As a small business owner with limited time, marketing knowledge and budget, it’s easy to question whether SEO is a marketing technique you should be investing in.

Of course, social media and pay-per-click offer more immediate results, but it’s SEO that will give you long-lasting benefits and help you stay ahead of the competition in today’s increasingly aggressive online market. The bad news, though, is that SEO takes time.

If you’re thinking about improving your website’s search engine optimisation and don’t know whether to do it alone or outsource to an agency, then this week’s article will help.

Oh, and before we get started, let us give you a quick disclaimer. As a marketing agency offering SEO for small businesses, we’re naturally going to stress the benefits of outsourcing. However, we’ve also included some of the benefits of carrying out your own SEO, and we’ve published countless articles on how to master an SEO strategy.

SEOs know their stuff

Let’s get one thing straight: SEO isn’t an easy skill to master.

Sure, you might be able to pick up the basics and make sense of the jargon if you buy an ebook and watch a couple of YouTube videos, but it takes practice and patience to learn how to effectively optimise websites, build links and write content that search engines will want to rank. You can’t boss SEO overnight.

Unless you’ve got a serious interest in learning a new skill and want to improve your digital marketing knowledge, then it’s likely an SEO (that’s the name given to marketers who specialise in SEO) will be better at improving your website’s rank than you, even though you know your business and industry inside out.

You don’t know it all!


SEO is an ever-changing beast

The single most frustrating (and exciting) part of SEO is Google’s ever-changing algorithms and trends within the content marketing and search engine optimisation.

No website stays at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) forever without hard work; it requires new tactics and following the latest best practices and techniques to stay ahead of the curve.

The good news, though, is that if you work with an ethical SEO company that follows white hat, Google-approved techniques, and focus on producing high-quality content that keeps readers happy, then you can’t go too far wrong.

Search engines want to reward quality webmasters.

Working with companies that offer to send your website to rank one “in a week” or build links too quickly will only damage your website and, in some cases, cause you to be penalised.

Working with a dynamic SEO company that sticks to the rules and follows the latest practices is best.


Your competitors are probably paying for SEO

Take a good, hard look at your competitors.

The chances are that you’re competing with a couple of local businesses, as well as national or global brands.

If you’re not spending any time or money working on SEO, then you stand no chance in today’s digital marketplace.

It’s time to act now if you want to start catching up and ranking for terms that your competitors dominate.

It’s easy to adopt the “I’m too late to the party” attitude when thinking about SEO, especially if you can see that your competitors are already doing well on search engines.

However, there are some significant benefits to having a competitor rank ahead of you on search engines; you’ll be able to use link building and content marketing tools to see where they’re getting links, what sort of content is ranking, and copy their best practices to turbo-boost your business in no time.

You can even steal their backlinks if they close down.

Of course, you’ll need to have the time and budget in order to rank ahead of the competition, which is why you should consider outsourcing your SEO.

Not only will your SEO company be able to target some of the keywords your competitors are using, but they’ll bring their own experience to the table and give you your own arsenal of weapons to rank at number one.


Link building takes time and hard work

One of the core components of any successful SEO strategy is link building.

The more websites that link back to yours, the more trustworthy and respectable you’ll appear to Google, and the more likely you are to rank for competitive terms and phrases that are related to your niche.

And while link building certainly isn’t rocket science, it can be a drawn-out and time-consuming process, especially if you’ve got a limited window to answer your emails in a typical working day.

Link building is, quite often, the sole reason why small and large businesses pay for their SEO rather than carrying it out in-house.

When you work with a professional SEO company that has experience in link building, you can expect your business to gain several high-authority links every month.

Doing it on your own can be hit and miss, and it might take you months to get one.


It’s easy to give up on SEO

Unlike social media or pay-per-click, content marketing and search engine optimisation take time.

You might create an impressive 5,000-word article on your products and services that offers genuine value to your readers, but it could take six months before you start to rank and drive free, organic traffic.

SEO is about playing the long game, and it can be easy to give up before you see the results.

See also: How to stay motivated when working on a marketing strategy

No reputable SEO company will guarantee results or rankings, because it’s simply not possible to guarantee anything in the search engine marketing world.

Of course, skill and tactics are required to get your website on the first page of Google for competitive terms, but it can take months and months; limited SEO budgets from small businesses can lengthen this process.

A good SEO company will, however, talk you through the techniques that they are carrying out and offer updates and progress reports on your campaign.

Regular contact with an SEO company will keep you in the loop and prevent you from feeling deflated if you don’t see results overnight.


SEO software can be expensive

If you’ve got a spare couple of hours, you can use a free SEO audit tool and make changes to your website to make it more readable to search engines.

It’s a great introduction to SEO, and it’s actually something we do when we’re reviewing clients’ sites as part of our marketing audit, which is available for free from today.

However, when it comes to more complex SEO tasks, like finding the right keywords to target and determining which websites to reach out to for backlinks, expensive SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Majestic, Moz, and BuzzSumo will be required – and they’re by no means cheap.

Typically, each software package comes in at $100 a month (that’s £70), and you’ll likely need more than one to maximise your potential.

When you consider that some marketing companies offer SEO packages from just a couple hundred pounds a month, it makes sense to outsource.


Your SEO team will be accountable to you

The small business market is one of the most competitive and lucrative in the digital marketing sphere, and all marketing firms want to work hard to impress their customers.

When you sign up for an SEO campaign, you’ll likely be paying month-to-month, and so SEO companies will do everything in their power to build links, increase rankings and give you the results you need.

This accountability is not something you can find in a typical employee, as it’s likely that SEO won’t be their only responsibility.

Taking digital marketing out of the office and investing in a marketing agency will, in some ways, give you more control than if it was kept in-house.


Outsourcing gives you time for other tasks

When was the last time you had a spare hour or two to read an ebook on marketing, learn a new digital marketing tool or reach out to bloggers and ask them for a link back to your website?

SEO takes time, and the more time you spend on it, the less you’ll have for other tasks.

And as a business owner, you’ll know that time is precious.

See also: How to save time when working on a social media strategy

One way to determine whether outsourcing SEO is right for your business is to calculate the cost and time involved in an SEO project.

If an SEO agency can offer 10 hours of management a month for £300 and your time is more valuable than £30 an hour, then it makes sense to pay for a marketing agency to take control of your SEO.

Remember to calculate how much SEO work you’d be able to carry out in the same time as a marketing agency; for example, it may take you five hours to write a new blog post and conduct outreach, whereas an experienced SEO might be able to do it in two.


But there are benefits to doing it yourself

We’ve stressed some of the biggest benefits of outsourcing your search engine optimisation to a marketing agency, but there are also tons of perks to doing it in-house.

If you have the patience and willingness to learn a new skill (or give a member of your team the responsibility), you will:

  • Have total control: There’s a limit to how much control you’ll have over your SEO strategy when you hand over the responsibility to another company; and in some cases, you may not know what the company is planning on doing with your website. When you take the reigns of your SEO strategy, you’ll have total control; you can decide how many links to build, what pages you want to add more content to and see what works best.
  • Save money: Although some marketing agencies offer affordable SEO packages for startups and small businesses, it’s easy to spend thousands of pounds on an SEO plan with an agency. By doing it all in-house, you’ll save money – money that you can put towards paying for software, ebooks, training, buying links and other marketing activities.
  • Learn a new skill: Whether you’re a one-man band or you’ve got a team of people working in your business, adding a new string to your bow is always a plus. Although SEO is time-consuming and complicated to master, it’s great fun if you get the bug.
  • Get ahead of the competition: Some businesses simply cannot afford to pay for someone to manage their marketing or SEO activity. If you spend an hour a week carrying out some basic SEO and getting your website up to scratch by producing high-quality content, you’ll get ahead of your competition in no time and start ranking.


Wrapping up

As a marketing agency, we know how tough it can be to sell SEO.

People either don’t understand the concept of search engine optimisation, don’t think it will benefit them, or think other forms of digital marketing, like pay-per-click and content marketing, are more effective.

But the truth is that SEO should play a role in every digital marketing strategy, whether big or small, and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to spend and invest in the future of your digital presence.

The more time and effort that goes into building links, optimising your content and increasing your rankings, the more you’ll benefit in the future when potential customers click through to your site – without you having to spend a penny on marketing.