Why you shouldn’t throw money at outsourced SEO

Here at BMON, we’re regularly asked if we provide an ongoing outsourced search engine optimisation (SEO) service for engineering and scientific companies. We don’t, and if I explain why not, it might provide some food for thought as well as help you to avoid throwing good money after bad.

Loosely speaking, search engine optimisation consists of two things: “on page SEO”, which means getting things like the titles, tags and content right; and “off page SEO”, which means establishing links to the site, social media mentions and other signals which the search engines like. Whilst it’s quite possible for an outside agency to do either or both of these things, to do it properly costs a lot of money. So much money that – for a normal engineering and scientific company – it might not make financial sense to risk it (because don’t forget, SEO comes with no guarantees). For example, if you spent £1000 a month on SEO, you’d need to generate, say, 500 visitors from that just to compete with advertising using Google AdWords, which does come with a guarantee.

People say: “ah, but the results of any SEO work go on forever”, but increasingly, they don’t. Stop your investment in SEO, and the results will tail away steadily – good and bad SEO consultants alike will probably agree with that, but for different reasons.

There are agencies which claim to be able to provide an SEO service for a few hundred pounds a month, but I really worry about what they can possibly do for that, especially as they’ll almost certainly have no knowledge or understanding of your market. If you’re paying someone no more money than would cover, say, a day’s work a month, how can they even research and understand your business, never mind actually do something with what they’ve learned?

So, unless you’re willing to invest tens of thousands of pounds a year, should you simply abandon SEO? Far from it. What I always recommend to companies like your own is that you do it yourself.

Don’t panic, it’s nothing like as hard as you might imagine, because you come armed with something no “SEO consultant” will possess: a knowledge of your company, your technology and your market. And that’s where much of the considerable cost of effective outsourced SEO would go.

For the “on page SEO”, there’s a fairly straightforward process of setting a focus search term for each page, and writing titles, tags and perhaps copy amendments to match this. You could certainly do this yourself (and I’ll happily give any reader some pointers if you need them). Of course, you may be unable to do this, simply for time reasons, but if that’s the case, a good technical writer can undertake that project for you at a reasonable cost. We can sort this out for you, if it helps. It’s not some black art, and just needs an understanding of your technology (something we almost certainly do have).

Then there’s the “off page SEO”. I’m a firm believer that this can only be done in-house. This is all about getting links, social media mentions and the like from around the web, and nobody knows where better to get these from than you. Trade associations, exhibitions, directories, publications, bloggers, customers and suppliers are just the start. No outside agency, whatever they claim, can do this job properly without thoroughly embedding themselves in your business, and that would be very, very expensive. Anyone claiming to be able to do it on the cheap will be using discredited (and increasingly counterproductive) methods, and I’d strongly advise you to avoid these at all costs. Do some research on “link building”, start creating more content for your company, and get on board with social media, and it’ll all start to happen.

Most people who think they can just write a cheque and receive decent search engine rankings nowadays are going to be wasting their money. Assuming the aim of the exercise is to get more search engine traffic, you’d be much better off investing in a proper Google AdWords campaign.

Discussion

  1. Matt Clarke

    Agreed. A big part of SEO these days is all about ‘quality’ content. Many external SEO consultants that do not understand the market they’re aiming to achieve rankings for can’t expect to deliver this.

    However, depending on how competitive your market is, doing SEO in-house can take a significant investment of time and might not be feasible. An alternative approach is to outsource it to a specialist engineering PR agency that understands SEO. Not only will they have the knowledge and resources to deliver on page and off page SEO but with experienced technical writers with a background in engineering and electronics they also have the ability to produce that all important ‘quality’ content.

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