As companies realize how valuable high search engine rankings can be for business, they often want to know how to develop their own search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities. The answer depends on the approach that's desired: train existing personnel, hire an outside consultant or build a new team of employees.
But before deciding on an approach, it's important to understand the different functions of an SEO team and the skills needed for each part of the optimization process. A good SEO team requires all of the following:
- Project management: At least one person should develop measurable SEO goals, delegate tasks and follow up to be sure objectives are being achieved.
- Technical SEO and data analysis: Any SEO project requires data analysis in the form of keyword research, traffic measurement and goal evaluation. Someone should be able to draw conclusions from the data your SEO efforts produce.
- Content creation: In many cases, SEO activities require large amounts of new content in the form of articles, infographics and other images. So a creative mind is a must on your SEO team.
- Link building: Because back links can play a tremendous role in your website's rankings, SEO teams should have at least one person who will pursue link-building opportunities and solicit back links.
- Web development: In addition to back links, a number of other variables figure into SEO, including site speed, internal linking and navigation, and content indexing. You'll need someone who can modify your site according to the latest SEO standards.
Here are the common ways you can add these skills to your organization:
Train existing employees.
Depending on the size of your company, you may already have employees with the necessary skills. For example, marketing or advertising employees may be familiar with SEO principles, while your IT staff may understand how to make necessary website modifications.
Even if your employees are unfamiliar with SEO, they may have the right skills and mindset to be trained to perform SEO tasks. An accounting department employee, for example, may possess strong data analysis skills, which could be translated to SEO activities.
There are a number of free online tools available that employees can use to learn SEO. For example, online SEO communities SEOMoz and SEOBook offer free tutorials and trainings. Employees who require a more directed, in-depth approach might condsider the online training courses offered by Moorpark, Calif.-based Bruce Clay Inc. (prices start at $495 per course) or the University of San Francisco (prices vary).
Most paid training options are relatively inexpensive compared to hiring a consultant or a full-time employee, but what you save in cost will be traded for time spent. Even the most driven employee can require several months to get up-to-speed on current SEO practices, with those working on complex projects or large websites needing even longer.
Retain an SEO consultant.
If you don't have employees with the right skills or the time to take on more responsibilities, you might consider hiring an SEO consultant. That way, you'll be able to launch your optimization campaigns as quickly as possible, using the latest techniques.
Hiring an SEO consultant can be cheaper than recruiting new employees to do the same thing. Consultants typically bill on a per project basis, which allows you to purchase only as much of their services as you need, and their independent contractor status means you won't be responsible for payroll taxes.
The majority of SEO projects are billed on a "per project" basis -- rather than "per hour" -- with average costs between $1,000 and $7,500, according to a survey conducted by SEOMoz of more than 600 SEO consultancies. Although this is no small investment, hiring an SEO consultant could enable you to perform necessary SEO tasks without the greater expenses associated with hiring a new full-time employee.
Hire an SEO team.
If your SEO needs are extensive, the costs of hiring a consultant can add up. If you anticipate needing a substantial amount of SEO work over a long period of time, it may be more cost-effective to bring in full-time or part-time employees with the specific skills you need. They can devote their full energy and time to your SEO tasks.
On average, in-house SEO workers typically earn between $45,000 to $100,000 per year in salary, depending on the specific roles they fill and their experience within the industry. To find in-house workers for your SEO team, you can try searching SEO Jobs, SEO Jobs Finder and the SEO Consultant Directory.
If you anticipate needing a substantial amount of SEO work over a long period of time, bringing in skilled employees with the specific talents described above may be the most cost-effective way to build your own SEO team.