Outsourcing SEO has become imperative for numerous businesses and digital marketing agencies. In this guide, I offer my recommendations on how to efficiently outsource SEO. The initial phase of outsourcing SEO involves identifying your SEO goals and the specific activities you intend to delegate. Subsequently, you must choose the suitable SEO agency or freelancer according to your predetermined criteria. Lastly, overseeing and managing your outsourced project is essential. Within this guide, I break down each step, providing comprehensive advice, suggestions, and best practices.
What is SEO outsourcing?
SEO outsourcing means hiring external SEO partners outside the company to assist with search engine optimization. The main reason for SEO outsourcing is to reduce the workload of in-house SEO employees or to get help from a specialist that is not available in-house.
Companies and agencies can choose between project-based and retainer SEO outsourcing. In project-based outsourcing, they hire outsourcing partners for a specific project. However, they may also hire someone long-term, on a retainer basis, to provide continuous support with certain SEO activities, such as reporting, SEO copywriting, or technical SEO.
It is estimated that 37% of small businesses outsource some area of their business, such as IT, accounting, digital marketing or SEO. Since 53% of all website traffic comes from search engines, you can’t afford to neglect SEO as a marketing channel for your business.
How to decide whether to outsource SEO or not?
Outsourcing SEO has its benefits and challenges. So how can you make the right decision? Here are some factors to consider:
- Your budget: How much can you afford to spend on outsourcing SEO without affecting your company operations? Do you have other priorities that might conflict with your desire to outsource SEO? These aspects will influence your decision because hiring an outsourced SEO on a monthly retainer can usually cost between $500 and $1,000, but it can vary greatly depending on the scope of work, experience and other factors. On the other hand, the most popular per-project rate is between $2,501 and $5,000. However, these SEO cost statistics are constantly changing.
- Your SEO goals: Your SEO goals determine your SEO priorities. For example, if your goal is to increase conversions, then you might need to outsource SEO to a specialist who also has some knowledge about user experience and conversion optimization. If your SEO goal is to increase the overall site traffic, then you can choose an SEO strategist as your outsourcing partner.
- Your in-house expertise: The expertise of your in-house SEO staff will also affect your decision. You might lack technical SEO specialists or PR experts in-house. If the amount of technical SEO or PR work is not enough to justify hiring full-time employees, then outsourcing would be your best option. You can decide to outsource only those SEO activities that you need help with.
- Your current SEO performance: How is your website performing in terms of SEO? Do you already have some first-page rankings, or is your website barely visible on Google? If you and your in-house SEO team are struggling with certain issues on your site, or you require help from a more experienced expert, then outsourcing might help. On the other hand, if your website is doing well, you might just need to tweak your SEO strategy a bit with your in-house team, and you’ll be good to go.
SEO outsourcing checklist
This is the checklist that might help you in making your decision about outsourcing SEO:
- What are my current SEO performances? Good / medium / poor
- What are my main SEO goals?
- What aspects of SEO should I focus on?
- Do I have enough in-house expertise?
- Does the amount of work justify hiring a new in-house person?
- Do I have enough budget to outsource SEO?
- Do I know what type of SEO consultant I need?
- What is the desired time frame for completing my defined SEO goals?
- How will I measure the success of SEO outsourcing?
- What types of SEO activities do I need to outsource?
How to outsource your SEO activities?
If you’re unsure what would be the best way to outsource SEO, follow these 3 steps to make the entire process easier and more effective.
Step 1: Determine your SEO goals and needs
You need to know your main SEO goals before you search for your outsourced SEO partners. Your goals will decide the SEO services you will outsource.
Common SEO goals
- Increasing organic traffic to your website
- Ranking higher than your competitors on profitable keywords
- Fixing technical issues on your website, such as slow page speed
- Boosting sales, signups, and conversions
- Increasing your brand awareness
- Connecting to local leads
- Growing international presence and reach target audiences in different markets
After you define your SEO goals, you need to choose the SEO activities to outsource. The outsourced SEO activities should match the defined SEO goals. For example, if you want to solve technical problems on your site that affect user experience, you should hire a technical SEO specialist who can also improve conversion optimization.
Common SEO activities to outsource
- Off-page optimization: building backlinks, writing guest posts, doing PRs, and managing online reputation
- Technical SEO: fixing technical issues on the site such as slow website speed, bad site structure, mobile unfriendliness, broken links, and crawlability and indexability problems.
- SEO audits: doing a one-time and detailed SEO analysis of your site’s current organic performance, finding main SEO issues, and making a plan and priorities for improvement.
- Complete SEO strategy: your SEO partner will handle all your SEO activities, such as keyword research, content audit and strategy, prioritization for the biggest impact, copywriting, on-page SEO, PR campaigns, technical fixes and SEO reporting
- Full content strategy: this includes creating a complete document with suggested topics to write about, including which keywords to use to boost your topical authority
- On-page optimization: this includes keyword research, improving the content on the website, creating optimized content, competitor research, content expansions, and internal linking.
You might need one or more outsourced SEO services or a mix of them depending on your goals. You should also consider your budget and desired outcomes.
Step 2: Choose the right SEO agency or freelancer
After you decide what SEO activities to outsource, your SEO budget and goals, you can look for potential SEO outsourcing partners. You need to know what kind of partner you need, where to find them, and how to compare them.
What type of partner do you need?
There are many options in the market and industry. When outsourcing SEO, you can partner with:
- Freelancers or independent contractors: Freelancers are individuals who can help with the extra workload. They might have the expertise your in-house team lacks. This could be a good option for you if you know what speciality and skill set you want and the exact tasks you want to outsource.
- SEO agencies: They may offer custom solutions for your company and have more capacity and availability since they usually hire full-time SEO specialists. SEO agencies might be a good option for you if your SEO workload is too big for one person, as freelancers often work with different clients at the same time.
Where to find SEO outsourcing partners?
After deciding what SEO activities to outsource, and defining your SEO budget and goals, you can look for potential SEO outsourcing partners. Some common ways to find them are:
- Ask your network for referrals of SEO specialists,
- Search for SEO agencies or freelancers on social media and check their profiles and services,
- Use search engines to find them through organic search,
- Attend networking or other business events,
- Check freelancing sites,
- Check relevant business directories.
How to compare them?
You need to evaluate their expertise and experience and see if they fit your business needs. The criteria you should use to narrow down your choices are:
- Expertise: How long have they been in the SEO industry? Are they SEO generalists or specialists for some industries or SEO areas? Do they have any industry certifications or awards?
- Case studies & testimonials: Check their case studies and testimonials to see what kind of projects they did and what type of clients they worked with.
- Industry experience: Do they have relevant experience and knowledge of your industry? This might help them understand your target audience, competitors, and SEO and marketing goals better.
- Pricing: What are their prices? Do they offer project-based packages or monthly retainers? What do they include? Do they offer custom packages?
- Services: What services do they offer? How do they deliver them? Are they up-to-date with the latest SEO tactics and practices? What tools do they use?
- Communication and reporting: How do they communicate with their clients? How often will they update you on the SEO progress? What do their reports look like and what do they include?
- Contracts and other legal details: What are their terms and conditions? Do they offer refunds?
You should compare at least 3-5 SEO service providers and contact them or request a free consultation to ask them about their services, work methods, industry experience and results for other clients.
Step 3: Manage and monitor your outsourced SEO project
After you do your research and comparison, you should be able to choose the best SEO partner for you. However, it’s usually good to check a few more things with them right at the beginning to make sure you agree on these aspects:
- Your target audience and ideal clients: Make sure your SEO partner knows your target audience, as it will affect the SEO strategy. If they don’t understand who they are, they may suggest the wrong keywords or create content that won’t be helpful.
- Your main competitors: Give them an overview of your main competitors, what they offer and what they do better than you in your opinion.
- The state of the industry: Tell them about the latest trends in the industry, main issues, challenges and opportunities, as this insight may help them create a better content strategy
- SEO goals, metrics, and main KPIs: Clearly define your SEO goals, metrics and KPIs, and ask your SEO partner if they are realistic and how long it would take to see initial results
- SEO budgets: Make sure you and your SEO partner agree on the budget
- SEO strategy: Ask them for a brief overview of the SEO strategy they would suggest for your business
- SEO activities breakdown: Make sure you understand their proposed set of SEO activities with a roadmap of implementation.
- SEO tools: Ask them which tools they use. Are there some industry standards tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Google Search Console, GA4? Do they use some other set of tools and how they are going to track results through them?
You should monitor the outsourced project regularly to catch any issues early on. This will also help you understand the big picture and build a better working relationship with your SEO partner.
SEO outsourcing best practices
To avoid the SEO outsourcing challenges that often happen and affect the success of SEO outsourcing process, you can follow these best practices in managing and monitoring your SEO project:
- Set deadlines and responsibilities upfront: To improve efficiency, talk about the expectations, outputs, and deadlines with your contractors.
- Improve communication and collaboration: Good and timely communication is important, and both parties need to make it happen. Work hard on solving communication problems and always celebrate small wins.
- Share feedback: Agree on how often they will update you and how frequent they will send you reports. Also, provide your feedback and guidance to your SEO partners to help them work better.
- Regularly check SEO reports: analyse results such as organic traffic, rankings, and conversions. Don’t just wait for the SEO magic to happen. You should check and evaluate your SEO results regularly, so you can tackle misunderstandings early on.
- Insist on accountability: Make sure your SEO provider is doing what they said they would do and meeting your expectations.
- Suggest strategy changes if needed: If you have some other urgent SEO priorities or updated SEO goals that can’t be met with the current SEO strategy, you can suggest changes.
Outsourcing SEO means hiring a third-party SEO partner to do your SEO tasks for you. It can help you save time, money and effort, and boost your organic traffic. Outsourcing SEO also has some challenges and issues that you can reduce by investing your time and energy to set your SEO goals upfront, research your potential SEO partners and manage them actively.
If you have any questions about SEO outsourcing, you can contact me for more information or book a free initial consultation.