SEO is an industry where scale brings additional benefits; it gives an advantage to the agencies and a disadvantage to all in-house efforts. In my opinion, this is the most common reason why things go wrong when you to do your own SEO in competitive segments.
There are really two basic principles in search engine optimization. The first is to know what to do. The other is to do it.
The first principle is like peeling a banana. Once you have the knowledge to do SEO, you have a nearly inexhaustible source of knowledge. Of course, the execution part takes more time, but it is only half of the work. It also works in the way that the more knowledge you have, the less you need to actually do – to a certain extent.
Almost Everyone Fails
Almost every in-house effort I’ve seen fails due to one of these two reasons. Either you hire an SEO specialist who really knows SEO, or you hire someone who could be described as an executor. The problem with a senior specialist is that you pay them pretty good money and still need to get someone to do the practical aspects of the job. My experience is that few seniors are willing to stay very long in a role that requires too much junior-level work. The problem with hiring someone with junior skills is that without the guidance from someone who has carried out a large number of SEO projects, you basically get a glorified webmaster.
The most common failure I’ve seen over the years is this idea: If I build a lot of sites and link to my own site, then I should be number one. This often seems like a great idea on the drawing board. I have seen maybe 100 such attempts, but I don’t think more than a handful has succeeded for more than one or two years. Then it is cancelled, forgotten, or simply stops delivering value. No offense to all those who work in-house, it is my view that this is simply not doable in many cases. At least it cannot be implemented well and in a sustainable way.
I Still Think That We Will See More In-House SEO
While in a conversation with a former colleague who now works in-house at one of Europe’s largest online companies, something dawned on me. He is not so pleased with what they can achieve, he is often the only one with SEO knowledge in the projects and has no one to bounce ideas off. Sure, he has juniors who can do the work (the company has made a big investment in SEO) but when Google does major updates, he’s the only one.
Despite this, it became quite clear to me that SEO is increasingly becoming an in-house matter. The reason for this is that search engine optimization is becoming more accessible. More and more people are able to manage SEO projects as long as they’re not too complex. This makes it possible to hire staff, even if you’re not an agency.
If you are interested in reading more on the topic, I can recommend an earlier article I wrote on the same theme. It is about why it is so difficult to succeed with in-house SEO. A slightly different reason for another type of complexity.