Do-it-yourself SEO, also known as DIY SEO, is one of the most popular phrases tossed around in small business as it relates to small businesses bootstrapping their own SEO efforts.
It seems like every few months I field an email or phone call where a small business has had some sort of prior experience with an SEO professional or agency.
Sometimes they are looking to perform their own SEO in house, or they want to discuss and understand whether their small business should perform DIY SEO or hire an SEO professional or agency.
Typically, their reason for calling me is to have Kickstart Commerce to perform a free SEO audit of their current website.
They either heard from another Kickstart Commerce customer of our free SEO audit service offering, or they were performing a DIY SEO or small business SEO services search online and found one of our website or blog search results.
I realize that offering free SEO audits are somewhat an opportunity for companies to try and take advantage of the offer, especially when they hide the fact that they are looking to perform DIY SEO.
For some, their hope is that I will give away the SEO farm without them having to pay one dime, while others are willing to pay Kickstart Commerce to perform audit findings and without much disagreement for pricing at all.
But today, I’ll share with you an experience that happened not too long ago with a company that had champagne taste on a sprite budget.
In short, this customer that wanted sound SEO and all the SEO trimmings, but was not willing to pay for the results they wanted.
Before beginning SEO services, have a SEO audit conducted
Initially, I had concerns about the phone call I received from this potential customer only based on the fact that they had been with 4 other SEO company engagements that all ended on a sour note.
This was red flag number one due to the fact that anytime a company, especially a small business, has been with 4 other SEO companies that all went south, things don’t tend to go well with anyone else that follows.
One of the things that surprised me most about this company was the fact that they were very passionate about having their website ranked with white-hat SEO tactics.
In addition, this company knew very clearly what black-hat SEO was, and were to answer some of my typical SEO screening questions that most small business owners have not a clue as to how to answer.
When small business owners don’t have a clue about black-hat SEO, I take the time to inform and educate them about the common pitfalls of small business SEO services, and the negative impact of black-hat SEO on their website and business overall.
But this small business seem to be ahead of the curve which set my heart at ease, kind of.
The more and more I screened this company and tried to follow my process, the more the small business owner and a few of their employees kept trying to move the conversation to pricing and start date.
At one point, probably frustrated with me pulling the conversation back to my screening and questioning process, the business owner put it all on the line and said, “Look, either you can help our company and rank us for the keywords we want, or you can’t, right? Which one is it?”
This should have been red flag number two. But not flustered by the small business owner’s impatience, I simply questioned the small business owner why their company called Kickstart Commerce if they didn’t think I could rank their website using white-hat SEO.
That comment definitely turned the table on the conversation although, by that time, I had come to the conclusion this company was ready for an SEO audit.
I explained to the small business owner and the team that it was in their best interest that I perform an SEO audit at no cost. I explained this audit could possibly undercover negative SEO tactics that were previously used by the former SEO companies or by their company.
Believe it or not, performing a free SEO audit actually saves me money and time before ever agreeing and committing to performing SEO services for any type of small business.
If a small business is trying to hide previous black-hat SEO tactics, unknowingly or knowingly, a SEO audit can save me from tirelessly trying to rank a website hindered by deceptive SEO practices to begin with.
Injured or severely penalized websites can sometimes be triple the work in time and money in terms of rehabbing the website and search rankings with white-hat SEO.
Small businesses looking for FREE hand-held DIY SEO always pay in the end
This small business did accept my offer of a free SEO audit, and were thrilled to receive my comprehensive audit which outlines step-by-step the various problems and corrective action steps to take to remedy the problems.
Some SEOs say I’m crazy for doing this because some companies could take the report and hire in-house staff to complete it. And to some extent, that is my reasoning for giving free SEO audits away.
I want people to understand that there is nothing shady about the SEO audit should they hire Kickstart Commerce, their own staff or show the report to another company.
There is nothing to hide, and that can’t always be said about the SEO industry in general, or SEOs and agencies that tout themselves as professionals. But I digress.
Long story short, the small business asked me what my process was as to ranking them for their list of keywords. I informed the small business that my plans were to perform the audit corrective actions and then start optimized content marketing.
I explained in great detail, as I always do for each customer, about how I would write content to educate, inform and engage their customers first, and search engines last.
In addition, I explained how Kickstart Commerce would write unique articles to only be published by other high-quality websites that were related to their industry versus low-quality content on irrelevant websites, minisites (also known as buffer sites), or deceptive SEO link wheels.
Of course, telling my process in detail gives potential customers and customers the keys to the kingdom to do their own SEO.
And without hesitation, this small business of less than 15 employees were convinced that they could do a better job than I could.
And they let me know by the end of our SEO audit meeting, opting to not move forward with paying for the SEO audit corrective actions.
Why and how DIY SEO tends to fail or lead to destroying search rankings
Now here’s where things get interesting. Anytime a potential customer or customer opts for DIY SEO, I gladly step aside.
However, I do offer small business owners SEO words of wisdom as well as point them to this blog and my Practical SEO Guide for Small Business ebook, which covers in-depth SEO examples and insights for optimal search rankings. Not all customers are successful, but not all customers fail.
Most small business owners feel empowered by the knowledge they receive in the SEO audit. The SEO audit gives the appearance that the work can be performed by anyone, and in truth, it can.
However, the missing piece of the equation for how quickly DIY SEO can be performed is all about how much SEO experience one attains.
I’ve spent the last 10+ years learning the the hard knocks of DIY SEO for my own websites as well as a consultant and employee of small to medium sized businesses.
If there is one thing I know about DIY SEO, it is that it usually takes longer than one expected and will greatly cost a company in time, money and effort should they ever figure it out.
Not to mention the fact that most small business owners and businesses lose focus on their core competency attempting DIY SEO efforts. So in reality, the small business loses time twice.
And let’s not talk about results or the lack of results. Most small businesses rarely ever see results from DIY SEO, and should they see results, it’s typically negative results from improper DIY.
As this was the case for the company I previously mentioned. They spent almost 9 months performing DIY SEO that did more harm than good in the end.
From improper execution of SEO tactics to changing the website architecture multiple times without ever considering SEO impact to not having enough skilled personnel to execute sound content marketing, this company severely damaged their website search rankings, falling to page ten and beyond for most of their keywords.
This small business thought they could save money performing DIY SEO and laugh all the way to the bank with all the new traffic, customers and sales they would receive from their efforts.
In the end, all they did was lose an exponential amount of money, time, and potential and existing customer opportunities along the way.
When in doubt and when DIY SEO has gone wrong, call in the professionals
And not being cocky or arrogant, I was not surprised when this small business came limping back into the picture in desperate need for a SEO professional to rectify the situation. Once again, I performed another website audit.
This time, there was no team present in the SEO audit meeting as it was just the small business owner and myself. Things got so bad that this small business owner had to reduce the team from full-time status to part-time status until things turned around for the company financially.
As I previously did before, I explained to the small business owner my plan of action to rectify the DIY SEO that had gone wrong, and the owner humbly signed the correct.
The irony is that exactly three weeks after being given the green light to be the SEO authority over the website, fixing every inch, nook and cranny to be more effective and search-friendly, the website began ranking for the previous keywords as well as 15 new keyword phrases.
Not only did previous search rankings return, but search result impressions that were in the high double digits nearly tripled. This caused the small business website search rankings to move to pages one and two. Their website is now receiving five times the traffic, and the small business owner has been able to re-hire three of the previous employees.
The sad thing about this entire experience is the fact that this company, as well as other small business companies, shouldn’t have to lose 9 or so months in time, revenue and customers to figure out that they are not the most qualified to execute DIY SEO. Some learn this painful lesson, while others stay in their lane of expertise and hire professionals outside their core expertise.
Personally, I know this all too well as I’m quick to hire an electrician, mason, roofer, or any other professional outside of my sphere of expertise. Doing so saves me time, money, and heartache from all the costly mistakes I could and would make along the way.
So I encourage those of you not experienced in the sphere of SEO to hire an SEO expert, and not fall prey to the common pitfalls of small business DIY SEO.