The Risky Business of Offshore Marketing & Web Design
Last week, we shared Alex Bogusky's inspiring video encouraging consumers to buy American-made products in order to restore American jobs. In light of his proposal, we started thinking about outsourcing in marketing and the trends that have companies turning to overseas suppliers for online marketing services, graphics, and web design. What does this mean for local marketing and web design firms? And more importantly, what does it mean for the businesses themselves?
It goes without saying that outsourcing is no good for local agencies. While competition can be a fabulous motivator, the average small or medium sized advertising and design company located in the United States simply can't compete financially with an offshore shop. The cost of living and operating here is just too great.
However, there's more to the equation than dollars and cents. When it comes to creative work, quality is crucial. While companies may feel like they're getting a bargain when they send their design and marketing work overseas, those savings are likely to hurt them in the long run when poorly executed campaigns fail to perform as needed – or even cause them brand damage.
One of the most popular things for companies to outsource is search engine optimization (SEO). Let's take a look at the risks associated with that one aspect of marketing.
- Difficult Communication: While speaking the same language isn't always crucial when it comes to doing good work, it's imperative when it comes to SEO. Consider link-building alone, wherein the link builder absolutely must be able to read and write useful, relevant content that can be shared across a variety of related sites. Without a common language, even doing the necessary research to find related sites can be a challenge – and you may as well give up on having grammatically correct, informative content to share.
- Dangerous Speeds: Offshore SEO companies often promise fast results, and little sounds more attractive to a start-up. You've just launched your business, and you need to start turning a profit as quickly as you can. First-page results on Google sound like exactly what you need. But beware: white-hat, ethical SEO is not a speedy endeavor. It takes time for a site to climb its way to the top, consistently improving its reputation and relevance. While some black-hat tactics may get you there quickly, those same tactics will get you shoved right back down to the bottom as soon as Google catches on. Keep in mind the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Dubious Quality: Most offshore SEOs today are still committed to using tactics that haven't been effective for the past five years or more. Search engine optimization is an ever-evolving industry, and American SEOs put a vast amount of time into staying up-to-date with the latest trends. Google's algorithms don't stagnate, and neither can we! Unfortunately, overseas companies tend to rely on methods that are no longer working, so while you may end up paying less money for their service, you're also getting subpar results.
What about creative work, like custom web design? Many offshore design firms promise cheap prices in return for custom built websites – prices American web design firms simply cannot match. However, there are many drawbacks to using an overseas design company.
- Communication Challenges: One of the most important things a good web designer needs is understanding. He or she needs to communicate with the client to learn about the business, discover goals and trends, scope out the competition, and begin creating a site that will get results that will make everyone happy. Leaving aside language barriers (discussed above), different time zones also present an issue. As a professional web design agency, we want to be available to our clients when they're at work, so that we can share ideas, evaluate options, and develop a plan that works for everybody. It's next to impossible to have this kind of communication when you're working from different sides of the globe.
- Terrible Templates: When you pay for a custom designed website, that site should be unique for your business. Buying a web design package from an offshore company means that you may be getting overused templates, graphics, and styles. These won't set you apart from your competition. In fact, they will probably cause your site blend in with the rest. If you need to stand out, you need a creative design firm to make that happen!
- Slacking Support: It's rare to launch a newly designed website and immediately forget about it. Often, some tweaks and changes will be necessary after launch to ensure that everything is working correctly. In addition, training will be required so that the business can take over managing and adding content to their new site. Offshore web designers usually fail to incorporate long-term support into their plans, leaving companies with a website and little ability to access all of its functionality.
It would be lovely if cheap, offshore SEO and web design could successfully create the results that today's businesses need to achieve their goals in an increasingly competitive market. Unfortunately, both search engine optimization and custom web design are investments – investments in the future success of your company – and when it comes to something so fragile, the last thing you want is a risky investment. Keep your money at home, and invest in an American design and marketing firm.
by Jess DelBalzo, ImageWorks Creative SEO Manager.