Editor note: This article has been updated to provide more in-depth information and accuracy as of 2018
Independent Expert or Seo Agency? Which Is Best for You?
Many of our clients are small businesses who would deem an agency as too expensive. They would much prefer to engage the sole trader SEO consultant. This doesn't mean that this is the best option for them.
Gone are the days of buying a link package and watching your site rise up the ranks. The problem that has always faced smaller companies is that of the rogue SEO expert spinning the myth of the black art, making wild promises of Google domination and then delivering nothing.
Whilst there will always be sharks that swim in the sea of SEO, Google has done well to clean up the practice in the last few years.
Where to Start
Before you rush to find an expert/agency that is right for you, you should take additional steps to first understand what you are buying into.
Many small businesses take the approach of "they're doing it for me, so I don't need to worry about it". The problem with this approach is that they might be doing it for you, but how do you know what they're doing?
Some SEO agencies and experts may take advantage if they know you don't understand anything about the practice. Taking small shortcuts here and there to deliver sub-optimal results can occur. If this were to be happening, you would be none the wiser.
Having a basic understanding of SEO can take you a long way. Sure, you might not be able to set up your own agency, but you will be able to know when something is done poorly.
Spend an afternoon understanding the fundamentals of how search engines work is crucial. Take time to learn how Google works, how do they determine what is "good quality" and what factors affect ranking.
Depending on your level of interest, you may absorb more than someone else. The important point is this: you need to understand the work your SEO company/expert will be doing.
If your SEO agency is overhauling your blog and importing images without Alt.text, you should be able to recognise that they're taking shortcuts.
Similarly, If an SEO expert isn't using H1-6 tags at all, there's another problem. SEO is never stagnant. Google is continuously trying to improve their systems and algorithms to give it's users the best possible experience.
It's your role to stay on top of the trend and maintain that fundamental understanding. When educating yourself on SEO, it's best to find results that are recent as these will likely include the newest practices.
Here are two great articles that go into the fundamentals:
Agency or Specialist, What's the Difference?
SEO Agency: An agency can either be "all-rounders" or specialists. This means that you could work with a digital marketing agency that focuses on every element of your website. they could work on Social media presence, SEO, content production and other SEO ranking factors.
A specialist agency will devote their time and resources to one specific area, in this case, SEO. They will usually have a number of clients under their belt at one time. They will also split their team and each staff member will have a role in each project.
SEO Expert: An expert is an individual that has devoted their education to one core area. They will know SEO inside and out. Their reputation will come down to their case studies and testimonials from past projects, making them reliable.
However, just because they market themselves as "experts" doesn't mean they are. There is a very clear line between an expert and an impersonator. This line, however, is blurred if you don't know your basic H1 from your Meta description.
Which is Best for You?
The cost will always depend on what project you are looking to start, where your business is situated and how much work is involved.
Agencies are usually made up of individuals that once classed themselves as independent specialists. Maybe they worked as a freelancer or had their own small business before making the move. Agencies will have more resources at their disposal to solve your problems.
More often than not, Agencies work to a dedicated budget. Thus, It's unlikely that there will be any overheads with campaign implementation.
Independent experts will have years of expertise behind them. Prepared experts will have all the resources at the ready for when you give them the go-ahead to start the work.
Experts help you to save money if you have a small problem that just needs an expert to take a quick look and resolve. Making this a much more resource efficient method than using an agency.
Agencies will have multiple clients on board and will work with you within your pre-defined budget. Occasionally, if they have a higher paying client, they will divert resources to meet the deadline needs.
The project will be split between each staff member who will specialise in different areas of SEO. Since the project can be split, data will be delivered at a much faster rate. Giving you more time to make informed decisions based on the information you are presented.
Experts will work with you directly and give each client more of their time. You will usually be able to gauge the relationship based on the amount you pay for the project.
An agency will have multiple ongoing clients whereas an expert is likely to focus on a select few. Meaning, your business means more to them than an agency. They will have an entire overview of every aspect of the project. Theoretically meaning they should be able to answer any questions you have.
Making a Decision
Both parties should be able to meet your requirements. If they can't, they aren't right for you. Not every business has a disposable income to spend on marketing efforts. If that's the case for you, you need to ensure that you are getting equal results for the investments made.
Investing in the wrong option will always be costly. Using your own knowledge gained from self-educating, you should be able to recognise which party knows what they are talking about.
It's also crucial to consider multiple options. If you are set on going with an independent expert, talk to a few. Understand what each charge and what the proposed results will be. Cost normally equals value.
Know that if you want projects completed earlier, it will cost more. If your budget is minimal, you aren't likely to receive a high level of result.
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