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Welcome to SEO – You’re Late…

If I have to explain what SEO is to one more person I’m going to set my head on fire and apply for a job at as a traffic warden.

explaining seo

I’m not even joking.

So to save myself from serious injury and a life of disappointment I’m going to write this post and let you read it all by yourself so the next time we talk we’re on the same page.

Here’s what you’re going to learn:

  • What SEO is
  • How it’s done
  • How much it (really) costs.

I’ll try and keep it short and sweet but don’t shout at me if this ends up being 2,000 words long… we’ve got a lot to talk about!

Let’s just dive into it…


So What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

When we do SEO we’re optimizing your website for the search engines (mainly Google) so that it ranks at the top of the page for the keywords which your customers are using to search for your products or services.

In a nutshell, SEO is the art and science of getting your site to the top of Google (where all the money is)


How Do You Do SEO?

SEO comes in three parts:

  • On Page SEO
  • Keywords and Content
  • Backlinks


On Page SEO

On Page SEO is like pumping the tyres up on your car.

If you want to get from A to B but you’ve got 4 flat tyres the first thing you’re going to need to do is pump up your tyres.


Now just because you’ve pumped up your tyres doesn’t mean you’re going to be any closer to your destination, BUT… the journey ahead will be a lot faster and cheaper.

If you want to skip on page SEO your journey to the top of Google is going to take a lot more time and money than it should.

So what’s involved?

Basically… all the geeky techy stuff that you probably don’t want to hear about…

Content management systems, canonical URLs, robots files, sitemaps, htaccess files, site load speed, broken links, site structure, meta titles, meta descriptions, image file sizes, image alt tags, Google Analytics, custom goals, Google Search Console optimization, URL structure, breadcrumbs, mobile optimization, H1 tags, H2 tags, outbound links, social sharing elements, bounce rate, etc (in no particular order)

You can learn how to do your own on page SEO in my On Page SEO Basics guide.

Once you’ve got the geeky stuff done…


Keywords and Content

(If you’ve not yet built your website keyword research should be the first thing you do, but since 99.99999638% of people who contact me for SEO help already have a website that needs on page work… this part comes second.)

So once you’ve pumped up your tyres it’s time to plan your route.


Keywords and content are like the sat-nav of your Google journey, if you don’t plan out your keywords properly and you just start hammering away at content and backlinks you’re most probably going to end up in the middle of Internet nowhere wondering why you’ve got a shit load of traffic from Latvia who just aren’t interested in your roofing service in Birmingham.

To avoid wasting money on irrelevant rankings and traffic that doesn’t convert – do your keyword research properly.

Keyword research doesn’t have to be difficult, in fact it’s pretty easy if you follow a few of these guides:

(or or I could just do it for you in your SEO report)

The main aim of the game here is to find all of the keywords which your potential customers are using to search for the products or services that you’re offering.

The golden rule is to only invest money into ranking for keywords that will generate a return on investment, we want buyers and not browsers.

Once you’ve done this and you’re happy with your target keywords you need to make sure you have pages on your site optimized for all of those keywords.

This involves creating as much content as possible (articles, images, videos, etc) for each of those keywords and publishing that content to unique pages to your site.

When Google finds these keyword optimized pages you’ll notice (if you’re already tracking your rankings, which you should be) that you’ll actually start rankings for the keywords you’re targeting.

Unless you’re targeting keywords which have no competition whatsoever (like your brand name or some cool products you’ve just invented) you won’t be at the top of Google for those keywords just yet but you’ll see that you’re at least in the race for them amongst your competition.

Now to push those optimized pages up to the top of Google where all the traffic is – we need backlinks.



A backlink is a clickable link from one website to another.

If you have a Twitter profile with a link to your website on it – that’s a backlink for your website from Twitter.

In your SEO journey backlinks are the fuel which will get your to your destination.


But you’ve gotta be careful when building backlinks, building the wrong types of backlinks is like putting diesel in a petrol car – you’re not going to make it off the driveway.

AND you’ll have to spend a pretty penny removing those bad backlinks before you can rev up the engines again.

However, put the right type of fuel in the engine and your journey to the top will be as fast as it can possible be.


Rules to link by…


1 – Quality beats quantity.

Not all backlinks are created equal, one strong backlink from a relevant authority site can boost your website up the rankings a lot more than 100 backlinks from generic low authority sites.

If you review your competitions backlink profile and you see they have 10,000 backlinks, it doesn’t mean you have to build 11,000 to beat them.

They may have 10,990 crap backlinks and 10 strong ones, to beat them you may just need to build 15 authority links (and 150 secondary links to cover your tracks)

2 – A backlink is only as powerful as the page that it’s on.

Twitter.com is one of the most powerful websites in the world, however a backlink from your brand new Twitter profile is a pretty shit link, because your Twitter profile is a brand new page (twitter.com/your-brand) and your profile probably has no backlinks pointing to it to give it any authority.

On the other hand, if you’re a plumber and you get a backlink from the homepage of a niche relevant website (like a local home improvement blog) which has 100 high quality backlinks pointing to it – that’s a very good link and will give you a big boost in rankings.

3 – Backlinks are 90% of SEO

You can have the most perfectly optimized super fast loading site in the world with 1,000 pages of incredibly interesting keyword optimized content, but if nobody is linking to it you’re not going to beat the competition.

A lack of good backlinks tells Google that your content just isn’t that good, and if your content appears to be anything but great Google just aren’t going to put you at the top of the search results.

Don’t believe anybody that tells you backlinks are dead or irrelevant (mostly web designers that sell SEO but don’t know how to do SEO).


There’s a lot to learn when it comes to backlinks, if you want to read further into it have a scan through a few of my posts here:



How Long Does it Take to Reach the Top?

Short Answer – As long as it takes you to do your on page SEO, publish your keyword optimized content and build more high quality backlinks than your competition.


How Much Does SEO Cost?

Before I answer this question let’s have a little talk about the benefits of SEO…

Getting top Google rankings for your target keywords is most likely going to be a life changing experience for you and your business.

Unless you’re selling broken mirrors or cling film curtains, whatever your niche there’s most likely a ton of people out there searching for your products or services every month ready to put money in your pocket.

Being at the top of Google means that you’re going to make some serious money.

Now here’s a few things you need to take into account…

Welcome to the SEO game, quite possible the most profitable game you can play, aaaaaaaand… you’re late.

It’s 2016, there’s a lot of websites in your niche which have been doing SEO for over 5,6,7 years.

Unless you’re targeting brand spanking new keywords, there’s most likely going to be quite a few competitors which are already ranking for the keywords that you want to rank for, and we can safely assume that they’ve already spent a nice amount of money over a good few months (likely years) getting to the top, so if you think you can turn up to the SEO game in 2016 thinking you can outrank all of your competition and get rich in 60 days with 300 quid… you’re either deluded or very misinformed.

I think I’m probably the only SEO guy in the world who tells 9 out of 10 people who want to pay me money for SEO to not actually do SEO, because if you can’t afford it, there’s no point in starting.

At least I’m honest.

Imagine this…

You want to win the London Marathon.


The winner gets £10,000 per month for the next 12 months.

So you go out and buy all the expensive running gear.

You spend days reading books on how to run a marathon.

You have it all planned out in your head.

You’re gonna win this thing.

And you turn up to the race… 5 hours late.

You’ve got 2 options…

You either walk away now because you know you haven’t got the energy to catch up with the front runners.

Or… you bite the bullet, accept you’re behind and you LEG IT to catch up with the competition.


Much like turning up late and catching up with the leaders is the hardest part of the race, the most expensive part of SEO is the start… you’ve got some catching up to do and there’s no way around it.

You’re either in it to win it or don’t compete at all.


Now here’s the good news…

If you’ve got an existing site with some decent rankings already, you may just need some on page tinkering, maybe some optimized content and a few quality backlinks to break the ROI barrier.

Once that barrier’s been broken it means you’ve got better rankings, and if you’re in a low to medium competition niche those rankings are going to keep the leads and sales coming in for a good several months.

Taking a 2 year old website from page 3 to page 1 is a lot easier than taking a 1 month old website from page 100 to 1 (obviously).

However… if you do have a brand new website with no existing rankings to improve upon there’s still hope for you yet.

If you do your keyword research right and you target the long tail less competitive keywords first, it’s not hard to break ROI within 90 days.

Just don’t expect to be top of the page for your main keywords in a few months.

You’ve got to build your way up to that by targeting the low hanging fruit (long tail keywords), creating some cash flow and building up your site authority gradually (with good backlinks) so that you can eventually compete for the big keywords in your niche.

There’s no way around it, we either do it right or we don’t do it at all.

Being lazy and taking shortcuts is most likely going to end up with your site getting a penalty which is just more expensive in the long run.

So… how much does SEO cost?

If you’ve got a website with existing rankings which need improving, expect to spend between £500 to £1,000 on backlinks before you break ROI.

If you’ve got a brand new website with no existing rankings, expect to spend between £1,000 to£2,000 on backlinks before you break ROI.

Now you don’t have to spend that all at once, they’re just targets that I give to all of my clients to give you some realistic expectations.

If you’ve only got £300 to your name before you totally run out of money, Id rather not take that money at all, although there are a million SEO companies out there who will take it with a smile.

How fast should you hit your target?

As fast as you can, the quicker we get the work done the faster you’ll see results.



19 Responses so far.

  1. Andre says:

    Great analogies and I love the memes. Lol.

  2. Carl,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. SEO’s know this since we deal with it daily, but it still must have been a tedious post to write. I like that you have drawn a good analogy for having SEO done by comparing to the point A -> point B, tires, fuel and the “Welcome to the party, pal. It’s been going on for awhile now” attitude.

    In my experience it also seems to be very hard to get a potential client to “actually acknowledge” the ‘value’ & “benefit” good SEO will bring for their business, like your “prize for winning the marathon”. I have spent hours of contemplation trying to figure out where or what the disconnect is for someone who just can’t see it.

    I ask them how often do they search online? The answer is usually as much as the rest of us do. I ask how often do they scroll past page one to look for and choose something on page 2 or beyond? The answer is obvious, not very often at all. But upon drawing the obvious conclusion for them that “being on page one of Google actually means something” they still can’t seem to get past the feeling that the price you are charging them is a) not worth the value they will receive and b) that it “really” can’t be that hard or cost that much and you are just taking advantage of me.

    We don’t treat our doctor, our mechanic, our lawyer or our A/C technician this way so I can’t figure out what the difference really is. We pay higher prices for services we need that require specialized knowledge that not everyone has, or has time to figure out. So maybe it is just the ‘tangible’ part of it. Those other services that I mentioned seem more ‘real’ somehow than this “voodoo’ we are trying to sell called SEO.

    I often ask a ‘walking away ex-potential client’ as a last resort, “How do you think these websites on page #1 of Google for actually ended up here?

    Nobody has answered me yet! ,….and I am not surprised!

    Great post man. keep them coming!

    James T.

    • Carl Reed says:

      Hi James, easiest way to show a niche’s traffic value is to find all of the possible target keywords by doing extensive keyword research, then add up all of the exact match search volumes, then find the average CPC across all keywords, then multiple those numbers together, that’ll give you a fairly accurate figure as the CPC bids are set by real people spending their real money on PPC, not a computer algorithm, I’m writing a post on this now actually

  3. An interesting article i am currently working on increasing the page ranking of this website http://www.adcpropertysolutions.co.uk/ and am getting bogged down in the on page SEO and keyword research.

    If I know that our service is primarily house clearances how should I go about creating content for it? Is it better to do short blog articles, big in depth guides, videos?

    Thanks for the article I was looking for a way to break down the process.

    • Carl Reed says:

      Hi Ashley, 1,000 words for a tough keyword and 500 for the long tails, concentrate more on building authority links rather than the on page stuff, the site looks great but you have no good backlinks that I can see in Majestic. If you’re wondering why your competition are outranking you – it’s because they’ve got better backlinks

  4. Jesse says:

    Ill be sure to keep this article handy next time a client needs some education on what SEO is and the cost.

  5. Sam Romain says:

    You are spot on! I also use the race analogy quite frequently and justify the cost by informing the client that there is a lot of catch up to do with their competitors.

  6. Bryan Hunter says:

    Great read Carl. The short answer to how long does it take to reach the top is bang on. Those figures at the end should probably be monthly though, no?

    • Carl Reed says:

      Hi Byran, yeah SEO is really a monthly thing but it’s much easier to sell using PAYG, it’s a lot easier to upsell a monthly service once a client who has seen that you can increase their rankings and traffic

  7. Kerry says:

    I like the race car analogy, gonna use that one.

  8. Ohh if only this page was a bit more mobile friendly. Great post. The pricing guideline is a nice touch, people never want to pay for services they can’t understand since there is no perceivable value. I love searching local keywords and finding sites that are still using flash 😉

  9. Absolutely fantastic!I juzt loved reading it.I would suggest you see my page

    and what kind of content more can be added to our page to make it more visible in search engines.

  10. Neil Sheth says:

    Carl, nice post. Sets expectations with clients well and I thought I was the only one who told people on low budgets not to do SEO. Makes me feel better 🙂

    Also, I liked your analogy of building bad links is like putting diesel in a petrol car. This can make life trying to SEO your website a lot more difficult, especially if you get hit by a Google Penalty. I wrote an article about how to identify if you’ve been hit with a penalty here – http://www.onlywayonline.com/google-penalty-checker/

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

  11. Joe Lawrence says:

    Dude, good point on the having to catch up analogy, I never thought of it that way. But makes sense these other sites ranking have been there for quite some time, so you need to catch up and get ahead. The hardest part is definitely the start!

  12. Graham Glynn says:

    Great article. Your analogies are really useful. I also like that you advise those with low budget against SEO.

  13. Chris says:

    Great post Carl. I enjoy your writing style – it always makes me chuckle. With that said you bring up some very good points about the investment needed by local businesses to get their websites ranked. Many prospective clients get “sticker shock” when you tell them it will cost them over a grand for what they’re looking to achieve!!

    • Carl Reed says:

      Thanks Chris, it’s strange that most people are shocked at the cost of SEO although they probably pay somebody more per month to mop their floors

  14. I’m definitely late to the party… Awesome stuff Carl! Thanks very much 🙂

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