Outsourcing SEO services makes sense because of the relatively high barrier to entry to doing SEO well. It’s easy to start some kind of SEO in-house, but unless someone on your team is dedicated to constant SEO growth, it can be hard to match the results of an outsourced SEO partner.
For instance, I’m always experimenting with different methods and growing my expertise for five years in regards to SEO – if no one has done this on your team and you rely on high search results for your company should you be leaning on them so heavily?
Should you just learn and implement SEO yourself?
Probably not. Unless your time is not worth a lot, hire a professional.
Small to medium size companies benefit from SEO Outsourcing because it’s often not feasible to hire someone to do this full time, but for half the price of a full-time employee, you can have an expert build traffic to your site. Even for larger companies, it’s important to have an outside company consult and sometimes implement their SEO strategies because internal employees are less likely to drive innovation if they are only working on the one site, and have to deal with internal politics which can be distracting.
What are the different kinds of SEO engagements?
Common engagements are normally retainer based as SEO takes ongoing effort
An SEO project may consist of a tune-up, the initial technical SEO aspects of how your site is built, or competitive analysis looking at what keywords you should go after with your site.
This is the most common form of SEO engagement because it allows for consistent effort in a pursuit that makes sense with consistent effort because of the fact many companies are competing with others looking to outrank them.
Many SEO Services companies will have minimum engagements, but will sometimes allow other companies to outsource SEO to them with a chunk of hours, or take an engagement with 20 – 30 or 50 hours to try to start the relationship, and then scale.
Particularly for larger projects, a more consultative approach may make sense. Consultative SEO may mean the SEO Services professional comes in and educates the internal team about the best practices of SEO and helps them devise an internal strategy for an ongoing effort of creating targeted content, and even building links.
This can be harder to do, maybe more expensive, and might not stick if the company who hires the SEO consultant isn’t committed to internal accountability around the SEO process.
What are typical costs for SEO services?
Bad SEO can cost as little as $500 – while professional SEO is going to be closer to 1.5k and above
Here are some basic ideas for what you might pay for SEO Services and what those price points might get you.
Sub $500 (Likely ineffective, often spammy)
I’ve seen foreign companies offering SEO at less than 500 dollars – as well as some local companies trying to offer this as an add-on to their design services, without really knowing what they are doing.
Unfortunately, providers of this ‘too good to be true’ style of cheap SEO – usually are doing themselves, and their clients a dis-service since good SEO takes time and it takes money as well. It takes time to reach out and work on getting guest posts or other linking efforts off the ground, and it takes time/money to write quality content and make sure the site is technically set up for the best result. If you’re not spending real money on SEO you can expect poor results, I guarantee it.
500-5k (Average 2.5k)
This is the realm I dwell in – so I can vouch for getting effective results at this level. Particularly the average price here allows outsourcing SEO Services to someone who can then spend ample time or resources allocated to content writing, link procurement, and targeting the SEO work effectively, and making sure the technical aspects of your website are improved as well. On the low end – a 1k engagement might include a lot less content and links, and on the high end, a 5k retainer would include more high-quality content and links.
Content and links being the two most important factors in driving up your rankings.
Enterprise SEO 5k-25k (Average 10k)
5k – 10k and 25k type retainers are more likely to be the jurisdiction of mid to large size companies who have already determined that the price of SEO is a benificial expense for them. They are in good company with people who have decided that search traffic is an awesome way to get more customers, and they are usually in industries where people make buying decisions from searching around and taking the next step on a company’s website. This is in a wide range of industries, but it’s important to note that companies that haven’t yet proven organic search traffic is a significant form of revenue creation should obviously not invest this type of money in SEO Services, but rather ensure its effectiveness at a lower level first.
Things to be suspicious of:
There are a lot of SEO Spammers out there that are eager to sell you bogus claims
Saying they can rank you fast
SEO is actually slightly delicate, in that if you rank fast – that doesn’t always mean your rankings will stick. What’s worse is that if you don’t continue the effort, your rankings could drop somewhat quickly. You want the gains to be slow, but deliberate and most importantly – real. Some kinds of SEO can be quick but volatile, meaning you can actually get a penalty from Google. Scary! I’ll take slow and steady over risking a penalty every day.
You want your SEO Services provider to be confident – but maybe not this confident. Guaranteed rankings are associated with seedy, black-hat SEO providers that could turn and burn you after the engagement. Most legitimate SEO Services companies don’t take this approach in their sales efforts.
Suggesting results without knowing more about the realities of your market
If an SEO consultant offers ideas about what your return might be – they should at least know something of your competition, and the search volumes for top terms in your industry.
Without having this information – they shouldn’t be offering you ideas of returns; it’s just not realistic.
SEO is amazing, but it’s not amazing for every industry and every scenario. Be wary of anyone preaching the effectiveness of SEO in your situation… without KNOWING your situation.
Check out this awesome video by Rand Fishkin of Moz, about Crafting an SEO Strategy in 2017.
Selecting an SEO Services Company
Choose someone you can come to an understanding with and hold accountable for key numbers
Talk through the methodology of how they go after rankingsIf you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. - Albert Einstein Click To Tweet
Be wary of anyone that can’t explain SEO in common language. If people get too technical about their approach, but can’t re-explain it in a way you can understand – it may mean they don’t understand it well enough.
Commercial break to explain SEO Simply
To put it simply: SEO means helping your website get more traffic from Google searches.
What gets’s your site higher in Google searches? Targeted in-depth content, answering common questions in your industry, and earning links back to your website from other respected websites.
Why Outsource SEO Services? Because learning a new skill takes time and effort, and you’re likely better off spending your time on things you’re an expert at and letting someone who nerds out on SEO all day handle it instead.
Work on getting clarity around the metrics that are important to your company
You know what you want to see. You may have two or three terms you want to beat some competitors for, but underneath it all we just want more qualified traffic from search engines that earns our company money. Create a bulleted list with the metrics (KPIs: Key Performance Indicators) that you’re going to judge your SEO company by, and share them with that company, so they have a powerful and clear guiding ‘lighthouse’ to follow during the engagement. This way they know whether they are living up to the standard, or falling short.
Even if you collaboratively come up with these KPIs – you can determine some important goals that will allow the engagement to grow along certain lines and toward something both parties can be proud of. If it isn’t a success because the goal wasn’t met – you can part amicably and on clear terms because there’s no mystery around what the criteria were for success.
Find an SEO Services company where the conversation can be open and flowing
If you have a conversational tone with your SEO company, which allows for pivots and flexibility – you may be more likely to find the right partner without cycling through a bunch of them. No one likes having to go on the hunt for a new vendor, and SEO companies aren’t fond of starting over with a new client when they’ve put effort heavily into one. For this reason, it’s better when there’s back and forth in the client/vendor relationship, and candid rapport.
Things that demonstrate effectiveness
Specific keyword rankings, overall growth in organic search traffic – but most of all $$$ increase from organic traffic demonstrate real SEO effectiveness.
The top terms that matter to you
You know the ones. The ones the CEO was Googling every day for two weeks last month, the ones your salespeople get the most leads from – don’t dismiss CRUCIAL KEYWORDS that earn you money, but expand on them. Just because there are a few terms you’re making money from now, there may be more you can profit from, you just don’t know about them yet. Regardless, tracking movement on the top terms you care about makes sense as part of the measure of success for SEO engagement.
Overall organic traffic
This is probably the real starting point for whether an SEO company did their job or not because this is what you hire an SEO company to improve. This and leads or sales. Organic traffic just means people clicked into your website from a Google search result page.
Disregarding traffic for kinds of content that don’t move the needle on your revenue
You may want to watch it when you get entranced by pure organic traffic though, as it’s sometimes easy to get traffic for low-value terms that will never make a sale. Discount large gains in rankings and traffic for things unrelated to your main business, or blog posts that are a fluke but don’t bring in customers.
Because of these occasional articles, watch the targeting of your blog posts and stick with ones actual customers would look for.
The amount of leads and sales
If the website has proven to be able to convert every 1 out 100 people that click on it, then driving traffic up for terms related to real business and for topics actual customers are interested in, it would likely follow that leads and sales will go up accordingly. This isn’t always as clear-cut as we’d like – but in the end leads and sales are the #1 most important thing that will justify ongoing SEO as an expense, and should be highly prioritized as guiding the engagement.
What are the deliverables?
Some kind of regular reporting is important to showcase effort + links and content. How much depends on what is part of the agreement.
- Monthly (or regular) reporting – possibly a dashboard or report
- Building out quality Content on the site
- Finding and earning high-quality Links
- Clear details about technical changes
What tools are they using?
Good SEO Services professionals are passionate about their tools – and should be able to give you a little tour of how they come to their targets and monitor progress.
Common SEO Tools:
Why Tools Matter?
If someone isn’t using the top of the line tools in their process, you can imagine they perhaps don’t have the best possible service. Even though our tools are expensive – we can get things done more efficiently and effectively than an SEO professional with poor SEO tools.
What is the ROI of SEO?
Depending on the industry the ROI of SEO can be extremely high. It’s important to be real about the actual opportunity in search traffic for yours – and track the actual dollar value of leads and sales from organic growth.
Keys to determining SEO ROI:
- Find the value of a lead
- Make sure your e-commerce reporting is in place
- Tally up the results and make sure SEO services are driving up profit
Check out our ROI of SEO calculator for some idea of what kind of monthly return you can expect from SEO after a year of work.
The degree you have to push up organic search results to justify ongoing SEO services depends on the industry and average sale price
Your industry and the value of a lead and the value of a sale will dictate how much you can and should spend on SEO. Even though it’s a great use of digital marketing dollars – it will depend on the industry and how much you can make from leads and sales on your website. A good SEO Services professional will dig deep into your business model and try to learn what are the higher value products and services you offer so they can go after those terms.
How to know if we have the right SEO partner?
When it’s right – you’ll know. Just kidding – just be aware of whether the company you’re working with is responsive to your needs and aggressively pursues results.
- Pivoting with new information
- Updates on developments in SEO
- Results are earning your company more money
Evolving the SEO Services engagement
Because Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, it is important that the methods of SEO specialists do too – if you find a better way to work with your outsourced SEO partner, let it evolve.
- Sometimes the original agreement needs to evolve
- Examine the relationship and the terms and if need, let it change
- Be honest and clear about what’s important to your to make sure the result is focused
If you went through a solid process to choose the partner – let the relationship breathe and allow time to get results.
It’s important to understand that SEO takes time and that if you overemphasize early results – it actually could hurt your visibility efforts in the long term.
How long will it take to get results?
It takes a solid amount of time and patience to get results from SEO (upwards of a year for significant movement), but in 3-6 months there should be traction and gains that are clear.
- 3-6 Months for an upward trajectory to be established
- 7-9 for ROI to be more obvious
If after a year ROI isn’t becoming clear, major adjustments are needed – consider a new partner. If this is your 2nd or 3rd SEO company, consider whether SEO Services are the right for your situation
Don’t take any professional’s opinion over the reality of your businesses situation. You know more than anyone whether the ROI is significant enough to warrant continued expense – just know SEO isn’t going anywhere soon. It requires consistent attention and in many industries can yield a substantial return in revenue to what was spent on the SEO Services.
- Get clarity around what your really want from SEO
- Establish clear goals with an expert
- Be patient but attentive and responsive to areas where your SEO partner needs information – SEO isn’t done in a bubble
Thank you for reading ‘The Ultimate Guide to OutSourcing SEO Services‘ – I hope you find the best possible partner for your situation, but if you’d like more Information check out my SEO Services or contact me now for a free SEO consultation!