Its one of the most common questions for an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) business, and it goes something like "our budget is pretty tight, could we just do a little bit please?"
While its always tempting to think that you might make some progress in a little time, and possibly tempting for some SEOs to take all those "little bits" and make a living from it, the reality is that good SEO is a campaign, not a task.
Let me justify myself a little.
Broadly speaking in SEO you do very few things.
- You build more pages.
- Fill them with words that people are actually looking for.
- Then you place lots of links to those pages.
That's about what the entire industry does, and it works well. (go on someone, tell me "There's more to it than that!"
Some talk a big grand pitch about "strategies" to command higher fees, and some just tinker with your web page a little, but the real activity boils down to that.
So you select some keywords (guess them in many cases) write some pages, and then do a bit of posting to directories, articles, social sites or whatever to show search engines that those pages are more important.
After a while the search engine crawlers come a long and follow the links, re-index your site, and if your number of incoming links has grown from let's say 5 (from your web designer and your Mum) to about 15, and the number of pages on your site has grown from - 12 to 15 perhaps?
(Don't buy loads of links from a mass "submitter" by the way - just wanted to get that in quickly).
The results in terms of search rankings from the above activity will be limited, partly because the search engines haven't yet picked up many of the links you set up, and partly because it wasn't very much anyway.
So let's say next month you do the same again - and by this time also Google has picked up a few of the links you did the month before, so you get a couple more pages done and a couple more links. The chances are that the difference in your web site's traffic is still negligible.
Now here we need to look at the level of your expectations. For example if we wanted to rank top for "barriper bed and breakfast". This would be pretty easy, as there are few / no listings for it, depending on how you search.
But let's say you're a bit more ambitious and you want a Page 1 ranking for "Cornwall Hotel". Against 362,000 competing web pages you're not going to get there for a while. (One important point here is actually to work on a wide basket of phrases, not just fixating on one).
So lets look at "cornwall hotel". The top site today is called cornwall-online.co.uk, and it has a Google Page Rank of 5, is a well established site, 179 incoming links according to Google, 7,065 according to Yahoo (why the massive discrepancy? - totally different measuring systems in this case, and only a cursory check by me). Even the 10th site (last on Page 1) has done some proper work to get where it is.
So we come back to the basic equation, what is the amount of work (or money) you are prepared to put into ranking, and what is your level of expectations. Go and see how many sites there are in Google for your key phrases, and then evaluate how much effort you can commit.
For the Cornish micro-business prepared to invest £150 in "a little bit of SEO",
1. Is this the first day's SEO of many?
2. If your budget is that limited are you prepared to learn what it takes to do the work itself, and then commit sufficent time on a consistent basis to get there.
If neither of these is the case then the chances are that your £150 will make no appreciable difference to your web site, and you would be better sered to put an add in the local paper.
Here's a couple of posts by people considerably more lucid than me which also explain the process of a good SEO compaign.
Note also an SEO company might take your £150, in the hope that you will later realise you need to do more work, by which time they will have "locked you it".
There was actually a great talk this week in Falmouth by the owner of Classic Cornish Cottages, a great site that after years of work is highly successful. They are really doing everything right, and it was great to see a Cornish company doing so well. But they have a full time team of 4 programmers, the CEO and an AdWords budget that would make your eyes water, so they did the graft the right way, and now are reaping the rewards.
But please don't waste your money on a "Little bit of SEO". With all the buzz and hype going on about SEO and social networking its tempting to think its a Panacea, and that as soon as you get involved the rewards will come. However its like any other business, you have to put in the graft up front, and the rewards come later.
I'm sure that £150 was hard to earn, so its best to understand the amount of work involved before committing to spending it.