Given the highly competitive nature of eCommerce, ranking highly on Google is an absolute necessity. After all, it’s been proven few search engine users go beyond the first page of results when conducting searches. While SEO can be something of a tedious operation, with a bit of study, in most cases you can manage your site’s SEO yourself. So, do you need a SEO agency for your eCommerce store?

Like so many other things, the answer to this question is — it depends.

SEO is a highly fluid activity. Google frequently changes the parameters and best practices in an effort to ensure their results are always as relevant as possible to the user. In some cases, this can mean a strategy that killed your competitors a few years ago will kill you today. (Remember keyword stuffing?) If you’re really adept at keeping abreast of the paradigm shifts, yes, you absolutely can pursue SEO on your own.

With that said, in business, there is a phenomenon known as opportunity costs. Yes, managing your own SEO might be less expensive in terms of actual dollars spent. But, the time you invest into conducting this aspect of your business is time you could be spending on a more lucrative activity.

The key factors to consider when making this decision are the number of pages your site has, your current bandwidth, the resources you have at your disposal, and of course, your budget. If you have a large site with thousands of products, a staff and a liberating budget, this question pretty much answers itself. But if you’re just starting out and you’ve more time than money, a good first move is to consider one of the best ecommerce website builders, as they typically have strong SEO strategies already built into their products.

If you go this route, look for a builder offering a SEO friendly content management system allowing customizable H1, title and meta tags. You’ll also want the CMS to automatically generate sitemaps.xml files so search engines find your new products and site changes as quickly as possible.

To keep track of how your site is progressing over time, you’ll want built-in analytics so you can benchmark your store’s performance. This will also help you see how well your SEO strategy is performing. Primary factors to look for are how your customers found you and where they are, the URLs referring your site and the search terms used to find you. The number of visits, page hits and unique visitors your site attracts are vital to gather as well.

If you decide to go with an agency, some key questions to ask prospective candidates are; what similar work have they done, how do they accomplish link building, and how will they accomplish SEO in conjunction with your goals?

You want people who are somewhat familiar with your business and its specific needs. Optimizing a used car dealer is different than optimizing a jewelry store. When it comes to link building, will they run promotions; do they engage in content marketing? Find out who will create the content and get samples. How practical are their ideas? Can their strategies be incorporated seamlessly into your site? Can they work within your branding guidelines?

Whether you decide to go with an agency, or manage SEO in-house, these considerations will get you off to a good start and help you ensure your site ranks highly.