The Philippines has one of the most robust search marketing industries in the world. Tracing its roots to about a decade ago, Philippine SEO started with web developers implementing basic on-page optimization techniques requested by their clients. As the demand for outsourced work grew in the US, the UK and Australia, SEO in the Philippines started to take on a life of its own. The practice soon distinguished itself from web development and gave birth to a small but passionate community of practitioners.
To date, there are tens of thousands of Filipinos who work digital marketing-related jobs. Most of them serve foreign clients but local enterprises have started to see the potential of successful inbound marketing as well. The future is looking very bright as the quality of Philippine SEO gets collectively better, warranting more investments from businesses around the world.
What is SEO Philippines?
The term “SEO Philippines” can refer to one of two things:
- A once-popular but now defunct form about search engine optimization in the Philippines
- A query used by foreigners to find SEO consultants or agencies in the Philippines that they can outsource to.
The latter is the more popular intent behind the phrase as marketers from other countries have identified the Philippines as a primary source of low-cost, high-quality SEO work.
A Rich Labor Market
As a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 million people, the Philippines is one of the world’s premier labor markets. The country produces some 500,000 college graduates annually, creating a competitive environment teeming with young talents who are eager to prove themselves. The competition for jobs and the low cost of living in the emerging Philippine economy also translates into very low labor costs without the sacrifice of quality.
From SMEs to billion-dollar multinationals, companies around the world have started to realize the value proposition of investing in the Philippines. Initially, only call center jobs were outsourced by Western economies to the country. In just a few years, investors realized the country’s potential for back office-type of jobs. Slowly but surely, development, design and marketing work found its way to the Philippine shores. The pioneers of digital marketing services in the country proved that they’re worth more investments as they delivered great results at a minimal cost.
These days, any work that can be done online is being done in the Philippines by qualified professionals. This is a testament to the Philippines’ mastery of the English language, its Internet savvy and the infrastructure in place to support the growing dependence of foreign countries on Filipino work.
SEO in the Philippines has come a long way in the recent years. Once reputed for spammy tactics, the Philippine SEO scene is rapidly evolving with its adoption of more sophisticated white hat methods to help websites gain better online visibility. In Google’s modern era, Filipino SEOs continue to thrive because of their innate writing skills, creativity and passion for excellence.
The Value Proposition of Outsourced SEO
Outsourcing SEO to the Philippines brings a lot of distinct business advantages to the table. Companies around the globe either hire digital marketing agencies or set up their own offices in the country to derive maximum value from their investments. This allows them to do more with less, giving them the financial leeway they need to grow their businesses like never before.
Here are the key reasons why businesses of all sizes go to the Philippines for SEO services:
- Minimal Labor Costs – With a competitive job market and lower costs of living, Filipino SEOs can earn a fraction of what their US, UK and Australian counterparts do. Despite that, most of them still live very well because outsourced work pays significantly better than what local employers do. If the average SEO manager in the US earns $7,000 a month, someone of the same caliber can be hired for that position in the Philippines for about $2,000. If junior-level SEOs in America earn $4,000 a month minimum, SEO trainees in the Philippines can be paid as little as $400.That would mean you can hire an entire team of SEOs in the Philippines for the same amount it costs to get one experienced SEO specialist in the US. This allows you to do more with literally less money without sacrificing the quality of output.
- Little to no overhead costs – If you’re sourcing SEO work from the Philippines via an agency, you’ll only have to pay the retainer or contracted fees you agreed on. SEO service packages from the Philippines usually go around at $1,000-$2,000 per month depending on the scale of the project. You won’t have to worry about things like electric bills, rent, employee benefits, etc. Agency work is a turnkey solution to all your SEO needs.For companies who want to save more over the long haul, building an office in the Philippines and starting their own team is an option. This allows you to put the agency out of the equation, cutting their margins and just paying your own employees directly without a middleman. The drawback to this is having to shoulder overhead costs yourself. Thankfully, rent, electricity, Internet bills and employee benefits are much cheaper in the Philippines than they are in industrialized nations.
- Fewer Risks – In any business endeavor, there’s always the possibility that your investments won’t pay off., Outsourcing minimizes the risks due to the lower costs involved. Most companies who’ve tried to invest in Philippine SEO but didn’t achieve the results they desired were able to contain the losses and live to fight another day. Unlike in the US, setting up a business in the Philippines is not an all-or-nothing affair with life-changing ramifications.
- Competitive Advantage – Minimizing costs and risks with outsourced work gives you a distinct competitive advantage. For one, you can start lowering the costs of your own products and services to set yourself apart from competing businesses. If you don’t want to lower your prices, you can still operate the way you do – with a much higher profit margin.
Should I Use a Freelancer, an Agency or
Hire an In-House SEO?
One of the basic questions that businesses looking for SEO help need to answer is what type of solution best suits their needs. Depending on the nature of the business, its size and its goals, the answer can vary. The three main options are to go with a freelance SEO specialist, to hire a SEO agency, or to hire your own in-house SEO expert.
All three have their merits and drawbacks. Here’s some information about each type of solution provider and what type of business setups they would work best in:
Freelancers are individuals who are not formally employed by any specific company. SEO freelancers usually work alone from their homes and serve two or more clients. More often than not, they cost less to hire due to the fact that they don’t need to commute to work and they don’t have formal offices to maintain. They also have the added perk of being close to their families all the time.
Hiring a freelancer can really work as long as you can find someone with legitimate skills and professionalism to go along with it. You’ll also have to be comfortable with the fact that you can’t physically check on the freelance SEO specialist at any given time and that he or she might have clients other than you.
Some common drawbacks associated with freelancers include the lack of skills necessary to help an SEO campaign really take off. This is usually die to the fact that there are plenty of Filipino SEO freelancers who hacen’t been trained in methodical and organized campaign conceptualization and implementation. However, that’s not to say that all freelancers are incompetent. Some freelance SEOs are actually very good thanks to their years of experience working in companies or agencies. When you hire a freelancer, make sure it’s not someone who’s too cheap and green. Look for someone who has years of experience and a good portfolio to show. They may charge a little bit more, but they usually do a better job.
Hiring SEO freelancers in the Philippines comes with some inherent risks. The most common complaint we know of is the stability of residential internet connections that freelancers tend to use. If a contractor’s internet goes down, so does his or her productivity for the rest of the day. In most cases, there is no written agreement between clients and SEOs which will serve as a reference on how to remedy these situations when they arise.
More often than not, you’ll just have to cut your losses as a client whenever this happens. Some freelance SEOs in the Philippines will try to make up for lost time or at least work in an internet café when they encounter these issues, but others won’t. In some cases, freelancers even use the “no connection” excuse to skirt deadlines or skip workdays. Make sure that the freelancer you hire has good character and work ethic.
Freelancers are also vulnerable to service interruptions during times when natural disasters strike. Around 30 typhoons batter the Philippine islands every year, making people with residential internet connections prone to service interruptions when a storm hits their area.
Lastly, there are domestic distractions to deal with when working from home. While there are a lot of fine, upstanding Filipino SEO freelancers who can stay professional even while working remotely, others just don’t have that in them. Kids, spouses or even friends can interrupt productivity and break your service provider’s concentration. When choosing a freelancer, interview him or her and ask how their home office is set up. Better yet, ask to view it on video.
SEO agencies are small companies, usually ranging from 10-180 employees that specialize in search engine optimization services rendered by a team of professionals. SEO agencies in the Philippines usually have offices and they have different personnel performing a diverse set of functions. Many SEO agencies in the Philippines are registered with the government as legitimate businesses, though some are not.
The key advantage of hiring an agency over a freelancer is the fact that you usually get more professional services that what you’d get from someone working solo at homer. For one, agencies usually have professional office setups where people can work undistracted by family affairs. Offices also tend to have access to superior and more stable internet connections that telecom companies only provide to corporate clients.
Office spaces in the Philippines are generally in more secure locations that can withstand calamities. When a big storm wipes out electricity and internet connectivity in residential areas, business districts tend to stay up and running.
Thirdly, being registered with the government goes a long way in making sure the agency keeps its end of your bargains. A registered company can’t just run and change its name. If you have a valid contract with them, you can always use that to keep your service provider honest. In the worst case scenario, it can also be used in a court of law as solid evidence.
And since agencies aren’t one-man shows, you don’t run the risk of service interruption in case your SEO specialist gets sick. Agencies tend to have a reservoir of manpower resources that they can call on to pick up the slack. Reputable SEO agencies in the Philippines will at least give you an account manager who will be your main point of contact and will take care of all your requests, questions and concerns.
Lastly, SEO agencies tend to stay ahead of the curve in the ever-changing search marketing industry. Because they specialize in this digital marketing discipline, SEO agencies tend to use the latest tools and use the latest best practices to keep their services competitive. It’s no surprise that the majority of attendees in SEO conferences come from SEO companies.
As the name suggests, an in-house SEO is an SEO specialist who is an internal employee of your company whose time is dedicated solely to improving your business sites’ search visibility. Some companies hire just one in-house SEO expert while others have full-blown teams.
When hiring an in-house SEO, make sure to get someone with substantial experience and a proven track record. This person will be in charge of implementing strategies which can make or break your digital presence. Your company’s time, resources and braintrust will all be at his disposal, so make sure to thoroughly evaluate a candidate before signing him.
Having an in-house SEO doesn’t mean that you should depend on him or her to be the answer to all your search marketing needs. In fact, it’s pretty common practice for companies to still hire external consultants and agencies who can supplement the efforts of their in-house SEO personnel. In arrangements like this, your in-house SEO acts as your project manager while production is mainly delegated to external entities.
What Makes a Good SEO Agency?
If you decide to hire an SEO agency in the Philippines, you’ll need to think long and hard about the options available to you. While there’s no single, exact way to make sure you’re hooking up with a company that will satisfy your expectations, there are a few key aspects that you have to look at. These include:
- A Good Reputation – There are several ways to gain insights on a Filipino SEO agency’s reputation. The easiest, albeit inexact, way to do it is to Google the agency’s name and see what comes up. If you see any results that say bad things about the company, do some investigation and check if the negative feedback is valid. Keep in mind that SEO is very competitive and in some cases, a company’s rivals or former employees will try to smear its name to drag it down. You can also ask the agency about the feedback and see what they have to say.You can also ask for a list of current and past clients to check how their campaigns went with the agency that you’re considering. If the agency refuses to provide any references, consider it a red flag.You can also check how involved the agency is in its industry and community. Good agencies often have friendly relations with their peers. They are usually mentioned a lot in other websites in a positive and genuine manner.
- A Solid Portfolio – Ask for a client portfolio and contact details of the clients in their list. Contact the clients and verify if the SEO agency did, in fact, provide services to them and did a satisfactory job. If the agency refuses and tries to hide behind supposed NDAs, run for the hills. Satisfied former and current clients are usually happy to be made references even if conversations with you are kept off the record.
- A Registered Operation – Ever considered hiring a lawyer who didn’t pass the bar exam? Or having surgery with a doctor who’s not licensed? We thought so.Approach the selection of an SEO agency in the Philippines with the same logic. Ask the service provider if the company is government registered. If it isn’t, think long and hard before you commit to them. If they say they are, ask them for scans of the following documents:
- SEC certificate for corporations or DTI certificate for sole proprietorships and partnerships.
- BIR certificate to make sure they pay taxes
- Mayor’s Permit to make sure they operate in safe and sanitary environments.
Any responsible agency owner should have no problem sending these your way. If they refuse, consider it a red flag.
- Transparent Processes – Good SEO is very methodical and deliberate. It’s a combination of art and science, but it’s anything but magic. Ask for a list of things that the SEO agency will do for you and ask how each one will be conducted. Pay close attention to how they explain areas such as technical SEO and link building to you. If they refuse to go into detail on how they’ll execute these components of SEO, they either don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re using tactics that can harm your website.A good SEO agency will be more than happy to share how they do their work. You can then cross-reference their processes with what top SEO resources such as Moz and Search Engine Land recommend. If the processes and techniques are similar, that’s a good sign.
- Realistic Promises – Let’s be very clear on something: nobody can 100% guarantee that they can give you a number 1 ranking on Google for a highly competitive keyword. There are just too many factors involved and it gets more complex because your competitors are trying to outdo you all the time. If an agency tells you that they can guarantee top placement, they’re either lying or they’re trying to cheat Google using questionable tactics. If you get unrealistic pitches, walk away.
- Reputable Employees – An SEO agency is only as good as the people who work in it. When you enter initial talks with a Philippine SEO company, get the names of the people involved and look them up on Linkedin. Any reputable and self-respecting marketer uses the social platform for business purposes. Look at their resumes to get an idea of how long the agency has existed, how much experience the people you’re talking to have accumulated and how they’ve run their careers in the past. This will give you more clues on how competent the service provider is.
- Money Where Their Mouths Are – Many SEO agencies will try to lock you up contractually for six months to a year. That’s well and good, and it’s a common practice in the industry. However, great SEO agencies don’t attempt to hold on to you against your will when you want out. A confident agency that knows what it’s doing will bet on itself and give you risk-removing terms such as a terminate anytime clause and satisfaction guarantees. Decent SEO agencies know that above all, customer experience matters and they’ll be willing to stake their income to prove their point.
Examples of Good Agencies
SEO in the Philippines has a good number of shining examples. The following agencies have proven time and again that they’re some of the best in the country:
Okay, it’s a shameless plug, but you wouldn’t have landed on this page if we weren’t one of the best. We won’t say much except that our portfolio is chock full of successful companies who will be happy to tell you what we did for them. That and the fact that we are unquestionably one of the leaders of the local SEO community should stand as testaments to our commitment to excellence in our craft.
Led by SEM and analytics mastermind Sam Nam, this agency keeps its profile low while delivering powerful results to its ecommerce clientele. This is an agency with world-class management, efficient processes and ethical business practices.
Growth Rocket specializes in enterprise-level SEO for ecommerce properties. With former US Auto Parts CMO Houman Akhavan at the helm and industry rockstar Marc Samson in charge of operations, this is definitely an agency you should consider hiring.
Founded by digital marketing expert Gary Viray and formerly known as Search Opt Media, Propelrr has gone from being one of the top SEO service providers to a full-spectrum digital marketing agency. They’re data-driven and they invest a lot in their own technology. They’re also some of the most professional people you can find in the Philippine SEO scene.
TrueLogic Online Solutions
TrueLogic is undoubtedly the biggest SEO company in the country. With more than 170 employees who have diverse skillsets, they’re not just a shop when it comes to digital marketing – they’re a mall. Their core remains their SEO services but if you need web design, social media marketing and content creation, they can help you out as well. Their top managers, Itamar Gero and Bernard San Juan, are among the most respected figures in the Philippine SEO scene.
Not all SEOs in the Philippines are Equal
As far as the Philippines has come as a SEO hotbed, it has flaws that have to be overcome. For one thing, Filipino SEOs have a black hat stigma attached to them. A few years ago when web spam could still be used to manipulate the SERPs, SEOs in the Philippines did their fair share of shady work. The work of a few opportunistic practitioners earned the entire local industry a negative tag that the community is still trying to get rid of to this day.
Fortunately, Filipino SEOs have started opening their eyes to the fact that white hat SEO is the only way to go if we want to achieve more than what we already have. More and more, we see the old spammers go away and we’re seeing an equal number of ethical SEOs rising through the ranks and getting some recognition.
The next time you do a search for the keyword “SEO Philippines” and its variants, take a long, hard look at the vendors you see. Are they legitimate brands? Are they offering service packages that are too good to be true? Do they have the thought leadership cache and the reputation that comes along with being a legitimate practitioner?
Outsourcing is meant to make SEO more affordable, not inhumanely cheap. If a site is charging $300 a month for a full service package, ask yourself how they’re supposed to hire quality personnel who’ll help you climb the rankings in a safe and ethical way.
The quality of the SEO work you get from the Philippines is a matter of choice. Choose shady companies with dubious methods and you’ll likely do more harm than good to your site. With ethical SEO companies, you spend a little bit more but you’ll be happier over the long haul. The decision is yours.
Top SEO Consultants in the Philippines
For an in-depth look, check out our blog post on The Best SEO Specialists in the Philippines. For a quick overview, these are GDI’s recommended SEO consultants in the local scene:
Benj Arriola – Benj is currently the SEO Director at Myers Media Group. More importantly, he is universally considered the Godfather of Philippine SEO. He has the distinction of being the first Filipino SEO to make a mark in the international scene. By winning global SEO competitions and speaking in world-class SEO conferences such as SMX and PubCon, he has proven without a doubt that SEOs from the Philippines can compete with the best.
Jason Acidre – Perhaps the most well-known Filipino SEO today, Jason is the author of the Kaiserthesage blog. He’s also the founder and CEO of Xight Interactive. Jason is best known for his creative link building strategies, but really, he’s great at practically every aspect of SEO. He’s often mentioned in sites like Moz, Search Engline Land and even mainstream publications like Bloomberg.
Dean Chew – Ayima’s Director of Operations for Asia is among the top SEO minds not just in the country but in the entire region. He has been featured in SMX, SES, Moz’s Whiteboard Friday just to name a few platforms and he continues to deliver great work in his current position.
Jec Gonzales – Jec Gonzales is probably the top tier of freelance SEOs. He’s the living proof that you don’t have to be working in a corporation to be among the very best. With his elite writing skills, mastery over a website’s technical aspects, creative promotional strategies and innate leadership instincts, he’s a total package with no glaring weaknesses.
Itamar Gero – When it comes to the business side of SEO, they don’t come any better than Itamar Gero. TrueLogic’s CEO also happens to be the president of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines – a testament to his influence not just in the digital marketing industry but the Filipino business scene in general. Oh, and did we mention that he’s an exceptional tech mind in his own right?
Bernard San Juan – Bernard is the general manager at TrueLogic and is the driving force behind their day to day operations. He’s also a brilliant SEO and a highly eloquent speaker. He’s highly proficient in every aspect of the optimization process and is a natural leader, making him well-suited in his role leading the country’s biggest SEO agency.
Gary Viray – Highly analytical, technology-oriented and business savvy, Gary is looked up on by many SEOs in the Philippines as a true authority in the field. His agency has been running and growing for a decade, serving as proof that a combination of talent, professionalism and hard work is very, very hard to beat.
Jayson Bagio – One of the country’s premier link building experts, Jayson tries to keep a low profile but is often acknowledged as one of the industry’s top minds. Whether it’s outreach, broken link building or .edu link acquisition, Jayson knows how to get quality links for his clients.
Marc Samson – Highly experienced with an employment pedigree that includes TrueLogic and US Auto Parts, Marc Samson is the current SEO Director at Growth Rocket. Marc’s core strength is in technical SEO and integrated digital marketing campaign management. He is currently serving as the President of SEO Organization Philippines.
Venchito Tampon Jr. – Venchito is the founder and CEO of SharpRocket, a Filipino SEO agency that specializes in link acquisition. He started young in the industry, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a master of virtually every facet of off-page SEO.
Major SEO Events in the Philippines
The Philippine SEO community is a vibrant one where many of the top players know each other and share very friendly relations. Every few months, the industry gathers in major events such as conferences to share insights, to network and to generally have a good time.
If you’re looking to get connected with the local SEO stalwarts, these are the events you should attend:
The PeepCon SEO conference series is the biggest event of its kind in the Philippines, attracting 200-320 local and international delegates on an almost annual basis. Despute being a non-profit affair, PeepCon delivers presentations from topnotch speakers and is held at first class venues. In recent years, people have come to recognize PeepCon as the one that stands above all else locally. Some have even gone as far as to say that it’s the best that Southeast Asia has to offer.
Past speakers include search marketing luminaries such as Cyrus Shepard, Mike King, Dan Petrovic, Ruth Burr Reedy, Dana DiTomasso, Rob Ousbey, Jon Cooper and Jason Acidre many more.
Oh, and this is not a conference for peeping Toms. PeepCon is shorthand for “The People’s Conference.” It was originally conceived as a fundraiser for Filipino SEOs who are in need and later evolved into a world-class event that’s aimed at local search marketing professionals who can’t afford to fly to the US for conferences such as MozCon, SMX and PubCon.
Mastering Online Rankings Conference, or simply MORCon, is SEO Organization Philippines’ flagship event. It happens once a year around November and is a showcase of local talent. It’s also a tight community affair where people in the search marketing business congregate, make friends and share ideas. Many Filipino SEOs first broke out of obscurity in one of these events, making it an awesome platform for finding the industry’s future icons.
Also an annual event, SEO Summit is organized by Sean Si and the SEO Hacker team. It attracts around 100 attendees each year with its showcase of local and international influencers. This is a quality gathering that’s always well put together and highly entertaining.
SEO and the Philippine Economic Boom
SEO used to be a digital marketing channel that was used mostly by foreign companies. From the mid-2000’s to around 2013, most search marketing professionals either worked in foreign companies with offices here or were working for clients offshore. In the last five years, however, local businesses started to recognize the power of the Internet. These days, most serious businesses have self-hosted websites that administrators wield absolute control over. For smaller, less digital marketing-savvy entrepreneurs, they’ve at least come to recognize the value of having a simple Facebook business page.
Most experts agree that this trend is a direct result of greater internet access penetration and the proliferation of smartphones in the Philippines. People who did not previously have particular interest in desktop-based internet use now have a means to use the web in an accessible and readily available manner. News website Rappler reports that an estimated 29% (some 31 million) of Filipinos now have internet access while there’s an estimated 30.4 million mobile devices in the country according to Statista.
As the Philippine economy surges ahead with its annual GDP growth rate of 6.8%, more people are expected to join the middle class that actively uses the internet for informational, recreational and transactional purposes. Many Philippine businesses recognize the opportunities that come with this development and many are positioning themselves for an economy that will be driven primarily by what goes on digitally.
As the case is with the United States, Europe, China and other well-developed markets, SEO will be key in standing out online. Being ranked atop Google’s search results is a decisive advantage that businesses gladly invest thousands – even millions- of dollars in every year. Local businesses are expected to follow suit because much is at stake when a country of 110 million people heads towards a new direction. Those who are able to establish themselves today will be the kings of the Philippine internet’s future.