There are over 200 signals analyzed by search engines, creating an endless combination of tactics and strategies that can be employed to achieve exposure, rankings, and—by far the most important—conversions.
To successfully deploy these tactics and strategies, however, requires a tremendous investment of time. To say that SEO is a full time job is a vast understatement. One can spend weeks or months dedicated to learning and employing just the more common aspects of SEO. Add to that quality copywriting, link building, usability testing, data analysis, and the myriad of social networking opportunities that seem to spring up over night, and you can see why today’s SEO is not just one, but several, full time jobs!
Deciding how, when and where to invest
Because of this, search engine optimization can seem to be a daunting task for many small business owners. On the one hand, to hire a good consultant or firm can cost more than a small business owner has budgeted for marketing for the year. On the other hand, to attempt to perform optimization in house, one finds that there is often an insufficient amount of time available to do that and run the business while being effective at both. There are only so many hours in the day!
What options are available to the small business owner in the vast landscape of online marketing? The way I see it, there are only two real choices. You either do it yourself, or you pay someone to do it for you. Either way, you have an investment to make, and you must ask yourself, what makes the most sense for your current situation.
What many small business owners fail to understand is that in order to succeed online a significant investment must be made. Gone are the days when you could throw up a website and expect to become an overnight success. Most of today’s overnight business success are back by investments in time, money, resources or any combination of those. While starting and running a business online is easier than off-line, the investment considerations should be no less. And with that, you must decide how, when and where to invest your resources, whether those be financial, personal time, or whatever else you have available to you.
Setting goals to achieve the desired result
What can an SEO firm accomplish for you? If one chooses to hire a consultant or firm, you must consider what that firm will ultimately provide you. Making such a choice on budget considerations alone is a decision based on faulty logic. You must choose a firm based on the tasks you want accomplished. If “top rankings” are your desire, then you can probably hire relatively cheaply. But if you are looking for a more solid marketing plan that considers reputation and conversions as a measure of success, you’ll likely shell out a lot more.
What can you expect to accomplish yourself? Conversely, if a small business owner chooses to optimize the site themselves, I suggest taking baby steps through the process. Set aside a specific amount of time each day dedicated to the education and implementation of SEO strategies. Don’t worry about the “big picture” but instead start by focusing on the on-page aspects of search engine optimization.
As you learn, don’t take a single source as gospel. Find multiple sources that can confirm each other and also take in contrary opinions. These can only serve to confirm what you believe is the right approach. But most importantly, learn by doing, testing, and analyzing what you have done. Don’t expect big immediate payoffs, but be patient as you work through the SEO process and its implementation of your site.
Depending on the size of your site and the amount of time you can dedicate to it each day, it may take several months to a year to “perfect” the on-page optimization. At that point, its time to start learning more about the off-page factors. Again, baby steps are required here lest you become overwhelmed. SEO is literally a sea and if you try to take it all in you’ll likely drown in it. Instead, just take a small area to learn and master as best you can before moving on.
The decision you make in how best to invest your optimization campaign is of great consequence to the long-term success of your business. It doesn’t matter if its in-sourced or out-sourced, either way, realistic expectations must be in place and your decision must be based on the ability to meet those expectations.
As a small business owner, you have to move forward in a way that is best for you, not just today, but a year from now, and five years from now as well. In any case, never be afraid to step beyond your boundaries if you believe the yield will be beyond your expectations. There may be over 100,000,000 ways to invest in SEO, but you only need to find one that works for you.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.