If you pay peanuts – you get monkeys

by Peter Young on December 21, 2009 · 5 comments

Before I start with this post, I will caveat the below with the fact I used to be one of the organisations offering SEO for £200 a month, and this post represents the fact it is not possible to outsource SEO in a competitive sector without paying a reasonable amount of money. I am under no illusions, there are cowboys out there – just like there are in any other sector – even advertising and PR suffer from these idiots.

However I do get tired with stories like one I read in the Crains Manchester Business, something I until recently thought was a half-decent publication. It read as follows:

Website owners are being charged up to 30 times too much for work to improve their Google rankings, according to one Manchester-based search engine optimisation provider.

Colin Bell, operations director of Modern World Media, said he knew of one case in which an advertising agency quoted £25,000 to carry out a three-month test contract for a Manchester-based healthcare provider. The client shopped around and got the work done for £850.

Bell said such cases of “scandalous overcharging” were creating a mistrust of the industry, which he believes should have a higher degree of self-regulation.

“Many clients do not know how much they should be paying and they are being taken advantage of in some cases,” said Bell, who set up the Albion Wharf-based company with brothers Simon and Piers Vaughan in October.

Now dont get me wrong, £25000 is a lot of money. However lets evaluate the facts. THe sector happens to be healthcare, lets assume its health insurance which includes a number of high profile organisations who have been undertaking SEO for a number of years. These include health insurance specialist Bupa, finance aggregator Moneysupermarket and Insurance companies Prudential and AXA PPP, four organisations you are not going to shift for £850.

Further to that, lets do the commercials. Lets suppose you are offering your SEO for around (£25 an hour (to be honest I think thats low but lets keep it simple for illustration purposes) – lets remember this is a three month trial). That is 34 hours of allocated work without including any other commercials into the mix such as Directory submissions or third party costs for article or PR distribution or for copywriting.  Further to that – that sort of activity is not going to get to you to a competitive edge with the likes of the afore mentioned organisations.

I would also add it may also be worth considering the potential renumeration of undertaking such a project. Any project undertaken should have commercial justification and should the costings (and choice of vendor) should reflect this. Spending that volume of money, should it deliver a significant return on investment would be money well spent. Is £25000 spent on a successful test, better than £850 spent on a moderately successful trial?

If you are considering SEO however you may want to consider the following:

  • Do your research. Have an idea of what you are purchasing before you purchase it. You wouldn’t go and buy a car without looking at it (well not if you had any sense) – so why do it with SEO.
  • Have an idea of what needs doing. By understanding the terminology you stand less of a chance of being undone by an unscrupulous organisation
  • Don’t base your decision purely on cost. I got told once that you will never lose a sale purely on price (something I argued you would), and that you didn’t sell hard enough. However if you do base a decision purely on price, you are putting yourself in line for a potential fall, as by doing so you are not looking at the bigger picture.
  • Ask your potential agencies of a breakdown of their proposed strategy, project plan and costings. Any potential vendor should be able to provide a reasonably clear breakdown of this. Anyone proposing a massive budget without any such justification could be potentially ropey and in such cases having this breakdown will at least rationalise such costings.
  • Spend time on the decision. Don’t just do it because you have to. A good SEO that is well nourished will flourish. At the end of the day SEO is often what you put in you get out. Put in nothing – and you will often get nothing back….

[These are the views of Peter Young and not necessarily those of his employers]

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Matt Davies December 21, 2009 at 11:00 am

No surprise he doesn’t actually name the client in question, if the SEO they’ve done is the same level as they’ve implemented on their own site (http://www.modernworldmedia.com/) we’d be able to tear it to shreds in seconds. £850 for that level of work would be a huge waste of money.

I’m also very surprised at Crains for publishing what is clearly an advertorial. He doesn’t back up his sources at all so the information is useless other than to promote his own service.

rishil December 21, 2009 at 11:00 am

Its a bloody shame that people who dont know shit about SEO end up writing for magazines . newspapers which really undermines the authority of REAL SEOs in the UK.

Peter Young December 21, 2009 at 11:05 am

To be honest – it doesnt actually state his organisation actually carried the work out, and he may just have been brought in to comment on the subject – as Mindy Gofton from I-Com was.

Matt Davies December 21, 2009 at 11:11 am

Hmmm… the tone of the article really suggests to me that Colin Bell instigated this story and Mindy was brought in for a second opinion, but I see what you mean.

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