Why Cheap SEO is Never Cheap

Arthur Fabik

June 3, 2020

Thinking about cheap SEO packages? Go for it 😨

Just don’t be surprised when you have nothing to show for it after 6 months. 

Or when your SEO provider promises you the world only to hand you an atlas then cancel your campaign entirely.

Or worse, when your site is penalised and banished from the first page forever with little hope of getting back to Google’s good graces. Most low cost SEO companies rely on quantity and speed, two factors in direct violation of Google’s guidelines.

Today, we want to talk about “cheap” SEO, and why nothing good is ever actually “cheap” (With the exception of Tim Tams – how do they do it?).

We hope this article helps you understand why good SEO is never cheap, and why you should never risk your reputation and rankings with low-cost packages. 

Cheap SEO: Is it Worth the Risk?

To demonstrate the dangers of cheap SEO, lets try a little thought experiment.

Pretend your eyes just aren’t as good as they used to be (Don’t remind me), and you’ve decided to do something about it. 

You hop on Google and search for “cheap laser eye surgery in Sydney”. You find a nice ophthalmologist with cheap, one-size-fits-all packages. GREAT! 

Now imagine this:

Instead of asking you to come in for a consultation, they say:

“Consultation? What? No, don’t worry. It’s fine. Let me blast your eye with this death ray. You don’t even need any preparation. You’ll have hawkeyes for the next 50 years, GUARANTEED!”.

That’s right. They don’t care about the size of your pupil, the shape of your cornea, or whichever condition has you squinting to read your phone in the morning. 

They don’t even want to take the time to prepare the eye with a protective flap, they just want to blast away until your vision is “corrected”.

Sound scary?

It is.

And it’s going to get WAY WORSE.

Now imagine that this whole procedure is AGAINST AUSTRALIAN LAW.

If you do it, the authorities will BANISH YOU from ever getting another corrective surgery. You’ll be stuck with Franken-eyes until you convince the authorities to allow you to get another procedure.

Now, we ask – would you ever choose this eye surgeon?

No.

Cheap SEO is the exact same thing.

Here’s what we mean.

Good SEO is Never Cheap

We don’t know about you, but if someone was going to blast a laser beam into our eyes, we’d want them to take the time to research, plan, and prepare our eyes for surgery.

Then, we’d want them to take the time to painstakingly pay attention to detail and carefully guide the beam around our eyes.

It’s the same with search engine optimisation. 

Good SEO requires painstaking research, diligent attention to detail, and the will to execute wide-reaching plans encompassing content, link building, social media, site speed, and dozens of other factors we don’t have the time to explain here.

And that’s not even including evaluating your business and devising a custom plan.

Remember, no two businesses are the same, meaning no two SEO campaigns are the same either. You want whoever is handling your SEO to be paid well enough to make focusing on your business worth their time – otherwise, you’re flushing money down the toilet.

So why don’t cheap SEOs produce good results?

The cheaper you go, the more your SEO is incentivised to cut corners and the less motivation they have to do good work. 

But the issue isn’t as simple as saying “cheap equals bad”.

To be fair, there are plenty of “affordable” SEOs who do good work.

That being said, the reasons that cheap SEOs usually don’t produce good results is a product of the structure of the industry itself. 

Good SEO requires time, patience and attention to detail.

If you’re paying pennies, your SEO agency won’t have the capital to invest in growing your rankings nor the motivation to do good work.

Let’s look at each factor in a little more detail:

  1. Most cheap SEOs use “churn and burn” tactics: “Churn and burn” is a common industry scam where companies offer insanely low prices in an effort to attract as many clients as possible, sometimes hundreds at a time. They charge a setup fee then pay little to no attention to you. Frustrated, you abandon the campaign. Good luck getting a refund.
  2. Good SEO requires quality EVERYTHING: Good SEO requires high-quality content that readers actually want to read and share, plus high-quality links from reputable and relevant sites. Throw in great design and mind-numbing research and maintenance, and you’ll quickly see why cheap doesn’t work. Your SEO company needs the capital to invest in quality work for your campaign. If not, you’re in big trouble (More on that later).
  3. One-size-fits all packages don’t work: Most cheap SEOs offer cookie cutter packages no matter your business, industry, or budget. It’s like Bunnings: High quantity and low prices, oftentimes at the sacrifice of quality. Quality SEO requires a custom plan tailored to your business. If Google senses you’re trying to game the system or growing unnaturally, they’ll sniff it out immediately.

Here’s a real-life image of Local Digital devising one of our custom SEO plans:

Alright, maybe we're being a little dramatic there... but our campaigns are all very customised to our client's goals.

Cheap SEO: What is it? And Why is it Dangerous?

Let’s take a quick look at what “cheap” SEO actually means, and a few of the not-so-fun dangers of it.

First, we want to say that SEO prices in Sydney vary immensely. Not just from provider to provider but also client to client.

There are a number of factors at play when pricing SEO, so the best we can do is give a rough estimate for pricing.

 Here are just a few:

  1. What are your end goals?
  2. What’s the current state of your SEO? 
  3. How tough is the competition? 
  4. What’s the payment structure (Hourly, per-project, monthly retainer)?
  5. What’s the geographic extent of your campaign (Local, national, international)

Cliche incoming…that’s the tip of the iceberg.

OK, back to cheap SEO.

When a company says “cheap”, they really mean low-effort, spammy or unnatural techniques that either flat out don’t work or blatantly violate Google’s guidelines.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll get:

Black Hat Techniques

Black hat SEO is any search engine optimisation technique that blatantly violates Google’s guidelines. This could be anything from buying large amounts of low-quality links to fluffy content stolen from competitors.

Like we’ve said over and over, quality SEO takes time and effort. There are no shortcuts.

Here’s the ironic part – “real” SEO is less about search engines and more about users.

If anything is done purely for “SEO” purposes, it’s usually a bad idea, with a few exceptions. Most cheap SEOs use shady black hat tactics with the goal of gaming the system.

Google Penalties

Google has a bit of an ego.

If you violate their guidelines, they won’t take things lightly. As soon as they find out you’re trying to game the system, they’ll slap a penalty on your site and banish you to the bottom of the results where no one will find you. It could take YEARS to recover from. See image above.

Think of a Google penalty like your site being tossed down a well with shackles on its feet. It doesn’t matter how hard you climb up, you’ll never reach the top unless Google takes the shackles off.

That’s why “cheap” SEO isn’t really cheap at all. You’ll pay dearly down the line to undo all of the damage.

Little to no Attention

Cheap SEO services normally have dozens of clients or more, all competing for attention. The result? Nobody gets any.

That’s why they have cookie cutter packages – to avoid having to actually work with clients. Your questions will go unanswered. You’ll never see analytics reports. And you’ll rarely ever receive updates.

We hear the same feedback quite often from business owners when they make the move from a cheap seo service to us.

Big Promises And No Results

SEO is hard, and nothing is guaranteed.

Read that again.

Any SEO who promises you results is lying.

You’ll keep paying for a year as they promise you “one more month! One more month!”. Next thing you know, they’ve closed down shop and are spending your money in Bali.

There’s a big difference between promises and real proof. Talk is cheap. Data doesn’t lie.

At Local Digital, we never “promise” particular results, just like the radio advertising or TV advertising or print advertising companies don’t.

The best we can do is say “we’ve done this hundreds of times before and have real data showing it increases rankings, leads, and sales. We’ll do the same for you”.

We’ll also often show in guarantees for things we can control like the volume of links acquired or the volume of content published to your site – all stuff that we know from experience will have a positive impact on your SEO, and all stuff cheap SEO companies usually do a terrible job of.

Damage to Your Reputation

If potential customers come across spammy links from unrelated sites (Often adult or gambling sites), or they read content on your site that your cheap SEO agency has farmed off to an overseas writer to dish up in poor English, irreparable damage will be done to your brand.

Is it worth it?

That’s about all that’s needed for this section.

Quality SEO vs. Cheap: What’s the Difference?

Quality SEO is the exact opposite of cheap. The latter focuses on shortcuts, minimal effort, and one-size-fits-all packages. Quality is a different beast altogether:

Quality Link Outreach

Google loves when other sites link to yours.

Think of it like votes in an election, only without all of the social media outrage. The more “votes” you have the more likely you’ll get boosted up a spot.

But it’s not just the quantity of links that matters. It’s the QUALITY. In fact, Google’s “Penguin” update changed the algorithm to focus on quality of links rather than sheer number. If you have high numbers of unnatural links, you will be penalized.

Quality SEOs take the time to naturally reach out to real, highly respected sites and obtain links gradually with a strategic link building campaign. Just like Google loves. This allows your site to grow with minimal risk of penalization.

High-Quality Content

Creating engaging, high-converting content that readers love is NOT EASY.

The content must not only be based around topics your target audience is searching for, but also informative, practical, engaging, and highly readable.

Quality SEOs will hire high-quality writers, not content mills pumping out spun or blatantly copied content in poor English.

Realistic Goals With Measurable Results

Talk is cheap.

Like we said before, we only show you proof of what we can do and tell you will take the exact same steps to achieve that goal.

We’ll repeat what has worked in the past and reevaluate as your campaign matures.

That’s how you achieve success.

About Arthur Fabik

Arthur is the Head of SEO at Local Digital. He's been working in the space for most of the last decade at some of the biggest agencies in Australia. Now, he's responsible for the Local Digital SEO team with one goal - smashing SEO results out of the park for our clients.

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