Where to begin... From Facebook Group:
For those who have experience with SEO agencies, what work would you expect to be done with a budget of around $1,200?
I've been with an agency for the last 5 months and for that price I get 2 or 3 guest posts written and uploaded to other sites, and then 3 or 4 local citations.
Am I getting ripped off?
First, some empathy. There is no shortage of charlatans in the SEO agency space. Also, they don't teach marketing, let alone, SEO in law school. So I can certainly understand the confusion and frustration. The only solution to these issues is education.
Second, some education. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is marketing. Sure, it's a really unique, specialized kind of marketing, but at it's core, it's just marketing. So, generally speaking, it should ultimately be measured in much the same way as other marketing.
TL;DR: In terms of VALUE. Not deliverables. Not activities. Not time.
So, the question really should be more something like, "what value should you expect with a budget of around $1,200?"
And the answer should be some multiple more. 3x? 5x? 10x?
Of course, this defines value very narrowly. There are a bunch of other ways to think of value besides straight return on investment.
Was education, insight, analysis, or strategy included? Do any of those have value? If so, what's their value?
You've probably heard some version of the following story.
Person has a squeaky floor. Hires someone to fix. Floor repair person walks around a bit. Takes out a hammer. Strikes floor. Squeak is gone. Repair person says, "That will be $500." Floor owner says, "That's outrageous, it took you only a few seconds to fix." Floor repair person responds, "You didn't only pay for the time for me to fix it, you also paid for the time for me to know how."
The same is true for marketing expertise, including SEO. Here's a somewhat analogous tale.
Lawyer has a website that doesn't even appear for searches on the lawyer's name. It's costing the lawyer countless dollars in terms of new business and frustrating existing clients and referrals who can't find information about the lawyer. Lawyer hires an SEO expert. SEO expert crawls the site and finds issue with robots.txt file. SEO fixes robots.txt file in a few minutes. Site gets crawled and indexed, organic traffic and potential clients clients start calling, lawyer retains new clients. SEO says, "That will be $1,200." Lawyer says, "I'm getting ripped off!"
Hopefully this resonates. You'd think it should. After all, this story is told by legal services consumers every single day. "Lawyers are too expensive!" "My lawyer ripped me off!" "My lawyer charged me $2,000 and only spent like a day on my case!"
And on, and on, and on.
So where do we go from here?
More education. More accountability.
If you're a consumer of digital legal marketing services, of any kind, you have to equip yourself with enough basic language to have a conversation. Have you ever tried to buy something from someone who doesn't speak the same language as you? Again, think of your own clients.
Do your homework. Make an informed decision. Take some accountability for your hiring decision.
But before you even get to SEO, or hiring help, think about your goals for your practice. What are they? What does success look like to you? Then work your way to defining and prioritizing what needs to be done to get there. Maybe it includes SEO. Maybe it includes hiring an SEO agency. Maybe it doesn't. If it does, make sure your agency understands your goals and you are agreeing to the definition of success at the beginning of the engagement.
Stop buying marketing "stuff."