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Should I do my own SEO or outsource to an agency?

7 minute read

Monique Holtman
Monique Holtman

One of the most common questions among SME owners is ‘should I do my own SEO or outsource to an agency?’ The truth is that the answer to this is likely to come down to two factors: do you have the skills and do you have the time?

These are both very important points to consider because many types of SEO practices exist in the digital world including:

  • White hat SEO – these are legitimate (and highly recommended) practices used to improve search engine rankings. It includes publishing good quality content on your website, HTML optimisation and link acquisition
  • Black hat SEO – these techniques are not encouraged but it’s worth knowing what they are so you know what to avoid. They include anything from spam links, keyword stuffing and cloaking to implementing hidden text and links and using loopholes in Google’s algorithms to obtain a quick boost to search engine rankings. The results are short-lived however and if Google discovers what you’re doing, they’re likely to penalise your site for it
  • On-page SEO – these are activities carried out on specific pages of your website to give them a boost. This can include using keywords in the right quantity, inserting internal links, adding a meta description, building a customised URL, inserting alt attributes and most importantly, providing users with good quality content
  • Off-page SEO – these are the things you’re doing to drive traffic to your website using external sources such as social media, commenting on other blogs or in forums, sharing links to your blogs, running Google Ads campaigns and sending out a newsletter

As you can see, there is a lot of work involved which takes us back to the question, should I do my own SEO or outsource to an agency?

Should I do my own SEO?

There are many benefits of managing your online activities but there are of course drawbacks too. Below I highlight some of the pros and cons of handling SEO in-house.

The pros

Saves money

The first and most obvious benefit of doing your own SEO is that it’s one less cost for the business. If you or a member of staff doesn’t have a full workload, it makes sense to train someone so you can manage everything from your blogging to your link building campaigns in-house.

Some agencies also charge extra for activities like posting blogs and adding a new page to your site. Depending which platform your site is built on, this is often surprisingly easy to do yourself and you can save a lot of money by doing so. The money you save can be put into other marketing or advertising opportunities or even hiring a new member of staff.

You understand your business better than anyone else

A huge benefit of doing your own SEO is that you truly understand your industry, business and customer base. This arms you with valuable insights including how your customers search, shop, buy and interact with your organisation as well as what your competition is up to.

While this is of course something an agency or individual can learn if you decide to outsource SEO, it will take time and it’s unlikely they’re going to live and breathe your business the way you do.

You can learn a new skill

One of the greatest benefits of the do-it-yourself approach is that you can learn a valuable new skill. Understanding where your traffic is coming from and the keywords people are using to find your business can prove invaluable as this will enable you to communicate more effectively with both potential and existing customers.

You have full control

Whether you’re excited about a great new review that has just come in or you have a time-sensitive blog that needs to go out, you have full control over what gets posted and when. When you outsource SEO, by the time you’ve sent something over and it gets posted, the moment may be lost.

The cons

Time restrictions

You may have time to send out the odd Tweet or post a blog every once in a while but the key to effective SEO is consistency. If you really want to reap the rewards of your efforts, you need to post new content regularly.

A dedicated SEO plan requires a lot of time and effort so if you’re planning on doing it yourself, you need to ensure that you or someone in your team has both of these things in abundance.

Lack of knowledge

Google’s algorithms can be complicated and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re constantly changing as well. If you’re not an expert in the world of SEO, you could be using black hat techniques that are inadvertently doing more harm than good to your website.

Take keywords for example. We all know they’re necessary to help your website rank – too few and Google won’t recognise you for them, too many and search engines will penalise you for keyword stuffing.

If you’re going to do your own SEO, it’s crucial that you have the knowledge and expertise to do so. Even big companies can make mistakes which puts the complexity of SEO into perspective. Have a look at this SEO Hall of Shame which has been put together by Hubspot so you know what to avoid.

You need to keep up with industry changes

SEO techniques are constantly changing so a drawback of doing it yourself is that you need to commit to keeping on top of industry changes.

White hat and black hat techniques as well as what Google prioritises is ever-evolving which means you could be using outdated practices or unwittingly doing something which can land you with a heavy SEO penalty.

Should I outsource my SEO?

If you decide to outsource your SEO, this will involve recruiting an agency or freelancer to carry out your online activities on your behalf. While any business can benefit from outside expert knowledge, you may feel conflicted because of the cost involved.

To help make the right decision for your organisation, below are some of the pros and cons of SEO outsourcing.

The pros

You can save money in the long-run

A good SEO agency isn’t going to be cheap but there’s good reason for this. Aside from having the knowledge that’s needed to legitimately improve your rankings, they know exactly how your website can be used to generate revenue for your business.

It’s also worth considering the cost to your business of you doing your own SEO. Is your time better spent scouring the Internet looking for links or connecting with customers and generating new business?

Benefit from expert knowledge

When it comes to the expert knowledge that an SEO agency has, there are so many benefits to be enjoyed.

  • They have years of experience and if you opt for an agency with a proven track record in your industry, they will already know the methods that do and don’t work for your audience. Eliminating the trial and error part of the process saves you a lot of time and money
  • Agencies use a lot of tools and resources to help them identify exactly what’s going on with your website and marketing campaigns. Rather than simply looking at how many likes your Facebook post received or how many people visited your website over the last six months, they have tools to hand which make your insights so much more valuable. Audience profiling, competitor analysis, website audits, tag management and data insights all take your SEO to the next level and with millions of other websites out there, if you want yours to stand out this is what you need to be doing to get ahead
  • Are you aware of the latest Google update? How about when Instagram decides to change its algorithm again or when certain SEO practices fall out of favour with Google? Keeping in touch with all the latest industry knowledge is a full-time job in itself which is one of the greatest benefits of outsourcing
  • If you don’t understand the intricacies of SEO you could be damaging your website. This often happens in small businesses where owners start managing the process themselves and then pass it onto other inexperienced members of staff

You have access to a whole team of specialists

A great benefit of outsourcing to an agency is that you gain a whole team of specialists which can include UX and graphic designers, content marketers, website developers, social media specialists, PPC professionals and more.

Problems are solved quickly

Broken links, images not loading, formatting going mad, discount codes not applying – there are so many things that can go wrong with a website. Unless you’re technically minded, these things can take time to resolve and downtime is something you never want for your website.

If people can’t access your site this could lead to loss of revenue and damage your reputation but by having an agency manage the process for you, they can rectify the problem quickly and efficiently. It’s also worth noting that you’re less likely to experience these problems in the first place when outsourcing.

Reliability

One of the biggest problems SMEs encounter is staff absence. When someone calls in sick, goes off on holiday or leaves the company, it’s difficult to stay on top of everything. If you outsource to an agency, you never have to worry that your webpages are being neglected or you don’t have a new blog to publish.

The cons

It’s an extra expense

SEO outsourcing is of course going to be an extra expense to your business. Agencies aren’t cheap but when it comes to online marketing, you get what you pay for. There are plenty of companies out there who will do your SEO on the cheap but it’s unlikely you’ll get the results you’re after.

You have less control

If you’re someone who likes to have a hand in every aspect of running your business, outsourcing probably isn’t for you. While you will of course be kept in the loop, the everyday aspects of your SEO will be completed by someone else.

You’re not the only customer

One of the problems with SEO outsourcing is that you won’t be the agency’s only customer. Chances are, they’re managing multiple clients and therefore need to divide their attention accordingly. This means you can’t just call up and ask them to post a blog immediately or run a new campaign at short notice. Anything you need will have to be scheduled in whereas when you’re doing your own SEO, you can get the job done immediately.

Watch out for bold claims

A quick search for SEO agencies will confirm that there are dozens of companies out there making bold claims about getting your website to number one on Google in no time. Firstly, nobody can make such a claim and secondly, whether you’re doing your own SEO or outsourcing, making your way up the rankings takes time.

There are a lot of sham agencies out there so it’s important that you take your time when finding the right one. Go through their social media pages to ensure they have genuine followers, read reviews and go into their office or have a Zoom call so you can meet the team.

Whether you decide to outsource or do-it-yourself, by taking the time to implement your SEO strategies effectively you will shortly start to enjoy the many benefits it has to offer.

If you need some more tips and advice to help you decide whether to do SEO in-house or outsource, below are some great resources. You can also visit this SEO tips guide for new websites, which explains everything from keywords to getting started with more technical SEO.

Monique Holtman

After completing her degree in Journalism, Monique began her career at a digital marketing agency. It was here she discovered a passion for online marketing with a particular focus on content creation for the web. Six years ago Monique set up her own copywriting business, Copyworks Group, which specialises in creating content for websites, blogs, newsletters and social media pages.

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