15 Game-Changing Questions You Need To Ask Before You Decide To Outsource SEO
It doesn’t matter if you’re a content marketing agency, a social media agency, or an SEO agency – your time is precious.
It’s not always possible to dive into SEO yourself, but you also know how crucial it is to help your clients increase their site traffic, drive more clicks, and land more customers.
The solution? Outsource your SEO.
Many marketing agencies have decided to outsource SEO to get the best possible results as the white-label approach allows access to SEO specialists across all niches.
But while the chance to save time and improve your client’s results is exciting, if you don’t ask the right questions ahead of time, you may end up wasting your time – not to mention the money that will go down the drain, with the realistic possibility of spending thousands of dollars on SEO services you may not want, need, or like.
But what questions do you need to ask before deciding to outsource your client’s SEO?
We’re glad you asked because we’ve rounded up the 15 crucial questions YOU need to ask to save time and money (and find an awesome SEO pro or agency who “gets” you).
4 ways to outsource your SEO
Before you can successfully outsource your SEO, let’s quickly recap the basics…
There are four primary approaches to outsourcing.
#1 – Hire SEO freelancers online
#2 – Hire an SEO contractor
This is best if your SEO needs are minimal as a freelancer typically has limited time and access to SEO tools.
This gives you a chance to develop a better working relationship with them over time and can include contracts to protect your interests.
#3 – Work with an SEO company
#4 – Work with a full-service agency.
This gives you access to many SEO resources and the convenience of a white-label strategy.
This is more expensive but can take care of your marketing needs above and beyond SEO, for an integrated solution.
“How do I outsource my SEO?”
How should you actually outsource SEO?
While there are many different strategies and approaches, the process mostly boils down to three easy steps.
STEP ONE: Create your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Your SOPs should be based on different areas of your specific SEO needs. This helps the SEO professionals or agency you choose know exactly what you want from them.
STEP TWO: Hire your chosen SEO professionals.
From freelancers all the way to complete agencies, this is your chance to pick the SEO provider who suits your needs and budget. If your projects are small you may benefit from the flexibility and nimble approach of a freelancer. Though if your SEO needs are bigger, a white-label agency may be a better fit.
STEP THREE: Study the data you have gathered and refine the process.
There is no such thing as a failure at this stage. You are simply figuring out how you can improve your SEO approach in the future, so take on board all the data – this includes traffic, not just rankings – and decide if your chosen SEO was a good fit or if you need to go back to Step Two again.
Tradies: Don’t Invest a Dollar in Digital Marketing Until You Read This!
15 Crucial questions to ask before you outsource SEO
You’ve got the foundations perfectly laid out and you know what type of SEO to go looking for – whether it’s a freelancer, SEO contractor, SEO agency, or full-service agency.
The next and most critical step is to interview them.
You wouldn’t hire someone for your business without bringing them in for an interview, and you shouldn’t treat outsourcing your SEO any differently. Whoever you choose will become part of your team, even if they’re located on the other side of the world.
To make sure you find the ideal SEO candidate, here are the 15 questions you need to have prepped and ready to go. Some of these are to ask your SEO candidates, and some are questions you’ll need to ask yourself…
1. “What aspects of SEO do I need help with?” (Ask yourself)
If your agency is considering outsourcing SEO, then you need to ask a really basic question: which SEO aspects are you struggling with?
Some agencies may need help with website creation while others struggle with making content or building links. A good company can help you with all of this, but you need to have a game plan before you hire anyone.
It’s a cliche, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
2. “What would it cost to do SEO in-house?” (Ask yourself)
It’s important to determine how much it would cost to do SEO entirely in-house. Unfortunately, this can be a little harder to calculate than figuring out the cost of outsourcing.
Depending on your SEO needs you may have to budget for SEO tools, such as Keyword Research tools through Ahrefs, Moz, or Semrush. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of wages for your SEO experts, and whether any paid training is needed to upskill.
As time goes on, the costs of organic SEO will come down as you build relationships, learn how to improve your SEO processes, and so on, so don’t consider set-up SEO costs as lifetime costs for your business.
3. “Do I have the skills to do it in-house?” (Ask yourself)
Another question that can affect the cost of in-house SEO is straightforward: do you already have the skills to do everything in-house?
Many times, skill is the real issue.
For example, you may have a very skilled in-house team, but they are stretched too thin to take on new projects. But outsourcing to unreputable outlets (especially overseas outlets) means you run the risk of bad quality that will reflect poorly on your brand.
4. “Do I have the manpower or time to train my team?” (Ask yourself)
When it comes to in-house SEO, it’s not a matter of whether your agency can pull it off.
Instead, it’s a question of whether you have the spare time and manpower to devote to learning SEO strategies. For example, there are free SEO training opportunities available, but your team may not have the spare time for such training.
Time is money when it comes to running your business, so factor in whether the time needed to train up your team would lead to greater revenue opportunities down the line, or if you’d be leaving more money on the table by redirecting your team’s focus.
5. “Will outsourcing SEO help me focus on improving my marketing services elsewhere?” (Ask yourself)
Before outsourcing SEO, you need to make sure that doing so will help you and the rest of your agency improve your other marketing efforts.
For example, you likely have an in-house team that handles all aspects of marketing, including SEO. But the more SEO clients and assignments they need to tackle, the less energy and intellect they will have for other marketing efforts.
In this example, perhaps your social media marketing suffers, or the quality of your content writing declines. Ultimately, it may be better to outsource so that your in-house team can properly balance all of their responsibilities.
6. “How much will outsourcing SEO cost?” (Ask your candidate)
Let’s be honest, price is always an important factor.
Ask how much outsourcing your SEO will actually cost, including all fees, extra charges, and so on. For a campaign that is either national or international, you can expect to pay between $2,500 to $5,000 per month. While smaller campaigns can set you back around $500 per month.
It’s possible to start a race to the bottom with extremely low monthly prices from freelancers on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, but you get what you pay for so be cautious. Low prices aren’t necessarily an indicator of low quality. Instead, low prices mean your freelancer is likely taking on many other clients also looking for a great rate, so you don’t get the attention you need to drive results for YOUR clients.
7. “How much time will it take you to understand my business?” (Ask your candidate)
In a perfect world, you’d like to outsource your SEO to someone who can really hit the ground running. That means hiring someone who either already understands your business or who can learn everything relevant very quickly.
Before finalizing any hiring decisions, it’s important to discover exactly what your SEO provider already knows about your specific business.
Don’t be afraid to tell your candidates a little about your business and see what suggestions they make based on YOUR unique situation, not generic “SEO best practices”.
8. “Do you have experience in my industry?” (Ask your candidate)
The average SEO professional is a “jack of all trades.” So the third party you’re considering hiring likely knows a little about a wide variety of industries. But it’s important to discover what they know about your particular industry.
An SEO pro, whether freelancer or agency, with proven results in your industry, can put your mind at ease and help provide the optimal results for your clients.
While it’s a nice bonus if an SEO professional has direct experience with your industry, it is not a requirement. A professional with sufficient SEO experience with your industry’s clients should know enough to get the job done, or at least show the ability to learn about your industry.
9. “How reliable are your SEO services?” (Ask your candidate)
When you are outsourcing SEO, then you need a provider you can rely on. One way to measure reliability is to ask how long a prospective third-party company has been in business.
This is important because more experience means there is a longer track record of success you can review. And they will have had ample experience in evolving and adapting their SEO strategies over time.
That doesn’t mean that newer SEO pros and organizations have nothing to offer. But with your brand and reputation on the line, it’s worth finding a veteran SEO professional who knows how to overcome many different challenges.
Don’t be afraid to ask about guarantees too. Ranking guarantees should always be viewed with caution as Google’s algorithm can’t be controlled, but any form of guarantee that protects your business is a great sign.
10. “Do you have a documented SEO strategy that is a repeatable winning process?” (Ask your candidate)
Here’s an open secret – every SEO specialist has their own strategies for success.
To gauge whether a company is right for you, be sure to ask if they have a documented strategy that has consistently yielded results.
Once you know what their process is and what kinds of results they typically get, you can make the best possible decision for your agency.
A great SEO won’t have a problem sharing their strategies with you. This doesn’t mean they’ll give away their secrets for free, but they should tell you how they approach link building or what local SEO strategies they focus on to drive more local leads for their clients.
11. “Do you offer full transparency across reports?” (Ask your candidate)
You need to know that your SEO provider offers full transparency about the methods they use. But what does transparency mean in this context?
You need to know they will share honest results with you, even if these results don’t paint their work in a positive light.
You want straightforward and honest reporting whenever you ask for information rather than a person or company who wants to hide behind infographics and analytics while making excuses.
Ask for reports during the interview phase, including those reports that don’t show positive results. If the reports you’re seeing are all trending up and there are zero challenges to overcome, it’s likely you’re seeing a very curated set of numbers – not the authentic version.
12. “Do you keep up with the latest SEO trends and changes?” (Ask your candidate)
When you decide to outsource SEO, it’s important to find a provider who really has their finger on the pulse of SEO.
That’s why you should ask about how this provider keeps up with different SEO trends and changes and adapts its strategies as needed.
One area where this is especially important is content creation. Asking how the company researches and produces SEO-friendly content will give you a good idea of how their content will interact with both SEO and the customer experience.
Their answer will help you learn more about how well their content will appeal to the Google algorithm to help your pages rank higher. But it will also help you discover how well they tailor relevant content to your target audience.
13. “What are your greatest SEO strengths?” (Ask your candidate)
Sometimes, the best questions to ask are the simplest ones.
To help you evaluate whether an SEO provider can handle whatever your agency throws at them, you should ask what their greatest strengths are.
By getting different answers from different potential providers, you can find the one that best suits your needs. This is important for several different reasons.
To help you learn about any specialties they have. If these specialties overlap with your industry or your needs, then the SEO partner may be of great service to you.
To invite a candid conversation about weaknesses and areas where they have less experience. A company that is honest about what they can and can’t do is likely to be more valuable in the long run.
Get a better idea of who, out of your outsourced SEO options, is offering a better ROI for your investment
14. “What do you see as the future of SEO?” (Ask your candidate)
Hiring an SEO partner isn’t about finding someone to help today – it’s about investing in the future of your agency. That’s why you want to invest in someone who will bring great value to your brand for many years.
Therefore, the best partners to hire aren’t the ones who simply have their fingers on the pulse of modern SEO. They also need to have a good idea about the future challenges and opportunities of SEO and how to make the most of these eventual changes.
15. “What if something goes wrong?” (Ask your candidate)
SEO providers love to talk about how smooth their operations are. That’s why you should pose this question – what happens if my agency isn’t satisfied?
It’s good to know that the provider has a plan in place for when something goes wrong.
Asking the question will help you learn about the entire outsourced SEO process, including who you will contact if things go wrong and what measures they will take to resolve the problems.
Here’s what you need to do next
Now you know what to ask before you decide to outsource SEO.
These questions will help you learn more about your agency’s SEO needs and what you want from a third-party provider.
Now that you know what to do, the next steps are to scout potential SEO partners. At first, you should rely on a combination of word-of-mouth and client reviews to compile a list of potential partners, but don’t be afraid to head to Google to compare SEO providers.
Next, you’ll need to pose these questions to each of these potential partners. By asking each one the same set of questions, you can better gauge their responses and whether they have what you want or not.
In the meantime, it’s important to ask the questions we have listed of yourself and the rest of your team. You may find there are creative ways to deliver results in-house, helping you streamline your approach and improve your service.
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