Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords and phrases. Proper SEO can increase website traffic, leads, and sales. Many business owners wonder if they can effectively do SEO themselves or if they need to hire an SEO agency or consultant. Here is an in-depth look at the pros and cons of DIY SEO versus hiring a professional.
The Benefits of Doing SEO Yourself
Doing your own SEO has some clear advantages:
Cost Savings – Hiring an SEO company can be expensive, often costing anywhere from $500 to $5,000+ per month. Doing it yourself means you don’t have to pay those monthly fees.
Full Control – When you do your own SEO, you have complete control over the strategies and techniques used on your site. You don’t have to compromise or hand over control to an outside agency.
Learn Valuable Skills – By immersing yourself in SEO, you will learn extremely useful skills related to keyword research, content optimization, technical SEO, and more. These skills will benefit your business for years to come.
Flexibility and Customization – A DIY approach allows you to be flexible and customize your SEO approach over time. You can pivot strategies quickly as needed.
The Challenges of DIY SEO
However, doing your own SEO also comes with some significant challenges:
Time Commitment – Effective SEO requires an ongoing time investment. From keyword research to content creation and link building, it can easily become a part-time (if not full-time) job.
Learning Curve – There is a steep learning curve. SEO encompasses many complex and ever-changing topics. Expect to spend several months just getting up to speed.
Skill Gaps – Even after you learn the basics, you’ll likely still have skill gaps compared to seasoned SEO professionals who have years of experience.
Lack of Objective Oversight – Without a third party overseeing your efforts, it can be difficult to take an objective view of your SEO campaigns and strategies. Important issues can be overlooked.
Risk of Penalties – If you lack expertise around SEO best practices and Google’s guidelines, you may inadvertently commit violations that harm your site’s ranking.
So should you hand the reigns over to a professional SEO company? Let’s explore the key benefits of hiring SEO experts.
The Benefits of Hiring Professional SEO Help
Here’s why you may want to consider delegating your SEO efforts:
Experience and Expertise – SEO companies have years of experience optimizing hundreds (even thousands) of websites. They stay on top of algorithm updates and best practices. Their expertise can fast-track your results.
Another Set of Eyes – Getting ongoing feedback and optimization ideas from an external team brings objectivity. Fresh perspectives give you insights you can’t get when you go it alone.
Time and Effort Savings – SEO is extremely time intensive. Outsourcing to a professional firm frees up your schedule so you can focus on running your business.
Improved Quality – Agencies devote significant time and resources into content creation, technical optimization, backlink building, and other SEO activities. The quality is likely to exceed your own efforts.
Reduced Risk – Using best practices and ethical techniques means professional agencies carry less risk of SEO penalties. Their experience lets them avoid dangerous shortcuts.
Expanded Capabilities – SEO firms have capabilities difficult for a single website owner to match, including content production teams, graphic designers, technical experts, and tools/software.
So What’s the Verdict – Can I Do SEO Myself?
After weighing the pros and cons, most small business owners are better off hiring a professional SEO company or consultant. The expertise, expanded capabilities, and risk reduction they provide are difficult to match on your own.
That said, totally handing over the reigns to an agency isn’t ideal either. You still need to be actively involved in guiding SEO efforts and provide oversight into the strategies used on your site.
A smart compromise is working with an SEO expert using a fractional CMO (chief marketing officer) model. The SEO expert acts as your virtual CMO on a part-time basis, overseeing your SEO activities a few hours per month. Compared to hiring a full in-house CMO, it’s a very cost-effective way to leverage professional expertise without losing control over your SEO.
Here are some specific benefits of using a fractional SEO CMO:
Ongoing Guidance – They provide ongoing high-level strategic guidance tailored to your business goals and specific needs.
Latest Best Practices – You benefit from up-to-date expertise on algorithms, SEO techniques, keyword research, and competitor analysis.
Unbiased Audits – Fresh eyes assessing your site gives objective insights into issues that may be overlooked internally.
Reporting and Tracking – They implement robust keyword ranking and site analytics tracking with regular reporting.
Improved Quality – Content, link building, and technical optimization is held to best practice standards.
Reduce Risks – Guidelines and ethical techniques minimize the risk of updates or penalties harming your site.
Boost Productivity – Time-consuming SEO tasks are delegated so you can focus your energy on core business priorities.
While this approach requires an ongoing financial investment, the benefits typically far outweigh the costs for most site owners.
Key Considerations for DIY SEO
If you do choose to handle SEO internally, either completely or partially, keep these guidelines in mind:
Learn the fundamentals – Take the time to learn the basics thoroughly. Understand how search engines operate, the factors that influence rankings, and how to track and measure SEO efforts.
Research competitor SEO – Use SEO tools and analysis to deeply research competitors’ strategies. Identify gaps where you can out-optimize them.
Start with low-hanging fruit – Tackle quick fixes like site speed, structured data markup, URL optimization and internal linking first.
Produce targeted content – Publish blog and long-form content optimized for ranking keywords and phrases. Promote it aggressively.
Prioritize technical SEO – Technical errors impact rankings and user experience. Use online tools to identify and fix any warnings.
Acquire backlinks – Build a diversified backlink profile from high-authority sites to improve domain authority.
Monitor everything – Use analytics platforms to continuously monitor keyword rankings, traffic sources, conversions, and other KPIs.
Stay patient – SEO takes time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Stick with high-ROI activities.
Adjust strategies – Adapt your approach over time based on competitor changes, new opportunities, and tracking insights.
While professional help is recommended for most businesses, it is possible to get results from doing your own SEO with the right dedication and persistence. Use the fractional CMO model to get ongoing guidance while still maintaining control. And stay patient – SEO is an ongoing process requiring a long-term investment for the greatest rewards.
Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid
If you do tackle SEO on your own, you’ll want to avoid some of the most common mistakes:
Not having a strategy – Work from a documented plan and roadmap focused on core goals. Don’t just randomly try SEO tactics.
Overoptimizing copy – Keyword stuffing harms rankings and ruins user experience. Focus on writing quality content optimized for people first.
Buying low quality links – Invest only in high-authority backlinks from reputable sites. Hand check each domain before outreaching. This is a good source icopify.
Moving too fast – Don’t make widespread changes without testing first. Take measured steps and monitor impacts before scaling updates.
Ignoring page speed – Slow load times hurt rankings and bounce rates. Use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to catch issues.
Thin content – Low word counts and bare-bones content won’t attract links or engagement. Create truly meaty content with over 1,500 words per piece.
Avoiding updates – Keep plugins, themes, and other site software updated regularly. Outdated technology can cause SEO issues.
Overlooking semantics – Use semantic HTML elements like H1, H2 tags properly. They signal page structure and topic relevancy.
Chasing “shortcuts” – Avoid low quality PBN links, keyword stuffing, cloaking, and other blackhat tactics that carry penalties.
Not tracking results – Use software to monitor rankings, traffic, leads and sales from organic search. Tie efforts to ROI.
By avoiding these common missteps, your in-house SEO efforts will see greater success. But enlisting help from an experienced professional or agency is still the best way to accelerate results while optimizing your time investment.
Should You Hire An SEO Company? How To Decide
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to hire professional help with your SEO:
- Do I fully understand search engine algorithms, recent updates, and best practices?
- Can I dedicate at least 5+ hours per week to SEO tasks like content creation, link building and technical optimization?
- Do I know how to accurately track keyword rankings, traffic, leads and sales from organic search?
- Can I identify and diagnose technical problems on my site that affect SEO?
- Do I have proven experience optimizing other websites in my industry?
- Will I make SEO a priority and stick with it long-term, without getting distracted or giving up?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, your business will likely benefit from getting help. Consider hiring an experienced SEO consultant or agency.
Just remember – SEO is not “set it and forget it.” Even with a professional overseeing your SEO, you need to remain involved. Meet with them regularly to align on strategy. Monitor the results. Provide feedback into website changes. And facilitate content creation. By staying actively engaged, you will get the most value from your investment into SEO.
A small business can potentially get reasonable SEO results by carefully self-educating and doing the work themselves. This is a legitimate path forward for some companies.
However, the learning curve is steep. It requires an ongoing time investment unlikely to be feasible for most business owners. More importantly, tapping into expert-level knowledge from an experienced SEO pro will produce superior results.
Working with a fractional SEO CMO allows you to get professional oversight tailored to your business needs, while still remaining actively involved. For long-term success, investing in your SEO – whether through an agency relationship, fractional CMO, or a consultant – is highly recommended.