Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em

It’s true, you don’t have to pay someone to do SEO for your site. In most cases, there’s nothing involved that the average person couldn’t do with research and practice. It’s not magic, and it’s not rocket science.

What good SEO is, though, is an art form. Lots of times people are looking for a formula to follow, thinking that if they just follow the “right” steps in the “right” order, online success will naturally follow. Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t work that way.

I like to tell people it’s like painting a picture. “Formula” SEO is like a paint-by-numbers picture. No matter how closely you follow the formula, it’s never going to be an “old master” painting. To create great art requires some talent coupled with training and practice.

Of course, pretty much anyone can learn how to paint better, but true artistic excellence is not going to happen overnight with no work. And most people will never produce exceptional art no matter how long and hard they try. Unless you have a strong desire, the innate talent and significant time to devote to developing your skills, you cannot reasonably expect to produce great art.

For many amateur painters, their own “homemade” pictures will do just fine. But if your d&#0233cor requires fine art, or if you don’t have the time or inclination to practice your painting skills, you may be better off simply buying pictures painted by experienced and talented artists instead of trying to DIY.

As it happens, too, the most successful art collectors still take the time to educate themselves about painting techniques so they can learn to recognize great art when they see it, even if they have no plans to paint for themselves.

Just so with SEO. If you’re strongly interested in doing it yourself, and you have some natural talent, and you’re willing to spend the time and energy it takes to become knowledgeable, you certainly can learn to optimize your site acceptably well. Some of those reading may be talented or lucky enough to become really good at it. The reality is, though, most of us will never become SEO “artists,” no matter how much time and energy we devote to the cause.

No matter what, though, I strongly recommend you take the time to educate yourself so you don’t get taken for a ride by SEO con artists out to make a quick buck (or a traveling “starving artist” show selling “genuine oil paintings” for $10 a pound). The more you know about what’s involved, the better equipped you are to make a wise choice between DIY and hiring an outside professional.

For instance, once you learn the basics, you know you should be especially wary if an SEO promises you overnight results. Nobody would expect to build a brand-new store in the real world and a few months later be as much of a household name as, say “Wal*Mart” or “McDonald’s” (and have sales to match). That’s just not reasonable.

Once you understand the principles of SEO, you can worry less about greed, impatience or ignorance causing to you to fall for somebody’s “miraculous” SEO snake-oil. The old adage is as true online as anywhere: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And with a little research and study, you’ll be equipped to know what “too good to be true” is.

Bottom line, if you really, truly want to do your own SEO and there are no special circumstances that would render professional assistance necessary, then by all means give it a shot. There are plenty of useful resources, such as the High Rankings forums, where you can learn everything you need to know. There are even experts who offer site optimization reports and consulting to help DIY’ers.

On the other hand, if you’d rather devote your time to the day-to-day operation of your business, or you simply aren’t interested in doing your own SEO, you may prefer to hire a knowledgeable expert to take care of your site optimization chores for you.

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Copyright © Diane M. Aull, an online consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. For more information about her services, visit NineYards.com or BootstrapSEO. For resources and tools for home based workers, visit Torka's Home for Wayward Girls.

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