How To Use Virtual Assistants To Eliminate SEO Chores

Author: Gab Goldenberg

It may not be possible to automate all of SEO (or other business processes) with software, but that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid the chores in SEO. If you can document the processes, you can delegate them to virtual assistants (VA).

(A virtual assistant is an assistant you work with online rather than in person. VAs are typically contractors rather than salaried employees, so they’re also likely to be cheaper than a secretary if you don’t need them full time.)

Right now, I’m experimenting with documenting those of my processes that involve brainless chore work.

By documenting, I mean breaking down the process into steps. Someone completely unfamiliar with the field should be able to read it and understand.

There’s little reason for me to do these instead of an assistant. This is all the more so because when I’m not motivated, as when I’m doing chores, I’m slow. So besides being bored to tears with some parts of SEO, I get less done than an assistant could.

Once the processes are documented, my goal is to break them down into individual steps and assign those to various virtual assistants.

The reasons I don’t want to trust one assistant doing the whole process are that:

1) It means greater risk if he/she trips up anywhere – the lack of a fallback means that a whole project could be delayed.
2) Giving the whole process to one particular VA could lead to it being mass-duplicated-and-abused. It’s not that these are short-term techniques, but it’s easy to imagine how the whole technique – both as executed by poor quality and high quality SEOs – could be devalued as a result of the shoddy folks’ work.
3) I want to limit my costs if the work isn’t done properly.

My friend and fellow SEO consultant Jon Rognerud suggested VAs to me at SMX West 2008, but I didn’t know how to go about working with them. I read Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek and basically paraphrased the above points from my memory of his book.

I’ve adapted Tim’s tips in 1 important respect, however. I’m preferring multiple independent VAs doing interchangeable work to going with a VA company.

Tim recommends companies over individuals because if the virtual assistant who is assigned to you gets sick or is unavailable for some reason, you can quickly get a replacement if you’re with a company.

The problem is that most VA companies also do “SEO” work. I put “SEO” in quotation marks because I’m skeptical about the quality of these companies’ work.

So if I outsourced to one of these companies – even if it were just part of the process – it would go to hell in a handbasket.

It would appear as a service offered by ‘SEO India’ companies. And then it would be duplicated by their rivals. And pretty soon the whole thing would be devalued, even when done properly.

So I’m aiming to hire individuals with NO background at all in SEO. And I’m not even presenting the job ads as something SEO related.

Which is why I had to document my processes first – I didn’t want to rely on the existing processes of crummy foreign SEO companies.

Why have multiple independent virtual assistants doing interchangeable work?

This eliminates the risk of one of them botching things.

Note: I’m not asking for redundant work because I don’t want to pay for exactly the same thing. That could happen if both VAs did well!

Instead, with interchangeable work, I get equivalent results but not identical results. If both VAs worked out, I’d be happy with owning the products of both of their assignments.

If you liked this idea on delegating SEO chores to virtual assistants, add my rss feed to your reader! You’ll see follow up posts describing how things go!


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  1. You've nailed it yet again :) Splitting any SEO work up among several VAs is a great idea - we even split it up among internal employees. The layer of protection it adds for you as a business owner is far better than any NCND could ever provide because only you know the entire process.

    Comment by Jeremy L. Knauff - October 13, 2009 @ 7:51am
  2. I like the idea to have VA working for me. But to document the tasks at first is really hard work :-| I will do it soon ;-)

    Comment by Michael - October 13, 2009 @ 12:24pm
  3. A lot of the work is done for you in the form of How To posts that are all around the blogosphere ;).

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - October 13, 2009 @ 3:34pm
  4. Absolutely. The futility of an NDA (besides for the sake of getting someone to adhere to the honor code / reputation management considerations) is what's driven me to do that split-up.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - October 13, 2009 @ 3:35pm
  5. That's an interesting idea Gab. What kind of things are you outsourcing? The list development for link targets? Would you go so far to outsource keyword research?

    Comment by Liam Delahunty - October 16, 2009 @ 8:00am
  6. List development definitely. Once you've identified and broken the process down, it's pretty straightforward actually. For KR, I tried that before and paid like $200 for a couple dozen keywords. I would not outsource that, especially when there are great tools like Spyfu you can use instead. (See my endorsements page.) What would you outsource? Cheers Gab

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - October 16, 2009 @ 3:45pm
  7. Hi Gab, Great Post! I've just started using VAs for various labor intensive tasks that can easily be broken down into easy to follow steps and I'm loving it. In reference to a comment above, I shy away from the initial work to set up the processes and document each step as well, but once you get it done it's so great to just shoot off an email and a day or two later have someone deliver the completed work with no time (and very little cost) on your part. I can't believe I didn't start this sooner.

    Comment by Rob Woods - January 5, 2010 @ 5:35pm
  8. hey Rob, Yeah, it is great for some of these tasks - but I'm finding that the more a task involves critical thinking or taking the initiative and the less it can just be delegated to a VA. Wish there was a better way to this...

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 6, 2010 @ 12:59am
  9. Agree with the strategy of dispersing the knowledge to prevent replication however on the whole I find outsourcing far harder that people make out. Lets face it if the outsourcers in low cost countries really understood any where near enough about SEO or Internet Marketing to be of real value to your business then they would be making a nice almost passive living off a couple of Adsense or CPA sites rather than selling their time for a few $ a hour. Its like the old "super salesman" that does want to work on straight commission but insists on a rentainer + commission. Once you know how it works why would you do it for someone else to profit from ?

    Comment by Victor - January 12, 2010 @ 1:19pm

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