Outsourcing SEO – Yes or No?

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If you’re following business trends with any level of interest at all, you’ll have noticed how many opportunities there are to outsource your business processes. SEO is no exception. We are bombarded daily with the promise of more for less: outsource your SEO for a third of the in-house cost or even less, we are told.

But what are the pros and cons to outsourcing a critical online business process like SEO to a remote company thousands of miles away? If you can do your SEO for a third of the cost then you’re saving money. But how much are you really saving, and  what are you giving up in return?

First of all let’s take a very quick look at what’s involved in the process of SEO:

  • Competitive analysis (looking at the competition online to see how good they are, and how much work is needed to get in front of them)
  • Keyword research to ensure that you’re being searched for the most relevant keywords for your business
  • Tag and title optimization
  • SEO copywriting

If you look at the example below, which is an actual email I received from an Indian outsourcing firm offering me outsourcing services, you will notice a few things. First, the language is a little ‘archaic’ when compared to the language we use in the US and the UK. It may seem almost imperceptible, but when you’re talking about your company’s ‘Brand’ are you sure you’d want to leave the language to someone who may be missing the finer points?

Take a look at the process of SEO again. Can you see how dependent these processes are on language? It is, in my opinion, highly probable that products would use a slightly different set of keywords in India than they would in the English-speaking West for just about everything. Just as if we could roll back in time about fifty years and take the Internet with us, we’d use different keywords than we do today because our language has changed.

I was surfing through your site and can see that you are offering Web Development services to your clients.

We are an Indian Web Design and Development firm with over 6 years of experience. In these tough times, where it is hard to maintain the top line, we can help share the bottom-line for you.

We will be happy to help execute SEO & Web Design and Development projects at a much lower cost than what you have in house – No compromise on quality!

We are at present partnering with over 30 firms from US, UK, Australia and parts of Europe.

Our primary focus is:

Web DesignWeb DevelopmentGraphic Designs
Database programming Ecommerce SolutionsFlash Design
Web CopywritingSEOPPC

Do let me know if you are interested and I would be happy to share our past work details, Methodologies and client Testimonials.

If it’s more important to you in the short term to cut costs, then by all means follow the growing number of companies who have opted to outsource to a country like India where English is, after all, a second language. But if you’re committed to maintaining excellence than you may want to consider the real-time impact on your business.

So what might the live impact of outsourcing be to your business? I’ve drawn up a list of possibles just for the purpose of comparison:

  • When you deal with an SEO company (or local SEO contractor like this SEO in Oregon or similar SEO Company) that has a high-profile presence on the Web you can be sure of accountability: they have a brand to protect.
  • When you deal with a pretty-much anonymous company from the other side of the world there is always the possibility that you will have totally wasted your money because there will be no accountability if they fail.
  • Imagine if you opted to outsource while your major competitor opted for top-flight SEO services: you might just as well have saved your money.

I consider that there is a valuable opportunity opening up if you can resist the temptation to outsource, and instead to commit to passing on a higher standard to your clients. Personally, faced with the choice of saving a few bucks or improving my Brand, I’d grab at the chance to make use of language experts who understand exactly who my business is talking to, and who ‘get’ choosing the right keywords. I’d prefer to go with the consultant who isn’t going to fade away if it’s not going right: someone who cares passionately about his professional reputation and, by definition, your business.

But maybe that’s just me.

Patricia Skinner is an SEO consultant, social media coach & reputation management expert. She is also community leader at the nascent SEO Self Regulation Community. She can be reached any time through her SEO website. Why not follow her on Twitter & her LinkedIn profile.

Patricia Skinner
Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social Director at Mideast SEO, and spends her days doing what she loves best; cooking up winning strategies... Read Full Bio
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  • Jon Payne

    Good discussion Patricia. I’m surprised you didn’t touch on link building though? Of all the “outsource your SEO to our firm” emails I get, most seem to focus on link building as what they are seeking to provide. Any comments on this?

    • Patricia Skinner

      You’re right Jon: should have said something about link building. But all the proposals I’ve had include all aspects of seo–not just link building.

  • Barry Welford

    Good review of the issues, Patricia. I’m 100% with you on the regional differences in how language is used. I find the Google Insights tool particularly useful for that. Even for very common phrases, there are marked differences both sides of the Atlantic and often between Canada and the US.

  • Dean

    The same as Jon the most requests i get are for link building

  • Raffi

    The last paragraph here is the best thing I’ve read all month! I completely agree. “make use of language experts who understand exactly who my business is talking to, and who ‘get’ choosing the right keywords.” Otherwise you end up wasting time, money and energy.

  • Josh

    Even though the language barrier is a huge problem with outsourcing, I think the main issue is trust. Like the accountability issue Patricia mentioned. Most of these programs are just some random person with no credentials. Their contract laws and bankruptcy laws may be different. If they do not do their job, you probably won’t be able to do anything about it.

  • Kim McCumber

    This is a great post! Everyone in the industry gets bombarded with these email “opportunities”, and this is a great discussion on the possible consequences of outsourcing to the other side of the world. What is your opinion on outsourcing close to home vs. finding someone to perform SEO in-house?

  • Tim Read: Ripplenet web design

    Its one thing getting your site optimised – and yes, language is important. But its totally something else getting the links: you need detail expert knowledge to be able to blog, comment and write articles – and for that surely you need in house (or at least in country) experts.

  • Jeny

    I agree that language is a very important factor a business has to consider when it comes to outsourcing SEO. But I also like to say that aside from India, there are lots of outsourcing provider who can be trusted when it comes to the English language. It is just a matter of choosing what kind of outsourcing company you want to partner with. Of course before signing on to a deal, you should make sure first that this provider meet your requirements and I believe that there are plenty of outsourcing companies you can choose to work with, so I am with outsourcing but only for providers who can meet my standard and requirements.

  • Smart Web Solutions

    Yes very good points.
    Also, Google’s is against selling/buying links, and they are good at spotting them – both algorithmically and manually. Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines

    • Patricia Skinner

      Yes, I agree here. It is a dodgy business buying links these days. Personally, I don’t recommend buying links wholesale. Far safer to arrange for a skilled SEO writer to create an article that lots of people will link to. πŸ™‚

  • Raghavan

    You have discussed all vital points and I agree with you. When you rethink again it is all for money that a client outsource and if they get the results then I would say all your points are secondary. But one thing I have to add is that the company that you outsource must be transparent in all their process. Here again, If you pay peanuts you get monkeys πŸ™‚

  • Vamsi

    Well said Raghavan, If the company working is transparent then there are no issues. It helps quickly decide to continue or not and how things are helping.

  • Umer Hayat

    If you want to stay away from jungle and want to grow like a rocket then you definitely outsource your previous projects and concentrate on next….

  • Carla

    Some of the points you mentioned was actually some of the challenges I was facing when searching for a firm or solo designer to redesign my website. I then realized SEO would be even more difficult to manage if I decided to outsource it in general, (let alone out of the country). I ended up hiring an American designer and currently doing my own SEO since I have a better grasp of which keywords and phrasing should be used probably than most people.

  • Indian

    I just would like to share below information with you guys :

    1. There are 3.22 Million Indians in America.
    2. 38% of Doctors in America are Indians.
    3. 12% of Scientists in America are Indians.
    4. 36% of NASA employees are Indians.
    5. 34% of MICROSOFT employees are Indians
    6. 28% of IBM employees are Indians
    7. 17% of INTEL employees are Indians
    8. 13% of XEROX employees are Indians
    9. First democracy to elect a woman Prime Minister.
    10. India is the 7th nuclear power in the world
    11. India is the 5th largest economy in the world
    12. India is the largest democracy in the world
    13. India is the 4th nation in the world to have developed/or developing a nuclear Submarine
    14. India is the 5th nation in the world to be in the multibillion dollar space
    Commerce business.
    15. India is the 4th nation in the world to develop(or nearly to) ICBM’s(can travel up to 14,000km)
    16. India is the 3rd nation in the world, to be able to develop land based and sea based cruise missiles

    • Indian

      We know that we are poor in English language as compare to you guys but research has proved that our education system is much better than your country as well as the history says itself regarding our legends which is not possible into your country ever. Only India can give such a legends to the world.

    • Patricia Skinner

      This has very little to do with what we’re talking about. Indian nationals in the US will understand the local use of language a lot better than someone who has never left the country.

  • Search Engine Optimization Cape Town

    I think its best to let a professional company handle your SEO, and not to do it in-house. Companies should stick to their core business, and focus on what they do best. The main thing is to outsource to a company that knows what its doing, can understand your business and your target market, and can implement a good quality strategy to help you achieve your goals. Regular meetings or communication with the company evaluating progress will ensure that there are no problems.

  • gudipudi

    @Raghavan you are right…If you pay peanuts you get monkeys πŸ™‚
    I get atleast 2 enquiries in a week and they would ask me if i can do.

    all these tasks….
    can you guarantee ..etc etc

    Finally they ask if you could work for peanuts ( the amount which i consider it to be peanuts ) but they again make sure that they need quality services and guarantee.

    Most interesting thing is those are the same people who claim to say that they are consultants and ask for if i can guarantee,….

  • Rita

    Working with some outsourcing companies worldwide, I can say that my experience was. for the most part, very positive (output wise). i guess it all depends on the company one chooses

  • Justin March

    I have talked to a few companies about outsourcing the link building, the trouble is finding reputable suppliers, so far I haven’t found anyone that I would trust to do a good job.

  • blue star web design

    i get 6 or 7 such mails a month from indian out-sourcing, and honestly any of them with proven results don’t offer a great saving, at least not enough to justify outsourcing to 1000’s of miles away when for the most part i have more control and can maintain and monitor quality to my own high standard when i do my SEO directly for clients.
    on occasion when i have needed to outsource is has only been to irish contacts i know personally that deliver results i need, be it seo, design or server side development when i have too much on my own plate.
    one thing for sure is i would never outsource to someone who i have not met personally, its too easy hide bedind a phone line or email..

  • Jim Rudnick

    amen, @bluestar…..use LOCAL talent every time, eh!



  • matt

    i don’t believe I can fully trust outsourcing to companies thousands of miles away. A lot of individuals and services who approach saying they can link build for a low cost in such a short period of time are the ones using generated submissions. I need to know link building is happening manually, that’s why I do it.

  • Tushar

    You need to promote your business all over the world, and such the local talent stuff won’t work.

  • massa

    it always seems odd to me when SEO’s and/or consultants who take on any client work speak negatively of outsourcing. What makes hiring a firm 10,000 miles away with just as many credentials as your next door consultant, called outsourcing and what is hiring the less qualified or even equally qualified next door neighbor called? next door sourcing?

    It’s the same thing whether it is next door or on the other side of the world.

    We’re not actually talking about outsourcing here, I believe what we are actually discussing is global economics, standards of livings and what value we are willing to accept to take advantage of those discrepancies.

    If that weren’t the topic we would all realize either we’re doing it, employees who we contribute to their federal with holding taxes are doing it or we’re outsourcing and where the entity on the other end of that “sourcing’ tether is, makes little difference. It’s still outsourcing if it’s not in!

    • Patricia Skinner

      It’s fine if they actually have the credentials, instead of just saying they do. Just saying.

  • Neilson

    Really interesting topic, and one that seems to be particularly pertinent in the current climate. I believe in many ways its a false economy, as SEO for larger scale clients require considerably more resource. In house training would be perhaps a more cost effective and sustainable solution.

  • Anonymous

    I have read the whole article and all the conversation. The worst thing I noticed is that author mention the name “India & Indian”, may be she don’t know there are also another such countries who offer Outsourcing and this outsourcing rises from foreign countries only.

    The whole world knows that English is secondary language in India but still they are looking reasons to find out “Why they should outsource”.

    If one is not able to choose right company to outsource and got a problem then one should not blame whole country.

    Can anyone tell me do you mention your client that you are charging 1k-3k$ / per month for SEO and outsourced it for 100-200$?? What’s your benefit margin?

    I hope next time search engine journal don’t go into such racism post.

  • Pamela | link buidling services

    Just like the rest, I agree that language is a very important factor a business has to consider when it comes to outsourcing SEO. It is just a matter of choosing who to trust.

  • SmartOnlinePros

    It’s not logical to assume that the only way you can have excellent SEO service is to get it from companies within your country. I think you will agree that there’s more to running a successful SEO campaign than writing impeccable copies. While it’s true that language barrier is the main reason why a lot of western companies are reluctant to outsource SEO to the Philippines or to India, it’s a hasty generalization that SEO companies from these countries have poor command of the English language. With due diligence, you will definitely find a reliable SEO partner from these countries that will reflect the level of language requirement that your brand demands.

    Simply because an SEO company is based in the US doesn’t guarantee success or their full awareness of the US market. It’s only through good communication, proper research and the implementation of sound SEO strategies that an SEO company is able to understand the goals and objectives of their clients and carry out a successful SEO campaign. These don’t entirely reply on location and language!