Depending on services and freelancers for taking over SEO and content publishing is a double-edged sword.
I know because I’ve done plenty of it.
There’s a huge net benefit when you find the right services and folks to help you out, namely saving you time and enabling you to get far more done, but it’s not without problems.
I currently outsource most content (content and videos) and content formatting on my niche sites which is the lion’s share of the work.
The one important recurring task I’ve had a hard time outsourcing is keyword research. Below I explain why it’s hard to use keyword research services but before that, what are the keyword research services options followed by are they worth it?
What are keyword research services?
Keyword research services are agencies, freelancers or any combination that will do keyword research for your website.
Most SEO agencies offer keyword research, including local agencies that cater to local small businesses.
In fact, it’s usually a built-in service with any content production and on-site SEO.
When should you use KW research services?
If you’re building a website that’s going to be a set number of pages and the SEO content is targeting a distinct audience, hiring an SEO agency or keyword research freelancer makes total sense.
A common example is local business owners’ websites. These sites usually target a set list of keywords that reflect what their prospective customers are looking for. Usually, the list of keywords is fairly limited and includes a geographic component.
For example, a local plumbing company in Boise, Idaho would target “emergency plumbing service in Boise” plus a handful of other plumbing services keywords. Most local business owners don’t know much about this stuff so it makes perfect sense for their SEO agency to do the keyword research.
For sites similar to what I build, which adds new content daily, keyword research is more complicated. I find most SEO agencies are not very adept at really digging into finding those obscure keyword gems. Their processes are fairly superficial that work great for local SEO but don’t cut it for high-volume content sites.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any keyword research freelancers or agencies who can’t do a good job. I’m sure they’re out there but the good ones are not cheap. It can add to the cost of content considerably. Given I like keyword research and that I’m good at it, it’s the one recurring task I do myself for all my sites.
Keyword research is the foundation of my online publishing business so I put a big effort into it every month.
Nevertheless, if you find a good service and you provide detailed instructions and commit to working with the service or freelancer on an ongoing basis, you could probably end up with a reliable keyword research source.
When should you NOT use KW research services?
Here’s the thing… if you have a great source for the right KW research for your site, then use it. You’re fortunate. I’ve yet to find one (although I’ve not tried them all… not even close).
I publish high-volume which means I publish content daily across my portfolio of niche sites. That means I need to constantly find new keywords to go after within my niches.
My content and SEO strategy is to seek out easier-to-rank keywords so that I don’t have to invest time/money in link building. Which means I can’t go for the competitive keywords… well I could but it would be a waste of money.
I’m particular about the topics and keywords I target. I’ve developed proven methods over the years that is a source for unlimited keywords… but it’s not quite as formulaic as I’d like it which means I do it.
Actually, in early 2021 I hired a very capable website manager who I’ve been training to keyword research. He’s getting the hang of it so that’s proving helpful. I find it’s easier to train in-house than rely on a service but hiring in-house is a commitment. Services are nice because you pay for the service and you’re done. When you hire a permanent position, it’s a financial commitment.
Are there keyword research services for bloggers and high-volume content publishers (i.e. niche site publishers)?
Yes, there are. I’ve used a few and they did a decent job but I still prefer doing it myself.
You can find freelancers on Upwork and Fiverr as well.
How to order keyword research
In part, the quality of the KW research you get from any service will depend on your instructions. If you are seeking out something specific like I do, you must provide clear guidance so that they use a process that will meet your requirements.
Providing only a seed keyword won’t do in most cases. You should specify all the following:
- Seed keyword: They’ll need to know the niche or over-arching keyword.
- Sub-Topic (if you know it): The more specific the topic you have in mind, be sure to specify. However, if you prefer they seek out a good opportunity for you within the niche, say so and let them seek out some good opportunities.
- Difficulty level: Be sure to explain your strategy. If high search volume is most important with no regard to level of competition, say so. On the flip side, if you prefer easy-to-rank keywords with little or no regard to search volume, specify this.
- Is it buyer-intent or informational? If you fail to specify this, you may end up with a long list of buyer intent topics when you really wanted informational topics.
- Diverse vs. cohesive list: If you prefer all the keywords be cohesive within a narrow topic, say so. If you don’t care if the list spans a variety of subtopics within the niche, also say so.
- Set out any types of content you don’t want to cover: If you wish to avoid buyer intent (reviews) and how-to content, tell them. Otherwise, you might end up with a list of useless keywords. Perhaps you want only question keywords. If that’s the case, instruct them accordingly.
The first order is the most work
If you find a service that does a decent job, the first order is the most work because you must provide carefully crafted instructions.
However, if you work with the same service over and over, they’ll know exactly what you want and placing orders will go so much faster.
Training people takes time, whether in-house or a third party service… but once you invest the time and effort, it can pay off really well in the long run.
It can be good to get a fresh perspective
Anyone who has done keyword research month after month for their sites usually end up using the same processes over and over.
Hiring a third party to give it a go can end up providing you with a fresh perspective and new ideas for your niche site by discovering sub-topics you hadn’t considered.
Why I don’t rely on keyword research services
I’m particular about what topics I publish on my sites so I like to handle the keyword research or work closely with an in-house person doing keyword research.
More importantly, I find the process helps me discover new opportunities for my sites.
Moreover, I know what’s working on my sites and what’s not working. I tend to veer toward topics and content concepts that are already getting results. A service won’t have a clue about on-site analytics and performance unless I instruct them.
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.