How does the SEO freelance market feel in a crisis?

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In early 2014, SEOnews editors turned to SEO freelancers from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus with questions about the future of the market, competition with agencies and incomes. And then it seemed that everything looked very good: incompetent experts left the market, and experienced SEO-people felt quite confident even in the face of the threat from large industry businesses. But soon after that, a crisis struck, which removed many small SEO companies from the market, and the large ones made them think seriously.

How do SEO freelancers and their clients feel in this situation?

We were answered by experts:

Evgeny Nesterov, Sochi, 9 years experience
Ivan Papus, Kiev, experience of 6 years
Zheludevich Andrey (b-l.by), Minsk, work experience 5 years
Artem Isaev, Kazan, experience of 5 year

How has the SEO freelance market changed over the last year?

Yevgeny Nesterov (Sochi): If we talk about global changes, then, by and large, they were not. We can only note a positive trend towards an increase in orders for promotion. And this, in principle, is understandable. The Internet is growing every year and is becoming more and more popular as a source of income. More and more entrepreneurs come to the network and want a selling site that brings customers. You can also note the influx of customers who have left the previous promotion artists, which are mostly large SEO companies that have not been able to devote enough time to meet their needs.

Ivan Papus (Kiev): A lot has changed – they began to pay much more attention to internal factors, which is good news, because it is much more interesting to work on internal factors. In addition, the requirements for external links have changed, so the promotion grows into hidden marketing, selecting only “live” sites, placing links that can generate traffic, etc. In general, the situation in the foreign exchange market also affected the situation: many, even large customers, refused to promote services because, for various reasons, they either could not pay for it, or did not want to invest money, because the prospect is incomprehensible. For example, there was a client – a large automobile portal, which stopped investing in promotion: advertising sponsors stopped buying advertising due to the fact that production of these cars was closed in their city.

Andrei Zheludevich (Minsk): Everything was stable and good, until there was thunder on “Bynet’s Week”. Since then, the demand for integrated SEO promotion has decreased by 20–30%. More and more clients became interested in one-time services: internal optimization, cleaning of the reference profile, collection and distribution of semantics. In addition to the new algorithms of Yandex, the market has shrunk and course jumps. With a limited budget for attracting traffic, companies prefer contextual advertising. It is also worth noting that SEO is increasingly integrating with other sources of traffic. For example, the final ad rank in Google Adwords will depend on the quality of internal optimization, which affects the cost of a click and the position of an ad in ad units. In turn, the quality setting of online advertising should have a positive impact on behavioral factors and, as a result, improve its position in Yandex.

Artem Isaev (Kazan): It was believed that the lion’s share of SEO-freelancing is a “shkolota” that only procures links to aggregators. Such a part after “Minusinsk” and the last AGS of Yandex, of course, will die out. There is a way out – either sharpening your skills for a narrow service (making semantics, maintaining context, sending out or even withdrawing and purchasing links) and become the best in this, or follow the trends and try to provide comprehensive project promotion services (SEM). Good professional freelancers will be able to survive and earn in both niches.

What has changed in customer requirements?

Yevgeny Nesterov (Sochi): In addition to the main work on outputting requests and increasing traffic and orders from the site, I can say that more and more customers have asked to check their site completely for usability and increase conversion. It can be seen that gradually comes the understanding that you need to work in conjunction with the site. It’s one thing to attract a visitor, and another to turn it into a buyer. It does not rarely happen that after the defects found, the customer willingly makes a new site design with a new structure.

Ivan Papus (Kiev): More and more customers are trying to look for conditions for promotion with pay for leads (calls, orders, applications, etc.), but in general I did not notice any special changes in the requirements.

Andrei Zheludevich (Minsk): The abundance of “wizards capable of promoting the site” for a penny within 2-3 months has changed the degree of customer confidence in the performer. Potential clients need to act transparently: to report on the work done, to purchase links in client accounts, to comment on the progress of the chosen maneuvers. Some customers ask not to buy rented links. Surprisingly, the tops practically do not require, the main thing is to ensure the growth of search traffic, even low-frequency one.

Artem Isaev (Kazan): In Moscow there are those who are willing to pay a lot for the result, but for medium projects, price was and remains an important criterion. In the regions, in addition to the cost, SEO-Schnick in fact man-orchestra. Regional business cannot and will not pay separately to the content manager, web-maker-up and SEO-specialist. It’s also good if you managed to disown advertising and email. All this makes the freelancer own a whole range of skills, and here is the plus of the agency, because there each specialist leads his own narrow direction

How has the number of orders and customer budgets?

Yevgeny Nesterov (Sochi): Orders are gradually growing. Customer budgets are directly dependent on their desires and requirements. Someone is limited to a narrow list of target requests, someone to a specific budget. Someone is not limited to anything and asks to collect the maximum semantics in all areas of activity with full coverage of all sorts of variations of search queries.

Ivan Papus (Kiev): Budgets as a whole have decreased slightly, everyone is trying to save and the more, the better. But there are also clients who have sufficient budgets to implement any ideas, therefore the situation is ambiguous.

Andrei Zheludevich (Minsk): Prices in rubles and the number of orders sank by 10–20%. If we take into account exchange rate jumps, then in dollar terms, prices fell by 35–40%. Now it is quite difficult to find a large order even for an advanced SEO person. We have to compensate for this by increasing the number of medium-sized projects accompanied, as well as by performing one-off work and consultations.

Artem Isaev (Kazan): Judging by the discussions in the industry, the number of orders and customers has decreased. And those who did not have a stable core or had only one large client, but he jumped off, were left without work. As a possible way out – dumping prices. People turn to me, but I have to recommend other specialists, because it is physically impossible to perform more than a certain threshold.

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