People used to view search engine optimisation as a ‘dark art’.
Something mysterious. Completely technical. And totally unattainable for the average business owner to wrap their heads around.
Luckily, this view has changed. And we’ve noticed more business owners ask themselves the question: should I do SEO myself or hire a company to do it?
To answer this important question for you, we’ve created this blog post.
But First Things’ First: What Does SEO Actually Mean?
SEO is the process of making changes or additions to your website to help you rank highly in search engines results.
If you rank highly for a particular keyword (a word or phrase that someone types into Google), this will give you more organic traffic to your website. And the best part is, you don’t have to pay for that traffic (win).
Ideally, you’ll want to rank on the first page of search results. When was the last time you clicked on page two of Google’s search results? Not very often, right? So the first page is vital. Ideally, you’ll want to be in the top three results on the first page.
What Does SEO Involve?
Whether your DIYing or hiring an agency/freelancer to do it for you, SEO typically involves the following:
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is where you research what words or phrases people enter into Google around your products/services/general topics of interest. And this research informs your ‘keywords’.
Keyword research is the foundation of your SEO strategy. Without this research, you won’t know what keywords to optimise your website and content for. A lot of business owners guess what people are searching for in Google. But this is a HUGE mistake.
2. On-Page SEO
This is where you optimise your website pages and blog posts for your keywords (this is why the research part is so important!)
It will help you write your website copy. And you’ll have to do what we like to call Website admin tasks, such as optimising your title tags or images. On-page SEO can sound technical but is pretty easy to understand.
3. Creating Content
This is where you can (typically) create blog content that gets in front of what people are searching for on Google.
For example, if someone types into Google ‘How much does a website cost?’, you can write and optimise an article on your website that covers that topic. Yes, that’s a very basic explanation! And there is a lot to it, but it gives you a basic idea.
4. Off-Page SEO
This is everything that takes place off your website, such as backlinks to your website from another website, social media marketing, guest blogging or podcasting etc.
All this good stuff proves to Google that you are trustworthy and an authority in your space. And therefore increases your chances of ranking in search results.
5. Technical SEO
This is improving the technical aspects of your website to increase your search rankings.
It can be things like increasing your website load speed or making your website mobile-friendly.
Is it possible to do SEO yourself?
In short, yes.
Most things are possible to do yourself. SEO is not nuclear physics. But equally, just because you can do something yourself doesn’t mean you should.
We could do our own accounts, but we choose to outsource it because we hate it with a passion. But we do our own email marketing because, well, we like it and we’ve learnt a lot about it.
A hybrid of DIY and Outsourcing SEO is Also Possible.
You can also do a hybrid of the two. Some people we know have great success by producing regular, well-optimised content. And they prefer to outsource link building (off-site SEO) and anything technical like speeding up their website and making it mobile-friendly.
Deciding on whether to outsource your SEO or DIY will depend on many factors. We’re going to go through these below.
We’re going to compare DIY SEO vs Hiring an Agency for the following factors…
- How much it costs
- How long it takes to do
- The guarantees of results
- How long it takes to get results
- How to track your progress
1. How Much it Costs for SEO
The big question! We’re going to go through how much SEO will cost you if you do it yourself (because there’s always a cost attached) and if you hire a specialist or agency.
How Much Does It Cost When You Do It Yourself?
It’s obvious that a DIY SEO option will work out A LOT cheaper than outsourcing your SEO. You could do it for free, but if you’re doing it yourself, it would be advisable to invest in some tools to help you.
You should firstly use the following tools to help you with your SEO…
Google Analytics – a must and it’s free! It helps you track your website traffic, see what pages your readers visit and where they’ve come from (such as Google or Facebook or organically putting in your web address).
Google Search Console – this is also free (so far, so good, eh?) and it will help you see who is linking to your website. As well as which queries your website is appearing in the search results for.
Both Google Analytics and Google Search Console are tools that will help you track how well your SEO is doing.
It’s also worth noting that you should have these set up anyway. And you should definitely have them set up if you’re outsourcing to an SEO agency/freelancer. That way, you can track how well they’re doing.
Free SEO Tools – The Hoth
An integral part of SEO is ‘keyword research,’ i.e. finding out precisely what words and phrases people put into Google around your products/services/industry. Keyword research informs your website copy and content.
To see what keywords you’re currently ranked for, you can use this extremely helpful free tool from The Hoth. Just pop in your website address, and away you go!
This tool will allow you to see where you’re ranked currently. And it will also show you if there are any further opportunities for rankings. For example, you may find you’re ranked on page two for a certain keyword. And with a bit of work, you could easily get that up to page one!
Paid SEO Keyword Research Tools – Keywords Everywhere (from $10)
Keywords Everywhere shows you what related keywords people are searching for in reference to your keyword. You can see with the example below what we mean. We typed in ‘plumber Manchester’ into Google, and this ins the information it gave us.
It also tells you how competitive each keyword is (allowing you to see which keywords might be easier to rank for) and the historical search volume.
It works on credits so (no monthly fee) and is one of our favourites to recommend to small business owners.
If you want to learn more about keyword research tools, you can check out our article on how to check your keyword rankings.
Powerful SEO Platforms/Tools
You can also invest in powerful SEO tools and platforms that allow you to do a lot more than just keyword research. Here are the two that we have used…
SEM Rush – (From $119.95 per month)
SEM Rush is a powerful SEO tool (amongst other things). It will show you what people are searching for on Google. And it will also let you check out your competitors’ rankings, analyse your backlinks, give you a technical audit and track your daily SEO rankings.
We personally use SEM Rush (for ourselves and our clients). Below is an example of their ‘magic keyword tool’ which allows you to search for related keywords to your particular topic.
Ahrefs – (From $99 per month)
Ahrefs is a powerful SEO tool. And they also stand behind the idea that you don’t have to be an SEO pro to rank highly on search engines!
They allow you to look at your competitors’ rankings, find the right keywords, perform website audits and research content ideas.
These tools seem pretty steep, guys!
We get it. These tools seem pretty steep, right?
But you don’t have to continuously pay the monthly fee!
You can use the SEO tools to do keyword research, find content ideas and see where you’re ranked currently. Then you can cancel them when you’re finished. In fact, Lyndsay was on a training session with the CMO of Ahrefs, Tim Soulo, who said you can even use the 7-day trial (which costs $7) to do a lot of the work for you!
Remember, you can always cancel. Even after one month or two or three. But, they are helpful at the beginning to help you with SEO.
Learning SEO – The Costs
You can find SEO courses on Udemy for as little as £12.99. You can also invest in a much more in-depth course, for example from Click Minded which costs $997. We also offer an SEO Starter Pack that is aimed at non-techies and the price will be $97.00 (currently available for pre-order).
What is the Approximate cost of DIY SEO?
Total – $10 per month – $120 per month (depending on how much you invest in SEO tools.)
How Much Does SEO Cost When You Hire an Agency or Freelancer?
The cost of SEO can vary drastically – from $99 per month to thousands per month.
Can You Get Results By Paying $99 per month for SEO?
But let’s start with the ultra-cheap SEO. By ultra-cheap, we mean companies that promise you first page rankings for just $99 per month. We’re not saying it’s not possible, but we’d question this cost considering the amount of work that needs to go into SEO.
As we said at the beginning of this blog post, SEO encompasses five key elements. If a company is claiming that they can get you to the first page of Google without you having to do any work yourself (such as write content), then this would set off alarm bells for us.
So, ignoring the cheap SEO companies (of which there are thousands!), let’s look at what more established and trustworthy SEO companies would charge.
What Would a Professional Agency or Freelancer Charge for SEO?
It’s easiest to break this down into two categories:
Local SEO Costs
Local SEO is ranking for ‘local’ search terms. Let’s say you’re a beauty salon and you have local clientele. There would be no point going after search terms like ‘beauty salon’ because that’s just too competitive. It’s far better to focus locally (as that’s what your target audience will be searching for) with terms like ‘hairdresser, Manchester’ for example.
Typically, you would look to pay between £300-£1000 per month for local SEO.
This would depend on how competitive your keywords are, and therefore how much work a company would need to do to get you to the first page of Google.
A local plumber, for example, might find it easier to get to page one of Google, than say a hotel. Hotels often have to compete with larger companies like booking.com for their local keywords.
National SEO Costs
National or international SEO is where you want to target keywords either without a geographical focus. They are (usually) more competitive, but they can bring you a lot of website traffic. If you sold luxury chocolates online, for example, you might want to rank for ‘luxury chocolate’ or ‘luxury chocolate gifts’.
You could look to pay anything between £500-£2000+ per month for national SEO.
We realise that there’s a huge differentiation in cost!
A lot of this will come down to content. Content marketing (such as blogging) should play a key role in your SEO strategy. It’s challenging to rank on search engines without it.
Some companies will work with you and support you while you produce content. Others can create the content for you. And choosing the latter is more expensive.
It will also depend on how competitive your keywords are and what precisely you want to rank for on search engines. However, any SEO company you hire should do keyword research to uncover what keywords to target.
E-commerce SEO Costs
Ecommerce is a different ball game entirely. Getting your product pages ranked on Google is usually way more competitive (but way more rewarding financially!)
The costs for e-commerce SEO would usually start at £2000+ per month.
What is the Approximate cost of hiring an SEO specialist or agency?
Approximate cost to hire an SEO agency or freelancer? £300-£2000 per month. Depending on exactly what you need!
Agency Vs DIY SEO – How Does it Work Out?
DIY SEO – approximately $10-$120 per month
Hiring An Agency – approximately £300 – £2000+ per month
2. How Long Does It Take To Do SEO?
Time is money, right? And if you’re spending 8 hours a day wrapping your head around SEO, that’s not a good use of your time. You didn’t go into business to do all that SEO stuff!
So how much time does it take to ‘do SEO?’ And how much time would it take if you hired an SEO agency? Because even if you outsource your SEO, you’ll still have to spend some time on it.
How Much Time Does It Take to Do it Yourself?
This depends on your skillset. If you’re approaching this whole thing like ‘Wow, what’s this internet thing I’ve heard all the cool kids talk about?’ Then yes, it’s going to take a little while to get your head around everything!
However, if you can create blog posts or edit the text and images on your web pages, then you have the skills to do SEO without it being a big learning curve.
Learning About SEO – How Long Does It Take?
Firstly, you’ll need to learn about SEO. This is where you’ll need to spend a bit of time upfront in your learning.
You’ll want to start with keyword research as this forms the foundation of your SEO, and you’ll need to invest in a keyword tool (like we spoke about in the first point). It should take you a few hours to get a grasp of basic keyword research (again, it’s not rocket science). And this investment of your time is well worth it.
Once you’ve done your keyword research, you will need to learn how to optimise your blog posts and website pages.
Again, this is not rocket science! If you can create blog posts and edit website pages on your website, you can easily do optimise your web pages and posts.
The amount of time it would take to learn to do keyword research and on-page SEO is around 2-6 hours.
How Long Does it Take to Produce Search Engine Optimised Blog Posts?
Then there are things you’ll need to do regularly to rank on search engines.
You’ll need to take what you’ve already learnt about SEO (keyword research and optimising pages) and apply this to creating content and web pages.
Content writing, typically blogging, is something you’ll need to do regularly. Writing a blog post could take you anywhere between 3-8 hours. And on top of that, you’ll need to do keyword research and optimise your blog posts (which adds on approximately 30 minutes).
So How Long Does SEO Take to Do Yourself?
A big chunk of SEO will take you approximately 2-6 hours to learn.
And then let’s say you want to create a blog post every week? This will take you approximately 4-8 hours.
What About Technical SEO – How Long Does This Take To Do Yourself?
Technical SEO covers things like site speed, making your site is mobile-friendly, making your site secure, ensuring there’s no duplicate content or dead links etc.
If your website has technical issues that prevent or limit it from getting ranked in search engines, it’s much easier to hire a website developer to help you.
Otherwise, you might find yourself spending a long time trying to fix issues!
The best thing to do is use a tool like SEM Rush or Ahrefs and produce a website audit. This will tell you if you have any problems on your website that prevent it from ranking. You can then give this to your website developer to fix.
The cost will depend on the number of problems and how much time it will take to fix them.
How Much Time Will You Have to Spend on SEO if You Hire An Agency?
You’d think that hiring an SEO agency or freelancer would mean you have to spend very little time on SEO. But that isn’t always the case.
SEO is often a partnership between the agency and the client. And you may find yourself having to do certain tasks to increase your rankings.
We work this way with our SEO/Content transformation programme. We work with our clients to get them the best results. But both us and the client have to do the work.
Do You Still Have to Produce Content When You Work With an SEO Agency?
Content should play a huge part in your SEO strategy. And we’d be wary of any agency that tells you you can rank in search engines without content.
SEO agencies would usually recommend what types of content you should create i.e. give you ideas for topics or even blog post titles. Alternatively, they can produce the content themselves.
The problem is, which option do you choose? Do you write your own content with the guidance and support of an SEO agency? Or do you get an agency to create the content for you?
That really depends on how much you want to pay and how much time you have available.
If you’re committed to creating one piece of content per week, this may take you around 4-8 hours (ish!). An SEO agency may then optimise this content for you – improving it for users and search engines.
Or you could hire an SEO agency to do it for you. This may increase your monthly cost by £500-£1500 per month – depending on the package you choose.
Agency Vs DIY SEO – How Does Long Does it Take?
DIY SEO – 2-6 hours learning keyword research and how to optimise posts/pages
4-8 hours per week creating content.
SEO Agency – 4-8 hours per week creating content or…
0 hours per week if you hire someone to create the content for you.
3. What Are the Guarantees?
So you’re either going to spend quite a bit of time or money or both on SEO. What are the guarantees? Is it possible to guarantee rankings? And if so, is it better to do it yourself or hire an SEO agency?
We’ll start with this optimistic statement, shall we?
You cannot guarantee first page rankings on search engines.
Why? Because we don’t own Google (it would be pretty nice if we did!)
So no one can guarantee you a first-page ranking. Or any ranking, for that matter.
But which option (DIY or hiring an agency) gives you more of a chance of ranking in Google?
What Are the Chances of Having SEO Success if You Do It Yourself?
You may think that it would be difficult to see success from doing SEO yourself.
But we have members in our membership community who have achieved first page rankings (for some highly-trafficked keywords) just by producing consistent, well-optimised content.
Many people in many different industries manage to get a lot of traffic to their website organically from search engines.
The main way people do this is by producing content regularly. But not just ‘any old content’. They produce the best piece of content they can on the particular topic they are talking about.
And that’s how you should treat your content creation – you should aim to produce the best piece of content you can on the topic.
Take this blog post. It’s over 4000 words. And we looked at other similar articles in this space. We wanted to do better and give more. Unfortunately for us, our competitors know what they’re doing – what with being SEO experts! Damn!
The biggest thing that holds people back from ranking on Google is not the technical stuff; it’s producing regular, beneficial content that answers people’s questions thoroughly.
What Are the Chances of Having Success When You Outsource Your SEO?
If you hire a good SEO company, who ethically approach SEO, you should see good results.
Especially if the SEO company you work with prioritises content and works with you to create an SEO-friendly content strategy.
We know of quite a few SEO experts who get incredible results for their clients. They never make promises or guarantees for their clients (because they don’t own the search engines), but their knowledge and expertise means they deliver impressive results.
SEO Agencies that Offer a Guarantee: Can You Trust Them?
There are companies that guarantee first page rankings (but many don’t say for what keywords). We always find this strange as you can’t guarantee any results when you don’t own something. It’s best to look at other factors about the company before you hire them, and not trust the guarantee.
If you’re going to hire an agency or freelancer, ask for previous results and case studies.
Also, make a note of how ‘frank or upfront’ they are. We’ve found the best SEO agencies are realistic. They explain that there are no guarantees. They emphasise the importance of content. And, most importantly, they ‘do what they preach’. They rank on search engines themselves, and they produce regular, helpful content.
Agency Vs DIY SEO – What Are the Guarantees?
DIY SEO – In short, there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO! However, if you do it right you will increase your chances of ranking.
SEO Agency – Some SEO companies offer a guarantee – where they say they will get you to the first page of Google, and if they don’t, they’ll continue to work on it for free until they do. But, we’ve found that most reputable agencies or specialists don’t offer this kind of guarantee to their clients as they understand they cannot make promises on behalf of a search engine they do not own.
4. How Long Does it Take to Get Results?
SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. But if you do it right, it can pay dividends for years. We have articles that still rank on the top spot of Google from 2017. And these articles still deliver us leads!
But, ya know, it would be nice if we didn’t have to wait such a long time, right?
So how long does it take to get results? And is there a difference between doing it yourself or hiring an agency?
How Long Does it Take to Get Results When You Do SEO Yourself?
- Do your keyword research
- Optimise your content (and any web pages)
- Produce regular, original content
Providing there’s nothing technically wrong with your website, there’s no reason you shouldn’t see results in less than three months. The more great content you produce, the faster your results.
This is exactly what we did in 2017. We didn’t do anything whizzy or magical. We just followed those three steps above.
We’ve seen the same for our members too. We run a 90-day content marketing challenge. And during the 90 days, they’ve managed to get some fantastic results from producing regular, well-optimised content.
But, if you don’t do it right. If you don’t produce content or produce only poor content (that’s all about you and not about the problems you solve), it’ll take a long time to see results.
How Long Will It Take to See Some Results (i.e. an increase in Website Traffic)
If you do it right, it could be as quick as three months. The amount of traffic increase will depend on how much great content you produce.
We will say this, you can rank extremely quickly on Google. And this happens all the time. Your blog posts can be ranked in a day. We recently published an article about the best web designers in the world which was ranked in less than 24 hours. It’s certainly possible!
If you don’t invest in content marketing, don’t create the right content or have technical issues with your website, you will struggle to see results.
How Long Does It Take To See Results From an SEO Agency?
You would typically invest in an SEO agency for six months initially. And in that time, you should expect results.
In that time, an SEO agency are likely to:
- Do a technical audit of your website and either fix any ongoing issues or advise you of them for your web developer to fix
- Do keyword research to understand what your audience is searching for
- Continuously look for opportunities for rankings
- Either create content for you or support you in content creation
- Build backlinks to your website
With the guidance of an SEO professional, you should see excellent results in that time. And if you follow their advice and do any work required, you should expect to hit the goals set out at the start of the project.
Agency Vs DIY SEO – How Long Does It Take To See Results
DIY SEO – If you do it yourself and do it right, then you could see results within three months.
And again, if you do it yourself and do it wrong, then you may never see results!
Hiring an SEO Agency – If you hire the right agency, you should hit your SEO goals outlined at the start of the project. And you won’t waste time producing the wrong type of content. You may see that you get better results than if you DIY it as you’ll have a company optimising your content as you go and continuously tweaking things.
5. How Do You Track Your Progress?
A big part of SEO is tracking your progress – seeing what works and what doesn’t work. And spotting opportunities where you can rank. For example, you might discover that you have an article ranked on page two of Google, and with a bit of work, you can get that article to page one.
Tracking Your Progress Yourself
To track your progress yourself, you’re going to have to use the tools we talked about in point one, such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console. And maybe a paid tool such as SEMRush or Ahrefs.
You’ll want to keep an eye on:
- Your website traffic (ideally, you want to see this going up!)
- Your rankings generally (you’ll want to see your rankings for keywords increase)
- Where you’re ranked for specific keywords (i.e. page 1/2/3 etc)
- Where your traffic is coming from
It’s good to do this process at least every month (if not more!)
How Does An SEO Agency Track Your Progress?
An SEO agency or specialist should give you a report every month which tells you how well you’re performing.
If an SEO agency is creating content themselves, they’ll spot opportunities and create content around them. If not, they should advise you on what content you should create regularly.
Tracking Your Progress DIY vs SEO Agency
DIY – You’ll have to do this yourself and learn to understand the tools and software. Luckily, there are plenty of helpful training videos on Google analytics or search console. And if you invest in a paid tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs, you can follow along with tutorials.
SEO Agency – It’s much easier to track your progress with an agency as they’ll provide you with a report or overview of how well you are doing.
Which One Should You Choose DIY vs SEO Agency?
We hate to be THOSE GUYS. But it depends.
However, we would say this. It’s highly advantageous if you know SEO basics, even if you plan on outsourcing it.
And this is the same for anything. We outsource our accounts and bookkeeping (because we hate it), but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what our profit is every month. Or what comes out of our account. It doesn’t mean we don’t understand the basics of running a business and finances.
After you have this understanding, it’s simply a case of time vs money.
Where Are You Now?
1. Zero Time + Lots of Money
If you have zero time and a lot of money, hiring an SEO agency that produces good content for you (or at least recommends good content writers) is the best way to go.
But this could cost up to £2000+ per month. Or more depending on how much content you need.
2. A Bit of Money, A Bit of Time
If you fancy doing some bits yourself. We recommend you focus on content and work with an SEO agency to help support you with keyword research, optimising your content, technical help and supporting you with building backlinks and PR.
This will save you money as you won’t have to spend out on writing content. But it will also save you time on the more technical aspects of SEO.
3. You Have Time to Learn SEO and Create Content (But You Don’t Want to Invest Loads)
If you don’t have that much to invest, do not worry!
If you have time to learn SEO and time to create content then you will see results.
Yes, it’s a time commitment. But if you do it right, it will pay dividends for a long time. We have thousands of website visitors every month that find us from blog posts we published in 2017.
SEO is one of the best long-term strategies for getting more leads and sales from your website.
It helps your website act as an unpaid salesperson for your business, continuously delivering you leads and sales.
The Content Isn’t Just For Your Blog!
When you create regular content, it’s not just for your blog. You can transform that blog content into social media posts (we’ll probably get 10 Linkedin posts and 10 Facebook posts out of this very article!)
When you have a ‘website first’ mentality, you can create content for your website, get more website traffic and then use that content across your social media channels and email marketing. It’s actually the most time-effective way of creating content.
So what are you waiting for?
Don’t forget, you can learn all the good stuff about SEO in our SEO starter pack.
Here are the benefits of the SEO Starter Pack:
1. Everything you need to know about getting started with SEO is in one place – no more scouring the internet and getting confused by conflicting info.
2. It includes easy-to-follow, short lessons aimed at non-techies – no one big boring video that’s hard to follow. And no getting confused by silly SEO jargon!
3. It’ll teach you the key parts of SEO that have the biggest impact – this pack will not teach you all there is to know about SEO because, quite frankly, you have better things to do. But it will teach you the things that will make the biggest impact on your business and deliver more traffic to your website.
4. It’s not boring – okay, it’s SEO. It’s not the hottest Netflix TV show. BUT, we don’t make it boring! It’s easy to understand and includes bite-sized videos that aren’t too overwhelming.
Owner at Jammy Digital, Digital Marketing Specialist and Writer of Young-Adult Fiction.
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