If you own a business that depends on brand visibility, you need a search engine optimization strategy. Through SEO, you’ll be able to improve user experience, increase the visibility of your site for new and repeat customers, and ultimately drive more traffic to your business. The fundamentals of SEO are actually quite simple, leading many entrepreneurs or webmasters to believe they can handle it completely in-house. Doing so can save on short-term costs, but it might also decrease the overall impact your campaign can have.
Agencies, on the other hand, can be expensive or difficult to work with—so how do you know if one is right for your situation?
The notion of keeping your own SEO in-house is appealing; theoretically, you can get results while still keeping full control over your work and save money by not paying an agency. However, there’s a significant problem with that idea: available expertise.
You can hire yourself an SEO expert who is well-versed in what’s necessary to gain momentum in an SEO campaign, but that doesn’t always translate to working efficiency or even ground-level experience. SEO involves many working parts, from the creation of original content, the following-building elements of social media, the design and structuring of your site, and the posting of offsite links, to name a few. Finding an individual who is an expert in all of those roles is extremely difficult, and hiring a full team with split roles is ridiculously expensive.
By working with an agency, you can gain access to a full team of experts who truly are experts in their respective fields. That expertise translates to more effective, meaningful work, with a wider reach and fewer holdups. Narrowing your scope of work to the talents of one expert (or worse, one person who only knows the fundamentals) could end up costing you far more money in lost time and inefficiency.
There are two main fears keeping people from pursuing agencies: money and control.
The money factor is simple: agencies are expensive. But if you’re already planning on paying the salary for one person, why not take that capital and invest it in a full team of experts? Most agencies also offer several tiers of plan options, so you can almost always find something that aligns with your budget and your goals.
The control factor is a bit more complicated. Some entrepreneurs prefer to keep their SEO development in-house simply to have more transparency into the process. Once the work is handed off, it becomes a mystery, and the agency starts directing the process. Though you’ll always have to abandon some level of control, most agencies fully report their efforts and the rationale behind them, and are flexible enough to accommodate most special requests.
If you’re weighing the options, as you should, you may find yourself struggling to objectively determine your need for an agency. Fortunately, there are a handful of surefire signs that you’ll need an agency if you want to gain momentum in your campaign.
You don’t have—or understand—the right tools
What tool do you use to audit your backlink profile? What features of Webmaster Tools do you use on a regular basis? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or if you don’t have a readily available list of tools to help you with your SEO campaign, it could be a sign that you don’t know what you’re doing.
You’re overwhelmed with the number of tasks involved
Managing an SEO campaign seems simple up front: post lots of content and build good links. But there’s a seemingly infinite number of tasks that goes along with those core onsite and offsite strategies. The work can quickly pile up, especially if your SEO manager has other responsibilities. It might be too expensive to hire another person, or there might be too much work to internally delegate, but at some point, you may need to enlist the help of an agency to reduce the workload.
You aren’t involved in multiple mediums
Do-it-yourself SEO professionals sometimes get tunnel vision. They get stuck in using a set range of mediums—like a blog and a Twitter account—and they keep rehashing the same old strategies. They’ll still get results, but nowhere near the results that a full-blown, multifaceted, diverse campaign could bring. Take a look at how many channels you use to operate, and ask yourself how many you’re missing.
You aren’t seeing the results you want
This is the simplest, but perhaps most important sign that you need to enlist the help of an agency. If you’ve been going strong for a few months, adjusting your strategy and trying your best, but you still aren’t seeing the results you wanted, an agency might be able to take you to the next level. At the very least, they can analyze your campaign and figure out what’s going wrong.
Going with an agency isn’t enough. There are hundreds, if not thousands of SEO agencies out there, and each one of them is unique in terms of plan offerings, team composition, specialization, and even working relationships. There are several factors to consider when you start making your selection.
Your needs are unique, and you need to find an agency that suits them perfectly. For example, if you have nobody in-house that can handle SEO tasks, you’ll need the help of a full-service agency that can help you from start to finish. However, if you have an in-house writer that takes care of your content strategy, you might consider enlisting the help of an agency that has more specialty in offsite optimization.
Price is always an important factor for business owners. If you have a strict budget, it’s important to choose a plan that fits within those limitations. However, you also don’t want to go too cheap with SEO; some firms may offer an irrationally low price because they practice shoddy work that could leave you with a penalty. Find a middle ground that will net you a white hat expert without breaking the bank.
The Human Element
Too often, decision makers neglect one of the most important qualities of their SEO firm: the human relationship that characterizes it. When you work with an SEO firm, you should have an account manager or professional contact who truly cares about your business, and is available to answer your questions, give you insights, and make you an integral part of the process. When vetting candidates for your SEO firm, take your impression of their people into consideration. A good personal relationship at the core of your professional relationship can make all the gears move more smoothly.
Choosing to go with an agency is not a decision to take lightly, but it is financial viable and highly efficient for most small- to mid-sized businesses. If you’re wondering what options are out there, or if you feel lost with your own internal SEO efforts, why not contact us? We’ve been there, and we can help you make the right decision for your business.