Should you hire an SEO consultant or agency?

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Travis Brown
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Your time is money. However, good SEO is expensive. Bad SEO is cheap. The market is full of inexpensive SEO providers, and most are questionable. Most of our team’s experience having worked both the marketing agency side, freelancing, as well as in-house SEOs.

For small businesses, we always recommend educating yourself on SEO at a minimum.

Even if you decided it makes sense to outsource your SEO, this knowledge will help you find a good provider that won’t waste your time or money. Good SEO equates to playing the long game.

In our experience, the best SEO is when someone directly involved with your business learns basic SEO principles and best practices and is able to simply incorporate those within their normal marketing efforts.

Outsourcing SEO can be expensive

Most marketing agencies will tend to start SEO contracts around $1-5K per month. For small businesses, especially in this economy, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

This is compounded by the fact that you likely will not see results from SEO that drive revenue for at least 4-6 months.

There are of course LOTS of SEO providers and individual freelancers that might charge you as little as $100-500 per month. The quality of such services is usually questionable at best.

With SEO, once you gain just a bit of knowledge on how it works, there are parts of the process you can outsource for considerably cheaper. This is worth considering.

For example, you or your team might decide to plan a content strategy and then outsource some of that content, saving you significant time.

Results usually take a long time

Traffic analytics dashboard example.

As we mentioned before, SEO is a long game. These days, ranking changes can happen much more quickly. You might see initial results on an active website within a few days or 1-2 weeks.

These will not be the full results, but rather an early indicator. It may still take months for those results to reach their full potential.

In highly competitive niches, from launch of a new piece of content, it might take you 4-6 months to see your full ranking potential. In some cases this can be as long as 12 months, even if you achieve 80% of the results within the first 1-2 months.

Bottom line, it takes a long time. Bills and expenses add up. You’ll need to decided if you can afford to outsource SEO for $1-5K+ per month for 6-12 months for the mere possibility of getting organic sales of your products, services, or ad clicks. That’s a painful proposition.

This is why we try to push for small businesses to do their SEO in-house, or outsource only small parts of the process where it makes sense for your budget.

The end result will be less money spent but, the outcome will be stable traffic that becomes less costly or nearly free to maintain over time.

Bad SEO can have negative consequences

With SEO, there are risky techniques that can have substantial consequences to your organic performance. Some are even unethical techniques attempting to manipulate rankings artificially.

As search technology evolves, these manipulations are less reliable and more easily discovered. We generally advise against any of that.

With many cheap SEO services, the quality of work you’re getting tends to be sub-par. For example, outsourcing link building. If paying some freelancer $300 per month for link building, you are likely getting spam links in return.

These are probably things like blog comment spam on other sites. Not only is this potentially painting your brand in a negative light with these other sites, but also in the eyes of search engines.

Considering the effect SEO can visibly have on your brand integrity, the question you want to ask yourself is, “Who do I trust to implement my SEO with the most integrity?”

No one knows your business like you do

When dealing with an agency to outsource your SEO, you have to get them up to speed. This means familiarizing them with you brand, history, products, services, even things like business goals and customer segments. This takes time.

In some cases, your industry or niche might also have specific terminology that’s critical for using and expected from a professional organization. Some SEOs might miss some of these terms, and the content they create for you might not sound as professional as your customers demand.

Even if you decide outsourcing makes the most sense for your situation, we strongly recommend being intimately involved with the content planning and writing process. This will help ensure you’re helping your agency put your best foot forward.