Has the SEO bug bit your CEO? If so, it's likely that a large competitor has suddenly surged above your company in the SERPs. Now the pressure's on to overtake them as fast as possible, and to do it 10 times better.
First, calm down and take a step back. It's important to make a few critical decisions that will either make your life much easier, or lead to problems that will drive you out of your mind.
SEO: Outsource vs. In-House
Your first decision is the most important. Should I hire an outside agency to run everything? Or should I hire someone to do it in-house? Most likely, you'll try to hire someone to at least manage the process internally and act as the liaison between the agency and your company. Not a bad idea. However, it can be a fairly brutal process to find an appropriate candidate with experience.
The gut reaction is to put as little money as possible in the budget for this person. But any seasoned SEO (either technical or marketing in nature) won't work for chicken feed.
One alternative: bring in a seasoned consultant who can manage the hiring process for you, as well as develop a strong plan that your Web development, engineering, and marketing team can take action on. By the time you find your first candidate, most of the implementation will have been completed.
Another option: bring in an outside agency. Most likely, you'll send out an RFP to six or seven agencies. Don't send out all the wrong questions like most large companies. Instead, make sure you ask the single most important question: who will manage my account and who have they worked with in the past?
After you get that list, talk to at least one of those clients and find out about their experiences. You'll be able to cut through most of the vapor and allure in a heartbeat.
Ask them how much time they'll spend with you onsite. Don't let them try to weasel their way out of this. It isn't cost-effective to charge you $300,000 for a weekly conference call.
Don't ask how long the agency has been in business. Most agencies will come up with some crazy formula to show how they have more than 40 years of combined experience. Meanwhile, they probably haven't been successful since spamming was popular.
If an agency tells you that they "wrote the book on SEO," check the date on the book -- I think dinosaurs were still roaming during that time. Some firms will even claim to have performed SEO before search engines existed!
Now that you've made your decision, set expectations! I can't tell you how much this will save your life and let you sleep at least one hour a night. It will take time. At a bare minimum, tell everyone it will take six months after implementation. That way, any mistakes can be baked in for revisions.
If you've had a Web site for more than four years, you should start to see results from SEO within a month if it's implemented correctly. However, do yourself a favor: don't tell anyone this. It could come back to bite you -- forget the neck, look a little further down the waistline.
Be sure to ask around for recommendations from friends in other businesses for help. Don't take the word of any consultant or agency without someone else giving thumbs up.
Good luck and remember, repeat expectations over and over again!