My current non-scientific research mission has been inspired, in large part, by my good friend Matt McGee who wrote an outstanding piece on the cost, expectations and realities of SEO, titled, coincidently enough, "Small Business SEO: Costs, Expectations & Realities."
Matt discusses such important factors to influence the cost of SEO as geography and overall business model. He also goes into detail with some ROI examples.
This is all good stuff -- but I'm not nearly as calm, cool and collected as Matt. I'm the guy who will be offended when you try and tell me that you think my SEO isn't worth the price I charge -- and you trot out your neighbor's daughter's former roommate's ex-dog walker's 15-year-old son that has offered to do your SEO for almost free and tell me that's the competition. After I politely decline to pursue the relationship further and wish you the best of luck with your decision, I'll hang up the phone and look around my office for something I can afford to lose and throw it against the wall.
It's not that I've lost the business. It's that my expertise has been devalued to the level of the local paperboy. This happens ALL the time. When you need a lawyer, you recognize expertise, training and experience -- all factors that go into the $400-per-hour price tag. When you need a mechanic, there is the same recognition. Many of us have been doing SEO for a decade or more. We've written articles, spoken as experts at conferences, written books, and been hired as expert witnesses for court cases.
Just yesterday an SEO friend of mine sent me an email asking my opinion on whether or not he should pursue a particular client. He included part of the client's email. It basically said "I know an SEO expert can figure out mostly what needs to be done in 10 minutes and write it all up in an hour." You get one guess what my advice to this particular SEO was.
I'm sure you've all heard the story about the broken printing press by now. The printers call in the printing press expert. The expert walks around the machine for a bit looking under covers and checking various dials and displays. After about an hour he pulls out a piece of chalk and marks an X on the machine and tells one of the workers to hit the X with a hammer. Voila! The printing press fires right up. The next week the printer receives an invoice for $15,000. He goes ballistic and demands detail for such an outrageous bill. The expert, nonplussed, sends back the requested detail:
$50 -- one hour of inspection
$14,950 -- knowing where to hit the printing press
That, my friends, is SEO. We know where to hit the printing press -- and there is real value in that. Don't let people try and hire you for your time. You should be hired for your expertise.