Every business wants their website to show up at the top of the search engine results for the key search terms for their business. Unfortunately, there is only room for a select few websites to show up at the top of the Google search results.
So how do you get your business a share of these top rankings?
You get there through Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. Search Engine Optimization is that practice of optimizing your website and content so that it will rank higher in the search results. Some businesses have the luck/luxury of getting top rankings with barely any effort, they just seem to get everything right without worrying about how to rank higher in the search results. Others, which is most businesses, need to work really hard in order to achieve these high rankings and still struggle on how to get it right. This is why many businesses go out and hire an SEO company to help with their organic search rankings.
SEO is one of those things that is simple in concept, but difficult in practice. Everyone knows what it is, but few understand how it works. This sort of mystique has led to some unscrupulous “SEO companies” to take advantage of small business owners that invest their already tight marketing budgets for something they don't understand and get little results along the way.
When you are first starting out and have a limited budget, it is usually wise to not jump in and blow your budget on SEO. SEO takes time to see a real ROI, and in the early stages, you'll need to some quick wins to start getting customers and revenue right away. Online advertising is usually the better bet early on, but it's important to keep SEO in the forefront because it's such an important and prosperous marketing channel when executed right.
Most business owners try to figure out if doing SEO yourself is the way to go or if they should just go out and hire a marketing company to do their SEO. It really depends on your marketing budget, immediate and long-term needs, and how much time you have to invest if you want to handle it yourself.
Below I've outlined when you should consider hiring an SEO company so you can develop that channel into something lucrative for your business.
You already have an understanding and some experience as to how SEO works
Once you have learned the basics of SEO and have done it for awhile, you should have a better idea if it's something you want to do yourself or seek outside assistance with.
The biggest way to waste your money and to always be in fear that you are being ripped off is to be totally clueless about SEO. Marketing is a critical component of your business so delegate, don't abdicate your marketing responsibilities. You should have a working knowledge of what SEO is all about and how it works, as well as a little experience doing it yourself. This will help you when looking for an SEO so you can ask the right questions and understand what metrics matter when it comes to your business and SEO success. A good SEO company will help explain all of this, but not all SEO companies are created equal and it's easy to stay in the dark while paying for something you know nothing about, month after month.
You have the budget to pay for SEO
SEO isn't cheap as it's a long-term marketing play that pays big dividends later on if done right. But SEO isn't like advertising where it will start paying off right away. SEO can take several weeks to many many months to start paying dividends so you need to make sure that you are committed and have the funds to pay for it for several months. If you plan on trying it out and stopping after a month or so if you don't see results, I'll save you money up front and say don't waste your money.
If you are short on money but have the time, then it's a good idea to at least learn the fundamentals of SEO and then pass off the work as your business scales and you start making enough money to pay an outsider. If you have neither the time nor money, then not much can be done to help you.
So how much are you going to spend on SEO if you go out and hire a marketing company? There are many factors, you can learn more about it here.
The majority of people use the internet to find businesses like yours
If the majority of your potential customers use the internet to find a business like yours then you need to be where they are. Paid advertising as a standalone platform is very difficult to achieve a solid ROI unless you have a high lifetime customer value. Social media works, but requires massive amounts of time and effort to build a following and to generate business, and even then, good ROI can be tricky. SEO gives you the opportunity to get in front of your ideal customers at the exact moment they are searching online for a business like yours, which is vital as you're now introducing your business to them at the moment they are most likely to need it.
A quality SEO strategy takes time and expertise and it may make sense to hire someone to help speed this along. Sure you may be able to do it yourself, but it'll take a lot longer, may not be as effective and you will make lots of mistakes along the way. Does your business have time to pay for this learning curve? If not and you have the budget, go hire someone.
Your audience is content hungry
SEO is all about creating and optimizing content. If you have a content hungry audience then SEO can become a highly effective marketing strategy for your business. The thing is, creating content on a regular basis can be difficult, with optimizing and promoting it even more difficult. If you don't already create content on a regular basis, I can tell you from experience that you most likely won't now. Trust me, you won't. The best method is to work with an SEO company on content ideas (you know your audience best) with you having oversite on the final content and then letting them optimize it.
Yes, you can just hire a freelance writer to create your content for much cheaper, but you won't be doing SEO at that point. While content is critical to an effective SEO strategy, not understanding what type of content to create, what content you have a reasonable chance of ranking for, and someone to help promote and position it so it can get traction in the search engines, then you are just creating content, not doing SEO.
SEO is going to be a long-term marketing strategy for your business
If you know right off the bat that SEO is going to be a core component of your marketing strategy and you have the budget to pay for it, then hiring an SEO company right off the bat can help you get moving much faster than if you start out by trying to figure things out by yourself. If you are starting out and have a limited budget, it might also make sense to hire an SEO company to at least ensure your website and initial strategy is set up for success and then learn and manage your own SEO strategy until you have the budget to pay a professional.
The last thing you want to happen, and this happens a lot, is a business thinking they are doing SEO when they are really just wasting their time and getting nowhere as far as moving up the search engine rankings. SEO takes time, it takes time to build website authority, time to get links to your website, and time to build a large library of content. The sooner you can get started on it, the sooner you will see results.
So when do I hire an SEO company?
SEO is a long-term marketing play, make sure you have the budget and commitment to see it through as most businesses quit long before seeing any kind of results. Have a basic understanding of what SEO entails and know what metrics you are going to track to ensure positive progress towards your goals. A good SEO and marketing company will help you through this and set realistic targets and metrics that make sense to you and your business.