The Case Against Outsourced SEO

About a​ week ago I got a​ phone call from a​ college buddy of​ mine named Paul who runs a​ soon-to-launch online business. Here’s how the​ conversation went:

Paul: “We want to​ hire your company to​ do the​ SEO for us. Whatever the​ price is,​ we can afford it.”

Me: “Tell me a​ little more about your company and exactly what you​ expect to​ achieve from search.”

Paul: “We want to​ rank #1 in​ Google for EVERYTHING in​ our industry,​ and I know you​ can do it​ for us.”

Me: “I’d be happy to​ consult with your team to​ make sure you​ understand the​ principles of​ SEO and get off on​ the​ right foot,​ but I think you’re better off doing the​ work yourself.”

He was perplexed. Why wouldn’t we want to​ take on​ his SEO work? it​ has nothing to​ do with him or​ his company. it​ has everything to​ do with the​ misunderstood nature of​ what it​ takes to​ consistently rank high in​ natural search. the​ absolute best companies I’ve worked with make every decision with SEO in​ mind. Everyone in​ their organization – from management to​ programmers to​ marketing – is​ thinking about the​ search impact of​ their decisions. For that reason it​ makes sense to​ hire a​ consultant or​ to​ learn it​ yourself,​ but not to​ hire an​ outside firm to​ outsource your entire SEO campaign to.

Most of​ the​ time when companies outsource SEO they do it​ with the​ mentality of​ “here you​ go,​ you​ handle it,​ we expect results.” They view it​ as​ an​ entirely separate entity and not as​ a​ core value that needs to​ be instilled in​ their organization to​ be successful. That’s why outsourced SEO just doesn’t work: your organization still makes decisions the​ old way.

How will this programming change impact our search results? Can we build link-building into our marketing campaign? What adjustments can we make so that both are working in​ harmony to​ achieve our objectives as​ a​ company and rank as​ high as​ we can? There is​ no incentive to​ learn about search if​ someone else is​ handling it​ for you,​ and consequently you​ probably won’t be asking these important questions when making a​ critical business decision.

Paul was still a​ bit confused with that answer. So let’s take a​ closer look at​ some of​ the​ key components necessary for SEO success and what needs to​ take place for them to​ be accomplished:

Keyword Research – this entails researching how frequently phrases relevant to​ your site are searched. I like to​ use the​ SEO-Book tool or​ the​ free version of​ Wordtracker. Keyword research is​ important because it​ will impact your site structure,​ title tags (widely regarded as​ the​ most influential factor in​ how high you​ rank),​ and will help identify opportunities in​ your industry (if a​ term is​ searched a​ lot but there aren’t a​ lot of​ good results,​ you​ may have just identified a​ great expansion opportunity for your company). This is​ best done by either a​ consultant or​ the​ internal head of​ your SEO campaign,​ which should be someone in​ upper-management.

On-Site Optimization and Site Structure – this is​ what most people think of​ when they think of​ SEO. What changes should be made to​ your site so that search engine spiders have the​ best chance of​ crawling it,​ understanding the​ content,​ and ranking you​ accordingly. Most often,​ this involves changes to​ Title/META tags,​ cleaning up source code so that it’s proper HTML,​ moving CSS and Javascript to​ external files,​ adding sitemaps,​ modifying internal linking structure and anchor text,​ and several other standard changes that eliminate all potential crawling and indexing issues. This is​ best done by your programmer(s) so that they understand the​ importance of​ the​ changes and make them part of​ their routine in​ the​ future. These changes can be suggested by a​ consultant,​ but will only really be successful if​ programmers are on​ board.

Link building – this is​ probably the​ second most common task associated with SEO. By now you​ already know that you​ need one-way incoming links from relevant sites with applicable anchor text to​ rank high. Many outsourced SEO firms will either engage in​ elaborate link exchanges or​ purchase paid links for you: both of​ which are obsolete in​ terms of​ having any positive impact in​ your rankings,​ and now can potentially penalize you. the​ best one-way link building techniques – press releases,​ content syndication,​ blogging,​ product syndication,​ viral videos,​ etc – all require a​ LOT of​ input from you​ to​ be successful. Most of​ the​ time they should be integrated into your existing marketing plan to​ have the​ highest chance to​ thrive. For example,​ most companies already issue press releases when they have newsworthy announcements so it’s a​ natural extension to​ email the​ release to​ online news sites and blogs,​ and to​ use an​ online distribution service. I think successful link building is​ best done by your marketing department as​ part of​ your overall marketing strategy. It’s fine to​ have a​ consultant help put the​ plan together,​ but the​ actual implementation of​ the​ plan should be done by you.

Analytics – this involves the​ measurement and tracking of​ your sites’ SEO and marketing campaign. Previously,​ this could be tedious for small sites and I might have recommended outsourcing. But with the​ new version of​ Google Analytics,​ a​ properly configured account will tell you​ everything you​ need to​ know about where every single sale on​ your site came from. Your programmer or​ consultant should be able to​ set it​ up for you​ and configure the​ reports to​ track only the​ most important metrics for your organization. I also like to​ track incoming links and search engine rankings for a​ site (two things that Analytics does not track),​ but those can easily be tracked with the​ Marketleap Link Checker and Digital Point Keyword Tracker (both of​ which can be found with a​ quick Google search).

In the​ end,​ whether you​ decide to​ hire a​ consultant or​ tackle SEO internally with the​ vast information available online,​ you​ still need to​ make SEO part of​ your organizations objectives for it​ to​ be a​ success: something that outsourcing usually doesn’t do.

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