As prolific as SEO has become in online marketing, it’s still commonly misunderstood. Some business owners make the mistake of assuming that they’ll see immediate results as long as they use as many keywords as possible. Others think that they can rank as long as they copy successful strategies, often edging uncomfortably close to plagiarism. Perhaps most baffling of all, however, are those who believe they don’t need to invest in SEO to grow their business.
Only a little less than half (49%) of small businesses invest in SEO. On the other end of the spectrum, 18% don’t have plans to carry out specific SEO strategies like keyword research, content creation, or link building. They might think that scrimping on SEO is a viable way to save money, but in truth, it harms long-term visibility. Good SEO is expensive for a reason — there are a lot of moving parts involved, and staying at the top of the rankings requires constant commitment.
Now, for companies that have a tight SEO budget and are wary of spending it on services that don’t deliver, a free SEO consultation can be an easy way to dip their toes into this ever-evolving world. This article will discuss the ins and outs of a free SEO consultation, allowing business owners and marketers to gain insight into what they need to look for in an SEO agency.
Scheduling Your Free SEO Consultation
Scheduling a free SEO consultation is the easiest part of the process. Even just a quick search will bring up hundreds of websites for SEO agencies advertising a free call. From there, simply pick out a few sites and navigate over to their contact page.
Some will have little more than their own contact details and a form requesting the client’s basic details (name, email, and phone number). Others might let clients schedule a call by picking a date and time from a calendar, then filling up a form afterward. The form typically includes the usual details, such as the client’s name, email, phone number, business or organization name, and website URL. Some also include optional fields for basic questions, e.g. “What are your business goals?”
Regardless of the type of form an agency has, it should be easy work to fill up. Once submitted, the agency will confirm the schedule. The consultation usually lasts 30 minutes, but if a client has a particularly complex or ambitious project, it might go on for an hour or more.
The free SEO consultation is the agency’s greatest opportunity to get to know a potential client and vice versa.
The agency’s goal is to learn more about the client’s business, their digital marketing goals, their products and services, their competitors, and the current performance of their site. With this information, a good SEO agency can begin sketching out an SEO strategy and suggest a plan of action for the business.
On the client’s side, their goal is to determine whether or not they want to work with the agency. With the number of scammers and spammers present on the market, clients should be rightfully wary. Some good questions to prepare before going in for a consultation are:
- What SEO tools and strategies do they use?
- How long will it take to see results from their SEO strategies? (Tip: If the answer is anything less than six months, they’re either overly confident or simply saying what they think the client wants to hear, which isn’t a good look.)
- Can they back up the results they claim to produce with case studies or past clients that can be contacted for testimonials?
- What metrics do they use to measure results?
- Can they guarantee a #1 ranking? (Another tip: If they answer “yes” with 100% conviction, that’s typically a red flag. They should be upfront about the impossibility of guaranteeing rankings, as even minor changes in search algorithms can heavily impact a site’s ranking).
The Initial Free SEO Analysis That Happens After the Call
Of course, a single 30-minute call won’t be enough to go over every little detail of a business’ SEO woes. That’s why most agencies also offer a free SEO analysis for interested clients.
Any successful SEO initiative begins with an analysis. After all, it would be impossible to measure growth without first knowing the starting point. In addition, most businesses will likely have multiple areas for improvement on their website.
A free SEO analysis may include the following
- Keyword audit — The agency uses keyword research to identify keywords the site is currently ranking well for. This can also help define what keywords are the “right” keywords a site should focus on, instead of keywords that bring in the wrong target audience. Keyword audits are vital for campaigns that aim for increased online visibility.
- Backlink profile review — Link building is often the most difficult part of good SEO. External links are hard to secure outside of established partnerships, which drives a lot of shady SEO agencies to buy links en masse. Low-quality links can lead to a site being penalized by Google, so a backlink profile review helps SEO agencies identify harmful links or opportunities to build new ones.
- Technical SEO review — SEO goes beyond what’s visible on a page. Search algorithms also take into account page loading speed, meta tags, meta titles, canonical tags, crawl errors, and more. An SEO analysis highlights problem areas and lets the agency know what the web developers need to work on.
- Content review — Search engines like Google pride themselves on offering users relevant, high-quality information. Businesses should too. A content review allows the SEO agency to spot content issues like thin content, duplicate content, or poor readability. This can also include reviewing on-page elements (e.g. photos, software widgets) that can help boost rankings.
- Competitor analysis — Many SEO tools today (e.g. Semrush, Majestic) offer valuable insight into competitors’ ranking performance. Under the guidance of an SEO agency, clients can come up with targeted strategies meant to combat their competitors.
The data gained from the analysis is essential for identifying what a business’ biggest priorities should be. It helps the SEO agency determine what strategies to employ to meet the business’ stated goals, as well as another important consideration — the SEO Budget.
You’ll Get a Free SEO Quote Based on the Analysis
Once the SEO agency knows the scope of the work they need to do, it’s time to talk about money. Clients can expect a free SEO quote after the analysis, which should come with no strings attached. If the client doesn’t want to accept the price, they should have the freedom to reject it and move on.
There are three pricing models commonly used by SEO professionals:
- Per month — Typically employed by larger SEO agencies, similar to a subscription. Clients agree to pay a monthly fixed price in exchange for ongoing SEO services for their site. Some agencies allow clients to customize their monthly plans to fit their needs. Examples of services included in a monthly plan are keyword research, technical audits, SEO consultations, link building, social media marketing, content writing, and analytics. Monthly rates for SEO services usually average more than $10,000 a month, depending on the agency and the scope of the plan.
- Per hour — This is more common amongst independent contractors or freelancers that cater to small clients. Hourly services typically include the same services as monthly plans. The main difference is their price — average hourly rates hover around $100 to $250 per hour. When working with an SEO professional that uses an hourly rate, it’s important to ask for a breakdown of their hours to ensure proper billing.
- Per project — For clients that have a particular project in mind, it would make sense to team up with an agency that bills on a per-project basis. Costs for this pricing model will depend on the clients’ goals, requirements, deadlines, and the project scope. Understandably, average costs vary wildly. They can be as low as $1,000 or reach well over $1,000,000.
Aside from frequency-based pricing models, SEO services can also be sorted into different price points.
- Cheap SEO — Average costs are $500 to $3,000 per month. Typically an attractive option to small businesses, but be careful to carefully vet at this level. We have run into a lot of scammy agencies offering very cheap SEO services.
- Mid-tier SEO — Average costs are $3,000 to $15,000 per month. A good option for established businesses with a little flexibility in their budget.
- High-tier SEO — Average costs are $15,000 to $30,000 per month. Necessary for businesses that deal with high traffic volumes on their site.
- Enterprise-level SEO — Average costs are upwards of $30,000. Meant for enterprises dealing with extremely high traffic volumes and large amounts of content.
Setting an SEO Budget from the SEO Proposal
After the agency gives its free SEO quote, it’s up to the business to decide where it’ll fit in its budget. There’s no need to completely blow the budget, but at the same time, spending too little can lead to disappointing, lackluster results.
Most small businesses spend an average of $500 per month on SEO services, but those that spent a bit more were usually more satisfied with the results. There’s also the fact that money saved through cheap SEO can come at the expense of the website’s reputation and integrity. What’s $100 saved today compared to being penalized by Google and losing visibility, therefore losing potential customers? Striking a good balance in an SEO budget is crucial to long-term success.
The best way to evaluate an SEO budget is by checking to see if the plan covers vital areas of a good SEO strategy, including:
- Keyword research
- Market research
- Link building
- Content creation and optimization
- Technical site optimization
- Analytics and reporting
The ideal budget is one that covers all of these areas according to the business’ needs. For example, a majority of the budget should be dedicated to technical site optimization if the business’ website is poorly-optimized compared to competitors’.
In addition, it should be a price that the business can comfortably afford for a minimum of six to twelve months. That’s how long it usually takes to see results from an SEO campaign. Some agencies offer a short trial period to test out their services, but the period is often too short to see results. Once results are in hand, the business can determine if the price they’re paying is worth it.
Start Crushing Your SEO with Flyrise!
Speaking of agencies that offer free SEO consultations, we happen to be one of them! At Flyrise, we offer our organic SEO services to a diverse range of clients looking to take their SEO to the next level. We have years of experience in planning out tailor-made campaigns geared toward our client’s success and happiness, so you can trust that you’re in good hands. If you’d like to start the process right away book a call with us and let’s get started!