Link Building: DIY In-House vs. Outsourced

A white hot debate started last week when I presented five reasons to take link building in-house.

One of my very smart readers compared link builders to doctors. Great metaphor. So this week, the doctor's in and making house calls.

My readers and colleagues -- fellow SEO experts -- responded loud and clear to my last column ("5 Best Reasons to Build Links In-House"). The in-house versus outsourced SEO (define) debate always creates a lot of discussion. The common issue? Link developers lack experience and SEM (define) education.

Link Building Campaign Creativity

"The problem is managing a link development campaign requires experience, knowledge and creative thinking..." wrote Brian Turner ("Why Companies Should be Wary of In-House Link Development").

All excellent points. Another reader hit on a key point: like doctors, we work from limited information to diagnose problems.

At SmallBusinessNewZ.com, Scott Boyd ("In-House Link Building Not Always Practical") wrote, "...the core of my argument here is that SEO professionals are like doctors. Experienced and knowledgeable, they can diagnose a variety of problems from limited information. They can spot hidden solutions and don't necessarily jump to conclusions."

While I've never thought of myself as a physician, SEO, like medicine, requires intense, hands-on education -- as well as continuing education. An SEO must make the right decision for each individual client based on the problems diagnosed. Some clients only need a house call to solve SEO problems (in-house SEO); others require -- at the risk of sounding dramatic -- ER, intensive care, and a long hospital stay (outsourced SEO).

Why Link Building In-House Makes Sense Now

Like many SEOs, I've prescribed both types of treatments for clients. They've outsourced link development to me, and I've developed in-house programs. So I can appreciate both perspectives and approaches.

For some companies, in-house works; for others, outsourcing link building works. A combination of the two might work for other companies. However, the lack of experienced link developers in the search engine marketplace makes a compelling argument to manage link building campaigns in-house -- especially for competitive and high-margin verticals.

Sure it's tempting to outsource link development. No question there are some amazing link developers out there. Problem is, most are in high-demand and booked for months ahead of time. Those with regular clients rarely take on new work. That's one excellent reason to manage in-house.

Let's look at the common issue of lack of experience and education, along with some possible solutions.

SEO Experience

Proper training and education is essential for in-house link development. Without the proper knowledge, it can be detrimental to a site's rankings. Many techniques that may have worked years ago are considered aggressive spam techniques by search engines today.

At the same time, there are popular techniques being promoted in forums today that have been devalued and could send negative quality signals to search engines if done aggressively. Why risk your rankings?

That is precisely why a company should consider hiring someone with experience to oversee and manage the process. Or hire an experienced SEO for ongoing consulting. Use them for regular reviews and guidance or, at the very least, to run new ideas past them.

SEO Training, Education

Link development is not some secret magical wizardry only a select few can ever learn. Like anything else, people can be trained on it.

With the proper training and ongoing guidance, they'll gain the necessary experience. Until then, make sure to run new link ideas and strategies by a seasoned SEO.

Other Thoughts From Industry Veterans

The in-house vs. outsourcing link building discussion is also being tackled by two other veteran Internet marketers I've held in high esteem for a number of years: Rae Hoffman and Roger Montti, moderators for WebMasterWorld's link development forum.

Rae, too, offers excellent advice for both in-house and outsourced link development. I highly recommend downloading her presentation to anyone serious about link development.

Roger describes how outsourcing link development can be potentially dangerous in his blog:

"Some link development firms, particularly cheap ones, may promise one way inbound links but what they are doing is, at best, providing triangular links with a database of thousands of low quality sites..."

Whichever road you decide to take your link development -- or a combination of both -- it's important to educate yourself on each path. In-house and outsourced both present their own advantages and disadvantages.

The topics of in-house and outsourced SEO can be explored in greater detail in the Search Engine Watch forum sections devoted to In-House & Corporate and Outsourcing. Get involved in the discussion today!