Professional SEO: Hand Off to Bob or Outsource the Job
We are often asked if professional SEO (search engine optimization) can be done effectively utilizing in-house talent. Despite our obvious self-interests on the subject, our answer is always a qualified “yes”- you can achieve professional SEO results using existing talent. However, for every company we have known that has met with great in-house SEO success, we know of many more that have seen their in-house efforts fail. We have also discovered the companies that have succeeded share some common traits.
If your company is considering doing SEO in-house, there are some critical questions that you should address before you proceed.
- Do I have the proper resources at my disposal to achieve professional SEO results? Search engine optimization takes time, and your internal SEO expert will need to have a great deal of it at his or her disposal – especially at the project’s outset when target audiences, keyphrases, and optimization schemes are first being established. Even after the initial optimization effort, the nature of SEO will require this person to spend ample time keeping up with industry trends, monitoring campaign progress, performing A/B testing, and expanding the campaign as new product and service areas are added. Perhaps even more important than time, achieving professional SEO results requires a unique set of aptitudes. The person responsible for your internal SEO initiative must possess the ability to learn quickly and to look at your website from a macro-perspective, marrying together the needs of sales, marketing, and IT. He or she can not be an aggressive risk taker, as this is often a surefire way to get your website penalized and potentially removed from the major search engines. These gifted people exist in many companies, but given the unique attributes that these individuals possess, their time is often already spent in other crucial areas of the business. Without enough time to invest in the project or the right type of person to execute it, an internal SEO initiative is likely doomed to fail. SEO SYMBOULES
- Do I know which departments of my company should be involved, and will they work with an insider? As mentioned above, professional SEO, by necessity, involves marketing, sales, and IT. The SEO expert must work with marketing to find out what types of offers and initiatives are working offline to help translate them effectively online. He or she must work with sales to identify the types of leads that are most valuable so that you can target the right people in the keyphrase selection process. And, finally, your SEO expert will need to work with IT to determine any technical limitations to the SEO recommendations, learn of any past initiatives based on a technical approach, and get the final optimization schemes implemented on the website. Sadly, in many businesses, these departments have a somewhat adversarial relationship. However, it is the duty of the SEO expert to act as a project manager and coordinate the efforts of all three departments if you are going to get the most out of your campaign. No professional SEO project can be completed in a vacuum. For whatever reason, it is often easier for an outsider to get adversarial departments on the same page, in the same way that a marriage counselor might convince a woman of her undying love for her husband while the husband is still grimacing from a well-placed knee in the parking lot.
- Will someone be held accountable for the results? This may seem like a small consideration, but it can have a tremendous impact on the success of the campaign. If you have added this responsibility to some poor soul’s job description with the direction that he or she should “do the best you can,” you’ll be lucky to make any headway at all (especially if the person is not enthusiastic about SEO). Whether SEO is done in-house or outsourced, someone will have to take responsibility for showing progress, explaining setbacks, and continually improving results. Without this accountability, it is very common to see an initiative fade as the buck is passed.
- Can I afford delayed results based on a learning curve? It’s a reality – professional SEO expertise has a steep learning curve. While the information on how to perform the basics of optimization are freely available on the web, much of the information out there is also contradictory, and some of it is actually dangerous. It takes time for someone unfamiliar with the discipline to sort the SEO wheat from the SEO chaff (on a side note, a “quoted” search of Google reveals that this may actually mark the first occasion in human history that the phrase “SEO chaff” has been used – we’re betting it’s also the last). Simply put, if the person you are putting on the job has no experience, it will take longer to get results. This may not be a consideration if you aren’t counting on new business from SEO any time soon. However, if you are losing business to your competition due to their professional SEO initiatives, time might be a larger factor.