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Keep Current SEO or Take It In-house?

November 8, 2006
Hi Jill,

My CEO has been forwarding me your newsletters for some time now.  I am in
need of advice, and I am hoping you might be able to help me out. We offer
online services and have been online since 1997 with our websites. I know a
little about SEO because I was once a junior SEO rep for my former SEO
manager but my primary skill set is not doing SEO but more managing those
who do it.

Anyhow, I am currently working with an SEO consultant who is talented when
it comes to SEO but my biggest issues I am having with this person are:

1. They do not have a staff so the turnaround time takes a while.
2. Their skill set appears to be non-detail-oriented so I find myself
repeating things constantly or having to do the organizational work for
them.
3. Their pricing structure is inconsistent.
4. They do not have a documented path to ROI so I have no way of managing
the performance or my money.

Now this person has a strategy model that I agree with which seems to be in
sync with current SEO practices. However, many times the work that I get
back I think I can do myself for a hell of a lot less than what I am paying
this person. Then I say, well, that is not a good use of my time but maybe I
should hire someone on staff to do this.

There are many things about online marketing that I do not have experience
in personally such as PPC, social networking, growing links, blogs,
podcasts, press release, and article publication strategies, etc. I am
certainly not in the trenches on learning the changes in the SEO world. I
pretty much know the basics for optimized content, keywords, page titles,
and meta tags, site submissions, and indexing.

In a nutshell I am trying to strike the right balance for my company.  There
is no doubt in my mind that the company needs someone skilled in web
marketing to help us grow in positioning, traffic, and conversion but I do
not know if I need A) a team of people or B) 1 person on staff who is like a
junior SEO person while the strategist SEO person is working behind the
scenes. Maybe the current person we have is the right person but we are just
impatient.

I can tell you this, all the rank and placement we have currently is
credited to us and not an SEO person. We have longevity on the net with our
websites and after 1 year with the current SEO person the only thing I have
is a keyword list and title and meta tags.

I am sure you get this from a lot of companies and I really need sound
advice.

Sincerely,

Danielle

++Jill's Response++

Hi Danielle,

Your situation is becoming more common as companies seek a cost-effective
solution to their search marketing needs.  Although it might take away some
of my business, I strongly believe that companies should start taking *some*
of their SEO in-house.  Certainly any company that has a very large, dynamic
site should have one or more people in-house dedicated to keeping it
optimized for the search engines (and the users of course!).  This doesn't
mean that they shouldn't outsource some aspects of their SEO -- just not all
of it.

Since you already have experience managing SEOs who do the work, you're in a
great position to head up your company's new in-house SEO division!  The
issues you're having with your current SEO consultant are common, but they
should not be accepted.  If you are paying this consultant good money, and
if you are providing them with all the info and sign-offs that they need in
a timely manner, then it doesn't make any sense that after one year of
working with them you have only a list of keywords, titles, and meta tags.

That said, I have had SEO clients who were not able to use the services I
wanted to provide them with, because they did not do their part.  When
working with an outside SEO vendor, it's critical that you have someone
dedicated to providing them with exactly what they need so that they can
make progress on your SEO campaign.  This is one of the major stumbling
blocks we see in this industry.

On the other hand, you are paying for a service and shouldn't have to do the
organizational work for your SEO.  Nor should turnaround time be long if
you're doing your part quickly.  You shouldn't have to plan the strategy,
only get the buy-in and possibly be in charge of the actual implementation.
Of course, you should have spelled this stuff out in advance in your
agreement with your SEO consultant.  That way, if they are not doing their
part, you can cancel your contract.  (Obviously, you should consult with
your attorney before doing so!)

In your situation, I'd recommend that you outsource to a knowledgeable SEO
consultant
to help you form your strategy aspect of your campaign.  That is,
to make sure your current keyword research is useful, help you plan your
site's architecture based on those keyword phrases, provide you with
recommendations for Title tags (or at least a strategy for writing them),
offer text recommendations, and if necessary, map out a link-building
strategy.

I’d also highly recommend that you outsource your PPC campaign to an
experienced PPC company (which may or may not be the same as your SEO
company).  Good PPC companies are well worth the cost as they will always
make you more money than you would otherwise make.

In-house you will need a developer who can create the site's new
architecture, a marketing copywriter who can pick up on the ins and outs of
SEO copywriting, perhaps someone who is familiar with keyword research
tools, and someone to interface with your consultant (which might be you).
Your copywriter and keyword researcher may very well be the same person, or
even your developer may have dual roles, but you'll probably need at least 2
people to keep your SEO campaign moving in the right direction, even with an
outside SEO consultant on board.  Of course, if your consultant has their
own team in place, you can certainly pay them accordingly and have them
implement all the changes.  But even then, you’ll need someone to oversee
everything and review it all for accuracy.

Regardless of which way you decide to go, you’ll need to make sure your
brand is accurately represented, and that your SEO company is not
sacrificing usability and/or readability because they *think* that's what
the search engines want.  Unfortunately, that seems to be all too common.

Hope this helps!

Jill