SEO (search engine optimization) is the heartbeat of online marketing.
Without a sound SEO foundation in place, it’s nearly impossible to generate the kind of results your business needs to enjoy sustained growth and success.
But SEO can be highly technical.
It’s a skill that requires knowledge, practice, and careful execution.
As such, SEO can also be expensive.
If you want to grow as a professional and simultaneously maximize resources, becoming an expert in the SEO field is a must.
The question is, how do you make it happen?
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What is an SEO Expert?
An SEO expert isn’t someone who works for Google or has some secret formula that takes advantage of a weakness in the search giant’s algorithm.
It doesn’t even mean that you need to start a successful SEO agency and have high-dollar clients.
Being an SEO expert is about understanding how the search engines work and knowing what it takes to grow organic search traffic on a consistent and repeatable basis.
But, unlike other industries where “experts” might be regulated by exams, certifications and a governing body, anyone can read enough to be dangerous and subsequently claim “SEO expert” status.
Filtering out the inexperienced can be difficult, especially among those who may be great at selling, but lackluster at delivery.
When you’re an SEO expert, the internet becomes your playground.
You’re able to breathe life into blogs, websites, and businesses.
You also have a thorough understanding of other aspects of marketing – like content, design, and social media – which makes your skillset highly transferrable.
The 2 Main SEO Options
Before we dive into what it looks like to become your own SEO expert, we would be remiss not to mention the other two options you, as a business owner have: outsourcing SEO to an agency/contractor, or hiring an in-house SEO expert.
Advantages of Outsourcing to an SEO Agency
An SEO agency is beneficial for numerous reasons, including:
- It’s cheaper than hiring someone. When you hire someone in-house, you have to pay a salary (regardless of output). You’re also required to cover payroll taxes, benefits, etc. With an agency, you simply pay for what you get – no added fees or expenses. When managed properly, this can make it a cost-effective solution.
- It’s flexible and scalable. An outsourced SEO agency is more scalable than anything else. As you grow, you simply up your monthly retainer or service needs.
- You get an outside perspective. Sometimes it’s helpful to work with people outside of your company. They can provide a unique perspective that’s impossible to see when you’re on the inside.
- You can fire an agency easier. Firing an employee is complicated, emotional, and fraught with legal and financial consequences. An agency, on the other hand, can easily be fired when they don’t live up to their promises.
Disadvantages of Outsourcing to an SEO Agency
Working with an agency isn’t perfect. There are some disadvantages, such as:
- Communication can be tough. One of the biggest disadvantages of working with an SEO agency is that you might not ever meet face-to-face. While this can save time in some regards, it can lead to unnecessary friction and frustration in other areas. It all depends on how good the agency is at handling communication.
- You’re not their only focus. Most agencies won’t sign an agreement of exclusivity with you. This means they have the right to work with your competitors, or any other company.
- You lose some control. Even if you provide clear instructions, there will always be some lack of control when you outsource to an agency. You must learn to be comfortable with this.
Advantages of Hiring an In-House SEO Expert
In-house SEOs can help your business in many ways:
- You’ll remain in full control of the process at all times. Most SEO agencies will offer transparency to their clients and strive to get direction and guidance from business owners. However, most agencies also have tried-and-true operations and practices that aren’t easily movable. An in-house SEO expert guarantees you some level of transparency, and gives you near-full control over what strategies get implemented (and how). As long as you trust your expert, you’ll be in a good position.
- You’re guaranteed to have a representative fully immersed in your brand. Intimate knowledge of your brand is necessary to complete SEO work successfully. Ideally, you’ll be producing content, social media posts, and maintaining relationships with external sites throughout the entirety of your campaign, so if you’re using someone who lives and breathes your brand, you’ll have a greater chance of keeping everything consistent. This advantage is weakened if you also use contractors for your work.
- You can always outsource parts of the work. Using other contractors is also an inherent advantage of having an in-house SEO agent. Because agencies generally take on all SEO responsibilities at once, you don’t have many options when it comes to work orders. With an in-house agent, you can find other experts and contractors to bring on for portions of your strategy. For example, you can mix, match and hire a team of SEO writers and link builders to suit your strategy best.
- In-house SEOs can collaborate with your team. The best SEO strategies involve the entire team—designers can make more appealing websites, developers can include more SEO-friendly architecture, and even account managers can help your social media and external link building efforts. Having an in-house SEO means hosting more SEO-related collaboration within your organization.
- You’ll benefit from cross-training. Your in-house SEO expert might be able to take on some peripheral responsibilities, giving them a dual role, or might be able to impart some knowledge on another one of your team members. Either way, your team will improve through cross-training.
Disadvantages of Hiring an In-House SEO Expert
There are also some serious disadvantages that come with in-house SEOs:
- You’ll probably end up spending more money. Agencies get a lot of criticism for being expensive, but the reality is, most are inexpensive compared to the cost of hiring someone full-time. A full-time salary for an experienced guru could easily be more than $3,000 a month, while SEO agency costs for lower packages start below $1,000. Consider all the costs and benefits thoroughly before making a decision.
- It’s impossible to have one person who’s an expert in everything. SEO involves a lot of moving parts; you’ll have onsite SEO, content writing, social media, link building, and dozens of other small strategies making up your overall campaign. It’s impossible to hire an in-house agent who is an expert in everything. Compare that to an agency, which deliberately hire an expert in each of field.
- There’s little accountability when something goes wrong. If your strategy doesn’t work with an in-house SEO expert, you can fire him/her, but that doesn’t exactly help your position and there’s little accountability beyond that step. With an SEO agency, you can point out a lack of progress and force them to step up their game if they want to keep you as a client.
- You won’t be able to grow as quickly. It takes a lot of time for an in-house agent to ramp up a strategy from scratch. Agencies generally move quicker, with more resources and more experience to get the job done.
- Your strategy won’t be quick to evolve with the times. Agencies are serving a variety of clients and are competing with other agencies. They have to stay well-versed in the latest SEO best practices if they want to survive. In-house SEOs, on the other hand, can easily sink into a habitual pattern of work that never grows or changes. There’s little incentive to change or adapt, which means your strategy could quickly become stagnant.
There’s no right or wrong answer to which SEO solution is right for your business.
Every business is different, and every business owner will have unique priorities.
If your ultimate priority is getting hard, measurable results and growing with the times, an agency might be best.
If you prefer to have more control, transparency, and brand immersion, there’s nothing that should stop you from hiring someone in-house.
But if you really want to take charge and develop the skills required to be successful in numerous areas of business, you might consider becoming your own SEO expert.
The Benefits of Becoming Your Own SEO Expert
While most business owners and entrepreneurs choose to outsource an SEO services agency or hire an in-house SEO specialist, there’s a third option: You can become your own SEO expert. In doing so, you’ll enjoy numerous short-term and long-term benefits, including:
1. You Can Grow Your Own Business
This is the number one perk of being an SEO expert.
This saves money, increases control, and puts your destiny in your own hands.
2. You Can Monetize Your SEO Skills
Your SEO skills aren’t reserved exclusively for your business.
If you’re smart about how you leverage your knowledge, you can monetize your new skills in other ways.
This may include consulting other businesses, obtaining a few SEO clients on the side, or even developing and selling authoritative SEO service content and educational resources.
3. You Can Start Successful Side Businesses
The great thing about being an SEO expert is that you suddenly have the skills to launch a business in any industry and enjoy quick success.
Whether it’s a physical products brand, a B2B service, a restaurant, or a random side hustle, you have the tools necessary to take a website and build it from the ground up.
4. You Can Flip Websites
Everyone’s familiar with house flipping, but are you aware of website flipping?
It’s the same basic concept.
You take a website that’s underperforming, you improve the SEO and generate more traffic, and then you sell the website at a higher price than you paid.
For an SEO expert with firsthand knowledge of how to generate organic traffic, acquiring domains and flipping websites is a great way to earn some supplementary income.
5. You Can Sell Leads
You don’t have to run a bunch of side businesses in order to generate additional income.
Another option is to create lead generation websites and then pass these leads along to qualified businesses in the industry.
For example, you can create a digital marketing website where you collect leads of small business owners.
But instead of reaching out to these leads on your own, you pass them along to another qualified marketing company.
The website is just the magnet – the leads are the product you’re selling.
6. You Can Become a Full-Time SEO Expert
Finally, if you decide that you love SEO and have a passion for helping businesses and websites earn traffic and leads, you may decide that you actually want to go into the industry full-time.
At this point, you can launch your own agency or become an SEO consultant for high-dollar clients. Either option can be extremely profitable.
7 Steps to Becoming an SEO Expert
With so many unique benefits and flexible opportunities, who wouldn’t want to become an SEO expert?
The challenge lies in actually acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to master this field. Here are some of the most important steps:
1. Learn the Basics
If you’re interested in becoming an SEO expert, you probably already possess some elementary knowledge of what SEO is all about.
However, now would be the time to refresh your understanding and identify any of the missing puzzle pieces.
Technical search engine optimization is at the heart of internet marketing, but it’s not the only aspect. (Far from it, in fact.)
Metadata and keyword research are only two small elements in the larger equation.
However, if you can master these smaller aspects, it frees you up to focus on the more creative elements like content and links – which we’ll discuss in the following points.
2. Follow a Variety of Experts
You never want to limit your SEO knowledgebase to what you gather from just one or two people.
There’s a lot of room for interpretation and different schools of thought.
The more experts you follow and listen to, the better-rounded your SEO understanding will be.
Immerse yourself in as many books, courses, blogs, and content as you possibly can.
3. Become an Expert in Content Marketing
You can’t be an SEO expert without also being an expert in content marketing.
While some people treat these as two separate concepts, they’re entirely dependent on one another.
Content is the fuel to successful SEO and you can’t do one without the other.
Becoming an expert in content marketing doesn’t necessarily require you to become an exceptional copywriter (though it certainly helps).
You do, however, need to understand what good content looks like, how to develop a content strategy, how to find good writers, and how to generate persuasive calls-to-action that move the right people toward the right decisions.
4. Build the Right Relationships
In addition to content, you must grasp the important role of link building.
Links continue to be one of the primary ranking factors for search engines, but there’s a right and wrong way to accrue them.
Black hat link building involves sketchy strategies like using blog rolls, link farms, and spammy websites.
On the other hand, white hat link building is all about leveraging authoritative publishing platforms in a mutually beneficial way that adds value to both their readers and your website.
In order to implement white-hat link building at scale, you need powerful relationships with dozens of high authority websites, bloggers, journalists, and editors.
This requires extensive networking and relationship building.
5. Practice Technical SEO
It’s one thing to understand SEO in theory.
It’s something else entirely to execute an SEO strategy and generate results.
The only way to acquire the right SEO knowledge and get better is to practice – a lot!
Whenever you implement a new technique or strategy, dig into the analytics and study the results.
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- Where are you unclear?
The more purposeful you are in real-world case studies, the better you’ll understand how SEO works in the real world.
And the more technical SEO you delve into, the easier the SEO for beginners will be.
6. Use the Right SEO Tools
Part of being among top SEO experts includes having access to the right data.
And, the right data means using the right SEO tools, including, but not limited to:
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
The best SEO professionals are proficient in using these tools to enhance the actionable items they can tweak in order to win against competitors.
7. Execute Quality On-Page SEO
While much of the focus in digital marketing is on backlinks and off-page SEO, on-page SEO is becoming even more critical.
The likes of Google’s Helpful Content Update(s) (HCU) have seen major shifts in how crawlers interpret content.
AI is learning how to read human and AI content, filtering through low or medium quality and ultimately getting better at nailing search intent.
The right on-page optimization strategy will focus on:
- Titles and title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Image alt tags
- Schema markup
- XIF data
- Keyword density
- Internal linking
When your site is on-point, so too will be your SEO.
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