Best Practice

How to hire an SEO agency or freelancer

Outsourcing some, or all, parts of your SEO program is the optimal solution for many small businesses

Evaluating how to select a SEO service provider can most easily be simplified by breaking down by the tasks you need executed, and hiring specialists accordingly. Unfortunately, many SEO agencies fall short of their promises and do not provide tangible results for their clients. This being said, there are many reputable SEO agencies and freelancers available for hire. Let’s have a look on how to evaluate, hire and manage these SEO services provider.s  

Per’s report "Agencies SEO Services Global Market Report 2022" -, the global agencies SEO services market is expected to grow from $41.97 billion in 2021 to $51.25 billion in 2022, meaning there is a sea of options that you must wade through before you find a good fit.   

The three major factors to consider

Do-It Yourself (DIY) or Hire  - How much SEO are you going to conduct yourself? In which areas are you going to hire a specialist or agency? Some agencies offer all-in-one packages, while others may focus on specific areas of SEO.  You have to decide what your mix is going to be. 

Budget -  Many small businesses have limited budgets for SEO, while large companies can spend upwards of tens of thousands of dollars on SEO. With strategic planning, reasonable expectations, and consistent execution, you can achieve quality SEO results within a reasonable budget.  

 Time - SEO takes time. You have to update and claim business directories, create content, secure backlinks, respond to reviews, and more.  Plan for a consistent program over the long term, versus a burst of activity. 

10 Major Components of an SEO Program 

Most small businesses use a combination of do-it-yourself and outsourcing their SEO programs. In order to efficiently outsource your SEO, you’ll need to know how different components of SEO work in order to effectively estimate cost, hire, and manage an agency or freelancer.  

There are 10 major components of an SEO Program: 

1) Website structure 
2) Keyword analysis, initial and fine tuning 
3) Semantic core development & updates 
4) On-page SEO audits
5) Technical SEO audits 
6) Google Page experience (performance for the user)
7) Business directories 
8) Backlinks to your website and pages 
9) Content publishing 
10) SEO performance measurement

Visibility & Accountability

If you are outsourcing your SEO, you’ll need to ask your agency for each of the components: 

  1. An item by item budget that breaks down exactly where and how they will spend each dollar you give them 
  2. What are the specific deliverables, what is the scheduled frequency of delivery, and how will they be delivered?
  3. How will they measure and report the performance of each deliverable? 

In many cases, the “monthly fee” model employed by some SEO agencies typically spread your budget thinly across too many of the components  of SEO.  

If you’re looking to outsource certain components of your SEO program, such as keyword analysis or  backlink development, you would ask the same three questions for each component or task.  

Frequency of Tasks Affects Your SEO Costs

SEO is an ongoing process. 

However, certain SEO tasks are executed more frequently than others, and can be executed as often or as little as preferred.  As always, the key to determining frequency is to monitor your own results  as well as your competitors' activities.  There is no magic formula that states x number of backlinks or blog post will increase your ranking by x amount. SEO is continuous refinement to find the balance.  It sounds a bit intimidating, but with easy to use dashboards it is very manageable.   

Here’s a breakdown of the 10 major components of an SEO program and their expected frequency:

  1. Website Structure: One time setup with on-going tweaks when required. Typically, defining your website structure is a one time job, but may require restructuring as new products, services and pages are added. 
  2. Keyword Analysis: 2-4 times annually. Running a keyword analysis is a relatively quick and straight-forward process. Implementing, waiting, and measuring your keywords require months at a time.Semantic Core Development: 2-4 times annually. Your semantic cores are aligned with your keyword development.updated with keyword analysis
  3. On-Page SEO: 4-8 times annually. You should run on-page seo diagnostics every couple of months, or every time you make a significant change to your website.
  4. Technical SEO:  4-8 times annually. You should run a technical seo audit every couple of months, or everytime you make a change to your website.
  5. Google Page Experience: Ongoing. Frequently check your Google Page Experience rating, especially after you make changes to your website. 
  6. Business Directories: One time setup, with updates whenever you make a change to your business’ location, hours, or contact info. Make sure to add pictures to your business directory listings. 
  7. Backlinks: Frequent, and ongoing. Backlink development is an ongoing process, and it’s success can be determined by the amount of time (or money, if you’re outsourcing) you’re willing to spend. .  
  8. SEO Content Publishing: Depends. For some industries, a monthly blog post would be considered adequate, while other industries may require daily blogging and social media posting to compete for top rankings.
  9. SEO Measurements: Frequent, and ongoing. Measuring your SEO becomes a lot easier when you have a simple, easy-to-read reporting tool. Keep an eye on traffic to your website from search engines, backlink performance, website health and more all in your Cruxdata dashboard. 

The cost of an SEO program is directly tied to how frequently you pay for a deliverable in each category.  Companies that promise to cover all the components at what seems to be an absurdly low price generally do not provide quality deliverables, and do not generate results. Caution: some agencies on the very low end of the cost spectrum may employ tactics that that could potentially get your website penalized by Google and other search engines.

Keyword Analysis – Semantic Core – On-Page & Technical SEO

Keyword analysis, semantic core development, and on-page & technical SEO generally work in conjunction with each other. 

Keywords or phrases are the backbone of every SEO strategy. 

Once the UX part of your website is complete. one of the first things you need to do is conduct a key word analysis to find and analyze the list of keywords that will produce the best results for you at the lowest cost. 

Effective keyword analysis will answer an important question: Should you be targeting multiple keywords or types of search intents on a single web page? It is difficult to optimize one page for two different sets of keywords, and probably requires a slight change to the website structure.  

Keywords are aligned with specific web pages. This is called the “ semantic core''. Additionally, the page’s tags are analyzed, with proposed edits to each targeted page. 

An Onpage and Technical SEO audit is conducted to determine whether there are any critical errors or warnings.  While updating on page content for keywords and editing tags these errors and warning can be remedied at the same time.  

You can either conduct keyword analysis yourself, or hire a specialist. Most keyword specialists have extensive knowledge of how search engines work, aligning keywords with users search intent, on-page SEO and Technical SEO, along with the web development skills required to implement the keyword changes.  

For a keyword analysis, semantic core development, and technical & on-page SEO audit/resolution, you can expect to pay anywhere between $150 to $500 for around 5 web pages. 

Any additional pages could cost you anywhere from $10 to $50 per page. 

Example: How to Price and Evaluate Outsourcing SEO

Assume you have a 10-page website with a couple of product pages.

Here’s an estimated breakdown of the costs involved for a keyword analysis and semantic core development:

$250 Initial cost for a keyword specialist

 $150 for the first 5 pages 

$100 for five remaining pages  ($20x5)

Keyword specialists often have a set price for an initial scope of work, plus a rate for additional pages

The analysis typically includes:

  • Keyword analysis 
  • Semantic core development
  • keyword cluster for each page 
  • recommendations for meta tags (title, description, and H1)
  • An initial technical and on-page SEO audit 
  • Implementation includes fixing critical errors and warnings from the onPage audit nd editing the meta tags 
  • Web page content editing to include keywords is best done by the owner of the content 

Many of the on-page and technical SEO issues could require front-end or back-end web development skills. This includes identifying and fixing any critical errors and warnings. 

$100 Every 6 Months

The 6-month update mainly includes an analysis and update of semantic core keywords. 

Cruxdata offers access to selected partners that have worked successfully with our customers. 

Business Directories

Make sure that you have listed your business on all of the major business directories, like Google, Apple, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. Depending on your industry, check to make sure you’ve created profiles on industry specific business listings. Check out the Top 21 free Business Listings that have the highest domain authority.  

The only cost for updating and claiming your business listings is time - and a minimal amount at that. 


Backlinks to your website 

Backlinks are key to SEO; They’re inarguably one of the most important factors search engines look at while ranking websites. 

There are essentially three ways to get backlinks:

  1. Organically 
  2. DIY Outreach
  3. Hire an expert

Building Backlinks Organically 

One way to get backlinks to your web pages is by producing the type of content that other website owners would want to link to. 

Create Skyscraper Content

A piece of content that covers a topic thoroughly is generally known as skyscraper content. 

Skyscraper content helps you attract editorial backlinks organically. 

To create skyscraper content, analyze the first-page results and create a super helpful comprehensive piece that goes into every detail. 

Create Content that’s Likely to Attract Links
  • Why Posts: Address popular “Why” questions in your niche or industry
  • What Posts: Talk about the basics of what people want to know about
  • Infographics: Create helpful, visually appealing infographics
  • Videos: Produce engaging videos
Publish Ultimate Guides

Ultimate guides are typically great at attracting backlinks because they’re super in-depth. 

Do It Yourself Outreach

After you have enough content on your website, start reaching out to website owners to build links to that content. 

Find relevant blogs and websites in your industry and get them to link to your site. 

Pro tip: Research your competitors’ backlinks to find new editorial opportunities. 

HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

Help a Reporter Out is a service that connects journalists and media outlets with content creators and subject matter experts. 

A link from a few of these high-authority publications can really boost your website’s authority. 

But, you need to provide the best quality content and consistently pitch to relevant journalists to make this strategy work for you. 

Guest Post Outreach

Guest post outreach is probably one of the most popular link-building strategies right now. 

However, DIY guest post outreach can take time because you need to convince website owners to put your link on their site.

Broken and Outdated Links

Broken or outdated links are any links on a web page that don’t lead anywhere. Because a broken link is bad for SEO, convincing a website owner to replace it with your live link is fairly easy.

Hiring a Backlink Expert

Securing backlinks takes a lot of time. Typically, the higher the quality the backlink, the longer it will take to secure it. If you don’t want to go the DIY route, hiring a link-building expert would be the way to go.  Hiring a backlink expert is like hiring a PR agency for editorial opportunities. Essentially, you’re paying for a professional’s time, connections, and expertise in the field of backlinks - not just the backlinks themselves. The good thing is there’s no shortage of backlink services. 

Caution: The not-so-good thing is many backlink “specialists” use shady black-hat techniques. See our “SEO Buyer Beware” article for more info on shady backlink techniques. 

And, because link-building is a resource-intensive task, most service providers become experts in a specific area. For a detailed breakdown on backlinks, check out our blog “Backlinks are key for SEO


When it comes to content creation, you can take one of three approaches, or a combination of the three:

  • Write it yourself
  • Outsource to freelancers
  • Hire a content marketing agency 

Freelancers are typically one of the more affordable options. Many authors, editors and content creators left the big agencies and companies during the pandemic and now are available to everyone.  

Generally, you can expect to pay $50 to $100  for a 500-1500 word blog post, and over $2k per post for complete blog management services.   The key is that you are satisfied with the content, and how it represents your company and brand.  

Things to Be Aware Of

There are a few things to be mindful of while outsourcing content. 

Make sure the content is:

  • Written by a human and not an AI bot
  • Plagiarism-free
  • Optimized for search engines and users

A lot of service providers are offering below-par content at cheap prices. But, while these services may seem attractive, they’ll eventually hurt your SEO as well as your brand image. 


You need to continuously measure every aspect of your SEO strategy if you want to keep moving in the right direction. 

By measuring your key performance indicators (KPIs), you’ll be able to focus on what works, and discard what doesn’t.  

Here are the SEO metrics to track:

  • Search engine traffic
  • Keyword tracking (Keywords you’re ranking for)
  • Your backlinks 
  • Domain authority 
  • On page & technical SEO audits 
  • Competitor backlinks 
  • Keywords your competitor/s rank for 
  • Keyword density

To manage all that yourself, you’ll need to set up an expensive SEO tool. Outsourcing this aspect of your SEO campaign is a cost-effective option. Before hiring an SEO expert, make sure they can provide all the above metrics on a regular basis. offers all that in a centralized dashboard. Plus, our platform only costs $19 per month. 

Evaluating an Agency or Freelancer

Before hiring an SEO expert, ask them these three questions:

  1. Ask them to provide an item by item budget that breaks down exactly where and how they will spend each dollar you give them. 
  2. What are the specific deliverables, what is the scheduled frequency of delivery, and how will they be delivered?
  3. How will they measure and report the performance of each deliverable? 


SEO is a great way to attract new customers to your website. At this day in age, business owners and marketing manager should be expected to understand the SEO landscape at a minimum, and preferably manage their SEO destiny. No matter which combination of outsourcing/DIY you use, Cruxdata offers the platform and  tools you’ll need to effectively manage your SEO tasks or agencies. We strive to keep Cruxdata as accessible as possible by keeping our costs low.  Think of Cruxdata as your virtual marketing assistant. We work with top-rated freelancers and agencies for keyword analysis, backlink development, and technical SEO to help our clients rank higher in Google. You, the business owner, are always in control. 

Preston Derrick