If you own a business and you want to market it online, you need to use SEO. It’s really the bread and butter of any promotional campaign online. Don’t believe the naysayers who claim that SEO is outdated and it’s time to move on to social media as well as content promotion. After all, you have to remember that these tactics still fit snugly beneath the SEO umbrella.
If you are completing SEO for your business, you’re probably not going to do it yourself. Nor are you going to hire an in-house team to set it up for you. This would be expensive, time-consuming and dare we say, a waste of time. If you don’t have the knowledge, you’re not going to get very far with SEO. A basic understanding of keywords and link building certainly won’t be enough to get you to the top of the SERPs.
So, you’ll begin to look at two options. Either you can hire a freelancer to complete your SEO campaign, or you can search for a skilled, reputable SEO company. Which is the right decision? The answer to this question is quite complicated and will almost always be based on personal perception. Before we get to it, let’s think about the different types of SEO companies and freelancers that you can choose from.
Choosing An SEO Company
Web Design, Oh…And SEO
There are quite a few different types of SEO companies. First, there are the web design teams that also offer an SEO service. This means that at least half their resources are going to be focused on the design aspect of the process. Remember, web design is not going to impact SEO, but it will alter your conversion rate. If you choose a web design company, be prepared to have a look at some case studies and make sure that they offer what you need. It’s the same as if you were to hire a graphic design company, you’ll probably check their designs first, it’s the same principle in SEO.
All Marketing Everything
Then there are the digital marketing companies. These businesses are offering all the digital marketing services, and SEO is just part of the game plan. It could be argued that everything that you do online that relates to your business is part of SEO, but you might be looking for something more specific. If that’s the case check out the official services that they offer.
Bare in mind that a large portion of these companies use the cookie cutter approach to SEO. Some even use automated black-hat seo software which is a big no-no. Have a look at some reviews and make sure that you are not using an inferior service.
Some marketing agencies do have great SEO services and will be able to get your business out on top. They’ll work with the top brands, giving you a fantastic return on investment. They might even be able to get you to page one. There is a slight problem with these companies, though, and we will talk about it a little further down. For now, let’s look at the final type of SEO agency.
Nothing But SEO
These companies will advertise themselves as SEO agencies. They are the only ones who specialise in keyword building, maybe PPC, a little AdWords, backlinking and use tools like Moz. These are specialist companies and your best bet if you want a pro SEO company at a reasonable price. You just need to watch out for companies offering quotes before seeing your site. Every site is different, and if a business is offering a quote, they are using the same tactic for every company. This will almost always lead to Google penalties.
Okay, how about the freelancers, the underdogs of the digital marketing world?
Choosing An SEO Freelancer
Ah, Looking For Search Engine Optimisation?
You’ll know a terrible freelancer when you see one. They’re very easy to spot because the content on their site will be impossible to understand. They’ll use a lot of lingo that, when analysed isn’t actually being put in the right context. If you ask them for rankings, you’ll also find that they can’t provide any evidence of being successful.
Then there are the freelancers who look like they can handle a lot more. This usually means that they are outsourcing most of their jobs and picking up the profits. Essentially, this means that you could be using one of the services of the SEO companies that you dismissed without even realising it. Of course, there is the possibility that SEO agencies are also using outsourcing services, but typically, they have a large enough team that they won’t need to.
Personal, Professional, Precise
Then there is the final type of freelancer. This could be an individual or a small team, and they’ll usually work on one case at a team. By focusing all their attention on that client, they can give a great level of service and attention that won’t be rivalled on the market. But you certainly won’t find that results happen overnight.
Now that we’ve looked at the different types of services, you can say there’s the good, bad and ugly on both sides. But which type will deliver the results that you need? You’re going to have a few different factors to think about when choosing an SEO service.
Further up, we mentioned the big, large corporate SEO agencies that have worked with brands that you hear about every day. These guys have worked to build up Virgin, Coca Cola, Sony and Disney online. Of course, they always deliver results that rank, but there’s a problem. It’s the cost. Prices for the best SEO agencies are always going to be high because they are as close as you can get to guaranteed results. As such, they can write their own cheque and ask you to pay it. These businesses break the rule that marketing online is cheap.
Freelancers, on the other hand, are built around a buyers market. When you explore freelance options, the customer or client is king. You can decide how much you are willing to pay and find a freelance business that fits the bill. You just won’t be able to guarantee that they are offering a fantastic service. Look at this way, should you expect quality if you’re paying ten dollars for a day of SEO? Of course not. You certainly want to price compare when you are looking at freelancers and understand that the cheapest is not going to be the best.
Who Are You Working With?
It’s not just cost that’s going to determine quality either. You need to think about the people behind the SEO service that you’re using. The mindset does exist that the individuals working for SEO agencies aren’t skilled enough to be successful as freelancers. After all, if you know what you’re doing why not make bigger profits working independently? However, some skilled employees simply don’t have the confidence to try to succeed without a larger brand to back them up. So, SEO agencies can get their hands on some very skilled employees. Particularly, if they are willing to pay them the right wage.
One of the problems with freelancers is that you’re not always sure who you’re working with. We’ve already discussed how many freelancers rely on outsourcing support. Your best bet is to research the individual freelancers and people behind company sites too. You will discover that these individuals can not hide from a poor reputation. There will be reviews online and company owners willing to talk about their level of service. This is how you separate the great from the mediocre.
The Need To Succeed
You could argue that freelancers need a win more than the bigger businesses. Particularly the freelancers that only work on one client at a time. If they don’t deliver results for their clients, a negative review could easily knock them out the running. Bigger agencies can bounce back from bad reviews because they could be working with at least ten companies at any given time.
There is also the benefit of a more focused approach. The best freelancers will personalise their service and ensure that individual companies get exactly what they want. For a fair price, you can guarantee that they will be dedicated to your campaign for as long as you hire them.
SEO companies on the other hand, usually work to a specific business model. While the marketing campaign might be different, the general way the customer is handled will be exactly the same. You won’t be getting the level of customer care that you receive working with an individual.
Building A Relationship
There is one other final problem with using an SEO agency, and that’s how quickly they switch up their staff. On average, an employee will stay with an SEO agency for two years. At that point, they’ll move up the ladder, in a different company, since they’ll have the skills they need to get a larger paycheck. This means that you won’t be able to build up a relationship and the quality could be affected by working with someone who isn’t as effective at SEO as the employee who worked on your campaign previously.
Working with a freelancer, you’re always going to be dealing with the same person year after a year. So, if you’re happy with their service now, you’ll know you can expect the same when you use them again.
What’s the answer in this seemingly never-ending the debate? If you can afford it, you might want to use one of the biggest SEO agencies, but a freelancer is almost always going to provide the best value for money. They will also be able to offer a more personalised service compared with your typical agency, but you do need to watch out for outsourcing. For our money, it’s the freelancer that is going to care the most about whether you get the results you need and work hard to ensure you rank.