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Will it cost me less to do it in house than it would to choose a professional SEO firm?
Often, companies will attempt this specialized discipline in-house in order to save money, and sometimes this works out as intended. However, accurate calculations of cost of in-house labor that would be involved versus price of firm you would otherwise hire should be performed to make an accurate comparison. When making this calculation, also factor in opportunity cost of resource – tasks that your in-house people are not able to perform because they are involved in SEO.
In addition, if worse comes to worst and your in-house SEO expert is led astray by some of more dangerous "how-to" guides available, it can cost even more to repair damage than it would have to hire a professional SEO firm to perform optimization from outset. And an internal SEO campaign gone wrong can cost even more than stated fee – websites that violate terms of service of major search engines (whether intentional or not) can be severely penalized or even removed, costing you a lot of lost revenue when potential customers can not find your website for a period of time.
Do I believe that end result I’ll get in-house will be equal to or greater than results I would have gotten from a professional SEO firm?
Search engine optimization can create huge sales opportunities, and slight increases in overall exposure can have not-so-slight increases in your bottom-line revenue. If you believe that your talented in-house resource will, given enough time, achieve results equal to or greater than those that could have been achieved by professional SEO firm you might have chosen, it may make sense to do it internally.
However, in addition to a better knowledge of industry trends, one clear advantage that search engine optimization firms have is benefit of experience and macro-perspective that comes from managing many different websites over time. Professional SEO firms can watch a wide range of sites on a continual basis to see what trends are working, what trends aren’t, and what formerly recommended tactics are now actually hurting results.
This macro-perspective allows professional SEO firms to test new tactics as they appear on a case-by-case basis and apply those results across a wide range of clients to determine what benefit is. It is harder for an individual with access to only one site to perform enough testing and research to achieve optimum results all time, something that should also factor into equation.
Do I have at least a slight tolerance for risk?
Neophytes to SEO can make mistakes that can lead to search engine penalization or removal. This happens most commonly when they have an IT background and treat SEO as a strictly technical exercise. We are often called in to assist companies who have had an internal initiative backfire, leaving them in a worse position than one they were in before they started. The simple truth is that you cannot perform effective SEO without marrying your efforts to visitor experience, but this is not something that is intuitively understood when people approach SEO for first time.
However, professional SEO firms are not perfect either. Some firms use those same optimization methods that violate search engines’ terms of service and can get your site penalized. So, if you do decide to outsource, educate yourself on SEO and do some research on firm. Know basics of business, find out who firm’s clients are and how long they’ve been in business, and ask for professional references – just like you would do with any major business purchase.
If you have considered all of above questions, and your answers to all seven are "yes," your company may be uniquely equipped to achieve professional SEO results in-house. If you answered "no" to any of first three questions but "yes" to rest, it does not necessarily mean that you can’t perform SEO in-house – just that you may not be in a position to do so at this time. Taking actions required to get you in right position to answer in affirmative might be worth your while. However, if you answered "no" to any of last four questions, you may want to consider outsourcing project to a professional SEO firm.
A professional SEO firm has resources, time, expertise, and, most importantly, experience, to launch an SEO initiative for your website that will have a positive effect on your bottom line. Whichever option you choose, it is important that you fully embrace channel. A half-hearted initiative, whether done internally or outsourced, can be as ineffective as taking no action at all.
Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing. His articles have appeared in many publications, including ZDNet, MarketingProfs, & SiteProNews. He also contributed to Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue’s clients include Georgia-Pacific, DuPont, & Boston Scientific. To receive Scott’s monthly articles, sign up for Medium Blue’s e-newsletter.