2010-05-06 - As a business operating in the United States of America and appealing to an English speaking audience, it may not be in my best interest to farm my SEO or any other development out to an offshore company.
Why would I be so brazen as to say that? Read on and I'll share some offshore outsourcing experiences that I, my clients, and my prospects, have encountered over the past 15 years in this industry.
The very first thing you will be faced with are language barriers. They do exist and can be a major challenge when communicating requirements. It is a MUST that you provide a complete IBSD (Internet Business Specifications Document) to the Offshore SEO team. If you don't have it in writing, you're going to be plagued with miscommunication issues, I guarantee it, unless of course there is an English speaking intermediary (Project Manager). That puts the onus on them to handle the communication issues and takes some of the language barrier issue out of the equation.
I don't know about you, but there are certain Offshore SEO's that reside in specific parts of the world who appear to be operating under the premise that it is 1999 again. For many, links are the only SEO they know and that is what I find most Offshore SEOs providing, some form of link development.
I classify most Offshore SEO as a commodity. Based on what I see being produced, it is being treated as a commodity by those in certain parts of the world. I'm sorry, but SEO cannot be commoditized like that. You don't take a client's money and then sit there and submit to hundreds of directories that you may own and/or partners within your network may own. If that is what you call SEO, you've missed the boat.
You've heard the term "Sweat Shops" before haven't you? Well, that is what I equate Offshore SEO to, a sweat shop. When you have people making $1.00 per hour working on your SEO, do you really feel comfortable with that idea? Do you really think that someone making $1.00 per hour is working in your best interests? Do you feel comfortable supporting someone else's economy while our own suffers?
Without a U.S. based intermediary or one that operates within your normal working hours, you will be faced with various challenges. There may be a 24 hour delay in getting things done, depending on which country your Offshore SEO resides in and the type of service plan provided. Come Friday morning here in the U.S., the weekend has already begun for many SEOs offshore. So, out of the box, you lose one day of the work week. In most cases, you'll have Monday through Thursday for communications and those will usually be delayed based on time zones.
Add to that the normal time frames for work to be performed and you'll find in many instances that it will take a bit longer to get things done. Remember, this is all relevant to the Offshore SEO and their methods of operation. This does not apply to everyone but does appear to apply to the majority.
You get what you pay for! I communicate with many Offshore SEOs on a daily basis while participating at various fora and social media outlets. I have great respect for my offshore peers, those who are operating as professionals and operating in the year 2010. I don't have any respect for those who think it's 1999 and are producing the garbage that they are. You know why? Eventually that prospect may contact me, or one of our SEO Consultants Directory members. From the very first contact, that prospect will be on the defensive because they've been burned by an Offshore SEO and now the onus is on us to undo what you did.
Disclaimer: For my offshore SEO peers, don't take this personally. This is business and you know your business better than anyone else. If you fall within the description above, then by all means, do take this personally. Otherwise, take a look around you and look at what your peers are producing. I do the same thing every day, say something to them!
kartiksh, a Senior Member at WebmasterWorld had great intentions when posting their topic titled "Offshore Outsourcing Expectations (subscription required)". It was a very long and well thought out post. The problem is that the information given reads more like reasons not to outsource your development work offshore.
Note: This particular topic focuses on the outsourcing of development work offshore. The same challenges apply across the board no matter what it is that you are outsourcing.
I've extracted my reply from that topic which includes the initial 28 points of interest that kartiksh brought to light.
I think that would be typical in all parts of the world, even here in the U.S. We have Day Walkers and then we have Night Walkers. The Internet is 24/7/365, it does not sleep, and neither do those who are part of it.
Probably the #1 selling point of outsourcing offshore.
Unfortunately this would be a deterrent for many. Who is going to write the requirements? "That's what I need a programmer for", and that is how the consumer thinks.
Yikes! I'm going to be forthright and tell you that this has been in the top three reasons prospects and clients give after having an unsatisfactory offshore experience.
With time zone differences, #3 and #4, the project deadlines are usually extended.
Hehehe, you have to do that with local talent too. I'm a visual person. I like to see it at the browser level. That's where my audience is going to see it.
Again, we don't sleep. There are always people at the helm 24/7/365. Here in the U.S. the 0700-1600, 0800/1700 and 0900/1800 working days are a standard and have been for ages. That's when business is taken care of. That is when the sun is up and those who make the decisions are available.
Too many man/woman hours involved up to this point. I'm only on #8 right now and have 20 more items to go, yikes!
Agreed. This would be normal operating procedure. But, based on experience with both local and offshore teams, that doesn't always happen.
Vonage and GoToMeeting here. Use it every day, all day. I can't see any of us working without these types of tools in today's development environment, it is a given.
Hmmm, what's that? There are colors associated with services? Are there black label services too? You know I'm just kidding with you, please, don't take this personally at all. I have a passion for this topic as you can see and will see.
This is probably where I'm going to have some concerns for the client. As soon as that client's work leaves our border, our jurisdiction no longer has control. So, in theory, while you can have all the NDA's, Non-Competes, etc. in place, they don't mean jack!
I would really like to share a story with you in regards to the above. I'll make it short though. These types of changes are responsible for major delays in development. They continually crop up as you progress through further testing and they take forever and a day to get completed.
Ah, you could have saved me all this time replying by putting that one first! This is the key to the castle. Without the intermediary, the process is doomed for frustration from start to finish. But, now we have to find the intermediary, and, they have to be brought up to speed on everything we need to do, the documents, etc, etc, etc. Personally, if I'm a business and I have to invest that amount of time, I'm going to hire someone locally to work with to protect and watch my investment closely. Not a project manager who is outsourcing my protected work offshore.
We'll choose the one that gets the job done in the most realistic amount of time and works correctly out of the box. While that is a pipedream for many of us, you can at least get as close to perfection as possible. The only way I've found to do that is with local business partners. You'd be surprised, but there are still quite a few of us Americans who like to support our local businesses, I'm one of them.
I know you had really good intentions when posting this excellent topic of discussion, but #16 is going to get you into legal trouble. And the client. You can't do that. And my client most likely will not have any recourse against the creator who stole those images and/or content. Shame on them.
Whew, I'm at #17, how many more to go? At this point, I think I've calculated about 120-180 days in paperwork, project management, etc. When can we get started on this project?
One point of contact is a MUST! My experience tells me that this is also a challenge as point of contacts seem to change too damn frequently. More delays in bringing the new point of contact up to speed with the current project status and another level of communication challenges.
Okay, you send us 20 round trip tickets with all expenses paid. We'd like a Penthouse Suite (or two) for the time we'll be there.
Come on now, I don't think Mr. Foo here in his Sunny Southern California office is going to be footing the bill to trek over to India and pay surprise visits in a country where he has never been before.
No, Mr. Foo wants to meet down at the local Starbucks to discuss his new automobile or to brag about his children's latest accomplishments.
Okay, at this point, I would say most of us have decided that we are going to resource to local business first and then consider outsourcing as a "second" option.
Oh boy, add up #1 through #20, get to #21 and I feel as though I'm caught in a 301 Permanent Redirect Loop.
Well then, expect to hear NO on a contract.
I know, I know already. You told me that above. It's good that you point this out.
If I were to have done all of the above, items #1 through #23, I'm going to charge "YOU" a pretty penny for making me do all of that. Yes, I'm going to put that onus on you.
Where? Show me the money!
This is another point that should have been immediately at the opening.
This has been a challenge for many clients. And, the average work week is Monday thru Thursday in U.S. time. Usually its Friday there and Thursday here. And then come our Monday, it's Tuesday there. So, there really are only four business days for "work". Take into consideration everything you've outlined above and the time to completion has extended well beyond what can be achieved locally for thrice the price and probably 1/3 of the development time and frustration.
So are we, it works both ways. I don't think that would even be a concern. The challenges arise when you have too many holidays clashing with our normal business hours. And then you have too many of our holidays clashing with your normal business hours. Man, that makes for a very challenging development environment, wouldn't you say so?
Add that to items #1 through #27 and you have a document about as long as my reply x10000.
Outsourcing your Internet marketing requirements, application development, etc. can save you money, that appears to be the dominating factor when outsourcing work offshore. But, does that one factor outweigh all the other potential challenges you will be faced with in an offshore environment? If you can find a professional project manager locally who can handle all of the above for you, then you may find your offshore experience to be a pleasant one.
I know from working on various outsourced projects over the past 10 years that it does not work for my type of clientele. I work mostly with local Internet entrepreneurs and the reason they contact me is because I'm around the corner from them and, if anything happens, they can send Guido over to perform basic surgery on my kneecaps. No, seriously, my clients have had miserable experiences when outsourcing their previous work offshore.
Your outsourcing experiences will differ and I'm sure there are plenty of satisfied customers out there who have used offshore talent before and continue to do so. I say kudos to you and your team for making it work. Some of us have been less fortunate and have a sour taste in our mouth when it comes to outsourcing work offshore.
For myself and my clients, we'll happily pay local development rates ($50.00, $75.00, $100.00, $125.00, $150.00 per hour) and deal with those challenges that we'll have with local talent. Yes, there are many challenges to contend with in all parts of the world. There really is no reason for a U.S. based company to escalate those challenges by outsourcing their development work offshore. Not unless you have a top notch local project manager who has a proven track record in meeting all of the above requirements.