I was recently contacted by another SEO practitioner who was chagrined by all the folks who question the cost of search engine optimization vs. building a website. Her comment: "Some clients say "If it costs $6,000 to build a website, why do I have to pay more than that for SEO?"
Perhaps this example will help: Several years ago, we took our family to Universal Studios in Orlando. Before going there, a relative told me that when we purchase our tickets, we should look into the "Express Pass," which would enable us to go to the head of the line at any attraction at the park. The pass wasn't cheap - it was $20 then and now it's about $40 more than the cost of the entry ticket.
But, we had minimal time to spend there and wanted to get in as many attractions as we could. So we bit the bullet, bought the pass and bypassed the hundreds of people standing in line for the same attractions we were walking into. We had a terrific experience at the park and the extra cost was worth it.
Your website is your company's entry ticket to the Internet. For the price of a standard website, your company gets the privilege of hanging out its cyber-shingle. The problem is that all the people who could purchase from you don't necessarily know you're out there. Your current customers will find you because they know your name and can type that in, but for new customer acquisition, things get a little more tricky. People typing in your type of products or services are more likely to find competitor sites who have already gone to the extra length of positioning their sites through SEO.
Without SEO, your site stands in a very long, long line to get attention from potential prospects who use search engines to locate products and services. For instance, type the term "plastic bags" into Google. If you're a manufacturer of plastic bags, your company would be interested in prospects who are searching on this term. There are 28.1 million results for that term, and only the top 30 websites really will get any chance at all of being viewed (since 90% of people won't go past the third page on a search). Without SEO, your site could be number 27,194,545 out of 28.1 million. How productive do you think your site will be in generating new leads and business?
Competing with 28 million page results for the coveted first page on Google takes time and effort to accomplish. There are no magic tricks, automated tools or "Express Passes" that make it simple. On top of that, Google does its best to make it as complicated as they can because if it were easy to optimize for the most competitive terms, no one would purchase their advertising. SEO requires human effort to work with your site content, coding and inbound links, and the amount of effort required is in direct proportion to the competitiveness of the keyword you're targeting.
At the same time, the potential payout also is in direct proportion to the popularity of the term. Google says there are 246,000 searches each month for the term "plastic bags." Research shows that 70% of the click-thrus to websites will occur on the first page of search results. So, 172,200 click-thrus will occur on the first page of results, divided among the top 10 sites.
Research indicates that for competitive terms, websites can generate up to 10% click-thru rates on the first page of Google. We also know that sites performing at the top of the first page of results generate many more click-thrus than those at the bottom of the page. For purposes of this example, let's say our fictional plastic bag manufacturer attains the No. 10 spot on the first page of results and is generating 2% click-thru on the term "plastic bags".
That would be 3,444 new prospects per month. If you were able to close 0.5% of them as new business, with an average order of $5,000, that would be $86,000 in new business per month or $1.03 million for the year.
How much would you be willing to spend to generate $1 million in new business for the year?
Back to the original question: Why does it cost so much more to do SEO than to build a website? After all, in the original Universal Studios example, we would pay $40 for an Express Pass on top of a $112 ticket, not more than the original ticket price to get the pass.
Here's where SEO diverges from the Universal Studios example: Websites are easy to build. For those wanting a very basic site, there are automated tools that can be used to create a site. Additionally, most web design firms rely on the client to provide the content, with little input from them on what will work in terms of site positioning and customer conversion. They're not invested in your site's ability to sell to customers. They're just promising to put a website together that can be accessed. They're not promising that anyone will access it with the effort they're putting in.
Reputable SEO firms are invested in your website's success in generating new leads and sales through better search engine positioning. But, SEO skill is harder to find. The ideal practitioner is a skilled technical writer with a public relations mind. Colleges churn out website designers, but good SEO practitioners develop over years of experience.
Customer conversion means that your website must be as compelling to human prospects as your SEO firm makes it to search engines. That requires technical skill and salesmanship when it comes to creating or revising the content on your website.
Combine that with the obstacles that the search engines intentionally build in to make it difficult to perform and the business value of having a No. 1 site, and you realize that SEO is pretty inexpensive after all.
A SEO-News Exclusive Article By Angela Charles (c) 2010
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