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This is a complicated question to answer, since the results are based on so many factors, unique to your campaign and market. For a very general answer, between 4 to 8 months is considered fair for average campaigns using WhiteHat techniques.
The aim is to build the website’s popularity up naturally over time and create the conditions necessary for it rise organically in the search engine results. I advise all my clients that if they are looking for results sooner than 3 months, they are better off refraining from any SEO campaign.. There are hundreds of companies that will promise you results in this time, but you can guess the type of tactics they will employ to achieve this.. In most cases, it’s not ‘natural’ to rank this quickly and the procedure necessary to see results like this will almost always harm your site in the long run.. You may experience great results for a few months, but once the string starts to unravel, it can take just days before you’re standing there naked, with only one sleeve of your sweatshirt left and a whole lot of wool in a heap beside you..
To be blunt; slow, steady results last. Quick results fade. (In most cases).
Any good marketing company should have a well thought out action plan to be rolled out after results are achieved. Often referred to as ‘maintenance campaigns’, these aim to keep the current rankings where they are by sending continued positive signals toward the site and maintaining withstanding connections. Again, with BlackHat SEO this is rarely factored into the equation, since it is rare for a website to last this long when such techniques are employed and often ‘maintaining’ results is the last thing on the marketer’s mind ? simply achieving them is viewed as the goal.
You can estimate spending a fraction of the initial monthly cost of your campaign when in ‘maintenance mode’ since far less work needs to be done. The main reason for this further campaign is to show Google that you are still relevant and deserve the position you’ve been given. It’s a bad sign for a site to receive a lot of activity surrounding it, shoot to the top of the results and then go completely quiet. Google sees this as very unnatural. This is of course another benefit of WhiteHat campaigns, they are carried out in such as way as to stimulate real interaction in the first place, so a maintenance campaign furthers this work.
You’re probably wondering why WhiteHat SEO comes with such a high price tag.. I’m sure you’ve seen other ‘ranking/SEO’ services for a fraction of the price at merely a few hundred dollars, if that.. Well, WhiteHat SEO is expensive because it uses expensive ‘ingredients’.
It’s perfectly feasible to create an online marketing campaign for under a few hundred dollars:
Auto-generate some content: $10 at most, free if you already have the software
Blast this auto-content through your software and make some link: $30 (cost to run software based on ‘proxies’ and ‘captcha solvers’)
At under $40 cost, you could be charged $100, netting the marketer a $60 profit.. not bad..
However this is ‘BlackHat’. It does have its purpose for those who want to benefit from cheap short term rankings, make some cash then repeat the process on another site. But again, if you want successful long-term online marketing for your real business, you’ll want to steer clear..
So let’s look at where your money goes with a WhiteHat campaign:
A huge amount of the budget is spent on creating high quality engaging content. Remember a minute ago we discussed building ‘connections’ from high quality websites? Well placing your link in a body of high quality text, does wonders to establish that connection. High quality writers aren’t cheap ? you’re looking at anywhere between $7-$25+ per article.. so to take an average of $10 per article, $100 will only get you 10 articles (or 10 bodies of text to put your connecting link into).. starting to see why it’s so expensive?
WhiteHat SEO usually includes a press release of some sort or another, again the content for these press releases isn’t cheap, and combined with the cost of syndicating this content across big players in the online media world comes in at several hundred dollars a piece, and that’s only on certain networks.. Long term media partners are just one of the tools in a WhiteHat SEO company’s arsenal. You’re budget goes towards keeping those connections, and often submitting content to their networks and allowing your website a ‘soapbox’ to relay your brands message (and ultimately increase rankings).
As mentioned in the press release section, quality partners and networks make up a good deal of WhiteHat SEO, finding placements for your business and ensuring maximum benefit from these connections takes time and effort. You are also paying for exclusivity, gaining access to authoritative websites that others are not able to make connections with.
When dealing with a real marketing company there are substantial costs involved. The company has full time, qualified staff, researchers, web developers, programmers and many other overheads to consider. There is a huge difference between hiring a digital marketing firm who will go through your campaign in careful detail, offering advice and guidance through the years and hiring a one off freelancer, who’ll go in do the ‘job’ and leave.
When you choose WhiteHat SEO for your business, you are choosing results that last, from a provider who cares about high quality marketing, and bringing the best results, not the fastest or cheapest. In most cases, those that perform WhiteHat SEO will be more reputable by nature. They are the organisations who will want to go the extra mile with your company for years to come and are passionate about delivering the highest quality SEO available. For the most part they aren’t interested in quick results, quick sales and then never to speaking to you again. They want a lasting relationship that is beneficial for both parties over a long period. Real businesses last for a long time, they are not a flash in the pan operation, and their marketing shouldn’t be either.
Beware ‘GreyHat’ firms who fly the WhiteHat flag and lead you to believe you’re getting a high quality campaign. The ‘Checklist’ part of this post will help you to avoid such organisations.
WhiteHat SEO entail
WhiteHat SEO is expensive, let’s not pretend it isn’t.. But at the end of the day, you’re hiring a digital marketing firm, capable of bringing highly targeted users to your website who will convert very well.. so to be blunt, it’s worth the cost.
It’s strange, sometimes people assume that because this type of marketing is ‘digital’, it’s going to be cheaper, and isn’t too important.. With major markets such as consumer electronics retailing nearly 50% of products online, 2015 is definitely the time to get serious about online marketing.. If you’re looking at 30%-50% of your products being bought and sold online, your marketing campaigns should mimic this. Yet it still surprises me how little time, effort and money some companies are willing to put into this area of their business and how unwilling they can be to spend the extra bucks while they spend thousands in offline campaigns that often won’t bring the same results.. If you’re not looking to spend a decent budget on an online campaign, then simply don’t bother.. It’s better for your business to have no online campaign, than a cheap one that will waste your money, bring poor results and in some cases even damage your reputation and lose the existing organic results that you had acquired naturally.
WhiteHat SEO for business is normally worked out on a monthly fee, with the shortest contracts usually sitting around the 6 month mark. The minimum you should expect to pay is around $1,500 – $2,000 per month. This should be expected for lower competition keywords, with higher competition keywords coming in at around $3,000-$10,000 per month. For large multi-national brands or corporations who have many keywords in highly competitive markets, $50,000+ per month can be expected.
Again, these campaigns bring thousands of targeted visitors to your business who are ready to buy and engage with your service. A good marketing company should know your business and advise you if it’s worth the spend after calculating a rough ROI. For example, if you can make $100,000 per month from traffic delivered to your website, a monthly spend of $40,000 is justified.
Your market, keywords and aims all factor in to budget costs, so make sure to get a quote if some of these numbers make your head spin, the real thing to bare in mind here is that the absolute minimum you should expect to spend will lie around the $1,000 – $2,000 per month mark.
After people figured out that SEO was based on connections from other websites (in the late 90s, when Google incorporated this into its algorithm) things got a bit out of hand.. In the early days, it was as easy as creating a few links from a few websites, and bob’s your uncle, you had rankings. Then people realised, ‘hey, wait a minute, maybe if I make more links, I’ll get better rankings’ ? and this worked! Before you knew it people were creating thousands of links, using ‘link farms’ and other shady techniques to propel their sites to the top of the listings. This was the birth of ‘BlackHat’ SEO.
As Google grew smarter, it devised ways to root out these methods and the sites that were benefiting from them in what became a back and forth battle between online marketers and Google that is still raging today..
BlackHat techniques also grew stronger and more widespread as programmers started to develop software and ‘tools’ that would create thousands of links (often in just hours) that would shoot websites to the top of the rankings..
At the same time, WhiteHat SEO was also being employed across websites with other webmasters receiving fantastic results. While others would use software and build thousands of ‘spammy’ links. Those using WhiteHat SEO would only have to make a few connections to high quality related websites, to see the same results. As Google, knocked other sites off the listings left, right and centre, those using WhiteHat techniques didn’t experience any penalization and continued benefiting from high rankings..
As Google got better and better at catching out the BlackHat spam techniques, the BlackHatters improved as well.
Fast-forward to the late noughties and BlackHat techniques were starting to mimic WhiteHat more and more.. turning into what some would start to call ‘GreyHat’ (but what is still, in essence, BlackHat). While a WhiteHat campaign would focus on building up quality links over time and making real, lasting connections, BlackHat/GreyHat would copy this procedure at twice the speed, making connections that at first glance seemed high quality, but when looked into with further scrutiny, would unravel, exposing the spam that lay beneath. In recent years, GreyHat has evolved, where in some cases it can be difficult to decipher between GreyHat and WhiteHat campaigns. Private Blog Networks, or PBNs have been at the forefront of this complication, as connections from websites within these networks can be extremely hard to tell apart from legitimate websites. The problem here is that entire networks would be discovered by Google who would then ‘shutdown’ the entire PBN(deindex all sites from their search engine). (The Checklist section at the bottom of this post should help you decipher between the WhiteHat and GreyHat firms out there!)
The BlackHat motto, past, present and future has always been the same, ‘Cheap, fast results, that make money in the short term, but fade away fast’. This is why BlackHat marketing and methods will always have a place and there will always be demand for such services. A quick, spammy campaign is launched that holds together just long enough to grasp some quick rankings before the whole thing falls apart and you’re back at square one (or worse). The aim here is to profit as much in this small window as possible, before the house made of straw comes tumbling down. Obviously these techniques have no place anywhere near your ‘real’ business! At the same time they have their function and shouldn’t be ‘poo pood’ in general, horses for courses and all that..
Since the late 90s people have battled out this question on forums, in dingy bars, in the back of New York taxis and in bustling Mumbai restaurants.. To put it bluntly, SEO is the course of action that results in improving the rankings of a website in a given search engine (mostly Google) – First you find the ‘keywords‘ that when searched for should make your website appear. Keywords are chosen based on the type of traffic you want to drive and users you want to target.. then when you’re good and ready you get started with the SEO procedure itself..
But this ‘procedure’, and the ‘how to’ has been the fuel for heated debates (and even fiery arguments) around the world for nearly two decades. And to be honest, no one is backing down.. Everyone believes they have the ‘golden ticket’ to success, and to make matters worse, certain techniques and tactics have worked for periods of time, before being ‘shutdown’ in the following months ? however this doesn’t stop a thousand people from swearing on Aladdin’s underwear that a method still works..
So let’s clear the fog, hose down the windows, and take a look at what criteria is really needed to gain those sought after search engine rankings!
Firstly, let’s talk about ‘on-page’ SEO. This is something that the majority of people do agree on (for the most part!). This basically requires that your website contains the elements it needs for good rankings ? think keywords correctly placed in pages with a favourable density, meta tags, meta descriptions and good linking structures and menus.. People will still argue these specifics ’till the cows come home, but in general the SEO community agrees somewhat that these factors are important and should be carried out in a fairly uniform way.
Okay, get the guns, artillery and Sherman tanks out.. we’re about to talk ‘off-page’ SEO.. This is the real ‘meat’ of SEO where men will kill their own brothers for failing to concede that one type of link is better than another.. This is the dark magic that occurs outside the walls of your website and in the battlefield that is the world wide web.. or for a less dramatic description, ‘external elements’.
‘Off-page’ SEO is all about connections. When Google decides which websites to rank highly on its search engine for specific terms, it is generally agreed that it takes a look at the ‘connections’ and ‘associations’ that different websites have. That is to say, if you are trying to rank for the keyword ‘best microphone’ it would be beneficial to be linked to by other websites that discuss this topic, and for best results you’d want links that are from websites that only focus on this niche. Oh, and if you can get a link from the homepage of one of these sites, or even better if the anchor text mentions ‘best microphones’, then you’re really in business (relatively speaking!).
But this is all very vague.. we could sit here for hours and debate the best anchor text variety, or the optimal link velocity, or how to correctly manage social signals.. but you don’t care about this! And you shouldn’t! Your job is to run your business, and the job of whoever you hire is to figure out these annoying, tedious questions (we love it really!)..
Traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute; as a forward-thinking marketer, you know there has to be a better way.
Enter content marketing.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.
Our annual research shows the vast majority of marketers are using content marketing. In fact, it is used by many prominent organizations in the world, including P&G, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere. It’s also developed and executed by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe. Why? Because it works.
Here is just one example of content marketing in action:
Specifically, there are three key reasons — and benefits — for enterprises that use content marketing:
Go back and read the content marketing definition one more time, but this time remove the relevant and valuable. That’s the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from companies trying to sell you “stuff.” Companies send us information all the time – it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable (can you say spam?). That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day.
Regardless of what type of marketing tactics you use, content marketing should be part of your process, not something separate. Quality content is part of all forms of marketing:
What if your customers looked forward to receiving your marketing? What if when they received it, via print, email, website, they spent 15, 30, 45 minutes with it? What if they anticipated it and shared it with their peers?
If you are intrigued and ready to learn more, we can help. Here are a few popular ways to dig in:
Content marketing rests on a simple premise: Great content will attract interest from readers. It sounds simple — but the ingredients of great content, on closer inspection, seem ineffable. We can come up with any number of criteria necessary for great content. But satisfying these criteria won’t necessarily result in lots of people finding your content, and using it. It is possible to have great writing about useful topics that is promoted diligently, and still find that the content fails to generate expected interest. Hard work alone doesn’t explain outcomes.
How then does content marketing rank highly? I’m not an SEO, so I’m not going to offer SEO advice here. I’m using the SEO term “ranking” in a more general sense of gaining visibility based on audience expressions of interest. It may be ranking in SERPs, or in social media shares, or bookmarks, or another metric that indicates how people vote for what content they find most useful. The key to the ranking question is to think about online content as a market, where there are buyers and sellers. Unfortunately, it is not a simple market, where there is a perfect match for everyone. Some sellers never find buyers, and some buyers never find the right seller either, and have to settle for something less than optimal. Online content is sometimes efficient, but very often is prone to market failure.
Like many other people who work with online content, I believe we face a content glut. There’s too much content online. Too much content is ignored by audiences. Many organizations consider it acceptable to create content that only receives one or two hundred views. A shocking amount of content that’s created is never viewed at all! It would be easy to dismiss all this content as low quality content, but that would not capture the full story. It’s more accurate to say that this content doesn’t match the needs of audiences. Not all content needs to generate high numbers of views — if it is intended for a narrow, specific audience. But most content that’s created has a potential audience that’s far larger than the actual audience it attracts. It gets lost in the content glut.
To understand how audiences select content, it helps to consider content as being traded in one of two different markets. One market involves people who all have the same opinion about what is great. The other market involves people who have different ideas about what is great. It’s vitally important not confuse which group you are writing for, and hoping to attract.
More formally, I will describe these two markets as a “winner-takes-all” market, and as an “auction” market. I’m borrowing (and repurposing) these terms from Cal Newport, a Georgetown computer science professor who wrote a career advice book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You. His distinction between winner-takes-all verses auction markets is very relevant to how online content is accessed, and valued, by audiences.
When a large audience segment all want the same thing — applying the same standards — it can create a race to determine who provides the best offering. It gives rise of a winners-take-all market.
Let’s illustrate the concept with a non-content example. Sport stars are a classic winner-takes-all market. Fans like players who score exceptionally, so the player who scores most generally win the most fans. The top players make much more money than those who are just short of being as good as them. Fans only want so many stars.
Many content topics have a homogenous user preference profile. Nearly everyone seeking health information wants up-to-date, accurate, comprehensive, authoritative information. The US National Institutes of Health is the gold standard for that kind of information. Other online publishers, such as the Mayo Clinic or WebMD, are being judged in comparison to the NIH. They may be able to provide slightly friendlier information, or present emerging advice that isn’t yet orthodox. But they need to have thoroughness and credibility to compete. Lesser known sources of health information will be at a disadvantage. Health information is a winner-takes-all market. The best-regarded sources get the lion’s share of views. Breaking into the field is difficult for newly established brands. When everyone wants the same kind of information, and all the content is trying to supply the same kind of information, only the best content will preferred. Why settle for second best?
How do you know when a topic is a winners-takes-all market? A strong signal is when all content about the topic, no matter by whom it is published, has the same basic information, and often even sounds the same. It is hard to be different under such circumstances, and to rank more highly than others.
Another example of a winner-takes-all market for content is SEO advice. If you want to learn about (say) the latest changes Google announced last month, you will find hundreds of blog posts by different local SEO agencies, all of which will have the same information. Only a few sources will rank highly, such as Moz or Search Engine Land. The rest will be add to the content glut.
It is extremely hard to win the game of becoming the most authoritative source of information about a topic that is widely covered and has a uniformity of views. Generally, the first-movers in such a topic gain a sustained advantage, as they develop a reputation of being the go-to source of information.
There are a couple of tactics sellers of content use in winner-takes-all markets. The first is to set-up a franchise, so that the publisher develops a network of contributors to increase their scale and visibility. This is the approach used, for example, by Moz and other large SEO websites. Contributors get some visibility, and build some reputation, but may not develop solid brand recognition.
The second tactic, advocated by some content marketing specialists, is to develop “pillar” content. The goal of this tactic is to build up a massive amount of content about a topic, so that no one else has the opportunity to say something that you haven’t already addressed. You can think of this approach as a “build your own Wikipedia”. Some proponents advocate articles of 5000 words or more, cross-linked to other related articles. It’s an expensive tactic to pursue, with no guarantees. In certain cases, pillar content might work, for a topic that is not well covered currently, and for which there is a strong demand for extremely detailed information. But otherwise, it can be a folly. Pillar content tactics can trigger an arms race of trying to out-publish competitors with more and longer content. In the race to become authoritative, the publisher can lose sight of what audiences want. Do they really want 5000 word encyclopedic articles? Generally they don’t.
Winner-takes-all applies to a competitive (non-captive) market. If you have a captive audience (like your email list) you can be more successful with generic topics. But you will still be competing with the leaders.
Don’t forget: the characteristic of winner-takes-all markets is that there are few winners, and many losers. Make sure you aren’t competing with a topic you are unprepared to win with.
The defining characteristic of an auction market is that different people price stuff differently. There’s no single definition of what the best is. People value content differently, according to what they perceive as what’s unique or special about it.
A non-content example of an auction market is hiring an interior decorator. It’s a very diverse market: decorators serve different segments of buyers (rich, budget, urban, suburban,…), and within segments people have widely different tastes (eclectic, mid-century modern, cutting edge, traditional…). Different decorators are “right” for different people. But that doesn’t mean there’s no competition. Far more decorators want to design interiors that could be featured in Architectural Digest than there are clients looking to hire such decorators. There’s an overabundance of decorators who favor the white sofa look that gets featured in Architectural Digest. And budget buyers may have trouble finding a budget decorator who has sophisticated taste and who can hire affordable and reliable contractors. It’s hard to get the niche right, where buyers want what you can offer.
The value that audiences assign to content in auctions depends on the parameters they most care about. A broad topic that has wide interest can potentially be discussed in different ways, by tailoring topic so that it is targeted at segment, offering a unique point of view (POV), or by accommodating a specific level of prior knowledge about the topic.
Many areas of content marketing are auction markets. Some consumers are enthusiastic about learning the details of products; others are reluctant buyers worried about costs or reliability. For example, home repair is a topic of fascination for a handyman. It’s a chore and headache for an exasperated homeowner dealing with an emergency.
Auction markets rank on the basis of differentiation. Brands make an appeal: We are right for you! Others are wrong for you! And by extension: We are wrong for people who aren’t like you! Brands aim for what could be called the audience-content-brand fit. The moment a brand tries to become a multi-audience pleaser, it risks losing relevance. It is then playing the winner-takes-all strategy.
Audience segments most value content that addresses specific needs that seem unique, and is not offered by others. This places a premium on differentiation. Segmentation is based on approach. How content addresses a topic will mirror how audience segments coalesce around themes, interests or motivations.
Many marketers have trouble addressing fuzzy segments. Groups of people may be drawn to a combination of overlapping interests, be looking for fresh points of view, and have varying levels of knowledge. Such segments are fiendishly hard to define quantitatively. How many people fit in each box? It can be more productive to define the box as a idea to test, rather than as a fixed number. Auctions discover segments; they don’t impose them. People vote their priorities in auctions. One can’t know what people want in an auction before it happens. By their nature, auctions are meant to surprise us.
Auctions are fluid. People’s interests shift. Their knowledge may grow, or their willingness to learn may lessen. It is even possible for an auction market to morph into a winner-takes-all market. Today’s hottest debates can turn into tomorrow’s best practice orthodoxy.
Ranking is fundamentally about being relevant. Brands must offer content that is relevant. Yet in the end, it is audiences who judge the relevance.
Marketers will find their content lost in the content glut if they fail to understand whether the audience segment they want to reach wants content that’s unique in some way, or wants the kind of content that everyone agrees is the best available.
Brands should aim for share of mind, not just raw numbers. Many marketers start by thinking about hypothetical reach. They imagine all the people who, in theory, might be interested in the topic abstractly, and then work to improve their yield. They create content they think a million people might want to read, without testing whether such an assumption is realistic. They then try to improve on the minuscule portion of people viewing the content. That approach rarely builds a sustained audience.
It’s better to garner 20% of a potential audience of 1000 people, than 1% of a segment of 20,000 people, even if the raw numbers are the same (200 views). A well-defined segment is essential to figure out how to improve what you offer them. If everyone want exactly the same thing, then knowing what people want is that much easier. But being the best when delivering to them is that much harder,
‘Localizing’ your website means including your city, county or region name naturally throughout your site. For businesses with several locations, this could involve creating separate pages for individual locations and other local content strategies, like getting involved with local/community events and featuring articles/information about them on the site.
Ensure your site features on citation sites and online business directories. Not only will this help customers find your business, but featuring your company’s name, address and phone number on citation sites and extra information on business directories will help improve your search rankings.
Claiming your Google My Business listing
Claiming your Google My Business (GMB) page is a a key step towards helping your business display on important Google services, such as Local Search, Maps and Google+ pages. GMB (and its Microsoft equivalent, Bing Places for Business) should always be the first online directory you take ownership of.
Managing reviews and ratings
Genuine, honest reviews are critical both for showcasing the quality of your service and for sending signals to search engines that your site and service are trusted and useful. The amount of reviews you receive, the overall quality of the reviews and the authority of the review sites themselves are all important factors for local search rankings.
Getting quality backlinks
Naturally obtained backlinks from well-regarded websites helps search engines recognise your site as a trusted source of information. Links from local newspapers, bloggers and business associations, as well as citations, can all help improve your search visibility.
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