As we move into planning mode for next year, many of you may be debating if you should bring your SEO program in-house. Bringing SEO in-house has pros and cons that you need to evaluate.
Even though the SEO experience is unique to each business, the underlying challenges (and frustrations) that each in-house SEO team faces can be pretty consistent across the board.
As with many things, the decision to move SEO in-house can be relatively easy. The critical question is: what happens once you have gone through the decision of bringing SEO in-house?
So let’s go over some of the pros and cons of bringing SEO in-house.
The Pros of Bringing SEO In-house
1. Culture Change
SEOs are a change agent. For any SEO program to succeed inside an organization, SEO needs a seat at the table. Getting a voice at the table is important as you would need contribution from various stakeholders inside an organization.
Essentially, different teams will start contributing in a common cause when they understand the importance of SEO. This requires a kind of a culture change where SEO has a seat at the table and SEO is inserted into the existing processes of the company.
An in-house SEO need to put this agenda forward and act as a change agent. This change can be brought about by being transparent with your SEO process, expected deliverables, revenue forecast, and how you plan to grow the business. Combine these with continuous education and you can sow the seeds of change as an in-house SEO.
2. Sense of Ownership
The ramp up time could be little slower in an in-house team, but the sense of ownership toward your business is greater.
No offense to my agency friends here, but an in-house SEO team scores higher when it comes to ownership of work. This sense of ownership stems from working towards a common cause, aligning with top-level business goals, and an overall feeling of esprit de corps. These are the intangibles of an in-house SEO model but definitely one of the pros of bringing SEO in-house.
3. Cost Savings
On the face of it, its straight math: cutting out the agency will save monthly billings. Not true, as there is more to it than straight cost savings. Don’t just look at cost savings, but revenues that haven’t yet realized.
Time and again, a lot of money is left on the table because not all businesses realize their full potential with SEO managed externally. Once SEO is in-house, your team can focus on second- or third-level keywords that can be optimized for better results.
The other benefit is few smaller business units inside a organization that previously felt neglected can be brought to fore with your internal SEO team closely together. When your internal search team is closer to the business and overall direction of the company, you’ll discover many new hidden SEO opportunities.
4. Skill Development
Hiring good SEOs is always tough, no matter the size of your organization. That makes employee retention all the more critical.
SEOs or marketers in general are looking for challenging assignments. By bringing SEO in-house you provide that opportunity to employees to develop new skills.
The skills you develop when managing a SEO program in-house is vastly different as opposed to managing a “project” when working with an outside SEO provider. Employees love that challenge and that keeps them engaged with your company. It’s also a great way to recruit employees internally.
Collaboration is often used as a cliché, which to some means simply not taking ownership. Real collaboration means getting everyone involved in a cause and getting them excited to pitch in with ideas to solve business problems.
SEO collaboration means training different groups on SEO and then collaborating with them to move your SEO initiatives forward. Even though I’ve listed collaboration as the last point of this section, it’s often the most critical piece that determines the success of your in-house SEO program.
The Cons of Bringing SEO In-House
1. Outside Expertise
Time and again you will encounter some major SEO challenges and you would need an outside expertise. An outside expert or consultant can help you solve a problem or help you approach a problem differently. Those are the time when you feel kind of alone and that is when an outside consultant or a project based agency partner can help you. Just because you are in-house does not mean you don’t need outside help.
The other reason (a bit political) is sometimes management will easily accept an outside consultant’s recommendation just because of the authority that comes with being a consultant. After all, you’re paying them to make recommendations so you’re better off listening to them. And for an in-house sometimes that could be a good political win as well.
2. Link Building
Link building is time and resource intensive and often not the most preferred part of an in-house SEO. Plus, it’s tough to justify an additional head count just to build links.
This is where an in-house team would need to look for outside help. Find a link building company that you can trust and outsource this part of your SEO strategy.
3. Knowledge Decay
The problem of knowledge decay is very real and all in-housers can experience this when working inside the sanctums of a “walled garden.” The knowledge decay effects can happen over time especially when working with the same website and business challenges.
The workaround to that is sending your team to conferences, attending online trainings, webinars, and to local meetup events. Sometimes, bringing an outside expert to speak at your company events can also help alleviate this problem. As mentioned earlier, have a plan for continuous SEO learning and development.
Hopefully the above points can help you tackle some of the pros and cons of bringing SEO in-house as you firm up your plans for next year. Those were just some points from my experience but I’d love to hear from you if I’ve missed any other points.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!