Why you don’t need an SEO agency

If you’re just getting started with your business, don’t be fooled into thinking you need to pay for a costly SEO agency before your website starts showing up on Google. When you’re working with a limited (or even non-existent) marketing budget, there’s a lot of stuff you can do with your own two hands to improve your organic traffic.

Here’s what SEO agencies won’t tell you

The easiest way to get to the top of the search results is to publish a lot of great quality content, and most SEO agencies can’t do that. They’ve probably got a bunch of SEO copywriters who can churn out low-quality blog posts stuffed with all the right keywords for your industry, but that’s not going to help you when all your competitors are doing the exact same thing.

I’ll try to make this as simple as possible. For a website to perform well in search engine results, you need two things:

  • Content (blog posts, landing pages, video, images) that’s highly relevant to what your business does, so that when Google looks at your website it can form a clear picture of what your business is all about.
  • Links from other websites pointing to yours, and ideally those websites should also be highly relevant to what your business does, so that Google knows your website contains useful information (every link to your site from a third party is a vote of confidence).

If your site is full of shitty, low-quality content that doesn’t provide people with anything useful, nobody is going to link to it.

On the other hand, if your website is full of really great quality articles and resources that people find helpful, they’re going to share it on social media and link to it from their own websites. And that creates a snowball effect, because the more your content gets shared, the more it gets seen, the more it gets shared.

So this is my mantra; the number one thing you should do to get your online business noticed is to create as much genuinely helpful content as you can, and never stop. Think about what problems your customers have, what questions are they asking, what advice are they looking for, what resources would be helpful to them, and give them answers.

Get that first part right, and the links will soon follow. At the very beginning you’ll need to do some work to get your content seen in the first place, but once your site starts to become established as a source of useful information, people will be able to find it much more easily.

But what about ‘technical SEO’?

When people talk about ‘technical SEO’ they generally mean ensuring that your website is properly structured so that it doesn’t have any technical problems that might stop it from performing well in search engines. These could be things like broken links, missing sitemaps, incorrect use of title tags, missing alt-text on images – and if all this stuff sounds complicated, it’s not, they can usually be fixed very easily.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of getting this right, but as far as I’m concerned technical SEO is a distant second to great quality content in terms of how you should prioritise your time. Good content will outweigh poor optimisation. That’s not to say you shouldn’t worry about it, but focus on the content first and try to fix technical issues whenever you can.

And the good news is that technical SEO doesn’t have to cost you anything – there are free tools that will help you spot any problems and tell you how to fix them. So long as your website is sensibly built and follows widely accepted standards and best practices, there’s not going to be much wrong with it from a technical perspective.

If you’re using WordPress as your blogging platform, just install the Yoast SEO plugin, and it will flag any problems with your blog, along with specific guidance for solving them right there in your WP dashboard. The basic plugin is free, and while premium features are available for more advanced users, the free version will make a big difference.

You should set up Google Search Console for your site, because this gives you clear information right from the horse’s mouth. As well as showing you exactly how your site is performing in Google, the Search Console will identify any major problems which are holding you back. I would trust Google’s advice above an SEO consultant every single time.

Also set up a free Ahrefs account for your site. This is a great SEO tool which also provides information about your site performance as well as highlighting any technical problems. Like Yoast, it’s a freemium product, the basic version provides everything you need to get started and there are more advanced options available when you need them.

The good news about technical SEO is that once you start using these tools and get used to seeing the kind of issues they flag up, you’ll learn very quickly what’s important to get right. Soon you won’t need to think about SEO at all because you’ll just bake it into your regular process when adding new content to your site.

Time is on your side

Earlier I said there are two things a site needs to perform well in search engines, good content and plenty of backlinks, but I missed one other important thing, time. It takes a while to build organic traffic, especially for brand new sites. It can take months for your content to start showing up in search results.

Anybody who tries to tell you they can give you fast SEO results is a liar. If you need quick results, the best thing you can do is invest money in Google Ads – then you’ll start getting traffic to your site almost immediately. But we’re focused on long term organic growth. This doesn’t cost you money, but it does cost you time and effort.

And the beauty of organic is that it keeps providing an ongoing return on investment. All that content you create, all the work you put into technical optimisation, and all the links that you earn with your content, that stuff will keep giving you web traffic for years to come.