I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs since I started providing outsourced SEO services from Philippines 8 years ago. I saw shifts in the search engine landscape bring down SEO sweat shops. I have a bunch of stories that I could tell about outsourcing SEO, after all… and not all of them good. Google’s Panda and Penguin changed the ‘SEO outsourcing game’ forever. I’d never seen so many people quit SEO, nor had I ever seen so many service providers quiver in fear. All that are left are the “SEO Survivors.” – Dennis Seymour
When Matt asked me to do a guest post here on SearchDecoder about outsourcing SEO to the Philippines, of course I had to say “yes.” I have a bunch of stories that I could tell, after all… and not all of them good.
When I started offering SEO services, beginning from my affiliate marketing/freelance days 8+ years ago, to starting HoistSEO and then LeapFroggr earlier this year, I experienced a lot of ups and downs.
I saw shifts in the search engine landscape bring down SEO sweat shops. I experienced changes in the market, buyer patterns, as well as mindset shifts from both clients and service providers.
You could say that it happens practically every year.
Another little SEO earthquake happens, sites get hit, business owners/bloggers/new Internet marketers think SEO is crap and they quit to go back to their day jobs.
What are these tectonic shifts I’m referring to? Why, the major Google updates, of course.
Google’s Algorithm Updates
For those that don’t know about Panda and Penguin, they’re algorithm updates from Google.
To explain it quickly, Panda was created to kill off low-quality sites with bad content plus bad user interfaces and experiences. Penguin was there to compliment it by checking out the off-page factors of a website. That usually means that if the websites that are linking to your site are bad, then your site might be “gaming” Google. You will get a penalty for it, usually, dropping in rankings and even getting totally removed from Google’s SERPs.
Google’s Panda and Penguin changed the game like never before. I’d never seen so many people quit SEO, nor had I ever seen so many service providers quiver in fear.
Image Credit: SearchDecoder.com
In a way, that was actually a good thing for the SEO industry.
On one hand, it meant fewer low quality SEO’s. So, the mass 3000+ bookmarks, 25,000 comments, 4,500 profile links, 100 forum signatures, pingbacks, status, guestbook links, Web 2.0, random software spam like SEnuke and more… those are all useless now if you don’t know how to use them.
On another hand, running really good PBN’s (Private Blog Networks) or doing real black hat work, both of which still work today when done the right way (ironic, huh?) got a lot more expensive.
This means the barrier for entry got a lot harder or more capital intensive for an SEO, depending on how you look at it.
Why does it matter? Well, it’s to show you the BIG picture. If you factor in all I’ve just said, what does that leave you with when it comes to SEO service providers today?
Simple. All that are left are the Survivors.
4 Types of Outsourced SEO Service Providers
The current crop of SEO’s in Philippines are mostly survivors. All of the rest are new or trying to get back into the industry. They’ve gone through and experienced a lot over the years. These survivors can be classified into the following categories.
The White Hats
These guys do a lot of SEO audits. Basically, a lot of hard work plus high skill levels in data analysis and content strategy. They want to make sure everything is done the right way. Lots of marketing lingo. Mostly safe strategies are applied.
The Borderline Black Hats
Some call them grey hats. They understand SEO enough to be a bit more aggressive but they don’t necessarily put out the highest-quality work when it comes to content and link building. If you value your company’s image and domain name, then you might want to ask to see their strategy and approve their content before getting anything published.
The Black Hats
Some people think those running blog networks are black hat, but I consider them to be grey as they still do a lot of things similar to what the white hat guys do. I consider Black Hats those that do injections, hacking and other illegal stuff to rank. Real black hat guys, they just go and rank the site, by any means necessary. From a business perspective, a Black Hat service provider is rare but very expensive if you find one. Oh, and you have to risk your business domain in the process.
The Low Quality Spammers
These guys are stubborn and are just out to make some money. They don’t really know if what they are doing works. They just do what they’ve been trained to do in the past. These guys will post comments manually everywhere for you. They will bookmark, spam forums, create 20 link wheels using Web 2.0’s, “spin” your content, submit to article deindexed article directories and so on.
Image Credit: SearchDecoder.com
Now does it matter if you know in which of these categories your SEO provider belongs?
Yes. You need to protect your site and educate yourself for the sake of your online business. You need to know whom you’ll be dealing with, and cliched though it is, knowing really is half the battle in this war.
Why Outsourcing Your SEO?
I know you might have that itch to start learning it on your own because you’ve done a lot of things for your business through learning things by yourself. That’s not an entirely bad idea… but it’s not entirely good either.
Let’s go with the obvious fact first: business owners are always busy.
I mean, how can you find the time to learn SEO and test the concepts you’ve read about in the middle of everything else? How can you keep track of your progress when you’re managing your staff and the headaches of inventory management?
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to at least learn the basics of SEO. But the simple fact is that even if you do learn enough to know what you’re doing SEO-wise, you simply won’t have time to do it and take care of the other aspects of the business too. You’ll need someone else to help. Now maybe you could get someone from your current team to do it, but that person will likely become unavailable for other duties from then on.
SEO is a full-time job. Are you really going to force your new intern to take care of his tasks while going through an SEO course you bought off a shady “Internet guru”? You might as well just pay your 8-year-old nephew to read blog post after blog post on how to create a website and do SEO for you for 10 bucks a week. It’s ineffective for several reasons:
- Why waste time, money and other resources on training a neophyte (assuming you even have the resources for said training) when there are already experts available?
- SEO is a constantly changing field. Most people trying to learn it well enough to act as SEO consultants may well end up playing a neverending game of catch-up.
- 8-year-olds don’t care about SEO.
For many business owners, hiring in-house or outsourcing SEO would be the best option.
Most startups, which is what most online businesses are in the beginning, don’t usually have the resources yet to get in-house SEO personnel or teams or spend money on SEO tools, though, so the latter is more common. So, let’s just assume that you decide to outsource.
How Does Oversees SEO Outsourcing Usually Work?
Well, typically, you start to look for services nearby, you check Craigslist, Google and even those ads that follow you around on Facebook asking you to signup to get their free reports. Eventually you ask for a quote and your face becomes meme-worthy when you see their proposal.
So what do you think next? Typically, it’s this: “There should be a cheaper way!”
And there is, but you still have to find it. You continue reading blogs you found on Google. You discover that you can go to forums and purchase from people there, heck you might even stumble upon a site like Fiverr where you can buy stuff for 5 bucks! If you look around enough, though, you’ll eventually come to the conclusion that some of the cheapest SEO services can be found from ones in the Philippines.
Image Credit: By j_0_n [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising. The Philippines offers some of the best prices for various outsourced operations. Why not SEO too?
But of course, you have to find out what you’re getting for your money before you take the leap. So the next thing you do is to check out reviews or read more blogs about working with Philippine SEO companies.
And that’s when you find out that a lot of people have been burned already.
You’ll get cold feet, turn your back on SEO and miss out on one of the best channels to get more business from.
Your conclusion: “People doing SEO in the Philippines aren’t so good… I’d rather do nothing than get burned.”
Why the Philippines is the best place to outsource SEO?
Isn’t the Philippines one of the world’s best places to outsource because people here can speak English more fluently than many other outsource countries?
Aren’t Filipinos reputed to be trainable, responsible and hard workers?
Why would they deceive international clients?
Well, naturally, people will blog or talk about negatives more often than those that experienced positive experiences so you shouldn’t just base your decision on a few reviews. This is not a restaurant you are checking out on Yelp.
It’s also why it’s important that I explained to you the differences among SEO’s earlier. But I won’t make any excuses. Instead, let’s break it down first.
Why would you outsource here?
With the lower labor costs, local SEO companies can still be a bit cheaper than our international counterparts, even though the office spaces aren’t really cheap here, plus we have the most expensive Internet and electricity rates in the world!
Let’s see, you can hire a person in the US/UK/AU for $1000-$2000 a month (in-house) but you can hire someone in the Philippines for $300 per month. Sometimes a bit more and more often, a lot less.
You’ll put in almost the same effort in training them, with no language barrier. So why not go with the cheaper option? It just makes good business sense. That’s why the Philippines will always be one of the main places to outsource SEO to!
So why does outsourcing SEO here get a bad rap?
SEO’s (in general) have been plagued with a bad image of doing low quality work, specifically when it comes to link building. And most of them come from India and the Philippines.
But are the workers really at fault here or were they just not trained to do proper SEO?
Take a look at VA (virtual assistant) hiring directories. You could see that they were trained to use Web 2.0 software, Xrumer, scrapebox, GSA and other ways to spam. I’ve been on both the low quality and the high quality sides of the SEO service market and I could definitely say that proper training is a huge part of the problem.
There’s a bottleneck of knowledge that doesn’t get passed down and turned into updated training. So naturally, the staff are left doing what they were trained to do, and that’s to do what worked in the past, which is spamming out low quality backlinks.
You might be thinking: “Do they get results even if the work quality is low? Surely Google isn’t smart enough to notice grammatical errors and links dropped on an artificial blog? It’s just a computer!”
Yes, they do get results, to a certain extent. Whatever happens after to your site and brand, well, that’s for you to gamble on. Some people do take the gamble.
But just a week ago, I uncovered a local SEO company here that still uses low quality, outdated techniques like this, which can hurt a website. Now tell me, would you want your business to be associated with crap like that?
There’s no shortage of low quality companies here. If you look at Google’s search results when you type in keywords like “SEO Philippines” and other similar terms, you’ll see over half of the top 20 are not that clean… *wink*
Some of these are also listed in TopSEOs, a website that ranks and sends leads to companies that paid them to be included in their lists. (BTW, TopSEOs just got de-indexed from Google, so it doesn’t matter what they say.)
The site I mentioned earlier is included in the TopSEOs list. I believe Sean (who I will be introducing in a bit) talked about one of these websites and how he got sent a demand letter to take down the name on his post.
WWBM aka Archive.org and Google still show it. How about a screenshot, Sean? Does that count? 😀
So you see, the ugly part is, there are still a lot of companies that are offering low quality SEO services in the Philippines. They are still churning out new staff that are trained to spam and after their 6-month contracts are done, they probably end up doing VA work or will start their own service.
It’s rather, annoying and it’s a cycle that will keep continuing, giving the local SEO industry a bad reputation.
To Be Perfectly Clear
Here’s an overview of what will happen in this scenario.
1. Business owner looks for a Service Provider in the Philippines
2. Business owner assumes nothing can go wrong
3. Business owner pays for the work
4. Service provider does what he was trained to do
5. Business owner starts getting complaints
6. Business owner loses sales
7. Google realeases a new update
8. Business owner gets burned
Why? The Business wasn’t informed enough to make the right decision. I said it earlier, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again: knowing really is half the battle.
You might as well not show up for the war if you intend to just stay in the dark the whole time.
Isn’t that how every businessman makes his mistakes, though? If you’re one of those that got burned in the past, it’s time for you to educate yourself and learn from your past mistakes. It’s not the end if you can take action. You can start over OR you can try to recover your site.
How Do YOU Make the Right SEO Outsourcing Decisions?
As a businessman, you want your business to be in safe hands. As I already said earlier, the key to making the decision on which hands are safe is information. How do you get that information? Well, I could just recommend reading material to you that can help you learn enough about SEO to make the determinations for yourself… but we all know that some business owners can’t be bothered with reading technical or informational material.
So, for your benefit, I’ve dragged out some of the best SEO’s here in the Philippines, bribed them to discuss a few things with me and got them to spill some of their experiences for you.
Meet the Top SEOs in Philippines
But first, it doesn’t hurt to get a little background on each of them. So here it is, in their own words…
I own a start-up digital marketing company legally named CJG Digital Marketing and has a sub-site – Digital Marketing Philippines. We’re the same (in terms of growth goals) just like everyone in the start-up game but we mainly focus on satisfying the client’s needs and delivering the most quality service as possible. Our team is composed of young and talented individuals that has only one goal in mind, which is to make the clients happy.
Sure! So I’m Sean. As of this writing, I’m 26 years old. And right now I’m the CEO of SEO Hacker (an SEO and internet marketing company) and Qeryz (an online microsurvey tool). I do a lot of motivational talks around the country – which is something I love doing and I’m a new dad to an adorable baby boy and a husband to the most wonderful girl in the world.
I’ve been doing SEO for six years now and I’m currently serving as the Online Marketing Manager of Emerson Electric Co. Emerson is a US-headquartered engineering and technology business that’s worth about $25 billion. I also founded GDI, a Philippine-based digital marketing startup that has offices in San Fernando, Pampanga and Cubao, Quezon City. (I would’ve interviewed myself but I couldn’t pull a Glen. *wink*)
I’m Jason Acidre, Co-founder and CEO of Xight Interactive Asia Inc. – an online marketing agency based in Quezon City, Philippines. Our company has been servicing SMBs and enterprise-level companies in the US, UK and Australia for the past 3 years now. In the international inbound marketing community, I’m mostly known as the author of Kaiserthesage.
Venchito Tampon is the founder of Digital Philippines, a link building company that specializes in content marketing and link building services. He is also one of the best Filipino motivational speakers who inspires the youth and business enthusiasts in the Philippines.
Mark Acsay is the founder and author of Webby Thoughts, an inbound marketing company based in the Philippines. [I briefly exchanged emails with Mark so his answer will be part of Question #4.]
Some of the questions will be about your experiences to further add to the big picture. I need to let the readers know your current situations so they can better relate to you as well as to the rest of the discussion. So here’s the first question. Many of your clients are from outside the Philippines.
What were the key reasons for your clients to stick with you and NOT go with a company based in their native country instead?
Jomer: They always tell me their key reasons why. The first is usually the cost. We offer way more work with cheaper costs compared to the services of their native country. So investment wise, most people choose us rather than their local providers.
Second is the language. Although I don’t claim be a perfect English speaker and writer, most people choose us because we are easy to communicate with and can fully understand what the client want us to do.
Third and last is our work ethic. Most Filipinos that I know like you and me are probably one of the most hardworking people out there and the booming outsourcing industry is the testament for that point.
So cost, language and work ethic, which goes along with the competency of the service provider.
Sean: Actually it just so happened that most of my clients today are local. It has a lot to do with our market focus – we really love dealing with the local market and we found out that these local companies are in fact more loyal in terms of having us as their SEO services provider. We’ve been with some local companies ever since we started doing business.
I think key reasons why clients stick around with us is we go the extra mile for any and every request they put on our plate – whether it’s about analytics, web development, SEO, or what have you. Sometimes it costs me and my team extra time and effort – thus it’s comparable to an expense on our end but we do it anyway.
We also give our clients a form of exclusivity in terms of their industry. We don’t get to service two clients in the same industry at the same time.
Glen: Most of my clients were acquired through referrals. Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of people in some big companies. They know what my area of expertise is and they refer their clients to me from time to time. Believe it or not, most of my clients were acquired with zero marketing. Word of mouth is usually the best driver of quality leads.
Jason: The cost of labor for highly talented people here is lower compared to companies/agencies based in their native countries. Well, that’s the truth in many cases, not just in our industry. Just look at all the BPO companies here.
Venchito: Our clients are being educated with our blog content and our service processes. Becoming transparent with what we do makes our clients comfortable working with us.
Cost + Communication + Competency + Consistent Client Education – Look for these in a service provider.
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen your share of clients like this over the years. When your potential client pouts at your proposed number and tells you that they got “SEO” done much cheaper previously.
Were you often compared to other Philippine-based companies that charged much lower than you? How did you deal with that?
Jomer: Yes, I usually encounter these clients. It’s actually very rare that they compare me to other Filipino-run companies. Most of the time, our price is the most competitive one compared to other Filipino companies.
The comparison is often done with the other foreign providers typically, Indian providers. Well, it’s almost always a waste of time to counter their comparisons. I just usually tell them good luck and I hope they selected a good provider.
Sean: To further drive the point home, let me give you a live email exchange between me and such client. I went ahead and edited his misspellings and typographical mistakes for this entry’s purposes – however I did not edit out the prospective client’s capitalizations for emphasis. It’s completely his.
His first email sent to us via our contact form, (which asks a prospective client about their budget so as to not waste time with clients who have far less budget than needed) says:
The notion of a budget is pretty STUPID considering who knows what is involved DON’T YOU THINK. So I didn’t put one in until I know what you propose. Please Look at my site. http://[redacted URL].com At one time was the largest site in MLM/network marketing but I forgot about it these past ten years and now have redesigned it. I need to get it back up there in positioning and most importantly in traffic. It is a fairly unique niche and one i Have dominated for 25 years. Thanks
To which I replied:
[redacted name of prospective client],
The notion of a budget helps us save a lot of time from people who doesn’t have any or has less than what the work requires. We reserve the right to choose clients depending on their budget, attitude, demands, etc.
It also helps us gauge where a client is with regards to online marketing. Take yourself for example:
Obviously you require a lot of educating to be done before you appreciate online marketing work because of your reaction to the budget options (which is common and is a necessary requirement to start any project). So we’ll have to take into account the work of educating you further.
Your website has nothing on it but a redesign note as of now. We wouldn’t be able to do a fair analysis of it at this stage.
His reply email came as a little more sober. He said:
Hi my friend
I have had this site for almost 20 years I think. Again I would take issue with your budget requirement as I don’t even know what is involved to get from point a to b in the case of my site so how can you put a number on it. You tell me the number. my goal is to be as high up on Google as possible. I am #1, 7 and 9 in some keyword search but off the pages on other more important ones. You tell me.
He goes on to send me a website that’s in development. We do an analysis of it in terms of on-site optimization and send him a proposal with a quote. His reply?
Sean let me say first I do appreciate the time you took. Second let me say
I love your sense of humor. $X,XXX.XX a month. Sean I live in the Philippines
and have so for ten years….XX,XXXphp a month. I am still laughing. I don’t
want to get into polemics about what people (programmers) earn here and
such but again……I do thank you I have already found an Indian company
for $150 month with a money back guarantee for three months offering more
keywords and such. BTW MLM Resources I am #1 and in a couple of others I
am #7, 7 and #9 on Google. Anyway I do thank you.
I live in Makati.
-[redacted name of prospective client]
Ultimately, I can’t go as low as $150 – and I’m obviously the farthest thing from an Indian SEO practitioner. So I coughed up this joyous reply:
[redacted name of prospective client],
Best of luck with you and that Indian company. Hope you’re still on the 1st page after 6 months.
And you know what? He even said ‘Thank you’ on the last email thread. How sweet.
To consider the latter part of your question, I wasn’t compared to another Philippine-based SEO company, rather to an Indian company – which is not really uncommon. Clearly this client needs tons of education which SEO companies like us are committed to – however with a business attitude like that, they are clearly better off learning from their own mistakes.
Glen: When I was younger and I didn’t know better, I used to engage people like that in bidding wars. I also used to fall for the “if you serve us for less now, we’ll send you more leads later” shtick. I eventually wised up and realized that our brand of services, in my opinion, is superior to what most Filipino agencies offer. For one, we do pure white hat marketing. We also offer ROI-based reporting so the client can see exactly what kind of impact we’re creating for his business.
When a prospect tells me my services are too cheap, I simply tell them the truth: I hire really good people that must be paid accordingly. Between salaries, overhead costs and taxes, I really can’t make much of a profit if I go significantly lower than what I charge. If the prospect walks away, so be it. I just hope they don’t end up hiring an inept provider in the name of savings. It’s a lot more expensive to clean up lousy work than to hire a legit professional from the get-go.
Jason: Slightly. But I think it’s very different with us, since most of the clients we’ve worked with who’ve had terrible experiences with other Philippine-based companies know that we do things way differently.
Many of them already know how SEO works (since they’ve already been burned in the past), the best practices and even sometimes have deep technical knowledge in SEO.
I guess that’s one perk of targeting the advanced segments of the market, educating these set of clients with what’s really effective is not that excruciating.
Venchito: I always shared to them that they only get what they paid for. If they’re paying $300, then the results will prove their investment.
In this market segment, we have no “standard” when it comes to exact pricing which is why we can often see the “same” services offered but ranges from $100 to $10,000 per month or even more. Jun (Venchito) summed it up for you. You get what you pay for.
When you started your company, did getting international clients become a challenge because it was Filipino-run?
Jomer: Yes, for cold leads. It was hard. Someone told me a few months ago that most foreign folks automatically associate “foreign or outside country” as a spam trigger in their brain thus it is causing them to ignore us or be suspicious with a company. But some of the cold leads that I got from search traffic turned out to be good, I think it was because I already got some good video testimonials from my precious freelance websites that I inserted in our testimonial page. But definitely, if you are just starting and you have a site that shows you are a Filipino company, that will be a challenge especially if you still don’t have any testimonials to show.
Sean: Yes and no. Foreign companies tend to flock to Filipino SEO providers because they have an expectation about us. And that is we’re cheap and we’re good. That’s not necessarily a disadvantage. However for SEO Hacker, we’re not really ‘cheap’ in terms of our pricing – and that’s because we also dish out premium services to our clients.
So I was getting a lot of inquiries from foreign companies but I wasn’t getting a lot of business because of how much we charge.
For local clients, I would say it’s tough not because SEO Hacker isn’t a foreign company or it wasn’t run by a foreigner. It was tough because the local market is not as educated in terms of digital marketing – especially SEO. In almost all my meetings with local clients, I had to present and educate them about the value of SEO and digital marketing.
I make it a point to be a showman in my presentations to clients – and in almost every prospective client I’m able to present to, I’m able to drive my point home and bag the deal. I think at this point in time (since I’m the sole salesperson of my company), it has a lot to do with my flair for showmanship in presentation and my ability to communicate the value of our company in a clear, no-nonsense, and concise way.
Glen: Our target market has always been Westerners. Our best clients are SEO and content marketing agencies who need a cost-effective but high-quality provider of services. As we help their businesses grow, they send more work our way. We also have some independent brands who come direct to us with sites that need optimization, but most of those are North American SMEs. We haven’t really put in a lot of effort on local marketing. It’s a different beast from the customers that we’re used to. We’d love to give the locals a shot at some point but right now foreign clients are growing our business quite rapidly.
Jason: In our case, no. I think almost all of our clients reached out to us (we receive 3-5 client inquiries every week ever since we started, and we also get a few referrals from industry friends once in a while). I guess that’s our company’s main advantage – we have a strong client acquisition channel. We don’t have a sales team since our company started. Although, we tried pitching to a few projects that our team were really interested in. But now, we’re looking to build a solid sales department and be more aggressive next year.
Venchito: Not really. Our clients are all international. Again, the idea of educating our potential clients helps build trust between us and them.
Business Owners that are open and willing to learn will succeed and save money at the same time. Win win.
What do you think caused the negative reputation and & do you think that we’ll be able to turn things around within the next couple of years?
Jomer: I think to be fair, most foreigners still trust Filipino providers. But more and more people are being ripped off, too. I think the main reasons are either lack of competency and accepting too many projects with a little team to do the service delivery. Yes, I am positive that the negativity will start to turn around in the next couple of years.
Sean: Of course! With an awesome line-up of honest-to-goodness SEO practitioners such as the other guys interviewed here – who are continuously pushing the Filipino SEO voice to be heard elsewhere – it’s no longer a matter of “if” but a matter of“when”.
I believe the only thing keeping the Filipino SEO community from continuously blooming is the crippling crab mentality that is enrooted in the Filipino workforce culture. I notice that blogs there link out and share out lavishly to foreign SEO sites and blog entries – but very seldom with each other – even if strong value is often found in the local SEO blog entries here.
While I understand that we may consider each other competitors in the field, there’s bigger competition to be won – namely the international SEO scene. Wherein I personally think the Indians are pretty much the gateway today as with what happened with my exchange of emails with the frowned-upon prospective client in the previous question.
If that will change positively, then we will surely be highlighted in the international SEO scene as a country moving away from spammy old SEO tricks and moving towards the art and science of ethical SEO. I’ve seen the needle move a bit when we held the first-ever SEO Summit and was featured in a good number of international SEO bogs and news sites.
Big names spoke, big names attended and big names blogged about it, shared it and linked to it freely.
It’s a huge win for our country’s reputation when it comes to SEO as a whole.
Glen: The negative connotation about Philippine SEO comes from years and years’ worth of spam that most of us created. There is no denying that and we deserve the reputation that we have now. We focused on short-term gains and we’re now reaping the long term repercussions.
The funny thing is that spam isn’t inherently a Filipino product. It started with foreigners who went here, set up spammy agencies and taught newbie Filipino SEOs how to do the dirty work. A few years ago, black hat tactics worked like a charm so it’s easy to see why Pinoys who didn’t have the talent in SEO would resort to it. Now that Google is getting much better at combatting shady methods, we see that truly good white hat SEOs in the local scene are getting the props that they deserve.
The guys interviewed here and others like Benj Arriola and Gary Viray are good examples of Filipino SEOs who are doing it the right way. If we can have more people like them showing the world that we can compete the right way, we can improve our reputation and attract more business in the future.
Jason: Misinformation [is the cause for the negative reputation].
Many Filipinos are blinded by the idea that you can get rich fast over the web. But the hard truth is it takes a lot of work, guts and intelligence – not just to really make it – but to prolong it in this line of business.
I think in the past, there were too many people selling shortcuts to success (even now, I think). But it’s an entirely different ball game now, where the ones who’ll really survive in the industry are the ones who really understand that it’s a game of endurance and pure excellence.
Venchito: Negative reputation in search marketing here in the Philippines is brought by unethical practices (not only the activities themselves but the way people start to attack their colleagues).
If internet marketers would be aware and knowledgeable with good practices in marketing by participating in seminars, workshops and conferences, it would be easy for us to attain our goal – making the Philippines the world’s prime destination of internet marketing services.
Mark: I admit that there are still a lot of SEOs who still use spammy techniques here in the Philippines but looking back, we cannot really fully blame them. Many of them are self-starters working alone in their bedroom, reading about SEO online and found out about Blackhat world forum or other forums and blogs that tells about the spammy tactics.
These SEOs are mainly not learned, on what “marketing” is. So they thought of rankings equals traffic equals profits. That’s how simple they think of digital marketing. They have no good grasp of inbound marketing principles and web analytics. I even got clients who came to me because their agency can’t deliver. I checked the agency and was stunned that these are big agencies who are great in tri-media but because their market is now shifting or adding the digital component, the agency may have added a digital marketing service without even learning the whole aspect of it. Hired a so-called SEO and guess what happened? No structured, measurable campaigns -not mentioning the onpage is awful.
And yes, those things give a bad rep to the country in this industry. Same thing with other countries, even in the US and UK. I know some agencies (some are known agencies) in the US and UK who hire SEOs from the Philippines and uses manipulative tactics too.
I would rather be more proactive in disseminating right SEO information in the web, share knowledge of what really inbound marketing in an objective way than to be too opinionated and subjective in my content. This will help grow the community. Isn’t that what inbound is? Attract them so they can follow your lead? Let those who practice BH deal their own demons everytime there’s an algorithm improvement. Don’t get me wrong, a manifesto or pointing out errors have their place and we do that but we don’t dwell on that alone, we give the alternative, the better strategy and it’s really great to see their eyes lit when we teach them the alternative in conferences and meet ups. We just don’t see it in our blogpost of course but I’m sure it happens as well.
We are doing efforts here inside SEO organization of the Philippines to educate the SEOs. We (Jason and I) worked together in Xight Interactive, the good friends of mine Benj Ariola of Internet Marketing Inc and Sean and the officers who are very patient. We have the same purpose, to educate our fellows in SEO Organization Philippines.
And through the years, it grew, people are starting to enjoy the creativity challenge of inbound marketing. New startup agencies were established and other agencies are doing their own reforms. I’m very hopeful.
The previous experiences and lack of training caused much of the negative reputation, but things are changing for the better.
What would you recommend business owners to ask or to do (maybe something like a cheat sheet) before hiring a freelancer or a company here in the Philippines?
Jomer: These ideas were taken from our infographic “Online Outsourcing to the Philippines”
Know Which Processes to Outsource – assess what are the needs of your business
- Be Specific on the Services and Results You Want – you need to create a document stating exactly what you needs are and the results you are expecting.
- Make a Background Check of Your Online Outsourcing Provider – check their testimonial page, ask relevant references and contact old clients directly (if needed). This is to make sure that you are dealing with legit provider.
- Ask for a Formal Service Proposal – After all necessary preparations has been completed, make sure you ask a proposal for the needs of your company.
- Start with a Test Project – To check the actual work performance and delivery process you need to start a test project and actually experienced what is like to be the provider’s client.
Sean: Tough question – mostly because there’s no real certification to qualify a hire today.
A good freelance hire, assuming the character and integrity of the person is already qualified, is mostly going to be from the hands-on experience of that individual – and perhaps on a test pet project the company has in place for such positions.
For hiring an SEO company, I personally think it’s much easier – just look if they’re ranking in the search engine results page for their target keywords and who their clients are. I believe good, honest SEO companies shouldn’t be shy in telling who their clients are in their website.
As always, I believe that educating the client during preliminary presentations should be considered. I’m fortunate enough to be the front-guy and showman in client presentation until today because of the awesome team backing me up on operations. This is a huge signal to clients that we, as a team, know what we’re talking about – and we know just how to execute.
Glen: Get a referral from someone who knows who the good guys are in Philippine SEO. If that’s not an option, pay close attention to the following elements:
- Quality of site content
- Thought leadership/influence in the community
- Track record
- Feedback from past or current clients
- Proposed optimization methodology
- Understand what they’re buying.
- Know if they really need it.
- Learn how the service they want to pay for works.
- It’s easy to find/hire talented people or companies here, when you know what your business is specifically looking for.
Venchito: Considerations you should take on:
- Ask for references that will prove that the company is offering high quality services.
- Do a Google search for the company and look for reviews (don’t just look for positive comments).
- Ask for proofs of work (clients they’ve worked in the past) and personal blogs (sites). By looking at their personal SEO blogs, you’ll get a glimpse of their work background and knowledge in SEO
Much like what anybody would do when outsourcing anything, whether it is to the person besides you or someone 100 miles away, you need to know what it is that you’re going to outsource so be sure to educate yourself first.
True, you can’t learn everything instantly especially with SEO, but knowing the basics is a good start.
They all made great points above. So consider doing each of those when looking for an SEO service provider.
NOTE: I want to thank these great SEOs for taking some time off their busy schedules to bother with me. 🙂
If you have questions or want to clarify any of their suggestions, just let me know in the comments below.
Closing the Gap
“Cheap” isn’t always related to “Cheap Work”.
The perception of being cheap will always be with us. We have a lower cost of living after all.
It’s why we are still “cheap” compared to the rest of the world.
But that shouldn’t be directly related to the work we do. We still do quality work for the right price.
People have varied talents and they get compensated for those talents, much like what happens anywhere in the world. Oh, and having a “standard” of pricing will not solve this perception. If we all raised our prices, someone will still drop his price just to get the business. He’ll hire less competent staff, the work suffers and it’s the start of the negative cycle again.
As mentioned by Glen above, Western agencies outsource work to the Philippines to get the same high quality work done for less.
This means that there is a lot of competent talent over here. Good enough to be used by big agencies and corporations.
But since we have this stereotype of doing “low quality” work and cheaply, our talent doesn’t get recognized as much. It doesn’t mean it’s not there.
It’s very common to hear this when we talk to potential clients:
“We just want results and we want it to make good business sense.”
In other words, “We want it done IN A WEEK, HASSLE-FREE and CHEAP.”
Who doesn’t!? But remember that you’ll always get what you pay for.
And the notion of “Doing SEO” that can make you rank “within a week”… Well, if you haven’t been burned in the past because of this belief, then you’re either extremely lucky or you’re lying – so if this is one of your beliefs, then you can see why there is a need to educate yourself further.
Demanding things from a service provider that can’t deliver the unrealistic results you want will always result in a perception of low quality work.
That said, let’s face it, I can preach all I want about “education” but I’m a realist and I know most business owners won’t see this 7000+ word post or read a 500 word introduction about SEO.
They’ll keep falling for spam emails like this:
And they’ll keep on getting burned when they outsource SEO.
And worst of all, the Philippines (as well as India) will continue to be stereotyped for these even if we’re already doing a lot of great work for a lot of different companies worldwide.
Helping Each Other Out
To the Business Owners: The Philippines will always be THAT “cheap” destination. Cheap food, dirt-cheap shopping, cheap resorts, cheap AirBNB listings, but the quality is there and you know it.
So, stop looking for the $100 service to solve all your SEO problems. That’s like looking for a unicorn. You won’t see them…and when you do, all you’ll see are “fakes”.
You are hiring an expert or a team of experts. You can’t simply just buy one-size-fits-all packages. Once you hire a good SEO company, you will see the difference.
From a business standpoint, you can’t hire someone in-house to do good work for you for that amount, let alone a team. It’s just not possible.
I urge those that have already hired Filipinos to share their positive experiences. A lot of us are trying to change the negative perception and we’ll need your help. With your support, it’s only a matter of time before we turn things around.
To the Filipino Service Providers: You need to do your part. When working on client websites do not experiment or apply risky strategies. You’re better than that. Show your competence and let your clients see your real skills. Respect your clients and they will trust and respect you back.
The SEO world has changed a lot over the years and it is still changing. The latest Penguin might’ve been underwhelming, which means bigger changes are on the way.
Keep your head high. Do your best. Never stop learning.
Things are changing for the better and soon, maybe the Philippines can finally shake off the perception of it’s SEO work as being low quality.
I urge you to share this piece for a start. Let’s get the ball rolling, get the word out. It’s time!!!