So you’ve decided that you want to hire someone to do search engine optimization for your law firm. But you have no idea how much you should be paying. After all, you’ve seen prices for SEO services all over the map. So, what’s the difference between Godaddy’s SEO at $2.99/mo. and $5K, $10K, and $20K+ per month packages, projects, and retainers? This post tries to explain some of those differences and how you should go about making a decision about hiring an SEO consultant.
Law Firm SEO: $2.99 Per Month
Here are some excerpts from the Godaddy Standard search engine visibility offering:
Optimize & Submit Your Website to Search Engines
Prepare your site to get listed on over 100 search engines.
Improve Rankings with Keyword and Site Optimization
Easy, One-click Submission to Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Ask
Reports to Track Your Rankings on Each Search Engine
With Standard Search Engine Visibility, you don’t have to be an SEO expert. With this easy-to-use tool, you can prepare and submit your website for top rankings on Google®, Yahoo!®, Bing® and Ask®.
Now before we break down exactly what each of these service components might mean, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I’ve never paid for Godaddy’s SEO services (although I do use them for domain registration and have used them for hosting occasionally).
Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look at their offer. First, they say optimize and submit your website to search engines. Well, we can very quickly dismiss the submit your website to search engines part. That’s just plain garbage. If properly set up your website from a technical standpoint, you don’t need to “submit” it to search engines. They’ll find you.
Second, “optimize” is a pretty general term. Are they performing keyword research? Are they adjusting title tags, headers, and internal link anchor text? I’ll bet a steak dinner that these services aren’t included in the $2.99/mo. package. And of course, these are essential to any search engine optimization project.
Most likely, what they mean is that your site will be built in a “search engine friendly way.” This may mean that you get semantic URLs, that each new page you create will have a title tag and meta description, and that you may even get an XML sitemap. These are all things that web publishing software, like WordPress.org, have right of the box, for free.
Next they offer to prepare your site to get listed on over 100 search engines. Garbage. There are only 3 search engines that matter to the overwhelming majority of Internet users, Google, Yahoo, and Bing. And some even argue that only Google really matters (although I don’t agree with this). Getting listed on over 100 search engines is completely empty.
Their next offer is to improve ranking with keyword and site optimization. Whoa, maybe I was wrong? Are they doing keyword research? If so, how many keywords are they targeting? What is the value of the keywords in terms of relevance to your firm, competition, and search volume? In other words, are they targeting keywords that are likely to drive relevant potential client traffic to your site? What on-page optimization are they performing? Title tags? Headings? Alt img tags? Are they writing your page content? No way.
I’ve been wrong before and if anyone has used this program, please leave a comment telling me.
We’ve already addressed “submission” so I’m skipping that. Finally, they offer to report and track your rankings. While I would suggest that rankings are not nearly as important a performance indicator as relevant traffic, leads, and of course return on investment, rank tracking has its place in reporting pie. But what are they reporting? How many keywords are they reporting on? How often? Where are they getting their data? If their tracking is any good, this is probably the most valuable part of their offering. However, in my humble opinion, it’s not SEO, it’s just reporting.
As I have previously admitted, I haven’t actually used Godaddy for seo. So, I googled godaddy seo reviews. Here are some results:
All those hosters SEO-services are bold and outdated in their SEO techniques. If you do not mind getting little out, you may use them.
But remember, they are not the experts, they just provide complimentary services to get a bit more money, or to involve more clients.
Nothing is free and you get what you pay for. If they think that $6/month is going to do anything for their SEO they are kidding themselves.
This is purely an upsell for GoDaddy. They are understandably trying to increase their average invoice by attaching other services, but this one won’t add any value.
Yes..this is common problem every individual consultant or any small company face.
Points like (site submissions to search engines) are all gone..and things of the past. And they are not doing anything exceptional which you can’t do..they have a software which does all the stuff..and software like Rank Tracker can do the same thing for you..(tracking, monitoring, history, etc)
With all due respect to what Godaddy does..still they prime business is not SEO, it’s domaining
None of this should really come as any surprise. You can’t even outsource low-quality link building to foreign countries for $2.99/mo. Oh link building? Yeah, they didn’t even mention that. Which is unquestionably one of the top 2 or 3 most important parts of search engine optimization.
If your budget for SEO is $2.99/mo, I have some advice for you. Go buy a piece of pie each month. You will enjoy it a lot more.
Big $$$ Law Firm SEO
On the other end of the spectrum, there are SEO consultants that charge HUGE money every month. How do we know that they aren’t just a MUCH bigger waste than the $2.99 guys? And the final analysis is that it comes down to return on investment. But more on that later.
Before we get to measuring ROI, let’s talk about what these big money law firm SEO consultants should be spending their time on.
Priority #1 – Site Architecture
Without a solid site architecture, nothing else really matters. Here’s why, if you’re blocking search engines from crawling and indexing your site, no number of links will help your site appear in search engine results. Further, if you’re not sending information about what your pages are about, you’re going to make it very difficult for search engines to determine the relevancy of your pages to search queries.
Furthermore, you should be asking questions like:
- Will I be able to add and update pages and posts on my own?
- If I terminate services with you, will I still own my site? Will I still have access to the back end to make updates?
- Will my URLs contain semantic information?
- Will all of my URLs be unique?
- Will I be able to update meta tags on my own?
- Will I be able to easily upload images and embed video?
- How will the site handle redirection?
- Will my site have an XML sitemap?
While your website architecture is unlikely to get you to the first position for highly competitive keywords, it can be the thing that prevents you from getting into search engines at all. It’s the foundation to your entire web presence, and if poorly executed, can be very costly in the long run in terms of updates.
Priority # 2- Content Development
Your web content is what will eventually make or break you online. Your SEO consultant should know that. He/she should be talking about content development from day one. What is the content strategy? Who will be involved in the content development process? What types of content will be implemented?
If you’re SEO isn’t talking about content, you shouldn’t be talking to them.
Priority #3 – Link Building
After content, your SEO should be talking about links. How will they get links? From where will they get links? What is their process for finding new link targets? What strategies will they use? Do they understand that difference between “followed” and “nofollow” links? Have they explained the risks involved with various link strategies?
If they’re not willing to share what they plan to do on your behalf, I would drop them. There’s really no magic. Further, they might end up doing something that could actually harm your search visibility, your professional reputation, or even jeopardize your law license.
If your SEO is primarily talking about blog commenting, social bookmarking, directory submission, and reciprocal linking resources pages, you should be weary. While theses strategies may have had success in the past? They’re a lot less likely to have success moving forward. Especially if their “link network” gets labeled as a link farm by search engines.
Priority #4 – Citations
If your law firm is local, meaning that you want to attract visitors that use local search phrases (i.e. chicago personal injury lawyer), your SEO had better be talking about local business citations. Citations are a combination of your law firm name, address, phone number, and even web address. If you ask your SEO about local business citations and they look at you funny, they probably aren’t going have a lot of success in generating new local search traffic.
Priority #5 – Social Signals
Social signals are becoming more and more important in organic search. That means that they’re no longer “kid stuff.” Your SEO should be talking to you about your participation in social media and social networking. And we’re not merely talking about setting up profiles. You should be discussing how you use social media and how it fits into a greater online marketing strategy. As search engines and the web become more and more semantic, the importance of these social signals will continue to increase. Developing yourself and your firm as authoritative and trustworthy in your practice requires at least some consideration of your online social communities.
But How Much Should It Cost?
And now the thousands of dollars per month question. How much should this cost? And the answer is that it shouldn’t cost more than it generates in terms of new business for your firm, eventually.
It’s important to understand that effective ROI generating SEO doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when you’re launching a brand new website. It may take several weeks to get your website up and running. It may take several months to develop your first quality links and start to appear for less competitive keywords. It may take years to develop enough authority to rank for highly competitive search phrases.
On the other hand, you should have performance goals in place to track the work of your SEO. Are you seeing increases in traffic? Are you seeing inquiries coming through your site? If your SEO isn’t meeting these established goals month over month, you should be free to take your investment elsewhere. What? They require you to sign a multi-year contract? No accountability, no thanks.
Even though it’s from 2007, SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin provides some great input on ways to structure your relationship with your SEO:
The simplest way to price a project is to charge by the hour. Rates in SEO vary with the lowest, entry level folks around $40-50, mid-tier consultants around $100-$200 and high-demand firms & people from $300-500. SEOmoz is obviously actively trying to limit our clients by going way outside the norm and charging $1000 / hour.
Many SEOs will use the business model common to web development agencies and charge a flat fee (often in several chunks over the course of a project). The total price is based on an estimate of time, effort and personel involved in the project. At SEOmoz we often charge in this fashion for a site review + keyword research + consulting time or for an on-site SEO training series.
Plenty of SEOs offer dozens of individual services, such as Debra Mastaler’s directory submission service, Eric Ward’s link building & publicity campaigns or Jessie Strichiola’s SEO assessment services. These offerings present a single price for a set amount of work, though I have little doubt that many of them are customized and have modified pricing based on the factors discussed in the next section.
Standard Profit Sharing
Some limited number of SEO providers offer profit sharing based compensation. These frequently include a relatively small down payment to begin work and then a percentage of revenues (usually before non-essential expenses) from sales through the website. This can be a good option for SEOs who have great confidence in their abilities and are ready to assume a significant share of risk. We at SEOmoz have tried this in the past with mixed results – one big problem is that you’ll need to ensure that the business operations, outside of the website, are running on all cylinders, which really doesn’t fit well with the job of SEO.
Modified Profit Sharing
As above, but modified profit sharing typically includes a clause that gives the SEO firm a cut prior to any expenses and may even set minimums of payment. Other modifications could make the deal similar to a Pay-Per-Action (PPA) or Pay-Per-Lead, the latter of which can be a better way to limit risk. Both SEOs and those seeking their services should be wary of any kind of profit-sharing deal. It’s akin to a real business partnership in many ways and shouldn’t be treated with any less weight.
A few good SEO firms I know use a basic monthly retainer with a standard workload package (or several options). My friends up in Quebec modify this system so that during development, marketing & ongoing maintenance, different prices are charged as part of the retainer. This can be a very good model for companies seeking to retain clients over a long period of time, but it can also be abused by those who claim (hopefully falsely) that the site will “lose its rankings” if the customer cancels.
Pay for Rankings
This is one of the more interesting strategies that SEOs employ. The idea being that you pay one price for reaching, say, page 2 of a particular result, another price for position 10, 9, 8 and so on, usually with particular bonuses for #1-3 rankings. It really only makes sense for companies seeking to rank for a particular set of terms/phrases that they know converts quite highly. I suspect that searches like DUI Attorney Orange County might fit well into this system.
Pay for Traffic
As with pay-per-ranking, a traffic payment system treats SEO very much like PPC. I like this model in some respects, because it does measure the SEO’s work, but it can get messy as the quality of traffic isn’t measured here (of course, this usually only counts search engine traffic, but still…).
Here are my thoughts:
- Hourly – Same problems as the billable hour. Not much accountability for results. On the other hand, simplest form of relationship, easy to track and see what is being done and how long it is taking. Puts some tangibility to the SEO’s work.
- Flat Fee – Know all your costs up-front. Again, not as much accountability for results.
- Contract – Contract services allow you to dip your toe in without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, there are many “freelance SEO experts” that simply aren’t very experienced. While their intentions may be good, the quality of their work may be lower. I only recommend using contract SEO if you have a great understanding of how SEO works and what it will take to reach your goals.
- Profit Sharing / Modified Profit Sharing – In my opinion, these are really out for law firms due to ethics rules. Profit sharing is likely to be deemed unethical fee sharing with nonlawyers. Unless of course your SEO is a lawyer, then you could probably pay a standard referral fee.
- Monthly Retainer – Monthly retainers can make a lot of sense especially for those that have an established presence and really want someone with experience overseeing what’s going on with their strategy month over month.
- Pay For Rankings – I don’t like this one. Even if you can agree about which terms you will rank for, it’s not really a comprehensive strategy. SEOs can’t guarantee rankings and they shouldn’t sell you on rankings alone. While rankings are obviously an important piece of the puzzle, it puts everyone’s focus on rankings and not on performance and ROI, where it should be.
- Pay for Traffic – Again, I don’t like it. Traffic from where? What source? What country? What keywords? I might be able to drive tons of traffic to your site by tweeting about how you’re giving away a free ipad. Will that generate new business for your firm? You tell me.
So after all that, I still haven’t put a price tag on SEO services. And the reason is that it really depends. It depends on your goals. It depends on how competitive the search landscape is for your core keywords, practice area(s), and geography. It depends on how involved you want to be in the process.
Like other professional services, experience counts. Ask your potential consultant for some examples of work they’ve done. Ultimately, just like all other marketing and advertising, your SEO should cost less than the business that it brings in over time. What that number is will vary greatly from one firm to another. No matter how you structure your relationship with your law firm SEO consultant, set goals for accountability at the start. Measure and track the performance of your SEO campaigns. If you’re not getting the results that you expected, try someone new.
Be weary of consultants that aren’t transparent about their strategies. Don’t get held hostage by those that threaten to remove your links if you stop paying.
Download our free guide on hiring a law firm SEO consultant.