Search engine optimisation (SEO) always comes up when we talk about digital marketing. But do we really know what it can do? We speak with Veronica Lim, founder of CEO Solutions, an SEO agency with a difference. She tells us more about how it works, including why it’s so important for businesses, and why it’s best to get an SEO expert to help. With so many SEO services in Singapore, she also shows us how to go about choosing an agency.
Why did you start your consultancy?
Since day one, I’ve been in the business and marketing field, helping many organisations grow their brand visibility, promote their products and generate demand across Asia Pacific. I studied Business Administration at the National University of Singapore and have worked in various marketing management roles in MNCs such as Motorola Solutions, Philips Lighting, Honeywell, Intel, Cisco Systems and Seagate. I have rich marketing knowledge and in-depth hands-on experience in both traditional and digital marketing for B2C and B2B.
As an APAC marketing lead, I had to travel extensively and it came to a point when I felt that I’d neglected my family. So I took a one-year sabbatical to spend more time in Singapore with my children who are growing up and needing my attention. That’s when I decided to start my own boutique SEO agency. I’ve always been passionate about marketing, growing brands and businesses so I want to use my experience and knowledge to help local SMEs, especially those who don’t know where to start.
Why did you choose to focus on SEO?
Unlike MNCs, SMEs do not have large marketing budgets or resources to work with, so they shouldn’t spread it too thin by tackling all areas of digital marketing. Instead, they should prioritise marketing spend that will generate the best returns.
To me, SEO is able to achieve the best returns and is more sustainable. If your business is listed on the first page of Google’s organic search results, you’ll get more traffic to your website, without paying for expensive ads! I don’t like spending budgets on paid adverts (pay-per-click, online or print) because brand visibility and traffic will drop once you stop paying for them.
I’m also not satisfied with what’s on offer in the market. Many local SME owners aren’t savvy with digital marketing and can get taken advantage of by unethical SEO agencies. Some oversell unnecessary services or overcharge, while others charge low fees and overpromise results; so business owners end up wasting time and money.
So that’s why I operate my agency differently. I offer a hundred percent performance guarantee for my clients. They’ll see page one results within the projected time-line, without lock-in contracts, set-up fees or upfront payments.
What do you enjoy about what you do?
I love seeing my clients outperform their competitors on Google and their websites ranking at top positions for targeted search terms (“keywords”) – it’s the competitive streak in me! SEO is very competitive as there are only 10 spots on a page. It’s very rewarding to be able to outrank websites that are on page one.
I’m also thrilled when my clients get their websites to page one before the projected timeline. This is why I don’t have lock-in contracts – because I believe that happy customers will be loyal when you offer good value.
I feel happy when my customers expand their SEO campaign to reach a larger audience as it proves that they’re gaining success. I also love how my job allows me to work in partnership with many people. It’s my personal aspiration to use my time to help others.
How would you respond to comments such as “I can manage SEO on my own”?
SEO is a skill set that needs to be acquired over time and constantly adapted to keep up with Google’s algorithm updates. What worked well a year ago may no longer be effective. So it’s important to entrust your site optimisation to a competent SEO consultant.
Real SEO practitioners are hard to find. Beware of “SEO experts” who promise quick ranking at super low prices. Like all things in life, quality comes at a cost. The saying “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” is very true in the SEO world.
As a business owner, you wear many hats. So it’s best to leave SEO work to the experts who know what to do to get you the fastest possible results safely. Then you can focus on other aspects of your business.
How about someone who says “I don’t need SEO”?
If you’re operating a business in an industry where competitors aren’t using SEO, then yes, you could do without it. Otherwise, you’ll be giving away potential customers to your competitors who are ranking on the first page of Google.
Today, buyers do their own research online before purchasing a product or service. Of these, 93% start with a search engine. Google processes an average of over 40,000 search queries each second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day worldwide. Being on the first page is important as 75% of people will never scroll beyond the first page of a search. Potential customers need to see and find you on Google. In Singapore, Google is the mostly highly used search engine, dominating at about 96%.
That said, SEO may not be suitable for certain businesses. If your products or services aren’t commonly known yet, SEO wouldn’t be helpful as search volumes will be almost non-existent. So you’ll need other forms of marketing to create awareness of the need for your product first. Once that’s established, SEO can come in.
There are many SEO agencies out there; what should we look out for when choosing one?
There are some red flags to watch out for when picking an agency for SEO services.
#1 Claiming they have ‘insider information’ about Google’s algorithms
Google Premium Partner status is for those that meet certain requirements, such as minimum spending on Google ads. Google Ads and SEO are not interlinked. Running a Google Ads campaign doesn’t help your SEO rankings and Google doesn’t share its algorithms with anyone. So beware of SEO agencies that claim they have a “special relationship” with Google, know someone at Google or have information about the formula.
#2 Promising they can get you to number one position within a week
No one can guarantee this in such a short period of time. More often than not, money paid will be used to place your website in the advertising section (Google ad) rather than in the main search results. Once the advertising ends, the placement will change.
#3 Offering standardised SEO packages
Avoid SEO agencies that offer SEO packages with flat rates for a certain number of keywords.
To be profitable, agencies need to determine the effort needed before committing to a price to charge. So to earn a quick buck, some may recommend easy keywords that don’t require much effort to rank for. These keywords may not even be highly searched or as relevant to your company, and they won’t be effective in the long-run.
In order to find out what keywords work the best for a company and its goals, comprehensive keyword research needs to be done to look at different words, volumes, target audience as well as competitors. After this, a list of relevant keywords can be generated and a price quoted. Look for an agency that offers customised planning and pricing.
#4 Not disclosing monthly search volume of chosen keywords
Without knowing the average search volume of the keywords, you won’t know if your SEO campaign is going to be a profitable investment.
Unethical agencies will recommend certain keywords that are easy to rank on page one because competition level is low for them. More often than not, these keywords (usually long and rarely searched phrases) have very low or even zero search volumes. You may rank at the first position but won’t attract much traffic to your site since no one is searching them. You need to know the keywords and their monthly average search before you sign up with an agency.
What can customers expect when they engage your SEO services?
When customers enquire about my SEO services, I usually direct them to my website to submit a simple online form with information about their business. It will give me their top competitors, key products or services that they want to promote through SEO, keywords they want to rank for, business goals and budget.
From there, I’ll conduct an in-depth research and analysis of their website (what I call the “SEO health score”). It consists of aspects such as the history of the domain, age, page speed, site issues and penalties previously imposed by Google. I will also do research on preferred keywords to check search volume and recommend other keywords with higher searches. After this, I’ll check the level of SEO competition for the keywords to assess the strength and weakness of their competitors. Then I can propose a customised plan, an estimated quote and a projected timeline to get them first page rankings.
Why should businesses choose you?
First of all, I don’t charge an upfront fee or make my customers sign a lock-in contract. If they feel that my SEO services aren’t achieving their goals, they’re free to go without being tied down by a contract.
Everything from start to finish is also entirely planned and executed by the expert (myself). Unlike other agencies, I don’t outsource my work so there is greater assurance in the quality and my customers get quicker responses.
Most importantly, my customers can trust me because I don’t work for their competitors. Once I take on the SEO work for a new customer, I won’t accept work for others in the industry niche as it goes against my personal values and principles. I value relationships and treasure the partnerships I have with my customers, and want them to succeed. They can be assured that I’ll be dedicated to their campaign.
With my marketing experience and knowledge, I also provide recommendations in other areas of marketing beyond SEO to clients to generate more leads. I have a proven track record in delivering results to my customers and with my previous employers.
Check out Veronica’s LinkedIn profile for more details about her experience and recommendations from people she has worked with.
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