A controversial question that almost every business owner that engages in search advertising will eventually ask his or herself; “should I outsource SEO to a marketing company or bring it in house”? Being that almost every business structure is different, it can be a really difficult and speculative question to answer… Fortunately, I’ve been on both sides of the fence; I know a lot about the pros & cons of handing SEO in-house as well as the pros and cons of outsourcing it. Today I’d like to share the benefits of outsourcing and insourcing SEO services to see how they can apply to real world scenarios that many business owners might find themselves in. For example a start-up company that sells very niche products or services may not need to outsource SEO because the competition is not strong enough to merit hiring a costly SEO expert. In this type of scenario, hiring an in-house campaign manager or SEO expert that typically require an average salary of over 80k per year (not including your click budget if you intend on supplementing your SEO with PPC traffic) according to Moz which may not be necessary because doing it on your own may be much more practical and or economical.
While on the other hand, hiring a person that has experience with search marketing may provide a bigger bang for your buck at a company that is in a very competitive industry may need the help of a large SEO team only obtainable through outsourcing. An aggressive SEO project can require a team of writers, a video producer, web masters, programmers and much more.
Bearing in mind that there are pros and cons to both sides of the equation, I wanted to break down the pros and cons of outsourcing first.
Over the years, I’ve identified some possible cons that could be associated with outsourcing your SEO to a marketing company. Cons can range from being scammed by sneaky salesmen that over promise and project managers that under-deliver all the way to having a company make a very costly mistake while trying to good for your site but because of their lack of experience (which could end up getting your site penalized by building poor backlinks or by accidentally blocking search engines from indexing your site by simply tampering with your robots.txt file). When it comes to SEO, in general it is very easy to harm your rankings and it is usually very difficult to restore them (or obtain them for the first time). Some of the most common ways to harm your websites search engine presence include:
In my experience, the most common types of cons that I’ve seen with outsourcing your SEM/SEO are associated with business owners who don’t know enough about SEO or PPC to even assess a marketing campaigns performance (or the quality of work rendered by the marketing company they hired). With the high demand for online marketing and the way it’s evolving, you can’t just hire any old web design company or programmer and expect them to also be great at SEO. At the same time, as a consumer, regardless of the services you buy you shouldn’t expect to pay for a service that you know nothing about without expecting some frustration. Search engine marketing has become very intricate and if you aren’t knowledgeable enough to interpret results through metrics like conversion rates, bounce rate or average time on site, then you are likely going to experience problems that could lead to getting ripped off by an SEO vendor. If you’re afraid that you might be in this scenario, I’d highly recommend that you read this article presented by Google that explains how to properly go about hiring an SEO.
My biggest recommendation for any business owner that is going to outsource SEO to a marketing company is to learn how to use reporting tools like Google Analytics. Regardless of if you outsource or not, I strongly recommend that you learn how to use Google Analytics as it is the best way to know how your marketing initiatives are paying off. With Google Analytics, you can create very easy to digest reports that show your ROI and key performance indicators like number of calls or form submissions broken down by referring source.
Bearing in mind that I don’t want this blog post to end up being over 10,000 words, I will do my best to share some brief points on how outsourcing SEO or PPC services could be advantageous. If you care to learn more, I’d encourage you to search online for more blogs related to out-sourcing vs keeping SEO/PPC in-house.
When you hire a truly professional marketing company or individual that is actually capable of reaching your online marketing goals, you ultimately have more time to focus on running your own business which is the main benefit. Outsourcing SEO in my opinion works great when you have a very aggressive marketing budget that requires not just one or two in house SEO’s or PPC managers but rather a large team to handle different components of search engine marketing. SEO is not like what it used to be before, it is a skill set that has to be mastered and that required a LOT of experience whereas before you could get away with ranking pretty easily through black hat techniques that are now grounds for being penalized or filtered by Google.
Coming from a background as an owner of a marketing company in Miami I’ve had the pleasure to work with business of all sizes and budget capacities. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the bigger companies don’t have time to worry about things like which keywords are being used in the blog posts we create every day for their blog or how much we are willing to spend as a max CPC for each of the 500,000 keywords we are showing ads or. Instead, in this scenario, our large client can spend his time managing his business instead of worrying about all the technical aspects of SEO/PPC that undoubtedly are important but that require a LOT of time to manage.
Aside from the obvious benefit of saving time and letting pros handle your marketing initiatives, another benefit that comes with outsourcing SEO includes the opportunity to consult with marketing experts that can help you with offline advertising efforts too. In many cases I’ve helped clients who are engaged in multiple forms of advertising offline yet they have no idea how to monetize from the efforts put forth once a bill board ad drives a customer to their website or how to tell if that bill board add resulted in any conversions. Typically SEO’s and PPC managers come highly experienced when it comes to tracking capabilities. I’ve often times helped clients figure out how to setup call tracking numbers, conversion tracking, vanity URL’s and or phone numbers to track other forms of marketing initiatives that are offline.
Like I mentioned before I wasn’t always the owner of a marketing company, before I started our marketing company in Miami I was also the owner of a few small businesses. During my time as a small business owner I also was engaging in online advertising which back then was much different.
Although the times have changed significantly regarding how SEO works one thing was for sure, when I had an in house search engine specialist, my in house specialist was always up to date with the latest changes pertaining to SEO and really knew the ins and outs of my business which was really helpful.
Often times when you outsource SEO, you are burdened with having to explain every small detail about your company and its products or services so that your blogger, link builder and social media manager (and any other parties involved on a typical out-sourced SEO project) can promote your products or services in the most accurate way. When you have an in house SEO, that in house employee typically ends up learning the ins and outs of your business really fast due to the fact that they are physically at your locationfull time collaborating with other members and getting to be a part of the business directly whereas an outsourced SEO may not be as in the loop which is natural. Everything from the way blogs are written and the way back links are generated will usually come out much better when it’s handled by an in-house SEO simply due to the fact that the in house SEO spends 40 hours a week in YOUR OFFICE.
With anything in life, there are generally pros and cons. Some cons that I’ve experienced when hiring an in-house SEO consisted of the individual knowing that his knowledge could be applied to a business of his or her own and then venturing off to start their own business. After spending years working with an in house specialist training him or her on what your business is all about (CRM familiarity, familiarity with processes, clients etc…) the last thing you want to have your SEO walk out and start his or her own company. In some cases, that employee may end up turning into your direct competitor after learning how to grow a company like yours online. I’ve seen cases where SEO managers end up letting greed take over and ultimately directly competing with their former employers and that is one thing you may want to take into consideration when interviewing an in-house SEO to see if they are going to be loyal for the long run.
I’ve also seen some cases where in house SEO specialists end up being the sole reason why a company grows to new heights and then realizing that he or she deserves much more than just an average salary that a typical SEO specialist is entitled to. In these cases, sometimes things can get ugly being that SEO’s typically need administrative access to every web property or account that you have in order to manage your online marketing efforts.
Whether or not you hire a marketing company to handle your online marketing initiatives or not, you should now know what to expect as possible pros and cons of each scenario. My recommendations are not to be taken as the holy-grail but rather just some advice from someone who has been around the block. Be sure to always follow best practices when it comes to IT security and having a professional assembled employee agreement to make sure you are protected from the worst case scenarios when choosing to hire an in house. On the other hand, when hiring a marketing company be sure to brush up on your Analytics and best practices for current SEO methods to ensure you know how to monitor the success of your campaign as you go. Remember, knowledge is power and knowing a thing or two about a marketing service that you pay a lot of money for never hurts. Please feel free to add/share your thoughts or comments below!
BIO: Sergio Aicardi is the proud owner of The Miami SEO Company, a marketing company that specializes in web design, SEO & PPC management services located in sunny South Florida. As a well versed internet marketing specialist, Sergio enjoys sharing his knowledge with the Trusted Proxies audience through informative blog posts.