outsourcing SEO

How to Outsource SEO Safely: Risk Mitigation + Saving Money

Chris Tweten29 Dec 2023 • 7 MIN READ

The Benefits of Outsourcing SEO

If your in-house marketing team doesn’t have a successful track record in using SEO for business growth, you should consider outsourcing an experienced SEO agency:

Here are some reasons why you should consider outsourcing SEO:

Time and Cost Savings: Outsourcing will be more cost-effective than handling SEO in-house because you won’t have to invest into hiring, training and managing additional staff. In addition to resources needed to onboard new employees, you’d also have to invest into developing in-house processes for SEO improvements, backlink building and content production. If you’re looking to take SEO seriously as a growth channel, it’s more efficient to hire an SEO agency because there are varied skill sets involved with ranking websites on Google that often cannot be tackled by a single person. We’ll get into the cost of hiring an in-house SEO later in this blog, but keep in mind that for optimal results, you’ll likely have to hire for multiple roles including a blog content writer, an editor, a link builder and/or an SEO specialist.

Lowered Risk: When it comes to SEO, there are 2 main deliverables to worry about: backlinks and content. Each of these comes with their own set of risks and outsourcing SEO mitigates that risk deftly. Building the wrong types of backlinks puts your website at risk of a manual penalty, potentially ruining your domain’s reputation, sometimes permanently. Producing content that doesn’t convert to new business is a risk of time and money, a common pitfall of those writing in-house. SEO agencies have processes in place to ensure quality and quantity in both of these aspects through risk mitigation best practices.

Scalability: When outsourcing SEO to an agency, you can easily scale the campaign up or down depending on your needs and available budget. This kind of flexibility allows you to optimise your SEO campaigns on the fly. If you did SEO in-house, it’s much harder to make these kinds of adjustments since you have staff who are locked into contracts. When outsourcing SEO, you should consider working month-to-month or locking into a small monthly budget so that you have the ability to scale campaigns with a variable budget. For instance, most SaaS SEO agencies are flexible working on a sliding scale budget, some months higher and some months lower than others. 

Quicker SEO Results: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that working with a team will bring you faster results than working with an individual. Since it’s more cost-effective to outsource SEO to an agency, your budget will go farther, resulting in more backlinks and more pieces of content than doing things in-house. Producing more content allows your site to rank for more keywords and building backlinks improves your site’s ranking for those keywords. So long as you keep up the quality, more is better in this case; you’ll be able to rank your site for keywords that convert faster. 

How Much Does an In-House SEO Cost?

According to Glassdoor, the average in-house SEO specialist makes $65,428 per year, or $5,452.33 per month. As we went over in our guide to outsourcing link building, the average link builder can only build 13-15 backlinks on average per month and in our guide to outsourcing blog writing, the average writer will produce 20 blog posts per month.

If you were to hire an in-house SEO, you can expect them to produce about half this rate for each deliverable because there’s only so much time in a day. 

SEO specialist salary GlassDoor screenshot

On the other hand, if you took that same budget of $65,428 per year and put it towards outsourcing SEO to an agency, you’d build more backlinks and have more blog content published on your site at a higher quality standard.

Preparing Your Site for an SEO Campaign

While a talented SEO agency should be able to fix up any technical issues with your website, there are some easy, foundational steps you can take on your own to save you money.

Indexability: Make sure your website is visible to Google and is being properly indexed. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console and address any errors it identifies. If any of the suggestions here are too technical or out of your wheelhouse, take note of these changes and let the SEO agency handle it for you.

Accessibility: Making your website available for everyone through accessibility compliance will also make it easier for search engines to understand as well. Google puts value on the user experience, so this is an important aspect of any SEO campaign.

Easy Navigation: Navigating your website to any page should be easy and painless. For an optimal user experience, make sure that every page on your site is accessible within just 3 clicks. This means that all of your menus (header, footer, sidebar) should establish logical connections that guide visitors effortlessly to all the valuable content you have to offer. Tools like Screaming Frog can be used to get a visualisation of your website’s pages to identify any orphan pages that need better internal linking.

Outsourced SEO Options

Now that you understand the benefits of outsourcing SEO and know what should be done on your site beforehand, let’s go over how to outsource SEO to the pros.

There are 4 ways you can outsource your SEO:

Hiring a Freelance SEO: If there’s only a single area of SEO you’re struggling with, this is a great option because most freelancers are T-shaped in their skill set. This means they excel in a single area, while they coast by in other areas of understanding the basics. For example, a freelancer might be very strong in backlink building or content production or strategic planning.

Hiring a Full-Service Marketing Agency: Much like hiring a freelance SEO, full-service marketing agencies don’t typically excel in all areas. In fact, this is even more the case because SEO is just one area of marketing they provide services in, without specialisation. However, if you’re looking for an omnichannel approach, full-service marketing agencies will be your best bet. For example, if you want to take advantage of social media and SEO, this is a great option for you.

Hiring an SEO Agency: The most stress-free, straightforward way to outsource SEO. Hiring an SEO agency is relatively headache-free and hands-off throughout the entire process. Their exclusive focus on SEO means they have a lot to bring to the table in terms of delivering results. If you don’t have expertise in SEO, this is your best option because an SEO agency will bring the most to the table.

Hiring an SEO Consultant and an SEO Agency: While it sounds like the most expensive option on the list at first glance, it’s actually the most cost-effective option available. Hiring an SEO consultant to do an audit of your website and putting together a game plan going forward (keyword research and off-page SEO strategy) won’t break the bank, but will give you a solid foundation for hiring an SEO agency to execute. Outsourcing to an SEO agency after you’ve already done the strategic planning cuts down on the onboarding costs and is often the cheapest approach to SEO. Some of the easiest clients we’ve ever worked with started with a strong vision for their SEO (from a paid SEO audit) and we were able to deliver results for them by executing on their content strategy and building backlinks at scale.

What to Look For in an SEO Agency

Proven Experience: Ask to see case studies of successful SEO campaigns or at the very least screenshots that detail progress made for their clients or their portfolio of websites they operate. It’s also important that the agency has relevant experience to your business, so ask if they have proven experience within your niche or industry as well.

Pricing: Ideally, you’ll want to look for SEO agencies that cost less than hiring an in-house SEO. This isn’t too difficult to achieve, as the average contract size is typically somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 per month. This works out to being at most $60,000 per year, which is still cheaper than hiring an SEO specialist.

Transparency: Seek out SEO agencies that are transparent with how exactly they operate. What are the strategies they’re going to use to rank your website? Are they white hat, grey hat or black hat tactics? What do their processes look like for backlink building and content production? These are questions you should consider when looking for the right outsourcing partner.

Questions to Ask an SEO Agency Before Hiring

It’s crucial to ask the right questions when prospecting an SEO agency before outsourcing to them. It’s with these questions that you can make an informed decision to find an agency that meets your specific needs to hit your goals. Asking the right questions will allow you to gain insight into an agency’s expertise, their experience in your industry and their overall approach to SEO. 

By getting a basic understanding of the strategies and methodology they use, you can more fairly assess whether or not they have the necessary skills to earn search real estate for your business.

Here are some questions you can ask an SEO agency before hiring them. They should serve as a starting point to get a feel for their competency. It’s important to ask followup questions to each of these so you can get a more in-depth look at what they’re all about.

  1. What SEO strategies do you follow for your clients?
  2. How do you plan to adapt these strategies for my brand?
  3. What’s included in your average contract?
  4. How much involvement will you require from me?
  5. How will I track the progress of the SEO campaign?