SEO outsourcing is the process of hiring an agency or an external SEO team for executing and scaling SEO and content marketing campaigns.
Outsourcing helps businesses to hire experts who have an in-depth understanding and experience of the technical and creative aspects of Search Engine Optimization.
Getting on the first page of search engine results is more than feel-good; it’s a great business strategy that gets lots of new customers.
In today’s times, strong SEO is backed by excellent branded content and solid Digital PR.
This essential cocktail puts your business among the industry thought leaders.
And since most businesses don’t specialize in these marketing processes, it’s hard to determine whether to hire an in-house SEO team or outsource to an external one.
But don’t worry,
This guide will spill the beans and help figure out the best course of action:
In this section, let’s understand whether you should outsource SEO to external service providers. We will do this through an in-depth analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing SEO. Plus, an observation of the cost differences between an in-house SEO team vs. an outsourced one.
Before we get down to answering whether you need to outsource SEO or hire an in-house team, let’s see what some of the experts have to say. The following snippets will offer unique insights on SEO outsourcing from those who have years of experience and first-hand knowledge in the SEO niche.
Ready to pick it straight from the horse’s mouth? Let’s go!
Managing Partner, Konstruct Digital
“When my agency first got started, we did a lot of “white label” (aka “outsourcing”) work for other, larger agencies. Having been the one performing the fulfillment, we gained a ton of insight in to what makes these types of arrangements work vs what didn’t.
One of the biggest indicators of success were how close we were allowed to get to the client. Having direct communication with the client and being able to attend meetings made a large difference in our understanding, and ultimately the results we were able to produce.
We found that the relationships where we always had to go through a middle man directly correlated to results. More miscommunication, more cooks in the kitchen, more room for error, more watered-down strategy.
The real ultimate issue: people who didn’t understand SEO trying to translate the strategy.
There are a lot of great outsourcing and white-labeling services out there. Find a service provider you believe and trust, and do just that – get out of the way and trust them that they’re motivated to do an excellent job for you.”
SEO Strategist, Contrast
Businesses typically outsource SEO to digital marketing agencies to get all of the day to day, menial tasks done to get more traffic to their websites. This approach can work to some degree of success.
Where I have seen the most improvement, however, is when businesses partner up with a marketing agency with complete transparency over their entire marketing plan and business goals for the next 1, 2, 5 years worth of goals and let the agency (provided it’s a good one) decide and guide on the entire website strategy and what areas should be worked on – you get much more bang for your buck by letting trained professionals decide on the direction that you should go in digitally, and get graduates or in house marketers to do the daily tasks with support from the agency.
This strategic approach tends to get much better results for clients as it is more malleable, upskills internal teams on SEO (and other) tactics and tasks with support from an agency, costs less as they are paying for years worth of knowledge and a long term plan rather than getting an SEO professional to complete immediate, basic tasks. It also typically leads to longer, more fulfilling professional partnerships and real growth.
“Getting an outside perspective from experts can help drastically grow your site. I’ve worked with many business owners who did a great job getting their main keyword to rank, but never even considered trying to rank for things like specific services they offer or even locations. After a quick consult we mapped out dozens of new pages they could rank for that would bring in highly relevant traffic.
When you’re too close to the business you can miss some great opportunities that an SEO agency could see.”
“The most common pitfall that we see (of which there are many) when brands hire outside SEO help is aligning their in-house marketers and getting them on the same team.
On one hand, several of our largest clients have entire in-house SEO divisions with specialized roles and we still usually get along great. We learn from each other, solve problems faster, and produce more. That means more content, links, and creative technical refinements. Their team knows the business better, and as a shop full of pure SEO veteran specialists, we have a closer pulse on current tactics and what will work best.
At the same time, especially in smaller brands that don’t have a lot of experience working with agencies, we’ll see a marketing manager that fears that an agency’s success threatens their job security. In extreme cases, we’ve watched 100% of the brand’s work get shut down due to this dynamic. Leadership can get ahead of this by clearly defining agency success as marketing manager success and always assessing in-house performance with this risk in mind.”
“Personally, even though I own an agency, I always think it’s better to build in house vs outsourcing the effort. However, I know SEO very well so it’s not difficult for me to build a low cost, agile SEO team. If you have no experience with SEO and aren’t able to source and train the right talent, hire an agency, everything will be taken care of for you.”
SEO Strategist, Tilt Metrics
“Companies that don’t fully understand SEO tend to throw the work on a junior to mid level employee. The challenge is often that they believe if they throw up a few keywords on their site, they’ll magically be on page one of Google.
In reality an effective SEO strategy requires a depth of experience in multiple areas.
First, you’ll need someone who is experienced with the technical side of SEO.
Second, a content strategist is going to be key to move the needle. It’s rare that you’ll find one employee who is going to have the required experience in both areas.
Aside from experience, there’s only so many hours in the workday, and if an employee has other responsibilities than your SEO efforts can see significant delays.
When you outsource your SEO, you’ll usually partner with an agency or consultant that comes with the required expertise and resources. These specialists can work in parallel on different SEO initiatives, and the speed of execution will be significantly faster than inhouse.
When evaluating doing SEO in-house vs outsourcing you should consider the experience of your in-house staff, their current workload, and the opportunity cost of lagging behind your competitors due to resource constraints.”
CEO & Co-founder at Manaferra
“Businesses that outsource their SEO work can focus their time, energy, and resources on what they do best while reducing operational costs and risk. The lack of internal expertise, resources, flexibility, and the need to produce a fast ROI are the main reasons businesses outsource their SEO to an agency. Then there’s the cost-saving part. Companies get to choose from an international talent pool with diverse skills at affordable rates and don’t spend much time and effort in recruiting, training, tools & processes. All of this is handled by the SEO service provider.
If you are a business considering to outsource your SEO, some of the first elements you may need to check before engaging with a provider is how competent they are in your industry (expertise), how transparent their processes are (transparency), how do they handle communication and what relevant success stories they can show to you. This would help you understand if they are a good fit for you and if you can count on them as a long-term “partner-in-crime” (in good & bad times). Once you choose your SEO provider, make sure to support them, and evaluate their performance continually.”
You might have encountered that burning question,Is SEO outsourcing suitable for my business?
The thing is that unless you have a full-blown SEO and content team spearhead and pace up SEO efforts, you need to outsource it.
Plus, you have the option of outsourcing a part of your SEO efforts.
Large businesses often have several agencies and freelancers working to execute their SEO campaigns.
Let’s understand the pros and cons of outsourcing SEO in greater detail:
While there are quite a few benefits to outsourcing SEO, it’s essential to understand some of the drawbacks as well:
Before moving to analyze the respective costs of in-house and outsourced SEO, let’s understand the scope of SEO activities and the team structure:
Thanks to constant updates in Google’s algorithm, SEO is way too different from what it used to be a decade ago.
The big difference is that SEO is a long-term strategy, not a quick-fix.
Let’s look at some key focus areas that help fetch the relevant business outcomes.
Technical SEO helps fix your website for SEO related issues like slow loading, meta tag errors, duplicate content and error pages, etc.
Website content includes a copy of the product and services pages and a dedicated content section such as a blog.
Link-Building and Digital PR
The third aspect of SEO is building relationships with authority websites. The link-building process helps fetch quality backlinks from niche sites. Link-building and PR are vital search ranking factors.
If you’re sorted with these three aspects of SEO, you can expect your search rankings and site authority to move up. Whether you build an in-house team or hire an agency, you need to continually monitor the business outcomes from all three activities.
As a small to medium-sized business starting to scale up your SEO efforts, you want to maintain a lean SEO team; a small SEO team of 4-5 people, including one SEO specialist, an SEO manager, a content creator, and an outreach specialist.
We now have an idea of an SEO team structure.
Let’s move forward and understand the typical hiring costs.
How much does an in-house SEO team cost?
Here’s a look at the typical monthly salaries of in-house SEO professionals:
|Role||Monthly Salary (In USD)|
Add to this the cost of SEO tools and the contractors’ cost for web development and graphic design. The total additional cost would be around USD 4500.
Hence, the minimum cost of hiring an SEO team is about USD 21,500 a month.
Is that too much or too little?
We’ll find that out in a while.
Don’t forget the time and money you need in training and upskilling the in-house resources.
But for simplicity, let’s just stick with the basic figure of USD 21,500 for now.
Before we look at the cost of hiring an agency, let’s look at some of the popular SEO tools, features, and pricing.
Check out our full how-to guide on using AHREFs to crush SEO
Marketers love Ahrefs for its ease of use and variety of features. You can use this nifty tool to spearhead many SEO activities:
With Ahrefs, you can do pretty much everything that’s required for running successful SEO campaigns. Ahrefs’ single-user plans cost you USD 99 to USD 179.
You can buy the three-user plan for as much as USD 399 per month.
Moz pro is another end-to-end solution when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. The tool offers a host of features and a simplified user-interface:
Moz Pro comes at a starting price of USD 99. The multi-user plans range between USD 249 and USD 599.
Another top contender and a worthy one is SEMrush, a powerful suite of SEO tools.
Get all of these features and more, starting at USD 99.95 per month.
Yoast is an essential plugin for WordPress websites. The tool helps optimize meta tags and content for SEO. The tool also allows helps optimize content for readability.
The Yoast SEO plugin comes for USD 89 per website.
If you’re looking for a specialized tool for your backlink campaign, then Majestic is a terrific option.
Majestic comes at a starting price of USD 49.99 per month.
If looking for a tool that takes the pain out of optimizing content for search, then Surfer SEO might be your best bet.
You can buy this useful SEO tool for a starting price of USD 42.9 per month.
Buzzstream is an incredible collection of outreach and digital PR solutions. The tool helps build a list of link prospects for sending personalized outreach campaigns.
You can start using this unique tool for as little as USD 24 per month.
BrightLocal is an all-in-one local SEO tool for varying business types.
You can use BrightLocal at a starting price of USD 29 per month.
Now that you know about the cost of hiring in-house resources for SEO let’s learn about the cost of outsourcing SEO.
Here comes the exciting part—the cost of outsourcing SEO.
Let’s calculate with the help of an example.
Suppose you were to hire an agency like Search Eye for Search Engine Optimization.
How much would be your monthly cost?
Let’s start with Technical SEO.
The cost of the Standard Technical SEO program by Search Eye is USD 899 per month.
It includes on-site implementations, weekly reports, local citations, and unlimited keywords.
The technical SEO package also comes with unlimited content guide outlines.
If you’re looking for a dedicated account manager and a senior SEO team, the monthly package would cost USD 1,899 per month.
Let’s now look at the cost of outsourcing branded content.
Hiring Search Eye for high-quality content creation would cost USD 8-12 per 100 words of content.
Hence, you need to shell out USD 800 to 1200 a month for 10,000 words of content.
Such content writing projects can be divided into 4-12 blog posts depending on individual blog posts’ length.
So far, so good. Let’s now figure-out the cost of outsourcing link-building and brand mentions.
Search Eye’s link-building plans are pretty straightforward. You pay when you get a link.
The price starts at USD 65 per link/mention and goes up to USD 515 per link/mention. The cost depends on the DR and quality of the sites you’re targeting.
Therefore, an average link-building package of 10 links/mentions would cost you USD 2300 to 2600 (Assuming that you’re targeting sites in the DR 40-50 range or a mix of sites with different levels of authority.
Now, if we add up the cost of technical SEO, content, and link-building, we can roughly get the monthly cost of hiring an SEO agency for a small to medium business.
Let’s look at the higher side of the cost by summing up the upper range figures.
Technical SEO: USD 1,899
Content: USD 1200
Links/Mentions: USD 2600
That’s a total of USD 5,699 per month!
You might probably have a question as to why you should choose to hire an agency and not a bunch of freelancers.
The question is valid because freelancers might turn out to be the cheapest way to do SEO.
Let’s compare the two options to see which one fits better.
Hiring SEO Freelancers: The Pros
Hiring SEO Freelancers: The Cons
Now that you’re closer to deciding to outsource SEO, it’s a good idea to get some tips on how to find the right outsourcing partner.
Hiring a professional SEO agency is a sure-shot way to move towards achieving the desired business outcomes. In this section, let’s understand how to find the right SEO agency for your business.
Here is the nitty-gritty,
Hiring an agency is like buying clothes. When you go shopping, you often have a visual idea about what you’re going to buy.
Your mind gives you an idea of the colours, the type of material, and even the budget.
Hiring an SEO agency is similar. Start with a set of goals. Here are some common objectives:
You would probably have one or more of these projects as a priority.
Next, you need to make a list of tangible SEO results:
Since every agency is different and has unique capabilities, making a list of SEO goals puts you in a better position to decide which agency would fit best.
When you visit an agency’s website, you get to know more about them.
Find their expertise.
Does the agency specialize in your niche, or have they worked with companies specific to your business vertical?
Understand if they offer comprehensive SEO services or not. You need to hire an SEO agency that’s good at both technical and creative aspects of SEO.
That also depends on what you want to focus on at the moment.
Check the website for past client case studies and details of clients.
It will give you a fair idea about the kind of results the agency can get.
Check the agency’s reviews on B2B platforms like Clutch, UpCity, and Digital Agency Network.
Also, look for reviews on Google and social media platforms like Facebook.
Does the agency have testimonials on their website?
Visit the blog section of the website to learn if they are publishing expert content about SEO.
Delve deep by researching the leadership team.
Visit LinkedIn profiles of the senior team members to learn more about them.
Are these people influencers in the SEO niche? Have they contributed expert articles to respected publications?
You want to trust an agency that has a systematic approach to SEO.
Most experienced agencies would have a well-defined process that helps them get positive outcomes for their clients.
A successful SEO agency will almost always have a robust client portfolio.
And they will put it up on their site.
See their client roster before you decide to hire them.
Once you’ve done the first level research, you need to unearth a few more details about prospective agencies.
Know about their company culture.
Visit their pages on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Learn about them through platforms like Glassdoor. Company photos and videos can offer a good peek into a company’s values and work ethics.
Sign-up for a free demo or a consultation to learn about their approach to SEO.
Share some of your crucial SEO objectives and observe their recommendations. Compare their suggestions with those of other agencies.
A couple of interactions are great for getting an idea about your comfort level with various agencies’ teams.
The last step is to compare the pricing of the best ones on your list.
Now that you have a fair idea about what to look for in an SEO agency, let’s look at some of the popular agencies’ comparative price charts.
|Agency||Guest Post Outreach (Medium Authority Site)||Content (Price Per Blog Post of 500 words)||Technical SEO|
|Hoth||USD 160||USD 32 – USD 64||USD 500 – USD 2500|
|Search Eye||USD 135||USD 40 – USD 60||USD 899 – USD 1899|
|loganix||USD 200||USD 50 – USD 120||USD 500 – USD 750|
|Fatjoe||USD 95||USD 20 – USD 60||Not Available|
Are you ready to outsource SEO to your dream SEO agency? Here’s a look at the agency onboarding process.
Once you have decided to hire an agency for your business, it’s time to get them on board as your SEO partner. In this chapter, let’s look at the vital steps to smooth agency on-boarding.
The first step is to do the initial preparation. Deploy an internal resource to work closely with the agency.
Create a list of current SEO goals, and by when do you expect to achieve them.
Enlisting SEO objectives will help the agency come to terms with your business needs and start creating a custom plan.
Let the agency send recommendations and proposed processes.
Make use of brainstorming sessions to help the agency draw up a final action plan and process chart with roles and responsibilities.
When you’re done with the preliminary prep, be ready to get a formal contract from the agency.
The contract document includes a complete list of deliverables.
Get the relevant person in your team to go through the details of the contract.
It’s a good idea to ensure that the terms and conditions of the contract are according to your requirements.
Double-check with a legal consultant before giving final approvals.
Once you have the agency onboard, you must keep an eye on their work and numbers. Let’s understand how.
What’s most critical when partnering with an SEO agency is to keep track of the results of the SEO campaigns they’re running. More on how to be on top of things when outsourcing to an agency, in this section:
When you’re new to SEO or hiring an agency for the first time, you’re probably wondering which SEO metrics are best to track.
I am making a list of some of the top SEO performance indicators. If these metrics are healthy, the SEO agency is on the right track.
To rank for important niche search terms—that’s precisely why we do SEO.
The goal is to move towards the top spot in Google’s SERPs steadily.
Remember that you’re doing okay if search rankings for a predefined set of keywords are moving up the ladder.
Ensure the agency is working on the right set of keywords; relevant search terms with high traffic value.
There should be overall growth in terms of the number of keywords you rank for and the rankings. A positive keyword growth shows that your site is growing, and it’s a perfect sign.
You can check the relevant reports related to organic keywords and search rankings in a tool like SEMrush. Here is a quick example:
The Quality and Number of Backlinks
Backlinks are one of the most crucial website ranking factors. That’s why this metric is significant when it comes to tracking SEO results.
It’s critical to make sure that your site is building relevant backlinks. Plus, backlinks should come from sites with high domain authority and search traffic.
And yes, quality content matters too.
If the agency manages to get you such quality links consistently, they’re doing a good job.
Here’s the type of backlinks report you can generate from SEMrush.
SEO’s sole purpose is to grow a business organically, and that’s how it’s different from running ads on Google or social media platforms.
You can check a website’s organic traffic in Google Analytics periodically. See the traffic movement.
A growth in organic traffic is an essential metric to track. The amount of traffic growth will depend on search rankings, quality of content, publishing frequency, and backlinks.
The key is to set a traffic growth target and use it as a benchmark while measuring growth.
Average Time on Site
The time that users spend on your site plays a vital role in fetching conversions.
You can track this metric in your Google Analytics account and see if people are interested in staying on your site.
The metric speaks volumes about the quality of the site’s user experience. If a website site is fully functional and free from errors and error pages, it attracts traction and affinity.
Track the time spent on each of the website pages. Higher the time spent on a page, the better. The metric also indicates the quality of content and copy on your site.
Engaging, relevant, and easy-to-find content often results in higher page dwell time.
Traffic from Mobile Devices
A large number of people are turning to their mobile devices to search for products and services.
To get more traffic and conversions from mobile devices, you need to offer a great mobile experience to website visitors and potential customers.
Consistent growth in traffic from mobile devices indicates that your SEO agency has done well to make the site mobile-friendly and easily accessible on mobile devices.
The metric is also relevant when tracking the outcomes of Local SEO campaigns.
That’s because many people are using mobile devices and voice search to make purchases from their mobile devices.
Is your Google search listing attractive enough for people to click on it?
The Click-Through rate or CTR measures the effectiveness of a site’s search listing.
A higher CTR means that the agency has worked hard on optimizing the meta titles and meta descriptions of each of the site’s pages.
It also means that they have optimized the business’s Google My Business profile and Schema Markup.
These are factors that make a search listing attractive and trustworthy to online searchers.
How should you track website CTR? Check website CTR in your Google Search Console dashboard. You’ll find the Search Traffic > Search Analytics option on the left-hand side.
You can check the CTR for all website landing pages. Also, view the CTR from different devices and countries.
CTR is a crucial SEO metric because it’s a search ranking factor as well.
Website Bounce Rate
Nobody wants to have a website that has visitors who bounce off because they found it irrelevant.
A high website bounce rate isn’t a good sign. It indicates that a website’s traffic is not relevant.
You can check the Bounce Rate of each of a website’s pages in the Google Analytics dashboard.
A high page Bounce Rate means that you need to revise its content and make it more audience-centric.
If a website attains authority in a niche, it will naturally draw more traffic, rankings, and conversions. Domain Authority represents the number and quality of sites linking to a site.
So if you’re publishing quality content and earning new links, your DA is set to go up.
A growing Domain Authority is a favourable sign.
You can check the domain authority of your site in a tool like Moz.
Tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs have developed different metrics that represent site authority. You will come across terms like Authority Score and Domain Rating when using these tools.
Keep a check on your site’s authority level and observe the monthly rate of growth. Compare it with the Domain Authority of competing sites.
Direct Traffic and Repeat Traffic
When an SEO agency goes out there and gets you links and press mentions, it results in publicity.
Since more people learn about your brand and website, it results in more direct traffic. Direct traffic represents visitors who type your business name in the Google search bar to visit your site.
You can check direct traffic within the Acquisition option in your Google Analytics account.
On the other hand, repeat visitors show that people know your site and want to return to it.
It’s a sign that they love your website or the content on it. You can use the following path in your Google Analytics account to analyze the repeat visitors on a site: Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning.
High and growing repeat traffic shows that your site’s content is engaging and relevant to the target audience.
Do you feel better equipped to outsource SEO to an agency? Let’s learn about the last leg of the outsourcing process:
One of the things that play a part in running successful SEO campaigns for your business is how efficiently and effectively you manage the partner agency. In this chapter, let’s take a look at some tools and strategies that help create a win-win for the client and the SEO agency:
Whenever you start a new relationship, there is a little bit of friction involved.
That’s because you don’t know the agency, and the agency does not know your business inside out.
How to reduce the initial confusion?
One of the significant success factors of SEO activity is continuity. You can’t do SEO for a while and take a break to start again after some time.
If you put your campaigns on hold, your site’s rankings and Domain Authority will start going down.
Plan well so that if your company’s SEO manager leaves, there is a backup resource to manage the SEO Agency.
If you decide to change the outsourcing partner, you must look for an alternative agency before ending the current relationship.
Keep going; that’s what will help your business stay ahead of the SEO game.
There could be various permutations and combinations when creating a set of SEO goals.
Do you want to focus on rankings and traffic? Or, do you want to get more leads and sales?
Having a clear mindset is the best way to set KPIs that both parties agree on in advance.
Also, it’s natural that your business priorities may change with time.
That’s because most businesses face a dynamic environment and market conditions.
It’s critical to communicate with your agency about new business goals, challenges, and aspirations.
As a client, you should be aware that positive SEO outcomes are often the result of a collaborative approach between the agency and the client.
In today’s day, technology makes it easy to communicate with and handle a remote SEO team. Here are some excellent tools that can make outsourcing SEO a breeze:
Slack is a famous team communication app.
Trello is a fantastic Kanban project management tool.
Trello is a must-have tool to manage an SEO team from anywhere.
Zoom is a well-known app for conducting online meetings and video calls.
Many business owners feel jittery about sharing access to their web properties with an external team. PassPack is a tool that does away with all your password related woes.
This unique tool comes at a starting price of USD 18 per month.
Practically no business can grow and succeed without a strong SEO strategy. Outsourcing SEO to an experienced team is the best way to run successful SEO campaigns.
It’s not just a cost-efficient way to do SEO but also guarantees positive business outcomes. At the same time, business outcomes depend a lot on how good your SEO agency is. You should work towards finding an outsourcing partner that fits your business requirements. Also, focus on maintaining a transparent and healthy client-agency relationship.
I hope this guide helped you to outsource SEO like a rockstar. Do share your experience with us.