SEO: do it properly, or do it yourself.

A subject I return to from time to time, because I get asked it a lot, is: “Can these companies which promise to get my website to number one in Google actually deliver?” The answer is a qualified yes, but either it’s going to be eye-wateringly expensive, or you’re going to have to get involved to a much greater extent than you’d ideally like to with an outsourced service. That’s because there are two parts to this “search engine optimisation” lark: the “on-page” stuff (getting all your titles and tags right), and the “off-page” stuff (the external links) – and both require your involvement or your expertise to do well.

Firstly, the “on-page” aspects. This is a classic 80/20 area: you can get 80% of the results with the first 20% of the effort. It’s a question of sorting out nice clean code, unique titles and description meta tags, all that sort of thing. Sure, any advice you can get on this will be helpful, but unless you’re going to give some external consultant a free hand to access and modify your website, guess who’s going to have to do the real heavy lifting?

Secondly, the “off-page” work. As we discussed yesterday, the best links are from the pages which are already doing well for related searches, and while researching these just requires intelligence, actually getting the links requires networking and old-fashioned salesmanship. Supposing the page you’re after a link from turns out to be an article on your own trade association website? Who do you think is most likely to be able to persuade the trade association secretary to add a link? Someone senior from a familiar member organisation, or someone from an “SEO consultancy” they’ve never heard of?

Other ways of getting links include contributing articles to other websites, but again, for an SEO consultancy to be able to do this for you requires serious involvement on your part in producing the material.

So to return to the initial question, it’s unlikely anyone who doesn’t know your business intimately can “get you to number one in Google” for your most important search terms, unless you’re going to fund weeks of their time …and expect that to cost you tens of thousands of pounds. Anything less and you’re going to be disappointed with the results, and possibly risk damaging your long-term performance in the search engines. Do it properly, or do it yourself.