SEO PACKAGES SUCK! HERE’S WHY

MARKETING

colourful geometric shapes

CONTENTS

18 min read

We often get asked about what our ‘packages’ look like, or how much they cost.

The issue with answering that question is:

  • we don’t offer branding packages.
  • we don’t offer web development packages.
  • Our content offering does come at different levels similar to traditional content marketing packages, but we also offer so many other content marketing services that the content marketing services we do offer end up looking more like bespoke offerings anyway!

Basically, if you work with Canny you get bespoke, specifically tailored deliverables.

No two clients are the exact same, and no two businesses need identical web, branding and content deliverables.

So Why Do People Offer SEO Packages?

Packages are easy, and simple to sell. Packages become a checkbox exercise. Is the xml sitemap up to date? Have I bought a load of spammy backlinks? Have I put together 4 of the blandest, most generic blogs known to man? Package complete.

Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t work like that. If you are a marketing manager or business owner looking for help with your SEO marketing efforts, please don’t use anything that offers SEO as a ‘package’.

If you have enough knowledge to know that you need SEO, you’ve presumably done enough research to know SEO is a complicated business.

At the very least, SEO is a mix of computer science, creative writing, maths and psychology.

It isn’t something you can get done on Fiverr for £50 and expect to see real, consistent results.

computer screen with analytics

Content Marketing and SEO- What’s the Difference?

Unfortunately, marketing has an endemic problem with not defining it’s terms. In engineering, or law, or publishing, there are clearly defined and pretty fastidious definitions for things.

Almost universally in the professional world, there isn’t much variation in what terms mean. A lawyer can go into any firm in the world and understand what a subpoena is (I assume. I have no idea what a subpoena is but I hear it a lot while watching Suits.)

In marketing, that concept is flipped on its head. For a bunch of people obsessed with words, we’re not much good at keeping our glossaries consistent!

If I say to another marketing expert in another agency, ‘I’m working on SEO this week!’ and they say ‘Me too!’ I’d put good money on us having vastly different weeks.

I don’t know if it’s down to a lack of understanding, or because SEO is so vast, but lots of people think they’re doing SEO when they are actually doing content marketing. Whilst some people use the terms content marketing and SEO marketing interchangeably, they are very different things.

Obviously there is some overlap, and great content marketing packages can feed into SEO and even move the needle significantly. Strong content is the holy grail of SEO, and good content marketing is still the best way to build a backlink profile and engage site users- both of which are pretty vital contributors to your sites SEO.

When it comes to the core differences between content marketing and SEO, it’s not actually that difficult to define.

SEO requires changes in code, tweaks in how the information on your website is presented, and a greater overview of internal linking and site navigation. SEO has to consider cumulative layout shift, largest contentful paint speeds, mobile responsiveness, mobile first web design, backlink profiles, and even server side considerations like SSL certificates and server response times.

Content marketers have to consider more advertorial aspects of content.

Making sure your content lands, resonates and grips people is as much of a specialist skill as coding. There is a subtle but distinct difference between good copy and bad, and most people can recognise distinguish it instinctively.

To illustrate, here are 3 examples of copy that say… just about the same thing. Guess which one actually appears on the Disney website:

  1. Discover the Fairest Collection of All. Explore our Snow White Collection.
  2. Discover the Fairest Collection of All. Look at our Snow White Collection.
  3. Discover the Fairest Collection of All. Browse our Snow White Collection.

Now… semantically speaking, those sentences are functionally identical.

They each mean the same. There is very little difference between them to a native english speaker, and you could use them all equally in conversation without any misunderstandings.

But the written word is different.

Words have to be chosen carefully, as even the slightest misstep or deviation from an established style looks alien.

So… the obvious outlier in that list is option 2. “Look at” is too passive and ‘clunky’ for Disney, and the Snow White collection. I hope you came to that conclusion as well.

That leaves options 1 and 3. A harder decision, but think about the overarching Disney identity, and the Snow White story.

a red apple in an outstretched hand

“Explore” is far more inspirational, aspirational and generally magical. Browse is passive in comparison.

So, naturally, explore is the correct answer.

I hope you got it right! But more than that, I hope you can see how important it is to get your copy exactly right. That is what content marketing is all about.

Content marketing is also heavily influenced by SEO factors, as it needs to appear in front of your audience somehow. The core difference is that while SEO considers all of the technical aspects, content marketing cares about the human experience more.

More specifically, content marketing cares about the psychology involved in converting visitors to buyers or clients, and considers your sales funnel. Talking to your website visitors in the exact right way, at the right time of their journey and providing value is core to content marketing. The SEO boost that comes along is a by-product of useful, well written content.

For a more tangible example, let’s examine what you get (as deliverables) from a few different SEO and content marketing ‘packages’. We’ll keep the companies offering the packages anonymous as we’re not trying to discredit anyone, but for a bit of context- one of the SEO packages is from Fiverr, one is from a private SEO consultancy, and one is from a creative agency.

tipped over jar full of pennies

SEO Package 1

Here is one of the best selling SEO packages on Fiverr, listed out into deliverables. Coming in at £6318 for a 6 month commitment, you get:

SEO Setup

This is described as ‘we register your site on Google so it fully appears in search results.’ That’s great! Except it’s also literally impossible to register a site with Google.

The most you can do is submit a sitemap to the Google Search Console and invite Google to index your site.

This takes roughly ten minutes as long as you have a sitemap created. Most websites have plugins to create sitemaps automatically, so this often takes no more than three clicks of a mouse.

Website Audit

This is described as ‘we find the important issues affecting your rankings’. Although this is lovely and non-specific, depending on what this deliverable actually involves this may actually be genuine SEO work!

Unfortunately, the ‘audit’ doesn’t say that they actually do anything once the issues have been identified… so I’d hazard a guess and say that they run a lighthouse speeds report, and look for any coverage errors on the Google Search Console. Again, roughly a ten minute job.

Keyword Audit

This deliverable is ‘We audit your current portfolio and find missed opportunities’. Again, this is genuine SEO work, but unless they develop the audit into a strategy or something more than just a list of identified keywords, there are tools that do this in literal seconds. So far, anyone with an Ahrefs account and a spare half hour could deliver everything they’ve promised.

Competitors’ Keyword Gap

‘We discover your strengths, weaknesses, and missed keyword.’ Copied verbatim- what this actually means is they’ll look at what your direct competitors are ranking for and see if there is any opportunity for you to rank for those keywords as well, via high quality blog content and more developed well copy.

Not that I’m an Ahrefs evangelist or anything, but there is a literal button for this on Ahrefs.

Keyword Research

‘We perform comprehensive research and make content recommendations.’ This is keyword research, which is great, and if their content recommendations are well thought out and considered, and strategically approached, then this could actually be super useful and valuable. This would definitely take at least a couple of hours.

On-Page SEO

This invaluable service is described as ‘We optimize your titles & meta descriptions to make the best 1st impression on Google’. That’s actually not bad SEO work either, as good titles and meta descriptions actually do effect click through rates and improve SEO. This is the first deliverable that would justify actually parting with any money, as it can be time consuming depending on the size of the website.

Content

Yes! Genuine content marketing!

Finally, this is where most SEO packages that look like this will make their money. I was so pleased to see this after such a frustrating experience. Up until this deliverable, the package looked as though this offering was designed to take advantage of people who weren’t 100% sure on what SEO was, or what they needed.

I looked into this, and the actual deliverable works out to be a 1000+ word blog a month.

This isn’t bad in itself, as long form content does tend to rank well in Google as a general rule.

However, in the modern day (and this is a generalisation and dependent on industry, sector and 100 other factors), 1000 words won’t cut it. Most Canny blogs run between 2200 and 4000 words, but that is high. Our word count tends to run a little bit higher because we’re competing for Google rankings and digital real estate with SEO professionals and other marketing professionals, so that makes our industry super competitive!

Typically, most blogs should be between 1800 and 2500 words all in.
Any longer and people will lose interest, any shorter and it doesn’t really give Google enough to work with and detect the quality signals it requires to rank highly.

Ok… so this package on Fiverr, which isn’t atypical by any means, obviously has its own problems.

Let’s move on to a specialised website offering an SEO package to see how that measures up.

money on fire

SEO package 2

Here is a pretty well known agency’s SEO offering.

These prices have a pretty wild swing on them, so it’s hard to get a true measure on how much things would actually cost, but I’ll use Canny’s lowest package and 1800 words (which is our minimum blog length for clients as a general guide), just to see how the package compares to our content marketing offerings.

Website Audit Services

This is interesting. The price for this service has such a wild swing, they may as well have just said “call us for prices.”

They didn’t.

They quote a website audit as anywhere between £390 and £5200, depending on the depth of the audit.

Wow.

Technical SEO Consulting Services

This one is pretty good, but something that could get pretty expensive pretty quickly.

This one is billed out at £130 per hour of work.

That isn’t a bad rate for technical SEO fixes in all fairness, unless these fixes are complicated or time consuming to do manually- which SEO fixes often are. Again, for context, most website build projects at Canny run around 40 hours… so instead of paying for 40 hours of technical SEO work you could have an entirely new website built for a little bit cheaper!

It’s definitely a nice to have rather than a must have, especially if you don’t have to commit to a certain amount of hours, and not a bad offering at the price if the quality of work is there.

Search Performance Briefs for a targeted keyword

Not sure what this means, but it costs you £195 per keyword they brief out to you.

edit: I found out what this is- it’s a blog framework based on keyword research, with some extras like internal link recommendations and some suggestions on metadata. That isn’t bad at all, if you have the time to write fully fleshed out blog posts regularly.

General SEO tips, tricks and guidance

Listed as a deliverable, but free! Good to know that they offer general SEO tips, tricks and guidance for free… if only there was a resource where you could get all of that without having to engage in an agency’s SEO package… some sort of blog that talks about SEO a lot… where would you find one of them I wonder?

SEO reporting

This is also listed as a ‘free’ deliverable. Obviously it isn’t free, of course, it’s built into the cost of the other deliverables cost…

When I was a student I worked in a bar and they had a massive bowl full of cut up limes behind the bar for us to put into lemonades, cocktails (where appropriate) and bottles of Corona.

One day someone ordered a bottle of Corona and I asked, ‘would you like a lime in that?’

The person ordering responded, ‘How much does a lime slice cost?’

To which I- fresh faced, innocent and completely naive to the world of pub banter- replied, ‘Nothing, the lime slice is free!’

And then the person replied ‘Can I have all of your lime slices then?’

Obviously, I couldn’t just give this random man 16 chopped limes for nothing, but the lime slices were functionally free… either that, or they cost £3.45 and came with a complimentary bottle of Corona.

Offering free reporting and advice is a bit like the limes in the bowl. They’re free, conditionally.

Content for SEO

This is good to see- content is good for SEO. Charged at 65p per word, this again could get pretty expensive pretty quickly but it’s good that content marketing is a key consideration for SEO services. To put this in context, for one blog at 1800 words you’d pay £1170.

Annnnnddddddd… that’s all folks.

This is much better than SEO Package 1, the fiverr special, that we examined first. The deliverables are easily quantifiable and you gain tangible assets for your money. They also don’t charge for things that are free to do, or take no time at all. It all seems far more ‘above board’, and less like they’re trying to pull a fast one on unsuspecting or naive potential clients. Not bad, but if you commit to 2 blogs a month (which we’d consider the absolute minimum for content marketing efforts) you end up paying £2340 pcm. Add onto that any technical SEO issues and you can easily run into paying £18,000 over the course of a 6 month engagement.

Let’s move on to package 3.

plant in a plant pot with money in itz

Package 3

This package is from a creative design agency.

This package isn’t actually marketed as an SEO package, instead it is referred to as a content marketing service. This necessarily means it avoids some of the more technical aspects of SEO, but still covers all of the core considerations of a content marketing package.

The breakdown of cost isn’t actually listed anywhere on the website, but we know what we get for a £2500 package

Let’s take a look at some of the deliverables available.

Content Strategy

This is the first deliverable on the list, and breaks down into some smaller deliverables.

Development of the content strategy includes:

  • Keyword research
  • Competitor analysis
  • Demographic targeting

This all comes together in a fully fleshed out 6 month content plan, including recommended target keywords along with some secondary keywords to target.

Each suggested blog title is accompanied with the logic behind the suggestion, showing at least some thought has gone into the strategy.

I actually think this is a good approach, as it allows for a discussion around the goals of any given marketing plan, and the rationale included in the content plan can be used to explain the plan to others.

By offering a ‘strategy’ rather than individual blogs, this package gives a bit more thought to a consistent, tactical approach to your marketing efforts.

Obviously, the deliverables like ‘keyword research’ and ‘competitor analysis’ are as vague here as they are in the first 2 packages, but they are rolled into the tangible deliverable of ‘A Content Strategy’.

Content Creation

For £2500, this package provider will create 4 blogs per month. Although there is no mention of the exact blog lengths provided on the website, we will again assume 1800 minimum, as that is the benchmark we’ve been using throughout.

4 fully realised blogs of a decent length, with a bit of strategy and cohesion around them, will move the needle on your content marketing efforts far more than 1 short 1000 word blog (as seen in package 1) or the 2 blogs you get for the same price in package 2.

SEO reporting and submitting blogs to the Google Search Console

Again, this would be the bare minimum of what you’d expect. Submitting blogs to the GSC just invites Google to crawl the new content so it can start ranking.

It’s good that they clearly state they are going to do this, but really in the year of our lord 2021 you should be safe to assume this is being done anyway.

Marketing consultancy and advice

Again, if you engage an agency they should be providing this. Marketing advice should be given, and should not be an added extra.

And that’s that!

So, as a side by side comparison, including price, we’re looking at this:

←—————— Get design to make me a custom image —————–>

The above was calculated using how much it would cost to get all of the deliverables listed plus 2 lots of 1800 word blog articles. SEO and content marketing work hand in hand, so the blogs are a vital component to each package.

Unfortunately, the 1000 word blog article offered in package 1 won’t have much of an impact, as recent research shows that the average word count for blogs in the first 10 results in Google (the page one results) comes in at between 2040 and 2460 words…

Which would you prefer to go with?

If you answered package 3, get in touch- that’s Canny’s content offering! We find that a more sophisticated, developed, and strategic approach works best. Marketing shouldn’t be a shot in the dark, and we don’t offer ‘SEO’ as a general, unspecified thing but as something we work towards.

Search Engine Optimisation packages don’t work because there are too many variables and no one knows exactly what the Google algorithm is looking for. Estimates put the factors which go into the Google algorithm at between 112 and 1400 different factors- so it would be a hell of a package to cover them all off!

content creation

SEO packages suck! Here’s why…

SEO packages suck because there are too many people peddling things that won’t have any real, lasting impact on your business. That’s the top and bottom of it. People prey on the fact that:

  1. SEO is very in vogue, and selling the idea of being top of Google isn’t a hard sell
  2. People who think they need an SEO package don’t understand all that goes into SEO

If your organic traffic isn’t high enough to your site and you’d like to boost it up, consider the following.

    • Is my site mobile friendly, technically sound, accessible, fast loading, and internally linked in a sensible and intuitive manner?

If not, you probably need help from a web developer. Web development and site performance is one of the core aspects of SEO, known as technical SEO.

    • Is my site easily navigable, usable, and user friendly?

If not, you probably need help from a designer. User experience and user interface are vital to SEO, as user behaviours are key to the way Google’s algorithm perceives quality.

    • Does my site have enough external backlinks, from reputable sources?

If the answer is no, then you need help from a content strategist. Google sees links from other sites as an endorsement to the quality of your site. By putting out strategically thought out, well crafted content, you will earn these backlinks. Paying for backlinks, or paying someone to place backlinks for you, literally never works and is a contravention of Google’s webmaster terms– if you do this and Google catches you, you’ll get a manual penalty.

    • Does my website fulfil a user’s search intent?

If the answer is no, then you have a deeper problem. If your website doesn’t give potential clients exactly what they want, then you need to rethink your overall approach. People want usable, useful websites- and more and more, people have their choice of websites so if yours doesn’t do exactly what users are looking for they’ll find another one.

Canny can help with all of the above.

It isn’t an SEO package.

It is fixing all of the issues that your web presence has, and providing additional opportunities for your web presence to grow.

SEO packages suck because SEO shouldn’t be a deliverable, or a goal, but a by-product of good solid marketing, web design, and content creation.

If you’re looking for an SEO package that won’t do anything for you or your business, then move on.

If you’re looking for real, data driven results that will grow your businesses web presence and organic traffic, get in touch.

It’s as simple as that!