Search Engine Optimization for $250

Recently, I was working with an organization that was building a new website. My role was to help with the strategic role of the website, work on SEO and analytics, and help them evaluate the bids submitted from a number of companies to build the actual site.

Included in one of the bids was a line item in the budget, under the heading Search Engine Optimization, and the amount of $250.

I’ve seen this before from various bidders, and I have to say that I can’t blame them for putting in an item like this. Companies and organizations have heard of this magical thing called “SEO” that is the magic bullet that guarantees internet success. Unfortunately, not including a line item like this may have the consequence of having their bid disqualified. I can see the decision-makers standing around a table, five or six bids laid out in front of them, and someone saying “let’s dismiss this one out of hand – they don’t say SEO, while this guy does SEO, and it’s only $250″.

Problem is, for only $250 you don’t get real SEO. Only some window dressing, if you even get that.

In this instance, I had been working with this group for a bit of time on developing a web strategy, so they knew what was involved in Search Engine Optimization. They knew what the process entailed. They knew that you needed to understand your organization’s goals and strategies and tie them to the website. They knew that you had to identify your main target demographics and put yourself in their shoes. They knew you had to research actual web usage to develop keywords.  They knew content had to correspond to the keywords and target audiences. They knew you had to customize your measurement software and analyze performance.  They knew SEO was not a one-time only item.

And they knew that you can’t do all this for $250.

So what was included in the $250? Who knows, but I would not be surprised if it included items such as filling in meta keywords (which has absolutely no impact anymore). Maybe submitting a sitemap (which has very minimal impact).

Search Engine Optimization is not a small add-on. Sure, they may be some technical items that you can do to an existing website to make it more search-engine friendly. But when building a new website, those should be as standard as windshield wipers on a car.

If you are paying an extra $250 for “Search Engine Optimization” on a new website, you should be quite suspicious. It means one of two things. Either the company you are talking to does not know what SEO really is. Or they are trying to charge you extra for the windshield wipers.