Let’s face it, SEO (search engine optimization), or SEM (search engine marketing), can be elusive terminology. What is it? What does it mean? Who can do it? How hard is it to learn? Can I do it myself?

In an age where information is just a Google search away, we can learn about anything, anytime, from nearly anywhere. SEO/SEM is no different – anyone can learn how to do it, much like you can learn how to do lots of new things by researching online. You can learn how to repair a clothes dryer, install a door, build a website and much, much more. Not that you’d want to take those things on yourself. Smile

But, how does the quality of the work compare with professionals? The role of an SEO “professional” changes constantly. While your company may be interested in SEO for your website, you’re really interested in online success. Marketing the site, or optimizing it for the search engines, includes a lot of different elements like content, page structure, inbound links, social media connections and much more. Search engine algorithms have nearly or over 200 different elements.

There are thousands of blog posts (like this one), articles, case studies, web pages and emails, even TV commercials, created every day to talk about search engine optimization. With so much noise, who can you trust?

That’s a tough call. Individuals who freelance can be a great resource to get your site going, but with your work, and that of their other clients, they are likely learning by doing work for you. You may spend less with a freelancer, still are your results diluted or marginal compared to investing in professional services? Think about hiring a guy to fix your dryer, versus an appliance repair company with reviews, references, and insurance. I wonder if “the guy” might fix it enough to catch my house a fire.

If you do choose to go with someone smaller or at a lower investment, protect yourself as best you can. Look for those with references available, and ask around for a good referral.

Other options are, internal staff, or you could hire someone strictly for the website. Still those skills would likely include search engine marketing, content writing, site updates, monitoring and general site up keep, (plus social media, if you’re there yet). That’s often a lot for just one person to oversee, and stay up to speed on the changes in the industry.

A large interactive or web marketing firm could be a huge resource. You’d invest more, still you’d have more than one person wearing all of those digital marketing ‘hats” on your behalf. And a firm probably has continuing education related to all things Web, allowing you to discover the “why” behind what they do.

So, yes, anyone can do SEO, Search engine optimization, search engine marketing, digital marketing or whatever you want to call it. Still, “it” is something that changes constantly. Monitoring the online space for your website, keeping up on the latest changes and implementing the different tactics needed for online success can be a lot for one person.

What’s your experience in working with SEO professionals, freelance or firms? And what have you learned from them to help your online presence move forward?