quite a lot yourself if you put in your own hours.
What you often hear is that search engine optimization can also be harmful, and when you do it wrong, this is certainly the case.
But the most important thing to remember is not to take shortcuts, not to take the route of spam and unnatural links and web texts.
Cost of tools you need
There are tons of tools you could use. My advice is to start with:
- SEMrush: a tool to check backlink profiles and see which keywords you are found for and how high in the search results to easily see where you can still optimize
- KWfinder: a tool to get keyword ideas for your web texts
- NinjaOutreach: a tool to manage and automate writing to websites for collaborations
Cost of entering into partnerships
Besides the hours you invest in it, or pay an agency to put in it for you, this is where the costs come in. If you want to enter into partnerships with other websites, there are often costs involved.
Some websites are willing to place a free listing in exchange for a good article. That’s how I ended up on IMU, a highly regarded marketing website. But many websites will want something in return.
As a webshop you often have the advantage that you can do a barter deal. This means that you give a product from your webshop in exchange for a review or an article about it.
The advantage of this is that the value of the item is a lot higher than your purchasing costs, and it is therefore often a relatively cheap way of working together.
Sometimes, when you write to websites with NinjaOutreach, you find these kinds of deals to start collaborations.
Other options you may encounter are:
- a link exchange, no extra costs in money, but you must post a message or link back to the other website. Make sure you don’t create unnatural links
- an amount of money in exchange for an article, written by you or by themselves. Pay attention to the costs of the link whether they write the article or you yourself, because if you write it yourself you will also put in time, and after all time is money (or you outsource the article to a copywriter which also makes money costs)
Finally, you could also classify the costs of SEO: the costs of getting better hosting.
A last, but not unimportant part is the right hosting for your webshop.
Now that you have mapped out what it costs to get started with your search engine optimization yourself, here are the costs of hiring an agency:
Cost of outsourcing SEO
Always ask a search engine optimization quote how difficult your keyword is and how much they expect to need. They should be able to explain this to you and why they have chosen this approach for this specific keyword.
Every keyword is different, and every campaign is different. Some agencies have therefore specialized and are much more effective in a particular niche.
Which party is right for me?
Most agencies will give you tips on how to optimize your page. What you can do to set up your website for maximum findability.
Do you receive a comprehensive report? Do you want to pick up these points yourself?
The cost of your SEO campaign also largely depends on which services you want to outsource.
- On page/ on site optimization or technical SEO
- Content marketing and text writing
- Link building
Do you want a company that takes care of everything for you? Then they pick up the above three points for you. They start by tweaking your site and the structure of your site to ensure that the other parts of the campaigns will deliver maximum results.
If you want to do it yourself, most agencies should also be able to provide you with a number of important tips in an extensive scan.
You can of course also start writing texts yourself. Here too, a few tips will get you a long way. Note that a real content marketing campaign also requires quite a bit of knowledge and experience. Experience ensures that marketing companies can often do this with more efficiency.
And writing well-executed SEO texts also takes quite some time. Do you want to invest your time yourself, or rather your money?
A good analysis is necessary to get started. For example, most customers choose to write the texts themselves. After all, they are also experts in their field and can write about it very enthusiastically and extensively.
Sometimes it works differently at other agencies. Sometimes they ask for an amount in advance, and sometimes they use the hours of the first month to do this, so what you actually pay for. Coordinate this well with the party.
Link building is the last step in the process. After you’ve put everything in order on your site, links have the most effect.
Link building ensures that other sites link to yours. These references are like “votes” for your site.
If other sites link to yours, then your site will be important. Google rewards this with a higher position in the search results.
Link building is a profession in its own right and is what is usually outsourced when you think about outsourcing your search engine optimization.
Even if you know exactly what you are doing, you cannot actually have such an extensive network as SEO companies do.
And it is also not profitable at all to make contacts and connect websites if you only do link building for a single site.
Also, the link building costs are often the highest in a well-executed SEO campaign and will make up the largest part of the quote. Be careful with saving on these services.
An offer of 79 per month for 10 links may sound tempting, but think to yourself? Can someone write no less than 10 links blog articles of at least 800 words for 79,-? I do not think so.
Often these are articles created on autopilot on low quality sites. Google is increasingly seeing through this and will not reward you with higher positions, but with a penalty.
Choose a party that looks at the long term
And good SEO practice is now that of the long term. Links to highly regarded sites and in the content of a well written, unique piece about your topic. A few links in these types of articles are very valuable to your campaign and will yield much more than 10 links in articles of maybe 200 words.
There are still some such providers, but fortunately most companies are very reliable, such as highly regarded parties such as linkbuildingmasters.nl, rijveermedia.nl, webton.nl and increasy.nl.
National or local?
With my own sites I have often focused more on national search terms or even worldwide and I always look for quick wins here in order to grow quickly.
Linkbuildingmasters.nl is a provider that focuses more on local searches, for example, so handy if you might offer a service in your region.
Packages start there again at a slightly higher price and to also target national keywords you will have to purchase the largest package.
Their price at the moment of writing is about 15 backlinks per month for 500,-.
Package or hourly rate?
You can also choose to hire an SEO specialist at an hourly rate. A reliable player in the market is drivevermedia.nl, which charges an hourly rate of €56.54.
This way you can determine yourself how much you need per month and perhaps scale up or down a bit more easily based on the results you see.
It is a different way of working than with a monthly package in which everything is taken off your hands.
Cheap or sustainable
There are also cheaper providers in the market. This is because many offices
steer you on analysis and quality. By doing a thorough analysis and seeing exactly what Google likes in your market, you can get more results per euro invested and your site is safe for every possible update.
Webton.nl, for example, also writes extensively about this on their website, they also find this very important and are certainly a good party to work with.
A package starts at 150 euros and for that you receive about 20 articles with links per year, or just over 1.5 per month.
The analysis is somewhat limited but becomes more extensive as you purchase a larger package.
Look beyond just one keyword
Furthermore, it is important to keep an eye on the total strategy and not just look at one keyword that you would like to come up with.
My strength for my sites lies in smart analysis and taking into account easy wins and not just the key terms. I think this is essential for the fastest growth of your overall website.
Don’t cut corners with “tricks” that Google just happens to not yet penalize on a large scale. If it’s not a natural link, then it won’t contribute to your profile in the end.
The additional advantage is that they are often sites with their own audience. Blogs with their own readers who write about products, services and news from your market.
As a result, you will not only receive more traffic from the search engines, but also from these blogs where you all come to the attention. It is thus a combination with strong content marketing.
For example, Increasy.nl is also a good provider and you will receive a lot of links for your money. For 250,-, the smallest package, you will receive no less than 20 links per month.
They do advertise on the site with directory links and partner page links and you only get 2 blog articles per month.
We have regularly seen results with partner page links (link portals such as startpagina.nl and the like) and directory links, but often the search results drop sharply after a while.
Google now also knows exactly that these are created links and do not represent any direct value about your site.
Very occasionally we still make directory links, but only if it is a website with information about companies specifically aimed at our products or services.
Then you can make at most 3 or 4 such links in its totality. We have seen more long-term results with this approach of minimal directory links and certainly no partner page links, but high-quality blogs, and we are therefore in favor of this approach.
A sustainable approach
Maybe not the cheapest approach, but sustainable and these are the results you want to achieve. Permanent search volume plus direct visitors from sites that link to you.
Always show them what the competition is and why they choose a certain approach. Who are your competitors, what have they done so far and what steps would they recommend taking to get above this.
An estimate of the degree of difficulty is an estimate of the cost and time it will take. Of course every word and every industry is different and I will take that into account, so that they can link a specific amount to your goals.
70% of your customers search with longer searches, sometimes even whole sentences.
With a creative and original strategy of quick wins and long-term goals, you can achieve significant revenue growth with any budget.
Joost Nusselder is The Content Decoder, a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new tools en tactics. He's been working on a portfolio of niche sites since 2010. Now since 2016 he creates in-depth blog articles together with his team to help loyal readers earn from their own succesful sites.