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The Pros and Cons of DIY SEO in 2016

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SEO can be complicated, but it’s not impenetrable. Given enough time, resources, and willingness to learn, almost anyone can become adept at SEO in the span of a few months to a few years—then again, the same could be said of most professions, and few of us take the time to learn trades that we could simply hire someone else to take care of for us.

SEO experts—in the form of agencies, consultants, full-time employees, and even freelancers—can help direct your campaign, monitor and improve your tactics, and eventually earn you the results you want for your business. The problem for most people is cost—these professionals need to be paid for services you could feasibly handle yourself. But at the same time, SEO is always changing, throwing even seasoned professionals off their game if they aren’t prepared for the changes.

With that said, where does do-it-yourself SEO stand in 2016? What’s changed? What are the pros and cons?


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The benefits are universal, though your personal preferences may make some of these more appealing than others:

  • Cost Savings. The first benefit you’ll likely notice is the money you’ll save by doing things yourself. Agencies and consultants often charge monthly and demand minimum terms, eating up a chunk of your overall marketing budget. Employees are even more expensive, especially when you consider full-time benefits. Even freelancers can cost a pretty penny, depending on the level of skill and experience you go with. Doing SEO yourself demands only an investment of time—almost everything you need to learn the fundamentals is available online, and you can improve your skills with experience. Still, time is money, and you may find that it’s just as efficient to pay someone else to take on the effort for you.
  • Complete Control. For some business owners, it’s tough to surrender control of your online marketing presence to an outside party like an agency or a consultant. This outside authority will be responsible for writing your content, speaking as your brand, and building links and connections all over the web. Even if you know this outside agent has your best interests in mind, it can be intimidating and nerve-wracking to think about. Doing SEO allows you to retain complete control over your campaign and all your online actions. Just be aware that this isn’t always a benefit—more on that in the cons list.
  • Instant Flexibility. Most agencies demand a minimum term for new contracts—this is actually a good thing, because it takes time for results to develop, and a minimum contract duration prevents premature departures. However, it still restricts your flexibility, especially over the long-term. You may find yourself wanting to switch directions, adopt new strategies, or simply try out a new provider. Doing SEO yourself gives you all this flexibility.


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Despite the advantages that DIY SEO offers, there are some major drawbacks—even for experienced marketers:

  • Limited Expertise. Even if you’ve been learning for a few months, you won’t have the same amount of experience or familiarity with SEO that seasoned experts do. You won’t be as good of a writer as someone who’s practiced the art for many years. You won’t be as plugged-in to changes in the industry as a professional networker with close ties to SEO influencers. You won’t have the same abilities as anyone who’s been doing this professionally for years. Obviously, this can harm you in many ways, giving you limited options in terms of tactics and results.
  • Stifled Growth Potential. No matter how much of a workaholic you are, there’s an upper limit to how much time you’ll be able to put into your strategy. Doing SEO yourself means you’re the only person who can invest more time into your campaign, and as you scale up, you’ll eventually find yourself unable to continue further. Compare this to an agency, which has extensive connections and resources to scale your campaign as far as your budget will allow. This isn’t a major concern for the first few months of your campaign, but is something to consider if you’re interested in long-term results.
  • Little Accountability. You can hold yourself accountable to get results when doing SEO yourself, but what does that accountability translate to? What would you do if you found your campaign stagnating? You couldn’t force yourself to be better. You wouldn’t be able to allocate new resources to your campaign. You would even find it difficult to identify the source of the issue. An agency or consultant, on the other hand, could take it upon themselves to guarantee you better results—their contracts would depend on it.
  • Unknown Unknowns. Lastly, your lack of experience and familiarity will result in there being more unknown unknowns. There are things you know you don’t know about SEO (strategies above your paygrade, areas outside your experience, etc.), and these are the known unknowns. But there are also things you don’t know that you don’t know—the unknown unknowns. These factors are especially dangerous because you won’t be able to prevent them from affecting your campaign, and you might not even recognize them when they arise.

Should You Attempt DIY SEO?

articleimage1785 Should You Attempt DIY SEO

It’s definitely feasible to attempt DIY SEO in 2016, but that doesn’t mean it’s efficient, and it doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice. Your choice of whether to enlist the help of an agency or go your own way should depend upon your budget, your pre-existing familiarity with SEO, your willingness and ability to learn, and your own gut. Ask yourself if you’re comfortable taking full accountability for the day-to-day actions of and accountability for your campaign. If you are, consider trying it—you can always get outside help if it proves too difficult.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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