I have had hundreds of conversations over the phone with US, UK, Australian and with local Philippine clients. And, they were all SEO-related. I made a list of the most common doubts and anxieties of business owners, managers and companies alike prior to outsourcing their SEO. I hope to be able to share my knowledge on the matter and how anyone can wisely outsource SEO to a company that meets their specifications.
In these last few years, I have noticed some particular challenges that is common to the SEO Outsourcing Industry and I would like to list them down, in hopes that you would be able to understand how SEO outsourcing really works. This way, I can build a road-map for anyone who is interested in outsourcing their SEO about what lies ahead, what curves to watch out for and how to simply enjoy the ride.
Before we start enumerating my Top 10 challenges when outsourcing SEO, I think we need to look at Why businesses outsource their SEO in the first place?, this should clue us all in understanding all challenges at the end.
Why Businesses and Companies Outsource SEO
SEO is actually something that almost anyone can actually do, but to aggressively go up in rankings can be an entirely different matter. Competition makes everything slightly complicated. To be aggressive, you will need people who do SEO for a living (no buts about it unfortunately, especially if you desire a long and fruitful flow of business using SEO). Do not use someone in your marketing department who has a few hours set aside to do some SEO, this is a full time job depending upon the scale of your SEO goals..
Although the desired result in the end sounds simple enough, there are thousands of tiny details that need to be seamlessly joined together. Rank monitoring, content generation and link analysis needs to be done almost weekly and this usually leads to having a new set of SEO goals that need to be worked at the following week. This is probably the biggest reason why people outsource SEO, to make sure they rank and not just spend hours doing SEO. These two things are very different. Expertise brings results, plain and simple.
SEO outsourcing is about reducing costs
The cost of doing SEO through outsourcing means that you will not have to hire someone either full time or part time in your organization. This is a big cost-cutting factor; moreover, if you find good matching SEO providers in countries like the Philippines, you will be able to save even more on month-to-month operations.
There are plenty of SEOs who advise clients to outsource SEO to a local company. This remains entirely upto the decision makers of the company but Internet Marketing is about being free from physical and geographical restrictions, talent and also local costs for such. My take on this is , try outsourcing. Just even a trial period!
I know many are against the idea but one must remember that it all boils down to the content generation capabilities of the SEO company. Evaluate how they build links, how detailed they can be in content generation, how they apply social media, how they prioritize the end customer etc.. It would be unwise to shun the entire idea without doing a little digging first. This digging may actually save you thousands of dollars per month for a long time. You may also find a deeper answer in an article, where I try and explain that SEO takes time to grow, so keeping quality SEO overhead costs as low as possible makes perfect sense because it makes ROI meters look even more amazing. Read Why Outsourcing SEO Actually Works
Having some competitive leverage
Every business wants to work with the best that they can afford. Through outsourcing, there is a lot of leverage that you will be able to have above the competition. The competition may spend much more but if your SEO person or company is more skilled, you will have the leverage with the competition because that same amount will get more SEO work done. So hunting for a good SEO outsourcing company ,will not just help to save up, but it also helps in squeezing the maximum out of your expenditure into the campaigns.
SEO and Time
Time equals money. Hiring experts and skilled professionals who can get you the competition leverage at a cost you can afford means that you can “Withstand the tests of time” in the Search Engines. SEO takes time and you want to run at the most affordable prices possible but with the best team you can get. SEO isn`t rocket science, its about being detailed, organized and being persistent in churning quality content and links. There are always new goals to achieve in SEO, so company costs and the ROI of the SEO is a turning factor why companies are making wiser decisions to make this work – by looking at it from a practical point of view — to run long lasting SEO campaigns using minimal company resources.
SEO and The Future
“Withstanding the tests of time” as I pointed out in the above paragraph means that you will need to survive in the years to come and that you will be stable and aggressively making business. 5 years ago, SEO experts worked mostly in link building and off-page expansion, then we saw SEOs work a lot on-page as well and now we see SEOs work a lot more on content-building, Social media syndication, PR, Website optimization, ROI and conversion in websites. SEOs now even consult with application development companies as they have got really good at interpreting usability of websites and user-platforms, they even take charge of content in newsletters, website button placement and much more. The latest inclusion has been that SEOs do a lot of reputation management to get good reviews in sites like Yelp as these now directly affect SEO results.
Now that we have looked at reasons why SEO is usually outsourced, let`s move on to the main topic–
Top 10 Challenges and Solutions When Outsourcing SEO
Industry, Geo-Language and Cultural Barriers to Content Generation
The Industry Barrier
One of the challenges you will face if your business is from a totally different industry like “machining” or “GPS devices” for example, is that many SEOs will not fully understand the technicality involved, how your customers would be swayed and what kind of content they would like to view. There are many SEO firms that specialize in a few industries. But the cons on industry specific SEO firms are that they lack the originality and fierceness that mainstream SEO companies have. Mainstream SEO companies use ideas from different industries bringing a fresh feel for even very technical SEO campaigns.
Overcoming this challenge
Cars, Merchandise, Real Estate, E-commerce SEO campaigns are pretty straight forward and will not bring much of a challenge because most of us know what they are about, there is only a little exploration required to understand the relationships between the keywords and the customers searching for them but SEO campaigns regarding Lawyers services, health services and engineering require some pre-planning or coaching for the SEO team. Having some benchmark sites, content ideas and some training/research time allows the SEO company to adjust and understand your industry better. However, it is best not to start right away but to let the SEO Company make an industry evaluation and competition analysis report first. If you are satisfied with their knowledge absorption, then you can easily start with them.
The Geo-Language Factor
If you are starting an SEO campaign for the US and for English Speaking Countries, there isn’t much of a problem here. But if you are planning to start an SEO campaign that needs Multi-lingual support, you need to know that this form of SEO is very extensive and language skills in specific Geo-target areas is a must if you want to be very competitive. You can already estimate that this also translates to exclusive language link building effort as well. If your keywords are brand based, then this challenge will be reduced significantly, this is why most multi-lingual SEO are brand related as they are already popular in some way in their Geo-areas.
Overcoming Language in SEO
As in the case above, the initial pre-SEO phase is where you will need to put emphasis on what goals you want for different countries. Using multi-lingual websites and inserting Google friendly codes in these pages can help a lot so you can expect a lot of on-page optimization and an extensive content and link planning. The best way to know that you are not going to be just drifting without direction is to have a plan sketched up that makes sense per country basis and also by being very practical in the choice of keywords. Local search is in favor of the local provider, so if you are an international company, based on your reputation and popularity, you may have a faster outcome or you may also have wait for a longer term before seeing results. Being practical is very important when you are launching a website with language support and multi Geo-targeted areas.
The Cultural Factor
If you are outsourcing to a company overseas, you will be faced with yet another challenge, which is the culture of the SEO Company. Although the language you and the provider use may be the same, culture plays a big part in terms of expectations vs deliverables, instruction absorption, business relationships and how work is fundamentally managed.
The only way to skilfully avoid working with the wrong one is to understand how in-depth the SEO Company understands the tiniest of details and how many satisfied clients they have had so far that use English as a first language.
Also only work with a SEO company that will set you up with a dedicated representative, this will help with setting plans, giving instruction and getting results, reports and updates.
Setting Rational and Practical SEO Goals together
Outsourcing your SEO needs co-ordination and goals need to be set timely and the best way to get goals set timely is to be practical about these goals. The truth is that no matter what anyone says, Google is a moving goalpost and they usually add about two tweaks in their algorithm almost daily. While most of these tweaks are not highly significant, they gradually do build up over time and sometimes they make additions and major adjustments such and the Panda and Penguin. But there is not much threat here however as long as your SEO provider follows Google guidelines properly.
Choice of Keywords and knowing the landscape of the SERPs for the keyword is something to be practical about. If you see the competition put more resources in Content and the results are primarily dominated with authoritative websites, you need to understand what`s actually doable with your budget spending. This is one of the challenges I see when someone tries to outsource, they try to bite more than they can chew because SEOs and customers alike feel, that the more keywords they can target, the better their business will be. Both the company and the client need to be practical about whats possible within the budget proposed.
Measuring effectiveness of the SEO
The biggest problem in SEO is that you do not actually realize the value and business opportunity unless you are in the top 3 ranks. Seeing actual money and business outcome takes time. This is where most of the SEO frustrations lie – i.e. in getting there. However, keeping good track and measuring your placements means that you will be seeing certain patterns that are clear indicators if you are doing well or not – you may see that rankings are climbing — If you remain stagnant or move down a few spots occasionally, there is no need to fret as it does happen once in a while but having too many of these plateaus and hills means that you need to rethink and re-evaluate with your SEO company for a better strategy.
Sometimes a strategy used in one industry like “Entertainment” for example, may not work for another like “Hotels”. This is due to a different level of competition in these industries and how hotels are searched locally using a more different set of link building for local search. This is usually what we see when a certain SEO company has only one way of doing things and it may not be working for you. Use a company that has more than one way of doing things. They may be amazing at content but failing in proper link building, it is best to use a company that is well-rounded with a balanced strategy. Ranking upwards although sluggishly is by itself a good outcome especially if you have a look of competitors.
Getting everyone on board
This is an issue for both the provider and the client. Many companies do not understand that the new way of doing things is to have everyone on board with the SEO plan – at least to be cooperative in some form or way even with an outsourced SEO firm.
Let`s take the case of an imaginary Real Estate Group which may have 30+ agents but who have their own websites that aren’t ranking but they are good in writing local market content for their own domains but never want to work together as a team in terms of content syndication or participate in a common social media strategy. The “all for one and one for all” team on the other hand always gets results because the content gets syndicated 30x times more, the links are 30x times more powerful and of course the company just seems more professional to work with.
This is actually one of the biggest problems in SEO, but if you ever do come up with a plan that has everyone on board with the SEO and to be of some small help such as syndicate the content or video proactively, this can eventually be turned around to be your biggest strength that every competitor would envy.
Easier said than done! – but had to be listed as on one of the biggest hindrances in doing better SEO in a company/enterprise level.
SEO Moving slow due to a bad communication strategy
SEO as we know already takes time, now what is even worse is when communication pathways are made in such an order that it takes several communications internally inside the company before even a small item gets the green-light approval.
Not everything has to go through your Communications and PR department, some items may have to, but remember, that there are some ways to make and build content and links which can be pretty standardized where only one authorized person from the client company can endorse. If one person can approve content, it will save more time than having ten people look into it during a monthly meeting.
The best way to keep content and links moving on time is by
- Make a pre-planned link and content agenda ahead of the SEO
- Have them pre-approved well before the execution date
- Only one person from the clients side reviews the content and links
- Make a guideline for the SEO company on what can and cannot be done without the company’s authorization which should be reflected on an agreement or contract prior to the SEO.
SEO is extremely time sensitive so it is best to move ahead without spending too much time on formalities. Every formality should be pre-planned and handled before the SEO starts – all you really have to do is to have one person from the company to let the SEO run on time as planned.
Being SEO adaptive
Most companies do not like change especially at the Corporation and Enterprise levels. Totally understandable! – but is this going to mean that you are giving up on new SEO opportunities that arise because you do not want to “rock the boat”?
Nowadays, reviews and social media is a big deal and there has been ample proof that there are good positive SEO results to be had if you travel this path. Most people, almost 75% of them do not believe the communications sent from a company and do not bother sharing their communication. They prefer to hear from other customers about you and about your reputation, so have you set up your online system to make this feasible? If you have set up an “Iron Curtain” on what you communicate about and your competition starts getting down to earth with the new generation of consumers, you are likely, to not do as well as the competition.
This is another challenge in SEO outsourcing — when many good ideas are simply given up on. SEOs have great ideas, I think listening and trying something new is not just worth it – it could mean tremendous success all over.
Open to changes in Landing Pages
Many times, SEOs will ask clients to change their website structure or pages because of usability flaws and its impact on conversion – then the clients say “This is a new website, we just made it! and we have some good conversion in it! – if it ain`t broke, why fix it?”
Changing the site is a big commitment and you may not have to go there unless the site is poorly made and the site hierarchy is illogical; but there is no real way to know what`s best till you are applying some A/B testing at least on a few landing pages.
Start at least with changes to some high traffic landing pages. This allows you to already start doing something with the visitors already in your website. There is no need to fear as the original web pages will be backed up and can be applied if the new pages aren’t doing as well as anticipated. There are always better ways and better landing pages to be made. In my opinion, the more you are open to changing the landing pages, the faster you will be able to see what works and what doesn`t.
The shifting SEO landscape
Another popular problem when you outsource SEO is that not everything will go exactly as planned because the competition can change and the search engine algorithm will almost surely change. In the last few years, we have seen Google transform and absorb more and more new platforms and not just their algorithm. The SERPs themselves have changed and they have added more result filters into the mix.
You could have a pre-planned list of activities but because of the dynamics involved, your SEO can change if the search engines favour something else that your competitor is doing and so on and so forth.
If you are armed with this knowledge, then you will not fail as your enthusiasm and eagerness will not give in if things don’t go right. You can easily avoid feeling in a slump and take positive actions by working on a new SEO course of action right away. Anticipation makes you ready and it keeps you on your toes.
The only way to make sure you don’t get the rug swept below your feet is by tracking yours and the competitors ranking almost weekly and seeing why one is moving up or down. This is not something you would have to do yourself but you can ask of these reports from your provider and this is good information so you will not be caught blind-sided and in fact you can use this information to further enhance your SEO.
New Web Technology and Websites
A few years ago, many invested in having a mobile website but nowadays a responsive web site is almost the standard for mobiles and handhelds. You can still use the mobile (m.site.com/) version but you may see that it is exhausting to update content in the M version and the WWW version especially if content is your forte. This is not a must but if you agree to having sites with cohesive content and branding with spending as less time as possible, then you may as well go for what’s available and what’s more efficient.
Using new websites like Instagram or Pinterest shouldn’t be thought of as they don’t apply to you, there may be creative ways to use such websites. Never say no unless it is absolutely irrelevant and remember that not all referral participation websites need to be prioritized similarly but getting some good visits from such sites should not be overlooked.
So choosing new technology and referral websites will always be upfront during your SEO journey and it should not be given away without some thought by you and your SEO team. Sometimes new opportunities are completely wasted by not having an outsourcing plan that does not pick up on new technology, websites and channels.
Keeping a positive mind
This by far is the most important challenge of all. You are investing money and time into nurturing your SEO with your provider. Then, there are other things to think about such as ranking improvements, content opportunities, collaboration between the company and the provider, goals, reports, meeting and this cycle repeats itself.
The only thing that gets me through all of this personally, is a good half an hour jog every other day. I cannot think of any other way in keeping your cool and keeping your head straight and thinking clearly. Jogging may not be your thing, but whatever you do, you need time for yourself to think positive. SEO needs nurturing and this can bring some frustration, so having a positive mind always helps. I cannot stress enough of this as those who have a heavy set mind are not ready to brace for the usual SEO challenges and so will not get to see the picture clearly but only seeing the mist ahead instead of what can be done to move forwards. This is extremely important.
This kind of passion and persistence will almost surely get you ranking high in time. I would like to prove this part with an actual funny conversation I had with a client last week — he told me this.
Client : You know my doctor said I looked healthy during my examination yesterday.
Me — That`s Good! So are you Eating Better, Getting More Exercise?
Client : That`s what my doc asked me too! I smiled and told him .. Nah! – My Seo finally started working!” 🙂
Conclusion: Outsourcing SEO is not just an excellent choice, it`s actually very popular and we have seen, that this has been the case in the last few years and why it will be the trend for the next decade to come.
You may have some awkward anxiety or a not-so-good feeling about outsourcing your SEO or even doing any SEO at all. But should you choose to try outsourcing, then we have almost pointed out that the main challenges, are mostly to do with planning and preparation, then execution and making an alternate course of action. This still follows a pretty standard operational process like most of marketing. If you have done marketing in some form, you will surely see that this is the same ball game with different players and challenges but the rules are the same.
You will be successful as long as you have the right information always and an SEO team that you can depend upon who is as much or even more energetic, proactive and enthusiastic as you are. If you are interested in reading more about SEO outsourcing and The Philippines, I have written a few more thoughts at this page — REDKITE SEO.