There are good reasons both for keeping your search engine optimisation in-house, and for outsourcing work to experts outside. Aside from matters of cost, building an in-house SEO department makes a lot of sense. In this post we look at 8 questions you need to ask before deciding to outsource for great SEO.
SEO is critical to the success of any business, and like marketing, requires long-term investment. When it comes to competence in an area of such fundamental necessity, it is always a good idea to develop expertise in-house. If you’re a startup or a small businesses with too much on your plate to be able to invest in a new department, though, to outsource your SEO to an outside expert is a reasonable move.
The SEO service market, though, isn’t a well-regulated one. Providers of every description crowd the scene with attractive-sounding claims, some based overseas, and offering to work at temptingly low prices. To tell the difference between a real SEO expert and a charlatan, you would ideally need at least some understanding of the method, yourself. It can be dangerous putting your SEO in the hands of a quack. Such an optimiser could quickly do a great deal of harm.
What kind of harm can substandard SEO do?
Bad SEO is often worse than neglecting optimisation altogether — it can trigger ranking penalties by the search engines. The following mistakes are common:
- SEOs often offer to quickly build dozens of backlinks. These tend to be from websites that are unrelated to the client’s business, though, and can risk search engine penalties.
- They add poor-quality content to sites, risking a Google thin-content penalty.
- They neglect to do keyword research, and have clients ranking for words that are no use to them; they then neglect the words that are needed.
To make sure is that you don’t allow a poor choice of professional to ruin your optimisation, you’ll need to interview them, and ask them questions that will let you gauge their level of expertise.
The eight essential questions to ask
1. How do you quickly generate plenty of links: This is a trick question. Any good SEO expert will tell you that there is no such thing as generating plenty of links quickly. You’ll get penalised by Google. Clueless SEO people, though, will usually claim to have access to various methods by which to build hundreds of links in a day. You must never hire such SEO people.
2. Can I just buy your link building service: This is another trick question. Simple link building stopped working years ago. To build links that are actually useful takes an involved and creative process. SEO companies that do link building only include the service as part of a full SEO package.
3. Will you target influential websites: Whatever industry your company operates in, you want to get links from the most well-respected, authoritative and influential websites in it. A quality optimizer will always promise to pursue the goal of obtaining such links. You should ask for past achievements in this area.
4. How do you measure the success of your campaigns: If a firm tells you that it measures its success by the ranking it obtains for your website, you need to be able to recognize that it’s an approach that an expert would never use. To begin, real experts tend to be aware that it’s possible to rank high for the wrong keywords, and make no money off it. They are more focused on meaningful metrics — conversions, leads, sales and so on. You also want to look out for metrics like PageRank — it ceased to be useful years ago. Any optimiser who is still on such metrics isn’t competent.
5. Do you have references: As with any other situation where you need to hire a service provider, past clients are a good way to determine quality. You should ask your optimizer about their successes in the past, and also their toughest challenges.
6. What kind of client retention rate do you have: Before you hire an SEO expert, you first need to check how long they have has been in business, and the number of clients that they have helped. The most important question to ask, though, is about their retention rate. They should be able to give you the specific names of clients that they retained for reasonable period of time.
7. Can you do on-site SEO: Choosing a local company makes a lot of sense. Working with an SEO expert in person can help you tell a lot about their work style, and help you establish a smooth working relationship.
8. What is your approach to integrating SEO with marketing: An SEO expert who keeps up will know that SEO isn’t some bag of tricks that magically gets you a better Google ranking. It works together with PR, advertising and general marketing. You want to see the expert talk about a practical integration plan.
Finally, if you are happy with the answers that you receive, you want to make sure that your SEO gives you value for your money. Many SEO companies will do all the hard lifting in the first 2 to 3 months of a contract, but still continue charging expensive maintenance fees each month long afterwards. Before you sign up with a provider, you need to find out what kind of services you can expect each month after the initial set-up, to justify the fee.