When you make the decision to build an in-house team to manage the search marketing function for your company, the biggest challenge that you’ll face is where to actually find the first person that will be the one to create and mold your in-house team. Do you want to hire an experienced search marketing person, or promote an industry subject matter expert (SME) from within?
There are several determining factors that are going to play into your decision process for your first in-house SEM hire. These include:
- The availability of resources, along with the time line to launch and the currently defined action plan
- The corporate culture—structure and politics, where they are going to fit, and how that role will interact with existing departments
- The availability of experienced search marketers and whether you already have an enthused in-house SME looking for a new challenge
- Competitiveness in your market place, both geographically and vertically
- The planned size and composition of the team
Whichever way you decide to go with your first in-house hire, if you’re planning on having a team of more than one, you’re going to need to make sure that the person selected can, as with any manager in your organization, provide the necessary level of leadership for the team. Organizational and personal goals need to be created in line with the corporate goals, and expectations need to be set with every stakeholder
So what are the pros and cons of each approach?
The experienced search marketer
The experienced search marketer gives you a number of advantages over the internal hire (depending on their actual experience level). First, they immediately know what they’re talking about SEM-wise, and are therefore able to get your project(s) up and running sooner. Hiring the rest of the team should also be easier, as the expert should be aware of the needs for the various aspects that they will have to hire for (SEO, PPC, analytics, etc.) and the individual traits required to be successful with each. They may have a personal network that can assist in the hiring process, or it may just be as simple as them being more aware of niche job boards that they can utilize.
Training should also be easier, as the expert should know what would be most beneficial for the team as a whole, and for the particular niche role of each individual on the team. They should also be able to provide at least a basic level of training to the entire team. The downside is that they may not know enough about the various intricacies of your industry such as history, legalities, competition, etc, so they may need some ramp up time in those areas.
The industry SME
So given all that, why would anyone go for the internal hire? What benefits can you get from that? Well, you may not be able to find an industry expert willing to work for your company, in your location, at the salary level that you are willing to pay. Given the surplus in demand and deficit in supply for experienced search marketers, that’s a real possibility. Also, given your meline, if you give the internal resource enough lead time to get themselves familiar with the basics of SEM, then they may be just as effective at building the team as the experienced search marketer (depending on the level of expertise they are able to find for the various roles on the team).
Given their familiarity with your industry and your business in particular, they may be able to highlight areas of opportunity that an outsider may not, as someone new to your industry may not know the right question to ask to get the answer that they need. Then there’s the organizational familiarity; the person that’s already in-house is a known quantity, you (and the members of the other teams that they’ll interact with) already know their personality, and their work habits, which can ease the integration of the new search function with the other business functions.
Of course, if the resources are available, then there’s nothing wrong with bringing in consultants to help either the industry SME or the experienced search marketer get up to speed faster on the areas that they need help in. This can also help to provide checks and balances, by helping them to know what they didn’t know they didn’t know.
The good news is that you’ve decided to make that first step in doing something about search marketing for your company, and the first step is typically the hardest. Make the right choice for the first hire for your company, and it gets a lot easier from then on in.
Simon Heseltine worked as an in-house search marketer for a medium sized Virginia company before recently moving over to work as Director of Search for RedBoots Consulting. He also organizes the Virginia SEM meetup group. The In House column appears periodically at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.