The Ultimate Guide: How to Outsource SEO

One activity that’s essential for businesses of all sizes and in all industries is SEO. Although it may sound easy enough, SEO is actually made up of many complex elements. There’s far more to SEO than keywords and a user-friendly web design; you need to consider various on-page and off-page aspects.


Whereas some elements of an SEO strategy are relatively simple — and with a little research, you could manage them on your own — others require expertise. These are impossible to learn yourself without a great deal of effort. Your best option is to outsource SEO to a professional.

Is SEO Still Relevant in 2020?

Every year, a loud minority proclaims that SEO is dead — and 2020 has been no different. The truth is SEO is evolving and is far from dead. In fact, it continues to become more significant than ever.

Whenever Google releases a major algorithm update, searches become better at delivering content that users actually want. It’s more difficult for spammers to put their sites in front of an audience and more important to use best practices if you want your pages to appear high in the search rankings.

This also means it’s ever more challenging for businesses to handle SEO on their own. Strategies today require a large amount of time and effort. Plus, you need to stay up to date on the latest changes to ensure your strategy remains relevant. If you fail to do so, few people will find your website.

All this is the prime reason why more businesses are choosing to outsource SEO.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

There’s a huge disconnect between how much businesses budget for SEO and how much it actually costs to outsource SEO work. A survey in 2017 found that 54 percent of small businesses lack a SEO budget entirely. Furthermore, 38 percent thought that they would be able to see major SEO results by spending between $0 and $99 per month.

second survey reveals what SEO providers actually charge. Just under 10 percent say they charge less than $500. However, more than a quarter say they charge $501 to $1,000 and almost a third charge $1,001 to $2,500. The likelihood is that those businesses paying on the low end have minimal competition, such as local businesses that dominate a niche. Any company paying less than $1,000 will be a startup or small businesses.

SEO: In-House vs Outsourcing

Once you realize how much SEO will cost you, it’s logical to consider hiring an in-house employee instead. There are benefits of doing this — but also some disadvantages that you need to consider.

1. In-House SEO Is More Expensive

You may initially calculate that you could hire an in-house employee for less than outsourcing. However, when you factor in benefits and office space, you’ll see that you’ll spend more with an employee.

2. You’ll Have Full Control Over Your Campaign

Many small business owners are reluctant to give up any control of their company, especially if they’re just starting out. Plus, hiring an in-house employee allows you to choose exactly how much you’ll spend on each activity, which can help you stay within budget.

However, at a certain point, it will become impossible to hire employees for all the specialist activities you need to do. SEO is likely one such activity.

3. You’ll Need to Train Your Employee

As SEO is always changing, it will be up to you to keep up with training for an in-house employee. This is not just time consuming — unless you pay close attention to SEO news and updates, you may not even know when training is necessary.

By outsourcing, in contrast, the freelancer or agency will keep up with their own training.

4. Outsourcing Is More Flexible

When you outsource SEO, there’s no need to contract the provider continuously. In fact, almost two-thirds of providers have no minimum terms. Plus, you can increase your SEO efforts around the launch of a marketing campaign or website redesign and scale back when your needs are lower.

How to Successfully Outsource Your SEO

Now that it’s clear why you would want to outsource SEO rather than handling your strategy in house, there are a few things to do to ensure your strategy is a success. This will help you avoid wasting a significant portion of your marketing budget.

1. Define the Goals of Your Strategy

Just like every other marketing activity, your SEO strategy needs to have goals that relate to your overall business targets. Knowing what you specifically want to gain from your SEO strategy will help you measure performance and check that you’re on track. It will also allow you to communicate your aims with your provider, who will then focus efforts appropriately to achieve your goals.

A few possible goals include:

  • Increase targeted traffic to your website
  • Generate more leads
  • Improve brand awareness
  • Increase sales
  • Find new customers

2. Figure Out Your Budget

You’ve seen that the majority of providers charge between $500 and $2,500. This is a large range — you need to decide where your business falls. Typically, the more you spend, the better the results (provided, of course, you choose someone who is qualified to handle your strategy). It’s worthwhile researching what other companies in your position are paying.

3. Determine What You Need

If you have a limited budget, you may be unable to cover all the different aspects of SEO. You’ll need to decide what is most important for your company and then focus on just those areas.

For instance, if you operate in a small area, local search visibility could be the most important. If you already have knowledge on how to implement on-page SEO in the form of keywords, header tags, and linking, you may need to outsource technical SEO.

4. Find the Right Provider

Once you’re clear on all the above, you need to make the right decision about what provider to hire.

Choose Between a Freelancer and an Agency

First, you should decide if you’d prefer to hire an independent freelancer or an agency. There are pros and cons to each option.

A major advantage of an agency is that you have access to an entire team. Experts often specialize in a few aspects of SEO, meaning that with an agency you’ll receive expertise in all those different areas. A freelancer may be able to carry out all of your SEO, but the quality of some areas of the strategy could be lower than others.

There are some benefits to working with a freelancer, though. For one thing, it can be easier to coordinate and build a relationship with just one person, as you can ensure the freelancer carries out your strategy just the way you want. It’s also often cheaper to contract a freelancer than an agency.

Ask Providers Exactly What They’ll Do

Contrary to what some SEO providers would have you believe, there are no secrets surrounding SEO. It’s easy to learn about best practices — the trick is to require the skills to implement them.

Providers should be able to give you specifics about what they will do. Avoid anyone who claims to have insider knowledge or names black hat techniques, like doorway pages, purchasing expired domains, and link buying.

Look for Recommendations

Internet searches are useful when looking for SEO providers, but they can often turn up just the most expensive options and those who are in need of new clients. Providers who already have plenty of clients spend less time on their own SEO, as they’re focused on helping others improve rankings. For this reason, you’ll often find great options by asking recommendations from other small businesses.

Seek a Connection

As with any outsourced service, you should choose a provider you feel comfortable working with. Providers should take time to explain concepts you don’t understand, talk about how they measure key performance indicators (KPIs), explain strategies, and tell you when you can expect to see results. The top providers also create reports to show their progress and walk you through what the charts mean.

Finally, the provider needs to be willing to hear your input. Just like with every other digital marketing activity, you need to tailor SEO to your brand. The best providers will put in the effort to learn about your image, values, and voice.

The Takeaway: Should I Outsource SEO?

The answer is a resounding yes. Businesses today need SEO more than ever before. Many small businesses are failing to invest even close to enough in their SEO — and this actually puts you at an advantage. If your competitors are neglecting SEO, you can dominate the search results for the terms prospects are using to find a business like yours.

Whereas you could hire an in-house professional for your SEO, only 19 percent of companies of all sizes say they would prefer to hire an in-house employee. For most businesses (especially startups and small businesses) outsourcing SEO is the right move.