Search engine optimisation is one of those critical business tasks that most companies would love to do but often don’t have the time. That’s why many businesses – even some of the largest in the world – outsource their SEO. There are thousands of agencies around the world.
Whether you prefer to work with a local business face-to-face or opt for an international alternative, there are plenty of people ready and willing to rocket your business up the rankings.
Indeed, there are so many potential companies out there that there’s always a chance of choice paralysis. Do they understand your market? What kinds of techniques will they use to gain more prominence for your site on search engines?
Your SEO consultant can be one of the most critical marketing hires you ever make, so it makes sense to take the time to get it right.
Should You Outsource SEO?
Many different skills go into successful SEO, but time and patience are underrated. When you have a small or medium business to run, both are at a premium. Much as you might hire an accountant for your corporate taxes or an HR consultant to find new hires, you might outsource SEO to an Expert.
The most challenging aspect for decision-makers is consistency. Great SEO takes time. There is no single button to push or piece of content to write that will see a business overtaking its competitors. An SEO consultant or agency can take the stress out of this, managing your gradual ranking increases as part of their regular workflow.
What to Ask an SEO Consultant
Anyone that pitches themselves or their business as SEO experts will have the fundamentals covered. They’ll already have a good idea of analysing your site and making decisions that will boost your search performance. However, the fit with your business, the techniques they use, and various other factors contribute to making the right decision.
Rather than hiring the first agency you come across or basing decisions on what they say about themselves on their website, don’t be afraid to dig deeper into what they do and how they do it.
Given you’re trusting the entirety of the SEO process to your chosen brand, you don’t want to be their first client. Industry experience matters and a broad portfolio indicates they know what they’re doing and that they’re in it for the long haul.
Conversely, with time being such a valuable resource in SEO, you don’t want to get involved with an agency that has bitten off more than it can chew. Content creation, backlink placement, reporting and more all add up, and you want to be sure that they have the personnel available to dedicate to reaching your SEO ambitions.
In-House or Outsourced
One of the main factors behind the sheer number of SEO agencies out there is that many SEO professionals work as individuals, which continues to rise. For example, Europe experienced a 45% increase in freelancer numbers between 2014 and 2019. So while only a tiny proportion works on SEO, it still represents a significant workforce.
Those who work in digital marketing take on specialised aspects of the SEO process and bundle the work under the agency’s brand.
In some cases, outsourcing is no problem at all. In terms of results, it is often no different to an agency owner or consultant assigning jobs to their employees.
However, there can often be a discrepancy between the professionalism of an agency and the efforts of those that carry out outsourced work.
Content writing is one of the best examples, as most SEO agencies work with third parties on that particularly time-consuming task.
However, if a revolving door of freelancers and partner companies take on different aspects of your SEO strategy, there’s a danger that the task might lose that all-important consistency.
Most business owners know not to take what other companies say about themselves at face value. They’ll be at least somewhat biased, after all.
Ask a potential SEO partner what they can show you from past clients. Check with your network to see if anyone has any experience working with them.
Most agencies adhere to the same standards for all clients, and proof of previous achievements in the SEO world can be invaluable for assurance that your time and money isn’t going to waste when you hire them.
KPIs and Progress Monitoring
Key performance indicators (KPIs) vary between businesses. Your company likely has its measurements, and the right SEO agency or consultant should do too. Essentially, you want to establish early on what success means to them.
You should never trust a company that guarantees a position at the top of page one. This is because there are so many external factors, such as SEO efforts by the competition, algorithm updates and more to consider, that those guarantees are worthless.
An SEO agency worth working with knows this, but they will have a good idea of what they can achieve. These outcomes could involve ranking highly for specific, less competitive keywords, gaining several backlinks or deploying a set number of articles onto a website as part of a content strategy.
You’ll also want to discuss timescales. SEO never ends, and, as noted, patience is vital. Nevertheless, you need at least some idea of when to expect a return on investment. Ultimately, businesses pay for SEO services to make back more than their outlay over time. So it’s essential to consider just how long that will be.
If their ambitions are realistic and match your own, there’s every chance your agency of choice will be a good fit.
Dashboards and Reports
Relatively few agencies use proprietary tools in their work. For the most part, they rely on industry-standard software and techniques that a business owner could conceivably use themselves.
However, the time it would take to learn how to use these tools effectively, not to mention months spent on the SEO strategy, reinforce the importance of outsourcing.
Fortunately, what most of these tools have in common is reporting functionality. When broken down to the most basic level, SEO is all about content and numbers. That makes it a prime candidate for reports and charts.
You might be only interested in where you rank for specific keywords. Alternatively, you might love data and enjoy a detailed. But, most importantly, you’ll appreciate an overview of the results in a digital marketing dashboard.
Reporting is one of the least glamorous sides of SEO, but it needs to match your expectations. Clarify with a potential partner what information they intend to provide and how regularly before you begin working with them.
An in-house digital marketing team might be the dream, but they are both time and cost-prohibitive for most small businesses. In addition, there are often more pressing issues on which to focus.
The combination of time and expertise makes SEO ripe for outsourcing. Linking up with an SEO consultant or agency means passing on the hard work and benefiting from experience and knowledge to achieve outstanding results.