Risks associated with offshore SEO?

By 04/08/2014Blog, SEO

You may have got to the stage where you have developed or upgraded your website and are now considering the online marketing options.  A key decision to make will be who will manage your search engine optimisation (SEO).  You may have seen all the online articles, read the dummies guides and fancy a go at this yourself or maybe giving it to someone in your marketing department who has dabbled with SEO at some point or another, but will this get you the desired results, is it safe and will it follow Google’s best practice guidelines?

Of course if you are an SEO expert or you have an experienced (and up to date) SEO boffin amongst your team the decision to keep SEO activities internal is a lot easier.  However it is not easy to build a long term strategy to increase rankings for competitive keywords and more importantly drive targeted traffic to your website, in fact the way the search algorithm has evolved in the last 2 years means that corners can no longer be cut and bad practice cannot be hidden and is often punished.

Understanding keyword research, technical auditing, competitor research, content writing, analytics and social media integration is very much part of a good SEO strategy these days.   Long gone are the times where we can just submit to web directories and blogs and ask other sites to link to us and hope for the best.  On top of that SEO doesn’t just stop, its not a one off campaign, it should be seen as a key part of your ongoing digital marketing strategy.

So if you do not have the skills and knowledge internally in the business then one of your options is to partner with an agency or consultant for either a fully managed campaign or for auditing and ongoing consultancy.  But with so many options where do you go and who do you choose?

Reasons for outsourcing your SEO work:

  • Allow your staff time for other jobs they are already skilled in
  • Speed up your time to gain more exposure in the search engines
  • Receive professional advice for your SEO strategy
  • Develop short and long term objectives with an experienced SEO consultant
  • No need for recruitment costs for new employees
  • Follow Google guidelines and best practices
  • Avoid accidental spammy black hat tactics

Should you outsource your SEO offshore?

If you are considering outsourcing SEO then where to go will be one of the considerations.  With all of the email spam for low cost SEO you may be  tempted to send your SEO work to a low cost offshore resource.  However before you risk your business in the hands of unknown offshore companies you should seriously consider all of the options.

At Red Alien we receive emails daily from so called ‘SEO’ offshore teams and companies wanting to partner with us or offering to take SEO work off our hands for small fees.  With SEO being comprised of such an array of complex procedures many of which draw a fall into the realms of black hat SEO would you be confident with such an important service being managed from thousands of miles away from overworked, low paid individuals? We wouldn’t!

It is very difficult to tell who are the legit companies amongst the pirates out there especially when your only communication is a yahoo/gmail email and rarely even a company name.  Responding to this type of email spam nearly always leads to disappointment.

Are offshore SEO companies always what they appear to be?

The emails on numerous occasions claim to be from companies with 200+ people dedicated to SEO.  If they were that busy and talented I wonder why they are sending so much spam?  The main culprit of these types of emails is India.  With no disrespect to talented SEO individuals based there, the industry is consumed with cheap out of date tactics that are dangerous, spammy and not at all aligned with Google’s best practice.  In fact many are using the same low quality, automated tactics they were 5 years ago.  They can get away with it for short periods due to their large turnover of clients who’s eyes have been caught in the headlights due to the tiny package fees.

One similarity in these emails  is that the spelling is usually very poor, I struggle to understand how they can afford 200+ staff but not find one person that can write a professional email or letter in readable English, surely that makes sense?  If they really are considering offering SEO services does this not mean that they will be writing articles and posts on your behalf? A worrying thought if someone that can’t spell is representing your company and your brand.

Are there any positives for offshore SEO?

At Red Alien we choose NOT to outsource SEO campaigns to offshore companies and part of the reason for this is the lack of trust in the people I have spoken with and the techniques and processes they often follow are just out of date or have never been in date.  This does appear a generalisation but this article is about my experience and others I know.  If you have had good experiences with offshore seo then I’d be interested to know who with and the results you have achieved….but please don’t spam me selling your services or you have really missed the point of this post!

Considerations if you are thinking of going offshore for your SEO:

  • Language barriers and communication (ask to use an Internet business specifications document).
  • Knowledge barriers – many offshore companies just employ mass link builders, these days there is a lot more to learn in SEO than links alone and they have very little technical understanding of your website, services or industry.
  • Quality link building – it is no good having someone link to their own network and directories and treat you like every other client.  Your offsite SEO needs to be a bespoke solution with ‘natural’ quality links earned to suit your requirements and include competitor backlinks research.
  • Don’t promote sweat shop labour – this refers to children in Asia working for very low fees just to build mass links for you is not ethical in any shape or form, ask who will work on your campaign and to have their contact details.
  • Time zone differences – your weekend may be very different to an offshore team and phone calls often need advance planning to speak to the project manager at the right time
  • You get what you pay for– freelancing sites and directories have start-up companies requesting full campaign bids for SEO for less than £200 total and then I see a huge influx of replies.  I ask myself does that individual really know what they are getting for their money when they aren’t willing to discuss a solution or prepare an SEO strategy to integrate with an online marketing plan.  You pay peanuts and you get monkeys as the old saying goes and hopefully I’m not currently classed as a monkey although I do like peanuts and have climbed a tree or two in my time.
  • Overworked – the individuals in these companies are often given too many accounts to manage leading to low quality work,  errors and mistakes that can impact your business.
  • And when it goes wrong – who do you go to, how will you get the problem resolved, who will recover your online presence?

At then end of the day whoever takes on your project will need to understand your business and services and be dedicated to getting the best results.  It can take several hours to write high quality articles, blog posts and web content and this should always be unique.  It can take longer to find and connect with the most suitable citation resources for local SEO, generate content interest, establish online publishing relationships and social media partnerships, competitor backlink evaluation.  All this spent spent before management and monitoring of your project.  Lets not forget the keyword research and ongoing on-site technical SEO.  At the start if you don’t get this right you may be heading up the creek without a paddle.

At Red Alien we work with UK businesses and ideally clients within our reach that we know we can visit, find time to understand their business and objectives and build trust and understanding in the work we are providing.

When you are ready to consider SEO for your company take all factors into account before you choose to keep it in-house, outsource locally or outsource offshore as the decision you make may have a huge impact on the online success of your business.  If you are hiring an SEO company in the UK or US don’t be afraid to ask the question ‘who will be working on your SEO campaign’ are they contactable, are they offshore?’

Please note this article does not apply to all offshore SEO companies but is aimed at understanding the risks you take when considering buying these services and selecting the right SEO partner.

This article is an update of one I originally wrote back in 2011.

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Zak Jacobs

About Zak Jacobs

Zak Jacobs is the Director of UK Digital Agency Red Alien. An experienced digital marketing professional, passionate about online integrity, user experience, and performance marketing strategies.


  • Nicole Hearn says:

    I have had bad offshore experiences and wouldn’t do it again but think any local project for seo you still need a tight contract and analysis

  • Hassim K says:

    You are right that offshore companies do not all deliver what they promise. I have worked for more than one and there are problems with what they say but they are not all bad, just ask lots of questions before agreeing to anything and dont pay all up front.

  • Chris Koene says:

    Great discussion about the considerations that need to be made when considering offshoring SEO. Although written from a UK perspective, very applicable in North America as well. When hiring a “local” SEO company it is also important to ensure they aren’t simply outsourcing to a low-quality offshore company and taking a markup.

  • Jasper Martens says:

    Hiring an offshore company for your SEO is a bad idea. We work with an agency in the UK to support our overall SEO work. Working with an agency as if they were an extension of your team works best. I can’t see that happening when you work with an offshore seo company.
    With all the new Google updates, you do want to keep your SEO efforts as clean and genuine as possible. Working with “£200 will bring you to page 1” agencies probably don’t deliver that clean and genuine work you need.

  • Richard TJ says:

    I’ve tried outsourcing with some mixed success. There are some good service providers out there who will complete some projects well, but the problem with SEO is ensuring that links are relevant and geographically well based and besides…. would you want a complete stranger messing with what is effect your sole online marketing tool (ie website?)