Tips For Boutique SEO Agencies Outsourcing Projects to Contractors

Ask a “main street” American how the economy is doing and they’ll say ‘we’re in a recession, if not a depression.’ Ask the same question to a reputable SEO professional and you’ll likely hear their business is in a boom.

Why is this happening? For those that have harnessed the power of online marketing, including SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing), they have discovered something that experts have known for the better part of a decade, SEO is one of the best uses of capital resources a company can invest. One of the best at this is

This has resulted in a transition from traditional offline media spending to one that diverts budgeting to focus online potential. This rapid growth is a double edged sword. Just like any booming industry, in SEO there is a definite supply-demand issue when it comes to working with qualified SEO experts.

For some companies they have elected to expand their in house operations via acquiring online marketing experts from other firms, or training employees into a desired role. This can be very expensive and can take a lot of time. An alternative consideration is to growth by outsourcing aspects of a search engine optimization project to skilled contractors.

When outsourcing to a SEO contractor the agency does not necessarily need that contractor to be an expert on search engine optimization. In fact, if broken up correctly, the agency should be able to harness the contractor’s current skill set to meet the requirements of an SEO project. By developing a small team of contracting specialists the agency is able to maintain their proprietary optimization technique while meeting the needs of an expanding market place. Behind this operation is an account manger that will perform an enhanced role as a project manager, overseeing the progress of the project through its various stages.

Examples of Projects that can be Outsourced:
– Basic keyword research – the account manager will need to review, expand and develop the keyword strategy.
– Onsite Content – an experienced writer can help incorporate keywords into improving existing content, or author new pages.
– Offsite Content – link building is a core principle of improving a website’s ranking. Online press releases, articles and blogs can be potentially outsourced. The key is to provide the contractor with distinct requirements about what keywords need to be referenced in the content.

Don’t give away the Agency’s Secrets:
Having a contractor provide assistance on your agency’s SEO projects is a great way to provide additional value to your clients, or to cope with internal resource shortfalls at busier times. If you decide to outsource it is advised to have your contractor work as a specialist, performing similar tasks across various accounts, instead of performing multiple tasks across the same account. This will help guard any techniques or core competencies that your agency may have.

Ten Essential Tips for Hiring a SEO Contractor:
If you’re considering hiring a contractor to assist with your agencies search engine optimization clients, then you need to consider the following:

1. Budgeting: What allocation of the client’s fees can I dedicate to in house resources, versus external contractors? What projects can be performed economically without compromising quality or time?

2. Schedule Time Appropriately: Your contractor may not have the same ability to turn around an individual project in the time it would take to perform internally. Give your contractor plenty of time to complete the project.
– When is the Project ‘really’ due: Don’t put your client’s fate in the hands of a third party. Consider allowing for additional padding in the contractor for its due date.

3. Integrity: Look for the same traits in a contractor that you would in a full time employee. The contractor you hire should be honest about their abilities and should be reliable with the quality of work submitted in the time quoted to complete the project.

4. Start Small: Resumes, references and samples don’t mean anything if the contractor cannot adapt to the requirements of your projects. Consider starting with a small task-oriented assignment and build up to more complex or recurring projects.

5. Be Present: Like with any employee, you get what you put in. Set expectations early and allocate enough of your time to explaining the requirements of the contract.

6. Provide Feedback on the Assignment: The collaboration between the agency and the contractor will result in a higher quality of work that is completed in less time when project feedback is provided. Key on recurring projects, communicate what the contractor did that was completed well and what areas need improvement.

7. Hourly versus. Flat Rate Payment Structure: How will you pay your contractor? The preference would be to have a flat rate, assuming the submitted work meets an agreed standard of quality. With a contractor the agency has an established relationship with this will result in a mutual beneficial arrangement where the agency gets more work, faster, and the contractor is able to earn at a higher “project by hour” rate because of efficiencies gained in the learning curve.
– Cautions about Hourly: Potential for inflated hours, or delays in starting a project
– Cautions about Flat Rate: Potential for lower quality work because the contractor did not have enough time dedicated to the assignment

8: Pay Invoices Quickly: When your contractor submits an invoice for payment, make sure payment occurs quickly and does not get lost in a paper shuffle in accounts payable.
– Set Payment Expectations: Make sure your contractor understands your agency’s policies around invoicing. Set an interval at which invoices should be submitted and agree upon a time at which invoices will be paid.

9. Plan for the Worst: Don’t place the client accounts in jeopardy because of a dependency on a contractor. If done correctly the contractor should be supplementing activities. Things can (and will) periodically change in the contractor’s life that can change the contractor’s availability. Listen to the contractor’s goals and expectations to better understand if there are professional or personal risks.

– Professional Reasons a Contractor may Terminate: change of employment status
– Personal Reasons a Contractor may Terminate: addition to the family, change in residence

10. Review your Contractor Needs: It is important to periodically review your contractor strategy. Considerations you should review:

– What areas in the next month, next several months will I need contractor assistance?
– Are my contractors submitting high quality work at competitive pricing?
– What is the capacity of my contractors to submit work?
– Am I overextending work onto a particular contractor, or does a particular contractor have a risk of terminating in the near future for professional or personal reasons?

A boutique SEO agency that understands how to leverage contractors will find itself in a position to deliver an excellent bundle of services at competitive prices. When managed correctly, the client receives better than expected results, while still allowing the search engine optimization marketing agency to deliver these results at profitable prices that are superior to what the agency, or the client, could have down internally. In addition, you will better position the agency to extend its relationship with the client for additional, long term project work and maintenance agreements. By freeing up account managers to focus more on strategy and less on tactical projects, a boutique SEO agency will allow itself to take on additional client’s and better control the speed at which the agency needs to hire additional full time employees.