TL;DR: You can absolutely do SEO on your own, but there’s a lot to take into account to develop and implement an effective strategy. This includes:

SEO is like working out. We all know that adding keywords to posts and linking to other pages are good practices to help climb in Google. But that’s like going to the gym a couple times a week, doing the exercises you feel like on the day, and not watching your diet.

You may see some minor improvements in your physique, but unless you put a full fitness plan in place, you’re not going to get the results you really want. 

Many business owners take this approach to search visibility and, after months of unimpressive results, begin to wonder, can I do SEO on my own? Is it even possible to climb the SERFs (Search Engine Ranking Factors) without spending thousands of dollars hiring an expert?

The answer to this question is exactly the same as, “can I get fit without a personal trainer?”

Yes, it’s entirely possible—provided you work out regularly, follow a strict diet, and trust in the process. Developing a holistic SEO strategy that builds over time and gets results is simply a matter of routine and discipline. 

It’s true that an SEO expert can essentially work out for you. But if you want to take control and save money in the process, it’s up to you to put in the time and effort to make it a success. 

Happy woman taking a break in the middle of a DIY project

DIY SEO: Is it worth it? 

We’ve established that it’s possible but time consuming to do SEO on your own. Now it comes down to—is it worth it?

Firstly, there’s no denying that SEO is absolutely vital for long-term business success. 

An incredible 95% of search traffic clicks on the first page of Google. If you rank highly for a keyword that’s relevant to your business, no other form of lead generation comes close to garnering this kind of traffic. That’s because 93% of all online experiences begin with a search, and an incredible 80% of local searches convert.

Whether you take it on yourself or not is really up to the individual. For some business owners, you have too much going on and the investment in time and resources necessary to make it a success outweighs the benefits.

That said, if you do have enough time to dedicate to your own SEO strategy, the skills you learn will be invaluable. Once you get over the initial learning curve, you are able to apply the knowledge you have to any situation, including having a much better understanding of what goes into and is required for SEO when/if you do decide to delegate to someone else.

Finally, just like with working out, SEO is never ending and it’s not just about getting to the top of Google but staying there. Unless you take the time to learn SEO, you’ll always have to rely on someone else. 

As we said, there’s no right or wrong answer and it depends on your own situation. By knowing exactly what’s involved, you can better judge whether it makes sense for you to take on your own SEO strategy and implementation. 

Demystifying SEO jargon

Jargon is off putting and people often claim to find it annoying in professional settings. However, the problem isn’t jargon words themselves but the context where they’re used. What people rail against is the meaningless usage of in-vogue buzzwords to “ideate,” “disrupt” or “think outside the box”.

But language is essential to express new ideas and within certain niches words develop to explain what’s going on. The words associated with SEO, such as “crawling,” “thin content,” “orphan pages” etc. each have a specific purpose. 

The jargon associated with SEO puts a lot of people off before they even get started. But there’s no reason to. When understood in context, it is really quite simple. 

Before you begin developing your SEO strategy, we would recommend becoming familiar with the most common SEO-related terms as even five-minutes of study can make the whole area much more accessible. 

Man laying concrete slabs on gravel foundation

Technical SEO foundations

Every aspect of your website influences your SEO from the moment it’s created. If you haven’t designed or launched your website yet, now is the time to make sure all the technical aspects are in place. But don’t worry if your website is already live as you can optimize these areas to improve your technical SEO.

Domain optimization

To provide a quick example, your actual domain needs to be defined so Google knows if your website begins with www or not. It’s a very small detail but if ignored can lead to issues with indexing and duplicate content. E.G.: or (But not both)

Then, whichever one you are not using should likely be redirected properly to the other to be sure someone trying to access the wrong one still gets to your website.

General rule for technical SEO

In general, as a rule of thumb, whatever is easier for a website visitor will be better for your SEO. As an example, your website should have an easy-to-navigate flat structure, solid internal linking, and (if you wish) breadcrumb navigation. 

These are just a few instances of how technical aspects of your website can influence SEO. Unless you’re particularly tech savvy, you may need to get help with this. However, the good news is that it’s a one-and-done job for the most part and will only need irregular support if completed properly. 

If you’d like to find out more about what’s involved with technical SEO, check out our article that goes into more detail on the subject.

Crawling, rendering, indexing

These also fall under the umbrella of technical SEO but they are much more vital than the general website optimization best practices. Let’s put it this way, if you don’t define your domain between using www or not, it will harm your efforts but it won’t destroy your chances entirely. 

But if you don’t take the key steps that allow bots to crawl, render, and index your pages, it’s physically impossible to appear on Google’s or any search results at all. 

The first step here is to submit a sitemap, which lets the search engines understand the layout of your website. From there, you will need to take a series of actions to ensure that Googlebot (Google’s spider or a crawler), is able to make sense of your web pages and sees them as important enough to list in their search results. 

Again, this is a very simple overview. We have another post that goes into more detail about crawling, rendering and indexing and if you’d like more detail about this stage, we’d recommend checking it out. 

Creating and maintaining content

Everything above may appear complex and daunting but it really is just the beginning of any SEO initiative. If you aren’t confident with it, you can easily outsource support to optimize all your technical SEO aspects and take it over from there. 

Once the technical foundations are in place, the long SEO game begins—and this is the part that literally anybody can take control of to climb Google. 

If you already have a website up and running, it is a good idea to audit your website to look for any low value content or duplicate content as that can lower your trust in Google and affect your ranking. 

But it’s not all about eliminating poor content, you also need to develop a strong content strategy to produce regular, valuable content that appeals to real humans, as opposed to the bots. It’s something of a cliché now, but the fact remains that content is king. 

The lion’s share of the content creation will take place when the website is first being built and will remain largely unchanged or only need to be updated progressively over time. With regard to SEO, the most important step to take here is to research keywords for your website and make sure each page has one focus keyword that makes sense for your business. If your website content has already been created, you can go through and add relevant keywords to each page based on your research. 

Once the general website content has been created, you’ll need to turn your attention to blog posts. Blogs are key pieces of the SEO puzzle and by providing regular, long-form, valuable content that has been well researched and features appropriate keywords, you can begin climbing the rankings.

Boosting website speed

As a rule, none of us are very patient on the internet. If a website takes even a few seconds to load, we are likely to give up and find the next alternative. The specific statistics change over time, but a website that brings in $100,000 a day can miss out on $2.5 million in revenue because of a one-second delay. 

Those numbers are higher than many business owners bring in but if you average $100 a day, that’s $25,000 a year. No matter what way you look at it, there’s a huge financial cost for just a one second delay. 

This means that the speed of your website plays a substantial factor in the success of your SEO. Think of it this way, it doesn’t matter how good your website is if nobody waits around long enough to see it. 

Ensuring your website’s speed requires a holistic approach, but it is worth taking the time to do as it will determine the success of all your other SEO efforts. 

Team of professionals working together around a laptop

Whether you hire professional help or go it alone, much of your SEO success will depend on how well you keep up with the trends. If you transported an SEO expert from 2009 to today, the vast majority of what they would recommend would now be considered bad practice. 

At one point in time, the best-performing SEO blog posts were around 500 words. Many businesses would simply copy the content that was performing well and post it as their own. Then there was the practice of keyword stuffing, which used to produce results.

If you tried any of those “best practices” today, you’d either not rank or be penalized by Google. The reason for this is because Google is interested in providing searchers with the most relevant content for them and will frequently change their algorithms to ensure that. If people find a way to cheat the system and show up without providing valuable, relevant content, Google will change the system to try and avoid this from continuing to happen. 

But there are other factors at play apart from relevance that Google takes into account. As we’ve already touched on, speed plays a role and Google will rank a faster website higher than a slow one. 

Another area that’s becoming increasingly important is digital accessibility. In general, this is something that all website owners should be aware of and develop a strategy for as it has wide-ranging repercussions and helps include everyone in society. But with regard to SEO, you should at the very least be optimizing your images for accessibility.

The final word: Can I do SEO on my own?

After reading this post and seeing what’s involved you may be feeling overwhelmed. Well, when it comes to taking control of your SEO, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. 

At Watchdog Studio, we offer a DIY SEO management platform, which puts you in the driver seat. The platform will guide you through everything involved in the creation of your SEO strategy, including keyword research and optimization—all without paying for an SEO expert.

What’s more, you won’t be entirely alone as we will provide a personalized video to ensure your plan is properly oriented and actionable. From then on, the platform will provide you with monthly, easy-to-follow action items to implement your strategy and begin climbing on google.

So, can you do SEO on your own? The answer is definitely yes—but with the help of DIY SEO management software, you can get where you want more quickly.

About The Author
Justin Korn

Justin is the founder of Watchdog Studio, and former Director of IT at both Wells Fargo Securities and AirTreks. A prodigy of the dotcom era, he now provides businesses in Oakland, California and the surrounding Bay Area with honest, expert website services to drive growth.