3 Ways To Outsource SEO and Live the Life You Want
What kind of lifestyle do you want? Did you get into SEO to chase the ever-elusive dream of living on a beach, making passive income and making your own schedule?
The truth is that with the right amount of initial setup and effort, you can literally remove yourself from your own business to the point that you’re not even needed except to check in once in a while. I know because I’ve done it here and also here.
All of that is done through the power of delegation. If you can learn to give over the reigns, release control, and to trust, your entire business and life can change drastically. This is done through outsourcing. In this guide I am going to outline the when, what, and how of outsourcing your digital marketing business.
Don’t get me wrong, there could be other reasons why you would want to outsource your business tasks, like providing employment for several people in the local community (as one client told me recently he was doing). Or you could also be looking to downsize by getting rid of the office, streamlining tasks to less employees, and have everyone work from home. Once again, done through outsourcing.
One important thing I want to note is that while I don’t believe it is unethical to outsource certain tasks or even all of your SEO, I do believe it is unethical to sell something that you aren’t confident you can do yourself or that no one on your team has done before. In other words, don’t depend on some contractor you haven’t found yet. Learn and master at least the basics yourself as it will also save you a lot of time when communicating and it will make life easier when you start taking a managerial role of your contractors.
The When of It All
There is no doubt that hiring an employee for your agency or even a virtual assistant will be more cost effective in the long run. However it requires upfront capital and a lot of your time to train someone to essentially be a replacement of you.
There really is no best time to outsource because it depends on the lifestyle and what you are trying to achieve with outsourcing. For example, you may not want everything completely off your plate, just some menial tasks that you couldn’t be bothered doing. (Heck, there’s people giving away completely free walkthroughs for your VAs!)
For example, in late 2014 I onboarded a new client and as usual, started spending most of their budget getting them immediate results. I decided to save some money this time around and spent a whopping 12 hours buying domains (from a broker, not even at auction!), setting up hosting, building out sites, and managing it all). The next day I realized I was only a quarter way there so I offered a buddy $100 to complete the rest. I literally proved to myself that my worth was $8/hour (100/12). I could have used that day to do other more important tasks that actually contributed to the growth of my business.
So that is exactly when you want to consider outsourcing parts of your business. When doing the work in your business starts taking your time away from working ON your business. Prospecting, doing consultations, making sales.
The What of It All
Which tasks exactly are we delegating here? People ask me all the time: “Can’t I just hire a salesman to get clients for me?”
The cardinal rule is as follows: At first, only hire for tasks that do not move the needle in your business.
Moving the needle refers to affecting your bottom line, growing your business. Tasks that don’t move the needle are anything that fall out of the range of making more sales. Think: fulfillment.
The biggest hurdles you will have to face here is learning to trust someone else with these tasks, and taking the plunge with cutting into your profits. I know, it’s hard. One day you could be comfortable in your business, and the next Lior is telling you that the only way you’re going to grow is if you give up a chunk of that income to someone that you’re completely risking your clients with. Start learning to put yourself in these uncomfortable positions (financially and mentally), because leaving your comfort zone is where growth comes from, and that applies to business as well.
In the few short years I’ve been doing digital marketing, I’ve come across the gamut of it all when it comes to fulfillment of my done-for-you-services. It’s really crazy how many services and promises are out there, but I managed to break it down into three simple categories for you:
- Individual Contractors/Agencies
- Managed Services
- Cookie Cutter Services
These differ in cost and level of responsibility in descending order.
1. Individual Contractors
Contractors or white label agencies are essentially you, but for a cheaper price than what you are charging your client. Everything you promised your client in terms of ROI or increasing specific metrics, have to be promised to you by this person or agency.
The responsibility of getting “results” has to be completely on the contractor, to the point where you can turn to them and say “where are my results?” and they can’t just shirk responsibility or blame it on some part of the SEO process that they weren’t involved in. Although I’m not revealing which tasks my team take care of and which I prefer doing, I will say that I personally enjoy doing a competitor research and on-page work. The more you take on yourself, the less responsible your outsourcer will be.
How to Find and Hire a Contractor
The best place to find good contractors is on Facebook. There I’ve found people that take care of much of my SEO, PPC and even web development. Some I’ve offered full time positions and still work for me today.
- On Facebook, use Graph Search to find a plethora of groups in your niche. If you take a specific angle like grey hat SEO, try to find like-minded people that gathered in one group surrounding one topic like PBN creation. Add keywords like “marketplace” or “jobs” to find groups that are more appropriate for posting for hire.
- Simply write a post explaining that you are onboarding more clients and need someone to rely on for certain tasks or to handle fulfillment.
- You will get a ton of responses from people offering you partnerships, a la carte services, “custom packages”, and people that charge even more than you. Ignore all of this, and if you have to, get a price per keyword (SEO), or per campaign (PPC). Ideally it should match your exact offering so that you know what your margins are for each price tier. Never share how much you charge your clients.
- Look for as much proof as possible. Ask for screenshots, live results, and ask if you can use this in your own marketing if they join your team. Getting on the phone will be a good way to interview and test communication (although some people on my team I talk to once a month and some daily, when I do need to speak to them it must be instant). Narrow it down to 3 that you keep on hand.
- As you onboard new clients, simply delegate tasks to each contractor to test both communication and skill. Moving forward just keep whoever is best.
Something you want to ask your contractor is what kind of reports they can send you. What metrics or KPIs do they care about and report on. Can this easily be white-labelled or forwarded in a text email to your client? This will save you a lot of time each month.
Once again, never share your prices, just the package outlines. If they knew your prices, many will offer a split partnership. “You do the sales and I will do the fulfillment.” Do not fall for this! In no scenario does this make any business sense. In the end of the day, you are looking for 60-75% profit margins.
Just another note on ethics because I get this question a lot. Even though I believe you must sell something you are confident in producing results for, people still wonder if it’s okay to get someone else to do the work. First of all, if the client believes you are the only one doing the work and they specifically want to work with a freelancer and not an agency for some reason, then you should definitely make it clear from the beginning that you have a team. They are getting people trained by you and your system, but you still manage it all.
Second, why would anyone (as a client or service) want to claim that they are the only brains behind it all. Take the example of building a house- do you want the contractor you are speaking with to actually go and build everything? Do you even believe he can? Of course not. He hires the best plumbers, architects, etc of their trade and is the manager of the whole process. Trust me, of the few times I’ve been asked if it is just me doing the work, I never received one objection once I gave the analogy above.
2. Managed Services
The best way to think of managed services is that you are essentially managing the process that you know works to get your clients results, but you are not doing any of the work yourself. As a manager, you are just picking and choosing what you want done from a whole bunch of individual contractors/services/companies.
Think of any specific task that you may need in order to leads flowing for your client, and there will be a service out there that can handle it. Domain brokers, on-page audits, link rental services all fall under this category.
With managed services, you are the one responsible for the overall results of your client, and you can’t turn and point fingers at any one service as the cause of failure. It’s a cheaper option, but it puts more risk on you.
I recommend you start off with managed SEO and then graduate to contractors and eventually to hiring full time. This way you will have experience under your belt and you will know exactly which combination of services work for your process without failure. You now have a proof of concept you can take to a VA, or to show your contractor and make sure he follows a similar process.
It will also give you the technical experience in getting results for your clients without having you spend 12 hours like I did doing every small task.
How to Find Managed Services
The best place to find managed services is again on Facebook. There are marketplaces out there but the results and reviews are harder to judge than by just asking people who have used it. Simply ask in the groups if anyone knows of a service that handles what you are looking for. That way you can get real comments and testimonials from people that have actually tried it recently.
When I go managed, I like to go a lot broader and spend a little more renting links instead of managing all of the moving pieces behind it. Beware, a lot of services out there cater to only affiliate or local SEO, which is why I created ScopeLinks– my premium link rental service catered especially to people with clients (Click Here to join the waitlist).
3. Cookie Cutter Services
I only included this category so you know what to avoid. There are a few of these left out there but it is essentially any service from managed services that doesn’t allow you any customization. They take your keywords, URLs, and go run with it in a “ranking service” without asking more details about the business, niche, etc.
Three years ago I had 10 clients all outsourced in a cookie cutter service. I literally had to do nothing except pray that whatever they were doing back there would work. The results were mediocre and the main problem was that I was lumped in with everyone else (hence the cookie cutter) and the results would have been better if I was able to manage other aspects of the SEO.
How to find them: you don’t.
I hope you got some value out of this and have a better understanding of your options when it comes to client fulfillment. No matter what, always make sure you don’t get stuck as an employee in your business by doing things that don’t “move the needle”. The first things you should outsource are the day-to-day tasks that don’t make you more money, and you should look for a managed service in order to do that and buy you back some time to focus on sales.
Once you have that completely streamlined, you can choose to bring on extra help or a contractor to completely replace you, depending on your lifestyle goals. Next stop, bringing on sales people so I can return to that beach 🙂
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