Search engines like Google continue to enjoy their reputation as one of the highest quality sources of website traffic on the web, and for good reason.
Most users that end up on your website after a Google search are interested in either your services/products or the information on your website. In other words, organic website visitors are more qualified.
That said, attracting organic visitors and securing a high rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs) can turn out to be a complex challenge. Some estimate that Google considers as many as 200 ranking factors to decide how a website or web page will be displayed in the SERPs. This means there are potentially 200 optimization tasks and elements that you need to perfect and it isn’t difficult to imagine how that can become overwhelmingly complex.
Yet, smart marketers and business owners realise that search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t optional.
Since SEO is almost a compulsory marketing task, it means that you have two options:
- Do SEO in-house
- Outsource SEO
While both have their own pros and cons, this article is dedicated to outsourcing of SEO, which makes much more sense than the other option in almost every single case.
However, whether or not outsourcing SEO is the most profitable way to do SEO for you depends on a variety of factors.
When Should You Outsource SEO?
From a business owner’s or a marketing manager’s point of view, outsourcing is scary. Giving control of an aspect of your business or department to strangers that are not even a part of your organisation can make the best of us anxious.
Yet, in a lot of cases, including SEO, outsourcing is actually better than doing things in-house. If you are on the edge about whether it is the right time for you to outsource your SEO, think about the answers of the following questions:
- Do I have the time, the budget, and the expertise to hire an in-house SEO team?
- Do I have enough SEO-related work to justify the cost of in-house resources?
- Do I have the right in-house expertise to lead the SEO team in a way that benefits my business?
Optimizing a website for search engine performance doesn’t just require the knowledge of how search engines work. It requires copywriting skills, design skills, technical skills (to make changes to the code of your website), and of course, leadership skills to lead the team to success.
In other words, when you are thinking about doing SEO in-house, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will only have to hire one resource. SEO demands the efforts of a team and if you cannot hire a team, you must consider outsourcing SEO.
With that said, there are a number of other benefits of outsourcing SEO that you will not get when you do it in-house.
Let’s look at some of these benefits in a bit more detail:
When you outsource your SEO tasks, you don’t just outsource SEO copywriting or keyword research. You get access to a certified and experienced SEO expert that knows which steps to take in order to pull your website to the top of the SERPs.
In other words, when you outsource, you don’t have to build your strategy and hope that it works. Instead, you have to share your goals with your outsourced SEO expert and they’ll craft a strategy that is most likely to work.
With that said, in order to ensure the efforts of your outsourcing partners are truly making the difference they should, you will have to share additional information such as your brand’s desired tonality and voice, seed keywords that you think are most relevant to your business, along with your short and long term marketing goals.
When you work with the right SEO professional, they can use this information to create a holistic strategy that delivers visible and substantial results. The best part is, most SEO professionals and agencies also have access to other professionals whose skills are required to deliver results with SEO. Your SEO expert should be able to connect you with copywriting, development, design, and even conversion optimization experts.
Freedom From Staffing Issues
One of the biggest reasons that many companies choose to outsource any function is to avoid the headache associated with staffing.
In-house SEO teams are typically small. However, the size can vary depending on the size of the company.
But if someone decides to move to another job, or leave the company for any reason, replacing them becomes your responsibility. While you and your HR department are dealing with the additional strain of finding a replacement, the rest of your SEO team is stretched to make up for the lack of resources.
While this situation is still manageable if the other members of the team work hard to make sure productive output is not affected, things can become especially challenging if or when your SEO expert leaves.
If you have a small SEO team and your SEO expert leaves the company, your business loses all its SEO expertise in an instant. This will definitely compromise the results of the ongoing campaigns at that time.
Even if you are somehow able to manage the ongoing campaigns, remember that SEO is a long term undertaking and it demands consistent efforts. If the person that was crafting and implementing the strategies is not present, your overall organic traffic strategy may become directionless.
When you outsource SEO (or any other business function), such staffing issues are not your concern. In fact, when you outsource, your only concerns are the timely delivery of marketing collaterals that are used for SEO and the results of the strategies implemented by your SEO partner.
In other words, with an outsourcing partner, staffing issues don’t affect the results of your SEO efforts.
More Cost Effective
As mentioned earlier, a holistic SEO strategy demands the contribution from a variety of skilled professionals. This can make building an in-house SEO team a pricey undertaking. Wondering why?
For starters, in the previous point we discussed how your SEO progress can be affected when an in-house resource decides to leave your company. When that happens, finding a replacement will cost time and money and this is a serious cost.
According to a study by Gallup, replacing an employee will cost a company anywhere between 50% to 200% of the employee’s annual salary. Considering that the average salary of an SEO expert in the USA is a little over $45,500, replacing such a resource will cost your company anywhere between $20,000 and $90,000.
Another cost of hiring that is often overlooked is the cost of hiring an undeserving employee. Ever so often, a candidate may pass through your hiring process despite not having the right skills or experience. The chances of this happening multiply when there is no relevant in-house expertise present in your company.
How hiring such a candidate will cost your business money is not difficult to imagine. However, what many forget is that unlike a lot of other aspects of your business, SEO takes time to show results. This means, by the time you realise you have hired the wrong candidate, you will already have paid them several thousand dollars.
When you outsource, you are mostly dealing with independent entities like freelancers or agencies that have case studies and customer references to prove their expertise.
Another cost of doing SEO in-house is the cost of SEO tools. In fact, the cost of the tools is one of the most overlooked aspects when businesses calculate the cost of doing SEO in-house.
As far as digital tools are concerned, SEO tools can be surprisingly pricey. Most basic plans of the best SEO tools start at a minimum of $100/month. Most SEO tools charge this cost on an annual basis. This means, the upfront cost of an SEO tool for your business is $1200.
When you outsource, this cost is obviously the problem of your outsourcing partner. As stated earlier, all you need to worry about is the results of your SEO efforts.
Staying Up-to-Date Within Your Industry
Google currently dominates the search market and has control over 92% of the global search engine market share.
This means that every time Google introduces an update to their algorithm, the rules of the SEO game are altered.
Can you guess how many times Google’s algorithm is updated within a year?
In the past five years, Google has rolled out over 65 major updates. That’s one new update almost every two months!
Keeping up with these updates and making sure your website adheres to Google’s policies is a major aspect of search engine optimization. Miss one important update and you can potentially lose years worth of SEO progress.
If you are reading this article then SEO is probably not the core competency of your business and that means there is a good chance that you will miss an important update.
On the other hand, when you work with an outsourcing partner whose bread and butter is SEO, you can rest assured that there is a much smaller chance your website will face a penalty.
As far as SEO is concerned, having a documented strategy is critical to success. This is particularly true for SEO because it takes a long time of consistent efforts to get results with SEO. During this time, it is easy for one of the contributors to lose sight of the long term objectives and send your SEO progress into a completely new direction.
In other words, not having a documented strategy will lead to a scattered and weak implementation that will bring about sub par results.
When you work with an external partner, they don’t have an option but to document the strategy they are planning to implement. This is true because as a vendor, they have to get the strategy approved from their client (you) before they can begin implementation. As a result, they have to create a strategy document before moving forward.
This way, when you outsource your SEO, you can be sure that all the efforts are laser focused at achieving the goals you have in mind.
Just like strategy documents are necessary to inform everyday tasks, reports are necessary to ensure that the said tasks are producing the expected results. Understanding which aspects of your strategy are working well and which ones need improvement enables you to decide how further work should be delegated and how resources should be distributed in order to improve the results in the future.
While reports are definitely an important aspect of doing result-focused SEO, generating reports can be a time and resource consuming undertaking. Think about it, tracking your website’s performance across tens of parameters, tracking backlinks, tracking rankings, tracking traffic numbers and sources, all of that takes time and over days and weeks, this time adds up and starts eating up your resources. The worrying part is that after doing all that tracking, you will have to spend more time arranging and analysing the collected data to create reports.
Since SEO sometimes takes months to show results, you may even have to make preparing reports a weekly or monthly practice.
However, it is not difficult to imagine how this will not be a challenge when you are working with an outsourcing expert. When you sign a contract with them, all you need to do is ensure the contract clearly states how often reports will be shared with you and what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will be tracked.
If you are operating an online business or even establishing an online presence for your existing business, chances are that organic traffic is not the only source of traffic (and revenue) that you will depend on.
You may be considering other aspects of digital marketing like social media marketing and paid advertising.
Finding the right professionals for these jobs can be time consuming. Not to forget, ending up in a contract with the wrong person or business can lead to a wastage of your precious marketing dollars.
Your SEO outsourcing partner, being a professional in the field of digital marketing, can help you connect with qualified individuals with a history of demonstrating results.
Even if they don’t have that kind of connections, most outsourcing partners would be happy to work with you to filter out undeserving candidates and help you identify the right outsourcing partners and consultants for other aspects of your digital marketing.
Expanding Your Client Base
This benefit may be limited to businesses operating in certain industries and niches like web development or app development or even some form of digital marketing that isn’t SEO.
By finding a dependable outsourcing partner, you can expand the scope of your services without adding too much responsibility for your team.
With reseller SEO services.
As the name suggests, an SEO agency allows anyone to become a reseller of their services. As a reseller, all you need to do is find the client, make sure you understand their requirements, and pass said requirements to your outsourcing partner. You can charge a premium over what your outsourcing partner charges from you and can make a nice profit.
This way, you can expand your business into a brand new vertical and add another stream of income to your business.
As you can see, there are several pressing benefits that make a strong case for outsourcing SEO. However, in order to enjoy these benefits, you must choose the right kind of SEO partner.
When it comes to outsourcing SEO, businesses usually have four options to choose from. Let’s understand each of these options in a bit more detail:
How to outsource SEO
When looking to outsource SEO, finding the right partner is much easier when you are already aware about the various options available in the marketing, along with the pros and cons of each.
Here’s a list of all the SEO outsourcing options that you will be able to choose from:
Independent SEO Freelancers
Not surprisingly, SEO freelancers are the most affordable option among all types of SEO outsourcing services. However, there are many other benefits of working with a freelancer. For instance, you will get immediate access to most of the benefits mentioned in the previous sections.
Independent SEO freelancers are often SEO professionals that have left their jobs at marketing agencies or from the marketing department of a big company. This means, there is a good chance that you will find an SEO expert that will know how they can collaborate with your in-house team (or you) without causing a lot of friction.
With that said, freelancers usually work alone or are supported by a small team. This means that they cannot be relied upon for big projects.
Working with solo SEO freelancers can especially be challenging for small businesses that don’t have the time or the money to go around looking for SEO copywriting and link building experts.
Working with a freelancer is the perfect choice for small website owners that don’t depend too much on organic traffic for revenue. In such cases the freelancer can take care of the basic SEO tasks and help you create strategies for more resource intensive SEO tasks such as link building.
SEO contractors are similar to SEO freelancers in a number of ways. For instance, most contractors are self-employed and running a one-man-show, just like freelancers. Similarly, contractors are also more affordable than SEO companies and full-service marketing agencies.
The main area where the services of a contractor and a freelancer differ is usually the scope of the projects that they pick up. Most SEO freelancers pick up projects that are about executing specific tasks involved in search engine optimization, such as link building or Google My Business optimization. This usually means that freelancers are usually working on several projects simultaneously.
On the other hand, contractors work with fewer (sometimes just one client at a time) clients but tend to take up bigger projects. In the case of SEO, most contractors would want to strike a deal to handle the entire SEO strategy for your brand.
Once again, just like with freelancers, the major limitation of working with a contractor is that you are dependent on the expertise of just one person.
An SEO Company
Unlike SEO freelancers and contractors, SEO companies offer the advantage of numbers. This means, when you choose to work with an SEO company you usually get access to a wide variety of experts.
This doesn’t just save time for you, it also ensures that your SEO efforts have an element of coherence, and are all focused towards a single goal. The best part is that most SEO agencies will also give you access to a project manager so you don’t have to talk to different people on their team.
This project manager, who is usually someone that has a fair amount of knowledge of SEO developed by working with a variety of clients, will understand your goals and will work with their team to help you achieve said goals.
With that said, there are a few downsides of working with an agency. For starters, agencies are usually considerably more expensive than freelancers or contractors. Moreover, SEO agencies only offer access to a single kind of expertise. If you are thinking about implementing other marketing strategies, you will still have to find other professionals or agencies to get the job done.
Finally, one of the big disadvantages of working with an SEO agency is that they usually only have a single source of income (their SEO expertise) and are forced to stretch it to its limit to ensure profits.
This means that most of the professionals working for SEO agencies are given more work than they can handle. Such practices often lead to disappointing results and delays in communication.
I am not trying to say that all SEO agencies do this. However, the barrier to entry into the SEO field is quite low and there are a lot of businesses that have faced disappointing experiences with SEO agencies.
A Full-Service Agency
Most full-service digital marketing agencies offer SEO as one of their services. This means that when you choose to work with a full-service agency, you don’t have to look for other professionals for either SEO tasks (such as blog writing) or for other marketing strategies like paid advertising.
In other words, with a full-service marketing agency, you get a completely hands-off solution. If you have an in-house marketing team, you can opt for the services that demand the skills and expertise that you may not have. In this case, the marketing agency’s team will act as an extension of your team. If, on the other hand, you don’t have an in-house team, you can find an agency that will take care of all your digital marketing needs.
Like an SEO agency, when you outsource to a full-service agency, you get a single point of contact that manages your entire project. This enables you to save a ton of time that would otherwise be spent briefing and taking updates from different contributors like the designer, the PPC expert, or the social media expert.
Another big advantage of working with agencies is that you get access to marketing talent that has experience of working for a variety of industries and possesses a versatile set of skills. This means that they have worked on a number of different websites, helped them achieve a variety of goals, and have implemented a lot of different marketing campaigns.
This kind of experience can be incredibly valuable when it comes to achieving your marketing goals. Think about it, a versatile experience prepares such teams for all sorts of challenges and obstacles that you may not even know about.
One stark advantage that full-service agencies offer but SEO agencies don’t is that in most cases, full-service agencies limit the number of projects assigned to a single resource.
They are able to do this because they are not dependent on a single source of income and offer a variety of services. For you, this means that your brand gets the attention it deserves from your outsourcing partners.
X Tips For Outsourcing Your SEO
We’ve discussed the benefits of outsourcing SEO and the options you have in the types of outsourcing partners. Even if by now you know which option you want to pursue, you will find a large variety of options to choose from.
The following sections are dedicated to helping to make an informed decision. Regardless of whether you choose to work with a freelancer or with an agency, there are certain common considerations associated with outsourcing SEO to an external partner.
Let us see what these are:
Considering The Strategic Impact Of SEO
This consideration will allow you to decide what kind of SEO partner you need. Here, you must ask yourself how SEO fits into your overall marketing strategy.
Is organic going to be the primary source of traffic? Would you have to start optimization from scratch? Have you yet seen any kind of results from SEO?
Answers to these questions will dictate how invested you need to be in SEO. For instance, if organic traffic is going to be the primary source of traffic and revenue for your online business, you may want to eliminate freelancers and contractors from your consideration.
On the other hand, if that isn’t the case and you are just starting out, working with a single resource may help you save money in the initial stages. These savings can then be re-invested into the implementation of more extensive SEO strategies.
Understanding Objectives and SEO Needs
Once you have decided what role SEO will play in your overall marketing mix, it is time to set your expectations from SEO. Without having a definitive set of goals in mind, your SEO efforts will not be as focused as they should be. Moreover, a lack of definitive goals will also make tracking of progress more challenging.
This will, in turn, lead to difficulty in collaboration with your outsourcing partner. Without clear expectations, sustaining such a partnership will not be possible.
When you decide upon your goals with SEO, you will also find yourself in a much better position to determine which aspects of SEO you need help with. This will enable you to make informed decisions about which aspects of SEO to outsource and how much budget you should set aside for the same.
The Consideration Of Cost
Budget is a critical factor in any business decision and outsourcing is definitely not an exception. This is even more true for SEO because when done right, SEO can prove to be an expensive undertaking.
White hat SEO is complex and demanding. It engages multiple resources and can take a substantial amount of time to deliver measurable results.
That said, with a few exceptions, outsourcing is mostly the cheaper alternative when it comes to doing SEO.
I recommend you first determine your budget for SEO and make sure that it is aligned with the goals you set in the previous step. Then, based on your budget, you will have enough data points to do a cost benefit analysis to identify the more cost effective option between outsourcing and building your own SEO team.
In the world of marketing, one of the latest trends is to niche down. Many believe there are “riches in niches” and while that may or may not be true, the trend has proven beneficial for businesses that are looking for marketing services.
The trend has pushed many marketers to identify a niche or industry as their specialisation and work with businesses operating in those industries. As a result, a lot of modern marketers have emerged as specialists in developing tailored solutions suited to unique needs of businesses operating in different markets.
For instance, optimizing a local business website and doing SEO for an ecommerce website often require a number of very different strategies.
This means that you can find an agency or a freelancer that specialises in working with businesses from your industry.
Outsourcing SEO can turn out to be the best business decision you take this year, given that you choose the right outsourcing partner and have the right expectations in mind.
I hope that this guide will help you move in the right direction with choosing a SEO outsourcing partner.
If you have questions or more suggestions that you would like to share, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.