I run a digital marketing agency which specialises in SEO and I want to know how I can market my product better. So my question to you is simple; what’s stopping you from spending money on SEO?
What confuses you about it? How can I market it better? What’s putting you off from buying a campaign from an agency?
Thanks very much! Kev

The ambiguity of what is being delivered is a massive barrier. The major problem for me is I see everyone promising the same thing and it is difficult to differentiate between them. My firm wasted a decent sum of money on someone that really didn’t have any idea what they were doing. We then spent a lot more money undoing what they did in the first place. What are your methods? Why couldn’t we implement those methods in house? Are they any guarantees you can provide? (I am not talking page 1 in x weeks – other metrics like ranking reports, authority, backlink profile). I would never hesitate to spend a decent amount of money on SEO if I could actively see it working month on month. Do you provide regular reporting, if so in what format? Weekly pdfs or an interactive dashboard like moz? I think transparency is key to the whole process for me due to the market being riddled with people that get into it and know little more about it than myself. Just so you know, I am not referring to you there just others I have come across when seeking out a consultancy firm.

Lastly, I wouldn’t offer a half-baked service. We have had people quote but then turn around and say however you need to provide all your own content. For a small niche with little competition I would feel like I was doing a decent portion of the job myself and having to manage content is not a priority, hence the migration to a consultant.
Hope that is of some help.

VicCity —
This is the biggest thing for me. I don’t need someone to tell me that I need to create fresh blog content, update social media feeds more often, write alt tags, update my meta tags, embed photo/video content, or re-write my whole site to follow schema. I definitely don’t want someone to spam my link across link dumps, blog sites, forums and other spammy methods that makes me look like a chump and then will take my guys weeks of work disavowing their shit.
SEO is a tough game but I’m always keen to talk to people with new ideas, the problem is that my resources are limited as an owner/operator and I’m not looking to bring anyone on who “advises” me to spend an extra 20 hours a week creating content.

alitisa —
The ambiguity of what is being delivered is a massive barrier.
This. Also…
 | What are your methods? Why couldn’t we implement those methods in house? Are they any guarantees you can provide?
 | the market being riddled with people that get into it and know little more about it than myself
I will also add that another massive barrier is that the quotes I received (all around $650 CAD/month for a starter package) didn’t include creating or managing content which I definitely need, and didn’t include ad spend. Most true small business owners can’t afford that. Mid size business can but they are just as wary for the same reasons. Before being on my own I worked for 4 employers with revenues over $1 million and they didn’t want to spend $650 per month on digital marketing or SEO because they don’t understand or trust it. I’m not earning over $1 million in revenue so I am definitely not spending $650 on something that seems like a gamble to the untrained eye.
Most small business owners do what they do well – they are not creative writers or effective marketers or SEO pro’s, so we often fail when we try, or we don’t have time left in the day to learn these foreign skills. It seems like as a small business owner, I am constantly told I absolutely must become or hire a marketing team + a content writing team + an SEO team + a PPC team to have a hope in growing and making it.
If you could produce a marketing strategy, create the ad and copy, create the content to appeal to the buyer in every stage of the journey, execute the strategy, perform all SEO tasks, do link building outreach and cover the ad spend for a reasonable fee, then you would have a golden offer – but we all know that’s not possible. No one person has all those skills. All the things that need doing simply cost too much for most small business owners. And lack of understanding is a big barrier for the mid size company that can afford it. Lack of understanding plus a LOT of shady stuff/people in the industry. It’s all very scary for outsiders.

I’d agree it’s not possible, but because there’s not enough time in $650 to do all that, rather than a lack of skill available.

stjulians —
I think that finding someone to do all you asked for is very possible. Personally, I can do all of that myself. But you can bet that I’d charge a lot more than $650 per month. It would be a full time job and I’d want many multiples of that – as would anyone good enough.
For me, this is the real problem with SEO consulting – very few people have a budget that is appropriate for their goals.

WhereTheCatAt —
I actually wonder how many people are throwing contracts out far under the real amount of money it would take to make actual changes and then wondering why they didn’t get their money’s worth.
On the other hand, there are so many fake ass SEO people in this industry that will take anyone to the cleaners and burn the bridge.

Both are happening.

AnotherSEOGuy —
I get where you’re coming from with the $650 being expensive for a small business for SEO, but $650 for basically a full marketing force for a small business would be a sweet ass deal.
It’s swings and roundabouts, you can get quotes from charlatans for £150-500 in the UK then find that one business/freelancer who’ll charge you £50 more and have you ticking over amazingly. For a full Marketing service like you’re talking it is completely do-able for a lot of companies, not by 1 person obviously but that’s where project management and delegation comes into play.
I have 1 client on £1200~ a month (small business, 250k+ p/year) for Marketing and we doubled their workforce. People get hung up on the ‘we want PDF documents of what you’re doing’ and don’t allow the companies they work with the time to run trial and error & A/B Testing to get the most out of your everything.
I’m assuming you’re American, I know a decent agency in SoCal but they’re not cheap, drop me a line if you’re interested.


Doubling their workforce is a great result! Well done! I think I would invest more in marketing if I knew I would get results.

You probably already know this, but Consultants are as, if not more sketchy than the majority of SEO agencies or freelancers.
Their innate ability to talk out of their arse and make it presentable is something I detest.

I’ve always found that not knowing what the exact ROI (ROAS for Paid) is going to be from investing in SEO is a problem. My company likes PPC more because they know the exact return. It’s tough to calculate for SEO, and lots of leaders don’t quite get SEO so they won’t spend the money. Providing what the real return on SEO is going to be would get a lot more people to spend I think.

TheAngryDesigner —
But that goes the same for any type of advertising.

My biggest barrier is trust. Both times I’ve hired someone, they’ve dodged out before I got any real return.
I’d LOVE to pay someone who knows a lot more about SEO than me and who could help me make a real difference on my site, but at this point I don’t feel like I could trust anyone who wasn’t local that I could meet face to face and I just don’t see a lot of credibility in my searches.
Also, a lot of SEO experts seem to have sub-par websites that turn me off from the immediately.
There was also an agency that I did consider hiring that came back in their proposal trying to up-sell me on a completely different set of services which told me that they didn’t even really take into account my actual needs. It struck me more as a presentation they give to clients who don’t know anything about the technology side of things and trying to get as big of contract as possible.
Long story short, I’ve been burned before and I haven’t been able to find someone trustworthy with the knowledge I need.

Copywriting and content creation.
We’ve picked up a lot of clients based on this. But hiring good copywriters is costly. You need people that can research a top quickly but fully, plan content based on what will appeal to a specific audience, and write this in an accessible way. And know enough about SEO in order to make effective decisions.


The fact that there are 900 other photographers in my state, 100 of whom would also pay for SEO. If 100 people are promised a front page position by their SEO company, who’s actually going to be on the front page? Sounds like it’s a good way to waste some money to me…

Yes, this is also a concern for me.

You need to find someone savvy enough to get results without dishonestly suggesting they can get you to Page One Of Google for a simple term like ‘photography’ if that’s what you’ve been hearing?

Danivan_ —
More likely they mean “city wedding photographer/y” or “city portrait photographer” etc vs just “photography.”
In my city of Denver the main keywords for wedding photography are very saturated. It’s easier to rank for long tail searches but the search volume is very low. Most major cities can run 300 deep on wedding photographers with decent SEO and 100 deep with Great SEO.

That would be wonderful, but I haven’t come across anyone like that. Mostly just companies telling me they’ll get me on the top spot of Google.

Transparency. I hired a firm to manage Facebook YouTube and Twitter. Cost me 60k. I was supposed to receive a short 2-3 minute video each month, and three posts a week that would be posted to each platform. 15k was to go towards boosting content. I would have been happy if the firm reported accurately. They have me inflated numbers that were 10 times greater than what the sites reported.

You paid 45k for a 2-3 minute video per month and three posts per week?
Unless this video entailed some really high end motion graphics that’s costing the agency maybe £1500-£3000 a year in total for the videos, around 30 minutes of work per week (max) for your social sharing so say a SM Assistant earns £8 p/hour that’s £208 p/year. They were lined up to make £41,800 profit.
Wanna PM me who that agency is so I can worship the ground that charlatan walks on?

If rather they burn in hell

Fair point.
Did you not think at any point it was an absolute shit tonne of money?

Yes. That is why I stopped it. I have a marketing department, they chose to go with this firm.

AirDisa —
I just do it all myself, dynamically. I’m a programmer so it’s easy. I populate the things with clever magic. I build appealing things that people link to on their own.

Most of the promises don’t work

I found useful this research where the agency investigates what barriers prevent smb owners from further adoption of SEO in their business marketing. A lot of insightful findings, I would say

The biggest problem that I always go over with friends who say they want to hire an seo, is if this guy is any good why does he need customers?
90%+ of people selling seo are either just learning what they’re doing and might become a decent seo one day, or they’ve already came to the conclusion they’re garbage at it and the only way they can actually make any money from it is by selling it to others.
The unavoidable elephant in the room is if you’re capable of doing a good job on the seo front, affiliate marketing will make you way way more money than selling seo services from owning a small agency ever will. And its the exact same on a per employee basis. You want to have my account managed by some £22,000 a year “senior seo professional” ? I easily clear that a month in affiliate marketing… yet this kid clearly can’t perform or he’d be perfectly capable of scraping £2-3k a month from the same!
In nearly every example shown to me with seo proposals etc, its a complete suckers deal.

The biggest problem that I always go over with friends who say they want to hire an seo, is if this guy is any good why does he need customers?
I never understood this line of reasoning. When I was trying my hardest to get website clients as a new freelancer, I ran into this all the time. It’s a Catch-22. How can I prove how good I am if I don’t have clients? How can I get any clients if I can’t show them how good I am?

Do some free work for a charity or a good cause. Set up your own affiliate websites and work on those. Set up your own small e-commerce site and use that.
You can’t realistically expect a business to trust their online presence to you if you can’t show them you’re up to the job can you?

I understand that basic concept. What I’m saying is, people will get suspicious of you asking for work, because the fact that you’re asking suggests that you aren’t good enough to be hired by others. This happens regardless of whether or not you have a portfolio. Maybe it’s just the way it goes. I have a decent portfolio now, and people come to me because of word of mouth, but it was very difficult at first.

Huge, huge +1.
The best ‘SEO’s’ aren’t doing commercial SEO (unless it’s for a top 500 company on a consultancy basis) as they’re still raking in that sweet, sweet affiliate money. There’s also the PBN money a lot of them are still raking in selling advertising to the agencies claiming to be “creating links” (buying them off the clever people).

I do all the development work, and also the SEO portion. I do PPC and track things with both fb and google analytics and seeing strong success. I’m big into optimization on all my websites running gulp and other task runners (don’t use wordpress or anything heavy like that – yes I know roots and sage are out there) but I see ranking high just on have lightning fast static sites that are hand built.
I’ll write some original content and post every now and then. Honestly, have no idea what an SEO firm could offer besides bringing in more copywriters to publish more content more often.
Maybe you could tweak ads to be more affective but I analyze that data and adjust as needed.
I rather take the money I’d spend on an SEO firm to pump into ads and know the return I’m getting.

Having no money!

SEO companies are a dime a dozen and most sell snake oil. I’d love to find someone I could trust and who was amazing but it’s hard to sort through the BS.

define amazing. trust and doing things correct which take time doesnt sell people to buy seo services.

define amazing.
Amazing to me is an individual or business with a track record showing an ability to increase long term rankings in tough categories for multiple clients. It’s someone who could walk me through a past project that was 6-12 months, explain milestones that were pre-defined and hit along the way and then pitch a similar project for my company. It’s someone who lives and breathes SEO. Reads every industry blog, follows influential members of the industry on Twitter and has an opinion on how to rank and then can back that opinion up with data.

Yoast Seo. It does all I need.

How does it get you links? 🙂

Pardon sealax. He must be new

I do that myself from reaching out to people. It’s repetitive, dull and can be a PITA but it’s all doable.
I’d echo what others here have said about paying for ‘professional’ SEO, a lot of it you can do yourself or learn yourself.
Plus, given that Google can change algorithms in a heartbeat and bust you way back down the rankings, unless you actually work at Google or have an insight into what they plan to do in the next 6-12 months, I may as well do it myself.
Finally, when you’re starting out often you don’t have much money to spend so why risk it by putting it into something that’s so far beyond yours (and ultimately) the SEO agency’s control?
Why not do it yourself?

thetafferboy —
I can think of lots of reasons.
At the agency I’m at we use SearchMetrics and Linkdex which give us brilliant insight into what parts of our sites are doing well and which are not, which helps guide our overall SEO strategy, whether it’s diversifying content in areas we rank well in or building links to others. SearchMetrics starts around about £1,000 a month, so you can have access to this without paying for it yourself.
Most of my team have around 10 years’ experience in the SEO field. We have a massive list of contacts of journos, PR types, bloggers, webmasters that we have spent years building relationships with. We don’t have to cold ‘reach out’ to these people, we can place content a lot quicker and easier than you can – and more likely on far higher quality sites, which is going to be almost immeasurably more valuable than your own outreach.
All of our SEOs are devs or at least part-trained. Yoast SEO doesn’t really handle things like properly setup href langs, how best to handle canonical issues with faceted navs on large e-com sites – and in general, while it’s a nice plugin, some of the advice it gives is off the mark or just a bit shit.
Working over dozens of sectors on hundreds of sites, we have the best feel for how hard you can push and we can tell you actually how well you’re doing in the field. There’s really no replacement for years of hands on experience.
Even down to your reply, Google doesn’t just “change algorithms”, that’s not even close to how it works.
I think it’s a case of what you don’t know hurts you – and you dont know what you don’t know.
I’m not saying agencies are right for everyone – especially small businesses – and doubly for small businesses that rely on local search, but thinking it’s “all out of everyones’ hands” as you put it is a little naive imo.

Valid points. What would you say is the best course of action for a small business reliant on local search in a single city they serve in seeking out paid, professional help? I know I am not getting the results I want, but I also know the 3 consults I’ve had thus far were not the right solution for me. What tips can you give for the small business seeking to hire professional help for local SEO? Or is this an area where DIY will suffice?

It really does depend what field you’re in and what the competition is like. When you say ‘local search’ – does this specifically mean when local box results are being triggered for the terms you’re targeting?
Greg Clifford is one of the best local SEO chaps I’ve seen. He did a nice talk at BrightonSEO this year.

Thank you for the link. I will check it out.
What I mean is for a small business that physically serves one city – what is the best digital marketing strategy for them to improve their local presence, rank, search results, leads, customer base and revenue.
My questions stems from the fact that I am under the impression that agency work may be better suited to large companies with national presence. And agency fees rightfully reflect that.
So where does the small business owner with a small budget and only physically serving one city go for professional help?
I’ve had a few shady consultations, and one potentially promising one I am following up with. Any advice for what services would best help would be appreciated.

Came back to say thank you- that was a great video!

Heh – well Yoast can’t do competitor and keyword research, develop content, architect your info, build links, customize a reporting framework, and interpret monthly results so you can actually tell what’s going on and know what to do about it 🙂

You obviously didn’t hear him, It does all he needs. /s

What do monthly reports “report” on? Is it stuff that I can already see in Google Analytics / Google Search Console?

In Yoast SEO, can I make the title tag something different to what the page name is in WordPress?


Where? I can’t see that option!

Edit Page -> Screen Options – check Yoast SEO -> Scroll to bottom, -> Snippet editor -> Click the title, it will allow you to edit.

Thanks, I didn’t realise that stuff that is put there by default is editable.



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