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Lessons Learned As An In-House SEO Consultant
Jessica Bowman’s article in the Winter issue of Search Marketing Standard, “Bringing SEO In-House,” defines the In-House SEO Life Cycle as: Courtship, Honeymoon, Reality, and Synergy phases. In the courtship phase you recruit the best in-house SEO possible. When the honeymoon is over, reality sets in. That’s when you have a chance to develop synergy. She also suggests two different options for your in-house search marketing team: All In-House or Hybrid Outsourcing.
Based on our experience at Red Door Interactive, there usually seems to be a certain amount of outsourcing by in-house teams, even though the company does SEO in-house. We’ve consulted with companies about the in-house SEO conundrum for years now and find that Bowman’s Hybrid Outsourcing model works well for conducting SEO in-house and typically yields remarkable results. That’s because there are many experts in the field who can make problem solving much quicker and easier, allowing in-house teams to accomplish their SEO campaign goals faster and better.
Hiring SEO staff
When it comes to staffing for conducting SEO in-house, the obvious choices are either train existing employees to do the job or build a new staff, preferably with at least one person who has a few years’ SEO experience and maybe a couple of others with the aptitude and desire.
The scarcity of well trained SEO technicians is documented as early as 2000, when research started to show that experienced SEO personnel were hard to come by. More recently, MarketingSherpa’s 2008 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide reported one-third of the marketers in its survey said it is “very difficult” to attract qualified SEO technicians.
This same study shows approximately two-thirds of American firms perform search marketing in-house. Many of these firms outsource a part of their efforts because of the difficulty of finding qualified SEO technicians. Jupiter Research shows 63 percent of large search marketers outsource at least one SEM function to agencies (reported by SEMPO).
Proliferation of SEO/SEM training
In the meantime, the SEO/SEM training field has mushroomed over the past year or so. There are now training sessions at Search Marketing conferences, SEMPO Institute, DMA SEM training, as well as Google and Yahoo! PPC training. Savvy companies started hiring SEO/PPC consultants a couple years ago, and their search departments are now ahead of the curve.
Brands must be proactive
It’s important for brands to have access to expert SEO/SEM consultants as there are far too many SEO issues that can arise unexpectedly. In addition, the frequency and multitude of changes within the search engines themselves requires fast adaptation by specialized search optimization technicians.
Just look at a few of the major changes that transpired over the past year: search personalization, universal or blended search, social media networking and optimization, the rising importance of site reviews and product demos, etc. How can one person or even several within the search department have expertise in all these areas at once when they’re happening one on top of the other?
The continuing changes in user trends or algorithm shifts will keep the staff so busy figuring it out that they can’t concentrate on meeting their campaign goals. The practical answer is to call on various outside consultants and experts within the search community. It’s just too much to handle alone, especially when in-house staffs have additional job responsibilities besides SEO/SEM. Heaven help you if you’ve got a new-hire; it’s going to take three to six months to acclimate to the new job, and doing this in addition to SEO integration is just too ambitious for an in-house SEO team to tackle alone.
Many companies reconcile these facts after several months and end up hiring a consultant to assist the team. Some don’t admit it until a year goes by and have to settle for mediocre results. Competition is increasingly keen, and companies that want to hit it out of the ballpark (highly competitive markets) should seriously adopt Bowman’s Hybrid Outsource model from day one.
The only way to survive in an environment where trends and tactics are changing rapidly is to constantly be informed and quickly learn how to adapt. The best way for in-house search teams to remain nimble is by availing themselves of SEO/SEM expertise through expert consultants within the search community. Lastly, in-house SEO teams will likely find that ideas they have proposed in the past will gain acceptance when an outside consultant researches, supports, and validates the same recommendation.
Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and in-house consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for the strategic implementation of search engine marketing activities within Red Door’s Internet Presence Management (IPM) services. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.