Every week I meet business owners who are thinking about how to get their website ranking prominently on Google. Perhaps they tried Google Adwords but soon realised how expensive it can be and how infrequently people actually click on their ads. Many businesses feel that SEO is a complicated subject and that the only solution is to hire an external SEO agency.
Here are 7 reasons why you shouldn’t…
Effective online marketing is about building a relationship with your existing and potential customers. Like all good relationships it needs to be based on trust, authenticity and transparency. Your marketing should convey the personality of your brand and demonstrate your expertise in your chosen field. How can any agency possibly hope to replicate this in a genuine way? Nobody can know your business, your products and your customers better than you.
SEO is not just about your position in Google’s search results. It is about knowing how your customers behave online, what makes them want to click and learning how they behave when they land on your website.
The purpose of this post is not to name and shame individual SEO agencies. However, you only have to do a quick check of the organic search traffic agencies manage to achieve for their own website to see that most are not even capable of promoting their own business, let alone yours. Worse still, many SEO agency websites are now being penalised by Google for having used manipulative and unethical practices.
Here is a chart showing the organic search traffic of one of the UK’s largest SEO agencies. Their drop in traffic exactly corresponds with a Google quality update penalising sites for manipulative practices. This is an agency that charges clients upwards of £50,000 per year for their services. Research of the largest UK SEO agencies shows that many are in a similar position.
The fact is that SEO is a difficult service to provide at scale. Any SEO agency rying to grow their business has little option but to delegate the work to more junior, less experienced staff and look for processes that shortcut the skilled work needed. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of truly effective, reputable SEO agencies (large or small) I have encountered operating in the UK.
Here are a few of the tasks that a reputable SEO agency should be doing for you:
Any agency that tells you they can provide this service effectively for less than £1000 per month is either incompetent or lying to you.
According to a recent survey, the average hourly rate charged by a UK-based SEO consultant is £60 per hour. Any agency quoting a fee of £500 per month is either spending less than 9 hours per month on your business or charging an hourly rate well below the industry average. Either way, the likelihood of you achieving positive results for your business is minimal. The minimum cost you should expect to pay for effective SEO is upwards of £30,000 per year. That is a significant investment for any business on an activity that can’t provide any guarantee of results.
Since 2012, Google have been aggressively targeting websites that use techniques that manipulate their organic search ranking. They introduced a series of updates that heavily penalised sites using these techniques.
Here is a chart of the organic search traffic for one such business who paid in excess of £5,000 per month to one of the UK’s largest SEO agencies. Again, their drop in traffic exactly corresponds with the introduction a Google quality update.
I have personally spoken with several business owners who took on extra staff, stock and premises to cope with the extra sales gained as a result of their prominent Google ranking. As soon as their site got penalised, the enquiries dropped and the increased overheads left them in financial ruin.
Don’t think that this only affects small businesses. Even larger brands including Interflora, BMW and GoCompare have all been hit by Google for manipulative SEO tactics presumably costing them millions of pounds in lost revenue.
While I do have a little sympathy for those affected, in most cases these business owners didn’t even bother to carry out even the most basic due diligence before outsourcing their SEO.
A great way to attract links and clients to your website is to create and share newsworthy content. SEO works in real-time. An SEO agency on the other hand will be juggling several clients. They have no option but to work to a pre-defined schedule. Outsourcing your SEO makes you less responsive, less dynamic and less topical.
SEO experts love to promote the idea that SEO is a fast-changing, complex topic that you will never understand unless you stay on top of the latest industry news. While it is true that SEO is a dynamic industry, you don’t need to work in the motor industry to know how to drive a car. Nor do you need to be an SEO expert to gain a prominent Google ranking for your website.
The core principles of SEO have barely changed since Google first launched their search engine. Some agencies love to blind their clients with technical jargon to perpetuate the myth that you have to pay an expert if you want to keep your website ranking well on Google. I have several clients who are ranking extremely well on Google and claim neither to be SEO experts nor have they hired an agency. They are just ordinary people with a passion for marketing their business.
I firmly believe that you can learn all of the core principles of SEO in a few hours. It is true that not every business will succeed and that some will find it easier than others. If you, or any of the people in your team, have an interest in writing content, a curiosity for learning how search engines work and just a little creativity; you already have all the skills you need to use SEO in-house.
With a little education and the willingness to invest some time, you will almost certainly do a better job of your own SEO than any external agency and for a lot less money. Even if you do eventually decide to hire an external agency, by learning about SEO yourself you can at least go into the relationship better informed, more able to identify reputable providers and significantly decrease the likelihood of getting ripped-off.
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