Many small business owners continue to resist investing in SEO. SEO has become part of the business marketing reality. What you need to be thinking of is whether to hire in-house SEO expert or outsource your SEO requirement.
With SEO becoming integral to the website design process, the question that invariably a small business owner will face is whether to outsource SEO or have someone do the job in-house.
There was a time when you designed a website and then worked on optimizing it. Today SEO has become an intrinsic part of web development services. A website is being optimized even as it is being designed.
To get a website to the top of search engine rankings is a time and resource consuming process. What is more, it is a continuous process. You need to regularly update content on your website, market your website online, create avenues that increase traffic to your website.
Billions of people are now online. Hundreds of millions of people are using mobile phones to connect to the internet.
You would think that small businesses are scrambling to take advantage of these digital trends to enhance their online presence. Yet, surveys have found that very few small businesses go beyond maintaining a website.
Why Businesses Opt For SEO
Small businesses do not wish to invest in SEO or invest very little. Here are some statistics from a 2015 survey on clutch.co that shows us the SEO investment trends among small businesses:
- Half of the small businesses surveyed, use SEO. The remaining resist
- Close to 40% have no plans of investing in SEO
- 20% of the companies already using SEO, close to 50% allocate less than one-fifth of their marketing budget for digital marketing
- Larger companies spend less on digital campaigns because they have more marketing options
- Small businesses prefer online advertising to SEO but again over 40% are unlikely to invest in online advertising either
- 25% of small businesses using SEO don’t track their SEO efforts
Those who track mostly depend on the following to determine if SEO investment is worthwhile:
- Referral traffic from search engine
- Keyword rankings
- Leads and conversions
- Those who do not track find it difficult to quantify or even justify their investment in SEO
Why this resistance to SEO?
The biggest factors are perceived cost and an inability to eschew traditional methods of marketing.
Other reasons include SEO’s history of spamming (the old days when any strategy was applied to get to the top of the ranks, before search engines had become more intelligent).
Business owners may not always have the time or the willingness to learn about the strategy of applying SEO.
It is frankly speaking an intangible thing when it is being applied. You can’t see the search engine algorithm; you learn how it works through careful study.
There are no guarantees. Just because a keyword strategy worked for your competitor, it may not work for you.
It is a time intensive process. Only steady, continuous effort will provide results. Unlike advertising on TV, SEO is not a marketing strategy that has immediate effect on consumer behavior.
What business owners need to remember is that it works.
A survey reported on Forbes online found that:
- 72% business owners who applied SEO strategies felt that it had a direct impact on bottom line
- Compared to lead conversion from outbound marketing (1.7%), SEO lead conversion was at 14.6%
- SEO leads are also cheaper to acquire sometimes 61% less expensive that an outbound lead
Before we answer the question of whether SEO should be in-house or outsourced, let’s first understand SEO.
Why is SEO critical?
For the simple reason that more and more people are now accessing information online. A few days ago I had written about user and advertising statistics of Facebook.
You can see that in markets like USA and Canada, majority of people are accessing the web for their information and interaction requirements.
Today, anything from a job opportunity to the latest model of a timepiece can be marketed within moments online. Compared to traditional marketing means, digital marketing allows you global access for a fraction of the cost.
The other aspect of this is that every business that has an online presence is now your competitor. Even in the digital world, to stand above the competition you need excellent strategy. This is where SEO comes in. What SEO essentially does is:
- Ensure that your website design and content are as per the latest search engine algorithm
- Appropriate digital marketing strategy is applied to ensure that your website gets clicked by the internet user and not your competitor’s
The more number of people visit and stay on your website, the better chances your website has of being ranked very high by the search engine.
SEO is not just about Search Engine Rank
One of the common perspectives about SEO is that its sole purpose is to get you on the top 10 of a search engine result page.
True, it is one purpose. But as competition has increased, what happens is that getting to the top is no longer enough.
Your website also needs to be able to attract the internet user enough that they click on your link. More importantly they have to stay with the website long enough to generate business for you.
Therefore the purpose of SEO is to bring in more business for your offline/online ventures by making your website visible to the search engine and also to ensure that you get unique and repeat customers to your website.
Once you have decided that you are willing to invest in SEO for your company’s website, then the next logical question is:
Who should do SEO?
- Hire an SEO expert
- Hire a SEO company
Perhaps the following story will help you decide.
How to do Better SEO?
Get someone to help. You, obviously, won’t have the time unless you plan to stop running the coffee shop and do only SEO.
Really, you think, will it be all that time consuming?
So you try on your own.
You will find out that SEO typically consists of the following strategies:
- Technical SEO: Optimize for things like site speed, look for better code-to-text ratio, even optimize your SSL which involves establishing encrypted links between server and client machines.
- Onsite SEO: This involves optimizing content at the backend, keyword research and keyword mapping.
- Link SEO: This involves developing an authoritative link profile for your website through building backlinks and removing issues that may lead to link penalties. Seldom does one person have complete mastery of all aspects or even the time to work on all three aspects in the same day.
You somehow manage to make time and stick to your own SEO attempt.
You may even get results. But after sometime, your website keeps going down in the rank. You are scrambling to keep pace with changes (who knew a search engine algorithm like Google actually evolves!). You scramble to keep your core business running and shortly thereafter it is very likely that both business and your online work will suffer.
For any business owner learning SEO is hardly a feasible idea. You have come to the conclusion that you need to get someone to do it for you. So choose an experienced small business SEO services to full fill your needs.
SEO: What to Realistically Expect as a Business
Before we get started let’s address that point: no you should not ‘be number one on Google by now’. If any SEO company told you that you would be, then that’s as good a sign as any that you shouldn’t trust that service. No one can guarantee you the top spot on Google, or at least not for competitive search terms.
Something to remember here is that you’ll probably be going up against countless other companies all with the same goals as you. If you sell ‘blank CDs’… well then so do about 1,000 other companies, some of which will have been doing SEO for years and some of which will be spending millions on it. Your chances of getting to number one for ‘blank CDs’ in the next year are pretty slim.
There are ways around this of course. Targeting local phrases like ‘blank CDs Dorset’ for instance can greatly narrow your competition, as can going for more obtuse, long-tail phrases like ‘buy cheap blank CDs and DVDs’. Of course fewer people search for these longer terms but it’s better to be on page one for a less popular term than page 20 for a great one. This is how SEO for small business tends to work.
SEO : Timeline For a Business
Real SEO companies understand this but they also know you need to start earning money as soon as possible. That’s why they will start out with you by helping you to come up with a strategy that will work for you. Perhaps that means cleaning up your site first, perhaps it means spending some money on a PPC campaign, or perhaps it will mean doing social media. The point is though, that these days SEO doesn’t take place in a vacuum but is closely intertwined with SMO, advertising, content marketing and web design. Your SEO company should discuss this strategy with you early on and it should be something that makes sense to you and works with your brand.
This consultation and strategy can take about a month alongside doing keyword research to help you find what the best terms to target are for your company. Thus you could easily go for a month before seeing any tangible work but you should be in regular communication with your SEO provider.
Month two will likely involve the development of content, networking, optimization for your site and pages (basically changing the content and code to better reflect your goals) and maybe some link building/social media. This will likely continue for a few months at least before you start to see noticeable increases in your traffic coming from organic search. And that’s of course dependent on your budget – if you can’t afford much then you should expect results to be much slower.
SEO Approach For Business - Quality Over Quantity
If this all sounds a bit slow going then you might be tempted to instead choose an SEO company that promises to build ’50 links’ in the first month and to write ’10 articles’… all for $200!
That might sound tempting but try to keep in mind that SEO these days is all about quality and all about the long-game. Google has become much more sophisticated in the way its algorithms work and it’s no longer possible to ‘win’ in the search engines through volume alone. Posting lots of links only works if those are good links on high quality websites related to your niche. Likewise those links need to look ‘organic’ (as though they were posted naturally, not by you) and they need to have varied anchors. In other words, you get what you pay for and if you pay for quantity you might actually end up damaging your position in the search engines by looking manipulative.
This goes double for content – so if the content your SEO company is producing isn’t the sort of thing that you would want to read then look elsewhere.
So… how long does SEO take to start working? The answer is that it should start working right away. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be at the top spot on Google right away… or ever. This is not the only metric that should be measured on while hiring an SEO company .
If you’re worried, try talking to your company and looking at the quality of their posts. That’s the real hall mark of good SEO for small business.
Mistakes That Business Make On SEO
SEO is in a state known as ‘permaflux’. What this essentially means is that it is constantly changing, constantly evolving and never remaining in any one condition for long. This means that the best SEO principles that everyone relied on just a few months ago will no longer necessarily apply – and it means that companies need to stay constantly on top of these developments in order to continue with the right strategy that will help to grow their business with no risk of being penalized. No SEO technique is truly ‘futureproof’ so you need to stay adaptable and you need to stay informed.
To illustrate this point, it’s useful to look at some of the techniques that big companies and websites are still using today that are actually counter-intuitive. Read on and we’ll go over five big mistakes that even some of the major players are still making.
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Using the Same Anchor Links
An ‘anchor’ is the blue underlined text for any link. So in other words, if you have a link saying ‘click here’ then the anchor is ‘click here’.
Many websites when trying to build their links profile will create guest posts and directory submissions but will repeatedly use the same phrasing – that being one of their keywords or being their brand name. The idea here is to increase the association between their brand and that phrasing thus climbing the ranks of Google.
It’s a nice idea in theory. And it used to work. But unfortunately Google has gotten smart to it and now sees this as obvious manipulation. Remember: Google best trusts the links that it believes are organic and natural, that are posted by real human visitors who enjoyed your website. And when real people link to websites, they don’t do it using the same keywords every single time. They might just use ‘here’ or they might use the website’s actual URL. The only way to avoid penalization these days then is to mimic this natural approach with varied and natural anchor text.
Only Going After Big Sites
Likewise, you should try to make sure your backlinks profile is varied in terms of its origin. If you have a link on a really bad, black-hat site with poor grammar and no relation to your website… that may not actually be the worst thing in the world.
Think about it: how many bad quality links do you think a website like the BBC has? Thousands! This is just part and parcel of having a naturally large links profile. You of course should avoid those sorts of links and you shouldn’t chase them down but the point is that if all your links are on PR5 blogs, this actually ends up looking just as suspicious as far as Google is concerned.
Not Using LSI Keywords
LSI stands for ‘latent semantic indexing’ and is a big buzz word at the moment in SEO. It basically means using synonyms and related words throughout your text in order to better help Google understand the context and subject matter of your posts. This is something you should be doing naturally anyway but the new term has motivated some SEOs and webmasters to finally wake up and take notice of that fact.
Using the same keyword repeatedly is actually destructive. Not only does it hurt the flow of your text but it makes it harder for Google to understand your content. If you keep saying ‘how to cast’ in your text then Google won’t know if you’re talking about fishing or sculpting (it’s a homonym). Thus, you need to use the other related terms (cast a line, cast in clay) in order to give Google the subtext it needs.
This is very important right now if you want to rank well but again it’s only going to get more important going forward. Remember: Google will keep getting smarter. You may be able to trick it now but it will ultimately not pay off in the long term.
Not Writing for the Reader
This is the biggest mistake of all and one that webmasters, business owners and SEOs have been taught repeatedly but never seem to learn. The point of SEO is to write for the reader first with only slight consideration for Google and its algorithms. If you are writing just to insert keywords then you are building your site on very shaky foundations indeed.
If you have any interest at all in internet marketing or pushing your business online, then you will likely have come across a number of popular buzz phrases. These will probably have included such terms as ‘Search Engine Optimization‘, ‘social media marketing‘, ‘content marketing’, ‘influencer marketing’, ‘brandscaping’…
It seems that every five minutes there’s a term to describe some new method of promoting your brand online. It essentially boils down to marketing companies trying to rebrand themselves and that way get more customers. But that’s not to say there isn’t some truth or value behind each of these strategies.
The point instead is just that these methods have been misrepresented as separate and ‘new’ strategies. In fact, all of these methods have been around forever. And all of them should be used in conjunction for maximum effect. They are not separate strategies but instead simply aspects of the same one.
Content Marketing For Businesses
The most obvious synergy here is perhaps between content marketing and SEO. SEO is search engine optimization and it is very largely about creating lots of content so that you give Google more to ‘index’. Google looks at your site to learn what it’s about and to match it to the right search queries – and the more content you have on your site, the more search queries you will be likely to answer. But Google is smart these days and so for this to work, the content must also be really good.
At the same time, SEO works by generating inbound links. Every time a big blog links to your website, Google sees that as a sign that your blog is important – as a testimonial almost.
One great way to get links from high profile sites and blogs is by writing such good content that it encourages inbound links. This is called ‘link bait’.
Content marketing meanwhile is about offering engaging content on your website or blog such that people clamor to read it. By producing consistent quality, you get regular readers and you get ‘organic’ likes, shares and referrals. Eventually you gain more traffic and you build the trust of your visitors to the point that they are willing to buy what you recommend.
In short then, both content marketing and SEO are all about creating lots of very high quality content. In other words, they clearly go hand-in-hand very naturally.
Social Media Content Marketing
The same goes for content marketing and social media marketing. Why? Because the very best thing you can share on your Twitter account or Facebook page in order to get people to come to your site is a very well written article with an eye-grabbing title and image. Likewise, by building social sharing buttons into your site and placing it right on your top posts, you can invite your readers to share your content with other users of social media.
If you don’t have content on your site… what are you going to share on social media?
And of course there’s also the point that your Twitter posts and Facebook posts themselves are content and thus a form of content marketing.
Pros and cons of Outsourcing SEO
Let us look at the pros and cons of leaving SEO to professionals. We’ll then see why outsourcing is a great option to go with.
|In house||Outsourced to Agency|
|-||Cost effective solution; No operational overhead for you|
|Full control of the process||Standard project management practices to ensure strategy is on track|
|SEO expert is working exclusively for your brand||Diverse experience due to working for different businesses and longer exposure to your industry|
|Selected portions of your SEO strategy can be given to other contractors||Multiple SEO experts work on each project, which means all strategies can be applied to your website|
|SEO expert can easily collaborate with your marketing and sales teams||Always up to date because they have to retain clients by giving tangible results|
|SEO expert can provide inputs to your overall marketing strategy as well||Ensures steady growth of your online business since access to resources is higher|
|-||Trade networks help in sub contracting which makes process even more efficient|
|In house||Outsourced to Agency|
|Expenses will be more because you pay salary and benefits||Cost of service reflects quality – cheaper is not always better|
|Single person may not have expertise on all strategies||Distance from your business can be a problem unless robust communication in place|
|Slower growth due to lesser resources||Results from an agency may not always be as expected|
|Difficult for single person to stay abreast of all trends||Drive to retain clients by giving impressive results can result in questionable strategies being selected.|
Outsourcing Statistics For 2020 And Beyond
Why Should you Outsource your SEO Strategy?
As a business owner your goals are to make your brand the go-to brand for your niche, achieve success while keeping costs low, use available resources efficiently.
In-house SEO works for you if:
- Your business is big enough to require a full-time SEO working for you
- Your website is in a highly competitive sphere and requires constant attention
- A single SEO strategy works for you
- You can justify the year-on-year cost (considering that in-house SEO can cost you upwards of $70,000 per year according to this article)
- As a coffee shop owner in the story, an in-house SEO may not be the best option for you.
Outsourcing SEO works for you when:
- You need to keep your overheads low
- You need a multi-pronged SEO strategy
- You are looking for a cost-effective means of continuous SEO support
For the coffee shop owner in the story, the need is to always stay ahead of the immediate competition which means SEO shouldn’t end up adding significantly to the cost of operations. Thus outsourcing is a great option for the coffee shop owner.
For some small businesses, though, outsourcing to SEO companies within their region, say USA or Canada or Australia may still be an expensive option. So try to outsource your your needs to a best small business SEO company for the better results.
Cost is one of the major reasons that businesses are hesitant to invest in SEO. In such cases, you may look at outsourcing further afield, to say an SEO company in India.
Benefits of Outsourcing SEO to India
One of the reasons why India is such a big outsourcing hub for IT and related services is the sheer size of the technological workforce. Does this, however, make India an ideal outsourcing venue for SEO as well?
Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of outsourcing to India:
|Cost: There may be significant cost differences when outsourcing to India. SEO packages in India typically also cover aspects of web design and content management. The cost difference may be as much as 25% in some cases.||Differences in language and culture: The approach to business and marketing may differ between cultures. Also even though English is a common business language its application by native speakers and non-native speakers can cause problems.|
|Value for money: You get high technical expertise for lower prices||Marketing: Technical expertise may not translate to marketing expertise|
|Work gets done even when your business is closed for the day: Given the time difference, your online presence continues to get optimized even after you head home for the day.||Time zone difference and communication: Even with all the technology at our disposal for teleconferencing, there may be some issues with regard to getting communication out on time.|
For the coffee shop owner, if the budget is small, an outsourcing partner in India would be ideal.
Ultimately, however, when choosing an outsourcing partner whether in your country on in India, you have to do the due diligence before you award the contract. Discuss in detail with the agency before taking the plunge.
A full-service wordpress website development and SEO services company like ColorWhistle brings not just years of experience but also a strong client list which is testament to its capabilities in this field.
Plus as a full-service agency every aspect of SEO whether technical, onsite or link building, everything gets taken care of at the agency. You also get to enjoy the benefits of comprehensive digital marketing packages as well.
For small business owners around the world whether it is USA, Canada or even India, the need of the hour is to strengthen their online presence. Developing and executing a solid SEO strategy is the way to create a sustained presence at the head of search engine results while ensuring lasting traffic to your website (and therefore business).
The benefits of outsourcing SEO far outweigh the disadvantages of outsourcing. The survey reported on clutch.com also found that a majority of the small businesses that had opted for outsourcing were planning to continue with their chosen SEO vendor.
Like the coffee shop owner in the story, first understand your needs, see what fits in your budget and then decide on whom to outsource to. Most companies, including ColorWhistle, are happy to provide free consultation to help you decide the best course.