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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Keep Current SEO or Take It In-house?

The following Q&A is from Jill Whalen's excellent High Rankings Advisor Newsletter She agreed to have it reproduced here as a part of our series on SEO Job Search

++Keep Current SEO or Take It In-house?++

Hi Jill,

My CEO has been forwarding me your newsletters for some time now. I am in need of advice, and I am hoping you might be able to help me out. We offer online services and have been online since 1997with our websites. I know a little about SEO because I was once a junior SEO rep for my former SEO manager but my primary skill set is not doing SEO but more managing those who do it.

Anyhow, I am currently working with an SEO consultant who is talented when it comes to SEO but my biggest issues I am having with this person are:

  1. They do not have a staff so the turnaround time takes a while.
  2. Their skill set appears to be non-detail-oriented so I find myself repeating things constantly or having to do the organizational work for them.
  3. Their pricing structure is inconsistent.
  4. They do not have a documented path to ROI so I have no way of managing the performance or my money.

Now this person has a strategy model that I agree with which seems to be in sync with current SEO practices. However, many times the work that I get back I think I can do myself for a hell of a lot less than what I am paying this person. Then I say, well, that is not a good use of my time but maybe I should hire someone on staff to do this.

There are many things about online marketing that I do not have experience in personally such as PPC, social networking, growing links, blogs, podcasts, press release, and article publication strategies, etc. I am certainly not in the trenches on learning the changes in the SEO world. I pretty much know the basics for optimized content, keywords, page titles, and meta tags, site submissions, and indexing.

In a nutshell I am trying to strike the right balance for my company. There is no doubt in my mind that the company needs someone skilled in web marketing to help us grow in positioning, traffic, and conversion but I do not know if I need A) a team of people or B) 1 person on staff who is like a junior SEO person while the strategist SEO person is working behind the scenes. Maybe the current person we have is the right person but we are just impatient.

I can tell you this, all the rank and placement we have currently is credited to us and not an SEO person. We have longevity on the net with our websites and after 1 year with the current SEO person the only thing I have is a keyword list and title and meta tags.

I am sure you get this from a lot of companies and I really need sound advice.



++Jill's Response++

Hi Danielle,

Your situation is becoming more common as companies seek a cost-effective solution to their search marketing needs. Although it might take away some of my business, I strongly believe that companies should start taking *some* of their SEO in-house. Certainly any company that has a very large, dynamic site should have one or more people in-house dedicated to keeping it optimized for the search engines (and the users of course!). This doesn't mean that they shouldn't outsource some aspects of their SEO -- just not all of it.

Since you already have experience managing SEOs who do the work, you're in a great position to head up your company's new in-house SEO division! The issues you're having with your current SEO consultant are common, but they should not be accepted. If you are paying this consultant good money, and if you are providing them with all the info and sign-offs that they need in a timely manner, then it doesn't make any sense that after one year of working with them you have only a list of keywords, titles, and meta tags.

That said, I have had SEO clients who were not able to use the services I wanted to provide them with, because they did not do their part. When working with an outside SEO vendor, it's critical that you have someone dedicated to providing them with exactly what they need so that they can make progress on your SEO campaign. This is one of the major stumbling blocks we see in this industry.

On the other hand, you are paying for a service and shouldn't have to do the organizational work for your SEO. Nor should turnaround time be long if you're doing your part quickly. You shouldn't have to plan the strategy, only get the buy-in and possibly be in charge of the actual implementation. Of course, you should have spelled this stuff out in advance in your agreement with your SEO consultant. That way, if they are not doing their part, you can cancel your contract. (Obviously, you should consult with your attorney before doing so!)

In your situation, I'd recommend that you outsource to a knowledgeable SEO consultant to help you form your strategy aspect of your campaign. That is, to make sure your current keyword research is useful, help you plan your site's architecture based on those keyword phrases, provide you with recommendations for Title tags (or at least a strategy for writing them), offer text recommendations, and if necessary, map out a link-building strategy.

I’d also highly recommend that you outsource your PPC campaign to an experienced PPC company (which may or may not be the same as your SEO company). Good PPC companies are well worth the cost as they will always make you more money than you would otherwise make.

In-house you will need a developer who can create the site's new architecture, a marketing copywriter who can pick up on the ins and outs of SEO copywriting, perhaps someone who is familiar with keyword research tools, and someone to interface with your consultant (which might be you). Your copywriter and keyword researcher may very well be the same person, or even your developer may have dual roles, but you'll probably need at least 2 people to keep your SEO campaign moving in the right direction, even with an outside SEO consultant on board. Of course, if your consultant has their own team in place, you can certainly pay them accordingly and have them implement all the changes. But even then, you’ll need someone to oversee everything and review it all for accuracy.

Regardless of which way you decide to go, you’ll need to make sure your brand is accurately represented, and that your SEO company is not sacrificing usability and/or readability because they *think* that's what the search engines want. Unfortunately, that seems to be all too common.

Hope this helps!


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Jill Whalen of High Rankings® is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings® Advisor search engine marketing newsletter. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, site analysis reports, SEM seminars.

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