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October 19, 2009

When is an SEO agency NOT an SEO agency?

Let’s face it, almost all SEO agencies, like most online service providers, will outsource some aspects of their work. This is nothing new. In fact, even before the advent of the internet, businesses would traditionally outsource certain tasks – Hence the plethora of ‘temping’ agencies.

Commonly outsourced tasks were things like telesales, recruitment, even accounting and auditing to some extent. But with the massive growth of online business, outsourcing has grown, and indeed actually changed in its very nature.

In the online business world, the term outsourcing has almost become synonymous with paying for workers that actually live in other countries, whereas previously the outsource workers would be the same country as the employer, if not the same city!

What about the question we started with? When is an SEO agency NOT an SEO agency?

The answer to this is not simple, and the question is really only meant to provoke thought. My own personal feeling is that an SEO agency is not really an SEO agency when it outsources all the work except the customer facing aspect.

What I mean by this is that some SEO ‘agencies’ merely employ UK based office staff to do the selling and silver tongue sales pitches, then farm out the actual work to cheap overseas labour. The better agencies may have their own database of workers they use on a regular basis, and trust – whereas others may simply use freelancer type websites to ‘pick up’ staff.

Whilst this may not at first seem like much of an issue, it is not exactly honest!. The kind of setup mentioned above, to my mind, is NOT an SEO agency, more of a sales agency that then passes the work on to others.
I guess you could argue that they are more than a sales agency; after all, perhaps they plan a campaign prior to the work being handed out to freelancers, and pop a quick report together once it’s been done… Alright, let’s call them an admin agency 😉

Is it wrong for SEO agencies to outsource at all?

Again, this is down to a matter of opinion. I think its fine for any company, whatever its industry, to outsource some of its workload. At kingpin-seo we sometimes outsource bits and pieces – who doesn’t! But perhaps the problem arises when the bulk of the workload is outsourced, without the knowledge of the SEO agencies clients.

The client is in the belief that their work is being carried out by UK workers, whereas unbeknownst to them, someone half way round the world is carrying out the actual work, and for a tiny fraction of the amount the client is paying the agency.

What is it good to outsource, and what shouldn’t be outsourced

Again, this is my own opinion – but it is founded on background knowledge of what our own clients are happy with.

We feel it is okay to outsource small amounts of manual, repetitive work, things like gathering initial, basic info on competitors (although we prefer to carry out in depth reports in house!) , and some elements of promotion (such as submitting articles, that are of course, written in house)

A basic rule of thumb is that if the client would not be comfortable with something being outsourced, then it shouldn’t be outsourced! – Simply!

Another little rule of thumb is that if something requires or involves decision making that could have some bearing or impact upon the SEO campaign on the whole, it shouldn’t be outsourced.

How do I find a decent SEO Agency, that isn’t simply an ‘Outsource/Admin Agency?

Simple! – Just ask!. Seriously, call or email the agency, and ask them straight if they outsource, and to what extent they outsource.

If they say they don’t outsource anything at all, either they are lying, or they don’t fully understand the question!

If they say they do outsource, but are fully transparent about what processes and work practices they outsource – that’s a good start. We can define in a single sentence our stance on outsourcing, and we suggest you ask any potential SEO agency to do the same…

“We never outsource any decision making, creative production or administrative workload, everything is planned in house, and the vast majority of our work is carried out in house… any outsourcing we do is isolated to repetitive techniques such as submitting a previously written high quality piece of content to directories & websites”

If an agency is not willing to disclose to what extent they outsource, then I would just walk away. At the end of the day, it is YOUR money being used for this service, and just like a service offered offline, you are entitled to know where it is going!

Resource Section – About Kingpin-seo

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