is-a-search-optimized-template-enough-to-rank-your-site-in-search-enginesSearch engine optimization is both simpler and more complicated than it’s ever been. On one hand, Google keeps updating its search algorithm to be more sophisticated, weeding out the rudimentary tactics that once practically guaranteed an increase in rankings. On the other hand, many modern website templates come automatically “optimized” for search engines, simplifying the onsite optimization process for inexperienced and unfamiliar webmasters. The question is, are they optimized enough to give you a passable position in search engines; or do you need something more, such as the help of an agency, to see results?

The Basics of SEO

First, let’s cover what you actually need in an SEO strategy. The main goal, as explained by Media One, is to see more traffic (and therefore more incoming revenue for your site) by increasing your site’s visibility and position in search engine results pages (SERPs). There are three main areas you need to pay attention to here:

  • Technical visibility. Before you do anything else, you need to make sure your site can be seen by search engine crawlers – the automated bots that scour the web for sites to index. If Google can’t “see” or index your site, you won’t be listed in the search engines at all.
  • Next, you need to focus on the relevance of your material. Obviously, your site won’t show up for every search—only the searches that are deemed to be relevant to your site. For example, if you sell car accessories, you might come up for a search involving “cheap car accessories,” but not one for “nearby liquor stores.” This concept should be obvious, but a big part of SEO is determining what terms you’re relevant for and optimizing for them with content and website structuring.
  • Finally, you need to build up your site’s authority. This is an invisible “score” of how trustworthy your website is. This score can have a massive impact on your eventual rankings. You can build up your site’s authority by creating great content, earning more backlinks pointing to your domain, and ensuring a great user experience and technical performance for your site.

Where a Template Can Help You

There are many templates out there that claim to be “SEO friendly,” but what does this really mean? According to Template Monster, there are a number of ways most SEO-friendly templates can help you with your optimization efforts:

  • Appropriate coding. First, because the site has already been built by professionals, you know the site will be coded in a way that can be seen and indexed by Google. This practically guarantees the “technical visibility” component of SEO, so long as you’re using a quality template.
  • To be successful in SEO, your site needs to load correctly and fully on all manner of devices and web browsers, and with such a diversity of options on the market, the best way to do this is with a responsive web design (and that comes from Google directly). Most “SEO friendly” templates are already responsive, so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Overall user experience and technical performance. SEO templates are designed with user experience and technical performance in mind, so you don’t have to think much about your performance in these areas.
  • Convenience in SEO functionality. Finally, many SEO friendly templates make SEO easier by giving webmasters shortcuts in functionality. For example, they might make it easier to plug in titles and meta descriptions, or help you evaluate the keyword density of a page.

Where You Need More

SEO-friendly templates are great, but they can’t help you with everything. For instance, there are no templates that can:

  • Help you form a keyword strategy
  • Identify your key goals
  • Develop unique content from scratch
  • Help you measure and interpret all relevant results
  • Earn and build backlinks
  • Build and grow a social media presence

And that’s just for starters. SEO-friendly templates are great for making SEO more accessible, and giving you the groundwork for a solid SEO strategy, but the rest is on you to develop.

Do You Need an Agency?

There are pros and cons to any approach in SEO, and hiring an agency is no different. If you choose to hire an SEO agency, they’ll be glad to help you set the course for your strategy, identify your goals and keywords, and work with you to develop the content and backlinks you need to succeed.

However, there’s a cost to all this work; you can try to do it yourself, but if you aren’t experienced in the area, you could eventually hit an obstacle. You could also enlist the help of part-timers or freelancers to reduce the financial burden, but it’s hard to find niche specialists in this area who are also reliable.

The bottom line here is that SEO-friendly templates are good and beneficial, but they can’t give you everything you need. And unless you’re willing to invest the time to learn SEO yourself, hiring an agency is probably your best option.