My focus is small business marketing, so I encounter a lot of people who have tried a do-it-yourself SEO approach to internet marketing. The semi-savvy business owner thinks his SEO knowledge is pretty darn good, yet he just can't figure out why he isn't seeing increases in website traffic.
In our conversation he provides obscure long-tail keywords to illustrate his SEO tactics are working. He also tells me he lacks traffic and real revenue resulting from all the time he has allocated to his SEO research and implementation efforts. He finally informs me that he cannot allocate a large budget to SEO. Hmm, I think we have encountered a conundrum.
Why is this the case? Is the small business owner really SEO savvy or is he lost in a web of SEO confusion? I'd say both. He knows enough to make him dangerous. I generally see very old SEO practices being used and many times black hat SEO tactics. Duplicate content and multiple URLs are popular trends, as are bolded words and keyword stuffing. While duplicate content, bolded words, and keyword stuffing top the list of most used tactics for the do-it-yourselfer, the bigger issue and much more difficult problems reside in the website's architecture.
The website - typically designed and written by the small business owner - is dated and is riddled with structural issues. Content is difficult to locate, duplicated, and irrelevant to the user or keyword focus. There is no hierarchy or silos to content, the website domain is set to expire, the website lacks permanent redirects, there is no sitemap.xml file, and the in-house SEO (business owner) has never heard of Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics. Those examples are real and all are from a prospective client's website I reviewed this week.
So what should the do-it-yourself SEO worry about? A lot. I do think it is important to mention that the do-it-yourself approach only works if you have little competition. Real SEO is done by an SEO expert who not only is immersed in SEO each day, he spends hours per week educating himself on the latest trends and algorithm changes. Since this is impossible for the small business owner, it is also impossible to expect tangible results from haphazard SEO efforts.
To Achieve Solid SEO Results, You Need to Open Up Your Website and Look Under the Covers
The following ten questions are just a sampling of architectural SEO elements. If you manage your own website and you are a SEO do-it-yourselfer, you need to know what these questions mean and the answers to each. If you don't, you need professional assistance from an SEO consultant.
- Have you ever done a keyword analysis?
- Does your website have a clearly defined structure for assembling pages and/or blog posts?
- Can you easily locate all the content available?
- Did you include keyword usage within the meta data and unique to each page or post?
- Do you have a robot.txt file?
- Do you have a sitemap.xml file and has it been submitted to Google Webmaster Tools?
- Are you using Google Analytics and do you know what your current website traffic look likes and how your visitors utilize your website?
- How long has your domain been registered and how long until it expires?
- Does your website have permanent redirects in place?
- Does your website have multiple H1 tags per page?
Most likely you cannot answer these questions and you're still hesitant to spend money on professional SEO help. I encounter this frequently and I'm asked to "justify" the cost of my SEO services. When I'm asked this I think about my accountant. I have an accountant to do my personal and business taxes, even though I have an accounting degree. But I don't specialize in accounting and I have no desire to do so. I don't know the latest tax regulations or the ins and outs of the tax code. I don't want to know it, which is the reason I never pursued the professional once I left college. I can no more accurately assemble my business taxes than the small business owner can perform his own SEO. My time is better spent on what I can do well, and for me, that's WordPress web design and organic SEO.
I've justified the cost of my accountant (accounting degree and all), so it is really up to you to justify the cost of SEO services. And just like taxes, doing SEO wrong can be worse than not doing SEO at all.