Startups: Don’t Outsource SEO

Disclaimer: I am a SEO Consultant, but this won’t be a veiled pitch. As a matter of fact, I’m going to tell you outright that outsourcing your SEO to me, or any other company could be a big mistake, especially if you’re just starting a business.

I was watching ABC’s Shark Tank the other day, a show where entrepreneurs pitch investors with hopes of raising an investment. In one particular pitch, two Harvard grads pitched Surprise Ride, a subscription service delivering interactive activities in a box to children. While they had some traction, one of the biggest mistakes (at least in Mark Cuban’s eyes) was mentioning that she hired one of the leading marketing agencies within her niche, and another company to monetize that traffic (presumably a conversion rate optimization agency). And before going out, he offered the following advice, “…The fact that you need go out and get this marketing company, you need to go out and get this optimization company, you need to get these other companies, that means you don’t have that road to success directly in your mind. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to be able to control your own destiny.”

None of the sharks ended up investing, you can watch the entire clip here (I’d recommend it – it’s entertaining and educational):

Don’t Outsource SEO

Mark Cuban was absolutely right – you have to be in control of your own destiny. And as many businesses find out, outsourcing SEO/Marketing can often times backfire with the advent of algorithmic updates like Google Panda/Penguin. Small businesses and startups aren’t the only ones to fall from poor SEO companies, even big brands like Overstock.com, JC Penny, Expedia and even Google themselves, have been hit with penalties.

Learn SEO

So what should you do? I’d recommend taking advantage of the free sources available (and there are many) until you reach a personal plateau, then you could consider hiring a SEO company to take you to the next level. Here are a few guides that are a must read for any beginner:

It might be a lot to take in at first, but don’t be overwhelmed. Consider the Pareto Principle, where 20% of your inputs equal 80% of your outputs. That applies to SEO. With over a rumored 200+ ranking factors, and every marketer creating a piece about every one of them, it could be difficult to know what to focus on. If you focus just on the top 25 ranking factors (and SEO’s do offer their input on what they are) you could save a lot of time and still drive a ton of results. If you’re a small business, say an event planner in your city, you don’t have to be an SEO expert, you just have to better than the 30 other competitors in your city. 

When you get stuck, just ask us. There are a ton of SEO/Marketing forums and communities where SEO’s offer their advice completely gratis:

There are a host of other communities (with varying styles, approaches, etc.), those are just a few that I participate in.

Don’t put too much time into figuring out what SEO tools you need, there are hundreds of them. If your niche isn’t very competitive, you could get away without buying any. If your niche does have some competition, take advantage of free trials of Moz (they advertise 30 days, but some websites have 90 day trial coupons), Raven, SEMRush, etc.

Score some Press

Once of the strongest drivers for SEO are backlinks (as confirmed by the aforementioned survey of ranking factors), and you don’t have to know squat about SEO to get them. One of the best backlinks you can get are editorial links. If you’re starting a business, and you think your story is newsworthy, submit your story to journalists. Much like SEO, you don’t need to outsource this to a PR Agency either. We’ve talked a bit on how to send out a press release and a few of the best press release services.

“When You’re an Entrepreneur, You Have to Be Able to Control Your Own Destiny”

That quote bears repeating. If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t outsource SEO without attempting to tackle it yourself. Of course this is geared towards startups and there are some definite opportunity cost considerations, but at the end of the day, you can’t rely on other people to take you to where you want to go.

Should you outsource SEO? Did you outsource SEO? Share your experience below!

20 Responses to “Startups: Don’t Outsource SEO”
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