When In House Should Opt For Outsourcing

There are not too many times when I advocate that an in-house SEO program should turn to outsourcing. Far too many times I have seen businesses hire agencies to perform SEO work, and it ends up being a case of the visually impaired leading the visually impaired.

It’s rare, but some agencies and consultants truly do know their stuff. These folks are thought leaders and are often downright guru-ish on their topics of focus. These are the folks you need to seek out and partner with if you want these very specialized areas of work to be successful for your site.

I’ll probably surprise many folks who know me by even suggesting that seasoned search and online marketers would benefit from seeking help in these select areas. Calling on a agency to help with everyday SEO work, or in managing a PPC campaign is in many cases, a waste of time, resources and money. Too many agencies exist and add no value to their clients’ effort.

In the following instances, however, it can often easily be justified to call in outside help. I’m not saying here that your in-house resources are unable to guide in these areas, but let’s face it – unless you have lots of people on your team, it’s tough to find the time to get the work done. Curious now as to which areas I think make sense to often outsource?

  • Link Building
  • Social Media
  • Conversion Optimization

If you don’t understand the massive value in optimizing each of these disciplines, drop me a note and I’ll send you an Archie comic… In short, stop reading. For those game to stick around, let’s dig in and examine the trio above.

Link building

No contest, hands down one of the single biggest things you can do to help your organic rankings is to accumulate a good collection of useful inbound links. What happens though, if you simply don’t want to wait for those links to build up over time? Well, you hire an expert to guide your link building program.  Yes, a link building program. No slap-dash approach works here. No short cuts either. It takes work, a reasonable approach and refined expectations. You should not think that links alone will rescue a failing site, but boy, can they lend a hand. And not just any random links, but honest-to-goodness relevant links from respected websites.

These links are votes after all, so really, why not shoot for the best ones? Now best can be loosely translated to “most relevant,” so don’t go thinking you need to score links form the biggest names in your vertical. Approach this on a page-by-page basis and plan your approach carefully. In the end, when well executed, your web of inbound links will gracefully spread value not only across your site, but deep within it, all form a collection of respected websites.

The challenge with this is in the management of this program. How do you determine who to approach?  How do you find them? How do you convince them to drop that golden little link back to one of your pages? That’s the domain of the link building expert.

Social media

Right. Everyone has an opinion. Most of them are wrong. Not everyone can succeed in social media marketing. It’s not as simple as you think. If your approach is to simply start with the sales pitches, call failblog right now and sign up to be tomorrow’s cover story. Even knowing this tidbit pales in comparison to the arcane art of coaxing conversions form the world of social engagement. Select few people are truly expert at this art. The real question is this: do you think you know enough about this medium to plan, build and execute – successfully, mind you – a social media campaign that can consume time, resources and money?

There are many “how to” articles around the Internet explaining how to do everything from building a social media tracking dashboard to how to hone your “voice” and refine your “pitch.” Many are actually useful, most are snake oil. Can you tell the difference? My hat’s off to you if you are able to manage this effort successfully from front to back. For many, the one item they struggle to overcome is not knowledge, it’s time.

You would think that in a world that values seeing messages where the average length is measured in characters, not words, that the time component would be easily managed. Not so. Ensuring your message comes across clearly in the often truncated world of social media marketing takes a skill and muscle memory not “suddenly learned.” Building the competency requires an investment of time. Equally time consuming is monitoring results. Just checking your logs for referrals misses the point. The real value form social is a balance between engagement and conversions.

Truly, social media marketing is the domain of an expert. Can most of handle the basics?  Sure. Then again, most of us can put paint on a canvas. Only a true artist makes art, however.

Conversion optimization

Street luge. Skydiving. Bungee jumping. Running with the bulls. Oktoberfest (in Munich.) What the heck to these things have in common with conversion optimization? Simply put, each is an experience, that once had, will change your life.

If you have never had a conversion optimization expert do work on your website, you’ll be shocked at the difference they can make. I recently had the pleasure of meeting some truly deserving guys of the moniker “experts” from the UK, while writing my latest book. The work they did for clients resulted in simply amazing results. These clients are household names, too, so it’s not like they were unknowns without resources at their disposal.

The bottom line here is that having a professional conversion optimization expert guide you can make a huge difference in the number of lost sales you see and a big increase in revenues. These folks cover everything from your product pages to your shopping cart and even on out to your thank you follow-up email. There are so many areas to think of and cover, again, many companies feel the best way forward is to invest in dedicated services to help with this unique aspect of your site.

Clearly with success being in the details, these three areas deserve the best you can afford. If you’re not up for hiring external help, that’s fine. Just go in with your eyes open around how much work is involved, how much time that will take up and where and when you should expect results.

The bottom line is this: say you needed surgery on your eye. You wouldn’t ask your general practitioner to perform it would you? Unlikely you’d do it yourself, too. No, those options are obviously the wrong choice in the face of calling an expert in the field and seeing things clearly in the end.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | In House Search Marketing


About The Author: is an in-house SEM with Microsoft, is a former Board of Directors member with SEMPO, can be found at his blog where he speaks about online marketing and monetizing websites and is the author of two books: How To Make Money With Your Blog & Turn Clicks Into Customers.

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  • http://www.highrankings.com/seo-services Jill Whalen

    Great article!

    I would add one more to your list:

    Technical SEO consulting, especially if going through a website redesign or adding new product/service offerings. This is an area that the in-house SEO may not has as much experience with, yet it’s critical to get right.

  • http://www.widerfunnel.com Raquel Hirsch

    Great Blog post, Duane.

    We started WiderFunnel Marketing (www.widerfunnel.com) almost 3 years ago to only provide conversion optimization services to clients Ithat is *all* we do).

    The first year, we’d spend most of our biz dev time explaining what conversion optimization was; why you should test; how it is superior to “guessing” and “opinions” (I am not kidding.

    However, for the last year and a half (since October 2008, to be precise), we are getting increasing numbers of prospective clients who have started testing in house only to hit the wall: either the integration to the back end isn’t working or after testing two or three variables, they have ran out of ideas on what to test.

    I love your quote: “If you have never had a conversion optimization expert do work on your website, you’ll be shocked at the difference they can make.”

    I know. We do. They are shocked! :)

  • http://www.TorranceToyota.com Jason

    Good post…. As you say, most of the agencies for all of these things are not truly experts, but the few who are can make a difference that is shocking.

    Now my question: How in the world do I find those few who are spectacular at their jobs? I don’t have the time or money to go through the haystack looking for the needle, so how do I get the right person/people from the beginning?

  • http://www.widerfunnel.com Raquel Hirsch


    Here is a suggestion: get in touch with us and put us to the test ;>)


  • Duane Forrester

    INteresting. :) Hadn’t seen this column as being alead in for sales pitches, but there we go… :)

    @Jason – I’ve learned, the hard way on this. One of the best ways is to:

    1 – ensure you have budget and can afford the fees – obviously, experts cost money :)
    2 – work your own networks and ask people direclty who they have used, then whihc of them they might recommend
    3 – due diligence – ask for references and check them out – NEVER skip the step of asking a past client of someone you are considering if they would hire the expert again. ;)

    Failing that, or perhaps I’m just offering a shortcut, but drop me a note via Linked In and I can give you two companies I high recoemmend, from first hand experience. :)

  • http://www.widerfunnel.com chrisgoward

    @Duane Good tips. Due diligence is critical.

    I would also suggest asking for examples of the process and results. The WiderFunnel case studies speak for themselves:

  • http://www.ericward.com Eric Ward

    Duane – Agree that link building is a crucial aspect of an overall awareness strategy, and seeking help from those of us who do it all day, all week, all month, all year, all decade is a wise move. The single most important aspect of link building is in recognizing the specific approach and tactics that are most appropriate for any given site. This is where a link building expert can be most helpful. At the same time, there is a vast disconnect between real expertise and people who think they have real expertise. Sites continue to use pointless link building tactics at high cost and come away with nothing. And often at the suggestion of an “expert”. Also crucial is recognizing that link building is not just about organic rank. Some of the most successful link building strategies have nothing to do with search rank, and everything to do with qualified click traffic and/or conversions. The site itself dictates the tactics that can work. What works for site A often is useless for site B. This, to me, is where the link building expert earns his/her fee. The ability to evaluate a client’s site and based on that evaluation, select the most impactful link building tactics. Even then, the final step is just as crucial. Helping the client understand why, and helping them become truly enabled so they can take over parts of the process if they want to. Link building, or better stated link marketing, can be an incredibly sophisticated process depending on what it is you want to accomplish. Or, it can be dead simple. Knowing when and why and how is the real holy grail us link builders should be striving to deliver.

  • http://twitter.com/MercyMathews Mercy Mathews

    I completely agree with your post. Excellent ideas. It always helps to call in an expect for critical aspects, even if that means outsourcing. Perhaps you’ll check out my link: http://www.outsourcetofreelancer.com

  • http://twitter.com/MercyMathews Mercy Mathews

    I agree with what you’ve written. I would add content writing to your list as companies could really use some professionally written and optimized content which greatly differs from the keyword-stuffed pages that dot the Internet today. I’ve written a case study on outsourcing here- http://www.outsourcetofreelancer.com/CaseStudyEffectiveOutsource.html


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