This article explains:
- When to use paid SEO services and when to run an SEO campaign yourself
- Things you can do on your own
- How to prepare for outsourcing SEO services
- Which billing models are popular these days and which to choose
- Which tools to employ when outsourcing SEO services and when optimizing on your own.
When to use paid SEO services and when to run an SEO campaign yourself?
Most of the times it’s better to outsource SEO to experts, whether it be an agency or a freelancer. If you’re not knowledgeable in web designing, you’ll probably be unable to optimize your website by yourself.
- Your website is small
- You operate in a niche industry
you can handle SEO yourself.
Should any of the foregoing apply to you, you’ll most probably be independent and efficient. But how to say whether you’re in a niche industry? I’ll show you later.
However, consider how much time you spend on SEO efforts – in niche industries, costs of SEO outsourcing should not be high so if you have no time to spare and don’t feel like spending your evenings optimizing your website, it won’t be a reasonable idea, financially speaking, to do it on your own.
But if your business is characterized by the following:
- a big website, e.g. an online store, a portal, a company providing numerous goods and services
- products to be sold on a competitive market
then you shouldn’t run an SEO campaign yourself, though this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be blind to what’s what.
SEO is a service predominantly based on partnership. If you’re not a partner to the service provider, it may prove inefficient. That’s why it’s always worth knowing at least some basics – which you’ll learn further in the article – so that you’ll be able to identify your needs and communicate them efficiently.
Things you can do in-house
Even if you can’t do everything yourself, there are certain things you can do. I’ve handpicked those that you’ll do in about 2 hours on your own and which will help you:
- better select a provider that’ll assist you with your SEO campaign
- identify areas for the provider to focus on
- perform a basic analysis of your needs
- analyze your competition.
Below is a list of tasks and an estimated time needed for each of them (for a person who is not an SEO specialist) which you can carry out yourself.
1. Basic website audit (45 minutes)
A website audit is supposed to inspect website’s compliance with search engine recommendations. There are certain requirements for a website to meet before such search engines as Google will open the gates to their indices.
Usually, they discuss technicalities: proper headings, mobile friendliness, page loading speed. A comprehensive SEO audit requires an extensive knowledge, but there are available tools which can provide you with a simple presentation of your website’s overall condition. I’ll show you them later.
2. Selection of keywords (30 minutes)
Before you get down to SEO, you should select keywords. Sure, your first list of key phrases doesn’t have to be the same throughout the entire process, you can add new phrases at any time; in many cases (e.g. for content websites), initially you don’t choose any such phrases at all. However, the more accurately you do it at the beginning, the better a strategy of your SEO expert will be.
A provider that will run your SEO campaign will be able to set the priorities early. If you decide to make profound changes in the keywords during the campaign, you may find it problematic in terms of strategy. There’s some information on selecting keywords that you should be familiar with:
- Find your own way – most people making their first SEO efforts follow the most obvious way when choosing keywords. If they sell tires in a store in Las Vegas, they think that “tires” is the perfect word for SEO. That’s a road to nowhere. Users can type this phrase from anywhere in the United States for various reasons. If you sell tires only in Las Vegas, it’s pointless to display your website in search results to users from Washington.
Besides, the phrase “tires” is very competitive so despite a high position and resulting traffic, your business will gain a little. Try to choose phrases that are strictly associated with what you do, also location-wise.
- Sometimes more is better – every phrase has its own difficulty. Hypothetically, “winter tires” can have difficulty of 50 (difficulty determines how hard it is for a keyword to be ranked high in search results), and “winter tires for Fiat 500” has hypothetical difficulty of 10. Sometimes it’s better to choose 5 phrases of lower difficulty and search volume which combined will bring more to your business.
I’ll teach you later how to choose the right keywords.
3. Competition analysis (30 minutes)
You need to be aware that your competition in business may differ from the one you face in search results. Prior to any SEO efforts, learn about your environment and how your competition works. A basic competition analysis should consist of the following:
– Competition strategy evaluation – it’s worth checking whether your competitors use many phrases or only a few, whether they are oriented towards external linking or content creation.
– Current visibility – it’s also worth knowing how to assess the current visibility of your competition, that is under which keywords they are shown in search results and how high they’re ranked. If some of your competitors are fighting for given keywords, then they probably identified such phrases as most beneficial in terms of future profits. I’ll give you a few tips how to find them later.
4. KPI identification (15 minutes)
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are measures of campaign success and you should take a moment to set them straight away. Below you’ll find the most frequent KPIs in SEO campaigns with their advantages and disadvantages:
Position in search results
It used to be the most frequently used KPI; now it’s becoming a thing of the past, though many still use it when they want to be ranked as high as possible in search results under specific keywords. I strongly advise against this KPI for a couple of reasons:
- Customization of search results– nowadays, search results are very personalized. The fact that a phrase is ranked fifth on your computer doesn’t mean it’s fifth everywhere. You may naturally use rank monitoring systems, but this doesn’t change the fact that such a model of KPI identification often leads to misunderstandings between the client and the service provider.
- A comfort zone and nothing more– if you communicate such a KPI oriented towards position in search results to your SEO specialist, s/he won’t care about the greatest exposure in search results; s/he will definitely be focused on the phrases you’ve agreed on together.
Search results traffic
It’s a model that’s gaining popularity and undoubtedly has many advantages, where you determine a level of traffic you’d like to get from search results over a given period of time. A con of this solution might be traffic quality – you as a client might be on the lookout for quantity and not quality. Nevertheless, the pros outweigh the cons; choose the right partner and you’ll avoid the aforementioned problems with traffic quality.
It’s the perfect model from your perspective: you specify a desired approximate number of conversions from search results over a given period of time. In such a situation, it’s very easy to predict financial performance. However, it’s not always the best model from the provider’s perspective. Regardless of high quality traffic, a website can fail to convert for various reasons, e.g. poorly optimized procurement procedure. If you’ve got a considerable sample of historical data on conversion and you make it available to your SEO expert, you’ll find a partner brave enough to work with this KPI.
It’s everything that in my opinion you should do on your own. These 2 hours will make you well-prepared for outsourcing further SEO tasks and will tell you where you are.
How to prepare for outsourcing SEO services?
This section of the article refers in some way to the previous one. Tasks you perform yourself will prepare you for outsourcing further SEO services. Remember that these are not typical services and money alone will not guarantee success. Most of the times you’ll be a partner to the provider to work with. Be sure you’re prepared for your partnership and collaboration to get the full benefit of it.
Before you contact a potential partner, make sure that you:
- have an initial list of keywords for your campaign – you already know which phrases to avoid; later I’ll show you how to find the best phrases for your business.
- know your competition– it’s good to identify your competitors and describe them to your partner.
- identify resources– you need to identify resources you have for SEO services, particularly in terms of the following:
An SEO expert can ask you for creating content for your website. It’s recommended that you have someone who’ll tackle this task.
You have to know what you can change on your website and to what extent. An SEO specialist will carry out an audit, but it’s good if s/he knows on which aspects to focus and which elements are beyond his/her power.
You may wonder if it’s the right time to plan your budget. I think not. If you’re precise enough with your needs, the provider will name the price. Naturally, you can tell the partner later on how much you’re able to spend on SEO – it’ll help tailor the strategy to expected results – but don’t do this at the beginning of your talks.
Which billing models are popular these days and which to choose?
You probably want to know how you should pay your provider for SEO services. There are a few billing models popular now; below you’ll find their description with pros and cons of each of them.
1. Flat fee
It’s a model where you pay a fixed fee agreed upon at the beginning of collaboration. It’s become very popular recently and not without a reason – with SEO services for a flat fee, it’s easier to predict how your business will grow. This model doesn’t have any disadvantages: you know the cost you can budget and the provider knows how much s/he will earn.
However, if you go for this model, you should demand a detailed action plan from the SEO expert for individual months of partnership – make it a part of your contract. The SEO market is full of low quality providers. If you consent to a non-negotiable flat fee, in the end you may find it difficult to get expected results.
2. Success fee
This is a model which used to be the only right one a few years ago, but now it’s becoming less and less popular because success is a relative concept. The following mechanisms are applied here:
– ranking fee: the fee depends on how high individual keywords are ranked
– traffic fee: you pay for agreed traffic from search results
– conversion fee: you pay for every conversion from organic search results.
It’s not the perfect model for neither you nor your provider for a couple of reasons:
– overabundance: it’s often the case that good performance translates into exorbitant costs that you’ll need to bear
– customization of results: if you agree on a ranking fee, then bearing in mind customization of results you may pay disproportionate costs
– perspective of a service provider: while negotiating terms of your collaboration, you surely want to get as much as possible for yourself. However, let’s assume that your partner’s unable to achieve desirable effects and s/he is paid only for effects achieved. Most probably, s/he will wait till the end of your contract without doing anything because effects require effort. S/he will focus on clients with more profitable billing models and though you’ll pay nothing, you’ll get nothing. Negotiating the fee too much is a double-edged sword.
3. Mixed fee
It’s a combination of the two previous models; for example, a flat fee + a traffic fee. I believe this is the best billing model. Your SEO specialist has a budget to go with (flat fee) and is motivated to work (success fee). Just make sure that a flat fee doesn’t account for the lion’s share of the total fee – it needs to be balanced.
As you can see, there’re plenty of billing models. If you ask me, there’re neither good nor bad models, just those poorly used ones. Any of them can make you successful, but can also make you fail.
Which tools to employ when outsourcing SEO services and when optimizing on your own?
It’s time to show you some tools you can use to do your part of an SEO campaign and to prepare yourself for further SEO tasks to be performed by your provider. I divided them by type of tasks to complete.
1. Technical optimization
As I already mentioned, it’s a set of tasks to perform in order for your website to comply with the search engine standards. Here I recommend the following tools:
– http://woorank.com/ – with this tool, you’ll perform a basic website audit
– https://developers.google.com/speed/ – a Google’s tool for verifying page loading speed
– https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly – another Google’s tool for verifying mobile friendliness
– https://search.google.com/search-console/about – a must-have of every SEO expert; in fact, it’s a web service by Google for webmasters. If you submit your website there and something wrong with it pops up, Google will notify you. In addition, you’ll get straight off powerful search engine traffic analytics tools.
2. Keyword searching and competition analysis
– https://www.senuto.com – find keywords and analyze your own and your competitors’ current visibility in Google search results
– https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/ – a Google’s tool for searching for keywords
– http://similarweb.com/ – a tool for analyzing traffic of your competition.
These tools will allow you to carry out both a basic analysis and an advanced analysis. You’ll be able to prepare yourself well for an SEO campaign and better understand this branch of marketing. If you decide to optimize on your own, be calm and reasonable – SEO hates haste. If you decide to outsource it, make sure to choose the right partner.