Buyer beware! Agencies Outsource SEO services. It is a not so dirty little secret that many agencies that companies hires to perform SEO services actually don’t so the work in house, opting instead to outsource some or all of the work to contractors or possibly even unnamed “partner” agencies. Despite the annual “SEO is dead” news, demand for SEO services continues to rise. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that organic search traffic still converts better than almost any other type of site traffic and search volume continues to rise. Furthermore, many businesses also naively believe that traffic from SEO if free since they don’t have to pay for the clicks. It is easy to forget or not take into consideration the fact that efforts required to achieve success and a positive ROI from SEO are becoming more challenging and time consuming.
Demand for SEO Continues to Rise
The insatiable demand for SEO has lead to a troubling trend. In a December 2014 study found that 59% of SEO services are actually outsourced to third parties. This should be a scary thought for any business hiring an agency to perform SEO services. Agencies of all types have been using contractors for as long as agencies have been around. For example, creative agencies often hire designers for projects based on bandwidth or even just design sensibility for certain clients but they rarely would hire Creative Director.
SEO Outsourcing by Agencies is Not New
SEO outsourcing by agencies is not a new phenomenon but it is on the rise as agencies with different specializations add search engine optimization their suite of services. After all, it is easier to expand the scope of work for an existing client than it is to acquire a new client. There are many agencies out there that keep the work in house and others outsource components of the services that they simply don’t have the expertise or resources to deliver. These components include content development, link building, website updates, and in some cases strategy. The worst scenarios involve agencies that don’t have any in house SEO subject matter experts and are doing nothing more than account management while all of the strategy and execution is done by external sources. This may be OK for some companies if the agency is transparent about this but most of the time its really a dirty little secret that the agency doesn’t reveal to their client.
What Should Companies Do?
The first advice that we always give to companies interested in hiring an agency to help with SEO is to identify your in house resources. How much expertise do those resources have and how much time do they have? You simply can’t even start your search until you know how much of the work can be done in house. Do you have content writers, in house web development, and even an expert in web analytics? When hiring an agency for SEO the number one value that agency should be able to provide is strategy. The agency should be the guiding force providing the blueprint for tactics that will be implemented to increase your rankings and therefor organic search traffic. When hiring an agency you should always know who the account strategist will be and spend time vetting their background and experience. If the agency does not have experienced SEO analysts/strategists on the payroll then you should seek out a different agency partner.
If you have in house resources to collaborate with the agency and implemented some of their recommended tactics then you can save some money with a reduced scope of services. If you don’t have any in house resources you may still be able to save money. Companies that are looking for a one stop shop to create the SEO strategy and implement the tactics needed for success should still be thorough in their SEO agency selection process.