SEO; DIY or Use A Professional?

For startups and small businesses, the cost versus immediate results is one of the main concerns for SEO. It takes a lot of time, effort and resources to see the results of a successful SEO strategy, and requires continuous monitoring and optimisation to make it as effective as possible. While many take to the internet to research DIY SEO, it’s important to note that SEO is not something you either have you don’t – It’s a continuous process and as search engines evolve constantly, the tactics that you employ initially will need to evolve as well.

With the huge range of information available online, it can be difficult for business owners to verify what’s credible and beneficial to their business, and what practices might get them penalised by search engines down the line. So, should you roll up your sleeves and tackle SEO yourself, or enlist the help of SEO specialists?

Let’s look at 3 elements you should consider when answering the above.

Technical knowledge on website infrastructure

Imagine you’re building a house. If your concrete foundation isn’t strong enough, the house is going to fall down; regardless of how beautiful the decor is. The principle is the same with building a website, except in this case, you should be building on strong technical foundations.

Unless you’re a developer or have some coding know how, it may be difficult for you to understand technical SEO actions like tweaking URLs, hosting, robot.txt files, sitemaps, redirects, error pages, broken links and JavaScript.

However, these aspects of your site are important to get right because they act as a foundation for search engines to crawl and index your pages, which in turn affects search visibility, usability and conversion rate. Knowing how to perform a technical audit and then make the necessary changes will keep your website healthy in terms of its architecture, page load speed, and the quality of the code itself.

If you’re building your website, it’s important to remember that designers and developers are two completely different roles and skillsets. While web designers are in charge of the “look” and “feel” of the site such as visual art, colour scheme and information flow, web developers are the builders to make “semantic markup languages come to life”. Therefore, in-house web designers are more likely to avoid dealing with technical SEO recommendations, because they either don’t know how to fix the problem, or, they don’t want to mess around with the developer’s code.

Ever-changing SEO rules

One of the things that makes SEO a specialist art is the fact that search engines are constantly changing the rules. In fact, Google makes approximately 500-600 changes to its search algorithm each year. That’s 10 minor updates a week!

If you want to do your own SEO, you’re going to have to keep up with these changes, as inexperienced or outdated SEO implementation can limit your organic website traffic and drag down positive rankings. In worst case scenarios, it may even damage your website, which can lead to heavy penalties from Google and losing domain authority.

Black-hat vs. White-hat SEO

Another essential part of doing SEO the right way is knowing which techniques are considered “white hat” (i.e. likely to send you skyrocketing into the SERPS hall of fame) and which are considered “black hat” (i.e. likely to get you kicked to the SERP curb).

Black-hat SEO

Black-hat SEO refers to tactics employed to try and trick a search engine into ranking your website higher. Its use may give your website fast short term gains, but it will almost certainly result in search engines like Google penalising your website or even de-indexing your site in the medium to longer term, which would spell disaster for your business. Understanding these techniques is critical so that you can avoid them yourself, or realise if your agency is using them for your brand.

Some popular black-hat SEO techniques include:

  • Keyword stuffing: this refers to the overuse of keywords within a page, aiming to manipulate its site ranking in search engines. Many apply this tactic when they’re trying to boost rankings for specific keywords. Doing this will not only get you penalised down the track from search engines, but will have a negative effect on the user experience for people visiting your site.
    • For example: “We provide high quality service of hospitality. Our hospitality is high quality service. You will be satisfied with our high quality service. Contact us for quality hospitality services.” As you can see, this is difficult to read and gives users the impression that they’re viewing a spam website.
  • Link farming: this refers to getting your site listed on low-quality sites which exist purely for the purpose of publishing lists of links to irrelevant sites. From a search engine’s perspective, this is essentially considered as spam, which does not provide any valuable traffic to your website.
  • Hidden content: This refers to text or links stuffed with keywords within the code of the page. This content is completely invisible to the user but is shown to search engine spiders in order to manipulate the rankings. Another example of hidden content could be placing white text on a white background, for example, to sneak more keywords onto a page. A big no-no.

White-hat SEO

White hat SEO aims to target human audiences more than search engines. This is effective because it shares the goal of the search engine, which is to provide the most relevant results to a search query to help the user as much as possible. White-hat techniques are focused around selecting and analysing the effectiveness of keywords, conducting continuous market research, and rewriting content and metadata to be more relevant and relatable to human readers. Here are 3 popular white-hat SEO techniques:

  • Quality content: The old saying “Content is King” is still absolutely right. It is crucial to create unique and fresh content that is relevant to the audience. This adds more search value, traffic and conversion potential.
    • Imagine you are searching for plumbing services. You type the phrase “plumbing services” into your favorite search engine and it comes up with 2 results that target that phrase: website A and website B.
    • You click on website A and find that there are only 3 pages in the site and around 3 written paragraphs in each page. All the text on the page is about the company history, its plumbing services, and a contact number.
    • Website B on the other hand, contains more than 30 pages which address different plumbing services that they provide, the cost and technical explanation of plumbing problems and tips on what plumbing jobs are safe to tackle on your own, and what’s best left to a professional.
    • In this example, website B would of course be looked at more favourably by a search engine as it provides far more value to the user. It aims to educate them so that they know as much as possible about their services, and thus helps them make an informed decision as to who to spend their money with.
  • Effective keyword selection: Research and filter a list of keywords and key phrases to use throughout your website. Keep in mind that those keywords and key phrases are the ones that people may use to find your website in search engines, and not necessarily your brand name or industry jargon.
    • Select 1-2 keywords or key phrases for each page and apply them throughout all different elements of that page, including:
      • Meta Title
      • Headings (H1s, H2s, H3s, and so on)
      • On-page Text
      • Alt tag for rich media such as photos
      • Internal Links (hyperlinks)
    • Quality inbound links: the more quality links your website has, the higher it will rank in search engines. Each inbound link represents a vote to your site. However, as mentioned above, there are some bad links in the marketplace as well. Good votes are links from other webpages that provide contextually relevant content to your page and are highly recommended by search engines. Meanwhile, bad votes are links from sites with poor quality and irrelevant content to your site, or worse – spam websites such as the link farms we mentioned above. Remember that quality over quantity definitely applies here.

Search Engine Optimisation requires serious time, effort and resources to build a healthy and good ranking website. Firstly, you have to build the right infrastructure and understand technical problems and how to solve them in order to run your site smoothly. Secondly, keep up with the constant change of search engine algorithms to avoid any potential issues. Thirdly, you need to completely shy away from black-hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, hidden content and link farming to avoid penalisation from search engines. And lastly, be sure to implement white-hat SEO strategies like producing more frequent and unique content using clever keyword selection, while also building links from quality websites.

Having a solid SEO strategy should be a key concern in any modern marketing activity. To further discuss the benefits and get your website on track get in touch me and the Reef SEO team!

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