How do you make the inhouse vs outsource decision for SEO? On one hand we know we need to focus on a small group of keywords and produce lots of really good, user focused content. On the other hand, seems like a lot of behind-the-scenes expertise that we don't possess in house. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
What do you mean when you talk about SEO? It's really simplified thing in nowadays.
There is a pretty consize list of things which really matter, it's:
2) SXO (Search User Experience + Site User Experience);
3) On Page Optimization.
1 and 2 point give you 95% of effect, 3 - not more than 5%.
First point (content) should be done in house. You can outsource some writing, but ideas and plan is a part of your strategy.
Second point (SXO) - it's again about you and your product. You can hire some guys to improve or check it, but there is no need it in constant works.
Third point (On Page Optimization) - in nowadays it's really simplified and I don't think that there is a job for outsource team.
Write texts for people, not for machine. But as only you know your customer, it's obvious that you should make this job.
As an conclusion:
80% - In House;
20% - It's mostly about checking, improving and some writing.
One more advice. Don't believe old-fashioned SEO agencies and freelancers. In most cases they "help" to make your site penalized, not boost it.
Have a nice day.
I've worked both in-house (at Business.com) and I built and ran large agencies as well (eVisibility, Geary Interactive, Organic Media Group).
IMHO, outsourcing SEO is the best way to go no matter what. And I'll give you 3 good reasons why.
1. In-house SEO teams (and individuals) get myopia. They stare at and analyze the same site every-single-day. So its tough for them to "notice" things. A third party perspective really comes in handy, and that's where an agency fits in.
2. In my 11+years of experience, there has never been an in-house team that is as creative and cutting edge as an agency. In-house teams don't usually innovate when it comes to SEO and link building in particular. Agencies work across many niches, constantly. They develop new techniques. In-house teams almost never do.
3. Management. Managing and paying salary and benefits to an in-house team or person is expensive and takes time. Most companies aren't big enough to really afford to hire an in-house person or staff properly. They are better at other things. Which is why you hire a professional agency and then you get out of their way and let them do their thing, with accountability and reporting of course. And its easier to cut bait with an agency than it is to fire an employee, for various HR reasons.
Can you get results with an in-house team, of course. But your probability for success goes up alot when you allow an agency to handle things.
And if you don't have a ton of budget for SEO, an agency is actually much more affordable too. I guess this is bonus point #4. You can't hire anyone decent at SEO for less than $4k-$5k per month, plus benefits and time spent managing them. You can get a VERY good SEO campaign with an agency or consultant for $3k-$4k per month or less.
I'd say it depends a lot in your product. If you're a tech company, then perhaps it's best to have it internally. But also, if you're selling a product, then I'd delegate SEO/SEM/Ads to an agency that can handle it better.
When you grow you can have it internally, but maybe at the beginning it's more efficient to have it outsourced.
Another thing you could do is to have the agency train your team in SEO.
It depends on the strategy you're going to pursue. If you plan to put out lots of SEO-friendly content through a blog, overhaul your site's copy (and tweak over time to refine), run ads, keyword analysis, and all the other daily (or at least weekly) maintenance that needs to be done, it may be worth hiring someone in-house.
Otherwise, you may be able to find a contractor with a stellar track record to do the heavy lifting of initial setup and optimization, then pay to train someone in-house to manage the critical ongoing pieces and/or bring the consultant in for quarterly/annual check-ins.
In both cases, do your homework and verify results. SEO is confusing, and there are some less-than-noble types who specialize in smoke and mirrors (or short-term gains that hurt your rankings long-term) rather than results. Define what you're after and find people who can demonstrate that they've made that same kind of impact for former clients. Reach out to the clients to verify the results. Be thorough and make sure you're not hiring someone who will ultimately damage your ranking by pissing off Google or trying to game a system that's becoming increasingly difficult to game.
Depending on how much time you'll be devoting to the digital marketing program and tasks like content creation, our preference as an agency is to have a client that has a dedicated internal marketing person to support the communication and feedback that we need as an agency.
If you're at a budget level where it's either one or the other (in-house vs agency), then I think the decision needs to be based upon the level of time you have to dedicate to the program. If you have a lot of time to spare (more than 15 hrs per month) then hiring an outside agency is a good way to divvy up the workload and have the agency help you prioritize strategy and what you're working on.
If you don't have time to dedicate, then the decision should be based upon your expertise to manage an internal person. If you have a basic SEO skill level, and you can't afford a full-time senior SEO role, then you'll probably want to bring in an agency to make sure someone with the proper expertise is prioritizing efforts for the fastest results.
Happy to chat if you have questions on the decision process.
Out of the gate, I'd recommend performing a simple cost benefit analysis.
1) Figure out what roles you would need to hire (FTE/part time pay roll)
2) Understand the lifecycle of these roles - is it ongoing work? Set up work and out the door?
3) How bought in is our organization on SEM/SEO?
4) What life stage is our a) company, and b) marketing, at?
Ask yourself those Q's.
A few final follow on comments.
> Once you calculate your costs from a FTE/part timer standpoint, you'll be able to take that and compare it against external consultants/agencies.
> If you are an early stage company, hire a single part-time consultant early. Avoid taking on FTE/expensive agency overhead.
> Think about how much of a specialist you need. Do you need technical (e.g. front-end programming) capabilities? Or is it more of a generic "let's throw Yoast SEO plugin up, write/promote a ton of content and call it a day" type need?
> Question external consultants and agencies mercilessly. Have them do live demo's to walk through their proprietary algorithms, tools, etc.
> Firing external consultants/agencies is way easier than parting with FTE head counts (see point #2 again)
Best of luck!
I'd recommend asking yourself and/or internal team two basic, but critical questions:
1. How up to date is the internal team on current SEO best practices and allowed tactics?
2. Does the internal team at all question their ability to execute successfully on SEO?
If the team is questionable on either answer, an outside SEO consultant should be considered. I've seen many websites get hurt by well intentioned internal marketers.
If these internal staff is up to date on SEO best practices, feels confident in their abilities, and has time to devote to the project, then they may be more then capable of executing successfully.