Should I Pay for Search Engine Optimization? And How Much?
Written by Amy Hinman
If you browse our list of digital marketing services here at LaFleur, you might notice that we don’t list search engine optimization (SEO) as one of them. Why don’t we offer SEO services when so many digital marketing agencies do?
Well, the answer is that we do offer SEO services — they’re just wrapped throughout everything we do. And in truth, offering SEO as a standalone service shows limited knowledge of what SEO really means — or, even worse, a desire to willfully deceive potential clients who don’t have a deep understanding of SEO.
To learn more about SEO and why it doesn’t make sense to treat SEO as a siloed, standalone service, keep reading.
What Is SEO and Why Does It Matter?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website more “findable” by Google’s algorithms. When Google finds your site, it shows up in a search engine results pages, meaning that more people get connected to your goods and services. While the nature of SEO practices has changed significantly over the past decade, the cornerstones of SEO remain content and keywords.
In the early, heady days of SEO, keywords were the only way Google understood whether a website was related to a search term. If your website used the phrase “tacos in Austin, Texas” in the title tag, headers, sub-headers, and body copy, Google understood that your website was about tacos in Austin, Texas, and would list your site as a result for those who searched that term. The more you used your desired keywords, the more likely your site was to show up early in Google results.
However, Google and its search algorithms have gotten smarter over time. Other factors now influence how web pages rank in search, and SEO as a keyword-based approach is only one of them.
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Should Your Company Invest in SEO?
If you’ve never invested time, energy, or money in optimizing your website for search, you may be wondering if it’s time to do so now. You may have also been approached by marketing companies offering to “perform SEO” for you apart from any other services. When marketing companies frame SEO this way, it shows that either they don’t understand SEO or assume you don’t, and usually, the results will underwhelm you.
That said, there are some cases where certain standalone, one-off optimization services can actually help your site perform better in search, even if you don’t invest in other essential digital marketing strategies like content marketing. In general, one-time optimization makes the most sense when you have an older site with an existing library of content that simply needs updates to improve the user experience and compatibility with Google’s search algorithms.
Examples of standalone SEO services that can provide value for these types of sites are:
- Making back-end improvements to your site that improve site performance, page loading times, and site security
- Cleaning up your content to get rid of old, outdated blog articles and webpages that no longer receive meaningful traffic or provide relevant information
- Reorganizing your site’s URL structure to be cleaner and more logical
- Fixing or removing broken links
- Adding on-page SEO elements like meta descriptions, alt tags, and headers (H1, H2, etc.) to pages that don’t have them
- Adding images to pages and blog articles
If you wanted to purchase these types of service from LaFleur, we do offer them. They fall under our website builds, upgrades, and hosting service area.
Still, even though these updates can help improve your site’s performance in search engine results, it’s unlikely they’ll vault you to page one if your site wasn’t performing well already.
When You Pay for SEO Services, What Do You Really Get?
When it comes down to it, SEO in and of itself isn’t something you can buy. So, when marketing companies offer it as a service, what are you really getting? Often, the answer is:
- Stuffing headers, body copy, and meta descriptions with keywords (an outdated practice that won’t work and can even get your site penalized by Google)
- Obtaining backlinks to your site by requesting or purchasing them from other websites (another practice that Google frowns on)
- Updated navigation (which may actually help a little, but probably not as much as you’re hoping based on what you’ve paid)
Overall, what do these services get you? At best, they may marginally improve your site rankings. At worst, your site becomes less user-friendly and inviting because it’s awkwardly stuffed with keywords, your Google ranking goes down as the functionality and usability are compromised, and you lose valuable leads. When you need your business to succeed online, these are less than favorable results.
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What Should I Do to Boost Page Rankings?
According to Google itself, the single best way to improve your site’s performance in Google rankings is to publish original, high-quality content that your target audience finds helpful. In other words, the foundation of “SEO” is really content marketing.
A strong content marketing strategy should involve:
- Filling your site with high-quality, original content (webpages, blog articles, infographics, videos, podcasts) that addresses topics your potential customers or clients want to know about
- Regularly publishing new content
- Researching keywords and including relevant keywords, but only when it’s natural to do so and doesn’t compromise the user’s experience
- Updating old content to include more “evergreen” (perpetually relevant) information
- Culling old, outdated, and ineffective content that isn’t worth updating
When you need to boost page rankings, your money is best spent investing in a holistic digital marketing strategy that’s designed to deliver sustainable results for the long term. While there are certainly cases where a one-time touch-up can improve your website’s performance in search, you should be wary of agencies that promise these fixes will continue to deliver results over time (unless they’re also attached to a long-term content strategy).
When You Need Reliable Results, Content Marketing Is Your Best Long-Term Investment
To get a website that performs well in search and delivers leads month after month, you need to play the long game. As much as we’d like to be able to deliver instant and massive results for our clients, we can’t, so we don’t promise that. There’s no way to make your site skyrocket to the first page of Google search results with a series of one-time fixes. Attaining lasting improvements in search engine performance and web traffic takes investment, commitment, and some patience.
If you don’t have a team of writers, editors, designers, web developers, and data analysts who can execute a data-driven content marketing strategy, don’t fret. That’s why LaFleur exists. We love working with clients to help them reach their marketing goals and make the best possible decisions. And we never offer quick fixes that won’t improve your business’ health in the long term.
LaFleur: Your Forward-Thinking Digital Marketing Partner
Here at LaFleur, we employ trained, certified SEO specialists who have the knowledge, skills, and experience to optimize your company’s website for search. And we approach all our services, from creating content to making website updates, with a holistic mindset that’s designed to make sure your website and digital marketing properties continue to attract and convert customers in the long term.