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Search engine optimization (SEO) has something of an allure to it. It’s a kind of digital magic that allows businesses to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) and earn more organic traffic as a result.
It’s also alluring because it’s ridiculously easy to learn the fundamentals of the strategy; half an hour of searching online, or even browsing through an article like this, could be all you need to get a feel for the core elements of a successful search marketing approach.
This leads many people to try executing an SEO strategy on their own. But before you do that, there are some things you’ll need to know.
Search Engine Optimization: The Basics for Trying SEO
In case SEO is totally new to you, we’ll go over a few of the basics here. Searching returns a massive list of results formulated in search engine results pages (SERPs). If you’re like most consumers, you click the top-ranking result more than any other result, and you ignore everything after page one.
SEO strategies seek to improve your website’s trustworthiness (as measured by Google and other authorities) and increase its relevance for specific terms, ultimately helping it climb to the top spots in SERPs for relevant keywords.
Many tactics play into this strategy. Onsite optimizations (such as improving loading times), publishing onsite content, and building external links can all aid you in this endeavor in different ways. You’ll need a little bit of everything if you want to reliably rank higher.
Also, note that SEO isn’t just for digital businesses. Any business with a website can benefit from search engine optimization.
Agencies, Freelancers, and Partners
When starting out, most amateurs hire experts to help them design and execute a proper SEO campaign. There are many options available to you on this front. For starters, you could work with an SEO agency, paying a flat monthly fee for various services, all intended to help you rank higher. Agencies also tend to have access to a wide range of different niche experts, so you can get everything you need in one place.
Alternatively, you could hire employees within your business or work with freelancers to build up the team necessary to execute the work you need. This tends to be less expensive than hiring an agency, but it also tends to be more time-consuming and less reliable.
The DIY Approach
Agencies are expensive, and freelancers are a pain. That’s why it’s no wonder that so many people try to do SEO entirely independently.
Technically, it’s always possible to try SEO on your own. It’s even possible to be successful with a DIY strategy.
Here are some of the reasons why:
- Built-in website builder tools. Website builders like WordPress and Wix are some of the most popular ways to create a website in the modern world. That’s because they’re intuitive design tools make it possible even for amateurs to put together a professional-looking website. Most website builders also come with a series of built-in tools to help webmasters manage those websites, including tools specifically geared toward SEO. For example, with one plugin, you could get a list of recommendations for how to optimize your site and analytics tools to help you track how you move through the SERPs.
- Keyword research tools. There are also a variety of free keyword research tools available, allowing amateur optimizers to quickly analyze the list of keyword possibilities they generated and come up with new ideas simultaneously. Once you better understand your competitive landscape and your target keywords, it’s natural to feel motivated, and it’s much easier to get started with the execution of your strategy.
- Internal written content. You already have complete control over your website, so it’s not hard to add blog posts, white papers, and other forms of content. If you’re passionate about your industry, or the core idea of your website, producing your own content is also enjoyable. Content is the heart of any SEO strategy, so mastering this aspect on your own can be massively beneficial.
- Measurement and analysis. Google doesn’t always make it easy to track your keyword rankings, but it only takes a little bit of digging to figure out ways around this. Otherwise, Google makes it easy to measure and analyze your website’s performance, thanks to its free tool, Google Analytics. At a glance, even amateurs should be able to figure out whether or not their tactics are working.
Problems With DIY SEO
But before you fully board the DIY train, there are some drawbacks and limitations that we need to know about. For example:
- The learning curve. First, you need to understand that SEO is a steep learning curve. It only takes a few minutes to comprehend the essential elements of this strategy, but it takes an entire career do you fully master the nuances of its execution. Add to that the fact that Google and SEO tactics are constantly changing. It becomes practically impossible for any individual to know everything there is to know about the search engine optimization world. If you don’t have any prior experience in search marketing, it will be very overwhelming to try and take everything in.
- Strategic direction (and lost potential). Without the benefit of experience on your side, it’s going to be difficult for you to make high-level strategic decisions with the highest possibility of payoff. For example, how do you know for sure that one group of keywords will perform better than another? Should you prioritize content or link building first? Your decisions may be acceptable but suboptimal, ultimately leading you to significant lost potential.
- Limitations and weaknesses of free tools. DIY search gurus lean heavily on the availability of free tools, from website builders with SEO plugins to free keyword research and keyword ranking checker tools. But free tools are often inherently limited. At best, you’ll face some practical limitations like many searches that can be performed in a given period of time. At worst, you could be fed misinformation.
- Limited scalability. You may be able to adequately support your small, new site with all its search engine needs. Writing one short blog post per week and building links manually one at a time could be plenty to help you build initial momentum. But you’re going to struggle much more complicated when it comes time to scale your strategy and support your ever-growing website.
- Troubleshooting. Mistakes are inevitable in the world of SEO. Sooner or later, you’ll make a coding error, you’re publishing the wrong type of content, you’ll build a bad link, or you’ll watch your keyword rankings mysteriously plummet with no reasonable explanation. When these catastrophes happen, amateurs tend to struggle. They don’t have the experience or the knowledge necessary to troubleshoot properly.
A Hybrid Approach?
One other important note here: this isn’t a binary decision. Just because you want to execute most of your strategy on your own doesn’t mean you’re forbidden from working with freelancers or other experts, and hiring a full-service agency doesn’t you’re not allowed to do anything for your own SEO benefit. The best approach for many people and companies is a hybrid one that utilizes the best of both DIY SEO and professional help.
Though it might undergo some prominent changes in the future, SEO will remain a timeless industry. Google will change, and maybe someday, it will become obsolete entirely.
But people will always need some way to find the content they’re looking for online – which means there will always be an opportunity to help your content be prioritized.
Learning SEO could be a valuable investment for your future and the future of your business, but in the meantime, consider leaning on agencies and freelancers to help you make sure you start correctly.