Why SEO companies don’t work for free

This week has been an interesting one in the world of SEO. A quiet start to March for the SERPS has meant that we’ve been able to concentrate on the real job of adding value for clients instead of constantly double checking what Google has been up to overnight. Interflora managed to bounce back from a de-indexing penalty in double quick time (shame the same doesn’t apply to smaller businesses….) and Facebook announced a new look to its news feed. Yahoo and Bing started to index pages that had ignored for over a year and Google quietly rolled out filtered image search results which few people spotted.

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SEOSo even in a quieter week we’ve had to keep up with all of these changes and many more besides. We’ve written the month end reports, checked the rankings for clients, managed the PPC campaigns, built some really nice quality links, identified some even better link targets, written blogs, sent out a press release, spoken to clients, done some great keyword research, set two new websites live and given a training session to another business on running PPC. Oh and we’ve acted as a helpdesk solving numerous problems people have had from the printer not working to a router blocking incoming emails.

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So in essence we’ve acted as a proper Digital Marketing agency, IT helpdesk, PR Company as well as optimising clients’ sites for search.

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So why therefore are there still people out there who think that what we do is free? And it’s not just us; ask anyone who works in an SEO or Digital Agency and you will find stories of clients who want all this work done for nothing.

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Perhaps it’s time we repositioned what we do and removed some of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that surrounds the business. Perhaps we need to become more like the Legal profession and advertise a chargeable hourly rate? After all there are many similarities between the two professions.

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Solicitors, like SEO companies, are staffed by trained professionals who have worked for years to know and understand the service that they are providing. The work they do takes time and that time is billed to clients, usually in six minute blocks. The firms have all the usual fixed overheads of rent, rates, utilities, wages, insurance etc. and when you engage them you understand that part of what you are paying for will go towards them staying in business and earning a living. And once you engage a Solicitor you know that when you ask them to do anything, even answer the phone to you, that you are going to get a bill for it.

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Yet there persists a myth that SEO and Digital marketing is something that anyone can do. And it’s true to a point, anyone can do it. The same as the man in the pub can advise you on your divorce, getting off speeding points, conveyancing and suing another business for breach of contract. When it comes to Digital marketing there is no shortage of ‘men in pubs’ who will offer you their advice but the trouble with free advice is that it’s usually free for a reason.

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So if you are serious about your digital marketing and want to engage a professional firm that can help transform your business online then please understand that to acquire, maintain and update the knowledge necessary to help businesses like yours costs us. And much as we’d love to help people for free it’s not a sustainable business model. Oddly enough, none of the firms that approach us to help with SEO or build websites offer their services for free, so maybe now is the time to bury the myth that SEO firms can work for free.