Cheap SEO services are everywhere.
All it takes is a couple of spare dollars and you can pay someone to optimize your website, improve your online business, build backlinks, or improve your search engine ranking.
But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Cheap SEO sounds nice in theory, but it’s not worth the headache or the hassle.
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What is Cheap SEO?
If you visit a popular freelance marketplace like Fiverr, you’ll see an array of affordable SEO services for just $5 to $25. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that costs more than just a few hundred dollars. From off-page to onsite to technical SEO – you can have it all for a tiny investment.
Run a quick Google search for SEO services in your industry and you’ll run across hundreds of cheap search engine optimization (SEO) “agencies” (which are actually nothing more than one-man shops started by someone with an introductory understanding of online marketing and an affinity for drag-and-drop website builders). These companies will promise to provide intensive SEO strategies for a low, one-time price of $500 or less.
Cheap SEO, affordable SEO, low-cost SEO – you can call it whatever you want. We all have our own subjective definition of what “cheap” or affordable SEO services actually means, but it’s essentially any SEO package that’s priced well below industry standards.
While inexpensive SEO services might fit into your budget, you have to consider whether it’s actually delivering a tangible return on investment. In many cases, the answer is no. And if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter how affordable SEO services are – they’re a waste of your time and money.
The moral of the story when researching SEO agencies is that cheap SEO services aren’t good, and good SEO services aren’t cheap.
7 Reasons Cheap SEO Services are a Bad Idea
Just because someone is willing to sell you SEO services at a steeply discounted rate, doesn’t mean you should take them up on it. Here are some specific reasons why paying for inexpensive SEO is such a bad idea:
1. Cheap SEO Services Cut Corners
If you’re paying a so-called SEO expert such a small amount for their services, do you really think you’re getting their best effort? You’d be fooling yourself to say yes.
If an SEO is only getting 20 percent of the going rate for his services, you’re probably only going to get 20 percent effort. The other 80 percent will involve cutting corners, skipping steps, and automating tasks that should be done manually.
2. If The SEO is TOO Affordable, You Won’t Be Able to Afford Results
There’s only so much that a digital marketer offering affordable SEO services can do with a few hundred dollars.
He can conduct some keyword research, tweak a couple of technical elements on your website, and maybe even optimize a key sales page. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the financial resources to address the two most critical elements of any SEO or online marketing strategy: content and links.
Without content and links, your SEO efforts are futile. It doesn’t matter how flashy your website is, or how many of Google’s rules you follow, you simply can’t gain the reach, exposure, or rankings that you need to generate results.
A single piece of content can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to write, edit, and publish.
How do you expect to generate dozens of original articles and blog posts if you aren’t paying your SEO enough to cover these costs?
Even the most affordable SEO companies don’t have the financial resources to produce quality content. If they promise lots of content at such a low rate, they’re doing something fishy. (Run a quick search for content spinning and you’ll probably get your answer.)
As for links, the second integral component of SEO, there’s simply no way to plan and execute a powerful link building strategy without money. In addition to creating the content, it takes a lot of time to network, establish relationships, and secure link placement on authoritative websites that provide actual value in return.
Instead of paying for quality links, a cheap SEO service will us gray or black hat techniques to find spammy websites and questionable blogs who will link back to your website. Eventually, this could lead to stiff Google penalties.
3. Cheap SEO = Generic SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization is a highly unique endeavor. No two websites or companies can use the same strategy and generate identical results. A customized plan is necessary.
The problem with cheap SEO services is that they have to use scalable, cookie-cutter strategies to save time and improve efficiency. This means they use the same SEO strategy for both a national ecommerce store and local SEO for say a bank or car wash. Local SEO, while it may work for a small business website, is no match for large budgets pushing national campaigns.
If you pay for a cookie-cutter strategy, prepare to get cookie-cutter results. What you really need is an affordable SEO service that learns the ins and outs of your company and develops a unique strategy designed to propel you to the top of the rankings in the search engines.
4. You’re Paying for Someone Else’s SEO Learning Curve
While not always the case, someone’s pay is generally indicative of their experience. Someone who charges $100 per hour for his or her expertise is typically going to be more advanced than someone charging $15 per hour.
While there’s a time and a place for letting people improve and grow their skillsets through experience, you don’t want it to be at your expense. If you’re paying for the cheapest SEO package in the industry, you’re probably paying for someone else’s learning curve. That’s a big mistake!
5. You’ll Risk Your Company’s Reputation & Rankings
Do you know what happens when you cut corners, miss key steps, and pay for a bunch of sketchy backlinks to point to your website? For one, you lower the reputation of your brand in the eyes of your customers. They can spot the difference between a company that’s well respected and one that’s taking shortcuts. Secondly, you run the risk of stirring up the ire of Google.
Google is okay with SEO – as long as you’re following the rules. They aren’t okay with black hat techniques that compromise the integrity of the system. If they catch you blatantly breaking the rules – which is often the case with cheap SEO – they reserve the right to penalize your site until things get cleaned up. This essentially kills all of your inbound traffic.
6. There’s No Accountability on SEO Results
When you partner with a reputable, affordable SEO company, you’re typically working with a company that cares about its image and wants to cultivate satisfaction among its clients. When you partner with a cheap SEO service, they don’t really care. They’re in the business of generating as many one-off clients and short-term projects as possible. There’s no expectation of repeat business.
When your SEO only cares about earning a quick buck, there’s nothing you can do to hold them accountable. By the time you express your frustration with them, they’re already working on their next project. This leaves you with very little leverage.
7. You’ll Waste Countless Hours
If a business service is cheap, it usually means you’ll have to offset these savings with time. Whether it’s back and forth emails, corrections, revisions, or simply stress and frustration, the time wasted on cheap SEO takes away from the value you could be creating for your company through sales, marketing, or some other core aspect of your business.
How to Spot Cheap SEO Packages
Other than price, how do you identify a cheap SEO service or package? There a few telltale signs:
- Outlandish promises. Any company that promises a page one rank on Google for specific keywords is lying through their teeth. There’s absolutely no way to guarantee rankings in today’s industry. There are principles that make it more likely to rank, but promises are misleading.
- Poor website. Would you trust an auto mechanic who drives a beater with squeaky brakes and fluids that leak all over the parking lot? Probably not. Likewise, you shouldn’t trust an SEO company with a poor website that doesn’t rank well.
- Poor website placements. Beware especially if you are looking to build links with a particular SEO company as they may use private blog networks (PBNs) which can do more harm than good for rankings long term.
- One-time projects. Does the SEO company only offer one-time projects and services? A failure to offer long-term contracts is probably a sign that they don’t expect repeat business. Either that, or they have a very shallow understanding of what it takes to be successful with SEO.
- Industry secrets. As a rule of thumb, any SEO company that promises to have cracked the Google algorithm or discovered an industry secret is lying. They may have some good techniques, but their wording is a tad questionable. A reliable SEO knows that Google is constantly changing its system and won’t be foolish enough to claim they’ve figured it out.
- Relationships with Google. A cheap SEO agency that claims to have worked at Google, or have connections with Google, is almost certainly misleading you. There are so many non-disclosure agreements surrounding Google and its employees that it’s highly unlikely you’re actually getting valid insights. And if you are, ask yourself this: Do you really want to work with someone who violates agreements and breaks rules?
- Non-U.S. companies. While there are some good international SEO companies, there are also hundreds of terrible ones. With so many good options to choose from in the United States, it doesn’t make sense to risk hiring a firm in another country.
If you notice any of these identifying factors, you’re probably working with a cheap SEO service that will hurt your business over the long haul.
How Much Does Quality SEO Cost?
You don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get premium SEO, but you will need to fork over more than a couple hundred bucks for a one-time service. SEO is an ongoing investment that requires precision and expertise.
It’s hard to put an exact figure on what quality SEO costs. That’s like asking what a good personal trainer costs. You might find a good trainer for $20 an hour, or you could pay $250 an hour. There are dozens of factors in play.
Having said that, anything under $1,000 per month is probably not enough to move the dial much (especially if you don’t have an additional budget for content). Small and medium-sized companies can reasonably be expected to spend between $1,000 and $5,000 per month on really good SEO.
Larger businesses may spend $10,000 or more per month. Again, it all depends on what your needs are and what’s included in the package.
You also have to consider the different services associated with SEO (e.g. content writing, on-site/technical SEO, link building, etc.) as each has a different pricing structure. For instance here’s how our content and blog writing service pricing works:
Content writing is only one aspect of a holistic SEO campaign.
For instance, the cost of link building can eat up 90%+ of even of the most robust SEO campaigns.
And, rightfully so. Building quality backlinks tends to have the quickest ROI apart from any other activity.
Effective Solutions for Limited SEO Budgets
Okay, so let’s say you understand the need for high quality SEO, but you don’t have the room in your budget to pay for monthly services. What are some options for a limited budget?
- DIY. One option is to learn the ins and outs of SEO and handle it on your own. The benefit of the DIY SEO approach is that you get full control over everything. The obvious downside is that it commands a lot of your time and focus, which takes away from other core responsibilities.
- Hybrid. Perhaps you can pay for an SEO company to handle all of the technical optimization, keyword research, and link building, while you generate your own high quality content in-house. This hybrid approach saves money on the content front, while still giving you a solid SEO backbone.
- Patience. It’s never smart to rush into something before you can afford to make a genuine investment. Perhaps you should just pay for an SEO audit today so that you can make a few tweaks. Then patiently wait six months (or whatever the case may be) until you can afford to hire the right SEO agency.
There’s no singular, complete digital marketing strategy that works for every company. It’s up to you to determine what’s best for your business within the limited constraints of your budget.
Engage Our SEO Services
At SEO.co, we don’t pretend to offer cheap, short-term solutions.
We’re committed to providing the highest-quality white hat SEO services in the industry.
If you’re interested in an SEO strategy that’s built on original, exceptional content and that adds value to your target audience, you’ve come to the right place.