While SEO can be done completely in-house, not every company truly has the expertise to fly totally solo and make it to the destination without a bit of turbulence and unnecessary crashes along the way. The problem I’ve been seeing lately lies with companies who genuinely believe they know SEO, but the reality is, they don’t know what they don’t know.
As a leading in-house SEO advocate, I completely agree that much of SEO can be done in-house. It’s just that when it comes to major site changes, some of the more intermediate and advanced SEO requirements get missed.
The difficulty this creates is that you don’t realize that 20% of the SEO requirements are missing until it’s too late. Unfortunately, the missing 20% is typically the most vital and requires the most re-work, and often would have added little-to-no additional development time had it been part of the original requirements.
Let’s look at an example
Last week I met with a company that firmly feels they don’t need a consultant, except for the occasional question. Their question for me was, “Why did our rankings fall?” As I dug into the answer, it became clear—they missed several intermediate-level SEO requirements in their most recent release.
Based on my assessment and discussions with them, it was apparent that their in-house SEO knowledge is very basic, and what they don’t know adds up to about 60% of SEO. They got some of the SEO requirements spot on, but some of what they missed were design decisions that were actually considered during development, but not chosen, because they didn’t realize the SEO implications of each option they were evaluating.
Those oversights will cost about $50 – $100k to remedy, not accounting for the traffic drop due to lower rankings as the changes take time to take hold. Not the position you want to be in as an in-house SEO.
How do you know if you know enough?
Only a good SEO can make that assessment for you, just like only a trained pilot can determine if someone truly knows enough to fly solo—even if they can fly great most of the time.
A growing number of in-house SEOs really do know enough to fly solo 100% of the time, but the number is small.
Here are just a few of the red flags from companies who “think” they know enough, but aren’t ready to fly completely solo quite yet:
- You have attended only 1 or 2 search marketing conferences in the past 4 years.
- You have been doing SEO for less than 2 years.
- The people who you perceive as the SEO knowledge holders haven’t done SEO full-time.
- You aren’t spending at least 1 hour per day reading what’s happening in the search marketing arena.
- You aren’t regularly giving specific SEO requirements for every unique HTML render: URL, page title tag, meta description.
- You aren’t talking directly to the people programming the site, and instead talk to their managers only. It’s not that this is a requirement, it’s just that a good SEO typically recommends things that require in-depth discussion and negotiation for technical feasibility.
How do you close your knowledge gap?
If you’re starting to realize that perhaps you don’t know as much SEO as you thought you did, don’t sweat it.
Leverage what you know, and pay only for the knowledge gap.
The best approach is to do as much as you can on your own, then have an SEO consultant review your work – much like a new programmer works under the guidance of a senior programmer. To do this, whenever you create SEO requirements or add to requirements documents, add what you think are the SEO requirements and then send those to a consultant. The consultant will review the entire document and correct any mistakes, and add what you missed.
Something like this should cost anywhere from $300-$1,000 per project, and will save you thousands, and in some cases millions of dollars in rework and traffic loss.
It’s a win-win situation: (1) You get all of the SEO requirements, (2) you aren’t paying for an SEO consultant to write up the basic items, and (3) as you review what the consultant added, your knowledge will grow.
Jessica Bowman is a free agent SEO strategist available for SEO site audits, SEO training and helping in-house SEO programs become a well-oiled machine that cranks out profits. The In House column appears weekly at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.