Thursday, October 9, 2008

Should you handle your own SEO?

by Jennifer Horowitz

Everyone is trying to save money in today's economy - but sometimes when you think you are saving money you are actually losing so much more than you save.

If you are considering handling your own SEO, that is only a good decision if:

a) you have the time to do the work and actually get it done and b) you can get the results you need so you actually increase your traffic from top rankings.

To determine if you should handle your own SEO - check out these questions.

1. Can you work within simple HTML? At a bare minimum, you need to be able to add Meta tags to an HTML document. Ideally, you can also bold text, set up links, change formatting, rename images, move java script into a .js file etc.

2. Do you have enough time to make your site search engine friendly? Plan on a minimum of 3 hours for site's that are in great shape, and up to 25 hours (or more) for sites that may need a complete overhaul. In our experience, 3 - 6 hours seems to be the norm for time spent on updating SEO friendliness issues.

3. Will you have this time for SEO friendliness work within the next week? Typically if people don't take action in the immediate future (within the next 5 business days), the project ends up being delayed indefinitely. You need a clear scheduled start date for your SEO work - especially when the holidays are approaching! You need to get things going!

4. Can your business afford to "lend" this time to SEO without experiencing some other negative impact? If the time is not truly extra time you have, then you would be "borrowing" the time from another area of your business. Can you do that without harming another area of your business?

5. If you SEO project becomes bigger than you initially anticipated, will you have the time and attention to continue dedicating to it until completion?

6. Are you an experienced and competent copywriter? If you said no, do you feel you can quickly master writing compelling copy that is also keyword rich?

7. Is the content already on your site something you feel comfortable altering? Often people that have paid for high-end marketing copy on their websites do not want to make any SEO alterations themselves, for fear of altering the effectiveness of their current copy - and therefore affecting their conversion rates.

8. Do you have any prior SEO experience?

9. Do you have the tools or know where to purchase the tools that will help you in keyword selection, site analysis, reporting and current industry information?

10. Would you rather spend your time working ON your business(i.e., growing it) than IN your business (i.e., taking care of the nitty gritty details rather than the big picture)?

11. Do you have a plan in place to make sure you stay current all SEO trends and changes so you can maintain your rankings on-going?

Now let's take a look at your answers and what they mean:

1: Can you work within simple HTML?

On-page optimization requires that you work within the HTML on your website. If you are not able to work with an HTML document and feel confident that you will not cause any errors or malfunctions, then you simply can not handle your own SEO at this time.

You would need to learn HTML before you could consider handling SEO. Please note, if your site is more complex than simple HTML, you would need to be comfortable working within the code used on your site.

2, 3 and 4: Do you have enough time to make your site search engine friendly? Can your business afford to "lend" this time to SEO, and therefore experience no significant negative impact? If the time is not truly extra time you have, then you would be "borrowing" the time from another area of your business.

You will also later need to write content, alter content and handle various optimization techniques, but to get started - before you can do anything else - you need to make the time to get the foundation ready for SEO. If you don't have time to do this, your project simply won't get off the ground.

Do you truly have the time, or are you just taking it from somewhere else. If you are taking it from somewhere else, that may be fine - you just need to be sure that you aren't harming your business in other ways. Getting rankings, and ultimately traffic to your site will not benefit you if your business falls apart while you work on the optimization.

The remainder of the questions are details for you to consider. Basically, the more No's there are, the more likely it is that you should NOT handle your SEO in-house.

If your results determined you can handle your own SEO, here are the final details you need you consider:

1. What is your time worth per hour? Which option is more cost effective for you - hiring someone or spending your own time?

2. Can you recognize when your choice is not working for you and are you willing to try the other option at that time?

3. You must commit to educating yourself and learning all that you need to know to truly run a successful SEO campaign. Inadvertently spamming, or using a questionable technique can result in a temporary loss of results or a permanent ban from the engines. Be 100% sure you aren't endangering your business.

If your results determined you should outsource your SEO, here are the final details you should consider:

1. Make sure you know what questions to ask the SEO firm you hire

2. Plan on spending anywhere from $300 - $1000.00 per month to run an aggressive SEO campaign.

No one but you can decide - we just wanted to arm you with some things to consider. It is all in the details, and you should consider them carefully before making a decision.

About the Author

Jennifer Horowitz, Dir. of Marketing for EcomBuffet.com, has written a book on SEO and has been published in many SEO & Marketing publications. She is the editor of Spotlight on Success: SEO & Marketing newsletter. Over the past 10 years Jennifer's expertise in marketing & Search Engine Optimization has helped clients increase revenue. Follow Jennifer and stay current on SEO, marketing, social media & more. http://twitter.com/EcomBuffet