When a potential customer is searching for a product you offer, you want them to be able to find you.
That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is a necessary part of any business strategy—and why you might want to start thinking about how to save money on it.
Unfortunately, SEO is expensive. Good content is hard to create, and it’s challenging to measure what’s effective when it can take 3–6 months for a new page to start ranking in Google.
Thankfully, SEO isn’t rocket science, and many of the business functions that make SEO work can easily be moved offshore to dramatically reduce your monthly cost for SEO as a growth channel.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the four main “functional areas” of a good SEO strategy, and point you to locations that are particularly good for accomplishing that function offshore.
The functions of a good SEO strategy are:
- Content development (to earn traffic)
- Digital PR and marketing (to earn links)
- Technical SEO (to make Google understand why you should rank #1)
- Administrative tasks (to support your core team)
The region you look too for offshoring will depend on the type of task you need help with.
Here’s a top-level at my go-to regions for offshoring SEO. Below, I’ll discuss strategies for outsourcing each of these functional areas in detail.
Regional overview: SEO offshoring in the UK, EU, and Latin America
What makes the UK a good place for SEO offshoring?
When comparing the UK with the US in terms of SEO services, pricing is the main delineation between the two. In the UK, you can find talent with relevant experience in SEO projects at very competitive rates — even when compared with second-tier cities in the US. Expect to see 20–50% reduction in retainers. More importantly, the quality of the work holds up well even at a lower price point.
There’s one caveat to be aware of. If you’re a US-based company trying to set up a full-time team/office, you shouldn’t go to the UK. When you factor in tax liabilities, overhead costs, and employment regulations for full-time labor, you won’t really be saving anything at the end of the day. The US, by contrast, is an at-will employment environment, which is better for employers.
In the UK, it’s just harder to let people go — and you never know when you’ll need to end a contract.
Overall, the UK is a good place to go for media stunts or more traditional PR, which are becoming more important as time passes.
What makes Latin America good for SEO offshoring?
Because of Latin America’s nearness to the US, its time zone won’t cause disastrous delays in communication. This makes it a good location for PR services in particular, as well as some technical SEO services.
Any sort of outreach that chases a news cycle will catch on well here. Furthermore, the talent pool is much stronger than its pricing would have you believe. You’ll be looking at extremely competitive rates for competent work, not only compared to US pricing but also pricing found in the UK. The only time I would discourage anyone from nearshoring to Latin America would be in cases where native English speakers are required.
What makes Eastern Europe good for SEO offshoring?
In proportion to its talent, Eastern Europe’s pricing is more than fair. In fact, you’ll be getting quite a good deal. Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Poland all offer very technical talent for just a slightly higher price point than that of comparable Southeast Asian locations. (When I say comparable, I mean that the talent is of equal quality). This is a popular nearshore region for the UK, so you can expect technical talent to be cheaper as well.
Specific Locations for SEO Content
SEO Article Writing
Talking about SEO content writing specifically, it’s much harder to get out-of-office, especially out of the country. If you’re a US company, it’s probably best to stick with US writers. To find them, look in the following places:
College towns: You can find a good editor with less experience and lower rates. Have a few competent, affordable writers generating bulk content for them, and you have a working model that can save you trouble in the long run. If you want to work with offshore writers at scale, you absolutely need onshore editors.
UK: For same-language contractors with similar skill sets and exposure to SEO work, you can save around 33 to 50 percent just by going to the UK. The SEO industry here—especially in the northern part of the UK—is quite strong. It still manages to be extremely affordable. Stay-at-home parents are particularly good for this function, as they want a trickle of online work that is flexible, and they may have credentials from their main career that are valuable for you topic area.
Eastern Europe: Look here for subject matter experts: doctors, lawyers, MBAs, CPAs, etc. When you need somebody with a more technical writing background, professionals in Eastern Europe can provide the same quality as US professionals, but for a substantially lower price.
PR and Marketing
PR and marketing are highly communicative roles. Time zones start to matter a lot more when it comes to these, especially if you’re looking for really high-tier work. If you’re determined to go offshore, don’t go too far. You might have success in the following locations:
Latin America: Boutique agencies in places like Colombia can help you create your own small team. As for what that might look like, it may entail having an American expat or a digital nomad available for telephone work. Don’t get me wrong: talent here is both highly skilled and cost-effective, but it’s best suited to non-client-facing roles.
UK: The UK is particularly helpful if you want to work with a boutique, digital PR company. In other words, it’s for when you need somebody to be your one-stop shop for strategizing and creating content, performing marketing and outreach functions, and getting link placement for that content. Companies here really are quite effective at this. Again, I only emphasize caution due to the time zone disparity. The UK is one of the best locations for digital PR, but if you need people on the phone, the accent will be offputting for American targets.
If you’re looking for data analysis, web scraping, or other gray-hat activities, these locations can come through in a big way for you.
Eastern Europe: The Ukraine, Russia, and Poland are all examples of countries with remarkable technical talent and a simultaneous demand for jobs. On the other hand, you’ll have to tread carefully with security here.
The Philippines: This location is a go-to for tedious data collection tasks that require more nuance than can be automated by a good programmer, but less high-level industry experience than your in-office staff. See our post on business process outsourcing effectively in the Philippines for more insights on the topic.
Suppose you’re seeking to run a process that can help increase your link-building success. For example, every time someone mentions your brand name, you can reach out and request that they link it to your website. Or maybe you want to promote a guide you’ve created to a particular website owner. If you really want control over your brand image, nothing beats doing your own outreach. But if you just don’t have the time, try the following:
- Philippines: The Philippines offers basic outreach labor at a low per-hour cost. Additionally, their spoken English tends to be very good. Filipino talent is great for processes like manual data collection, but content is still king. You should have some personal involvement in any outreach process in order to make sure it stays genuine. I don’t say this to sound twee — the fact is, “scaled outreach” is hard to pull off these days, and it’s no longer possible to build high-quality links by simply spamming every “webmaster” that makes the mistake of listing their email on LinkedIn.
How to Vet SEO Agencies
SEO can be a mysterious industry, and to a lot of folks, offshoring carries its own level of mystery.
As a result, people often just don’t know where to look or what questions to ask when evaluating their options. So, here are some tips to follow when considering an SEO vendor:
Involve Legal When Offshoring SEO (and in general)
If you have legal resources available, involve them. They can ensure that you aren’t doing anything to run afoul of local employment/contracting laws. When it comes to engaging digital contractors, you’ll usually find some leeway. But at a certain scale, it becomes crucial to play strictly by the rules.
It’s also important to know what your legal protections are in case certain risks come up (like, say, a rogue employee). This can be difficult with technical SEO services, where someone might need access to your critical accounts.
Even with read-only privileges, contractors and remote employees can do a lot of damage with just one account. So be very cautious about handing over account access. The more technical the contributor, the more cautions you should be.
It’s not just about moving or deleting data, although that’s also an important risk to mitigate. Beyond that, you have to consider how your personal information can be used against you. What if a malicious actor decided to blackmail you—or worse, go straight to your client? If it’s never happened to you, it may sound unbelievable. But it does happen, even with lower-level freelance hires like content writers.
Request Past Projects, Reviews and References
Not all companies will live up to their reputation, and some will outright lie when it comes to referencing past clients and work. It’s not nice, but it happens.
If you frequently have issues with contractors or partners going rogue or dropping projects, it’s likely a sign of an issue on your side: either chasing too low of a price point, or failing to provide adequate context on the project.
This is why locations like Pakistan get a bad rap for outsourcing. It’s not that talent is bad there — on the contrary, some of the most talented technical contractors I’ve worked with are in that location. The issue is that low price attract bottom-feeding clients. And these clients often don’t realize just how unrealistic their requirements are.
On the flip side, there are some agencies (and scam artists) that play into this knowingly. Think of it this way: if you were looking to find marks with naive expectations, who better to target than a midwest Dad who believes he can get his “great app idea” built for only $3000?
When dealing purely with individuals, it’s hard to avoid scams in general. But with boutique agencies, it’s a lot easier to get a reliable picture of who the other party is.
If seeking individual contractors, the best bet is platforms like Upwork that have Uber-style star rating systems built in, both for freelancers and hiring agencies. Even if a dishonest vendor tries to approach you, chances are they’ve already accumulated a poor reputation.
Don’t buy links offshore (or anywhere!)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it a million times: Don’t buy links to prop up a website — especially offshore.
If you want it to last six months to a year and then fade into obscurity, buying links is a fine idea. Your site will eventually get penalized. But if you want longevity, this is a tactic to avoid entirely. (Outside grey-hat editorial placement fees and the like, but this is dangerous if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and how to analyze the market.)
People with private blogging networks, or networks of small site vendors who buy up links and then farm them out for a higher price should be avoided, as well as anyone offering spammy, antiquated email outreach overbloated by link stuffing. It may be relatively organic, but it will reflect poorly on your brand, which you don’t want.
That’s why, even early in a site’s history, I discourage anyone from using this method. I promise you’ll be better off making good, linkable content from the outset. It will just take a little time to show results — but those results will be sustainable.
Keep your strategy in-house
SEO is a bit of a delayed-reaction industry, but it’s also a powerful growth channel for businesses of all sizes. SEO differs from PPC or social media in the sense that you’ll have to grind content for a few months and do manual marketing and digital PR projects in order to build up any sort of momentum. But once the time-consuming groundwork is laid and you reach your critical mass, that flatline has a way of spiking suddenly.
SEO is challenging for clients and vendors alike because of its relatively unpredictable nature. But if you want it to work in your favor, break it down into the components that matter and farm those out individually. My advice: don’t go the route of an all-encompassing SEO vendor.
Although a one-stop shop might be great at strategy, they’re always going to cost more than one really skilled, well-rounded content strategist with a little SEO knowledge. That is honestly the best path to success I’ve seen in recent years.