* Outsourcing Your SEO Project!
Here’s a quick guide to what to consider if you plan to outsource your SEO project
By Dirk Johnson
Search Engine Optimization takes time, and most small business owners don’t have much to spare.
things are important to get it done, and SEO is certainly a marketing tool that
can lead to a huge increase in leads and students.
So, the solution is to outsource the work, of course. Let’s examine how that might work.
There are a Bazillion SEO Consultants
Literally, anyone call oneself an SEO consultant. It takes no training, no degree, no license, and no skill or experience at all to “become” an SEO consultant. You just add it to your business card.
So, yes, buyers beware.
There are some very bad actors in this business, and many more who are just
thoroughly inexperienced and, thus, very incompetent.
I will try to help you sort it out.
Yes, I am also one of those SEO consultants. I’ve been doing this work in one form or another for 20 years, and at times, I did it full time, for hundreds of clients.
Sure, I am always looking for a couple of new SEO projects, but I also run a lesson studio and I manage a five-acre cemetery. So, my livelihood is not based on SEO work. SEO consulting work is good to get and I enjoy it, but I also get some satisfaction by just helping people sort through this maze called SEO.
I enjoy calling out the bad actors.
The Various Types of “SEO” Consultants
Let’s examine the
various types of SEO consultants, as this will help you identify what you need.
1) The corporate shop – These are the SEO shops that cater to big business and large corporations. Their rates are high, of course, since they usually have huge overhead costs to cover, and no corporation is going to hire a work-from-home SEO consultant.
These guys should just stay out of the small business market, but money being money, some of them are willing to take on any small clients that they can snag.
Their sites are polished, their sales pitch is polished, their supporting reasoning sounds correct (as in “Don’t worry, we’re big, we know everything about this”) and more.
However, they will always put their “new hires” in charge of the job, and it’s very easy to get a half-baked SEO program from them, because the people actually dong the work might actually be a bit clueless, if this is their first SEO job.
2) The Offshore Discount Shop – Why pay more than you need? Just hire a professional from a low-wage country, and you get it done on the cheap, right? Just like the big corporations.
Uh. No. These shops are notorious for not understanding the nuances of language and region. If you want some screwed-up SEO work, try one.
3) The Craigslist Kid – Anyone can post to Craigslist and other similar gig boards like Fivver that they do this work. Craigslist overflows with competing SEO firms, all claming dirt cheap pricing.
4) Your Own Webmaster – I will be very careful here, as I do not want to offend.
It is very common for
Web developers to “include” SEO in the cost and scope of building a site. The
problem is that it might be a very cursory stab at it. Many of these people are
graphic designers, wearing other hats.
You need to ask your webmaster if they actually do have the skill to do a thorough job with your SEO, and what that will cost.
5) The Expert – This is the person who claims to specialize in SEO work. Yes, they have clients, and yes, they get usually get results.
They can also be ridiculously expensive for what you get, and they often want to take over your entire website, overhauling your site to suit what they consider to be “best practices”. Note that I have never overhauled a site just to do SEO work.
They often like to have monthly maintenance contracts that extend indefinitely, which are not usually necessary in a lower competition search environment, and music lessons is certainly what I consider to be a low competition SEO environment in most cities and towns.
I also still do SEO work in the psychologist market. That is far more competitive that music lessons, as there are hundreds of therapists in any city.
So, you can never get rid of The Expert unless you tell them to finally get lost after months of paying them for what may be very little effort.
Experts also like to add ongoing “content creation” work to their contracts. They tell you that you need new content or your rankings will suddenly tank. Again, in low competition environments, this is usually a waste of money.
Experts also like to talk in arcane SEO terms, as if this is some kind of highly skilled profession (it’s not), and they LOVE to use scare tactics, telling you that Google going to penalize you for just breathing incorrectly.
The Expert is highly skilled at using your lack of SEO knowledge against you, and making you feel that only THEY hold the keys to the SEO kingdom and anything less than their way is risking your entire career.
It is all total nonsense, and in some cases, outright dishonest.
How to REALLY Evaluate an SEO Proposal
First and foremost,
knowledge and education is your number one friend when trying to find a decent
SEO consultant, and they do exist. That way, you’ll have a much better chance
of knowing what to ask.
So, you can research what good SEO is on your own, as the Web is full of good, basic SEO articles (and bad ones!), or you can invest $19.99 in my 80 page guidebook, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) For Private Music Teachers!
It takes about an hour to read it, and at the end of it, if you decide you can’t do it yourself, then you should be hiring someone who will be doing what is described in the book, and that is researching your local market and devising a focused landing page configuration for your site based on that.
That is what needs to be done first, and that is all you should pay for, initially, because that may be all you need to greatly enhance your rankings.
Some Questions to Ask an SEO Consultant Are:
- How many landing pages are you going to build for my site?
- How will you define my geographic footprint, and how are you going to cover it with your SEO work?
- What are those pages going to be named (titled) and what content ill be on them?
- Are you going to supply me with a good spreadsheet with search engine query links that I can then use to periodically check my own rankings easily?
- Is any link building work included in your proposal? If so, what are those links?
- Is any third-party work included, like Google My Business profile, Yelp profile, etc.
- What kind of keyword ranking reporting are you going to do for me?
- What if this doesn’t work because I am in a more competitive market? What is plan B and Plan C, if I need it?
If they can’t answer those questions honestly and fully, then run.
They say: Leave It To Us!
SEO consultants are notorious for having the attitude of “just leave this all to us, we’ll handle it ALL for $XXX up front and then $XX per month.”
They purposely try to
get you to stop asking pointed questions. Sometimes to the point of giving up
on you if you are too inquisitive, as they sense that you might be hip to their
You are not going to get a fair deal if they can’t describe what they plan to do in very finite detail that makes sense. I tell my clients EAXCTLY what I plan to do for them, as I do not want any confusion with the deliverables, and that’s how I prefer to do business.
If you hire an SEO shop that uses vague language in their deliverables list, then what you WILL get is a half-baked SEO job that is overpriced, does not convert well, and that probably leaves a lot of search traffic on the table.
Overhaul Your Website???
Some of these SEO consultants want to overhaul your entire website.
That is preposterous and I cover it here in a separate article:
* DO NOT Overhaul Your Entire Website for SEO Purposes!
Fees and More Fees
Again, the industry loves to use your lack of knowledge against you.
They will have a big up-front charge to get started, and then maybe a fee upon completion of some work, but what they really want is the ability to bill you SOMETHING on a monthly basis, forever.
That usually takes the
form of “monthly maintenance” or “monthly reporting”.
As to monthly reporting, they use automated tools to do it, and they simply send you the results by email. Is that worth $50 a month? You can do that yourself with the same tools they use. Or just use a spreadsheet.
I have ZERO clients on
monthly maintenance. It is not necessary. I am not even sure what that is, and
I have been doing this for 20 years.
Now, if they are taking a deep dive into your traffic stats, or if you have a store that is adding product lines and other new items regularly, then that is another story, but most music lesson studios do not need that.
Content Creation Fees
This is a biggie. The
savvier SEO shops will try to convince you that you need new, fresh content on
your site every month. Again, they are using your lack of knowledge against
I have NO clients on monthly content creation. It might be necessary if you own a hotel in a big resort town, but is it is rarely necessary in the music lesson realm. In fact, a content creation project would be phase III or phase IV for any site that I work with. You do it only because you have to, to be competitive in SEO search rankings.
Further, who is going to
write this content? Is it good content, or just words on a page, cooked up to
look like real information? Useless content is, well, useless.
Take a Tiered Approach to SEO
With SEO work, there are levels of preparedness. My advice is ALWAYS this: Do the basics first, thoroughly, and then see where you are.
For local music lesson businesses, Phase I will always be the creation of good, focused landing pages that cover your scope of service and geographic footprint. That’s it. Do that first, and then take a breather.
If you need to do more than that, then plan B, C, D and E should be business directory listings, link building, content creation, and content promotion, probably in that order.
I wrote this because I
am seeing some people in this industry spend way too much on SEO services or
getting too little in return when they do.
If I can help you, fine. If I can’t, that is fine too.
I just want to say thanks for buying my SEO guide book for music lesson studio owners, thanks for the dialogue and thanks for just participating the Facebook Music Teacher SEO Group. Please spread the word, if you would.
Thanks again for tuning in!