Hiring a SEO Specialist: A Marketing Blessing or a Budget Curse?

The decision to hire a dedicated SEO specialist can be a challenging one for many businesses. Let’s delve deeper into the pros and cons of bringing an SEO expert on board.

seo specialist

Let’s be honest!

As marketers we’re always on the hunt for that one silver bullet strategy that will take our business to the next level.

Lately, I’ve been hearing about the wonders search engine optimization (SEO) specialists can work for websites and bottom lines.

But is bringing an SEO pro in-house really the magic elixir we hope for?

On one hand, they could boost your search visibility and drive more qualified leads. But on the other, it’s a significant investment that may not provide quick results.

Let’s take a closer look at both sides of this debate.

Hiring an in-house SEO expert sounds great in theory. They can audit your site, optimize content and keywords, submit sitemaps, handle link building – all the technical stuff most of us marketers don’t have time for. And with search being so important for driving traffic, having a dedicated resource focused solely on SEO makes sense.

The challenge is that SEO is as much an art as a science. Some many even say it’s a dark art.

Even experienced specialists can’t guarantee results. It’s a bit like the stock market – past performance does not equal future success. Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving, so what works today may not work tomorrow. So there’s risk involved that you won’t see a ROI for 6-12 months down the road.

As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to plant seeds before you see growth. An SEO expert understands this, but your bosses may get antsy if leads aren’t skyrocketing right away. You’ll need to set the right expectations up front.

On the flip side, trying to DIY your SEO as a non-expert is a bit like attempting open-heart surgery after watching a few YouTube videos. You may mean well, but are likely to do more harm than good. Without the right technical skills and experience, you risk wasting time on tactics that don’t move the needle or could even get your site penalized.

It’s like that friend who fancies themselves a mechanic but ends up making your car worse after a weekend of tinkering under the hood. Sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals. An SEO pro brings specialized knowledge that non-experts simply don’t have.

The costs of an in-house SEO specialist also have to be weighed against opportunity costs. What other marketing initiatives could that budget be funding instead? Could you outsource SEO on a project basis for less? Or hire a freelancer to handle specific tasks each month?

There may be a middle ground that provides SEO support without the full-time resource commitment. Trial a 3-month contract with an agency. Hire a freelancer part-time. Have your current team focus one day each week on SEO projects. Get some quick wins that prove the value before a bigger investment.

At the end of the day, SEO is one piece of the marketing puzzle. But it’s a foundational piece that other efforts like content, social media, and paid ads are built upon. If search traffic is important for your business, not having a dedicated SEO focus risks leaving money on the table.

The right SEO pro can help you gain that visibility and authority online over the long haul. Just go into it with realistic expectations of the time and experimentation involved.

Rome truly wasn’t built in a day, after all!

Is Outsourcing the Answer?

For some companies, bringing SEO in-house just doesn’t make financial sense.

The costs are too high for an uncertain return. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon SEO efforts altogether. Outsourcing certain tasks or hiring an agency on a project basis can provide support without the full-time resource commitment.

Working with an agency does mean losing some control. You won’t have a dedicated specialist working solely on your business. But a good agency can still boost your search rankings while saving you money versus hiring in-house.

Look for an agency with experience in your industry vertical. Provide clear objectives and reporting requirements up front. Ask for case studies of past client successes. Make sure you’re on the same page about timelines and expectations. With the right partner, outsourcing SEO can be a lower-risk option.

You can also hire freelancers to handle specific projects each month, like a content audit, link building campaign, or technical SEO tasks. This gives you expert help when you need it without the ongoing costs. Just be sure to find proven professionals and have clear contracts in place.

Don’t forget your current team’s SEO potential either. Can one day each week be dedicated to SEO tasks by existing staff?

Small process like this can add up over time. You may find quick wins that prove the value before a bigger investment is made.

The key is finding the right balance of in-house ownership and external support. A blended approach using agencies, freelancers and your team can provide SEO gains without breaking the budget. Just start small and scale efforts as success is achieved. Rome truly wasn’t built in a day, after all!

SEO stats

Measuring What Matters

As with any marketing initiative, having the right metrics in place is crucial when deciding whether or not SEO is delivering results for your business.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) need to go beyond just website traffic. You must track the metrics that actually matter to your bottom line.

Things like organic search impressions, average position, and click-through rate show SEO progress but not real impact. What you really care about are qualified leads and conversions, right? Make sure your SEO provider is reporting on these critical business metrics monthly.

Track how leads are quality by asking for demographics and intent data. Follow up with sales to see which leads turned into customers. Correlate SEO wins like new keyword rankings to spikes in forms fills or calls. This quantifies the direct impact on your business.

You also need benchmarks to know if efforts are successful. Where were you at the start? Set goals for where you want rankings, traffic and leads to be in 3, 6 and 12 months. Re-evaluate tactics that aren’t moving the numbers.

And remember, SEO is a long game.

Resist the urge to pull the plug after a few months without dramatic gains. As with investing, the results compound over years not weeks. Stick with it as long as progress continues along agreed benchmarks.

With the right KPIs and benchmarks, SEO becomes less of a black box and more of a business investment you can track. This gives you ammunition for justifying ongoing efforts to bosses. And helps ensure your SEO partner stays focused on delivering what really matters – new customers for your business.

In the end, SEO is one of those things that you can’t know if you need it or not until you try it.

A small test of either in-house, outsourced or DIY options could provide the proof points you need. But don’t expect miracles overnight. As with any marketing, success compounds gradually through consistent effort over time. Just keep measuring what really moves the needle for your business.

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