Search engine optimization (or SEO) is a confusing buzzword that many businesses hear when it comes to marketing their company online. From countless so-called marketing professionals spamming your inbox daily with promises of ranking your company’s website on the first page of Google to oversaturated social media posts that claim to have the secret SEO formula. If you are looking for help with search engine optimization and are looking to hire a consultant or company to help you with this, then here is what to know about SEO before you get started.

SEO Is A Marathon Not A Race

Understanding the process of SEO including the time and resources needed for a successful campaign is the MOST important thing you need to understand initially. If you’re looking to do SEO for a couple months expecting to instantly get new leads and claim the top spot on Google, then this isn’t the best marketing decision for your company. Don’t spend marketing dollars on three months of SEO and then stop to try something else. Just spend that money on local ads.

SEO should stand for “Strengthen Everywhere Online.” First you have to enhance your website according to standards that the search engines have set as best practice. Then you have to create (and constantly improve) directory (and business) listings of your company information wherever it exists on the Internet. At the same time you have to manage your company’s reputation, including engaging with online reviewers. If that wasn’t enough, you have to engage with your customers through a number of social media channels to build or increase your audience. That’s a full-time job for many people.

Think of SEO as an all-encompassing word like “marketing” and less as a specific “marketing task” that can be crossed off your to-do list. The process is ever evolving while requiring testing, adjustments and maintenance on a monthly basis.

What To Know About SEO vs. SEM

Search engine marketing (or SEM) is different from SEO. SEM has to do with paid online advertising like paid per click (or PPC) advertising. Both SEO and SEM can work together in tandem as a strong Internet marketing strategy but it’s important to understand that they are two separate marketing tools.

Some examples of SEM would be Google AdWords and Facebook advertising as well as many other platforms. You can think of SEM as paying for online ads whereas SEO is paying a consultant (or company) to be your online branding architect that constructs how your company appears online within the search engines.

Common SEO Questions For Beginners

Is SEO Right For Me?

While every company website could benefit from SEO, you have to ask yourself, is search engine optimization where we want to focus our time and marketing dollars? If your company gets all (if not a large majority) of your leads by word of mouth, then SEO may not be the right fit for you. You may just need a strong social media campaign so you can bring some of that offline word of mouth to the online world.

If you are a new company and you need people to find your website immediately then you may need to look into SEM before exploring the world of SEO. If you need to be on page one of the search engines instantly, then paying for online advertising could make more sense for your situation.

Also if your website is solely an information or portfolio site that you use to refer people to for more info about your company, then SEO may not be important to your business.

Can I Do SEO Myself?

Absolutely! Maybe learning what to know about SEO has peaked your interest and you are pondering taking this task on yourself. You will probably have to invest a ton of time in learning all the aspects of search engine optimization as well as put the time in every month to maintain your website. If you are a DIY type of person, then testing the water yourself first at the very least will help you understand how complicated it can be to execute a successful SEO campaign. It is also possible that you are a jack-of-all-trades and will find success-implementing SEO on your own. At the very least you should install Google Analytics (a free Google software that tracks visitors to your site) to collect data from visitors using your website. Tread lightly though, as there have been many times a company has come to us for our SEO services after messing up their website or creating accounts that they don’t remember how to access later down the road.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

As in many industries, pricing can vary considerably. There are consultants and companies around the world competing for your business and new startups announcing there open for business everyday (wait I think another company just started offering SEO…right…now ☺). Seriously though, you will find companies that will guarantee to rank you company’s site on the first page of Google for $150 a month.

First of all a guarantee in the SEO world is a red flag. A true SEO specialist will never guarantee any rankings on search engines, as those rankings are fluid and can vary for many reasons (for example your location). While you could spend around $150/month for possibly one aspect of SEO, your more likely looking at between $500 and $1,500 a month (to handle all aspects of SEO) for small to medium size businesses. A respectable hourly rate will range between $50 and $150 per hour. Remember the old adage that you get what you pay for and with SEO the same rules apply.

Take Some Time To Figure Out If SEO is Right For You

Now that you have learned what to know about SEO, take some time to think about your business and evaluate what kind of marketing your currently doing. Then decide if there are any holes in your current strategy or areas that you could envision improving. Also, make sure you are reviewing your website analytics, to gauge how your website is performing. Then you can decide if search engine optimization is something that you are ready to pursue. If you have any questions regarding developing an SEO strategy for your business, call us at (202) 683-6881 or send us a message.

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