Though it would be nice to have a definite answer on whether to manage SEO on your own, hire a search engine optimization (SEO) professional or to outsource SEO tasks, in reality, the decision isn’t always so straightforward. SEO, the techniques used by marketers to better enable search engines to crawl and index their websites, is a constantly changing field. If not done properly, SEO can be full of potential missteps that harm, rather than help, your brand.
As you mull over your budget for improving your SEO strategy, consider some recent statistics released by Search Engine Land. In its May 2013 survey, over 93% of respondents projected their investments in SEO to grow by the end of the year. Moreover, 82% of those respondents revealed their plans to hire additional SEO employees by the end of 2013. Considering the fact that the vast majority of businesses continue increasing their investments in SEO, should you follow suit in order to keep up?
Even if your brand thrives offline or relies on physical sites to conduct business, neglecting SEO could put you behind competitors who are ranking higher in search results. In fact, a recent HubSpot study found that 75% of users never scroll past the first three pages of search results, and 60% of all users’ clicks on search engines go to the top three organic results. If a significant percentage of your customers are being referred from online, you may want to consider hiring an SEO expert or service to boost your rankings in search results.
By far, the top consideration when deciding whether to bring on an SEO consultant or to keep SEO functions in-house is cost. Joshua Steimle, Forbes contributor and owner of an online marketing firm, states that having a monthly budget of less than $200 is insufficient for outsourcing SEO. In fact, any firm or consultant willing to run your SEO business for under $200 is likely one of the many SEO scam operations posing as legitimate consultancies. Beware of these salespeople, who typically do little if anything at all (besides waste your money) to help your SEO search rankings. If a service is cheap and doesn’t guarantee results with a money-back guarantee, be very wary of any promises.
Running an effective SEO campaign through an established agency will typically run upwards of $250 to $10,000-plus on a monthly retainer, depending on your target market and if your campaign will require local, national or international reach. Steimle also mentions that hourly rates generally start at $125, but a December 2011 Moz survey of over 600 agencies states an average range between $76 and $200 per hour. You can opt to hire a firm on a project-by-project basis, but those numbers usually start around $600 for a basic SEO audit to as high as $20,000 for a more detailed analysis to thoroughly optimize your website. SEOCompanyReviewers.com has a nice list of top SEO agencies in America that can help you choose which would suit your company best. Other outsourcing sites, like oDesk and Elance, can also connect you with freelancers who offer SEO services.
Hiring In-House Expertise
If you decide to hire an in-house SEO specialist, know that these professionals are in high demand. Conductor, an SEO tech enterprise company, reports average yearly salaries for SEO professionals as high as $94,000, with lows around $60,000 for mid-level management and strategist roles.
Hiring a new employee is an important decision that involves a range of factors beyond salary expectations, including cumbersome paperwork, labor laws, taxes, full-time benefits and, of course, personality fit. If you have the budget, as well as a strong company culture for onboarding and continuous professional development, then investing the time and resources into hiring an SEO employee may give your company the long-term results you want.
An experienced SEO strategist should have solid examples of past projects and successes, with hard numbers and quantifiable results to back up their skills. Ask candidates for referrals from past clients, and call to corroborate their claims; an SEO professional without a history of success is unlikely to provide enough benefit to justify their salary. Entry-level SEO professionals may be more affordable, but they also may not have the experience to make as deep of an impact on your search results without an executive-level SEO expert to guide them.
Helpful SEO Resources
If you don’t have the budget to hire an outside expert or employ someone in-house, there are a myriad of websites, books and free guides that can help you become well-versed in SEO. Here are a few helpful resources (many of which are provided for free by search giant Google):
- Moz’s Free Beginners Guide to SEO
- Search Engine Optimization for Dummies by Peter Kent
- Webmaster Tools
- 101 Link-Building Tactics
- Google 101: How Google Crawls, Indexes and Serves Webpages
Alternatively, consider launching a corporate blog promoting your business experiences, successes and best practices to the wider industry. By including keywords throughout your blog posts, you can boost your organic search rankings and draw web traffic to your site with engaging, high-quality content.
Another simple way to improve your SEO is to focus on social media, as Google is increasingly using social media content to assess the trustworthiness, relevancy and reliability of corporate websites. A blog, as well as profiles on major social media sites such as Facebook and Google+, can help improve the visibility of your brand at little or no cost.