Here's a quick SEO story about two companies with whom I work. They are in the same industry. They are both local companies that have to compete with each other as well as national brands. They are both trying to optimize their sites for search engines. However, they are going about it in completely different ways.
Third Party SEO
Company A is using an outside SEO agency to optimize their site and get them more traffic which they hope will turn into more business. The Third Party SEO should have their interests aligned with Company A's interests, right? If their efforts don't work, they won't keep Company A's business. But, there's a problem. It is in the interest of the SEO company to get and keep business for themselves ... not to get and keep business for their client Company A.
But yes, they do have to prove their worth. They have to show Company A that it is worth keeping them around. However, no matter how incredible the Third Party SEO is, they cannot guarantee that Company A will sell any more of their products. So what the Third Party SEO does is change the stakes. They provide analytics and metrics and graphs and refer to studies that show what work they have done and what benefit it has provided. Company A looks and says, "Wow, look at this! They have all of these forms, and they can track where people go when they come to my site. And would you look at the call to action!"
However Company A has forgotten the point of SEO. The point of SEO is not to rank higher with a search engine. The point of SEO is to grow! The point of SEO is to grow your business or organization or influence. Higher ranking, more hits, more likes and more retweets are not a return on your investment. They are at best a means to an end.
Company B has decided to try to optimize their site inhouse. In fact, the owner of the company is taking the reigns. To be honest with you, he's a busy guy, and it will be a slow process. He has already begun to be more engaging on Facebook and has plans to pick up his Twitter as well. He's starting to blog and wants to be as helpful as he can to the community with the information he puts out there. He's running analytics, but really can't understand most of it. He just sees what on the site is of interest to people, and he tries to focus his time on that.
His interest is, of course, to grow his business. He knows good and well that to do that he has to optimize his business and his website for his clients. If SEO helps him do that, he is thrilled. If it gets in the way, he will drop it in a heartbeat. Sure, he wants to be first in a Google search, and he wants people to like and share his blog posts. That's not really the goal, though.
Company B's owner remembers that the goal is to sell more productive and provide better service to more people. SEO is a tool for accomplishing that goal. He's not an expert in any of it yet, but he's learning how to promote his business through a new medium.
Company A has already spent thousands of dollars on SEO, and they feel like they are spinning their wheels. Company B has not spent a dime on SEO, though they plan to boost things up a bit later.
Both companies are in the early stages, but I'm going to continue to monitor their progress. I'll try to give a follow up post on how they're doing. My guess is that Company B is going to be very pleased with their progress while Company A will be very frustrated with their lack of return.