Search engine optimization (SEO) is intimidating for newcomers, and I fully understand why. SEO requires your attention in several areas; you’ll need to improve your website, write content, research the competition, build links, and take on a hundred other responsibilities. On top of that, you’ll need the experience to perform all of these actions – well – and you’ll have to jump through the hoops to stay on top of Google’s latest algorithm changes.
Outsource your SEO strategy the right way
As a result, most companies that practice SEO end up outsourcing it in one way or another, either by hiring an agency or working with subcontractors. While this can be an effective strategy to support your SEO campaign, it can also work against you – so it’s worth being careful and doing your research.
How SEO Outsourcing Goes Wrong
Let’s start by identifying some of the most critical ways SEO outsourcing fails.
- Black hat practices and penalties. Some agencies build their businesses around “black hat” tactics. In the SEO world, that means using techniques like spamming links, writing shoddy content at high volumes, and even keyword stuffing. In some cases, these tactics can give you a short-term payoff – just long enough for your contracting agency to cash the check. But either way, you’ll end up facing a penalty from Google for it, ultimately negating any perks you might have gotten along the way.
- Scams and lack of work. Some businesses don’t really exist; they are fictitious organizations intended only to extract money from you. For example, someone might claim that they are “optimizing your site”, but they might not actually do anything. These outright scams tend to be rare in the SEO community, but they can result in total loss.
- Cost and value. It is also important to consider the balance between cost and actual value. High quality SEO services are necessarily expensive because it takes expertise, time, manpower, and other resources to be executed effectively. But if you’re forced to pay $ 10,000 per month for SEO services and only see $ 9,800 worth, this isn’t a good trade-in. SEO is a strategy that is definitely worth investing in, but if you’re not careful you could end up paying too much when outsourcing.
Search for potential partners
So how can you avoid these problems?
Your best option is to seriously research your potential outsourcing partners before hiring someone. Usually, you will have two main options for who to hire:
- Agencies. SEO agencies tend to be a bit more expensive. But, in return, you’ll usually have access to a larger roster of experts and support every step of the way in the SEO process. You’ll also usually have your own account manager and built-in guarantees to make sure you’re happy with the job done.
- Entrepreneurs. Contractors tend to be cheaper and more flexible. You can hire individual entrepreneurs to help you with specific needs, like bonding or copywriting, or mix and match to build your own team. Either way, you might save some money, but you’ll also have to put in more effort and face higher risks.
Whichever direction you take, you’ll want to look for the following in every potential hire:
- Skill. What type of expertise does this potential partner have? Are they new to the SEO industry or does the team have decades of combined experience? Do they know your company and industry, or does their experience come mainly from a general context?
- High level services offered / strategy. Determine the services offered by this partner and the type of high-level strategy they will follow. If they can’t answer your questions in this area, or if they try to avoid the topic, that’s a bad sign. Any SEO practitioner worth working with will walk you through the whole process and work to convince you that they are capable of creating high quality work. Good SEO strategies are a mix of onsite technical improvements, quality content generation, and value-driven link building with authoritative publishers. Link spam and content spam just won’t work.
- Quality of work. You will also need to do your own investigation to determine what quality of work this person or organization is capable of. The best way to find out is to ask to see examples. What are some examples of the best content this organization has written? What are the best live links currently pointing to their site? If you are not happy with this component, you may need to move on to someone else.
- Reviews and testimonials. Next, look at reviews and testimonials about this company left by its previous clients. Typically, when an agency or entrepreneur follows black hat practices or scams people with money, they have a cascade of bad reviews to show for it. Of course, great reviews and testimonials don’t guarantee you’ll get great service, but it’s a promising sign.
- Past results. With that in mind, see if you can get proof of past results. For example, does this agency or entrepreneur prove the ranking increases they have achieved for other clients in the past? New professionals in this industry still have a chance to get good results for you, but you had better work with someone who has a long track record of success.
- Communication. Reach out to the promising candidates you found throughout your research and start talking to the account managers and professionals who will be responsible for managing your campaign. Are they polite, quick and articulate? If so, it’s a good sign that you’re going to get the customer service you deserve.
- Price. Of course, you will also have to think about the price of the services you get. A business can check all of the above boxes, but they may not be worth it if their service plans are too expensive.
The working relationship
Finding and hiring the right partner is a great first step, but you will also need to invest in the working relationship to achieve good results.
- Push for transparency. A transparent SEO outsourcing deal is ideal. You should be able to see everything your SEO partner is doing, right down to the words they write for offsite content and the backend code changes they make to your website. If your agency or contractor refuses to be accountable for their work, or if you are not sure what they are doing, take this as a red flag.
- Insist on regular intercourse. It is also important to insist on regular reports. Your partner needs to show you not only the work they actively do on behalf of your brand, but also the results they give you. How has your ranking changed over time? How much traffic is your website generating? Combine these metrics with your on-site sales and conversion statistics to calculate your overall return on investment (ROI).
- To ask questions. If you don’t understand something, don’t assume your SEO expert is dealing with it – or even knows more than you do. To ask questions. The more you learn about SEO in the process, the better able you will be to lead and make decisions about your campaign. And if your partner can’t answer a question or dodges a question, it could be a sign of trouble ahead.
Hold the team accountable.
Finally, hold the team (or individual) accountable for their results. For example, if you fall in the ranking for a specific keyword, ask them what they are going to do about it. If you don’t get the results you wanted after several months of work, push them to make up the difference or give you some back.
SEO outsourcing can be incredibly valuable. Ideally, you’ll be able to tap into some of the most creative and experienced minds in the industry while backing up your site with white hat tactics and saving money in the process.
But the worst-case scenario should be enough to scare you and do your due diligence well in advance. Additionally, not all SEO companies will give you a return on investment (ROI), so keep that in mind when doing your research.
Image credit: yan krukov; pexels; Thank you!