Why In-house SEO Might Be an In-credibly Bad Idea

Before you tackle your online SEO project by using in-house labor, there are a few things you should consider.

Though the cost of a good search engine optimization campaign can be quite affordable — even by small business standards — many small and midsize business owners still find it difficult to loosen the purse strings just enough to invest in having their Web sites professionally optimized. And while, for a small few, the results achieved through in-house labor are favorable, for many more the time and resources wasted on doing SEO in-house only to achieve dismal results often cost more than it would have to hire professionals in the first place.

Webmasters, or “tech guys” as they are affectionately called, are supposed to know a lot about the Internet, and you would hope that the one on your payroll knows a thing or two about SEO as well. But knowing “a thing or two” about SEO does not always a good optimizer make. While a good tech guy might have the skills to correct a server crash or update a Web site, he or she might not have both the analytical and creative — yes, creative — skills to implement and execute a successful SEO campaign.

Many people make the mistake of assuming that SEO is all technical — that those who know “code” and Internet jargon are best equipped to handle the job. But search engine optimizers often do double or even triple duty as Web geniuses, marketers and copywriters. It's great to know how to “technically” optimize a site's title and meta tags, but before an optimizer can even begin to do that, he or she needs to know one very basic thing: which keywords to optimize. That's what it all comes down to. In Web terminology it's “keywords” or “key terms,” but universally it's the gift of pinpointing which “words” or “terms” will appeal to a target audience and anticipating whether an audience will type in “NY doctor” or “New York physicians.” And it's no secret that many times even those with superb technical skills have trouble putting a sentence together.

Furthermore, can you afford to take the risk? After all, staff hours have to be diverted not only to set up and complete the initial optimization but also to maintain good rankings and cultivate good linking opportunities. Overtime will have to be paid so that the general, Internet-related tasks previously handled by your “tech guy” and the new SEO tasks assigned will all be completed in a timely manner. If not, you might find that some of the previous tasks will be sacrificed for the sake of SEO.

Before you decide to domesticate your SEO project, here are a few quick points:

· SEO takes time. Not only does SEO take staff hours that you might be unable to afford, it also takes time and dedication to achieve good results. If you're serious about improving your rankings, you also have to be serious about dedicating the hours to the project each day, each week, each month.

· How will you be able to tell if it was worth it? Sure, if you achieve No. 1 rankings for all of your key terms, you'll know that it was worth it and that you should keep a tight hold on your tech guy at all costs. But what if in six months you've only arrived at No. 9 for even your best terms? Was it because the work was insufficient? Is it because your key terms require some alternative forms of SEO to get the job done? Will your tech guy be able to answer that question, honestly? Furthermore, because a tech guy will not be able to dedicate the time that an optimizer dedicated to your project will, maybe the three- to six-month period usually given for SEO results won't apply.

· Who will be held accountable? While no SEO firm can guarantee high rankings, a good SEO firm can give you an honest estimate based on statistical analysis to predict how well your key terms are likely to perform. Some even offer a money-back guarantee of sorts if certain key terms don't achieve a predetermined ROI. When your SEO project is done in-house, how exactly will you be able to hold anyone accountable? Will you fire your tech guy if your rankings fall short of expectations? In the end, you might have to enlist an SEO firm to complete or even start the work over from scratch.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do SEO. An incorrectly executed project not only can cost you time and resources, it also risks getting your Web site blacklisted with search engines. A wealth of information is on the Web as to how to do SEO, but much of it is contradictory at best and potentially dangerous at worst. So, if your tech guy is using this info as his reference point, then your site may end up in trouble with the search engines.

These scenarios might seem very dramatic and a little over the top, but when it comes to having an employee take on an additional job description that he may or may not be qualified for, you'd better believe that things are going to get complicated. And the real question to ask yourself is: Can you afford to take the risk?

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