Do SEO Yourself or Hire a Pro?

If you’ve just recently discovered SEO, you may be feeling overwhelmed by how much there is to learn. It’s a little like college. You know you can master the material, but it’s going to take time – and if you’re also trying to run a business and maintain some kind of personal life, where will you get the time? Perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative to doing it all yourself.

If you’re an SEO yourself, of course, you’ll want to do your own SEO for your business. My father was a CPA, and he always did his own taxes (though he had my mom do the bookkeeping for the business). But the small business owners who used his services often handed that aspect of their workload over to him with a sigh of relief. It let them concentrate on providing their own, very different services to THEIR customers. After all, what does filling out a tax form and dry cleaning a formal gown have in common?

And what does your day-to-day work have in common with SEO? This isn’t a moot question; in fact, it’s very relevant to whether it makes more sense to do your website’s SEO yourself or hire a pro. By the way, the kinds of questions I’m going to bring up should sound very familiar to you if you’ve ever had to decide between doing something in-house or hiring someone outside your company to do it.

If deciding whether or not to outsource your company’s SEO could be expressed as a math problem, the variables would include time, money, and capabilities. You can’t get around the fact that SEO done right takes up a considerable amount of time. Learning the skill set takes time, as does keeping abreast of new developments. You might be better off spending this time elsewhere. But hiring someone to do it takes money – and hiring someone to do it right can take a lot of money. How do you decide?

You might start by actually approaching it as a math problem. Since we’re looking at an investment of time, you need to find out what your time is worth. Yes, I know, if you’ve run the numbers, you’re probably making minimum wage; that’s true for all business owners. Instead, look at what you charge for your products or services. “If you can put a dollar amount for what your time is worth,” notes Stoney deGeyter, “that can help you determine if you can make time for SEO.”

Now that you’ve figured out what your time is worth monetarily, you need to look at your skill set. What do you do better than anyone else? That’s what you should be spending your time doing. If customer relations is your true forte, that’s where you should invest your energy. If you’re best at coming up with new products and services, that’s what you should do. Let go of the idea that you need to do everything; nobody can do everything equally well. Stoney deGeyter suggests that you should “Think about what you can do that provides the greatest benefit for the company before you decide that you should allocate your valuable time to the SEO.”

{mospagebreak title=Is SEO Worth YOUR Time?}

Look at your current skill set and consider how much of it overlaps what you need to know to do SEO correctly for your website. It’s a pretty diverse skill set. You need to be able to read and understand Google Analytics data, write copy well, understand HTML and CSS…and that’s just the beginning. If you already have some of these skills – for example, if you’re a professional writer – you may already have a head start to learning SEO. Likewise, if you’re a professional website designer or a programmer, you have an “in.” Professional marketers also get a leg up, if they can wrap their minds around the ways that marketing on the Internet is different from marketing in more traditional media. If you don’t already have some of these skills, it will take more time to acquire them. Do you really have that time?

Another point to consider is that doing your own company’s SEO calls for an ongoing time investment. You need to keep abreast of new developments in the field, test out new ideas and marketing campaigns, consider new keywords to target, analyze analytics reports, create new content, and so forth. When will you find the time to do all of this?

Now that we’ve taken a look at the time aspect of the equation, let’s consider the money end. Since most of us associate risks with money, this is where we’ll consider the risks. What happens if you mess up your site’s SEO? Sometimes a simple error can make or break your site…like putting the wrong character in a robots.txt file. You can accidentally prevent Google from indexing your website, so it doesn’t appear on the search engine results pages at all. Or you could follow bad advice that you’ve received online, and face a penalty that will take a lot of time and effort to fix. Are you up to spotting and preventing these issues? As deGeyter notes, “Sometimes the risk simply isn’t worth it.”

If you’re weighing the cost in monetary terms of hiring an SEO, you also need to consider the cost of NOT hiring one. Again, to quote deGeyter, “If you outsource, it’s just money. If you in-source, it’s your time, your skills, your knowledge and even your sanity at stake.”

Weigh the money you’d spend to hire an SEO against the time and sacrifices you’d have to make if you do it yourself. Think of all the things you could be doing for your business that you won’t be able to do because you’ll be spending that time doing SEO. But also consider the returns on investment. If you translate your time into money, do you get more money back from doing the SEO yourself, or from hiring someone else to do it? Where do the scales balance?

Admittedly, for some businesses, it makes perfect sense to do their SEO in-house. If your business model is based on publishing content online, you should probably consider doing your own SEO. Likewise, if you’re promoting yourself as an expert in your field, and you have a lot of knowledge that you want to share, you may want to build your online presence personally. But by all means, think about what you’re getting into first.

SEO is a crazy, teeming business in its own right that can eat up vast amounts of time, energy, and brain power (to say nothing of aggravation!). You should not neglect your actual business just so you can devote yourself to doing your website’s SEO – unless you’re considering a change in occupation. At the end of the day, SEO is a way to promote your business, and you have to consider where it fits with the rest of your priorities. If you decide that doing your own SEO is too complicated and time-consuming to do yourself, there’s no shame in it – any more than there is any shame in deciding that your taxes are so complicated and time-consuming that you should hire an accountant to do them. 

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