Archive for May, 2013

How Much Should You Spend on SEO Services?

May 13, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Jayson DeMers, May 13, 2013

seo-money

Nearly every business today must decide how much to spend on search engine optimization (SEO). This isn’t an if question. Robust online marketing is imperative for survival in a web-driven world.

The question every business professional must ask is, “How much will we spend on SEO?” Keep reading for all the information you’ll need to make that decision, plus some helpful tips on how SEO agencies work so you can be successful as you forge a crucial partnership with an online marketing firm.

SEO Payment Models

To understand the dollars and cents discussed below, you must understand payment models used by agencies. SEO agencies typically offer four main forms of services and payment:

  • Monthly retainer: In this model, clients pay a set fee each month in exchange for an agreed-upon array of services. The monthly retainer is the most common payment model, because it provides the greatest ROI. Monthly retainer arrangements usually include regular analytics reports, on-site content improvements, press releases, link building,keyword research, and optimization.
  • Contract services at fixed prices: Nearly all SEO agencies sell contract services. Often, before a client is ready to engage a monthly retainer, they will select contract services that they want to have completed. The services that an SEO agency offers are often advertised on their site, along with a price. A typical example of this is an SEO website audit which can help determine existing strengths and weaknesses in the client’s online presence, competitive analysis, as well as keywords that have the highest potential to return positive ROI.
  • Project-based pricing: Project fees are similar to contract services with the exception that they are custom projects created specifically for a client. Pricing varies according to the project. For example, a local cupcake shop may ask an SEO agency to help them with their local online marketing. The client decides that they want the agency to establish their social media accounts. The cupcake business and the SEO agency will decide on the scope and cost of the project.
  • Hourly consulting: This familiar consulting model is an hourly fee in exchange for services or information.

Most SEO agencies use all of these payment models. Likewise, clients may work with an agency using more than one model. For example, a client may choose to enter into a monthly retainer, purchase a contract service, and engage in a special project with the agency, thus entering into three of the payment models.

Typical SEO Costs

So, what should you expect to pay? Here’s a survey of the range of the costs according to the payment models described above.

  • Monthly retainer: $750-5,000 per month. Within this range, the amount that a client pays depends on the size of their business and the extent of services provided by the agency. On the lower end of this spectrum are small SEO agencies that offer a limited range of services. On the upper range are businesses with greater needs working with full-service SEO agencies. Most businesses pay between $2,500 and $5,000 for a monthly retainer.
  • Contract services at fixed prices: price variable. Businesses that are just testing the waters in SEO usually choose a contract service as an entry point. Typical contract services include things like SEO copywriting ($0.15-$0.50/word), site content audit ($500-$7,500), link profile audit ($500-$7,500), and social media site setup ($500-$3,000).
  • Project-based pricing: price variable. Since there are a variety of projects, there is a wide range of prices. Most projects cost from $1,000 to $30,000.
  • Hourly consulting rate: $100-300/hr. SEO consultants, whether individuals or agencies, usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour.

(Some of these figures are taken from a 2011 SEOmoz survey of 500 consultants and agencies.)

Things You Should Be Suspicious of

Any discussion of SEO agencies and pricing isn’t complete without a few warnings. To help you guard against indiscriminate SEO agencies with unethical business practices, read and heed. Be suspicious of the following promises:

  • Guarantees. SEO firms generally can’t provide guarantees due to the constantly changing nature of the industry.
  • Instant results. True, some SEO tactics can get “instant results” by gaming the system. Be warned that these can hurt you in the long run. Instant results often involve SEO practices that are against webmaster guidelines put out by search engines. Invariably, Google seeks out these techniques and penalizes them, resulting in lost rankings that can take months to recover.
  • #1 spot on Google. If an agency promises you the number one spot on Google, it sounds great. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get it. However, it’s not something that a firm can promise to hand over to you.
  • Costs lower than $750/month. When it comes to SEO, you aren’t shopping for the lowest price; you’re seeking the best level of service. Be wary of rock bottom prices or “unbelievable deals.”
  • Shady link building services. Link building is a crucial part of SEO. You can’t have a highly-ranked site without inbound links. But there’s a dark side of link building. Link trust is gaining importance to appear high in the rankings. Before you enter into an arrangement with an SEO agency for link building services, ensure that their link building services are ethical, white label services. You may even wish to ask them where they may be able to gain links for a business in your industry.

Things to Keep in Mind

As you begin shopping for SEO agencies and making your decision, be mindful of the following points:

  • SEO takes time. A monthly retainer is best. Think of SEO as a long-term investment. Aggressive campaigns and major pushes may have their place, but the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship. In SEW’s Mark Jackson wrote, “The real value of SEO efforts are, generally, not realized in the first month(s) of the effort.” It’s true. SEOs don’t wave a magic wand and get instant results. Instead, they perform extensive operations that will produce results months down the road.
  • SEO changes, and your rankings will change, too. The field is full of competitors, and rankings rise and fall with the changing of algorithms and the entrance of new competitors. One-and-done SEO tricks simply don’t work. It takes constant monitoring to keep your website ranking well and performing at top-notch levels.
  • Not all SEO services are created equal. Again, SEO isn’t about shopping around for the lowest prices. It’s about finding the finest agency you can. Look for an SEO agency that defines its scope of services, and takes the time to educate you.
  • SEO is important. Do it. The point of your website is to increase and/or improve your business. Unless people are finding your website, it’s not even worth having one. The smart thing is to pay what it takes to keep your site findable by the people who are looking.
  • Hiring an SEO agency is best. You may be thinking, “Can’t I just do this SEO thing on my own?” A tiny percentage of business owners or professionals have the skill and savvy to do their own SEO. Even so, comprehensive SEO takes way more time than most business owners can afford. Even an employee who “knows a lot about SEO,” will be hard-pressed to deliver the level of services and excellence found in a SEO agency. You’ll rarely come out on top if you try to go it alone, and you’ll never get the same level of ROI that you would with a competent SEO agency.

You Decide

For most businesses today, SEO is the highest ROI marketing effort. The benefits it provides exceed the value of other marketing approaches – direct mailing, broadcast advertising, online ads, etc.

No longer do businesses decide whether they need SEO services. Instead, they decide how much they’re going to spend. As long as they choose a quality SEO agency, their decision will lead to incredible amounts of revenue.

You can decide how much that’s worth to you.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com.

Which Social Network is Best for B2B Marketing?

May 10, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Jasmine Sandler, May9, 2013

Which social network is the best for B2B marketing? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube each offer B2B marketers value. Let’s review these top sites from a B2B social marketing perspective so we can crown an undisputed champion.

The Keys to Social B2B Victory

When it comes to using social media as a marketing tool for B2B organizations, which have an end goal of qualified lead generation, the underlying key to success is to drive thought-leadership and credibility around a desired market position that will yield target engagement. To do so, a B2B organization must first have a solid social media plan that defines the market position and a review of the online competition.

The online brand that will be delivered in social must align with a B2B organization’s brand promise, mission, and value proposition. Choosing the appropriate channel(s) depends on a number of factors including:

Audience breakdown of network.
Target audience types.
Content types by audience.
Purpose of social network.
Tone of network.
Engagement levels of network.

Google+

Google+ is becoming the next big social network for business. As of March 2013, Google+ had 350 million active users. That is more than on LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

When your content is placed on Google+ it has the chance to rank higher because the content is fed into the personal search results of your Google+ circles. And content that is feature-rich, like online video (YouTube – a Google product) and images supported with text gains ultimately more exposure.

Feeding content to Google+ from a YouTube channel or Pinterest board is a good idea. Google+, as a Google product, means it will undoubtedly be integrated into other developing applications supporting content marketing and organic search. Social signals are the gold piece for any B2B marketer.

With Google+, you can have a business page as well. This means that a person can follow and engage with your business on a personal level, creating opportunities for relationship building. Relationship development is what B2B sales is all  about.

The Google+ Hangout real-time video application is another major bonus to Google+ as a B2B social network. All you need is a webcam and an audience and you can run video conferencing within the tool. This keeps business professionals talking on Google+. Further that those Hangouts can be published directly to YouTube.

On the negative side, Google+ is a platform for content delivery more than a way to “business network.” Conversations on Google+ can get out of hand and can be a turn off in the same way that too many emails can do to a B2B prospect.

Finally, Google+ for business users and business pages are still an area lacking in terms of overall B2B adoption. For Google+ to win here, Google will need to invest in marketing that feature.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn makes it easy to build relationships with your target prospects. LinkedIn was born and bred to create and develop business relationships, and has grown to have 225 million active users in more than 200 countries.

The obvious opportunities in using LinkedIn as a marketing tool include personal branding for executives, sales development for business development professionals and marketing opportunities via LinkedIn targeted, real-time lead gen advertising.

The key to winning on LinkedIn, as it were, is to use LinkedIn on a daily basis to provide valuable support to your connections and Groups.

Marketing on LinkedIn is sophisticated. A marketer can run a targeted ad by location, industry, title, company and other specific demographics. Further, those ads can capture leads on the fly (a great feature).

On a company level, LinkedIn provides businesses with opportunities to engage with company followers on a one on one level. LinkedIn is the ultimate social networking tool for business professionals. Real networking happens in Groups and in the context of comments and status engagement.

LinkedIn also provides multiple paid opportunities to use the tool as more of a CRM with features like Lead Builder and Profile Organizer.

The most compelling feature of LinkedIn, in general, for anyone in B2B sales is the ability to learn everything, on a professional level, about a target prospect. Further, find appropriate ways for warm introductions.

On the negative side, LinkedIn as a website, has multiple user experience and functional issues. In the haste to make LinkedIn feature-rich, at any time, issues may arise from unnecessary messages, pop-ups and disabled links.

LinkedIn networking and marketing doesn’t necessary work on its own. This is why it is crucial to take your LinkedIn developed relationships offline, whether on the phone or in person to close the deal.

Twitter

Twitter is, for busy business professionals, marketers and CEOs, the easiest way to get the message out, so to speak. A microblogging tool that forces copy-like conversations, Twitter enables quick information to link backs to important web pages of conversion (i.e., your website and your blog.

Twitter is a great place for B2B marketers to find and engage with, via Twitter private lists, for example, targeted media.

B2B marketing on the Internet is all about three key components: Online reputation, Thought-leadership and a Strong Online Brand. Twitter can be very useful in addressing these areas.

The mobile app for Twitter and ability to tweet 24/7, as many social media marketers do, is easy to do.

Twitter is where the news breaks. Twitter is where real-time conversations are happening. Twitter is the best social media tool for covering events and running events live.

Event marketing of conferences, workshops and seminars are crucial to the success of any B2B organization these days. Twitter’s search algorithm and use of hashtags makes it easy for reporters to find interview subjects and speakers.

On the negative side, because of Google’s ownership of Google+ however, any article shared on Twitter will become visible in organic Google results after the same on Google+. Also, Twitter yes makes it easy for you to reach out to reporters and business professionals you do not know, but this does not mean you will get a reply.

Twitter followers are nowhere near as substantial as a LinkedIn connect whom you have, if you’re doing LinkedIn marketing correctly, developed a relationship.

YouTube

Online video, done correctly, meaning with the brand in mind and well thought out for target engagement needs to be a crucial component of any online marketer’s social media marketing program.

YouTube, as a Google product and video-serving platform, in itself is an opportunity for B2B social networking. Most videos when made compelling and shared appropriately can certainly serve to drive qualified inbound leads.

YouTube links of videos can be embedded and shared on websites, such as SlideShare, another necessary B2B online marketing tool. In doing so, these videos can then become visible to target connections on important B2B social networking sites like Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

As a standalone B2B social network, YouTube isn’t truly where the lead capture happens or where relationships are developed.

Facebook

Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla, is certainly the number one B2C social media network. As a B2B social media tool, Facebook does serve to deliver client services, online promotions and event announcements primarily.

Another important B2B feature provided by Facebook is the ability to gain opt-ins for e-mail marketing on a business page.

B2B marketers who turn to Facebook as a social media tool need to heavily engage in target and organizational groups and pages.

Creating direct B2B sales relationships from Facebook is certainly done, but not at the level of a LinkedIn or even Twitter.

And the Top B2B Social Network Is…

Hands down, LinkedIn is the best social network for B2B marketing. LinkedIn is the only real B2B social network that was developed purely to develop direct B2B sales relationships for B2B marketers.

The other social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube – all should be in the toolbox of any serious B2B marketer. But if you’re on limited time and resources and looking to greatly increase your bottom line, you should invest wholly in LinkedIn.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com.

5 Rules to Effectively Use Press Releases for Links

May 01, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Jennifer Van Iderstyne, May 1, 2013

newspapers-and-glasses

Press release marketing has come under a lot more scrutiny for the kind of links that can look “unnatural” in a link profile. The issues that can arise from some press release networks are the mass-scale duplicate content and redundant anchor text links across numerous sites with little real value.

So yeah, there may have been some misuse of press releases along the way as a “fast” way to pick up some “easy” links. But the press release is still a valuable tool for online marketing in a number of ways. Using press releases effectively can still help get links, in a real way.

1. Keep Your Press Release About Real News

The real shame of the press release for links trend was all the sad attempts to drum up “news” or keyword stuff a headline. That’s done. Press releases won’t do anything for you in that respect.

But if you have an exciting acquisition, or are truly leading the way with a new idea, process or partnership that could affect others in a significant way, that’s worth it.

2. Don’t Over Optimize Your Press Release

Safe syndication practices would encourage you to go easy on the optimization in a press release. Brand names and URLs are pretty innocuous or a keyword that is more company than product related may also be a natural fit. But use an easy hand.

If you followed rule number one, and your news is really that good, you can get picked up by bloggers and other journalists that will re-write and re-reference your site in a different way. But if you rely solely on the duplicate prints, over-optimization could hurt later on.

3. Send Readers to Other Interesting Assets

Use the press release and the news as a draw to bring readers further into your site. Whatever it is you are announcing accompany the release with additional, in-depth information or a related asset on the site.

When you offer something to accompany the press release, an extra reason to engage the visitor you create a deeper user experience and create additional assets for linking and sharing.

4. Send Your Press Release to Specific Sources

Choose some individuals or local institutions to send your news to before you release it to the public at large. It will give these sources an opportunity to break the news which could be advantageous to them, and helps to form a relationship with your news source.

Strong press contacts can make for valuable assets. In addition to mainstream channels for news distribution, you can also become a go-to source for expert quotes on subjects within your industry which leads to links and potentially more exposure in the future.

5. Time it Right

I remember the first time I used a press release, the nice guy I talked to on the phone actually gave me the tip. He said that I’d be better off releasing my news on a Tuesday instead of a Monday morning. Now that may or may not be true or anecdotal, but it did make me think about when my target audience would be most inclined to be catching up on the news, writing about it and sharing it.

On a larger scale, month, time of year, or proximity to a huge event in your market are other factors that could mitigate your choice of release date. But weigh them all and find the time that is going to be most advantageous in terms of interest.

Summary

Like anything, don’t shoot down press releases all around as a way to build links simply because there is a bad way to do it. Just learn how to distinguish between doing it right and abusing the system.

Choose wisely, not every press source is legit. If it’s too easy, it’s probably not that useful. And if it’s hard to accomplish and requires a lot of planning and synergy on your end, then you’re probably doing it right.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com.