Full-Service vs DIY SEO: Options for SMBs and ResellersBy Jeff Panting
Why is it important for your clients to show up on the first page of search engines? The quick answer is because over 80 percent of consumers start their buying process by searching online (AdWeek). Simply put, if your small business clients are not ranking on the first page of search engines, they’re losing potential customers.
Today's SMBs are becoming increasingly savvy in regards to marketing. They understand the importance of having an online presence and are starting to shift their marketing budgets away from traditional print and broadcast channels into digital. SMBs are also beginning to understand the importance of SEO, however, the breadth of services and solutions available to them for SEO can be overwhelming. The wide variety of options, methods, and price points available are leading many businesses to choose the wrong solutions, spend inappropriately (over and under), and miss out on the full benefits of proper SEO.
In this post, I'll evaluate the main types of SEO solutions available to SMBs and how you, as a reseller, can select and promote the best solutions for your clients and get a piece of their increasing digital marketing spend.
Quick Overview of SEO
So, how do search engines decide which sites to rank at the top of their results? They look at two things: Relevance and trust. If the content on your website is relevant to a search query, you might rank well. If other quality websites are linking back to your site, this indicates trust and you should rank higher.
SEO focuses on building these qualities over time with the goal of ranking on page one for the right keyword search phrases.
SEO as a Service for SMBs
The three main categories of SEO work that SMBs are looking at are:
- Full-service SEO campaigns
- A-La-Carte SEO products and services
- DIY SEO campaigns
In order to set the stage for a comparison of these options, let’s go over some of the critical work that all good SEO consists of.
The Work Behind SEO
Before you can promote any kind of SEO product it’s critical to understand the types of work that SEO involves. There are many small tasks that, when done correctly, work together to move your client’s website upward in search rankings. If certain elements are ignored or done poorly, the entire campaign can suffer and give a business a bad impression of SEO. Here are a few of the main aspects that a good SEO campaign should involve.
Campaign Setup – Any good marketing campaign needs to start with a plan based on the needs and budget of the client. SEO is no different. Setup can vary depending on your clientele, but make sure to include at least these two critical steps:
- Website Audits – A review of the current state of a client’s website to understand how it’s viewed by search engines and visitors. Is the backend code correct? Is the site content accurate and current? Are there broken or missing links?
- Keyword Research – Often the client will have an opinion about what keywords they should rank for. It’s important to conduct thorough research on their business, their industry, and their competition to identify which keywords to target in order to have the greatest impact on search rankings.
Onsite Work – Basically, this involves any SEO work that is done on the front- or back-end of the client website. It’s meant to ensure that search engines and visitors understand the content of the site and what products and services your client offers, which is the relevance that I talked about earlier. Your onsite work should include:
- Content Creation – Content is king in SEO, so you need to be sure that your site copy is current and accurate and that your blog is updated regularly with new articles. This can also include updating images and producing videos.
- Backend Items – Google looks at a website differently than a visitor does, so you need to be sure that the backend of your site makes it easy for search engines. This includes items like an accurate sitemap, robots.txt file, implementation of Google Analytics, and more.
Business Profiles — Just like phone directories of yesteryear, online business profiles matter and it’s an important component of SEO. Make sure that your clients are present in:
- Classified Listings – Get your business information published on local classified sites to attract more visitors in your area.
- Google Local Business – Stand out and rank in local maps by providing Google with accurate business info like address, hours of operation, and contact details.
Link Building – This is one of the most important and misunderstood aspects of SEO. It’s key in building trust with search engines, but it’s important for clients to understand that quality trumps quantity when it comes to link building. For maximum impact, direct your efforts toward:
- Directory Listings – Submitting your site to the relevant online directories is a relatively easy way to start building links and directing customers back to your website.
- Content Publication – Google places a lot of emphasis on content and SMBs can benefit greatly by publishing blogs and articles on other sites relevant to your industry. More advanced SEO services also provide infographic syndication.
As you can see, some of these tasks are fairly simple and some are more complex, possibly beyond the skillset of a typical small business owner. That’s where you have to consider the tradeoffs for a client. Keep in mind that the key to SEO success is quality, patience, and keeping focused on the activities that will yield the greatest impact.
Full-Service vs A-La-Carte vs DIY SEO Services
Now that you have a basic idea of what SEO is, how it works and what it entails, let’s talk about the ways that SMBs approach SEO services and how you can pick the right offerings for your clients.
1. DIY SEO
DIY Seo usually takes the form of a tool. In a pure DIY scenario, the benefit for a small business is clear. It’s free! The SEO services are carried out by the SMB themselves through the tool provided.
The biggest downsides to do-it-yourself SEO are the time and knowledge required by the SMB to execute SEO effectively. Many SMBs are perfectly capable of completing basic SEO tasks, but is that the best use of their time? And is it enough to achieve first page results? What about the more complex and specialized tasks like blog writing?
Many businesses will try the do it yourself SEO service route first, quickly realize that they’re in over their heads or simply don’t have the time, and revert their focus back to the day-to-day operations of their business. Because of this, DIY can end up being more costly in the long run.
2. A-La-Carte SEO
The next step into SEO, and the first place that resellers can help through services, is the a-la-carte option. Here, clients pick and choose specific SEO activities that they want and pay for them individually. For example, a client can purchase a website audit, a set number of backlinks, or a custom blog post.
A-la-carte is great for flexibility and allows a client to change their budget as needed, since there are generally no contracts with this option. The problem is that without guidance, a business might be choosing activities that won’t have any noticeable impact, or they’re simply selecting the cheapest option. As a reseller you can help by educating clients about SEO and offering packages designed for different needs and budgets, but it can be difficult to set the right expectations. Many a-la-carte fulfillment companies tout big results for an unrealistically low cost, and have no way of proving the work they do.
3. Full-Service SEO
SMBs can feel intimidated when approached with the idea of a full-service SEO campaign, but in reality, it’s the best choice for long-term success. While it can seem expensive, the benefits are twofold.
The first is time savings. For a small business owner, time isn’t just money, it’s everything. If they can leave 100% of their SEO work to the experts, they can focus their time and energy on what they’re good at: running their business.
The second benefit is quality and scope of work. With the right fulfillment service in place, your clients will be getting campaign work completed by specialists trained in the complete range of SEO activities. With SEO, quality trumps quantity.
I mentioned cost, and this will definitely be a deterrent for some businesses. A specialty SEO agency will typically charge well over $100/hr for their work, but there are less costly fulfillment options available. The key for resellers is presenting full-service in a way that makes sense to clients.
Offering different packages is appealing to SMBs as it allows some flexibility with their budget. Minimum contract lengths are also an option. SEO typically takes at least three to six months to see measurable results, so it’s important that clients stick with it. If you can educate yourself on how SEO really works, then you can effectively teach your clients and help them make the right choices for their business.
What to Look For When Choosing an SEO Provider
So now that you know more about why small business need SEO, how SEO works, and what kinds of fulfillment services are available, how do you go about choosing the right provider? As a reseller, it’s your name on the line. Whether you offer a-la-carte of full-service SEO, you need to find the right balance of cost, service, and results to keep your clients happy.
Any SEO provider will promise quality work and great results, but you need to see it to believe it. You should always look for a service that shows the actual work being performed. If your clients are in the dark about their campaign they are more likely to end it before they see results.
Who answers the call when your client has a question about their campaign? Some providers offer white-label phone support and give support directly to your clients. Others will work with you so that you can be the face of their SEO campaign. You need to determine what works best for you and your clients.
This is the biggest hurdle that most SMBs must clear before agreeing to an SEO campaign. As a reseller,
you need to find the right balance of fulfillment work and cost that makes sense for both you and your clients. If the price is too high clients might have unrealistic expectations for results. If the price is too low it may not be worth your time to even offer SEO and your clients might not see any results at all.
First page rankings are the goal of all SEO campaigns. Find a partner that has a proven track record of success, and who can show your clients that their SEO work is working. Many providers offer some type of reporting dashboard or scheduled update to show how a client’s keywords are moving in search rankings, which should correspond to an increase in site traffic.
SEO is growing in demand and importance, especially for small businesses. As a small business partner and service provider, you know your clients better than anyone. If you can educate yourself and resell SEO services, both you and your clients will see increased success.
To get started with selling SEO services to your clients, check out our solutions in the Marketplace!