It goes without saying that there are only ten spots in a top ten. So if there are one hundred (let’s imagine) law firms in a city, then only ten of them can rank where everyone is looking.

Sadly, it is actually worse than that. In an effort to provide the results people are looking for, search engines generally show more than one type of website in their top ten listings. This means that for our legal query, there might be a result for the government, another for wikipedia, a video and perhaps a law association or lobby group. Therefore, those one hundred law firms are actually competing for one of six or seven spots in the limelight.

There is clearly a very real benefit to being one of those seven firms when people are searching for subject and contact information.

We have seen situations where a firm has become so inundated with new business that they needed to hire new staff, even though these were “local” keywords with a very limited number of searches per month. In other words, someone in your market is generating lots of leads from Google and Bing, has a much larger market share and is making a lot more money than most of the other firms.

Are You A Winner Or An Also-Ran?

The result of this has been that most search queries have become much more competitive as the years have passed. Ranking highly in a search engine for a really competitive phrase can be thought of as an arms race with everyone trying to out spend and out think their competitors. Your market might not be that fierce yet, but it is heading in that direction.

This is in direct contrast to the perspectives of most small business owners and managers. In the early days of the web it was quite common for a business to put up a website and rank in the top five. This often happened because there were so few directly related and competing websites. Those days are long over and now every company has a website so it is very unlikely that a company will “just rank” but people still think that way. The days of free SEO are long gone.

This has the unusual impact that in lots of markets the firm that is taking the lion’s share of online business is simply the one company that is trying to! Their direct competitors are languishing on page four wondering why their website does not work. Which business do you want to be?

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO is a process that makes a website more user friendly and relevant to both potential users and the internet. Google now has a very complex set of guidelines in place for what a website ought to be and do and webmasters need to pay real attention to them if they hope to rank highly.

Broadly speaking SEO can be thought of within three main areas:

Technical – How well does your site work? How clean is the code? How fast does the website load? Etc.

Content – Does your site help users and offer real guidance, information or whatever it is they are searching for?

Inbound links – Do other sites on the web link to you? Links can be thought of as votes of confidence, the more relevant and authoritative sites that are linking in to you, the more of a resource you are.

Within these three areas there are many hundreds of other things to think about and work on, with lots of subtlety and interpretations to be made, but for a non-technical person they give a nice overview.

What SEO Work Will Be Needed For Your Website?

The reality is that every website and market is different. Additionally, the web and SEO are developing constantly. This means that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to offer any general advice. It also means that advice offered by other people about their own experience is unlikely to be of much help.

However, most small business websites are not all that great and could be improved significantly. This is partly because of the experience mentioned above – a few years ago lots of sites only needed to exist to rank highly. The older a site is, the more likely it needs to be updated.

Additionally, most small business websites do not have enough content. If you can imagine that Google and Bing are trying to find the best possible page about a topic to show as the number one result, then it becomes clear that the eighty or so words on most pages are unlikely to be the best result in the world.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

Since no two situations are the same, this is an almost impossible question to answer in a general sense.

At one end of the scale, you might be one of only two Indian restaurants in your town, in which case, it shouldn’t be too difficult. At the other end of the scale, you might be a global brand that sells online in multiple languages and via many channels. For this type of business, let’s say Sony for example, they could easily spend a million dollars per month – who knows, perhaps they actually spend more?

Your business is probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. At the lower end, you might be able to get by with a few hundred dollars per month. If the market you are targeting is small and well defined geographically, this might be quite realistic.

However, once your target market is larger, such as a region of a country, or a whole country and/or your marketplace is more competitive, then the amount required will be much higher. For a business trying to target a city in a moderately competitive business sector, then one thousand dollars per month is likely to be the absolute minimum you will spend.

We have heard reports of companies in the gaming sector – think casinos and poker – that are spending more than one hundred thousand per month, not including the wages of the team doing the spending. Thus, if you are in a really competitive environment, you need to brace yourself to be really competitive.

How Do You Tell If SEO Is Worth Spending Money On?

This is the area in which most businesses fail. Typically there will be some firms in a market that have calculated the cost to find a new client and compared it to their average transaction value or profit per client and worked out from there how much they can spend to acquire new business.

These business owners have a huge advantage because they now know how much they can afford to spend in pay per click advertising and on SEO to find new clients. Knowing this, they generally outspend their competitors significantly, buying new business which helps them to take a considerable share of their market.

The business owners that cannot model their numbers in the same way generally look at SEO and pay per click differently as being very expensive. They tend to be unwilling to spend as much as their competitors and find less new clients as a result.

If all this sounds complicated, yes you are right, it is. This is the world that Google built and they hire all sorts of rocket scientists and math prodigies to help them. Marketing online is very much based on logic.

If you would like to explore the subject further and find out whether you ought to be marketing online, we’d like to hear from you. You can contact AZENCE and we will schedule a chat with our SEO Team. If we both think that you can get positive results from your online marketing and SEO efforts, we will help you to get started.