Cheap SEO Is a Near-Death Experience

Cheap SEO is a near-death experience quote by Bruce Clay.

Quality SEO: If cheap and fast SEO worked then everyone would rank number 1. Instead, it takes meticulous high quality work to be top-3 out of millions of results. If you want value from your SEO project, cheap and fast is not your solution.

There’s a phenomenon that occurs with near-death experiences. Many people report having seen a bright light at the end of a tunnel or so-called angels. This is often accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of pure love.

But that’s not what happens when your business dies. It’s often a slow, excruciating experience that involves a decrease in online visibility, traffic, leads, and conversions. There is no bright light at the end of the tunnel, but you may feel something: overwhelming desperation.

Why do businesses have these near-death experiences? There are many reasons. CB Insights says being out-competed and poor marketing are among the Top-10. I agree.

There’s a saying in the project management world: good, fast, cheap — pick two. You can usually get something that’s good and fast (like Chinese food delivered from UberEATS) or cheap and fast (a service on Fiverr). But good and cheap is harder to find.

Want good SEO, fast? Double up on your budget for more resources. Want cheap SEO, fast? That’s easy, but you get what you pay for. Want SEO that’s both good quality and cheap? Sorry, but that’s not an option.

Venn diagram illustrating good, cheap and fast search engine optimization.

We’re living in a time where products and services are brought to market that give regular folks access to high quality for a small price. So, it’s no wonder that many businesses expect the same from SEO. But SEO is not one of those services.

Cheap SEO is a near-death experience. It’s an impending death of your website and your business. The way to avoid death is superior quality, and that comes at a price.

But understand that you’re not just throwing money into a black hole. Quality SEO pays dividends in more traffic, good user experience, and conversions, which equals money.

The bottom line: Don’t sacrifice quality SEO if you want to be in the top five results on Page 1 of the search results.

How Do I Know If I’m Getting Quality SEO?

Henry Ford once said that “quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” But how do you know if you’re getting a quality SEO service? There are a great many things you can do to assess vendors and practices, as I’ve previously outlined in this article on how to evaluate an SEO company.

The bottom line is that expert SEO advice will come from expert sources. But it’s up to you to do your due diligence.

Just some of the things to consider when assessing SEO vendors:

  • How long has the SEO vendor been in business?
  • Does the internal team have sufficient skills and experience?
  • Does the company demonstrate thought leadership through speaking engagements, expert content or training?
  • Does the company have a good reputation among its peers in the industry?
  • Has the company received any awards or accolades?
  • How involved is the company in the industry’s professional organizations and/or professional community?
  • Does the company have SEO methods that are keeping within Google’s quality guidelines (aka “white hat” practices)?

Remember: Two different SEO professionals could look at the same website and see totally different things. Analyzing a website, pinpointing issues, and prescribing solutions comes from experience.

For more on hiring a quality SEO service, check out Google’s advice for hiring an SEO agency.

How Much Should I Spend on SEO?

Budget constraints are one of the top five reasons that SEO projects fail. When looking at your long-term business and SEO goals, the question you have to ask yourself is: How long am I willing to wait until I beat my competition? This determines your budget.

Part of the problem is that many businesses don’t understand SEO’s worth. SEO is not a put-in-a-quarter-and-get-a-dollar-out strategy. SEO takes time. It’s an investment. It’s a leap of faith.

But those who stay in the game reap the rewards, as SEO has proven again and again to drive revenue. This chart from BrightEdge research shows how much revenue the organic search channel drives.

Chart from BrightEdge research showing how much revenue the organic search channel drives.

So, how much should you actually pay for SEO? Businesses should allocate five to 10 percent of their revenue to SEO as a cost of advertising. And every industry is different. Some industries invest a lot more in advertising because that is what it takes to compete. In other sectors, less money may go a long way.

If your competition is getting most of their traffic from organic search and you’re not there it’s only going to get worse for you. By the way, organic search is the dominant marketing channel for most industries at 53 percent on average.

And yes, you can hire a cheap service and get more hours. The question is: Will it be high value for your business? Is it enough to beat your competition?

Not only that, but cheap SEO can cost more in the long run. Many businesses have paid for low-cost SEO only to have little results, or worse, have their near-death experience.

What Is Valuable to Your Business?

Most everything that’s quality has a price. When you buy an expensive car, you spend money to get all the features and outcomes that are valuable to you, including longevity. Cheap cars may be shiny driving off the lot, but as the paint begins to fade, the realization is that what you’re left with is a quick fix.

SEO is no different. The quality is going to be proportionate to your investment. So you have to ask: What is valuable to your business in the long term? Is it to remain competitive? If so, you have to be prepared to compete, and sometimes it is to work smarter. And that means investing in quality SEO services.

Interested in learning more about our SEO services? We invite you to call us or start the conversation with our contact form.

FAQ: How Much Should I Allocate for SEO in My Budget?

Search Engine Optimization is no longer an optional expense; it has become an indispensable necessity. However, budgeting for SEO may seem difficult; we will explore all the factors affecting it to help guide an informed decision process.

Understanding Your Business Goals

Before allocating a specific budget to SEO, aligning your SEO strategy with your business objectives is imperative. Consider where you currently stand and want to be regarding online visibility and traffic. Are you aiming for local or global reach? Are you looking to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or boost e-commerce sales? The answers to these questions will guide your budget allocation.

Competitive Analysis Matters

Your industry and the level of competition within it can greatly impact your SEO budget. Conduct a thorough competitive analysis to understand your rivals’ investment in SEO. Use this worksheet as a starting point, but remember that your approach may need to be adjusted depending on your business’s unique circumstances and goals.

Quality Over Quantity

It’s a common misconception that pouring a large sum into SEO will guarantee immediate success. In reality, the quality of your SEO efforts matters more than the quantity of your budget. Prioritize areas with the most significant impact, such as keyword research, content optimization, and technical SEO improvements.

Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation

SEO is an ongoing process, and your budget should reflect that. Allocate funds not only for initial optimization but also for continuous monitoring and adaptation. SEO trends, algorithms, and consumer behavior change over time. Regularly assess your SEO strategy and adjust your budget to stay ahead.

Allocating the right budget for SEO is a pivotal decision that can shape the success of your online presence. You can make the most of your SEO investments by aligning your budget with your business goals, analyzing your competition, focusing on quality, and allowing for ongoing adjustments.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Determining Your SEO Budget

  1. Begin by clearly defining your business goals and objectives related to SEO.
  2. Assess your current online presence and determine where you want to improve.
  3. Research your industry and competitors to understand their SEO strategies and budgets.
  4. Calculate a baseline budget by considering your business size and industry standards.
  5. Prioritize key SEO areas that align with your goals, such as keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building.
  6. Allocate a portion of your budget for ongoing monitoring and adaptation.
  7. Consider working with an experienced SEO agency or specialist if needed.
  8. Continuously track and measure the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
  9. Be prepared to adjust your budget based on the results and changing SEO landscape.
  10. Monitor Google algorithm updates and adapt your strategy accordingly.
  11. Regularly analyze your competition and update your budget as needed.
  12. Focus on content quality and user experience to maximize the impact of your budget.
  13. Implement technical SEO improvements to enhance website performance.
  14. Utilize data-driven insights to refine your keyword strategy and content.
  15. Invest in link-building strategies that align with your objectives.
  16. Consider local SEO efforts if your business serves a specific geographic area.
  17. Stay informed about industry trends and emerging SEO technologies.
  18. Collaborate with your SEO team or agency to optimize your budget allocation.
  19. Continuously measure the ROI of your SEO investments.
  20. Adjust your budget to ensure ongoing SEO success and growth.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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8 Replies to “Cheap SEO Is a Near-Death Experience”

Thanks for sharing such an informative article. It really helpful for people who are still finding cheap services instead of a quality work.

It is so true that quality SEO work cannot be expected at a cheap price. But many clients and brands fall for such types of traps. It’s very important for brands to realize that SEO is a long-term game that requires a lot of patience.

This is the perfect post & wish my clients understood this!

Scary part is “new thought leadership” can be wrong and EVERYONE things they are a thought leader these days.

Amen to this!

We explain it as a zero sum game, how much of the pie do you want and how quick do you want it? A true SEO expert is never a fixed value that can be bargained for.

The problem has and always will be communicating value in an economy of lemons unfortunately.

There is so much good information in this post. The internal and external linking also provided some valuable resources. Clients that understand the long-term ROI of SEO are always going to be winners. The businesses that struggle, or have a “near-death experience” are always the ones to cut marketing expenses.

Awesome, Bruce!
I’ve been looking for such an article from a seasoned SEO professional.
All is to the point, except it is almost unreal to communicate to the client to spend even 5% of their revenue for SEO. Especially when you started with a fixed SEO budget and grew their business up to seven digits in revenue.


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