Episode Overview: SEO services are sought out by thousands of companies worldwide, all seeking agency expertise to help with their own unique SEO needs and processes. U.S. and E.U.-based SEO agencies are highly requested in the greater international SEO industry because of their robust services and the caliber of expertise they offer. Join Ben as he welcomes back Aleyda Solís, international SEO consultant and Orainti founder, to discuss the differences between U.S. and E.U. agencies, how they work with international clients and what different services they excel at delivering.
- U.S. agencies and their clients are generally more comfortable with distant working relationships while European clients prefer closer regional agencies that value face-to-face time.
- European and U.S. agencies that work closely with regional clients work best as they share local languages, culture and better understand the local SEO landscape.
- Link building is more popular in the U.S. compared to non-English speaking markets where focus is placed on creating excellent content and prioritizing technical improvements.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Aleyda Solís: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to be discussing how to manage SEO agency relationships across the globe. Joining us today is Aleyda Solís, who is the founder of the international SEO consulting firm Orainti, which is an experienced and world renowned international mobile and technical search marketing practice that helps their clients establish and optimize their mobile and international websites through audit strategy, product management and in house training. Today, Aleyda and I are going to talk about the differences between the U.S. and European-based agencies. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Aleyda Solís, founder of Orainti. Aleyda, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Aleyda: Hello. Thank you very much for the opportunity. Thank you for having me again.
Ben: Very excited to have you back on the show. Last year you were our guest for Internationalization Week, where we talked all about international SEO and some of the differences in markets. This month we’re spending a little bit more time talking about managing agency relationships. I wanted to have you back on the show as the world’s most renowned international SEO speaker. Talk to us a little bit about some of the practitioners and some of the differences across borders of how agencies are working and what some of their best practices and some of their strengths are. Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services, and I sat down and talked all about the different ways to manage agency relationships and what those relationships look like. Talk to me a little bit about how you view the differences between agency relationships that are based here in the U.S. and some of the international ones as well.
Aleyda: Yeah. I really do think that U.S. businesses and clients like businesses looking to hire SEO consultancies or agencies in the U.S. are much more often, in general, to work with companies, providers, partners, however you want to call them, that are not necessarily located in their own city or town. Very likely because the U.S. is very big, right? You are not that aware of it when you live in the U.S., but it is very big and companies all over. There are great digital marketing agencies all over the U.S., the East coast, West coast, all over in between, right? I have identified this, that whenever I get a potential client, a lead from the U.S., they don’t even ask me where I am based. They don’t even care if I am even inside the U.S. or not, because they are so much more used to work with companies from all over the world, right?
Aleyda: This is changing little by little in Europe, I have to say. However, yes, I still get questions like, “Where are you located?” sometimes, or, “How often?” depending on how traditional is the company. I have gotten clients who have asked me at the beginning, “How often do you come to London so we can take that opportunity to meet from time to time physically,” or the same here in Spain where I am based, like, “Oh, how often are you here in Barcelona to actually meet in person?” After a while, they realize once we start working together that they don’t even miss that time or they don’t even ask to actually meet in person because they already feel that the communication works pretty well remotely. Well, you follow certain best practices and principles from a product management perspective, and there’s a fluid, ongoing communication like this, like we are having, like with a webcam, and it continues.
Aleyda: We get in touch and touch base, et cetera. They don’t even miss that, but I do feel that from that perspective, European companies are still a little bit requiring more in person type of touch and potentially, they care a little bit more and request a little bit more like this closer, in person type of followups that I don’t identify that much in the US.
Ben: I think that there’s two schools of thought here. I think that for some people they think that SEO is so business specific and everyone’s keyword sets and targets and goals are so sort of niche to their operations that they want an agency to be on the ground with them, in person, having meetings so they can truly act as essentially an in-house resource, right? That’s why a lot of larger, more traditional businesses gravitate towards, “We need a local agency so they can be there in the product meetings with us, with the engineers and help us improve our process and do some of the evangelism inside of the company that’s required to make changes in SEO across the organization.”
Ben: On the flip side, I do think that a lot of sort of new age companies are more apt to take advantage of the economics of geography, specialization across the globe, and really look for people that are going to be specialists no matter where in the world they are at. Hopefully a lot of the times that means that they’re a little less expensive. Help me balance the difference between the two. When you have specialists, like you’re based in Spain, and the need to have somebody here in person to sit down with the product organization when they’re doing their planning, how do you reconcile the two of those things?
Aleyda: Oh, the fact that I am not located in their city, that doesn’t mean that I cannot do that also, right? There are different ways to tackle that. First, like this. Very likely when their product managers are meeting, or if it is a very large organization, very likely they are not going to be in the same location anyway. Maybe a couple of them are in the U.S., maybe they have a development type of office in the East coast or whatever, so we are going to be using anyway a conference call like this, but if they do require, like for example, I had a client last year doing a complex type of migration requiring my presence in person. We had already agreed that when this happened in particular, I will be there physically for a couple of days with them, with their team, to make sure that everything went well. I do that, I go in person.
Aleyda: With another client, they were relatively new with SEO and wanted to have my in person training there for a couple of days with their development team and accounting team. I did that too, which is the beauty of remote, right? It’s not about being pushed to be somewhere specific, but having the flexibility to be where you need based on real need and demand, right? This is how it is fixed, by being there, but when it’s actually needed, not to go and have a coffee just because it is culturally required or demanded sometimes, which happens unfortunately still a lot in, for example, Latin American countries or in Spain, right? “Oh, let’s meet over a coffee,” whatever, and you end up talking about random stuff that you could have very well tackled in a much more [inaudible] way on a phone call. I understand that you want to build a relationship, trust, et cetera, and that can be a little bit more challenging doing it remotely, of course, but it’s possible. It’s doable.
Aleyda: At the end of the day, it’s about making things happen, right? I am a true believer of making it in a productive way, in a very cost efficient way too, by doing it so remotely, and don’t having the challenges of not having the best possible person for the specific role because of the person not being located where you are.
Ben: Yeah. I think that there are some challenges, as you mentioned, culturally, where you don’t have the opportunity to get the casual face time and sort of doing the, I don’t know, off the cuff brainstorming over a cup of coffee. The relationship can be a little bit more difficult to build. On the flip side, there is some value of, “Hey, we’re paying this agency for their time. We better make the best use of it because they’re only going to be in front of us at certain times.” I think that there’s the third component of this, which is taking advantage of specialization around the globe, and also the economics of geography. When you hire agencies that are in places where … I’m based here in the United States. The dollar might travel farther in other countries. It doesn’t mean that people know less about keyword optimization or technical optimization in a country that the economics are different than what the United States are.
Ben: You can get a little bit better bang for your buck in some cases. Honestly, I’ve built remote teams around the world and have been able to manage costs by spreading my team around the world. Talk to me about some of the pockets of specialization in specific countries. When we think of outsourcing customer service, a lot of that happens in the Philippines. When you think about outsourcing development, Eastern Europe and India are also hotspots. For SEO, some of the content, some of the technical optimizations, are there pockets where you think there is a high level of expertise?
Aleyda: That’s a really nice question. I don’t think that there’s like a specific expertise in, for example, all technical SEOs are located in a certain location. No, it’s very spread out. However, it does make sense when you are targeting a specific market or specific countries, specific languages, that you go and look for consultants or agencies that are native there. Not only because of the language, knowledge and command, but also because these professionals will likely better know the local landscape and better understand cultural factors, et cetera, et cetera, right? It’s more about if I want to do an SEO process in Italy, in the Italian market, well, you are very likely going to try to find someone who’s a native Italian, that can do [inaudible] job with the market, right? Besides that, I don’t know, I think that there are maybe certain hubs of SEO consultants, for example, who there are a lot, of course, in the big cities like London, for example.
Aleyda: But besides that, you can see that there are certain smaller cities that tend to have a lot of activity. For example, in the U.K. you have Manchester or Brighton that always take my attention, that have quite a few well known digital marketing companies, and in other locations, that you can find, for example, in Berlin, a few agencies. They have people from all over the world just because of the characteristic that Berlin attracts professional from all over, right? You have international focus type of agencies supporting many languages and countries from there. The same with Barcelona, right? Yes, it’s a little bit of a mix. It’s not that you will find someone from a specific profile and it’s all very spread out, I have to say.
Ben: Honestly, it makes a lot of sense. It sounds very similar to the profile of where the best agencies are in the United States. You think of there are pockets in the San Francisco Bay area, Silicon Valley, New York, Los Angeles, but you also get tech centers like Austin, Texas, which by population is a much smaller city, but also very much an important hub in technology. As you think about some of the differences between the agencies, even if they’re sort of geographies are spread out in a similar fashion to the United States, are there any characteristics that you find to be different of how the agencies are managed, price, some of the roles, responsibilities that they take on that’s different between the United States and Europe or the rest of the world?
Aleyda: Yes. Well, I think that in general, the average smaller business in the U.S. is willing to spend much more in marketing, right? It surprised me at some point in the past when I was working at an agency as an employee in the U.S., how the average client, some clients that you will consider small, were much more willing to spend and invest in their marketing than in Europe. I think that in the past it was potentially the BrightonSEO … It was Kelvin Newman from BrightonSEO, I think, who did this sort of survey around what SEO consultancies, agencies tend to charge per client, et cetera. You could tell and you could see very clearly that, yeah, agencies in the U.S. have a higher hourly rate on how they charge us. They tend to charge and companies are willing to invest much more, even if they are smaller. That, very clearly.
Aleyda: Then on the other hand, you can see things, for example, in non-English speaking markets that are very obvious, right? Realistically, because the complexity and how difficult it is to [inaudible 00:13:32], for example, in a Spanish speaking market in Spain, it’s not as high or difficult, as competitive as in the U.S. in certain markets, right? You don’t need, for example, as many legs. You need, necessarily, as much, necessarily, sophistication in some cases, right? Of course, if there’s a very competitive, like say, financial market or real estate or some specific markets that do, but many others that don’t require the same level of sophistication, of [inaudible 00:13:59], for example.
Aleyda: It always impressed me how the level of sophistication and need in some markets [inaudible] in the U.S., to build links, to attract links. I think that here in non-English speaking markets, the weight and the focus on building links are not necessarily as high because you can get away with doing more like really good technical optimization, really good content. Attracting links can be down there, but you don’t need the massive amount that you sometimes need in the U.S. in order to be able to rank because there’s so much more competition in certain sectors.
Ben: Yeah, I think that there’s also the complexity of there’s different search engines around the world. You get people that are specialized in things like Yandex and Baidu and obviously that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Aleyda, there’s lots that we can talk about when it comes international agency management, but I appreciate you walking us through some of the differences between the agencies here, based in the U.S., and in Europe. We’re going to continue the conversation tomorrow. That wraps up this episode on the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Aleyda Solís, founder of Orainti. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Aleyda, you can find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter. Her handle is Aleyda, A-L-E-Y-D-A, or you can visit her company’s website, which is Orainti.com, O-R-A-I-N-T-I.com.
Ben: Just one link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to VoicesofSearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you can even apply to be a speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter, and my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of our conversation with Aleyda Solís, founder of Orainti, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.