Should I outsource my SEO or do it in-house?

This is one of the most common questions among small business owners. The answer to this question all comes down to two factors – do you have the time, and do you have the skills?

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

  • Black hat SEO – these techniques are not encouraged but it’s worth knowing what they are, so you know what to avoid. They include methods such as spam links, keyword stuffing and cloaking, implementing hidden text and links and using loopholes in Google’s algorithms to obtain a quick boost to search engine rankings. Results from these techniques are short-lived and if Google discovers what you’re doing, you’ll likely be penalised for it.
  • 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.
  • On-page SEO – these are activities which are 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.

There’s a lot of work involved in SEO management, which brings us back to the original question – should I outsource my SEO or do it in-house?

In-house SEO

There are many benefits of managing your online activities in-house but there are of course drawbacks too.

The pros

Cost-effective

It may seem obvious, but if you do your own SEO it’s one less expense for your 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 on 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 could be put into other marketing or advertising opportunities.

Insider knowledge

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

While this is of course something an agency 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 in the same way that you do.

Develop your skills

One of the best advantages 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 the control

If you’ll be taking care of SEO in-house you will have full control over it – so if you’re eager to share a new review or want to get a time-sensitive blog out quickly, you have control over what gets posted and when. However, if you outsource SEO, by the time you’ve sent something over and it gets posted, the moment may well be lost.

The cons

Time

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 plan to do 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 very complex and to make it more challenging, they’re constantly changing too. 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.

For instance, looking at keywords. We all know keywords are 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. Mistakes happen and even big brands have wandered down his path. SEO Hall of Shame was put together by Hubspot so you know what things to avoid.

Industry changes

The world of SEO is constantly changing so a downside of doing it yourself is that you need to commit to keeping on top of industry changes and techniques.

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.

Outsourcing SEO

If you do 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 have doubts given the cost involved.

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

The pros

Saving money in the long run

A great SEO agency certainly won’t be cheap, but there is good reason for this. Besides having the knowledge and skills to 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?

Expert knowledge

When it comes to the expert knowledge that an SEO agency has, there are many benefits:

  • Experience – if you choose an agency with a track record in your industry, they will have years of experience and will already know the methods that work for your audience. This will eliminate the trial and error part of the process and saves you a lot of time and money.
  • Resources – agencies use many 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.
  • Industry knowledge – keeping up to date with industry knowledge such as the latest Google update or when Instagram changes its algorithm is a full-time job in itself and one that an agency can take on for you.
  • Avoiding big mistakes – 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.

Specialist team at your fingertips

A great advantage 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 dealt with quickly

We’ve experienced those problems – images not loading, unexplained broken links, formatting issues and even 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.

Reliable

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

Less control

If you’re someone who likes to get involved in every aspect of running your business, outsourcing might not be for you. While you will of course be kept in the loop, the everyday aspects of your SEO will be completed by someone else.

Another 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’re not the only client

It makes sense, not many SEO agencies or freelancers can sustain a decent income with just one small business client. So, one of the problems with SEO outsourcing is that they will likely be managing multiple clients, which means they will need to divide their attention accordingly.

Therefore, it may not be possible to just call up and ask them to post a blog immediately or run a new campaign at short notice. Your requests will need to be scheduled in, whereas when you’re doing your own SEO, you can get the job done immediately.

Steer clear of bold claims

A quick search for SEO agencies will confirm that there are dozens of companies out there making bold claims that they can get your website to number one on Google in no time. Don’t be taken in by these big claims, any good SEO specialist knows that making your way up the rankings takes time.

There are a lot of sham agencies, so it’s important that you take your time to find the right one. Search through their social media pages to ensure they have genuine followers, read reviews, and go to their office if it’s allowed 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 can 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:

 

Original post by Monique Holtman on the UK Domain.

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