Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves a combination of several ongoing activities and strategies. It requires constant monitoring and regular campaign changes. As the search engines evolve their algorithms and internet users develop their expectations, an SEO campaign also has to grow and change. This is how companies will stay on top of the rankings and consistently reach out to new customers and clients.
“Getting SEO done” doesn’t always require the same level of work and intricate strategies for every company. In some cases, it may be enough to learn a few of the best practices and implement them on a small website. Others will need an entire team (in-house or outsourced) to perform constant updates to the website and regularly build links and relationships with other organizations.
There are basically three ways, or “paths” if you will, to get your SEO done. You can a) learn and do it yourself, b) hire an agency, or c) build an in-house team.
Learning SEO for Yourself
There are several facets of SEO that you can learn and do on your own to get your website in line with Google’s quality guidelines. These actions will create a better opportunity to show up in the organic search results or in the local results for your business.
While many of the theories and principles are easy to understand, the application and the fine details can be more of a challenge.
For example, it’s easy to say that Google prizes high-quality content and expects a certain level of intuitiveness to the site architecture, but how does the search engine actually judge these things?
Well, if you go here, you’ll find a free download that gives you an idea of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines. It is, give or take, 150 pages of detailed recommendations for judging quality. We’re not recommending that you learn this document inside and out, of course. It’s just an example of the complexities of determining what counts as “quality” and what doesn’t.
Sources to Help You Get Started with SEO
If you’re going to start teaching yourself SEO, the best place to start is with the search engine you’re trying to impress. Google offers some good resources for getting started, and then you can branch out from there.
- Google Webmaster Guidelines – These are the general guidelines on how to help Google find and index your pages. It includes quality guidelines and specific ways to make your website more appealing to the search engine.
- How Google Search Works – Before you start making website changes, it’s important to know just how Google does its job. This information is all about how Google discovers, crawls, and judges your website.
- SEO Blogs, Industry Research, Search Engine Reports – There are several websites and blogs around the internet that will provide up-to-date information on the latest changes and trends in the industry.
Is DIY SEO Really Possible?
It is possible to manage many aspects of your own SEO campaign, assuming the website isn’t too big and the level of traffic isn’t overwhelming yet. However, in order to keep up and consistently manage an efficient campaign, you’ll need to master some important skills, including:
- Technical SEO
- Market/competitive analysis
- Link building
- Schema markup
- Data mining
- Web metrics
- Social media
You will also need several tools to help you run an efficient campaign on your own. Check out these lists for some tools you can (generally) get for free to help improve your SEO and social media efforts.
Hiring an SEO Agency
If you’re not sure you have access to all the skills and tools you need to run an effective campaign on your own, hiring an agency may be a good option. This can help you get the ball rolling quickly, and you can immediately:
- Get your site reviewed for quality content and intuitive navigation/website structure.
- Get recommendations for website changes that will have the most impact.
- Review your site for potential issues with things like hosting, error pages, redirects, etc.
- Research the market and the keywords that will prove the most effective.
- Start tracking your traffic and rankings so you can focus on the activities that are proving the most effective.
- Create content and promote it across several different channels.
Can Non-Full-Time Employees Understand Your Business?
Agencies, by their very nature, work with a wide range of clients. This means that they will be acting without the same close association with your products and services that you or an in-house employee might. This often leads to questions about whether they can understand your products and services well enough to grow your customer base.
As long as the agency has experience establishing communications and detailed reports, it is possible for an SEO agency to work in an industry that requires a high level of knowledge on the part of the seller and the buyer. But you will need to be ready to work closely with them in the earliest stages.
Complementing an In-House Staff
Companies that already have a marketing team may or may not have the experience and skills to develop an online campaign. A company may even have an SEO specialist on staff, but that doesn’t mean that person has mastered every skill needed to build a strong campaign and completely fulfill all the necessary work.
You can use an agency as an extension of your existing marketing team. Whether you need some fulfillment on a content marketing push or help with expansive keyword research, you can tap an agency’s expertise to get the data, content, and support you need.
Hiring In-House Specialists
An in-house SEO department has some definite advantages. For one, your online efforts can be more closely tied to the normal promotional activities. That kind of flexibility and immediate response to your changing needs is critical in a highly competitive environment.
For another, you will have the ability to choose each and every team member and make sure they fit with your company culture.
This is, however, not really an option for a company without a large marketing budget.
What are the Costs of In-House SEO Specialists?
According to some research, the median salary for an experienced SEO manager or specialist is around 63K a year. At the very least, you’re looking at a 50K salary, and that’s just for one person. In order build out a full team that can cover all the technical aspects, the fulfillment, and the testing and tracking, you will likely need two or three people. So that immediately runs your costs up to the 200K area.
So, if you can budget about 14K a month for your team, then it may be time to take your online marketing in house. If your budget is less than that, you may want to look into other options.
Your in-house team will also be responsible for recruiting new members and team replacements. You will also need to make sure that you have an HR department that is capable of training these new people and ensuring that no information is lost as employees come and go.
You will also be in charge of purchasing or subscribing to the necessary tools and services that will complement your team’s efforts.
Which Path Should You Take?
The goals you’ve set for your company and your current marketing budget will be major factors in which path you take to get your SEO done. Carefully consider where you currently are in the rankings and where you’d like to be by the time you reach the end of the path and make your decision accordingly.