Anyone who has had a website for any length of time has ... to the ... that to succeed, you need traffic, andto get traffic, unless you have some pretty deep pockets formore ...
Anyone who has had a website for any length of time has already come to the realization that to succeed, you need traffic, and to get traffic, unless you have some pretty deep pockets for more traditional forms of advertising, search engines are the most effective form of obtaining that traffic.
The next realization that comes is that simply being listed is not enough. To get traffic from the search engines, you must come up at or near the top of the results for those searches that relate to your site.
Some call it search engine optimization, others search engine placement, and others search engine promotion. Regardless of the name, it is all really the same thing. It is the art of getting traffic from the engines.
Search engine optimization is a big business, and understandably so, but the question is, "Is it worth paying a firm to promote your site or is it truly something you can do yourself?"
Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dry answer to this question as it is going to differ from person to person. In some cases, it can be well worth the money to hire an outside firm for your optimization needs, in other cases, you may be better off doing it yourself.
First let me answer a few questions and dispel a few myths that some of the less reputable firms like to promote.
Q - Can I do the optimization myself? A - Yes, and in many cases be extremely successful.
Q - Is search engine optimization hard? A - Yes and no. As with any new skill, there is a learning curve involved, but unless you are in an extremely competitive area, just having an understanding of how the search engines work and rank pages, can be enough for you to design some good ranking pages.
Q - Do I need to have any expensive software or programming skills? A - No. Anything and everything can be done by hand. All you need to be able to do the optimization yourself is a basic understanding of HTML.
Q - Don't I just need to put my keywords in the Title and Meta tags? A - Unfortunately, while this was true a couple of years ago, it is a bit more complicated than this now. Meta tags, play an extremely small role in optimization in todays search engines.
Now that we have a few of the most common questions out of the way, let's take a deeper look at which option may be right for you.
First let's start with hiring an optimization firm and look at the pro's and con's involved.
- Optimization firms will already be trained in getting your site to the top of the engines.
- The will know what is required and you will often see results fairly quickly and the results will often be better than if you were doing the optimization yourself.
- You will have the free time to devote to other aspects of your business.
- Optimization firms can range from moderately expensive to extremely expensive depending on your target market and the number of search terms you want to target. This could mean you may initially spend anywhere from $1,000 up to $5,000-$10,000 to hire a good firm and then a maintenance fee of near that amount monthly to maintain the rankings.
- As with all firms, some will be top-notch, and some will be less than stellar. You could easily end up paying a few thousand dollars with little or no results ever seen.
- No one will ever have the same enthusiasm for your site's success as you do. Many of the less reputable companies will often use tactics that will work in the short-term, but may have some very negative long-term effects.
- Many optimization firms will create a new site that funnels traffic to your current site. The firm generally owns this site, which means, that you are trapped into paying this firm for your traffic. If you stop paying them, you stop receiving the traffic.
Now let's look at the pro's and con's of doing it yourself.
- You will be saving yourself the cash outlay involved in hiring an outside firm (obviously one of the biggest benefits).
- Everything you do to promote your site is yours. It does not belong to someone else. You have complete control.
- Once you learn how search engine optimization works, you can create as many online businesses as you wish and be able to promote all of them without relying on, or paying, a third party.
- An initial learning curve. It will take a while to get a good grasp of what you are doing and to begin to understand the game we call search engine optimization.
- If your in a competitive market, a good deal of your time could be spent promoting and optimizing your site.
- Your results may never be as good as if you hired a top-notch firm.
Well, there you have it. A good number of the pro's and con's involved in both avenues. When you get down to it, deciding whether to outsource your optimization needs, or keep it in house, really boils down to what you have more of...time, or money. If you have lots of money but little time, then hire a good firm. If you have lots of time but little funds, then you will be better off doing the work yourself.
If you decide to hire an optimization firm, be cautious with who you choose. Ask for testimonials from past clients. Find out if they offer any type of a guarantee. Do some research. Whatever you do, DON'T go on who is the cheapest. This is your success we're talking about.
If you decide to do it yourself, there are also some things you should do. The best thing you can do for yourself is to do some research on search engine optimization. Find someone who has been doing it a while and see if you can learn anything from them. Read books on the subject (electronic or printed). Visit newsgroups and forums on search engines. If you spend some time learning about how search engines work and what they look for when ranking pages, you will quickly begin to understand what it takes to make a top ranking page.
John Buchanan is the author of the book "The Insider's Guide to Dominating The Search Engines", and publisher of "The Search Engine Bulletin", a FREE monthly newsletter. Visit him at http://www.se-secrets.com for more information or to sign up for the newsletter.