In today’s increasingly competitive online marketplace, many business owners find themselves torn between two very different worlds. On the one hand, they’re doing their level best to offer great products or services. On the other, they despair to discover that their company routinely fails to show up in relevant online search results. If you’re in this position, you might wonder whether it’s best to outsource your SEO (search engine optimization) to digital marketing professionals.
Whether the time has come to outsource SEO or not is dependent on so many factors that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, a brief analogy might help make the point.
Years ago, I truly enjoyed changing the oil and oil filter on my car every few months. After all, it was cheaper than taking it to a garage. I found it relaxing to do it myself while listening to music. As the years rolled by, my time became increasingly valuable to other people. I also happened to notice that competition had driven down the cost of leaving it to the pros. At that point, it just made sense to factor in the dollar value of focusing my time and attention elsewhere. And so…I began frequenting quick-change oil shops.
The decision to outsource your SEO needs is something like that.
SEO Represents an Investment of Someone’s Time
You might, for example, own a successful small business that only requires 20-30 hours of your attention per week to function smoothly. In your spare time, you find it fun to dive into the intricacies of Google algorithms and optimize website content so that your company rises in ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Or…you might need to pour 60-70 hours per week into basic company operations…and be more than a little annoyed that now you also need to learn the art and science of SEO just to stay afloat.
Only you can decide if the time has arrived to outsource your “SEO oil changes” to a digital marketing professional. In addition to placing a dollar value on the amount of time you or another employee is spending on learning and implementing SEO, try using the list of benefits below as a starting point for arriving at your decision.
Benefits of Outsourcing Your SEO
1. Enhanced Focus on Primary Mission
As mentioned above, odds are good that the primary mission of your business is not digital marketing. Most business owners got dragged into digital marketing and SEO against their will. On the best end of that spectrum, SEO was “kind of interesting” and became something of a downtime hobby. For example, for lawyers SEO is very important since a lot of clients hire attorneys by searching for them on google. However, does it make sense for an attorney to be guessing at SEO strategies instead of making a couple hundred dollars an hour. There’s always smart experts in each industry that can help you understand it enough to bring in the right expert. Jason Hennessey, who wrote the book Law Firm SEO for lawyers, is a good example of an expert in that industry that helps attorneys learn enough to be able to bring in the right resources. When you outsource the responsibility of SEO to the pros, it frees up you and your employees to recenter on “the main thing,” whatever that main thing might be.
2. Ability to Reallocate Staff Time and Talent
Similarly, you may have added the responsibility for SEO to the plate of another employee who was not initially hired for that purpose. As the SEO staff time burden increased, you might even have had to hire additional staff to pick up the slack for that employee. Outsourcing your SEO frees up management to put more people to work on the development of products, services, and exceptional customer service. In short, it may well cost less (and pay more) to outsource SEO. You can then reassign employees to help you build up your primary business venture.
3. Outpacing Your Competitors
Chances are you’ve already done numerous online searches, hoping your company shows up in SERPs. Assuming that your company did not show up on Page 1 of any SERPs, you might also have noticed your competitors seem to be doing better than you in this realm. This might even be the case if their products or services are objectively substandard to yours. Yes, it would be great if SERPs were organized in terms of who actually offers the very best value. Realistically, though, many companies have simply grown their businesses by hiring an SEO professional.
4. Increased Accountability
When you outsource your SEO to a professional digital marketer, you can (and should) expect results. Even though improving your SERP ranking is a game that requires the passage of time, your SEO pro should be held to a higher standard for results. Pro Tip: If you’re talking to SEO pros who promise to deliver the moon and the stars, start talking to someone else. SEO is subject to far too many variables for anyone to be able to make extravagant promises. However, if your SEO people aren’t delivering, you always have the option to politely cancel your agreement.
Benefits of Keeping Your SEO Work In-House
Anytime you outsource anything, you are making the assumption that someone else can do something more effectively and efficiently than you can. The tradeoff is that you agree to relinquish a certain amount of control over the results. When it comes to SEO, you want to be confident that whoever you hire will out-perform anyone you have on staff. Ideally, you also want them to out-perform your competitors and anyone they might hire for SEO. The ultimate form of “control” will always be doing it yourself.
Third-party SEO marketers are just like any other business. They have to prioritize their responsiveness based on overall client value. The urgent needs of a six-figure SEO customer will naturally take precedence over those of a four-figure client. True, you may have a top-notch customer service rep, and that’s great. However, the reality is that they do not work directly for you. Someone on your payroll sitting in an office three doors down? That’s an entirely different matter!
3. Ability to Innovate
It’s not inconceivable that you or one of your employees might unearth a previously-untapped SEO strategy that puts your company’s results over the top on SERPs. You might even discover a neat trick that proves valuable enough that you want to keep it in-house. If you are working with a digital marketer to improve your company’s SEO, your in-house ability to innovate will be greatly lessened if not eliminated altogether.
4. In-House Skill Acquisition
While your business has a primary focus, you might actually want to have someone in-house acquire expertise in optimizing website content and social media posts for SEO. This is the direction that a surprising number of small- and medium-sized businesses are going. Oftentimes, SEO experts won’t have a full grasp on what it is exactly that you do. The best of all worlds is to have someone who both understands your business at a deep level and also knows how to get your content more visible online.
If you’re dissatisfied with where you stand in terms of SEO, the worst possible decision is deciding to do nothing. The second-worst decision is to hire someone and demand results within one week’s time. Every champion in SEO will tell you that you have to play the long game. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Can you make the time investment required to learn SEO? Will you embrace the long-term value of “White Hat” SEO? Or will you go for the short-term gains you might make using “Black Hat” methodologies? Would you rather not deal with any of these issues during your workday? Ultimately, only you can decide.
(This article was updated 12-12-21)