It seems every small business owner knows they should be doing search engine optimization. Anyone in their right mind would LOVE to get more web traffic to their business website.

Since typically web traffic converts to sales at about 2%, it simply makes sense that more traffic = more sales.

But most traffic isn’t free. SEO is different, however.

So today we are going to look into whether your small business needs to hire an SEO Specialist and find out if it is better to pay for SEO or to do it yourself.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the different ways you can get traffic to your website, and what it costs, so we can compare it to SEO.

Things you need to consider before doing SEO yourself…

  1. What is your budget (for courses, tools, and freelancers if you get stuck)
  2. How much spare time you have
  3. How technically savvy you are in terms of your companies existing website, or your willingness to learn some of the technical side of SEO (a bit of HTML knowledge helps a lot)
  4. How well you are able to convey what your company does and information about your topic into written web copy that
    1. is optimised to convert readers into buyers
    2. will engage the audience you are targeting
    3. users are easily able to comprehend
  5. Your patience in terms of waiting for the results of your hard work to happen. SEO doesn’t happen overnight, and it can be discouraging to work for months and see no results, even though you were on the right track

Some of the questions for yourself will have more of an impact on your decision than others. For example optimising a site well involved writing great content that it genuinely informative, and you shouldn’t underestimate the time that it takes to create such content. Think days, not hours.

Benefits of hiring an SEO Specialist

Hiring an SEO specialist comes with a handful of benefits which you simply don’t get by doing it yourself.

1. The rules for SEO change frequently

This can be frustrating for even the best SEO experts available. Who can keep up with all the changes, without getting worn out? The answer is an SEO specialist. That’s what they live for, and pays their bills.

With SEO, what worked a couple of years ago can simply no longer work today. In fact, it can actually be a huge mistake to apply old SEO tactics to websites today.

To keep up with what works in SEO, you need to know more than how to get links and write articles. You need to understand the technical side of your website, the user experience, social media, local SEO, content optimisation, and a number of other factors such as what makes a good backlink, and what makes a bad one.

2. You can avoid pricey mistakes

There are many mistakes that can easily cause your website to lose most or all of its organic search traffic. If you have a profitable website or one that’s already getting plenty of visitors, tackling SEO when you know little about it can lead to costly mistakes.

seo mistake

Take a look at what I mean above by a “pricey mistake”. Going from 2,000 visits a day to a few hundred is enough to cause panic in anyone!

What could have caused this? Poor management of a site redesign (particularly in regards to redirects), a Google Penalty for deceptive or malicious content, a terrible backlinking scheme, among a range of other options.

3. An SEO specialist will also understand web analytics

Web analytics and SEO go hand in hand. If you’re an expert in SEO, you’re generally very proficient at web analytics too. You need to be able to understand what content on your website is getting traction and attracting visitors, and how those visitors are finding you.

Hiring a specialist who knows how to read an interpret these analytics, and how to apply the insights to your strategy, can really make a difference in the success of your business.

Two tools that all SEO experts should be knowledgeable in are Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

4. They will understand how to track your competition

Understanding what your competitors are doing can have a huge impact on your business. A specialist will be able to analyse what the top ranking competitors are doing well, what they are doing wrong, what keywords they are using, and what your company can do to outrank these competitors.

Benefits of doing SEO yourself

Hiring an SEO specialist simply isn’t an option for many businesses. They cost a lot

1. You’ll save a heap of money

To employee an SEO specialist you’ll be looking to pay a salary of $40,000 to $100,000. That range probably isn’t much help, since the real price you’ll pay depends on how much experience the person has, and which country you are in.

According to Glassdoor, the average base page for an SEO Specialist is $66,848 annually.

seo specialist average salary

Keep in mind, you get what you pay for. I probably wouldn’t hire an intern, or recent graduate, to manage my websites SEO unless they have proven skills in ranking websites which they can showcase to you (eg a domain name which ranks highly for a sought after keyword). This doesn’t need to be for a large website, or for a paying client, it could be a website they have made in their spare time.

2. There are a number of tools available to help

Most SEO specialists have subscriptions to a number of tools. These include SEMRush, Ahrefs, Majestic, Screaming Frog, Deep Crawl…among others.

small business seo tools

These tools all require a level of understanding of SEO before you can really get stuck into them, but tools like Pulse Site Auditor is an SEO tool made specifically for small businesses and individuals who don’t have huge budgets, and also need more educational material mixed in with the analysis.

3. You’ll learn a lot of new skills

The three main pillars of SEO are link building, content, and on-page optimization. Most of what you’ll need to learn will fit into one of these three categories.

Link building simply refers to getting other high-quality sites to link to your website. This is actually much harder than it sounds. Sure, anyone can ask their blogger friends to link to them or submit their website to a few dozen free directories, but there is a difference between quality links and low-quality links.

A high-quality link, which will help your website rank higher in the search results, is a link from an authoritative website which is viewed highly in the eyes of Google. You don’t need to be an expert to figure out if a site is good quality. Getting a link from your national news website is amazing, and getting one from your local news website is great. Getting a link from your neighbours baking blog isn’t great unless she has hundreds of thousands of avid readers each month.

So unless you have some real hustle in you, it can be tough getting these high-quality links, because every other clued-up website owner wants them too. For this reason, an SEO specialist can help when it comes to link building.

Content refers to the written content that is on your website. The more quality content there is, the more likely you are to rank well. It comes down to this: if the first 10 results are well-written 3,000 word guides on a topic and your website has a 300-word guide, there is no way your site well rank above the others.

You need to blow the other sites out of the water. If their guides are 3,000 words, then your guides need to be at least 3,000, with great images and other media, to outrank them.

4. You’ll get a deeper understanding of your own website and business

Every website needs the following basics taken care of, and it is usually the SEO specialist or Digital Marketing Specialist who will be championing the installation and usage of these tools. However, if you do this yourself, and take a bit of time learning how to interpret the results, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your website and can better determine how to grow it further.

Setup Google Analytics – Google Analytics is the bread and butter web analytics platform, which the majority of websites choose to use. Best of all, it’s free. Google Analytics will be able to tell you what people are looking at on your website, what device they are using, which city they are in, and how they found your website (eg clicking a link from another site, finding you on social media, or via a search engine, amongst others). Your SEO specialist will be able to use this data to create their strategy. They’ll be able to see what content on your site is popular, and what content gets no visitors and perhaps needs to be removed or revitalized.

google analytics seo specialist

Setup Google Search Console – Google Search Console is another free, bread and butter tool, that all SEO specialists will want to have access to. Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster tools),

search console seo specialist

5. SEO could be managed in-house if not deemed a full-time job

If you have a substantial website, then yes an SEO specialist can be a full-time job. I’d consider a “substantial website” either an eCommerce store with over 1000 products or any website with over 250 pages of content. A full-time SEO expert could also be required in highly competitive industries such as life insurance or mortgage applications, even if the website is only 30 pages.

In most other cases, a full-time SEO specialist could be overkill. If you have an eCommerce Manager, or Content Manager, or even a Marketing Administrator, there is no reason they couldn’t spend a few hours a week learning and managing the optimisation of your website.

As mentioned earlier, there are a number of tools available to help people new to SEO analyse a website. Subscribing to a few of these which may cost at most $150 per month is much cheaper than an agency or dedicated staff member.

Ideally, the person learning to manage your organic search efforts will become proficient in the following topics:


Content is king. It (nearly) always was, and still is. 10 years ago your website could get by with having sub-par content, but these days it needs to be amazing.

Adding new content – Your specialist should be creating a calendar of new content to add to the website. For this, they may need to ask the experts within the business to help them. For example, if you own an architectural firm, and you want to rank for the term “fire engineering guidelines”, then your SEO specialist is most likely not going to be able to write a great article on this without the help of your other staff members.

Revitalizing old content – Now you know that your content needs to be better than the existing content from your highly ranked competitors, you may want to task your SEO specialist with reviewing your entire website and revitalizing old content. This could be via adding more information to the pages or adding more media such as images and videos to existing pages. It could even be simply updating the content to be relevant for the latest years news and trends, or adding more FAQs to your website if they feel some are missing

Removing thin or duplicate content – Thin content refers to pages which have little value to the user. It could be a page which is just 100 words which don’t really add any value or is explained better elsewhere on the website. Your SEO specialist will be able to advise whether you should simply remove these pages, or merge them into existing pages. Similarly, if your website has duplicate content, such as the same article on multiple pages, it is worth removing the duplicates and just having one official version of the content. There are a few little nitty-gritty things that are important to keep in mind when you remove content, namely setting up 301 redirects from the URL you plan to remove, to the page you want to redirect users to.

On-page Optimization

On-page optimization refers to dozens of little nitty-gritty things that most non-digital specialists probably won’t think about, or even know about. They include ensuring most of the following list of considerations are taken care of: meta titles, meta descriptions, H1 tags and H2 tags, page depth structure, redirects and redirect chains, page protocol, image filenames and alt tags, broken images, image size and compression, broken links, internal links, external links, URL length, URL quality….you get the picture.

SEO specialists will typically use a website auditor (such as Pulse site Auditor) to analyse their entire website and provide a report on what needs to be improved from an on-page perspective.

Here are a few on the main on-page optimization tasks for an SEO specialist to take care of:

Ensure the website is responsive – These days, if your site isn’t responsive (meaning it looks and functions just as great on mobile and tablet as it does on desktop), Google isn’t likely to rank you high in their results pages. Making a website responsive isn’t something the SEO specialist is likely capable of doing, but they should be able to check its responsiveness and badger the web developers to make it more mobile friendly.

Set enticing meta title and meta descriptions – The meta title and meta description are what appear in Google. Looking at Grey Lynn Dental below, the blue text is the meta title (“Grey Lynn Dental: Quality Auckland Dentists”) and the two lines below it in black is the meta description (“”Come and visit our gentle, fully qualified Auckland dentist. We offer general, preventative and cosmetic dentistry, tooth whitening, crown fillings, extractions.”). I probably don’t need to explain why you should make these as enticing as you can. Simply put, the more enticing they are, the more likely someone is likely to click on your business listing when it appears in the search results.

meta title and meta description

Decision time!

If you’re not quite ready to employee an SEO specialist, and don’t want to tackle SEO with 100%, but 70% effort (and there is nothing wrong with that! It’s better than no effort!), then we recommend finding someone in the business (or yourself if you are an owner-operator) and making them responsible for SEO. Depending on your business, this may be the web developer, the marketer, or the receptionist who has sufficient access to edit the website. If you are going this route, we would be stupid not to recommend arming them with our own product Pulse Site Auditor (you can get a 14-day free trial).

learn seo hands on

Pulse is a site auditor which is a fancy name for an automated tool that scans your entire website and tells you what on-page aspects of SEO and usability you could, and should, be fixing or doing better.

With Pulse, we tell you what needs improving on your website, why it needs improving, and how to improve it. We also explain each issue in layman’s terms so you can explain it to someone else, such as your boss or web developer.

No, I need an SEO specialist!

Great! Next step is getting a job description written, and the hiring underway. We can’t advise on how much an SEO specialist should earn, and we’d be here all day listing thousands of cities average pay bands for this type of role. You could start however by going on your favourite jobs website, and seeing what comparable roles are going for in your city.