A recent enquiry we received via our website went something like this, "If you get me leads I'll be able to pay you to get me leads". In other words, they had a website that didn't do any effective lead generation, it didn't generate enquiries.
No rankings in Google™, no traffic, no enquiries, no leads. This, in turn, meant they had no money to invest in search engine optimisation (SEO) and Inbound Marketing, activity that brings customers to you instead of you going to them. If this sounds familiar, then you're almost certainly not ready to hire an agency to help you.
Marketing Has Never Been Cheap, SEO & Inbound Is No Different
SEO and inbound marketing, done right, is not cheap and it doesn't deliver quick results. It's a long game and you have to be patient. In fact, as we've said before, we reckon until you start you're always at least six to nine months away from any sort of sustainable lead generation from your website.
If you need a quick fix you'd be better off looking at Google's Adwords platform or perhaps creating a direct marketing campaign.
If, however, you're up for the challenge and have a sensible budget, investing in SEO & Inbound Marketing will create a predictable and scalable lead generation machine. Fact.
Building Your Website Was The Easy Bit
Building your website was the easy bit. It no doubt didn't feel easy, especially if you didn't embrace growth driven web design, but trust me, compared to securing a steady flow of traffic and leads from the search engines it was a walk in the park. The part most people seem to struggle with is understanding that Google's search engine software is effectively a popularity competition. The most popular and relevant search results appear at the top and the least at the bottom.
Getting your head around this is important and in our experience many businesses can't or won't do that. Instead, they waste their time, convinced there's an easier way, and spend their money with snake oil companies only too willing to tell them they have the secret sauce for search engine success.
Sure there are companies who use techniques Google frowns on to secure good rankings but nine times out of ten short term success is followed by long term misery. As with life in general, cheaters usually get found out.
Do yourself a favour, stop searching for a silver bullet; there isn't one.
But This Company Guaranteed Me Page 1 Results!
There's a great article on Forbes about SEO guarantees, it's well worth a read. In summary, it advises that SEO firms are not able to offer guaranteed results, and it goes on to assert that those who do should not be trusted. We agree with that conclusion.
Of course, that doesn't mean respectable firms can't guarantee to work hard for your business, follow best practice and use their creativity and ingenuity to give you the best possible chance of success, but they definitely can't guarantee to send your site to the top of the rankings for search phrases that send you a ton of great traffic.
This again is why SEO and Inbound Marketing is not a good fit for businesses with little or no marketing budget. Hard work, knowledge and creativity are valuable assets that are worth paying for. However, in our experience, the expectation of many businesses, especially startups, is the opposite. Their contact with us often starts something like this "We're a startup business so we don't have much money but we need our website to be number 1 in Google." The two things, no money and needing top rankings, simply don't go together.
Here's The Deal With Page 1 Google Rankings
Ranking at the top of Google for a search phrase lots of people use pretty much guarantees traffic. For example, one of our pages gets over 400 visitors every single day. It's hugely powerful and can be transformative for a business. This usually means lots of businesses are doing their level best to be in that number 1 spot.
The only exceptions are low competition rankings. Sometimes geo-specific search terms (cake maker in Inverurie for example) can be easy to rank for, especially if you're the only company who tick that box and nobody else is trying to rank for it, but for generic high search volume phrases there's no such luck. For your information search volume refers to the number of searches per month a search might expect to get. For example, the search phrase SEO gets around 30k searches per month in Google UK.
DIY Might Be Your Only Alternative
There's a ton of great information out there about SEO and getting traffic from Google. From Moz's great learn SEO resource to tools like SEMRush. There's also a lot of misinformation, but as a rule, if what you're reading tells you how hard this stuff is (as in hard work) it's probably trustworthy. If you haven't got much budget, and for the record anything under £1k/m we would class as not much budget, then seriously consider the DIY route. Get yourself some decent traffic and leads, generate a bit of cash, then look at hiring the professionals to make it take off.
Companies charging a few hundred pounds or dollars, or less, per month, may do more harm than good, just like people in any line of business who are really cheap. You know the score - buy cheap buy twice. Decent agencies charge from £60 to £120 per hour and decent freelancers £30 to £50/hr. Do the maths yourself... even £1000 per month is only buying you 20 hours per month at £50 per hour.
So, Are You Ready To Hire An SEO or Inbound Marketing Agency?
If you answer "that's me!" to any of these questions you're almost certainly not in a position to hire an agency.
- We have little or no budget (less than £1k per month) to invest in moving our site up the search rankings.
- We need traffic now in order to generate revenue to pay someone to move our site up the search rankings.
- We are a start-up business and we've blown what budget we had building our website leaving us with nothing for marketing.
We know how brutal this sounds but all of the above is based on what we see day in and day out. We didn't make the rules and we recognise how unfair they seem but we believe in being real and telling it like it is.
If on the other hand you answer "that's me!" to any of these questions then you almost certainly would benefit by working with a credible agency.
- We knew we were entering a tough market and we budgeted to build a strong web presence that brings us traffic and leads.
- We're busy just now and revenues are good but we know we don't get enough business from our website. However, we know it's becoming more important for lead generation and we want to address that.
- We've set aside a budget to redevelop our website with a focus on creating a site that brings in business.