I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question. People always ask, “Is SEO free?”
Well, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
You’re already spending a ton of money on your business. So of course, you’re thinking, “Hey, SEO can’t be that hard. I can save some cash by doing it all myself.”
Or maybe you’ll have your staff find some high-ranking keywords, write a few articles, and think you’re going to end up on the first page of search results by next week.
Sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.
Whether you handle your own SEO or hire a professional service to do it for you, there’s no getting around it — SEO simply is not free!
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SEO: One Way or Another, You’re Paying for It
“But wait, Rodney,” I can hear you saying. “If I do my own SEO, I’m not spending a dime. See, SEO can be free.”
Technically, you’re not wrong. You won’t be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront on SEO services, and that can definitely seem like a major win.
There’s just one problem – if you want SEO done right, it’s not going to be fast or easy.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “Time is money.” Is your time valuable to you?
You already spend countless hours running meetings, snagging new clients, training staff, and whatever else it is you do to keep your business chugging along. How much time do you really have left in the day to work on SEO?
Good SEO is so much more than writing content with a search term peppered here and there. Plus, it’s not a “set it and forget it” solution that you can leave for months without any updates — not if you expect your website to rank well in search results, in any case.
Still not convinced? Let’s take a deeper look at what a great SEO strategy entails.
Performing Keyword Research
If you’re looking to drive traffic to your site, it all starts with keyword research. Keywords are terms you can use to rank higher in the search results.
“My business sells sweaters, so obviously, that’s my keyword,” you might think. “I’ll just write a few articles on why our sweaters are awesome and slap ’em on my blog.”
If that’s your keyword strategy, expect to end up on the tenth page of search results with a website nobody ever sees.
What you need are keywords that you can rank highly for. There’s pretty much no chance you’ll outrank major retailers for a keyword like “sweaters.”
“Okay, how about ‘fluffy sweaters made from organic alpaca wool’?” you ask.
That keyword is certainly unique, but how many people do you think are typing that term into Google?
This is another important part of keyword research. If a keyword has low monthly search volume, nobody’s looking for it.
Keyword research is starting to sound like a lot of work, right? Now, you could use a DIY SEO tool to help you. Some of these tools are free, but you’ll have to shell out cash for the best. And even the best tools don’t do all the work for you, which means you’re still paying with your time.
What is link building? Basically, the goal of link building is to get other websites to link to your own site.
Those links are called backlinks, by the way. Websites with a bunch of backlinks tend to rank higher in search results because Google sees them as an authority resource.
Sounds enticing. But how are you supposed to get backlinks, anyway?
You could ask other site owners, for starters. This is fine if you have a good relationship with them, but of course, building those relationships takes time. You could also try guest blogging, or writing content for their blog in exchange for a backlink.
These are good options if you don’t have money to spend, but remember, you’re still paying for those backlinks with your time.
Believe it or not, you can actually buy backlinks, too. Sadly, these links are usually not the best quality, so I strongly recommend you don’t waste your hard-earned cash.
If you want the best backlinks, you’ll need to build them the old-fashioned way.
Creating Quality Content
Great content does the heavy lifting on your website, and it’s a critical part of a strong SEO strategy.
“Anyone can write a blog post or two,” you might say. “Why should I pay a professional writer?”
Here’s why: You’re a business owner, and not every business owner has the skills to write engaging content that ranks highly in search results.
And even if you are a good writer, crafting engaging blog posts, landing pages, and email marketing copy can eat up hours from your day. If you want it done well, it’s really a full-time job in itself.
You could have your staff write these things for you, but chances are, they’re not writers either. And that’s probably not what you’re paying them for, meaning they’ll have less time to spend on their actual job.
Monitoring Your Website
You’ve also got technical SEO to consider. This includes making your website faster and easier for search engines to crawl and understand.
Technical SEO also involves removing duplicate content and dead links that lead to nowhere. Google penalizes sites with these backend issues, so you can’t just ignore them.
Even if you think your website is doing fine technically, you’ll want to conduct a regular SEO audit to make sure it’s performing at its best. An SEO audit checks for things like user experience, on-page SEO, site architecture, and so on.
Can you do these things for free? Maybe (if you’re a coding whiz), but unless you’ve got time to spare, a paid SEO service might be your best choice.
Hopefully, by now I’ve answered the question, “Is SEO free?” If you don’t want to spend valuable time writing content, auditing your website, and building backlinks, a professional team of SEO experts may be your best bet.
Whether you’re paying in time or cash, SEO just isn’t free!