Just a minor September update (a.k.a I’m still around)

Hi all! Marcus here, still alive.

This is going to be a short update.

Apologies for not publishing a new post during the end of last month (September). I was supposed to publish at least 2 articles a month. Optimally that number would be 4, but I’ve got my hands full on current client projects (and I will always place emphasis on them).

Here are some stuff that you may find interesting.

What I did in September.

I publish a case study of how I helped a client increase traffic by 327% on September 9th, and also added a new page called SEO consultant duties and responsibilities on September 8th.

I felt that I needed to explain what my roles were as a consultant when clients hire me, so I can manage their expectations better.

Miraculously, my site traffic improved much more than I expected. This is a comparison of Overall Traffic and Organic Traffic in September v.s. August. You can see how the rise in ‘All Sessions’ is fueled by a 92.99%in organic traffic.

sept-ga-traffic

I didn’t do any ‘SEO’ on my site in August and September, and the surge in organic traffic can be attributed to the post I did on the list of top business directories in Singapore.

It did well beyond what I even hoped for because I wasn’t even trying to rank for “business directory” related keywords. I ended up outranking some of the directories that I featured in the post on some keyword combinations. Though it’s for lower search volume terms and this ranking wouldn’t stand a chance against time, it was something interesting to see.

What I’m busy with

I recently received more requests for my SEO consulting services. It came from a combination of leads from this site, referrals from clients, and word-of-mouth.

Right now I’m handling clients at 90% capacity, with a handful of them still awaiting my proposal for them. I’m thankful for some of these potential clients that I have because they seem willing to wait in line for me to get to helping them.

I obviously cannot and should not leave them waiting, so I’m already on the lookout for suitable personnel to join my team to take up specific roles. I’ve always been terrible at outsourcing 🙁 I’m also terrible at scaling this business – though it might be partly by my own choice. A Virtual Assistant would be great for me at this point of time.

Types of clients I’m handling now:

  • 2 e-commerce sites
  • 1 B2B site
  • 1 blog
  • 1 education site
  • 1 property site
  • 1 niche site

You can choose my next article!

I’ve already started working on the drafts of my next 2 articles. The thing is, I don’t know which one to focus on.

I’ll leave it for you to decide for me. Leave a comment below or drop me an email to let me know which one you rather see come out first. The titles are tentative, but you should be able to get an idea on what the content is about.

1) Best Youtube Channels to learn SEO (for all levels).

2) How to turn grey/black hat SEO techniques into white hat SEO.

Remember to leave a comment below if you have a preference. I’ll try to squeeze out the article this month.

That’s all for now.

Do forgive me for the lack of content. Things will improve when I finally find teammates that I can trust with handling my clients (my previous experiences weren’t ideal).

You should follow me on Google+ where I’m usually more active. My social presence on Facebook and Twitter is also horrendous. I’ll work on that soon 🙂

Well, till next time 🙂

Why is SEO so expensive!?

100 dollars for seo meme

I get that question a lot. So how much does SEO Cost?

If you have ever shopped around for SEO services, you might have asked yourself one of these questions:

  • Why is SEO so expensive?
  • Why are the prices so different?
  • Why doesn’t this company list their prices?

If you have ever asked any of these questions, you are not alone. SEO pricing is confusing if you do not know how SEO services work. Some SEO companies have a fix-priced package, while other companies can take days, sometimes weeks to give a final quotation. This is not surprising, given that different SEO services have different pricing models. The most common types are:

  • Fixed-priced monthly packages
  • Per project basis
  • Hourly rates for consultation
  • Monthly retainer fees

“Wait, aren’t those monthly packages really cheap?”

In a way, you are right. Typical lower range SEO packages sold by Singapore companies can vary from $40 to $200. These are obscenely cheap if you compare it to SEO work done by professionals who charge by the hour or per project. WHY these packages are so cheap is a long story I may cover in another article. But before you consider buying these packages, I want to tackle the issue of SEO packages before anything else. Let me start with an analogy.

The doctor analogy.

When you fall sick, you see a doctor.

You get to the doctor’s clinic, and before you even get to see the doctor, the dispensary counter calls your name. They hand over a bag of medicine containing the following:

Painkillers, cough syrup, flu pills, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, high blood pressure medicine, insulin for diabetes, and some sleeping pills.

“That’ll be $20.”

You think to yourself: that’s really cheap, considering the amount of medicine you are getting. But then you notice every single one in the clinic is getting the same bag, for the same price, without consulting the doctor.

pay money hand over notes
Paying for SEO every month can be an expensive investment in the long run  – worse if it does not increase your profits.

That’s the problem with SEO packages.

I think we all know that no one would ever go to that clinic again. Why?

  1. No one got to see the doctor to know exactly what’s wrong. (no  diagnosis into the real issues plaguing the website)
  2. Everyone got the same exact medicine, even though everyone has different problems. (Clients given the same solution despite being in different industries, with different goals, and having different competition)
  3. The wrong medicine could be potentially life damaging. (most SEO packages still use ancient link building tactics which Google now actively penalize)

100 dollars for seo meme

This is quite an accurate reality for most SEO companies that sell cheap SEO packages.  As they are quite similar to the services found in SEO Email spam, you can learn more about the potential damage of these cookie-cutter packages in another article I’ve written. Even though these packages are cheap, you run a high risk of getting penalized, which will mean greater damage to your brand and resources in the long run.

“So what makes the other SEO services so expensive?”

Check out this article from MOZ.com about the range of costs that SEO agencies charge.  If you run a small operation like me, some of those figures might give you a heart attack. Though SEO might have become more popular in recent years, it doesn’t mean businesses understand the value behind it. To understand why SEO costs so much, you need to first know what goes behind most SEO campaigns.

What are included in ‘modern’ SEO campaigns

Let’s try to break down the activities behind a search optimization campaign. Many of the following activities may leave you scratching your head because they don’t look like anything related to SEO, but actually they do!

Website Redesign for better User Interface (UI) / User Experience (UX)

Believe it or not, how your website is designed can affect SEO. If you are still heavily relying on Flash or Javascript to make your site attractive, it may affect how search robots crawl and index your site. User behaviour can now directly affect your on-page optimization score. If people are leaving your site soon after landing on it, it is a signal to Google that your site may not be worth ranking higher than another similar site.

Poor design can also affect whether people are willing to link to you, or whether visitors are likely to share your posts.

bad web design
Not a website I would like to link to.

Cost for redesign: Varies, but can cost as much as thousands of dollars for a major revamp.

Improve website structure for accessibility

Some sites have very poor website structures. Whether it’s poor navigation, inefficient internal linking, or ugly URLs, these can very easily affect your SEO authority. No matter how good your content is, if your site is impeded by a bad structure, you would not get the full benefits of link authority and search robot accessibility.

Cost for hiring a web developer: Depends on the scale of your website, estimated to be around $100 and up

Content strategy or Content marketing

Take a look at the 2014 Industry Survey by Moz. Of note: 2014 Industry Survey content creation Notice how most SEO marketers in 2014 are focusing on Content Creation. There are many different ways to do content marketing; from relative easy ones like gathering testimonials and case studies, to more thoughtful and complicated ones, like videos or online tools.

Cost for content marketing: SINGLE pieces of content can range from $50 (simple articles), upwards to thousands (videos, tools, infographics).

Public relations / Press releases

An often missed opportunity for SEO is the PR strategy. I noticed that many cheap Singapore SEO companies offered press releases as part of their packages. These low quality press releases are sent to press release syndication sites. They rarely (if ever) get picked up by major news sites, and Google also discounts such links. Those shouldn’t be how press releases are used. Good public relation campaigns can net you a lot of buzz, traffic, and as a bonus, many quality links.

Cost for PR: Approximately USD150 and up (for one press release), to around a thousand dollars for specialized and localized press distribution.

Traditional SEO

Of course, it wouldn’t be SEO if the ‘basic SEO activities’ aren’t implemented.  Keyword research; analytics; on-site optimization; link building; tracking; – these are examples of what a typical SEO might do. A proper SEO consultant would thoroughly look at what your website lacks, and recommends what you need (they play the role of the doctor in the analogy at the start).

Cost for basic SEO: Depends. No good answer exists until you know exactly what your website needs. SEO consultants can charge between $100~$300 an hour. Project based pricing can vary between $1000~$30,000. Monthly retainer fees can range from $500 a month to $5000 a month. (For more information on global SEO pricing, read this excellent article by searchenginewatch.com.)

“Sure, I understand the costs but I still don’t have the budget to afford them. Am I doomed?”

Absolutely not! It certainly is plausible to increase traffic to your site without spending a single cent on SEO activities. Furthermore, many of the activities above can be done yourself (or by your in-house team) with little or no cost.

The important thing when facing a severely limited budget, is to prioritize your solutions and see which activity you can do without external help. Either hire a consultant to review the best options, or make sure an SEO agency’s proposal consists of the breakdown of your SEO situation, and rationales for their proposed changes.

Conclusion

No doubt, SEO can be quite expensive. You should not waste the money on unneeded, or poor quality services. (Further reading: Should you stop doing SEO?)

I can also easily write a whole article about the opportunity cost of NOT investing in SEO, or the unforeseen cost of being penalized by Google due to low quality SEO tactics.

I think the doctor analogy sums up quite well about how much you should spend on SEO. First, get an accurate diagnosis, and pay for the medicine you truly need. Going for the cheapest solution isn’t always the best idea.

When you hire us for SEO consulting services, we will give you a report on what SEO strategy suits you best, and a prioritized action plan with cost estimates. We tell you how best to spend on SEO, so that your budget is well utilized in the long run. After all, we also fully know how expensive SEO can be, and if you do not have the budget for the best SEO campaign, we make sure to bring out the best of what available resource you have,

After all, SEO is a long term process.

6 Singapore Web Designers Share Their Top Trends for 2013

SeoGoodGuys recently got in touch with a few local web designers and developers. Some are friends, some are people I have worked with, and some are people I admire for their work. We had a conversation about the upcoming trends in web design and internet marketing, and I felt it was my duty to share with you some of the knowledge they shared with me.

They are all masters in their own field. They have seen first hand, the changes in client demands and rising trends in web design and development. What they know, would be highly beneficial to you guys – people who are interested in knowing what they can do to improve their online businesses.

These are not only food for thought. These are precious tips from the people who are constantly in touch with latest trends, so it is high valuable information for you to digest.

My question to them was:

“What do you think are the top trends in 2013? What do you think my readers should know, if they want to enjoy success in their online businesses in 2013? “

These were their answers. In no particular order.


Back to basics

When you Google for Web/SEO trends of 20xx, the differences between the years would be credited to advances in software infrastructure and programming, but also not to forget new creative innovations that get adopted on a wide scale which eventually becomes a “so last year kinda thing”. Saturation, which is trend, forces innovations, which in turns become trends again. It’s a never-ending cycle. We should be looking at basics.

Copywriting should be on the list of top concerns, be it crafted by a subject matter expert or an apt writer, words play an equal role in the general aesthetics and experience of any website. Not to forget, words are essentially the key to effective SEO.

To put a long idea short, a viewer’s experience through a website is not only credited to visual aesthetics, but also what he reads and feels from journeying through the content.

benson susejBenson Chong, Founder of Studio SUSEJ
benson@susej.sg
www.susej.sg

 


Responsive design

We’ll see people more broadly understanding mobile devices – computers we can hold in our hands as opposed to having to sit at a desk to use – as the web, not just an “on-the-go”, abridged version of the web.

As touch-enabled devices are becoming more ubiquitous, I think we’ll see a lot of experimentation around touch interactions.

I think this will be the year of the mobile website; no more desktop redirects or bare-bones landing pages. It’s time to think of the mobile website as every bit as “real” as the desktop website.

You don’t get to decide which device people use to visit your website. They do. If you’re sitting around debating whether “people will want to do that on mobile,” you’re too late. People are already trying to do it.

Khairul lead designerKhairul Anwar Hassim, Lead Designer of Khairul and Associates.
khairulanwar@me.com

www.khairulanwar.me

 


Think ‘lite’

Smartphones and tablets are the booming mobile devices of the recent years and these gadgets are what most consumers are going to be dependent upon for their daily surfing needs. Making one’s site responsive to both the large and small form factor is all but the first step into thinking lite.

Mobile gadgets are often used on-the-go and with cellular connection not being as reliable and speedy as a home wired connection, modern websites designed with simplicity (think vector / typography) and easy navigation leads the pack with faster loading times and less time spent by their visitors to seek out what they were here for.

With tons of attention grabbing digital entertainment and services on smartphones and tablets today, every second spent by your visitors on stuff other than valuable information from your site is a second less they have for you.

nicholas limNicholas Lim Wen Kai, Graphic Designer
design@itsnicholaslim.com

www.itsnicholaslim.com

 


Creative and fresh ideas

I think what is more pressing in today’s society, other than having an online presence is how you can combine social media along with your websites to engage users and to draw the crowd.

Very much like what Oreo in the above article did (http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/02/oreo-twitter-super-bowl/), they drew the attention of the crowd by relating their product to current events and issues. I think that there’s a fine line between posting about a current issue and posting about a current issue in a clever way. Those that emerge champions of online marketing efforts will be those that can combine their product/service with the going-ons in the world.

In a generation that is swamped with information, the challenge to be creative and consistently come up with good work that captures the attention of audiences is increasingly difficult. There are undoubtedly many players in the space of website design and online marketing at this current point in time.

I predict however, that in time to come, a few years from now, only the most creative will emerge as dominant market players. It is no longer sufficient to use the same standard themes for websites or to spam customers with advertisements through the same old marketing channels. I think the call for creative and fresh ideas has never been greater in this space.

chloe intent designChloe Sng, Owner of Intent Design
enquiries@intentdesign.com.sg

www.intentdesign.com.sg

 


More weapons, less frustrations for web developers

Over the years, we have seen a growing variety in tools available for web construction. Today, we have:

  • Sophiscated Content Management Systems like Joomla, Drupal, WordPress which experienced web developers often employ as seeds for their craft.
  • The recent Twitter Bootstrap is growing with developers for front-end web building as a result of its ever wonderful modular design standards.
  • A complete drag-drop interface on Wix.com for non-technical, and I mean non-technical, users to design, construct and host their online presence.
  • Even tools for processes outside of the actual coding are available, wireframing (Balsamiq) for design layouts etc.

Now, before we frustrate over the tedious and repetitive work, take a walk in the cyber world and we may run into a messiah for our problems!

Cheong Wei Hsien, Project Consultant at Zylone IT Pte Ltd
wei.hsien@zylone.com

www.zylone.com


Authenticity and contextual mobile design

I see two major trends occurring in web design for 2013 and beyond.

The first is the culture and medium of authenticity and transparency. The new internet generation of consumers are very well-informed, and increasingly wary of advertising and media. We can no longer simply create stories, but instead find and tell compelling truths that draw consumers irresistibly. Even better, help consumers tell stories about our products through earned and owned media strategies. Let them be part of our brand.

A second key trend is the continued move towards mobile. More then just mobile-friendly or responsive sites, consumers are continuing to experience more brands first on mobile phones and tablets rather then traditional desktops. We should not design and strategize for the screen, but the context. The mobile device with its assortment of sensors and mobility gives us new ways of interacting that were never possible on the desktop. We cannot just adapt sites and content to the smaller screen. We need to take advantage and design specifically for mobile – what is possible there and nowhere else.

stanley lai Stanley Lai, Interaction Designer at StanleyLai.sg
stanleylai.sg@gmail.com

www.stanleylai.sg

 


My own thoughts

One recurring theme I saw was the rise of mobile web design. Many saw the need for not only responsive web design, but design specifically with mobile in mind.

Do a check for you own website with a mobile device. Does it load very slowly? Do you have trouble navigating to the important pages? Are your call-to-action buttons functioning correctly? Can you read your content properly?

Another theme I noticed was the need for original and unique content. Both Benson and Chloe highlighted the need for content and marketing ideas to be captivating. This is also in line with the essence of Search Engine Optimization in 2013. There is a stronger need than ever to have unique content and fresh ideas in order to capture the attention of internet users.

Your take away

1) It is easier than ever to start an online business with all the tools available on the internet. Anyone can build a website and start selling stuff.

2) If you have a website, make sure it is designed to be compatible for mobile devices. Contact any of those guys (and gal) if you need to make your website mobile friendly.

3) No matter how well you design your website, it still needs original and fresh content. Content is king.


Special thanks to Benson, Khairul, Nicholas, Chloe, Wei Hsien and Stanley for taking time out to contribute to this article, even though everyone was busy throughout the CNY period. It was a pleasure working with y’all. P.s. I had to edit your work a little in order to keep everything neat. (Also thanks to Benson for contributing the Featured Image, which I used because I had no idea what to set. If you were wondering what is the  link between a penguin-rocketing-through-the-air, and this article… there is no link. It’s just awesome. )