What to Look for When Outsourcing SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a method of improving a website’s representation in free search results. An attractive marketing tactic for businesses, SEO is offered as a service by many vendors. But there's a high risk to any business purchasing this service, because not all SEO providers are created equal.
Google, Yahoo and Bing control their search results. If you want guaranteed visibility, the most direct path is paid search advertising, which works for virtually all businesses. That said, paid search works even better when supplemented with free listings. Searchers are more likely to choose a search result that looks authoritative because it appears more than once, such as in both paid and free results. As Google says, one plus one equals three.
Search has become a disruptive force in marketing. As people have taken their attention online, old forms of media such as print, direct mail and Yellow Pages have been put under pressure. Agencies migrating from old media business are looking for work and want to offer SEO and other internet marketing services. A danger is that these agencies and consultants may not have the experience in-house, and therefore are tempted to outsource search marketing — particularly SEO services.
Each week I receive several emails and phone calls from offshore contractors offering cheap SEO services. I've also seen numerous websites “optimized” by such firms. Sites have been changed in ways that are detrimental to visitors and the client’s brand. I've seen links to irrelevant spam sites or doorway pages full of poorly written text that serves no purpose other than to attempt to pull in search traffic.
Proper SEO work doesn't have a negative impact on usability or brand. I've seen “deep outsourcing” situations that have gone horribly wrong. For example, an agency was contracted to optimize a client’s site. The agency outsourced SEO to a subcontractor who, in turn, outsourced link building to an offshore provider. The offshore firm created a bunch of spam links to the client’s site, eventually causing it to be banned from Google. A considerable amount of time, effort and money was required to clean up the situation and get the site relisted.