It’s no secret that outsourcing tasks can be a major pain. Most people that I suggest outsourcing to are either afraid of it or had bad experiences and don’t want anything to do with it. It doesn’t have to suck. Over the past 6 years, I’ve managed to refine my process for outsourcing work. The tips below should help anyone to make outsourcing less of a headache and more of a pleasure. The purpose of outsourcing is to free up your time for more important tasks. Make sure that happens.
Communicate Too Clearly
What you think should be perfectly clear may make absolutely no sense to other people. Figure out how to efficiently get what’s in your head into something that even a kid could understand. Use visuals. Take screenshots and use something like Skitch to make notes. Investing a little bit of time in planning and being clear will not only save you time on going back and forth with someone, it will save you money since they won’t end up doing the wrong work.
Don’t Be Afraid to Move On
More often than not, you’ll run into a freelancer that just isn’t cutting it. They may become slow or unresponsive. Their work may just not be up to par with what you need. Don’t waste time trying to make them better. It’s frustrating for them and it can be costly for you.
Assign The Same Task to Multiple Workers
If you need something done quickly and correctly, make sure you have a backup plan. Most of the time, if you’re outsourcing through a site like oDesk, it’s cheap enough to have a couple people on hand that can do the same type of work. If it’s important that you get something completed by a certain deadline, invest in having more than one person take a shot at doing the work. If you’re communicating clearly and you hand the task off to two different workers, you’ve just doubled your chance of having it done when you need it. This can also end up working as a good way of comparing the skills of multiple workers.
As I sit here working on a new version of the AuthorityLabs site, I’ve started going over my list of what needs to be done prior to launching it. Without using a checklist such as the one below, you’re almost guaranteed to forget at least one important piece of the site. Some of these are WordPress specific, but most are not and can be applied to any site launch. Remember to add any site specific items to your own list. I try to make notes during the development process so that important pieces aren’t missed. It will also take some stress off of you when it comes time to launch.
- Make sure analytics code is installed and working properly. It sucks to jump into your analytics account to check traffic on your new site and see a big fat zero and realize nothing was ever being tracked.
- Add WordPress SEO plugin. There are other SEO plugins out there but Yoast’s plugin is the best option currently. Others that I’ve tried are buggy, less than intuitive, or are lacking important features. Set the default values for title & description tags on all page types.
- If not using WordPress, double check that you’re not duplicating titles, don’t have empty titles or descriptions, and your titles are appropriate for the content of your pages.
- Proper use of heading tags (h1-h6). Make sure you don’t go crazy with these. I still see sites with 3 or more h1 tags on the page. Maybe it works for somebody, but it’s not semantically correct.
- Check your links. Use something like Xenu to crawl the site and look for broken or dead links. There’s not much more annoying to a user than clicking a link and not getting what was expected.
- Custom 404 page. Help users out by making your 404 page useful.
It’s no secret that site audit panels are some of the most popular sessions at all the various SEO and affiliate conferences. As a result of the success and feedback I’ve heard from the analysis of Target’s new website, I decided that we’re going to start doing site audits on a regular basis. They won’t be full-on audits like you’ll get from a paid consultant, but they will point out easy fixes and recommendations for making your site better. This won’t be meant to bash anyone specifically and will be gentler than what we did with Target. This is an opportunity for people to not only learn what could be done better on their own site but also gives others the ability to learn based on real life scenarios.
We’re going to initially shoot for one every two weeks but if there’s good feedback it may be more.
- Submit only one of your sites for audit.
- Email must be sent to siteaudits AT authoritylabs.com and must come from an email on the domain that is being audited (no throwing other people under the bus ).
- Not everyone will get a chance to have their site audited. We will choose based on what we feel people can benefit the most from.
- By submitting a site, you accept the risks involved in having us pick your work apart.
- We’re not doing this to “out” anyone, so if you’re doing all kinds of shady stuff, we likely won’t pick your site for review. We’d suggest not even submitting it in the first place since people will be allowed to comment and add their thoughts. It’ll save both of us a headache.
- No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited.
One of the biggest problems I see clients and newbie SEOs make is choosing either the wrong keywords to track or not enough. Here are a few scenarios I see frequently that annoy me to no end:
- Branded terms that the site’s either already ranking #1 for
- Too short of a list that only includes keywords client is obsessing over
- Terms that have no (or very little) search volume
I won’t go into all the reasons these are subpar scenarios, save to say you want to track terms that:
- Get good search volume
- You have a chance at ranking on page 1 for, even if you don’t now
- Have gotten results for you
There are a number of tools I use to get these terms from. Two are free and the others are paid but well worth the money.
Your Analytics Software
Whether you’re using Google Analytics or a paid service, you can get the keywords you’re getting organic traffic for. These are terms you should consider tracking.
What I normally do is pull organic terms from the past six months, filter out branded terms, and run those through the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to check search volume.
To get your top organic keywords from Google Analytics, you can navigate to Standard Reporting > Traffic Sources > Search > Organic or open a custom report I created for you. The report I created pulls in your visits, bounce rate, total goal completions, and revenue (essential if you have revenue tracking set up). That’s everything I look at when determining the potential of a keyword.
Once you open the report, you’ll want to filter out your branded keywords though. Just choose the most common variations of your keyword, and follow these instructions to apply a line item filter to your report:
Recently I made the following tweet:
My gripe seemed to resonate with some of my followers, who retweeted and responded, sharing similar sentiments and lamenting about people who hit them up for favors. I’m getting a bit tired of the “Scumbag Steve” people who only get in touch with me when they need something. Last time I checked, something that does that isn’t considered a friend, it’s defined as a parasite.
I’m sure you’re all too familiar with the drill: you receive an email out of the blue from a family member, acquaintance, old high school buddy, or a distant colleague whom you’ve met once at a conference four years ago. The ballsier emails cut to the chase — no half-ass pleasantries here, they need your expertise and they can’t be bothered with a polite “Hello, how’ve you been?” The subject line is a curt “Can you help me out with something” or “Take a look at this real quick for me,” falsely insinuating that the thing they want help with is something so quick and simple that you’ll barely need to spend five minutes on it, so why wouldn’t you throw your buddy a bone?
You scan the email. All your “friend” wants is an in-depth site audit, a free copy of your book, your consulting services on the house, step-by-step guidelines for how to build a robust website that will be wildly successful, or free access to tools or code that you spent weeks or months perfecting. That’s it. Surely you can spare that for an old pal, right?
Usually I relent, feeling obligated because the person in need is a family member or an old friend. So I spend a half hour or more doing research on his or her behalf, offering up my advice in a nicely formatted email or, even better, a well organized word document. I fire off my reply and wait for a courtesy “Thanks so much! This is really helpful and I greatly appreciate it. We should get together sometime and catch up so I don’t seem like I only contact you when I need something from you!” response.
The bad parasites counter back with a simple and curt “Thanks,” while the worst offenders don’t even respond at all, because they’ve gotten what they wanted from you and can’t be bothered to act like a decent human being and show an iota of gratitude. Scumbag Steve returns to his cave to hibernate for another several months before rearing his sleepy, ungrateful head to hit you up once again for free advice.
I’ve given site audits to people who never responded, not even with a half-ass “thank you.” I’ve provided folks with references to my friends when asked if I know any good developers, designers, consultants, etc. for a specific project, tell my friends to expect to be contacted for potential work, and apologize to my friends when they’re never contacted. I’ve given advice to someone who asked me if there are any sites out there “like YouTube” and “Could I build a site that’s like YouTube but maybe 1/5th the traffic” and “Wait, how could hosting a YouTube-like video site cost that much money, that makes no sense,” and had this same person argue that “anyone who knows anything about Photoshop knows that Obama’s birth certificate is fake.” Bitch, you’re dumb enough to think a YouTube clone would be cheap to host but expect me to believe you’re some grand Photoshop wizard? I don’t think so.
Guess what? I’m tired of being used and abused, and I’m sure you are too. There’s a difference between asking someone for help and expecting it. Just because we are friends, colleagues, or family doesn’t mean I am obligated to help you. Yes, I know that I do “Internet stuff.” I know we sat next to each other in 9th grade Geometry. I know that I’m your sister and you drove me to the movies before I had my driver’s license. But I’m also a human being. I’m not some vending machine that shits out advice every time you feed me a quarter (and I don’t even get a quarter!). My purpose in life is not to sit in front of my computer waiting for you to email me for help so I can spring onto my keyboard and eagerly comply, like a doting dog waiting at the front door for its master to come home and pat me on the head.
You want my help? Here’s how you get it:
- You interact with me outside of your requests. None of this Halley’s Comet “one email every year” bullshit — you want my help, you’re gonna have to put in the time. Some sort of interaction, whether it’s the occasional “How’re ya doing” email, a tweet thrown my way, hell, even a “like” on my Facebook status will show me that you’re someone who’s at least feigning a relationship, however superficial it may be. You don’t actually need to know magic, you just need to fool your audience.
- You scratch my back. Be available for help in return. If this relationship is a one-way street, pretty soon the more useful party will go “Wait a minute, I think I’m getting a raw deal here” and realize that you’re not pulling your weight. Offer up something you’re good at. If Internet marketing or coding ain’t your thing, throw a gift card, a baked good, or a hot meal your friend’s way. If your buddy feels appreciated, he’s more likely to help you again in the future.
- You’re a decent human being. The simplest rule of all that everyone seems to forget. What happened to “please” and “thank you”? A simple follow up is common courtesy. “Hey, thanks for the referrals. They didn’t end up fitting with what I was looking for, but I really appreciate you sending those contacts my way!” “Thanks for the advice! Take a look at some of the changes I implemented after going through your notes — they really improved the look and feel, so thanks again.” And so on. Would it kill you to show some gratitude? I’m tired of a society that’s become too selfish, too egotistical, too greedy. You’re not entitled to anything; you earn that shit and you thank the people who helped get you there.
If you’re still confused, it all boils down to simple rules you learned in kindergarten: be nice, say “please” and “thank you,” and share. If you can’t even do those three little things, you’re a selfish asshole who doesn’t deserve help. If you can, then I will gladly offer you some assistance. It’s what friends are for, right?