Low Budget SEO: Avoiding Package Deal Pitfalls

SEO is a fantastic industry, and being a part of it’s community gives brings me great joy. However, SEO does have three major pitfalls;

  1. There are no industry regulations or code of practice for professionals;
  2. There is no governing body monitoring and accrediting industry professionals;
  3. The barriers of entry to the industry are extremely low.

Literally anyone with an internet connection can setup a website, setup on UpWork or Fiverr, and become an SEO expert – with varying levels of expertise.

SEO to an extent, remains the single most effective digital marketing technique for creating long term, scalable traffic and lead generation. However as SEO is pretty much based on observations and theories, on a secret algorithm created and controlled by a private company.

As Google and other search engines have become more advanced, as has the SEO game, and this is before we even talk about how consumer behaviour has changed over the past 20 years, especially with their online buying and research activities. This is why I still find it funny that you can go on Fiverr today, and for $5 purchase links that will “boost your SEO sales”.

Why You Should Avoid ‘Cheap’ or ‘Affordable’ SEO Packages

SEO is mostly time, the time of the person(s) active on your campaign. Yes there are some tools involved for data collection, but the SEO consultant still needs to analyse the data, the search vertical, your competitors and put together (and implement) a strategy.

SEO consultants, and SEO agencies, are still businesses. They carry overheads, have a duty to pay certain taxes, pay bills, pay for tools. Obviously the cost of services depends on how much you engage with the service provider, but from a business perspective, could you provide a very cheap or affordable “high quality” service, and still maintain an hourly rate to pay the bills?

Cheap Packages Can’t Deliver Even Basic SEO Requirements

SEO has three core pillars;

  • A strong technical foundation
  • High quality, strategic content that caters for user needs and search intents
  • Backlinks and genuine business presence online

Now, unless your buying content on UpWork and then buying links, these are not quick and easy tasks and take a lot of labour and capital to produce. Technical also requires time investment in making sure you’re providing the right recommendations – again, time intensive unless you’re spinning a report.

Credibility Test

At this point, a token based/cookie cutter SEO proposition begins to lose all credibility, as it’s simply not possible. I see a lot of £300-a-month SEO packages, so lets do some maths.

In the UK the minimum wage for someone 18 years plus is £5.90 an hour, and to research, write, and proof a high-quality 500 word article you’re looking at between 2 and 3 hours labour. [source]

Then you need to research, outreach to, and admin your content placement activities to earn backlinks… This really is a piece of string in terms of length but to get good returns you need to spend at least a day, so let’s call it 7-hours. Now they’ve promised two backlinks a month, so rinse and repeat.

You then also produce a blog post for the client’s site, because, you know, content marketing. So 3 hours.

Then they also provide you with a report, analysis, and further recommendations/analysis. Now I remember doing these by hand, and it’s a good 0.5 hours minimum to pull through all data (and check it’s right).

So based on the labour of the above activities, that’s 16.5 hours just in labour (£97.35).

So out of that £300 a month (+ VAT), one third has gone purely on labour cost – not including account management, admin, accounting admin, payroll of said person completing the work, which is at least 10 hours combined a month (£56.60).

Then there are the business costs on top of that, so paying tax, pension contributions, electricity, broadband… That £300 is starting to look very tight, even on a junior with no experience straight out of college doing the work.

What’s more likely, is the article is being spun by a freelancer and then paid upload to a blog site, and even then to make any margin, at such a low price point the clients have to be stacked high just to make it worthwhile from a business perspective. Do you want to be a client stacked high and cheap?

Crappy Link Building Doesn’t Move the Needle

Now, in some niche verticals it can have an impact, but I mean really niche verticals. For the most part, quantity does not win out over quality, especially in highly competitive verticals such as FaaS, travel and finance.

The issue is that while affordable SEO providers tend to sell a similar service today, the nature of link building has evolved considerably in line with Google’s continued algorithm updates. Paying travel bloggers to upload a couple of blog posts a month will not move the needle.

Package Deals = No Agility

In SEO there is no such thing as one size fits all, and from experience, package deals are made by individuals and consist of items within their scope of knowledge.

So when something goes wrong, and it’s “outside of the package”, you’re left high, dry, and with an SEO consultant scrambling around to find out a solution reading blog posts – desperate to not look incompetent and found out.

I see package deals as a genuine red flag, all experienced marketers know that no two businesses are the same and successful strategies must always be tailored to suit the needs, circumstances, and objectives of each individual client.

Cheap SEO Providers Can’t Deliver a Long-term Strategy

Achieving great SEO results can take time, but again it’s completely situation dependent and depends on a great number of verticals.

In fact, the formative stages of an SEO campaign usually demand a significant financial investment without delivering any kind of payoff, which can be frustrating to those who are new to the practice.

Cheap package deals simply can’t do this, as they’re restricted within their scope, and again, restricted in the knowledge of the person who made them.

I Want SEO, But I have No Budget?

Honestly, the best thing you can do is to find an SEO consultant and work with them on a purely consultancy lead basis. Consultants tend to have little or few overheads, meaning they can generally charge a lot less.

The other thing to do, honestly, would be to do it yourself. Taking a free online SEO course from providers such as the SEMrush Academy, or reading blog posts on Moz and Search Engine Journal (especially the ebooks) can help you understand the basics of SEO.

Work With Consultants

If you don’t have the budget for a larger SEO campaign, work with a consultant on a pro-rata basis at a much lower cost. You won’t get all the benefits of a full blown SEO campaign, but they will be able to work with you on instilling SEO best practice and helping you grow your business – so when you’re ready for a full SEO campaign with a real agency, you’re not going to get ripped off.

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Dan Taylor

I'm Dan, and I'm an award winning SEO consultant and technical lead based in the United Kingdom. I work with brands around the world, ranging from SaaS, fintech and retail, to travel brokers, agencies and airlines.

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