Is it worth it to hire an SEO company in Portland to help my small business rank better on Google?
Not necessarily. There is a significant time investment to build a website from scratch, including going through the website pages to make sure they have the best content possible so your website looks like a glistening oyster to Google when they have a web user typing a query into the search bar. Once the work is done (which is a fairly huge undertaking), keeping up with your own SEO is completely do-able with a little know how and support from some occasional consulting.
At this point, most small business or even large business owners in Portland, Beaverton or Tigard understand at least the basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google and other search engines like Yahoo, and Bing have countless little minions called bots scour the web and index the information found on websites. That information that those bots collect includes the quality and organization of the content (human readability and how relevant it is to its given topic), quality of the images, speed of the website, how many instances of cat memes it contains (Just checking if you’re still with me), and most importantly how many people are going to it. Let’s focus on that last part first.
What if I do absolutely little to no SEO but get plenty of traffic?
The last note above mentions the search engines like a website that gets visitors. It sounds obvious, but if people flock to a website it must have some good stuff on it, so Google will hold that website up a little higher when someone types in a search. For example, let’s say a fictitious website for ‘Cat Hats’ is getting loaded with visitors, since they set up booths at cat conventions, are super awesome at social media, and run some digital ads now and then. If that website was a barebones website that was built by the owners nephew (Not to knock tech savvy nephews, they can save you loads!), chances are Google will still rank that site halfway decently when somebody searches “cat hats” since a search engines job is to find the most relevant website. Since this Cat Hat company (Let’s call it Tabby Toppers™ now that we’re all invested in this) is popular according to Google and others, a user searching for “cat hats” might very well be interested in seeing Tabby Toppers™ pop up in their first or second page of results. This is really the most important concept: Search engines succeed when they provide relevant results to users, and quickly. If you have to sort through junk to find a relevant page (Cough.. Bing… Cough) you won’t trust that search engine to point you in the right direction.
So I don’t need SEO agency at all? Should I fire my nephew and hire an agency? Will thanksgiving be awkward?
This is the hairy part. On one hand you can make a case that SEO agencies can be half “snake oil” salesmen (and women) and half wizards that blast through expectations, kick butt and chew bubblegum (Although we’re rarely out of bubblegum).
The snake oil part is simply that the rankings on search engines like Google are in some ways completely out of all parties hands. Google search is it’s own platform that doesn’t always behave like we think, so promises and expectations can be tricky as well as potentially set a client to feel like they were scammed out of money. Any good SEO agency will understand the basics of building a website that Google likes.
The magical wizard half can be summed up like this: Imagine briefly a 3rd grade project fair where 20 or so students are tasked with putting together a project on animals in the Alaskan Tundra. All of the students know their animals, and can name 3-4 facts about them to some degree of accuracy. Their projects however are going to be wildly varying in quality and workmanship (yes, they’re all special in their own way still, even Tommy’s that used rusty staples and a single chemically fragrant dry erase marker). Each of these projects is made by a student who knows their stuff, but isn’t necessarily an expert on making a 3 panel display board that knocks the parents socks off. But then you have little Jenny, who’s mother gracefully skimmed over the section on the take home packet that boldly instructed little to no parent involvement, and spent night after night perfecting the lace accents and precision cut two toned border mattes around the polar bear factoids. That project (as you may have guessed) would represent a website that’s crafted by a web developer with an SEO background, or an SEO Agency made to put it’s best foot forward in a sea of competition. In the seemingly endless online world, those edges represent potential leads, increases in website traffic, and many other metrics that can translate to real dollars.
So, no need to fire your nephew the amateur web developer, just simply send him Google’s official SEO guide which spells literally all the tasks out that an SEO agency would be preforming. The tricky part is finding the time to preform these tasks, assuming all the work is squarely on your plate, which is why having some help to get started is invaluable.
Some help to get started with SEO for your business
At MAKEity, our philosophy is to help small to medium sized businesses that have been bombarded with marketing agency messages, sift through what the need, and what they don’t. Optimizing a website for SEO does take time, and it’s not free, although each case is different and some will take a few hours, and some several weeks to get ready for the spotlight.
How much does SEO really cost per month?
$100 to $300 per month depending on how much time has to be spent on the website and marketing itself. We have clients who pay much less, and some more it’s all case by case. It may take more time initially to build a website, scour together the content (some of which you may already have) and beef up some website pages that need extra help. There are some cases where a website is spectacularly big, such as a site that sells hundreds of items and has large swaths of product pages and information. Those websites generally would be hiring a super large agency that handles sites at that scale, so we generally don’t get those anyways, but the cost for managing the SEO would be greatly increased due to complexity.
What does an SEO company actually do, sit around and watch cat videos?
Absolutely, but not all the time. We like to hit a perfect work/meme balance that best optimizes our productivity, but most of the time we’re strategizing how to best pursue their marketing goals. This can be broken down into three major categories: initial SEO, ongoing SEO, and general marketing.
Initial SEO: This can include building the actual website from scratch, but for most clients they at least have something on the web to start with. We do something called “Keyword research” (more on that down the page) wherein we take your core business, product, or service, and use tools like Moz.com and many others (some of them charge small fees) and plug in your business and location and they essentially spit out some terms that people actually type in the search bar to look for your type of business. Once we have that list, it’s our basis for all the content and headings on the website so the site contains natural mentions of the search terms. Other items like optimizing the site itself, the layout, the image ALT tags (more on that below), and the site’s navigation are set up at this point as well.
Ongoing SEO: A perfect croissant can take days to make at home, and it includes hours of folding.. waiting.. folding.. waiting (here is a great Croissant recipe if you’re hungry now), but in the end you don’t know if your work paid off until you bite into the final airy cloud of goodness. Same with SEO. The site can look great, but you have to wait until the search engines crawl the new site (or the updated site), and determine what position it should be in the rankings for the search terms you’re aiming for to see the “final result”. After the flour settles and you’ve bitten into the croissant you can either bask in the glory of doing it perfectly (First page on Google after a month!) or realize it’s good, but not perfect. At this point the ongoing SEO comes in where an SEO agency would come in and make the appropriate adjustments to the content, the main navigation, heading tags etc. to push the website in the right direction again. This is a huge frustration with many clients that it doesn’t go fast enough, which is understandable. If you’re paying an SEO company thousands (many do), you expect results quickly otherwise you’re going to think they watch cat videos ALL day, instead of just part time. Generally if your business has it’s own niche (think cat hats) you’re going to have an easier time ranking well on Google, and maintaining the ranking without ongoing SEO efforts. For some businesses, the moment you publish your site there are hundreds of competing ones, some of whom also employ an SEO agency vying for the top position same as you. For these businesses, ongoing SEO is a must, since making small adjustments on a regular basis as well as adding and adjusting content will give you an edge over a sea of competition.
General Marketing: This is essentially all things you do as a business to market both your company, as well as your website. This can include social media, digital advertisements (including ads on social media, and Google AdWords), Email and text message marketing, print products, graphic design, interpretive dance, and all other activities you preform to advertise. Remember how Google likes web traffic quite a bit when it figures out the rankings? This is a huge piece of that. If you can drive people out in the real world to your digital world, both will benefit. The sheer number of marketing tools out there are staggering, as well as intimidating. They all promise results, leads, time savings, and all that, but choosing which ones to use and managing them can be a pain. At MAKEity, we know many of these services and apps, and have used them effectively to help our clients. Better yet, we feel we’re strong at teaching our clients how to use them on their own. A great platform or service is useless if it’s not being used effectively.
What’s the difference between a keyword, and a longtail keyword? Does this have to do with animals?
Some cats do have long tails, and some have short tails, but that’s not what this is about. Let’s think about the heading directly above this for a moment “What’s the difference between a keyword, and a longtail keyword?” which is an example of a longtail keyword. Most of the time when you’re trying to answer a question on Google, you phrase it as a question. The heading above is tailored to show Google that we’ve answered this question on our site, and it’s relevant enough to show the searcher. Longtail keywords are generally easier to get hits for, but the volume isn’t as high. Shorter keywords like “Longtail keywords” as opposed to the longer written question would be tougher to rank for since it’s a much more general term. Having a mix of both is vital, since you want to both show the search engines you’re a relevant and knowledgeable website that has very specific information, as well as a decent website to show for more broad terms (since Google has to guess more on the broad terms, it wan’t to be right when it rolls the dice, but when it finds exact matches for these longtail terms it’s much more sure of it’s self).
Can you host my website?
Of course! We’ve got our own private server for our clients and managing your website itself is generally rolled into the SEO costs. Your website would be secure (HTTPS with the nice green lock icon in the URL bar), load quickly, and be professionally managed and supported if there are any issues.
How about ownership of assets, domains and what-not? Can I cancel and go somewhere else?
There are many agencies and “website builders” out there that make transferring away from them a pain in the behind. Soemtimes they have tricky contracts where they “own” the domain that’s registered, or just downright make it painful to retreive assets. Not at MAKEity. We always try out best to retain all clients and make sure we provide fantastic service, but as they say, “If you love something, let it go!”. We strive to make sure all technical assets like domain registration, stock images, website content is entirely owned by the client. We don’t like having any strings attached that put any pressure at all to stay with us if it’s not working out, which we’re proud to stand behind.
Here are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)