How to Outsource SEO & How Much it Costs

July 27, 2022

If your company has a lack of SEO talent or your current team is struggling to keep up with all your SEO campaigns, it may be time to outsource your SEO to a third-party like an agency or specialist.

While I would argue that some tasks are best left for internal teams, SEO is just one of those areas where companies of all sizes can benefit from an advanced SEO specialist or a team of SEOs whose sole focus is to help you grow traffic and sales.

Today, we are going to review a few of the nuances you’ll want to consider when outsourcing your SEO, including:

  • The 2 SEO Outsourcing Models 
  • How to Approach SEO Outsourcing Based on Needs
  • Where to Find Outsourced SEO Companies or Partners
  • How Much SEO Outsourcing Costs

The 2 SEO Outsourcing Models 

There are two SEO outsourcing models you’ll have to consider depending on what stage your company is in or what your current in-house team looks like:

  1. Outsource all SEO
  2. Combine outsourced SEO with an in-house team

Outsource all SEO

If you don’t have the budget for an SEO specialist or team (I’ll get more into costs later), the obvious choice here is to outsource all of your SEO needs. When talking about SEO tasks, we are often talking about on and off-page SEO, content writing, and the often understated importance of development and graphic design. These are super cost-intensive to perform in-house and not all SEO agencies provide all of these services, so that is something to consider when hiring (which we will discuss later when we discuss outsourcing based on needs).

Combine outsourced SEO with an in-house team

If you do have some existing marketers who need overflow help or specialized help, then it makes sense to combine your in-house team with outsourced SEO. In my experience, the best cost-savings and performance come into play when you have an existing writing team and development team and leave the heavy lifting to SEO specialists (research, link building, site speed recommendations, content audits, etc).

How to Approach SEO Outsourcing Based on Needs

At Digital Elevator, we approach SEO based on a maximum business impact methodology. This means prioritizing your SEO efforts based on whatever your most important goals are for your company.

For example, if you want to be known for a particular service or product, coming up with SEO strategies that help you rank for that service or product as a priority. Or, if you want to know where your content gaps are and what content is the most impactful, you’d prioritize a content audit. 

Using that content audit example, perhaps you just want an SEO partner that specializes in SEO content audits.

If you don’t have such a specialized goal in mind and just want to increase sales, you should be able to lean on an SEO agency to help you strategize an action plan based on your goals and budget.

Whatever direction you go in, it is helpful to approach your SEO outsource partner with some specific goals, metrics, or KPIs they can back into.

Where to Find the Best Outsourced SEO Companies or Partners

Finding really good SEO outsourcing companies or partners may be the most difficult part of moving toward this marketing model.

These are the main ways you can find potential partners:

  1. Google the specific SEO service or industry
  2. Use a reputable directory site
  3. Job boards
  4. Utilize your network

Google the specific SEO service or industry

Similar to the example we covered above, looking for a “seo content audit service” and seeing companies, like Digital Elevator, who specialize in this type of service can be a good way to start some discussions and get an idea of deliverables and costs.

You can also do a search based on your industry, such as “SEO for Shopify agency” for eCommerce SEO or “seo agency for pharmaceutical industry.”

Use a reputable directory site

Clutch is probably the best directory site that helps you sift through some of the noise. You can filter SEO agencies by specific services, client budget, hourly rate, industry, reviews, and more.

I like Clutch because they generally require your clients to actually interview with them, helping to keep the quality of reviews a bit more transparent and credible.

Job boards

I’d only suggest job boards if you are trying to hire a freelance SEO. Note that with freelancers you can’t expect them to do everything really well. In other words, don’t expect an SEO freelancer to be an expert SEO, content writer, developer, and project manager. If they do all of that expect to pay a pretty penny or expect low-quality results.

That said, the best place to find SEOs on job board sites is probably Upwork

Other notable freelance SEO job board sites include Indeed.com and Fiverr although with Fiverr, you spend a lot of time sorting through profiles of SEO generalists and may find it is only a good option if you have basic SEO needs.

Utilize your network

If you have a robust professional network, see if any of your contacts can make some recommendations of SEO agencies or specialists in your industry. 

How Much SEO Outsourcing Costs

The costs of SEO outsourcing very much depend on the amount of work you need, the industry you are in, the competition, how quickly you need work done, the track record or reputation of your SEO partner, and the amount of project management time you want to invest.

If you are a small local business and you are looking for turn-key SEO services, expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 for ongoing local SEO. If you are a regional business in a hyper-competitive market, expect to get your wallet out. I recently saw a very reputable personal injury SEO agency with project averages around $15,000 a month.

This plays into the reputation of your SEO partner as well. For companies that are really well-known for specific services or have worked with household brands, expect monthly SEO retainers in the $10k+ range, with one-off projects like site quality assessments coming in at similar rates.

In terms of project management, I have seen very successful business owners run separate teams of SEOs, developers, writers, and link builders from various regions and have total marketing costs come in at a third to a quarter cheaper than if they went all-in with one agency.

Comparing SEO Outsourcing to the Cost of Employees

One last thing I want to talk about is the cost of employees versus that of SEO outsourcing partners.

There are certainly pros to having in-house employees but I’d argue it is almost always better to have an outsourced SEO partner. 

For starters, the estimated total pay for an SEO specialist is $71,600 per year according to Glassdoor. That’s not all though, according to the SBA the actual cost of an employee is 1.25 to 1.4 times their salary when you account for taxes, insurance, healthcare, and retirement plans. So that same SEO could cost you $89,500 to $100,240 in actuality.

Then there is the likelihood that your SEO is not a writer, a graphic designer, a developer, and a project manager. What do you do about those roles should you actually have the budget to hire that initial SEO?

The point is, if we divide the cost of one seasoned SEO employee into 12-months, we are looking at $7,458 to $8,353 a month that could be used for an agency. With that sort of budget you can likely get the SEO specialist and writers, graphic designers, developers, and project managers who can all fall under one agency roof.

To me, it makes a strong case to partner with an agency of specialists at the end of the day.


Daniel Lofaso

Daniel E. Lofaso is the Founder and CEO of Digital Elevator. He loves classic Land Rover Defenders, surfing, and is a BBQ master. Connect with Lofaso on LinkedIn

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