I recently shared lunch with a fellow business owner from LA who wanted to know more about SEO and local search marketing for his business. He was particularly keen on trying to find out if he could do this by himself or if he needed to hire a company or at least a freelancer or an in-house employee to take care of his online marketing. He mentioned that he knows one of his local competitors was generating a lot of foot traffic due to their increased search visibility. His business was in the past twice as big as this particular competitor but he admitted that failure to innovate his marketing approach has hurt his bottom line, coupled with the recession and increasing costs contributed in creating the perfect storm that brought his business close to the brink of insolvency. It is unfortunate that we hear this story quite a few times to be an isolated anomaly even for established Los Angeles businesses.

Thoughts about giving him the whole spiel about SEO and trends in customer behavior crossed my mind but realizing he was here to find an answer to his primary question changed my response .Considering his particular circumstances my answer was “for your company SEO is best served professionally”. (Analogy alert) I used the restaurant as a comparison to convey the advantages of hiring an agency. I expressed that online marketing can be likened to preparing food for his business. I continue to state that he will not have the time to cook his company’s meals while running his day to day operations nor will he have the time to learn the latest recipes to keep them satisfied. If he hires a professional cook it would cost him a pretty penny considering payroll taxes and worker’s compensation sometimes more than an engagement with a company. A SEO agency is like a good restaurant where they have refined their offerings, updated their approach to remain relevant and have the resources to execute efficiently in serving you just what you ordered. He was delighted by the analogy and told me to sell him the idea of working with a professional agency.

Here are some of the points presented for hiring a professional outfit

1. Accountability – Dealing with an agency should provide you the confidence and peace of mind that your marketing initiatives are being taken care of. A legitimate agency will not promise what they cannot deliver for the sake of their reputation and other legal ramifications. An agency will inherently want to retain you as a client after the initial contract hence an innate bias for action and results. A contractual obligation to fulfill the agreement also states in black and white what to expect as performance indicators during the campaign. A professional outfit is responsible to ensure that continuous progress for your online presence is addressed. Lost rankings and poor conversions are some issues that are constantly monitored and rectified. You should be able to lean on the agency to perform for you while you take care of what you do best like running your business.

2. Expertise – A good agency will be staffed with experts in different SEO disciplines like Copywriting, Link Building, Analytics, Social Media, Local Search Optimization etc.. They will be tuned in to the latest search engine updates, constantly testing new concepts, integrating new technologies and qualifying industry news among other things they do in their daily job functions. It is after all their job to stay on top of their game as the web is always in constant flux. SEO experts will be able to provide sound strategies for achieving client’s online goals while staying away from bad practices that provide temporary rankings but will get your business website into a heap of trouble. With the myriad of articles on the web about SEO a business owner will be hard pressed to filter the good advice from the fluff if he chooses to go the DIY route. Collaboration between expert team members provides distinct advantages for the clients as many perspectives are aggregated into a working campaign to provide quality to all the facets of the program as opposed to a unilateral approach.

3. Experience – A strong case for hiring an agency is their ability to provide a concise operative game plan to address specific goals within a realistic time frame. You can easily get confounded on figuring out the scope of work for your project with all the possible routes you can take when marketing online. The agency experts will be able to outline an effective punch list to get the most out of your budget and time due to their experience in handling parallel projects and correlated geographic targets. There are subtle nuances that can only be discovered from extensively working on a variety of projects and niches.

4. Resources– A marketing agency will have invested on talent and technologies for ensuring project success. A professional company will have systems for project management, website crawlers, platforms for analytics, keyword research, competitor analysis, link building and monitoring etc .. Time is a valuable consideration for all businesses and the reduced time from conception to execution is something that an agency model addresses well. Take time to appreciate the systems in place and utilize them when offered. The cost to acquire and the expertise to operate these systems alone provide a strong case for working with an agency.

5. Costs – Hiring a SEO agency is not necessarily expensive. A customized a plan for your particular budget can be created to suit your needs. Some SEO agencies will even offer introductory pricing to entice new business to test out their capabilities. There is also a pay for performance pricing model that you can choose where the SEO gets paid in full only upon reaching specific goals.

There are for sure cases when hiring internally and doing SEO yourself are better alternatives but for the most part working with a SEO agency makes perfect sense.

We left the meeting talking about how to move forward in making his business more visible and more profitable but that is for another blog post .

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