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August 2, 2017

Is Outsourcing My SEO Worth It?

SEO Targeting
Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

SEO is a little like “synergy” and “social proof.” Most small business owners realize it’s important and that it’s possible to do it right or wrong. Few know what pieces and parts go into doing it right, and even fewer know how to make those pieces work for them. To make it worse, Google is constantly updating its search algorithms both to make search more accurate and to counter people who game their system.

SEO isn’t just a tricky target. It’s a moving target, in a game where what hit the target yesterday might get you disqualified tomorrow.

Because of this, more than one business manager or entrepreneur has considered outsourcing their SEO to a company, consultant or freelancer. This isn’t necessarily a reliable winning strategy or an automatic bust but is a decision any business manager should look at carefully. Here, then, are the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of outsourcing your SEO.

The Good

Outsourcing your SEO comes with a host of attractive advantages:

  • Expertise – A solid SEO consultant does SEO for a living. He knows as much about his business as you do about yours. He’ll also keep abreast of developments in SEO, Web content and Internet marketing in general.
  • They Have the Best Tools – Effective SEO analysis requires access to specialized tools, many of which require high up-front investments or monthly fees. That SEO consultant has those tools and already knows how to use them.
  • A Matter of Focus – All members of your team get to concentrate on what they do best (and probably what they most enjoy). Nobody has to train in a new skill or devote resources to what’s a time-consuming and often boring process. Because SEO is faster for experienced people, the difference between the hours your employees would spend and the hours a consultant would take for the same task balance out the cost difference between the two.
  • Results-Driven – A reputable SEO firm will inform you about what metrics indicate successful SEO and review them with you regularly. This kind of real-time accountability makes outsourcing SEO somewhat less risky than other consultant relationships.

The Bad

SEO outsourcing isn’t all sunshine and roses, though. If you’re halfway convinced you want to hire this service out, consider a few of the downsides of this option:

  • Loss of Control – If you do your SEO yourself, you have total control over its goals and implementation. Leaving it to an outside contractor means surrendering some of that control. You still get to pick where you’re going, but they get to choose how you’ll get there.
  • Cost – SEO consulting carries a higher price tag than most other options. As we mentioned above, it’s often a wash compared to the resources taken up by the DIY method, but it can be prohibitive (or at least daunting).
  • Slower Response Time – SEO outsourcers are constantly online, true, but they’re not down the hall and they don’t only work for you. You can expect a slightly longer lag between wanting something to happen, and that thing happening. This can be especially risky since fast response time is necessary to take advantage of some aspects of Internet marketing.

The Ugly

Any time there’s a new technology that businesses find important, a bunch of people and companies come forward pretending they know how to use it. They’re not all crooks looking for a way to separate you from your money. Some are just well-intentioned people who don’t understand the technology well enough to realize they’re incompetent with it.

It’s just the same with SEO. If you’ve decided to go with an outsourced option, consider these tips for finding a high-quality, competent and ethical SEO company or an individual consultant.

  • Avoid companies that offer SEO copywriting, purchased backlinks or other “gray hat” techniques. Google is on to these former ninja practices and will swat your site not only with no credit for the SEO, but active penalties for your site’s performance.
  • Expect and check references, just like you would with any other consultant. For some reason, many businesses fail to do this with Internet shamans. Don’t make that mistake.
  • Ask what metrics they will improve, then ask those references you got from them how the company improved their performance on those metrics. While you’re at it, compare the metrics listed by different companies making their bids. See what matches, and what stands out.
  • Avoid long-distance relationships. Definitely, avoid outsourcing to developing nations like India or the Philippines. The prices are good, but the quality is reliably terrible. If at all possible, go with a firm who has somebody in your town. That way you can go knock on a door if you’re not getting what you want.

Outsourcing SEO is going to cost money. You will need to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it is a good investment for your business.


Paige Curasi has a degree in journalism from Georgia State University and is part of the marketing team at Kabbage, which offers small business loans and lines of credit that allow you to invest in important marketing resource when you need them. Paige loves dogs, live music, meatloaf and content writing, in that order.