As someone who’s deeply vested in the SEO industry, I’m acutely aware of the fierce competition that exists in the marketplace. Not only is there competition amongst SEO firms themselves who are vying and endlessly bidding for the consumer’s business, but also amidst the droves of so-called experts that are peddling their services to a consumer base that’s lost at best when it comes to organic search.
And right fully so. Google’s often-obfuscated search results are meant to breathe an air of relevancy into being found. Gone are the days when you could cut to the front of the line, so to speak. Back then, relevancy was on the decline thanks in no part to those elusive Black Hats who were hell-bent on bending and breaking Google’s rules. The search giant new it had to fight back. And it did so with a vengeance.
Now, consider this for a moment. Although I only use the competition in Los Angeles’s SEO marketplace as an example, the number of firms that are competing for business across the U.S.’s bustling metropolises has skyrocketed in recent years. However, when you look at firms in other locales such as Boise, Idaho or Vancouver, Washington for instance, you’ll notice that prices differ drastically from their big-city counterparts.
This is partly attributed to the skyrocketing cost-of-living in cities like L.A., San Francisco and N.Y.C. However, the purpose of this piece isn’t just to convey the high price that you’d expect to pay for organic search ranking services in a city like Los Angeles, but also the intrinsic value of finding the right company to fit the proverbial bill. When it boils down to it, this is your future on the line, so don’t sell yourself or your business short by trying to DIY your SEO or get a deep discount.
How To Find The Right SEO Company
In a recent conversation with legendary marketer, Mike Long, we discussed the pros and cons of hiring out a professional SEO. Long, who not only has an intrinsic understanding of organic search, but is also one of the most sought-after online marketers in the industry, has been involved in the biggest product launches that included the first $1+ million dollar launch with John Reese, Stompernet with Frank Kern, along with being attributed to Tai Lopez’s rise to fame, he’s also the head of a leading internet marketing and SEO company in Los Angeles called, OMG Machines.
While slightly apparent at first, Long’s brash and unruly style has certainly made waves in an industry that’s fiercely competitive, netting his company upwards of $35 million in a few short years of dominance of the SEO education marketplace. OMG, which also hosts masterminds and massive conventions dedicated to understanding SEO in depth, certainly knows a thing or two about the competitive landscape and specifically how to succeed in it.
Knowing that there was likely no better fit for a true understanding of the marketplace when it comes to organic search, I spoke with Long extensively about his views. Overall, Long tells me that there are 5 particular reasons why SEO is so competitive, not just in his hometown, but across the entire United States.
#1 — Clouded Obfuscation Of Search
Google’s current search iteration has well over 200 algorithm factors, and likely closer to 300 or more. Very little of that is actually revealed by the search giant itself. What we know, we know from testing, public data, press releases and other big-data-related sources close to the search giant. However, none of that is the complete and total picture of the precise algorithm.
The truth? Most people are well aware that understanding and grasping the enormity of organic search is a monumental undertaking. For some, it’s a lifelong pursuit to glean the specifics and particulars related to ranking at the top of Google’s SERPs.
However, Long says that this cloud of obfuscation is what makes SEO markets like L.A. or San Francisco so hotly competitive. Considering that many people are left in the proverbial dark, this is rightfully so. And to add to that confusion, for those that dare go it on their own and make a mistake, a world of digital hurt is awaiting them.
Most people can attest to the severity of a Google penalty. When you base your entire business on organic search rankings, and the supposed rules of the game change, and you fall like a ship’s anchor, there’s a sense of despair and frustration that sets in.
#2 — Increased Search Volume
Studies indicate that over 3.5 million searches were conducted per minute in 2017. In 2016, that number was 2.4 million, resulting in a 45% increase year-over-year, which is mind-bending. Considering that search is continuing to climb at an astounding rate, and the volume is staggering, the demand, not only for search traffic, but also for appearing relevantly at the top of any search, is shooting into the stratosphere.
With more people coming online, more searches are sure to be conducted. Over time, that search volume will double, triple, quadruple and more, making competition even more fierce. The higher the demand soars, the more competition there’ll be. The more the competition, the more difficult it’ll be to be found relevantly.
The truth is that so many people have attempted to game the so-called system that Google finally put its virtual foot down. In fact, it set off several atomic bombs that imploded in cyberspace, leaving digital dust, along with calamity and strife, in its wake. That happened because relevancy was on the decline. Not anymore. And surely, Google will continue to greatly upheave the web when it necessitates doing just that.
#3 — An Ever-Changing Landscape
In the Wealth Of Nations, Adam Smith stated that, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Considering that the search landscape is such an obfuscated field, and that SEOs are likened to doctors in the medical field, there’s an almost cult-like fashion amongst those that are in-the-know.
However, this cult-like fashion doesn’t translate into a friendship, in the general sense at least. When talking about competing firms, they’ll each do what they can to ensure that they gobble up their fair share of the local SEO optimization marketplace. And considering that cities like L.A., San Francisco and N.Y.C. are so competitive to begin with, the ever-changing landscape will continue to disrupt the playing field.
#4 — Ramifications Of #1 Search Results
Studies have shown that 91% of people that conduct a search never go past the first page. What’s more shocking? 42% click on the first result and roughly 62% on the first three results. If you’re not showing up on the first page, or even in the first listing, then you’re lost in oblivion. There are sometimes hundreds of millions of search results for a particular search, and if you’re not somewhere near the top, you’re nowhere to be found.
The reason why SEO companies can charge so much and why it’s such a competitive market is because of what a #1 search means. When you rank #1 for a highly-competitive keyword, you get free and unfettered traffic. You don’t have to pay a dime for that traffic. It’s completely free. That’s the best part. Plus, for high-volume searches, searches that have high buyer intention with them can result in endless leads and sales.
To achieve huge results, not only does SEO have to be done the right way by adding massive amounts of value, but you have to ensure that your content is insatiable and that you don’t work to violate any of Google’s many rules. However, getting to that #1 spot is no simple feat. You’ll need to team up with the right partner that will give you results rather than delays or runarounds.
#5 — High Cost Of Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Advertising
As the internet grows, and we move away from traditional forms of advertising such as television and radio, demand for ads on platforms like Google and even Facebook or Instagram, and others, will continue to increase and so will the cost of those ads. Considering that most ad networks are built on a CPC model, the higher the demand goes, the more companies will be willing to pay for those ad clicks.
This has a massive impact on organic search because everyone knows just how lucrative those top spots are. This will only continue to increase over time and considering that demand is outstripping supply, traditional market forces are at play here that will continue to shift upwards on a protracted scale.
Why Are SEO Companies So Expensive?
As an Angelino myself, I call L.A. home. It’s the closest association that I have to a home in the United States. Although I’m a digital nomad, my life always leads me back to Los Angeles. So I know, firsthand, the high prices that you’d expect to pay for just about anything in a city like L.A. In fact, according to several price indexes, Los Angeles remains one of the most expensive places in the world to live.
However, when you pit it next to a city like San Francisco, prices in L.A. fall short. According to a study done by Numbeo, San Francisco was only actually outpaced by 4 other cities in the United States when it comes to the cost-of-living index. No matter how you slice it, service fees in cities are always going to be commensurate to the cost-of-living in that locale. The cheaper the cost-of-living you’d expect, the less the prices will likely be.
Still, the question then becomes, how are you supposed to find the right company to help you no matter where you live? If you live in an expensive city like New York or San Francisco or Honolulu, are you simply supposed to default to an agency located in Athens, GA or Springfield, MO, for instance, where the consumer price indexes are far lower? Clearly, that isn’t the only metric that you should be going off of, but it is a highly relevant one.
The truth is that expensive cities cost more, not just to live, but also to operate a business in. If a city’s cost-of-living index is high, so will prices for office space rent, transportation and food, in turn forcing businesses to have to pay their employees more just to survive, and as a result, having to charge more for services in these area. But SEO is highly specialized, adding a layer of confusion to the mix, clouding the reality from the abstract because of the great deal of “unknowns.”
How To Find The Right Company To Optimize Your Site
By no means am I here to recommend a specific SEO company to you. Whether you’re in Los Angeles or some other city, the truth is that you need to know the right questions to ask if you’re trying to find the right company that will be the right fit. The biggest source of confusion is derived not only from a wild variation in prices, but unless in knowing specifically who to trust.
What happens when you hire a firm and they leave you high and dry? It isn’t a good feeling whatsoever. So if you don’t want to find yourself stuck in a situation like this, then you need to do your due diligence. The truth is that the right SEO partner can make a massive difference to your business. Imagine the amount of interest, authority, leads and sales that a high-volume searched #1 keyword SERP listing can garner you. It’s immense to say the least.
#1 — Do Your Due Diligence
Use tools like Way Back Machine, Alexa and SEMRush to do your research on a domain. Take a look at the history. Take a look at what keywords the company ranks for. Consider the fact that a company’s work will speak louder than its words. If it’s achieving big results for itself, then you have a qualified candidate. If not, don’t waste your time with them.
#2 — Carefully Vet Their Case Studies
Use the same seo tools to vet client case studies and call each of the clients up individually to ask about their experience in working with the company. If they don’t provide direct contact information, then there might be a reason behind it so be sure to carefully vet their past clients as much as humanely possible.
#3 — Check Their Keyword Rankings
If a company in your city ranks high for “best SEO company in [insert city here]” that doesn’t mean that they should be the one selected. Most of these companies work tirelessly to rank for these searches, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll produce results in a short period for you. Be wary of this approach.
#4 — Don’t Look For The Cheapest Price
I know. I know. It’s easy to search out the cheapest service you can find. But you get what you pay for. Especially in the SEO industry. So do not base your decision on price. This is where you need to stretch your budget when it warrants it. Find the right partner at the right price, not the cheapest provider.
#5 — Nitpick Their Contracts
Pricing isn’t the only important factor. You have to analyze their contracts. Keep in mind that there is no “secret sauce” when it comes to SEO. It boils down to hard work and adding lots of value. If your website is completely out of wack with lots of issues, it’s going to take longer to rank and it’s going to involve more work. Be sure to review the contract carefully so that it accounts for any “surprises” that might arise.
#6 — Ask For An Audit Of Your SEO Upfront
The best way to ensure that you don’t get surprised by certain fees is to make sure that the company audits your site and its present optimization. What do you rank for? Do you have a CDN installed? Do you have AMP installed? Do pages load fast or slow? What does the ad-versus-content balance look like? Do you use canonical URLs? And so on and so forth. There is a lot to consider, so be sure to get as much information upfront as possible. You can also turn to tools like Pingdom, Google’s Page Speed Insights and GTMetrix to do some analysis on your own.
R.L. Adams is a software engineer, serial entrepreneur, and author. He runs a wildly-popular blog called Wanderlust Worker and contributes to Entrepreneur, Engadget and the Huffington Post.[“Source-ndtv”]