When you outsource SEO, you don’t outsource responsibility and accountability for getting the job done and driving more traffic. Even though you may outsource SEO completely, you really should invest the time understand SEO basics to best manage your SEO firm, your strategy and provide greater value to your SEO program.
Relying entirely on an agency is not an adequate strategy, for a variety of reasons.
When it comes to SEO, each site is different. Certain optimization techniques that might be ideal for one site might be entirely inappropriate for another site. As the in-house point of contact with an agency, you need to have a working knowledge of SEO so that you can bring these points up during meetings. This knowledge will also be extremely valuable if you decide to change agencies.
Your SEO agency won’t be available in every meeting, and may not be there to answer the incidental questions that arise throughout the day. Having a working knowledge will let you answer some of the most basic questions that come up day-to-day (and will save your consulting fees for the more basic SEO questions).
There are some… “interesting,” and potentially risky tactics that SEO agencies have suggested to companies—even to some very big brands. You want to have a working knowledge to know when something sounds off base, when to probe and when to seek a second or third opinion.
You may need to translate SEO-ease to your company language. As a former in-house SEO, I can appreciate the value of having a working SEO knowledge that allowed me to chime in with a translation from an SEO consultant to the lingo that we used internally. This is extremely useful when you need something to resonate to foster change.
How do you quickly learn the basics when you’re busy with a million other things? You don’t need to spend months studying SEO; you just need a quick way to gain a very strong grasp of the basics. Here are some simple things you can do to get up to speed quickly.
Engage an SEO consultant for in-house training so that you can learn the fundamentals. This could be training conducted by your current, or you could reach out to someone new for a fresh perspective, new insights and to confirm that what your agency is telling you, is in sync with others in the search engine marketing industry. When working as an in-house SEO I used multiple consultants for these very reasons. This is the approach I recommend most because it allows you to learn the concept and get immediate answers and clarification. Time investment: 1-3 days all at once.
Purchase online training programs, such as the SEMPO Institute, where you can learn SEO basics at your convenience. The SEMPO institute has a quiz at the end to help you identify how much of the material you retained, and understood. You’ll probably finish each module of the training with questions, so reach out to an SEO expert for answers and clarification. Time Investment: 1-2 hours broken into several sessions.
Read books. There are now several good books on SEO that you can purchase at the local bookstore. They aren’t going to make you a superstar SEO, but they do have plenty of information to give you the basic understandings so that you can effectively manage your SEO program. A couple to check out include The SEO Bible and Search Engine Visibility. The biggest downside of books alone is that they address very simple sites and not the more complex issues of highly robust and very dynamic sites. With every chapter your list of questions will grow, so reach out to an experienced SEO for question-and-answer sessions. Time investment: 1-2 hours of reading in several sessions.
Join SEO learning communities run by well-known search industry leaders. These are likely to be less structured than some of the other recommendations, but they do offer a wealth of information. SEObook.com is a good example. Another up-and-coming learning portal is Market Motive, where members get video, conference calls and Q&A with a faculty of A-listers in each online marketing discipline—including SEO. Members get authoritative answers from leading experts rather than novice members. Time Investment: 1-2 hours broken into several sittings.
Conferences are also great for learning SEO basics and this is what I recommend least for a quick-learn approach to bring you up to speed. Remember, though, that conferences aren’t structured to walk you through the basics so that you have a solid and thorough foundation of the SEO basics when you leave.
Take the time to learn a bit about SEO and you’ll be able to manage your agency effectively, respond to basic SEO questions, and articulate your SEO strategy to others.
Jessica Bowman is a free agent SEO strategist available for SEO site audits, SEO trainingand helping in-house SEO programs become more successful. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.