What makes SEO so expensive is the quality of the traffic it produces and also the comparative (and competing) cost of paid traffic. With SEO producing organic traffic, a website listing on the first page of the search results will be perceived as of better quality than the ad to the right of it or above it. The huge cost of the paid alternatives in turn justifies those high SEO fees, while the quality of the organic results of SEO underpins any value-added extras which the SEO agency may choose to levy on top.
But it may be reassuring to know that there are some things that you could do better than an SEO agency if you put your mind to it. Here are ten of them.
Learning SEO For Life
If you opt to do your own SEO you'll be learning a skill for life. Learning SEO and being an SEO practitioner is an enjoyable and rewarding experience which endows you with a highly valuable (and marketable) skill set. Instead of thinking of it as just a DIY pursuit, think of it as part of your professional life. And make it personal, because SEO is a highly personal endeavour. There are tens of thousands of SEOs in the world right now, which means there are tens of thousands of different versions of SEO; each one is the correct one for the person using it, because it's right for them. By learning SEO you'll put yourself miles ahead of your business competitors for years to come. Learning needn't be expensive; start with Udemy and the excellent Moz Training; search for, join and contribute to relevant forums; always ask questions. Also, and very importantly, if you learn it yourself you'll never have anyone try to pull the wool over your eyes with jargon you don't understand.
At the risk of stating the obvious, there are immediate and long term cost savings by doing your own SEO. Agencies will charge you a continuous monthly fee and also tie you into a contract over a certain pre-arranged number of months or even years. Whether it's a large agency or a one-man consultant, you'll be paying through the nose for a long time.
More Relevant Keyword research
You know all the synonyms and bywords (including slang) which may be used in your own business sector. The SEO agency will not, relying instead on a generic knowledge of keywords and using keyword tools which themselves are also generic. You have a distinct advantage in that you can tap into sub-niches which your agency wouldn't necessarily know about. You could use this imaginatively, for example by creating subdomains on your site which are entirely about content based around those other search terms which your potential customers may know about and be searching for, but your agency won't necessarily be aware of. You also know local place name keywords which will not show up in Ahrefs or Majestic SEO.
Continuous Access to Data
Standard agency practice is to send their client (that's you) a report once a month. They will usually do this automatically, but sometimes you'll find it difficult to persuade them to send you any data more frequently than that. If you do all this yourself, of course, you'll have data whenever you want it. You can monitor campaigns, even hunches, on a day-to-day basis. Those ideas you have in the middle of the night can be actioned immediately.
Economies by Direct Contracting
When agencies supply expertise or any other resource they'll usually be more expensive because they're all hired through the agency at agency rates. Using diligence and a strong drive for the best solution, you could find the same quality of resources at a much lower cost. Anything bought from the same organization, under the same umbrella, will cost more than if sourced individually: that is one of the basic rules of business economics. Also make sure you're hiring the person who actually does the work you're paying for, and not his boss, his manager or any other intermediary, because they will always add on their own percentage.
Control Your Own Direction and Marketing Strategy
You are in control of your own budget and you know which direction you want to go. The SEO agency (unless they have expert practitioners who have prior experience of your sector) may assume certain things about you and what you wish to achieve which may not be correct. You also know the limitations of your particular market, so you won't be railroaded into making decisions which are counter-productive or result in costly mistakes.
No Risk of Outsourcing
Some agencies, particular the smaller ones, and particularly during times when they have too much work to handle, will outsource to third parties whose professionalism and probity is not easy to identify. This includes people hired from overseas whose native language is not English. Many overseas subcontractors are very good; I've used some myself. But only for certain types of work. And you must watch the quality like a hawk.
You Know Your Competition
Whether you're newly starting out or an established bricks-and-mortar business about to go online, the chances are that you'll be well aware of the competition your business faces. You'll be armed with highly relevant market intelligence even the smartest MBA doesn't have. All the same, make sure you're acquainted with tools like SEMRush and SpyFu.
You are your own boss. That's what made you go into business on your own account in the first place. You have the last say in everything. If you make a mistake you know it's nobody's fault but yours. But what's much worse is having to bear the responsibility (which you will) if someone at your agency screws up. Because they're screwing up on your behalf. It can be nasty.
No Chain of Command Misunderstandings
In any organization with a hierarchy there is always a tendency for instructions to become a bit muddled the greater the number of people involved. This "Chinese whispers" syndrome is by no means confined to government departments, and even people trying to do you a good turn can end up doing quite the reverse. On the other hand, it's very difficult to misunderstand what you just told yourself!
Above all, remember that you know your own business better than anyone else. So, play to your strengths and do things better than your SEO agency just by doing it right.