Outsourcing Versus Staying In-House

Business development on the Internet is more challenging than ever these days. Though search engine optimization (SEO) is only a small component of an integrated marketing plan, it’s an important one.

Last week’s article, “Are You in the Dark About SEO Pricing?” prompted this response from John Heinrich of www.marketingdoctor.com:

“This [SEO pricing] is an area of extreme interest to us, as a marketing consulting firm with most of its work in Web site redesign. We find that most sites we are fixing haven’t even thought about the best keywords, let alone SEO. Keep this thread going.”

There are a lot of sites out there that could benefit from search engine optimization, which includes keyword development. Those new to this column might want to get more information on keywords by reading “Finding the Keywords That Will Help Customers Find You” and “Choose Your Words With Care” for help in selecting key phrases. If you farm out this task, most professional SEO firms will provide key phrase selection as a part of your SEO campaign.

SEO is a cottage industry and requires direct service contact with the client due to the level of detail work necessary. Here are some helpful hints to help you determine if outsourcing your SEO campaign is right for you.

Outsourcing to an SEO Firm

For those of you considering outsourcing to an SEO firm, a review of “Selecting a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Agency” will help get you started in the right direction. Another excellent resource is the recent ICONOPOLL on search engine optimization wherein ICONOCAST conducted a subscriber survey on selecting an SEO firm.

Most SEO firms will provide references to marketing consultants and/or Web designers with an SEO campaign, respecting the agent/client relationship. By the same token, marketing consultants and Web site designers are usually very happy to pass along positioning tasks to SEO professionals who eat and sleep SEO seven days a week.

Developing an In-House SEO Campaign

Now, should you choose to develop an in-house SEO campaign, here are some general guidelines:

  • Do a lot of research. Web Developer’s Virtual Library is one place to start, but don’t stop there. Go immediately to Search Engine Watch and catch the latest news and current developments.

  • Plan for a long-term commitment. Six to twelve months is only the beginning. Planning a campaign will require a significant amount of your time, so make sure you have all your resources in-house before you begin.
  • Get primary resources. Get a system administrator with database programming experience devoted to SEO, a dedicated SEO server, IP hosting capabilities, and an SEO specialist.
  • Read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on for the first several months. This will help you distinguish the music from the noise. You will experience information overload, and it will seem like everyone has a solution, theory, or something to sell you.
  • Bring cash. You will find that some of the tools and software you buy will need significant modification, and this will require knowledgeable personnel who can forecast a master plan.

Whichever way you go, whether it is outsourcing or staying in-house, just plan on a long-term commitment. Also, be prepared for changes, losses, upsets, and failure. SEO is all about ups and downs — you make hay while the sun shines, but with SEO, the sun might shine all day long, and you still feel like giving up. But you cannot give up, however demanding things might seem.

So to better prepare yourself, keep the following SEO challenges in mind:

  • There are hundreds of thousands of new Web pages submitted daily.

  • The many engines and directories tend to vary in the way they accept submissions.
  • The rules governing submission of documents to search engines and directories change frequently.
  • The criteria for ranking pages as highly relevant within engines or directories are always changing.
  • The software to accomplish continuity for all engines and directories is not available.
  • Directories require human intervention.
  • Engines require humans who understand how engines work — and even then the engines change.
  • What works in February is probably no good in May.
  • Directories have a way of changing their tree structure, leaving you back where you started.
  • Engines and directories get purchased by other companies, then change their entire format.
  • You deal with 10 different engines and directories, and 1 is enough to drive you mad.
  • Once you’ve accomplished your goal, it’s time to learn about the changes that have occurred.

Overall, it’s really about developing a system. When you have a system to handle all of these potential problems on a day-by-day basis, you’ll be doing very well. Developing the system can be technically complex, extensive, and expensive. No system will operate without failure, redesign, and endless hours of devotion. You must have a passion for this work, or you will wither away like a plant without water. It’s plain old hard work, but it can be very rewarding.

So, is it better to outsource an SEO system or keep it in-house? It depends on your resources and the cost-effectiveness of developing your own system, perhaps even the availability of qualified technical personnel. Only you can decide.

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