In March (2016) we ran a poll to find out which Local SEO tasks are the most commonly outsourced. This is a poll we originally ran in 2015 & have now refreshed it to see how attitudes and practices of SEO outsourcing have changed in the last 12 months.
In total, 345 SEOs & Marketeers completed the survey. The geographic breakdown of participants is –
- USA – 67%
- Canada – 13%
- UK – 13%
- RoW – 7%
Which tasks do SEOs outsource?
- Citation cleanup / building is the most commonly outsourced task (26%)
- Content creation (21%) & Link building (15%) also frequently outsourced
- Reputation management is the least outsourced task (4%)
Outsourcing is an attractive option when tasks are either too difficult, time consuming, dull, or just make financial sense. And much like last year, we see that the tasks which tick these boxes that are outsourced the most.
Local citation work is a prime example. Citation cleanup or citation building is often tedious work, so there’s little surprise that it’s come out on top again. At BrightLocal we have tools like CitationBurst & CitationTracker which help alleviate this day to day burden.
The success of outsourcing ultimately rests upon the quality of the outsourcee, and this is particularly crucial with Link building & Content creation, where, for the latter, there’s an increase in outsourcing year on year (21% vs 16%).
Both tasks obviously tick the ‘time consuming’ box, but can they often be too important to outsource?
In the case of content marketing, the answer to this question obviously comes down to the industry & type of content required. SEOs will be able to outsource content creation easily for some clients, whilst others will require more specialist knowledge. Similarly, for some local businesses, ‘hyper-local’ content is often better served by the business owner / staff themselves, therefore giving a truly local perspective.
Other tasks like Web design / Video creation require a certain level of expertise which some SEO consultant or agencies may not have in-house, so it often makes sense to outsource these to a specialist.
Reputation Management, Link cleanup & Social Media came out lowest in the poll, and none of these are excessively time consuming day to day tasks, nor necessarily require specialist third party expertise. Additionally, there are a range of tools which can be used in-house to help with these tasks, particularly in the case of Link clean-up & Social media.
This is perhaps why they are less outsourced than other SEO tasks.
Are SEOs outsourcing more or less year on year?
Of those SEOs who do outsource tasks, we asked whether they are doing so more or less year on year.
- 60% are outsourcing more SEO tasks year on year
- 20% are outsourcing less SEO tasks year on year
When we look at respondents who outsource, there is a considerable increase in activity year on year. We look closer at the Pros & Cons of outsourcing below, but it’s clear that it allows any agency or consultant to scale up their operation without having to hire internally.
SEO has changed a lot of over the years, and digital marketers must adapt with it. Conversion optimization, Technical SEO, Local SEO, Organic SEO, Content marketing, Link Building, Social Media, Mobile optimization, Video marketing, Web Design, etc. are all facets of SEO – and perhaps more and more it’s becoming an industry whereby specialist knowledge needs to be applied to these areas, rather than a scenario where one internal team handles all tasks.
Certainly, there are an increasing number of startups that make it easy to outsource many of these areas, thus allowing smaller agencies or consultants to compete with larger agencies.
Below, we asked poll respondents to give us the Pros & Cons of outsourcing based on their own experiences:
What are the Pros & Cons of SEO outsourcing?
- Frees up internal resources
- Hiring specialists can be more efficient
- Some work is cheaper to outsource than do in-house
- Mindless tasks are taken off the workload (eg. data entry)
- Helps to scale business & grow client numbers
- Can make your job less stressful
- Easy to move on if outsourced work doesn’t meet your standards
- Allows smaller agencies to compete with larger competitors
- Useful if working to tight deadlines
- You have less control over processes
- Quality of work can vary
- Potential communication issues
- Can take longer to change strategy / plan
- Reputable companies / virtual assistants can be hard to come by
- Some work is expensive to outsource (especially on tight deadlines)
- Difficult to find specialists in niche areas, eg local SEO
- You don’t learn how to effectively do tasks for yourself
- Outsourcing can require supervision, training & revisions
- Errors can be too costly (e.g. link building)
- Potential language barriers & cultural differences
- Harder to manage staff remotely
We’ve hand picked a selection of quotes from respondents who gave us their view on the Pros & Cons of SEO outsourcing, from their own personal experience.
“Pros: Frees you up to concentrate on more important tasks. Cons: You lose control (“if you want the job done properly, do it yourself”).”
- Steve Morgan, morganonlinemarketing.co.uk
“Outsourcing allows us to reduce work flows for staff & helps us maintain a large number of customers. Some outsourcing is cheaper than if the work is done in-house & is less time consuming. The opposite can be said as well. If the quality is not there you can end up spending more time sorting work out than you would’ve done doing it yourself. It can also be more expensive if you are working to tight deadlines.”
- Sam Austen, creare.co.uk
“Finding a trusted partner who can do the job to the right spec & who actually understands the nuances of “local” marketing. Once you get the right one, it frees up a lot more time for business development.”
- Nick Rink, smart-local.co.uk
“The pros are the scalability of operations & an increase in deliverables at a cost that isn’t prohibitive to the customer. The cons are a slight loss of control & degradation in the quality of work product if there is any lack in oversight of the outsourced worker. Outsourced relationships must be cultivated and nurtured through infancy and pubescence before a fully matured relationship can be relied upon to deliver the required work product. There is a lot of effort that goes into doing it right and ensuring quality control. But, when the relationships are fully matured, it can be well worth it.”
- David Hall, theseoeffect.com
“It gives more time to other things, and makes your job less stressful. The downside is that you don’t learn how do it yourself effectively & you miss many intricacies and nuances that you might catch if done yourself. Because of that, I suggest first learning how to do it all yourself, then outsource it if takes up too much of your time.”
- Austin Lund, bigleap.com
“We are a small firm with a growing number of multi-location SEO clients. In order to keep up with the client growth, we would have to not only hire more employees, but restructure our organization /department. Outsourcing allows us to take on more clients while growing the organization and restructuring at our own pace. Instead of staffing based on clients, we can cost-effectively outsource some of the work and staff in a more effective way as well.”
- Marie Werhan, Marketingadept.com
“Outsourcing often means losing control of the day to day progress – and reporting can be limiting. The primary advantage is that you can expand you business when your in-house capabilities are limited.”
- Paul Dumas, optimizedlocalsearch.com
“The important stuff like link building with all the anchor text issues is too big of a deal to outsource. Errors can cause nightmares.”
- Paul Tufts, juicedseo.com
“We like to outsource to specific teams who focus on doing one or two things really well. A good example is companies who only do citations. We have a separate team for web development. We have local graphic designers. We even rely heavily on our hosting team for IT and website support. By choosing the right outsource agents, you can appear as a huge company with deep resources and a price that no agency trying to do it all can come close to matching.”
- Greg Newell, 50bubbles.com
“The main advantage is the ability to upscale or downscale in a linear fashion, with less need to invest and train up front. The downside is managing the internationalisation challenges, getting the language and tone, especially for written content like blogs and social. You can’t call a ‘tap’ a ‘faucet’ in Australia!”
- Pete Nicholls, localtag.com.au
“The obvious advantage of outsourcing local SEO work is that it reduces the amount of manual tasks that have to be completed in-house. For an agency, this is essential as we need to maintain efficiency levels and make the most of the client’s budget each month. For example, cleaning up/building citations and content creation are repetitive tasks that can take up a lot of resource, especially when a client has multiple stores/locations.
Outsourcing this work allows us to spend more time on higher level work for the client, such as strategy development and technical consultancy. There are some tasks that we’d never outsource though as it could cause more damage than good, such as link building and clean ups, and we need to outsource other tasks to ensure we have expertise and resource available in-house to focus on these.
There are quite a few disadvantages when it comes to outsourcing SEO work, which is the main reason why we are doing less of it this year. This includes finding reliable freelancers and partner agencies to deliver the work on time and to a high standard.
It takes time to build up a strong pool of freelancers and it’s particularly important to find experts in different industries when it comes to local SEO, as specialist knowledge is required to produce content and understand the target audience’s needs. We’ve found that working with experts can also reduce the amount of work required from the client as they have the most knowledge and often find it difficult to hand over control of their content.”
- Tom Etherington, silverbean.com