Discussion 2: Outsourcing an SEO Human or Agency Versus Subscribing to an SEO Resource or Tool
I wanted to get people's thoughts. I am a small business owner who has recently started a specialist tea supplier business. Going forward, would you say it was better to outsource the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of my website, or to purchase a service like Ahrefs and learn to do the SEO myself? Thanks
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Hey Josh, great question. This is my opinion (may be right may be wrong). I'm a small business owner and had tried quite a few different SEO companies (in US, India, Australia and Bangladesh). Spent a lot of time learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well so I could a least make a sensible decision on spend.
Outsourcing to an agency or freelancer makes sense. They are already skilled (well some!) and can offset the costs of software (SEMrush Ahrefs etc) across multiple accounts. But the downside is it costs $'s (which most SME's dont have much of!) and there is no guarantee of anything. Pick the wrong one and 6 months later you have kissed $10K-$30K goodbye. Pick the wrong freelancer or agency and you may also find that they charge you for a service but are not actually spending the time that was agreed on! (had that happen to!)
Ultimately it is content that drives any great SEO. You should be focusing on creating awesome content – ie articles, blogs, how tos, videos etc. This is the area where I found you can not outsource effectively. No one knows your business, product, competitors better than you and your staff.
What I ended up doing was opening my own office in Dhaka and employing my own team. Have kept wages to a minimum, can ensure that the work is being done and offered the service to others SME's that I work with to offset the software costs. Best of both worlds.
But I'll say it again, CONTENT. Outsource the rest, but spend your time on putting out the best content you can and have someone else do all the optimisations/backlink/keyword research etc the rewards will follow. From my experience if you get the Ying (content) and Yang (technical side) right it all comes together nicely. Good luck!
Thanks Paul, great response! Kind of re-affirmed what I was thinking. I think you need to have some kind of understanding about the subject, or you could easily get taken advantage of. And I definitely believe in learning as much as I can so will continue learning and applying it to my business.
As a marketing consultant who works in a variety of different channels and verticals, I think it is highly unlikely that focusing a large amount of time, money, and resources into SEO will provide a satisfactory ROI. The only way it would is if you were getting into this business because you knew enough about SEO to see an opportunity in SEO, in this particular niche.Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is generally over recommended.
No offense, Zach, but are you seriously arguing, for example, that local SEO is overrated for local businesses?
Local SEO is a necessity, but not that hard to figure out on one's own. The prices I see small business owners pay just to get listed in all the required places are just absurd. Very low ROI. The number one activity a local business can focus on is figuring out what gets customers in the door in an economically efficient way, and what should the business do to ensure 2nd and 3rd visits to maximize the chance of making them a customer for life.
Just look at this entire thread of comments and you will see 20 different SEO's discussing whether or not he should do the SEO himself, promoting themselves, and generally ignoring the most important question: Is SEO a worthwhile, high ROI channel to acquire customers for Josh's tea supply business?
Agree with Zach, having just gone through the process, with the limited knowledge I have, and other than a service which costs £40 per month to list and manage my local citations and backlinks, I have been able to rank on the 1st page for my targeted keywords (low volume 100-200p/m).
The question I guess, in my situation, would I see a better ROI investing in an SEO agency to compete for higher volume keywords, or would I invest in say a Facebook Ads campaign? I know doing both would be better, but I couldn't afford to do both.
You can back into that answer. How much traffic for those keywords is there? What is your estimated CTR? Now you know total traffic… What is your estimated conversion rate? How much did it cost in time (opportunity cost $/hour) or cash to rank for the keywords that made this possible? Divide that cost by the estimated # of new customers, and you have a customer acquisition cost, and can estimate lifetime value, to see if it's even profitable. The same can be done for Facebook ads, to compare. Frankly, I probably wouldn't do either. You are targeting a very small number of tea retailers, no? I think there are more cost effective means of reaching them. We can discuss, if you'd like.
Well said, Zach. I re-read your comment and realized it wasn’t as outlandish as it appeared to me at first. I absolutely agree that targeting a small number of tea suppliers opens up other channels that will be far more targeted and deliver more Return on Investment (ROI) than Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I often recommend SEO but wouldn’t consider myself an over-recommender of it. Of course I agree it has to be based on the needs of the business.
That said, if he’s catering to people that drink tea and he ships to end users, organic SEO could absolutely yield great ROI, maybe in partnership with an email signup and free sample program for instance (and/or maybe Amazon SEO in that case). Not to mention reviews. And if he’s opening a cafe local SEO would rock. Again, reviews included. But yeah, if he’s wholesale I would show up at the buyers offices with some tea over doing just about anything else. And ideally a chef’s endorsement or something similar.
But the thing is… aren’t reviews considered part of SEO too? I mean, even if he’s wholesaling, reviews could make or break him, no?
As for figuring out local SEO on one’s own, I would absolutely recommend that if it’s not a competitive space and almost anything will help. But if it is competitive I think the learning curve is steep and I’d recommend at least some solid comprehensive local SEO courses. It’s all a matter of time and resources though, right? I mean, he can save money on a driver and deliver the tea in his trunk if he wants but that doesn’t mean he necessarily should.
All that said, I love your holistic approach.
2nd paragraph there is gold if he is selling his own brand. Based off the 2 keywords he is ranking well for now, I’m going to guess that’s not the case. He’s looking at 10% margins wholesaling existing brands it seems. What I might try is a big data pull he can plug in as custom audiences on social, market to the whole org, everyone who could influence the decision makers, then ‘lukewarm call’ them. That has worked tremendously for me.
Yeah Zach it would be good to chat! I have 2 goals, to sell my products to end user like you said Matt, and I'm working on a clickfunnel to offer a free sample plus shipping and then upsell to a subscription.
The other goal would be to target b2b customers. That would include boutique hotels, tea rooms etc.
I like the anology of delivering tea. Although it may be cost effective to deliver tea myself locally, would my time be better spent setting up a network to deliver Nationwide.
I’m newer to digital marketing than Zach I’m sure, but love that you’re doing the subscriptions. Maybe you could also find companies that package gift baskets? If your brand’s complimentary.
If there’s something unique about your tea though, like certain benefits or ingredients, don’t see why longtail SEO wouldn’t be good but of course the majority of people are on shopping sites like Amazon, etc.
Good luck, brother!
Josh ✍️ » Matthew
That's a great idea! I think I'm going to have to re-read this thread a few times!
Thanks for the input, really appreciate it. I know I ask a lot of questions but I help other people in the group can get some value out of your and Zach insights!
I worked at Altria Group, perhaps the most 'iconic' CPG distribution company of all time, for 2.5 years. Have some interesting ideas for you… watch for a DM.
Josh ✍️ » Zach
awesome, looking forward to hearing them!
Get an SEO agency for the first few months. They will fix the basic issues like titles, descriptions, technical errors and get your first bunch of links. Long term though you'll want to either be doing it yourself or working with a specialist or consultant
Let an experienced SEO lay the foundation. You will need a good keyword analysis, an understanding of searcher intent and a scalable url-structure. And if possible, a small course about on-page SEO. Once that is up, you know what to write content for and why to write it – which will save you time. And if you so want, keep a small monthly deal with your SEO for ranktracking and reports as it will be cheaper than paying licenses for most programs that does this.
Technical audit every 3 months is also nice to get. The best content won’t help you if there are technical issues that stops search engines from finding it.
Beginners SEO Cheat Sheet :
1. Pages are ranked, Websites are not. Each page should target a specific search term, your homepage should rank for your brand name. Plan your site based on what you want each page to rank for, and approach each page as a separate project
2. On page SEO is the only technical thing you need to do. It's just about adding the right HTML tags (which are not visible on the page when you browse it, but are visible in the code) so that Google (and others) crawlers can properly classify and preview the main contents of your page.
3) off page SEO is just about trying to show Google that other websites (who are 'good') recommend you. This is done in the form of links. If a website recommends you (by linking to you) then you will improve your authority in Google's eyes. This is especially true if it's clear that the website / page linking to yours is on a related topic. With white-hat this not an especially technical process, it's pure marketing. Make your pages have great content, share the content and if it's good people will link to it. Repeat that until you are ranking EACH page for the search terms you decided to target in step 1.
TOOLS : as you mentioned Ahrefs is good. It's expensive by comparison but widely agreed to be the most accurate. Use this, watch the tutorials and their video series on blogging for business — then follow the process above making sure to BE CREATIVE, and apply knowledge SPECIFIC TO YOUR INDUSTRY and use any established industry connections to ask for links. You will have a distinct advantage over outsourced SEO users who only know where to get the same, widely available links used by everyone. Remember this is a COMPETITION. If you do the same thing as everyone else, you can do (at best) as well as them, not better. To be #1 and stay there you need to have something others don't, and cannot get.
Thanks guys, some really helpful info there! I've done a lot of learning and I do feel it would be better to learn and do it myself.
Josh I may be late to the party but I’ll throw my two cents in.
I started as a small business owner and built my own website. I then spent the next two years running my business and learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Eventually I started ranking sites for friends and family and that turned into getting out of my small business and eventually running an agency.
My point is that it takes a lot of time and focus to learn SEO. Years in fact. If you want to be an SEO then I say go for it. If you really want to sell tea then you should dedicate your time and focus to selling tea.
If you needed to build a building to sell tea in you may learn a bit about each component of construction so you can make sure you hire the right people and know they are doing a good job, but you aren’t going to spend years learning construction so you can build your own building. Same thing goes for SEO.
Do what you are good at. Your business. Learn a foundation of SEO and learn the right questions to ask. Let someone who had put in the years of SEO bring you the customers. Then spend your time learning how to scale and supply and service all those customers as that will also be a challenge.
Thanks Noah, very insightful. I've learned a lot about SEO by teaching myself, and I would encourage everyone else to do the same.
Even if you don't do it yourself, at least you understand what your getting and how it can benefit your business.
Thanks everyone! So the general consensus seems to be to learn some but outsource the actual work. I agree and that was kind of my plan, although sometimes small business owners have to make do with what they have! In terms of the product I have, I do believe there is an opportunity to rank for some keywords with a decent amount of traffic. I have achieved what I consider a small success, I'm currently ranking on the 1st page for 2 keywords with around 100-200 volume per month directly related to my keywords; Dammann Freres stockists and Dammann tea UK. I have come to the point where I need to invest in a professional SEO service, but I do think if you know the fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), businesses can achieve results in the search engines locally without having to pay for a dedicated service.
This may satisfy you: Can I Hire an SEO Assistant for Wholesale SEO Work?
Discussion 1: Hiring and Outsourcing Mastery
How to outsource everything and anything like a boss without going broke (this could be a book title)
I have been outsourcing a lot of lead generation, and general VA jobs in the last 5 years and I want to share how do I do it, why it works and how you can implement it.
I share this in the past but this time I want to talk more about the process of hiring, keeping your VA happy, scale, etc.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA)
I only hire via Facebook . Facebook allows me to see peoples profiles.
I hire people with human profiles, not profiles only created to apply for jobs. This means, I'm looking at the things they post, their profile photos, even their statements.
What I stay away from:
Political statements, hardcore religious posts, or any type of post that is too polarizing, I know this sounds weird, but I want people that are not so easily triggered.
Family people, positive ones, happy people
Where to Hire Them
You want Facebook groups where they are looking for work , so let say Virtual Assistant groups.
Find groups that are based on demographics for location not niche or industry.
It's easier to deal with VA when you know their culture vs the industry they understand. In other words your understanding of their world, helps you to keep them in the long term
How to hire them.
The process I follow is this for VA
Before I hire them I setup a symbolic test as an interview. This test is a task that I know it takes NO MORE than 30 mimutes, you can pay for this task if you want but regardless every single VA needs to do the same task.
Example: I want you to go to the next 5 sites and find the contact details of the owner following this instruction guide.
The goal is for you to measure if
How fast they did
How many questions they ask you
You are not measuring the result, you are measuring their commitment to try to achieve it.
The instructions guide
It's vital any trial comes with instructions guide and this is when many biz owners fail, we tell them go and do this and come back…
The goal is for us to give them very comprehensive instructions and then analyze how well they perform it. Once again, the secret is for us to see if they can follow the guide.
The Guide itself
Your goal with any initial outsourcing task is FOR YOU to do the task first and then build the guide.
The reason is that it gives you a perspective of how long it takes.
I know what you are thinking… what is the point of hiring someone if i need to do it…
Well for this unique "Gab outsourcing system" to work you need at least to know if you can do it and at least try to perform the trial task yourself.
Let me repeat this: you are only going to trial VA's to do something you have done before. Only when you have done it you are aware of the time required and it gives you a perspective of how long it can take.
Who To hire
I never hire based on CV
I hire based on communication and will to learn
People that are keen to improve, they want to give it another go or they are committed to improve
It's also vital how engaged they are when I talk to them.
All the chat or conversation happens via Messenger and Messenger is a great way for you to know if they are "into the chat"
Once again we are measuring interest vs skill
Can Skill be learned?
The tasks we are hiring are not advanced so in my system I prefer to hire people willing to learn, that may take longer vs people that "know how to do it" but they are not flexible enough to change their strategy
Once again, I'm building a team vs hiring outsourcers
Why not hiring an Outsourcer in an Outsourcing site
Outsourcers are by default entrepreneurial, they are already seeking actively jobs, biding, pitching…. I want a long term VA that is going to learn to adapt to my business, by using my process and that's why not going the outsourcing site gives me the freedom to hire someone that is looking more for long term position vs the gig.
How do I hire?
I personally hire people ONLY full time, paying per week and never never never per hour.
Per hour makes each process to be "I'm doing this because I get paid for this" vs "this is my role'
By hiring someone full time , specially a VA I now have the accountability of keeping them busy and pushes me to build KPI, guides, and tutorials to be sure they are learning and improving.
How to train them
Your tutorials are a must and if you don't have processes in place start now, because you will need them. But you can also use Youtube as tutorials and once your own VA has seen and watch a Youtube Video about how to perform 1 or 2 tasks the VA itself can build the tutorial and create that guides that will be vital to train more people or even find their own replacement.
Always hire people willing to work at your time, don't split hours and be sure you don't fire them too fast if they are showcasing effort.
You are usually paying less than via an outsourcing site so be patient enough to keep them for a bit long.
The ROI is the long term relationship of having a full time VA, vs the specific task they have to perform that day or week.
I hope this learn, I have hired over 100 Virtual Assistants (VA)s in my lifetime and many of them are now close friends… outsourcing the right way and building your team is the best way to grow while reducing stress… I hope this tiny guide helps you. Any questions ask below
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Awesome post! What are the top questions in a hiring proces?
– See if they are in for long term
– Their mindset
– How disciplined they are & not waste time
A hiring Tip I've heard before is: they ask the person what they think of their previous boss. If the person mentions any negative stuff, it means their 'mindset' is more focussed on the negative stuff in life. If they speak positively of him their mindset if focussed on the positive things.
💯 agree with this. A few other things (or expansions on what you've stated) 1) have regular check ins & set expectations 2) segment the roles and skill sets (because they are not you and limiting what they are required to master sets everyone up for success) 3) get to know them and get buy in for the vision 4) always, always, always have them work your time zone 5) promote the rising stars & develop a QA process (empower them to hold & reinforces the standard ie manual reviews before it goes out the door or checklists 6) get a PM system 7) have reviews & give raises, its a lot easier to pay a bit more than re-train… awesome post but it really could be a book 😂
Derick » Gabriel
Bro I just tested the Book route and this alone could be a book.. I'll even publish it & split rev if you don't want to! 👊🏻🙌🏻
No need revenue in my life currently . thx mate
Thank you for all this info. Super helpful post and something I've struggled with on FREEEUP…