The SEO industry is changing quickly. We discuss this a great deal at HubShout headquarters. In fact, since we started the business we've been aware that things are moving a million miles an hour when it comes to search engine optimization. A quick scan of the marketplace will tell you volumes about where things are today vs a few years ago. In 2008, there were BIG discussions of white hat vs gray hat SEO. When you selected a firm to outsource SEO to, you had to be very very concerned about their tactics. I'm not claiming that this issue has entirely gone away, but I've definitely seen a shift in the mindset.
The phone calls we get today to outsource SEO are much more concerned about business results. Where as the SEO questions used to be "is it white hat?", today we are most often asked "does this SEO really work?" Of course, we've been through one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen since we started HubShout. Additionally, the volume of websites and SEO outsourcing firms has grown immeasurably.
Run a quick Google search on the term outsource SEO and see what you find. There are many many India-based firms now on page one. There are places that will sell you networks and blog posts in massive volumes. This was not the case in 2008. Back then, when you outsourced SEO the fear was being called out by a whistle blowing SEO consultant. Today, people are very concerned about going out of business. The Internet is a very powerful tool for helping your business. But it can also do absolutely nothing if not harnessed correctly.
So when you outsource SEO, what are appropriate expectations. Here is a list I've compiled that will help your thinking:
1) Outsourcing SEO is not a silver bullet. This can actually be applied to any business process you might consider outsourcing. Just because another firm is executing doesn't mean the problems you were facing are instantly gone. However, when you pick the right SEO partner, you will get economy of scale (i.e., cheaper) and you will gain access to tools that you didn't before. That leads me to my next point.
2) When you outsource you should have a positive ROI. This may seem obvious, but there are some subtle points here. While you should see a positive ROI, you need to ensure that you have a full view of the costs you had internally before outsourcing. Many people miss the smaller activities that people may be doing in their spare time. Even little tasks, if done on a daily basis, add up to big dollars. It is easy to think, for example, "that's only a social bookmark - I could do that in 20 seconds." Sure. Now do 40 a day, every day, religiously. It adds up - Trust me.
3) Outsourcing does not change the Google Algo. Remember. Google is Google. The Algo operates the same regardless of weather you outsource SEO. No firm can change the fact that most SEO takes 90 days until results are evident. Competitive keywords take years to rank on, no matter what. This is the nature of search engine optimization in 2010. What outsourcing will do for you is ensure that the daily activities of quality content creation, link building and buzz creation are consistently executed. And Google rewards those who consistently execute SEO. We have seen this time and time again, internal resources are inevitably pulled in many directions or off the SEO project if results are not seen in 30 days. Outsource SEO to a high quality firm and they will help you keep your expectations appropriate for the scope of the project. They will ensure the work is done on-time, and well.
In summary, we believe that being an internal SEO is very difficult unless you have an executive team that really understands the search engine optimization process. And this is extremely rare given how new the industry is. Outsourcing is NOT a silver bullet. There are many realities of how Google works that are just going to remain. But sending your SEO to a qualified firm will achieve a higher ROI than in-house resources due to economy of scale, higher quality tools, specialized knowledge, focus and consistent execution.