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Many businesses don’t think SEO is difficult, and they are right. It’s not rocket science, but it does require applied strategy, testing, and a lot of patience. Faced with the choice of going all out SEO (in or out of house), or putting it into the hands of a few part-timers to cut costs, some choose the latter. They believe the knowledge to rank a website is now mainstream enough that anybody can do it. A couple of interns would have no problem fixing title tags on a website, but unfortunately for that company, search engine marketing has advanced beyond title and description tags.

It is great news that many companies are seeing value in SEO and SEM. It makes it easier for companies like SEO.com to persuade people to let us do what works. But the basic nature of some SEO services has led some to question whether or not the investment is worth it. It is tempting to view SEO as simply a task that once achieved by a first page ranking can be eliminated or at least outsourced for cheap.

So why is this misguided thinking?

SEO has become something much bigger than most people realize. This is why some use the term ‘SEM’ (search engine marketing), or ‘online marketing’, instead of SEO. SEO plays a very important part in what we do, but when you take into account our people who run PPC campaigns for clients, optimize site layouts for better conversion rates, re-design websites for better usability, and whatever else we do, you have something resembling a full-service web marketing firm.

More than building a link or two

Consider the advantage that comes with expertise. For example,did you read Greg Shuey’s post about building links from relevant sites? If you didn’t know any better, you might think all link building was created equal. Turns out, there is a direct correlation between link building and on-page site structure. Go back and read up to find out more.

Or how about Rick Hardman’s discussion about Twitter? As social media continues to evolve, will you have anyone to consult with about its direction? Chances are, what you know about social media’s strategic relation to SEO is already a bit dated. You could study up, but you’ve got a business to run.

Maybe you missed David Malmborg’s post on why you shouldn’t send PPC traffic to your home page. Would you have continued to send all your hot leads to a poorly laid out page if you didn’t know that it was costing you money? Maybe, maybe not. But unless you had somebody on staff that had tested a landing page versus a home page for PPC traffic, you might never even think of something like that.

Pardon me for being a bit sales-pitchy there, but when you understand what SEO/SEM entails, it becomes clear that interns won’t cut it. Because while the business world got web savvy, online marketers were moving ahead. Some simple SEO tasks became commoditized, but web strategy became more complicated as social media, video, etc., gained acceptance. In sum, it takes more now than it ever has before to get the results you want. You could do some link building and content creation yourself, but your resources would be better spent on strategic search engine marketing.