In this saturated world of digital marketing where everybody’s online, implementing SEO to ensure your website has an optimal presence on Google and other search engines is very important.
SEO is one of the most cost-efficient marketing channels available today, with the potential of generating one of the highest ROI. So, it might seem like a no-brainer that you should invest in SEO.
However, at the same time, SEO is a complex, long-term game. It can be time-consuming and it might take months or even years before you see any significant results (or even, any results at all) from SEO. So, in executing SEO, we have several different options:
- Not doing SEO at all and invest in other marketing channels
- Do it yourself (or at least, with an in-house team)
- Outsource your SEO to an SEO company or a digital marketing agency
Since doing SEO yourself and building your in-house team can be a daunting task, many people and businesses consider outsourcing their SEO.
Outsourcing your SEO to an SEO company, however, can be quite, if not very expensive. Hiring a top marketing agency in North America, for example, can cost upwards of $3,000 every month.
So, is outsourcing your SEO really worth it? Here we will try to answer this question.
The Real Cost of Doing Your SEO In-House
Before we can really justify whether outsourcing our SEO is going to be worth it, we have to first calculate the cost of doing your SEO yourself as a comparison.
SEO, as we’ve discussed, is a pretty complex subject that involves various different fields. So, calculating the cost of an in-house SEO project can be quite complicated.
Let us do a quick breakdown of the in-house SEO cost for a small to medium-sized business. For the sake of this guide, we will assume that the SEO project will last 1 year, targeting 5 keywords with average keyword difficulty.
1.Tools ($0 to $1,000+/month)
SEO will involve a lot of analytics and research, so investing in the right tools is important. There are various useful free tools you can use right away like the handy Google Analytics, Google Keyword Planner, and various other tools. If you want to spend a little bit of time to research these free tools according to your needs, you can technically spend $0 on tools.
However, there are also premium tools like Afrefs, SEMRush, and others, which can cost upwards of $100/month. These premium tools will obviously provide their advantages and convenience, but they can be very expensive if you are not careful. Also, for keyword research tools you might only need it for the first month or two. Let’s assume that we are going to spend $500/month or $6,000/year in tools.
2. Courses and education ($0 to $1,000+)
If you want to teach yourself SEO, it’s important to note that there is no official certification for SEO. There are useful third-party courses from various reputable companies like Moz or Hubspot, and Google’s Ads Certification (previously Adwords Certification) can be useful. However, there’s no actual need to pay for any SEO courses or books, and you can learn everything you need to know for SEO for free from various websites and even YouTube videos. In short, you can control your investment in this aspect. Let’s say you are going to spend $0 in this category.
3. Content ($0 to $10,000+)
At the heart of any SEO strategy for SaaS companies is content, and a huge part of SEO is the consistent publication of high-quality content. Again, you can write/develop your content yourself and technically spend $0, but it’s in most cases not realistic. There are many ways to outsource your content production, and you can get a freelancer who is willing to write your content for below $5 per article, but generally, you’ll spend between $1,500-2,000 a month. Let’s say you are going to spend $15,000/year for content.
4. Technical Optimization ($0 to $10,000)
Technical optimization of your website might involve editing the code of your site. You can learn basic programming and implement on-site optimization yourself. You can also hire a web developer to do this, which can cost around $75-180/hour. Let’s assume you are going to spend $3,000 for the whole year.
5. Link building ($0-$500/link)
You shouldn’t need to buy backlinks, and in fact, buying backlinks can get you penalized by Google. But, in practice, some costs will be incurred in link building services, and an individual link might cost around $10 to $100+ and can be as expensive as $500+ per link. Let’s assume you are going to spend $500/month on backlinks, or $6,000 a year.
Based on the above’s breakdown, we are going to spend $30,000/year in our SEO campaign if we are going to it in-house, and the above breakdown is using relatively moderate assumptions. As you can see, doing in-house SEO might not be as cheap as you might have guessed.
So, let’s compare this with the cost of outsourcing your SEO.
Outsourcing Your SEO: Cost
The amount you pay for SEO companies will vary depending on the size of your business, your location, the scope of the services you require, and many other factors. Also, obviously SEO costs vary from agency to agency.
However, you can expect to pay around $500 to $30,000 for B2B SEO services with several different payment models:
- Monthly retainer: there are cheap SEO solutions that will charge you $100/month or ower, but typically you should expect to pay around $750-$5,000/month. Top agencies in North America will charge around $3,000-$5,000/month
- Project-based: typically will cost you around $1,000 to $30,000 for a site, which can be differentiated into:
- Content creation/copywriting: $0.15/word-$0.5/word
- Site audit: $500 to $5,000+ depending on the complexity of the site and the amount of content
- Link profile analysis: $500 to $5,000+
- Site/online presence optimization: $500 to $3,000
- Hourly consultation: $100 to $300 per hour
As we can see, the cost of outsourcing your SEO is actually pretty competitive when compared to running your SEO in-house. However, you also get several benefits when you outsource your SEO, which we will discuss below.
Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Your SEO
There are some important benefits you’ll get from outsourcing your SEO to the right agency:
- Saving time
This one is pretty obvious. If you are currently doing your SEO in-house or by yourself, you can save a lot of time and use your valuable time on other matters like actually expanding your business.
In most cases, you might not have the required knowledge and skills to effectively implement SEO. While you can certainly learn these skills, it might not be effective and you might be better off focusing on your core expertise.
A specialized SEO company or digital marketing agency can allow you to use your resources and time into running the business, and they might possess unique experience and/or skillset to achieve better or faster results.
- Saving money
Above, we have discussed that the cost of doing your SEO yourself is actually not that cheap, and we also need to consider opportunity costs: freeing up your time or your team’s time can translate into better revenue generation.
Finding The Right SEO Company
Above, we have discussed how outsourcing your SEO is not only worth it, but you’ll also get some unique benefits not available in doing your SEO yourself. However, this is only true if you can get the right SEO company/digital marketing agency according to your budget and SEO objective.
It’s very important to work with the right SEO agency that can develop the right SEO strategy, but there are actually many common misconceptions when choosing who to outsource your SEO to:
- The best SEO companies are the highest-ranking ones, right? After all, isn’t SEO their job? Wrong. The busiest SEO companies with the most number of clients might not have enough time to optimize their own site and rely on referrals instead.
- SEO costs should be standardized. Also wrong, there are many factors involved, including your business’s SEO objectives and your competition.
- SEO results can be guaranteed. In fact, if any SEO company offers guaranteed results, it is a very strong red flag.
- You only need SEO consulting to develop your strategy. It is the execution of the SEO strategy that can be difficult and/or time-consuming
- SEO is only about backlinks and or citations (for local SEO). While it’s true that backlinks are important, SEO is much deeper than link building.
Instead, when searching for the right SEO company, it’s best to first educate yourself on the concept of SEO and how it works, so you can gauge the company’s expertise and experience while asking the following questions:
- Ask for references and let them showcase their previous projects. You shouldn’t only check their previous client’s position on the SERP but their content quality and website optimization.
- Ask how many years they have been in business and their overall experience in SEO.
- Ask how many pages do they intent do optimize for what price, the number of target keywords, etc. Be as clear as possible regarding pricing and what you’ll get.
- Will they take care of maintenance, website backup, and monitoring/analytics? If not, this might mean additional costs for you.
- Will they involve any social media strategy, and how?
- What kinds of reports will they deliver and how? Will they use a specific solution? How is their accountability in failure?
- Ask whether they offer any digital marketing services that might support your SEO.
To be more specific, you should also investigate the following:
- Their own website. Although we have mentioned that the highest-ranked SEO company isn’t always the best, you should check whether the website is properly optimized. Also, search for queries containing “SEO” and the city that they operate in to check their performance. This might also give you some clue about their Google Maps presence. Check for their optimizations and their content, and don’t solely
- Check for long-term ranking. Check whether or not they can help a website rank in the long term. So, ask for client results for at least six months, and whether they can show you a traffic report with a relatively long upward trend. Black Hat SEO firms will rank a site quickly only to eventually fall like a brick.
- Keyword optimization. Ask for examples of keywords they have targeted and their performances. Don’t forget to check the search volume and keyword difficulty of the keyword.
- Tools they are using. Ask them what SEO tools they use. If they are using premium tools, it may justify their price. Ask whether you get access to some of their tools (analytics, project management, etc.)
Outsourcing to the right SEO company is definitely worth it and can save you both time and money when compared to running your SEO yourself or with an in-house team.
The key is whether you can find the right SaaS SEO service for your business, according to your objective, and here are a few things you should look for when looking for your SEO agency:
- Past successful campaigns for competitive keywords. A lot of SEO companies will sell you that they can rank #1 on the SERP but the keyword targeted is actually not very competitive. Check whether the SEO company has proven track records of success with competitive target keywords.
- Transparency. No there’s no secret method or holy grail of SEO. A proper startup SEO agency should be willing to explain their specific strategy for your business and the variables involved. No two clients are the same and they shouldn’t hide this fact, and they should be willing to explain to you in detail about what they plan to do, specific for your site.
- Honesty. Also, look for companies that are eager to let you talk with past or current clients. Reliable SEO companies shouldn’t have anything to hide, and won’t hide their failures and the fact that there’s no guarantee to any SEO campaign.