How to Outsource SEO (Step-by-Step) – Ahrefs

People make it seem like outsourcing SEO is the dream. You get to sit by the sea, drinking from a coconut, while others do the work for you.

But people often leave out the fact that doing it well is hard.

When you’re outsourcing something as complex as search engine optimization, it comes with completely

new challenges like creating systems, hiring good help at reasonable rates, and management.

So today, I’m going to show you how to systematize and outsource SEO using a simple 3-step framework.

So there are two massive benefits to outsourcing SEO over doing it in-house.

#1. If you’re a business owner or manager, it creates time for you to focus on things where

you’re most valuable.

So that might be managing in-house employees, growing your business, or just overseeing your SEO strategy at a higher level.

And #2, which I think is the most important is that you’re not limited by geography.

If you’re limiting your team to just people within your city or even country, you’re missing

out on working with smart, efficient, and talented people from all over the world.

So with that said, let’s get into the framework of building your outsourced SEO team.

The first step is to create SOPs.

SOPs are detailed documents that explain how to carry out a task from start to finish.

And when I say detailed…I mean detailed.

For example, McDonalds is arguably the most well-known company in the world.

And if you’ve been to different locations in your city, country, or even on the other

side of the planet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the experience is more or less the same.

And this is hugely because of their SOPs and training.

For each new hire, they’ll get both in-person training as well as a handbook.

The handbook covers how to do literally everything from greeting the customer at the drive-thru window,

to kitchen responsibilities, and even how you should handle money.

The document is so good that you can literally envision the experience as you read it.

And this is how you want to create your SOPs.

Don’t assume that people you hire know your expectations.

Outline every last detail to the point of visualization.

Now, in order to create SOPs in such detail, you need to learn and document the steps

for each process.

Meaning, it’s worth being in the trenches so you can gain experience and optimize

the process so your team can work efficiently and cohesively.

Now, if you still think that you can outsource SEO without thorough documentation, let me

give you five more reasons why you shouldn’t skimp out on this step.

First, if someone quits, disappears without notice, or you let them go, SOPs make it

super-easy to hire and onboard new help.

Second, if someone hasn’t done the work for a while, ie, they took a vacation or you had

them working on different tasks, they’ll have a guide to reference to get back on track fast.

Third, it allows them to get tasks done faster.

Since you’ve already gone through the process, you should have documented

everything in the most efficient way possible.

And having SOPs allows you to refine your processes.

Fourth, it saves you time from answering the same questions over and over again.

Or even better, it prevents people from deviating from a system that works.

And fifth, it allows you to eventually remove yourself from the process so you can drink

from those coconuts on the beach, or whatever you want to do.

Now, SOPs don’t necessarily need to be written documents.

They can be videos too. So use whatever format makes the most sense, or if you’re better on video for example, create those and hire someone to repurpose them to text.

Alright, so let me help you visualize what the creation process would look like.

So let’s say you wanted to create a team to do link building.

You’d want to break these down into tactics you’re using.

So that might be guest posting, broken link building, and unlinked mentions.

Then you’ll want to break down each tactic down into broad steps.

So if you were to create SOPs for guest posting, then the steps would be to find websites to write

for, find the email addresses of those people, reach out with a convincing pitch, and if

accepted, write a post.

Then you’ll want to write a detailed description of what and how they should execute their tasks.

Now, if you wanted to do some broken link building, then you’d want to create separate

instructions for that.

Alright, the second step in this framework is hiring freelancers.

People often look for one freelancer to do everything.

And while there are people who are good at many facets of SEO, doing everything alone

is time-consuming, and just straight up inefficient, especially if you have the resources to hire a team.

When you hire people to take over specific tasks, they become masters of that task.

The quality of their work improves rather than deteriorates because they’ve been

spread too thin.

So the way that I prefer hiring for outsourced SEO is based on the tasks in my SOPs.

So going back to our guest posting SOP, if we were to categorize these tasks into roles,

then it would look something like this.

Now, as tempting as it might be, I wouldn’t recommend outsourcing everything right away

until you’ve been a part of the process and refined it to a certain extent.

So as an example, your first hire might be a data miner to find emails while you do

the prospecting, writing, and outreach.

Then you might hire someone to do the prospecting and so on.

Now, when you’re hiring, you need to write up a job description and you need a place

to post it.

The first part should be easy because you already have a detailed SOP of exactly what

you need.

And based on your requirements, you should be able to easily pick out skills required

for qualified applicants.

In addition to the basics, there are two things you may want to add to your job descriptions.

#1. I highly recommend providing specific instructions on how one should apply.

For example, you might ask them to use the subject line: “Position – data miner.”

And for anyone who doesn’t follow those exact instructions, I wouldn’t even bother

looking through their applications.

Reason being, you’ve created extremely detailed SOPs because you want things

done a specific way.

And if they aren’t able to follow a simple instruction like setting a specific email

subject line, then either a) they missed the instruction because they didn’t read your

job post, or b) decided to deviate from instructions, which you’ll likely see in their work.

The second tip is to give them a simple qualification task that shouldn’t take

longer than five minutes.

For example, you might ask people who applied for the data miner position to find the email

address of the most appropriate person based on a few URLs.

If they get them right, then you might consider shortlisting them.

These two tips should help you quickly qualify those that are worth your time.

As for places to post the listing, from my experience, different networks have stronger

candidates based on the skills you’re looking for.

For example, Upwork is usually good for things like finding email addresses.

People per hour has worked decently for me for link prospecting.

Or if you have very monotonous jobs, Mechanical Turk can be a hidden gem.

As for writers, I’ve had the most luck with ProBlogger Jobs and have found a couple

really good ones on TextBroker, although the latter was more hit or miss.

And I’ve had more success with LinkedIn to find outreach managers and a project manager

who eventually took over my tasks.

Bottomline, there is no perfect network and you’ll need to manually vet and work with

individuals to see who’s the best fit.

Alright, so after you’ve chosen people to work with, I’d recommend starting people

off on a paid trial and being very clear that it is a trial.

Reason being, you don’t know how good they’ll be at their job or how reliable they’ll

be until you’ve had some time to work with them.

This initial hiring structure lets you hire fast and fire fast in the case they’re not

meeting your expectations. And finally, the third step is to systematize your workflow.

Even if you’re only outsourcing one facet of SEO, it’s still a complicated business

with lots of moving parts.

And that’s why you need a project management tool to keep track of everything.

There are tons of them out there like Trello, Asana, Notion, Airtable, and Basecamp.

It doesn’t really matter which one you use, but I personally prefer using Kanban boards

as it helps you to instantly visualize exactly what’s happening with your projects at any

given moment.


For example, when we create videos, we start with scripting and outlining.

When completed, it goes into a “feedback and editing” stage.

After the edits are completed, we’ll record the video, move it to production, have our

editor handle the edits, finalize the video together, create our thumbnails and closed

captions, upload the video, and then schedule the video for publishing.

And if you’re catching on, each column in the kanban board is a step in our video SOP.

And it works like a charm so that multiple people can work on multiple videos without

anyone getting confused with what they need to do and when it needs to be completed.

So let’s say you wanted to systematize content creation for your blog.

In Trello, I’d set up the first column for documentation.

And in that column, I’ve added cards for different SOPs based on each person’s role.

So in the case for keyword research, you’ll see that a document has been attached there for

the responsible person to review.

Now, the reason why I like to have documentation here is so that when you make updates to your documents, you can easily notify people to review the changes.

The next column is for keyword research, where the person managing the blog can assign topics to people on their team.

Once assigned, they can move it into the Outline column where the writer will create

an outline and then can move it to the drafting column when completed.

And as each post is being created, it’s moving down the line, allowing anyone on your team

to know exactly what’s happening with the blog.

We have a full tutorial on systematizing link building using Trello with this exact system,

so I recommend watching that video as it’s applicable to virtually any system you want

to create.

So as you can see, SEO outsourcing is hard at first.

But when you put in the initial grunt work you’re setting up a foundation to repeatedly do good SEO for your site.

And as you and your team can continually refine and update your SOPs scaling any process gets even easier.

You just need to hire more people where help is needed, onboard them with your SOPs, and

the system will continue to work for you.

Now, if you enjoyed this video, then make sure to like, share and subscribe for more

actionable SEO and marketing tutorials.

And if you have any questions about any of the steps in the framework,

then leave a comment below. I’ll see you in the next tutorial.

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