Firstly, lets define what SEO actually is. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimisation”. It is involves the use of various techniques to improve organic search results, so when people Google particular words, your website is at the top of the search results.

Meanwhile, Google AdWords refers to paid search results – it is NOT SEO. Watch out for unscrupulous SEO “experts” who will try to sell you SEO packages when really they’re just doing AdWords. Hiring someone to manage AdWords for you is perfectly valid (and something that I recommend) but it is not SEO!

So how is SEO done? SEO is an ongoing process that involves, time, research, planning, development, implementation and monitoring. It is a time-consuming process that usually takes 6-12 months to see significant results.

There are usually a number of people involved in the development of SEO. These can include:

  • Yourself
  • Your web designer/developer
  • Your copywriter
  • A SEO specialist

There is both on-page and off page SEO. On-page refers to things you can do to your website itself that makes it more appealing to search engines (eg. clean, compliant code) and off-page refers to other things that can do to improve your SEO (eg. backlinks). An experienced web designer/developer will know how to design your website with SEO in mind. A copywriter with SEO experience will be able to write keyword-rich text that can help to improve your website’s SEO. A SEO specialist will develop and implement an ongoing SEO strategy.

Trying to find a reputable SEO specialist can be a minefield. There are scam artists out there who either don’t get results, or they use unscrupulous methods (called black hat SEO) that may get results in the short-term but don’t work in the long-term and can even get your website penalised because they do not obey search engine guidelines.

It is also hard to know how much you should be spending on a SEO specialist when prices seem to range anywhere from a few dollars a month up to thousands.

A reputable SEO specialist won’t be able to give you a quote until they know:

  • What objectives you want to achieve
  • How well your website has been built
  • The level of competition in your market
  • The keywords you want to target (they can also make recommendations on this)
  • Who you want to involve (yourself, copywriter, etc. or just want the SEO specialist to take care of everything)
  • Whether you need to on-page SEO before you can start  working on a off-page strategy

Normally a SEO specialist will only quote initially on the research phase and the development of a draft SEO plan. A reputable SEO specialist is NOT cheap, expect to pay a minimum of $500 per month in Australia. It can take 6-12 months to see results using ethical strategies (called white hat SEO) so it can be a big investment. When it comes to SEO, you generally get what you pay for. If you don’t have a big enough budget, you might be better of using alternative marketing methods such as Google AdWords.

Finding a reputable SEO specialist can be really challenging. A reputable SEO specialist should possess the following skills:

  • Marketing knowledge and experience
  • An understanding of how search engines work
  • An understanding of how people use search engines
  • A commitment to keeping themselves updated with changes to search engine algorithms

Asking friends and contacts for referrals and also checking references can help you to find someone reputable. Try to avoid getting locked into a long-term contract, but also realise that SEO usually requires a minimum of 6 months commitment before you begin to see results.

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