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Unraveling the truths about SEO including how much it should cost and why?

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Some businesses look at SEO, Search Engine Optimization, as one of the evils of marketing. As a fellow marketing professional, I would assess that the word “evil” is a bit harsh. There are plenty of businesses who have been victims after hooking up with faulty or flaky SEO “pros. ” Many have forked over hefty investments with them only to come out no better than they were at the start. That would be the only evil I can see associated with the concept of SEO. In reality, SEO is one of the most necessary and an effective strategy to be incorporated into any business’s marketing mix. Because of the earlier mentioned flakes in the field, it is understandable for a business to be gun shy or reluctant to take steps towards investing in and implementing SEO. Many businesses simply may not understand enough about SEO, have heard it is costly, or haven’t had time to investigate its worthiness. I have taken steps to help alleviate some of the questions and myths about SEO with the intent of clearing the air, especially about its cost and why it costs what it does.

I have interviewed a dozen or more professionals and companies who specialize in working with SEO, Search Engine Optimization. I’ve stuck with local folks who had been able to answer the questions asked most frequently by businesses looking at ways they can increase their customer base. By far, a small handful stood out amongst the rest. I have singled out one company to focus on in this article to help provide one of the most well-rounded and honest viewpoints about SEO. PR Caffeine, LLC, owned by Ryan Berkness, spent some time with me providing me with outstanding insights on the impacts of SEO, a fair assessment of what should be expected as a result of employing SEO, what it should really cost and why, and how long a business should engage in SEO to gain an edge and keep it.

What is SEO? What is it going to do for me? My web guy has already incorporated SEO into my website. Why do I need it? Why do I need you? These were the first questions I shot out to Ryan. These are the first questions a business owner is likely to want the answers to, as well. Remembering that the first step in acquiring new customers is to allow them to find you and to find out about you, it will obviously be important to a business to enable that process to happen as many times as humanly possible. SEO is a method of generating traffic to your website or to specific landing pages dedicated to your business. Also because often traffic, alone, isn’t enough, SEO is also a method of generating leads to your website or specific landing pages associated with your business. SEO helps websites get top positioning on search engines by being a rallier or influencer during a search engines’ organizational thinking process. SEO helps the search engines decide delivering your website or landing pages first or early on is the right decision. It is important to include in your marketing mix because more than 89% of consumers use search engines to find products, services and information in general.

Ryan Berkness talks about SEO as a campaign and the benefits of a well-crafted campaign. He says he strongly believes there is no cookie cutter formula for every business. Clearly, he agrees that a universal objective is to acquire more customers and increase revenue. From that point, each business tackles a different degree of keyword challenges, competition’s SEO efforts, budgets, agendas, etc. Based on the individual goals, obstacles, and visions of what they want to achieve, Ryan helps determine the most straight forward SEO strategy for a business. The strategies he will suggest may include a mix of keyword strategizing, Pay Per Click, content writing, landing pages, website development, blog posting, informational content social sharing, press release writing and distribution, link strategies, local search website optimizing, social media marketing, re-targeting marketing. Not all businesses need all of these. Back to his well-crafted campaign, he does a great job of working with the business owner to determine a smart starting point and plans for growth from there.

A strong believer in teaching and accountability, Ryan Berkness embraces both and form fits his business around those concepts with every company who enlists his services and expertise. It is important to him that each business owner understands as much as they want to about what Ryan is doing for them, so their investments make sense and mean more to them. Nothing is hidden. All information is tracked, available and shared weekly. A comprehensive dashboard is provided to all businesses where they can view live statistics anytime they want. For those with no time to take their microscope to the dashboard, PR Caffeine, LLC will still send you an easy to read progress report every week. The hands on, open approach taken by PR Caffeine provides their clients with confidence and trust and confirmation of credibility of the job being done on their behalves. Plus, it provides a real time snapshot of what the business’s investment is generating, where areas have grown, are growing, and where attention needs to be focused.

How do you know what kind of SEO your business will need? Like many things, it helps to start at the beginning. Ryan will take a current snapshot of the traffic to your website and will talk to you about the current closing ratios your business may be experiencing. Working from there, he will be able to show you what your future snapshots will look like if you leave things the same, if you employ certain SEO strategies, or if you implement even more SEO tactics. He will help you calculate what your new website traffic can look like based on specific search engine optimizations. Then he will help you calculate what your new closing ratio can look like based on certain SEO strategies taken on, as well. You will see the night and day difference in the before and after and will have a clearer idea of the potential influence and results you can experience and how it exactly adds up. This step is part of the teacher in Ryan. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be for you to appreciate the value and to engage in the process for your own benefits.

How does SEO do its job? SEO can do its job several ways. A helpful way to think of SEO is to think of it like a tool box. Each tool in the tool box has a similar job of driving additional traffic and leads to your website or business. Depending on the tool, each may perform their job a little differently as it contributes to the overall job performance. Only a real SEO expert can work with those tools the right way for your business. You can think of each keyword that applies to your business as its own separate tool. By employing a keyword as your tool, it can direct more searchers on Google or other search engines straight to your website or dedicated landing pages for your business. Think about trying to cut your grass with a lawn mower with one blade. Your one blade is like using one keyword tool in your tool box. Think if your lawn mower had several wider blades. You’ll get the grass cut faster with fewer swipes and will grab more grass with each swipe, instead of going up and down your lawn with your one blade again and again and again. Or, if you are a fisherman, think of each keyword that applies to your business as a separate net. Each net will catch certain fish for you. The more nets you throw out, the more fish you can catch at the same time.

I challenged Ryan and stated that with either scenario, it seemed like the results for a business would be leads coming through and that what businesses really want are sales. He reiterates the reality that a business needs to have leads before they can have sales, and that a certain number of leads will convert into sales. Using a business’s current closing ratio, it is easy to predict the increase they can expect in sales by just increasing the number of leads. By doing the math, it does make sense.

Number one versus number two on Google? What should a business’s goal really be as far as achieving the number one spot on Google’s first page or the number two? Is there really a significant enough difference? How much more is it worth spending to hold the number one spot? Is number two good enough? I asked Ryan Berkness these questions and this is what he told me. “18% of clicks go to number one. 10% of clicks go to number two. And 7% of clicks go to three.” A business can decide for themselves based on those numbers. One of the things I appreciated about what I learned from Ryan Berkness was his desire and willingness to be brutally honest and fair. Where so many other SEO pros will use the word “guarantee,” Ryan knows full well that’s impossible to do. He will never guarantee placement, but he can guarantee he will put the work into it and that his company will do their best. He knows he can’t control Google or what other people are doing, (and you know what, neither can anyone else)! He can control what he can do. Ryan makes another good point that it then becomes about maximizing what your business is offering. Especially where there is a competitive air, once people are getting to your website, being able to maximize their take away of what they will be able to receive from you is key.

True marketing consulting reveals an inert desire to fulfill a set of overall objectives for a business versus trying to sell a set of specific products or services that may not be needed. PR Caffeine, LLC struck me as a true marketing consulting firm, one with their sights set on doing what is right for their clients even it is means recommending something they may not provide themselves. Ryan Berkness is an example of someone who will listen first, assess second, recommend third, and monitor and nurture throughout. His marketing background and connections with other local marketing professionals enables him to suggest a myriad of alternatives to add to a business’s marketing portfolio. By far, incorporating the massive influence that SEO generates is a must-have piece to the marketing puzzle and ultimately a piece that helps enable stronger monetization of some of your other marketing pieces, as well. It might be helpful to think of SEO as your marketing’s exponential gateway to your business. It’s far reaching abilities to generate traffic and higher qualified leads to your business opens up more sales opportunities open to conversion than any other marketing alternatives can provide. SEO will also build continuing momentum as it works for you, unlike any other marketing alternatives do. Think of SEO as putting you in the driver’s seat of an accelerating car. It will take some gas, push and rpm’s to accelerate you to highway cruising speed, but it takes less once you get there to maintain it.

Ryan told me he hears from his clients often that they have tried different marketing or advertising options in the past with little to no success. He understands that sometimes it could have been a matter of just having done the wrong thing, or at the wrong time; or may have been a case of abandoning too early. He wanted to remind marketers they need to keep in mind that a customer may require a minimum of nine touch points before they will take action towards their business. It’s a hard to swallow concept, but it is a marketing reality worth striving to accommodate.

So how much should it cost a company to employ a well-crafted SEO campaign? I asked Ryan this question because, bottom line, it comes down to cost! How much is reasonable to spend on SEO and how much is too much? Ryan addressed the fact that most people initially try to spend less and run for the least expensive route. … that is until they understand how it all works and how it adds up for them. He agrees that starting out small in many cases might be the right step for some and to grow from that point. Depending on what is comprised of your SEO campaign, it could conceivably cost a business anywhere from $300.00 per month to $1000.00 or more per month. That is the cost. Ryan feels more strongly, though, that the focus on cost should be more about the return. His objective for the businesses he works with is to “put you in drive!” He wants you “accelerating!” Breaking even, coming out the same, getting your money back are all statements that are not good enough. “If you’re not making tons more on your dollar, there is no point.” Ryan says, “if you give us a dollar, we don’t just want you to get your dollar back. We want you to get many more dollars back.”

It is important to recognize the expertise and time required to initiate and implement an effective SEO campaign. If everyone could do this on their own correctly, they would be. Smart business owners understand the investment in looking to others for their expertise in areas they are unable to address on their own. You get what you pay for is accurate in the case of enlisting the expertise of PR Caffeine, LLC. Ryan Berkness and his team are all well versed in the SEO, Search Engine Optimization arena. Their past and current clients are testaments to their expertise. PR Caffeine, LLC ‘s clients value the way they are charged for their services as they are able to pay based on a monthly agreement. Because PR Caffeine provides weekly progress reports, it is easy for a business to see exactly how things are moving forward and helps validate their investment each month.

So, is there any point at which it makes sense that a business can stop or slack off some on the SEO efforts or spending? I asked Ryan this question because forever seems like a long time. His response to me was that you can stop “when you sell your business.” Remembering back to the tool box, if you pack up the tool box and lock it up, the tools clearly can’t continue to do their work for you. The truth is that once you have reached a placement goal with keywords, for example, it becomes a maintenance issue to remain or to retain that placement. Other factors may change over time. Competitors may always be an obstacle creating hurdles to jump over. Some will work hard to alter your results. Other new businesses may enter your space. Keep submitting fresh content, adding keywords, tweaking your website, monitoring the old ones, all things that require staying on top of, will help assist your business in retaining the search engine positioning you have achieved through your SEO investment over time. Certainly, where you can relax some spending where you may be in the number one, two or three spots of choice, you can save or redirect that spending somewhere else.

Ryan recommends to all businesses to minimally begin by asking questions about SEO. Gaining an understanding will be an important first step to deciding its value for your company.

Want to learn more about SEO? Want to ask questions to Ryan Berkness?
Contact PR Caffeine, LLC at 612-254-6300
.
Visit their website, www.prcaffeine.com.
Want a detailed free (11-page) SEO audit report done for you?
Email Ryan
See Reviews about PR Caffeine, LLC

Before you go, also, the author would like to invite you to SUBSCRIBE above or below to this column. You will receive email alerts when something new has been published.

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