We've been discussing outsourcing SEO for a while, but the topic itself is just as dynamic as SEO is. The heart of SEO is the same, but some roads close or get congested, and others are opened. To keep up with the changes of search engine algorithms and stay up to date on the latest technologies to always be ahead of the competition are some of the many reasons that outsourcing SEO is the most cost effective solution, especially in 2014. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn why outsourcing SEO is the best option to stay ahead of the widening competition on the internet in 2014.


Hello, and welcome to The Daily Brown Bag. Today we’re going to talk about outsourcing SEO in 2014. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning, Chad. Welcome to The Brown Bag. We’re talking about outsourcing SEO, and Chad, I feel like we’ve been talking about this for five years, but I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same, yet some things haven’t really changed. So, there will probably be some themes in here that are similar to the ones we saw in 2009 around the decision to outsource SEO, and there are some things that are just brand spanking new.

So, here are a few of the headlines and some stats to get us into this discussion. SEO is definitely different than it was in 2009--we all know that. What used to be focused very heavily on link building has evolved. SEO is much more multi-faceted now. You see it bleeding into social media, you see successful SEO campaigns relying heavily on email marketing to bring people back after they’ve acquired an email address, and of course with the algorithmic updates from Google -- things like Hummingbird, Panda, and Penguin -- the game is different. How you have to earn your backlinks, semantic search, how you even do onsite SEO -- all this has changed in 2014, and I think we would say now that this relentless focus on individual keyword rankings is no longer the case.

Google took that data away from analytics last year, in 2013, and furthermore, we’ve seen through a lot of different strategies like overemphasis on a single keyword, certainly overanchoring it, in places you’re earning backlinks is very bad now, and the anti-spam filters are looking for those things as signals of manipulation. So, if you’re smart and you’re interested in SEO, you’ve moved much more toward content marketing and further away from link-building, and you’ve certainly relaxed all these ideas or all this focus you had on anchor text. Does that mean that SEO is less popular? No. Chad, here’s some very interesting statistics:

  • The content marketing institute says 93% of marketers plan to use content marketing in 2014. I think that’s fascinating, because you read a lot of blog posts saying, “Hey, SEO always was content marketing. This is nothing new.” Well, it is kind of something new, because the focus is shifting, and these stats show that everybody is now engaged in it.
  • According to Brafton, 92% of marketers believe that content creation is either very or somewhat effective for SEO. That is a very high statistic. There’s almost universal agreement that if you’re in SEO, one of the effective strategies you want to use here is content marketing.
  • Now, turning to how you get that done, and outsourcing, and our discussion on whether you should outsource SEO, Constant Contact did a survey recently that indicated that 35% of small businesses do outsource their SEO -- so, about one in three. But, in that same survey, 50% said they would prefer to outsource it over the 35% that do. The main reason they cite for not outsourcing it is that they believe the cost is too high, and they can’t afford it.

So, let’s queue up the discussion, Chad. What are some of the reasons small businesses should think about? Maybe they’re not seeing the full picture when it comes to that decision on whether to outsource SEO or keep it in-house.

Yeah, and I do think that in 2014, a lot has changed, but a lot is still very much the same in terms of making that decision, and the three factors we’ve always talked about -- and maybe we should list the factors and talk about each of them -- maybe have shifted a little bit as we go into 2014. The three factors are:

  1. You outsource when there’s economies of scale.
  2. You outsource when there are special technologies that are needed.
  3. You outsource when there is specialized knowledge that is hard for you to maintain or build inside your team.

So, I think all three of those things apply, but they apply for slightly different reasons in 2014. So, let’s take them. Economies of scale: In 2009, you just needed some writers to write a lot of content and somebody to edit and put keywords on your page. But, when you flash forward to 2014, it’s actually harder, because you need someone who can not only write very well, but you need people like graphic designers who can take those ideas and turn them into pretty pictures, you need people who are familiar with videography to take those same ideas and make videos out of them, so actually the number of resources you need to get things done has grown, and therefore the specialized skills and economies of scale of you having those people on your team make the case 100% for outsourcing SEO.

When you flip over, and you look at something like technology, it’s the same idea. A couple years ago, it was all about ranking trackers and which keywords were referring you the most traffic. Now, we’re much more into engagement metrics and trying to understand the value of the content, because the value of the content isn’t always as immediately understandable as it was a couple years ago in terms of it getting you a ranking and that ranking bringing you traffic on a certain keyword. There’s much more of a long-tail and a nurturing that’s involved, and that content marketing can help influence or nurture people who come to your website through social or maybe through SEO, and even when they do come, they might not immediately convert. So, the picture’s gotten harder, and the technology to put all that together in one place is harder than it was in 2009, but you still need that technology to really understand things. So, those are the three reasons that we’ve often talked about in terms of why you should outsource SEO.

Yeah, those are solid, Chad, and it seems the case for why a small business would decide to outsource SEO is solid. I think a lot of firms are worried about cost, as the survey results indicate, but I think when you actually think through all the things you talked about, you realize that there’s no way you could approach the quality and breadth of that in-house for the same cost. I think people are also worried about losing control, and we talk about this a lot in our SEO reseller community.

Outsourcing a process does not mean outsourcing control. I know this from back in my previous life, when I used to outsource to companies like GE, AT&T, and Verizon. I was the outsourced organization, and don’t think for a minute that they lost control. They had their scorecards, and their KPIs, and their performance measures, and their SLAs, and they held us to very high standards. But we had better results through outsourcing, without losing control, and we saw that as a point of pride. I think you can apply the same logic to what you’re talking about here, Chad.

The last point I think I’d make on this discussion -- and we’ve talked about this a lot -- we were at the Leading in Local Conference in San Francisco in December, and we heard this excellent talk from HubSpot, saying that the future of people who will dominate content marketing and content creation will have figured out how to turn high quality content generation into an assembly line operation in their organization, leveraging their resources to be able to really outpace their competitors. I think that when people hear that term, they recoil a little bit, because they think assembly line and volume is equated with lower quality.

His point was that that’s a false dichotomy. What you need to figure out how to do is be very efficient at making very high-quality content, and that does require a lot of specification and an assembly line mentality, just like it does to be very efficient and make a high quality automobile. The same business principles apply here. As you think about how to pull that off in-house, versus outside in a firm that does this all day long, the logic is fairly clear. But, we’re in this industry, so perhaps we’re jaded. We’d certainly like to hear opposing opinions. Share your comments, let us know if you don’t agree with us, and we hope you’ll subscribe to our YouTube channel and come back to our Brown Bag tomorrow.