As an SEO freelancer, I’ve lost plenty of leads to cheap SEO services provided by offshore companies. Many of whom understandably have no choice but to engage these service providers due to the lack of budget (especially in COVID times).
Now, I’m not here to shit on offshore SEO companies nor cheap SEO service providers, but rather educate readers on what goes on behind search engine optimisation and why SEO is priced relatively high as compared to other marketing efforts.
What does SEO work entail?
Before I dive into the different work needed for SEO, it’s essential to understand the different SEO elements. If you have yet to read my post on the different SEO elements, I’d recommend reading that first before proceeding.
It’ll provide you with an overall understanding of what SEO professionals will need to tackle.
Basically, SEO comes in 3 different aspects:
- Technical SEO
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
To give you a simplified understanding of each,
Technical SEO refers to anything and everything related to how your website was built (in terms of code). A website can look nice on the outside, but it might be horrible for search engine crawlers on the inside.
On-page SEO refers to anything and everything tangible you see on a website. This ranges from the URL, headlines, images, and the actual content itself. This plays a huge part in telling search engines what your page and website is about.
Off-page SEO refers to anything and everything that is not on your website. This ranges from business citations, guest posts, and PBNs. This plays a huge part in pushing your keyword rankings to the top of Google.
Now let’s breakdown into the work needed to do SEO for each SEO element:
As mentioned, technical SEO will require coding knowledge, and this usually involves hiring developers. And we all know that developers are pretty costly, let alone good ones who know how to optimise for search engines.
The work that goes behind technical SEO are:
- Technical SEO audits
- Customised planning to fix the identified issues
- Actual fixes itself
Most of the work hours will go into the customised planning and the actual fixes itself. This is because the developers will have to manually scrutinise how your website was built and find workarounds to optimise it for search engines.
Sure, you can outsource or offshore the development work. But do they know how to actually do it? SEO professionals generally know what to do and advise the developers on the necessary steps they should take.
If you’re engaging a cheap SEO service provider, he/she might not be as thorough in conducting the audits for you. Sure, they can use the readily available tools to do these audits, but these tools just scratch the surface.
To really identify technical SEO opportunities, the SEO professional will need to manually inspect your website.
With cheap SEO service providers, you either get generic audits or risk screwing up your website’s technical foundation (my personal observation); and this shouldn’t be something you want to risk.
On-page SEO can be more expensive as compared to technical SEO. This is because it usually involves continually writing content, website copy, and on-page optimisation. The former 2 is where the bulk of the cost will be.
As SEO mostly revolves around creating content, the variable costs involved will increase tremendously. Sure, you can offshore writing for your blog articles, but based on my experiences, the quality you receive can be pretty.. sucky. I definitely don’t want to ruin my branding with low-quality content.
Local Singaporean writers can range anywhere between $50-$200 depending on the length, research needed, and experience involved. They are expensive but are worth the investment for your business.
Copywriters, on the other hand, are generally more expensive than regular writers. Thankfully, for most websites, engaging copywriters are usually a one-off project. You don’t want to skimp on copywriters as they are the ones that help your visitors convert into actual customers.
Lastly, on-page optimisation. As this is a specialised skill, expect to pay more to for higher quality work. Anyone can definitely do the basic on-page optimisation. If you’re looking to increase your keyword rankings without putting in more resources for off-page SEO, then you’ll need to engage experienced on-page SEOs who know how to do TF*IDF.
And experienced on-page SEOs are not cheap to come by.
Like on-page SEO, off-page SEO mostly incur variable costs as the cost will be on a per-link basis. Off-page SEO can be said to be the most expensive aspect of SEO.
There are 2 ways to do off-page, either you engage an experienced link builder who will prospect, customise outreach, write content, and obtain the link for you. Or, you could purchase readily available guest posts and PBN links to remove the costs of hiring a link builder.
The former, of course, you can expect to pay more for their time to do this. On top of the time you pay for, some websites even ask for monetary compensation to place your articles/links on their website. Expect to pay a buttload if you want real quality links.
Quality PBNs and ready guest post opportunities are relatively cheaper than hiring a dedicated link builder. This is because the only work you have to do is to fork out money for those links. However, as usual, quality comes with a price.
The thing about cheap SEO service providers is that they tend to skimp a lot on this. Quality links are expensive. Cheap SEO services usually involve purchasing low-quality links in bulk from places like Fiverr.
These links are usually forum links and blog comments that come in the hundreds or thousands monthly. They might also include link wheels and Web 2.0s. These links are easy to build (using automated tools) and have little to no value in SEO.
These are also outdated practices and will have little to no results for you. Why would 1000 different websites link to you via forums and blog comments every month? It’s simply unnatural.
With cheap SEO services, you can even expect algorithmic and manual penalties to your site. Don’t forget that anchor text ratio, link velocity, and link quality play a big part in off-page SEO. If you’re paying cheap, expect not to get these customised services.
And if your service provider isn’t taking note of this stuff as well, then you’re putting yourself at an even higher risk of penalties. And penalties mean that your website will not appear on search engines itself – defeating the actual purpose of engaging them in the first place.
Don’t get me started on reversing these penalties. It will take you more money to pay an SEO to fix and flip the penalty incurred. And then it will take even more money to get the results you initially wanted.
Better off investing more from the start eh?
Apart from the work involved in SEO, there are also operating costs that businesses will incur. This ranges from utilities, rent, software, and salary. The thing about SEO agencies, local or abroad, they need to operate at scale.
This means that they’re likely to have streamlined processes so that their workflows are smoother and faster. This is great because it ensures efficiency within the firm. However, to scale a service, you’ll need to constantly hire staff to do the work.
Sure, charging lower prices in countries with lower staff costs will be possible.
In Singapore? Not so much.
That’s why Singaporean agencies are losing out in targeting smaller SMEs.
Let’s not forget that if you want to remain competitive yet profitable while scaling, you’ll have to compromise somewhere in your process. And that’s usually the work put in.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you’ll get lower quality work, I’m saying that they’ll focus on the parts of SEO where it most matters. This isn’t necessarily wrong nor is it entirely right. It’s just that in SEO, there are many small wins you can get through attending to the smaller stuff.
And these small wins WILL stack up, providing you with huge growth.
But to remain competitive yet profitable in such a crowded industry, chances are, you won’t get this. Unless of course, you’re investing more into your SEO.
Now that you know what goes into providing SEO services, I hope it clarifies why SEO providers in Singapore charge the price they charge. They have to pay others to do certain parts of the work. On top of that, time is needed to ensure that quality checks are in place. Therefore, more money has to be spent.
Even if an SEO is knowledgable enough to provide you with an all-in service without outsourcing, expect to invest more because they profit by providing higher quality services, not scale.
Essentially, no matter what you’re looking to purchase, you’ll have to view it from a business perspective as well.
If you’re looking for high quality, expect higher prices.
If you’re looking for high quality with lower prices, expect a lesser scope of work.
If you’re looking for low prices, expect less quality and/or scope of work.
Sure, cheap SEO service providers might be able to provide quality work at lower prices. Especially if you offshore them to countries that have lower costs. But are you knowledgeable enough to know whether the service provided is of quality as they claim to be?
This is the same for Singapore service providers. If you were to engage ANY SEO services, make sure to educate yourself first, and then ask them for their methodologies. If you need someone to help you evaluate whether they have acceptable practices, feel free to reach out to me. You can pay for my time if you want. Otherwise, I’m fine too!
But always remember this before engaging in any type of service. Quality work doesn’t come cheap. If it’s cheap, the business is either eating into their margins or are compromising through quality. Think about it, who wants to run a business with lower margins?