When you buy search services, some agencies merely provide a general overview of their SEO methodology without revealing any details. They claim this relieves the client from being bogged down in the minutiae of implementation. In reality though, these firms are simply trying to keep their intellectual property under wraps and create a dependence for their implementation services. With a little help though, well trained in-house teams are fully capable of implementing search strategies on their own. Why should a search marketing firm, which has spent considerable time and money developing proven methods, risk losing a client by empowering them with proprietary knowledge and skills?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is mission critical in today’s business environment, and many organizations conduct SEO in-house because of the immediacy and convenience of having all hands on deck from the various departments involved in SEO planning and implementation. However, seasoned SEO technicians are hard to come by, and many firms (with or without experienced people) find it beneficial to leverage expert consultants that provide on-site search training for in-house personnel.
This creates a need for search agencies that are willing to engage their clients in the details of SEO. Transparent firms educate clients on proven SEO strategies, customize a tactical-level roadmap, and provide detailed documentation and training on their processes. Furthermore, they encourage the client to rely on objective analytics as proof of success. In the end, knowledge transfer and accountability empower the client and make the agency a strategic business partner.
The reciprocal benefits of knowledge transfer
First, search engine marketing tactics evolve on a daily basis, so companies will always need experts to help them create and implement successful programs. By engaging in knowledge-transfer, an interactive agency specializing in search articulates the need for its clients to embrace SEO as an ongoing discipline within their marketing department. Clients who adopt a knowledge-transfer mindset will profit from the insights afforded, enjoying the benefits of a long-term search marketing partnership. What’s more, savvy agencies will continue to supplement their SEO knowledge as the knowledge-transfer process becomes reciprocal and they start learning from their clients. Active clients can provide additional eyes and ears to industry changes and trends, as well as practical insights into the effectiveness of advanced SEO tactics.
SEO success begins with documented methodology
An experienced agency develops the client partnership by explaining how to conduct and analyze an SEO diagnostic audit. While most firms don’t document or disclose SEO tactics in a document, a forward-thinking agency does this to build the foundation for a strategic plan to improve the client’s search rankings. But knowledge transfer shouldn’t stop with an audit. The client should also learn the philosophies and processes behind keyword research, page selection, content development and optimization, link building, and social media marketing.
By acting on the diagnostic audit findings, the client can identify obstacles that are hindering their efforts to achieve top search rankings. With this framework, the agency can credibly exhibit to the client how its recommended solutions will lead to improved search visibility. The client, in turn, can more quickly accept the recommended changes without doubt or hesitation. Moreover, with continued training, the client can start to optimize technical and editorial elements on their own and begin to outperform their competitors in search engine result pages.
Measurement is critical
Without a benchmark or continued analysis, it is virtually impossible to determine the effectiveness of an SEO campaign. As such, it is more important than ever for your in-house team to understand and use web analytics to get the most from your search investment. As the need to master SEO search metrics becomes critical to success, web analytics tools are becoming more sophisticated and accurate. At the same time, they are also becoming more difficult to understand and use. Again, search training services can hone your in-house team’s skills, while providing documented methodology.
Looking ahead in 2008
Clients that are search savvy tend to recognize additional opportunities to accomplish business objectives through search. Because search strategies are so broad and deep in scope, an increase in general SEO knowledge leads to a greater need for niche expertise and consulting. As such, interactive agencies that have a knowledge-transfer philosophy, as well as capabilities beyond search, have a distinct opportunity to help their clients benefit nicely from search trends in 2008. For example, agencies that take the time to educate their clients about blended search, and the strategies used to optimize for it, can extend their usefulness beyond search to include: content development (e.g., text, videos, images), content optimization (e.g., landing page testing and targeting), content promotion (e.g., Internet PR and advertising), and technical development (e.g.,widgets, USG platforms, custom applications). This creates a strategic partnership in which both the client and the agency can continue to create value for each other over the long term.
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. John Faris, who co-authored this article, is Senior Search Analyst at Red Door Interactive. He helps plan, implement, test, measure, and optimize traffic acquisition strategies for Red Door’s clients. Faris is also tasked with training in-house SEO teams. 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.