Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for driving website traffic. According to a recent study, 53% of website traffic comes from organic searches. Effective SEO requires expertise lacking in-house. Outsourcing SEO can accelerate results while saving money on hiring and training costs.
However, outsourcing marketing activities, such as SEO, comes with risks. Outside agencies may not fully understand your business voice. We’ll also provide tips for getting the most out of an outsourcing relationship.
We aim to help business owners decide about handling SEO in-house versus outsourcing. Understanding the tradeoffs allows you to create an SEO strategy that fits your business needs and resources.
Why Consider Outsourcing SEO?
Before exploring providers and best practices, it’s worth looking at the key benefits that lead companies to outsource SEO:
Keeping SEO talent on staff full-time can be expensive between competitive salaries, overhead, HR costs, and ongoing training. Outsourcing allows you to avoid inflated payrolls and only pay for the specific SEO services your business needs. This gives you access to premium expertise at a fraction of the costs of maintaining specialized in-house roles. Outsourcing converts fixed payrolls into a flexible variable cost aligned with your current goals.
Flexibility and Scalability
Handling all aspects of SEO in-house often requires more staffing resources as efforts must expand to meet growing demands. Outsourcing provides immense flexibility to scale campaigns up and down in response to changing priorities. You can access expanded capabilities, bandwidth, and SEO resources on-demand without the headaches of hiring, training, or firing full-time staff. This agility allows you to align efforts with evolving needs cost-effectively.
SEO tasks like content creation, link building, and technical optimizations require considerable time and dedicated focus. This can drain resources from core business operations and revenue generation when handled internally. Outsourcing alleviates in-house staff from this SEO burden. It allows your team to zero in on priorities like sales, product development, and customer service rather than get distracted by resource-heavy SEO activities.
SEO providers can achieve results faster than novice internal staff through their expansive experience and mastery of proven strategies. Their expertise in the latest algorithms and tools allows them to quickly execute and optimize campaigns and capitalize on time-sensitive opportunities. Avoiding the typical learning curve of in-house staff accelerates success.
Attempting complex SEO activities without sufficient experience brings a major risk of critical mistakes that can jeopardize rankings and tank ROI. However, seasoned experts are fluent in best practices and updates, allowing them to prevent errors and oversights. Relying on specialists mitigates the downside risk of in-house missteps undermining progress.
Recruiting and retaining specialized in-house SEO, content, and analytical talent is challenging. However, established agencies employ large, diverse teams of technical experts, creative content creators, savvy link builders, data analysts, and more. Outsourcing grants access to a breadth of expertise beyond what is feasible to build internally.
The right SEO provider increases business value by optimizing holistically to boost leads, sales, conversions, and brand awareness over the long term – rather than chasing temporary vanity ranking gains. Their expertise enhances overall return on investment beyond typical in-house capabilities.
Who Should You Outsource SEO To?
Before outsourcing, decide which aspects of SEO to hand off. SEO work may involve:
- Competitive analysis
- Original content creation
- Technical website optimization
- On-page SEO optimization
- Keyword research
- Content strategy development
- Internal link building
- Site architecture and wireframing
- Outreach and relationship building
You can outsource your entire SEO operation or just specific tasks. There are three main types of SEO providers:
SEO Firms: These companies specialize exclusively in SEO services. They stay on top of algorithm updates and best practices. SEO firms typically work with clients across many industries, giving them wide-ranging experience. The benefit is their deep SEO expertise. The potential downside is they may not have in-depth familiarity with your particular niche or industry.
Digital Marketing Agencies: These agencies offer SEO services and other digital marketing offerings like pay-per-click ads, social media marketing, email campaigns, and more. Their knowledge spans multiple online marketing channels, though they may not have the same SEO specialization as dedicated SEO firms. Agencies tend to focus more on SEO content strategies and on-page optimization than comprehensive link-building campaigns.
Freelancers: Independent contractors who offer SEO services on their own. Hiring a freelancer provides a more personalized, hands-on approach for specific SEO projects. However, a single freelancer typically has less breadth of knowledge than an agency’s full team of SEO experts. Results from a freelancer may take more time compared to larger agencies with more resources.
When weighing these SEO outsourcing options, take stock of your needs regarding expertise level and depth of knowledge. SEO companies offer the deepest specialization, while agencies and freelancers provide varying balances of skills and experience.
When Should You Outsource SEO
Outsourcing SEO can make strategic sense at various stages and situations:
You Need SEO Expertise
Many companies outsource without the in-house SEO skills to compete and get results. Organic search is highly competitive, so effective SEO requires more than basic keyword stuffing or on-page optimization.
The right SEO strategy improves rankings, increases qualified traffic, boosts conversions, expands market share, and reduces paid advertising costs over the long term. Handing SEO off to experts can give you access to the specialized knowledge, latest techniques, and experience your team lacks.
You Want to Scale
As your business and marketing efforts grow, your SEO needs expand proportionally. Managing all aspects of SEO in-house with a small or inexperienced team can quickly become overwhelming. Outsourcing to seasoned SEO firms lets you scale up your SEO efforts smoothly and efficiently.
Agencies also have connections and networks to facilitate high-quality link-building with other authoritative brands and sites, which is typically more difficult to accomplish on your own.
You Want Quick Wins
If driving rapid SEO results is a top priority, outsourcing to pros can accelerate your success. SEO experts know how to identify and capitalize on “quick win” opportunities through technical site improvements, page optimization, and fast content creation.
They can deliver results quickly while developing a long-term SEO strategy aligned with your business goals. Working with specialists also helps you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls when rushing SEO in-house without sufficient expertise.
You Have Limited Resources
SEO takes considerable time and focus to do well. For resource-constrained businesses without the budget to hire a full in-house SEO team, outsourcing provides access to top talent without the overhead. You gain the skills to drive results and free up internal resources to focus on core business operations.
The bottom line is outsourcing makes strategic and financial sense when SEO expertise, capacity, speed, or resource limitations are barriers to the results you want. Handing SEO off to specialists can unlock your business’s online growth potential in a cost-effective way.
Potential Downsides of Outsourcing SEO
While outsourcing SEO can provide many benefits, there are also some common downsides and risks to be aware of:
Loss of Control and Strategic Oversight
Outsourcing critical SEO tasks means handing off control and relying on an external team. This can lead to selected keywords, content topics, and link-building outreach that don’t fully align with your in-house strategy. A lack of close coordination with internal teams could take optimization efforts in the wrong direction. Closely manage the agency relationship, align on goals/metrics, and meet regularly to mitigate this strategic disconnect.
Weak or Ineffective Content
Content is the cornerstone of successful SEO. But low-quality, outsourced content lacking your brand voice and strategic focus on topics that convert readers into customers can fall flat. Prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to content creation. Supply content guidelines, templates, and strategic topic research to maintain consistency. Closely review content drafts and provide thorough feedback.
Over-Optimization of Pages
Some offshore SEO agencies attempt to over-optimize and stuff keywords to rank pages unnaturally. Excess on-page optimization and inappropriate linking schemes can raise red flags with search engines, ultimately hurting rankings. Scrutinize the specific SEO tactics and ensure they follow best practices for on-page optimization and ethical linking.
Technical SEO Problems
Inexperienced outsourcers may make website changes that inadvertently cause technical SEO issues like crawl errors, site speed problems, or indexation issues. Thoroughly review any site changes made by outsourced teams to identify and avoid technical problems proactively.
Missed Brand-Building Opportunities
Outsourced teams hyper-focused on SEO tactics could lose sight of big-picture brand-building opportunities. For example, integrating influencer and PR opportunities, leveraging first-party data, or participating in high-profile events. Collaborate closely with your agency and routinely share strategic insights to capitalize on these missed opportunities.
Insufficient communication with outsourced teams commonly leads to misalignment of priorities, expectations, and strategic direction. Maintain an open and ongoing dialogue, set clear expectations, and require regular status updates to catch issues early before they escalate or derail efforts.
Hidden Management Costs
Factor in the management time required to properly oversee outsourced work. There may also be extra fees for special requests or rush jobs. Clearly understand the full scope of services and true total costs.
Proper vetting, candid communication, goal alignment, performance monitoring, and selective outsourcing of critical (not all) SEO tasks can help maximize benefits while minimizing the potential downsides.
Best Practices for Outsourcing SEO
If you decide to outsource SEO, follow these best practices to maximize results:
Choose Carefully Based on Expertise
Don’t just look for the lowest bidder. Vet several providers thoroughly based on expertise, experience, results, and customer reviews. Verify their capabilities match your needs. This upfront due diligence pays off.
Align on Strategic Goals
Simply chasing vanity metrics like rankings can be misleading. Align on revenue-driven KPIs like lead generation, sales, and ROI. Make optimization decisions based on business impact.
Maintain Open Communication
Lack of communication causes problems. Maintain transparency through status updates, reporting, and regularly scheduled calls. Voice concerns promptly before they grow.
Set Clear Guidelines
Provide editorial guidelines, brand style guides, technical specifications, and SEO roadmap. Set expectations upfront to ensure proper execution.
Review Work Closely
Check content, links, and site changes regularly. Ensure best practices are followed and strategy is on track. Provide feedback quickly to correct course.
Build Long-Term Partnerships
The best results come from trusting partnerships built over the years. Avoid treating agencies as replaceable vendors. Invest in relationships.
Monitor Performance Rigorously
Track SEO KPIs closely using tools like Google Analytics. Tie campaign data to lead and revenue metrics. Continually optimize based on performance.
Retain Ownership of Assets
Ensure all SEO content, links, tools, and assets built remain your proprietary intellectual property. Avoid lock-in.
Outsourcing SEO can help some businesses. It can save money and give you experts to do SEO work. But outsourcing also has risks like losing control.
Look closely at what your business needs. Do you have the skills to do SEO work yourself? Or does outsourcing match your needs better?
Outsourcing to a good SEO company can help small businesses grow. But you need to work closely with the company as a partner. Pick carefully and check their work.
With the right SEO partner, outsourcing can help small businesses increase website traffic. It brings expertise without the high costs of hiring experts full-time. But outsourcing only works if you stay involved and work closely together.
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Will Zhao is a seasoned technology expert and entrepreneur and has spent over a decade working at leading tech companies like Facebook and Airbnb. His expertise spans various domains in the tech industry, including product development and growth, machine learning / AI, and cloud infrastructure. Inspired by his passion for empowering individuals and businesses, Will founded SoftGist to provide expert insights that help people navigate the complexities of technology and succeed in the tech and business world. Will holds a Master of Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University.