I have been involved with SEO since 2009, mostly working with small business owners. During that time, I have answered thousands of SEO questions. I usually respond, “It depends.” So many individual factors influence the prioritization of SEO tasks. You have to take into account the individual business and website.

I have compiled a list of common questions I’ve received over the years that have more specific answers. As always, feel free to drop a comment with additional questions you have or have received about SEO.


1. What Is SEO?

Digital marketing is an enormous field that includes social media, display ads, content marketing, and SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization. It includes both offsite and onsite actions to help a website show up on a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

Search engines include two main sections: organic and sponsored. Companies pay to display results in the sponsored section, and those prices are usually based on the number of people who click on the ad. The organic section includes the results that show up naturally. While it takes some time to help your website rank in the organic section, it does not require any kind of pay-per-click program.


2. When Should I Start SEO?

SEO is a long-term investment. The most popular and most visited websites have been doing SEO since the very beginning.

An old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Ideally, you should start SEO as soon as a website is up and live. If you started SEO six to nine months ago, you would already notice the positive effects.

If you have yet to start SEO, start now. While SEO is a long-term commitment, it is one of the cheapest forms of lead generation a business can invest in. And what small business doesn’t want more business?


3. Should I Hire a Company?

This question is one of the few that I wouldn’t answer with “It depends” because the exception to this rule is so small. SEO is a tricky industry. The work not only requires a significant investment of time, but it also needs to be done correctly.

The majority of small business owners do not have the time or industry-specific expertise to successfully navigate the waters of SEO. An SEO company provides fulfillment and strategy, and it can adapt to your company’s circumstances as needed.

I advise all small companies to hire an SEO company. Focus on your business and hire a company to focus on your SEO. In the long run, you will save yourself time, money, and headaches.


4. How Much Does SEO Cost?

SEO can cost anywhere from $200 a month to $6,000 a month. If you are in a non-competitive local market, $200 a month would be sufficient. If you are competing in a more competitive national market, you could spend closer to $6,000 a month.

Whatever you spend, plan on purchasing SEO services on a monthly basis for at least 6–9 months. This timeframe should be long enough to monitor the results of the campaign and hopefully, achieve first-page results.

Don’t think of the 6–9 months as a one-time fee and then quit. Quitting a successful SEO campaign is like shutting a store down during peak business hours. If the SEO is performing well and bringing returns, keep investing and growing your presence within the search engines!


5. Who Can I Trust With My SEO?

Not all SEO companies are created equal. Google devotes a full page to the selection process of an SEO company. If a company sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Guaranteed first-page results? 500 links for $50? Unsolicited emails or blog comments telling you your website is awful? Secretive or black-hat tactics? Turn away from these companies.

Do your research when hiring a company for SEO. If other people can trust them, you probably can as well.

Look at customer reviews. 100% perfect reviews is unnatural. Not even Nordstrom has perfect reviews. Really bad reviews are also a bad sign. Read the reviews fairly and compare them from company to company.

Does the company have a sustained history of success? If an SEO company has been around for several years, it likely provides effective work because clients keep coming back. If the company is brand new, be more leery and vigilant in your investigation of the company.

How transparent is the company? The most trustworthy SEO companies show you where your money is going and what actions they perform on your accounts. They show the targeted keywords that are being optimized on the campaign. If the company can show you a transparent reporting dashboard, they are more likely to be a trusted company.

SEO is a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. Even if you are not completing the fulfillment side of SEO, make sure to investigate and ask a lot of questions so you can better understand how SEO works and what to expect. As a small business owner, your time and money are extremely valuable.

Put in the proper time to understand SEO, and hire a company that you can trust. Please comment with additional questions you may have or have heard so we can all learn from each other!


Colton is the former Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability testing and defining the products and processes that make Boostability's customers successful. He was part of Boostability for over 8 years. Colton loves hanging out with his family and gaming. He runs a personal blog over at www.coltonjmiller.com where he discusses gaming, life, and SEO.