The Answer To “Why Is SEO So Expensive Now?” In Layman’s Terms.

A paraphrased quote I’ve heard more times than I can count in the past ten years, “In the past I paid a company $200 and they got me ranked number one in two months! I’m not going to pay your crazy price for SEO.”

“SEO” didn’t have to be expensive in the past

The quotation marks are to point out that what many companies were doing to increase your rankings was technically against Google’s expressed commands. If the company providing $200 SEO was doing something sustainable, their customers wouldn’t constantly be knocking down the doors of real SEO companies like Netvantage. What these companies did was exploit holes in Google’s algorithm to the benefit of those who paid them. So, when Google changed their algorithm to be heavily influenced by anchor text (using the phrase you want to rank out for in the actual link pointing back to your target page), what these companies did was develop automated programs to crawl the web and drop spam blog comments on every site that had a comment section. Even today, if you run a blog, this is why you get spammy comment submissions that look like this:

comment spam

No, this doesn’t work anymore.


Obviously, if Google wants to serve up good results they can’t allow people to manipulate their rankings like this. I would assume there are better sites out there for finding a Michael Kors handbag than the one who resorted to this. No, this wasn’t a high end website doing this. In fact, these sorts of tactics not only don’t work, they can actually get you an algorithmic penalty for having unnatural links (i.e. too many of them have exact anchor text) and it will ruin your rankings. This, of course, is why so many people end up on the phone looking for a new SEO company.

The price tag for good SEO has always been fairly substantial

Doing things right requires skilled practitioners, and it always has. To do SEO right you need to have a provider that can do a lot of things, none of which can be offered up for pennies. Here’s a quick rundown of the most basic skills you need to succeed with SEO:

  • Technical/Programming
  • Content writing
  • Marketing
  • Public relations
  • Data mining & manipulation
  • Project management

On top of these slightly more cut and dry skills, you also need to have someone with a deep understanding of search marketing’s various verticals (i.e. the differences between ranking out for local results vs. video results). Oh, and to do a good job it also helps to have the right tools – which also cost money. You’ll need someone with tools that can do things like:

  • Discover backlink data
  • Manage outreach
  • Manage projects
  • Track rankings
  • Crawl websites
  • Extract and manipulate SEO data

The tools alone will likely cost more than the $200 each month…and that’s without any of the skills or knowledge to actually use them effectively.

You can’t buy a Super Bowl commercial with a sack of change

I want the above line written on a plaque and put on my wall. I’m floored by how many people seem offended when they get a quote for SEO. Unlike other forms of marketing where people understand that getting a big ROI requires a capital I for investment, there’s a belief that SEO can be done on a shoestring budget and return millions. How many business services are even offered anymore for $200? Can you get someone to clean your office for that price these days? If you’re willing to pay someone more to vacuum and dust than you are for your SEO then you’re living in a fantasy land and you might as well flush your money down the toilet. The reality of search engines in 2015 is that effective SEO has four requirements – time, talent, tools, and good subject matter. All of those things cost money.


Adam Henige

Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage SEO. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and Moz.

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