In 2020, companies in the U.S. will spend $80 billion on search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, according to a report from Borrell Associates.
With that kind of money in play, we know everyone is chasing after the holy grail of internet marketing: organic search traffic. And as far as the data is concerned, competition is only going to get hotter.
Savvy organizations of all sizes have gotten in on the action in one of three ways:
1. In-house SEO
2. Outsourcing to a boutique/specialty firm
3. Some hybrid of #1 and #2
With good reason, plenty of marketing departments have gone for #1. They want an expert down the hall so they can stay on top of things with full transparency. And they certainly don’t want to pay an outsider to do what they think they can do for themselves.
But as the founder of a firm that specializes in SEO, I’ve seen firsthand how shortsighted that kind of thinking can be. I’ve also seen a marked increase in efficient companies looking to make the shift from #1 to #2. For some, it makes sense.
Trading Three Mid-Level For 32 Veterans
Last summer, we began working with a midsize business in the software development industry. At the time, they were paying $165,000 in payroll for dedicated SEO staff that consisted of three full-time employees. After 16 months of dismal results, the company decided to “take a chance” on outsourcing their SEO to a boutique firm with 32 employees. Three months later, they dissolved their in-house SEO team and have never looked back.
What’s The Difference?
More and more organizations like my client above are realizing two of the most significant benefits of outsourcing SEO: cost-efficiency and dynamic expertise.
At the time of this article, the average SEO manager makes $72,808 per year, and that number doesn’t include expenses for executing on strategy. Even in a small organization, one often won’t be enough.
Veteran SEO experts, on the other hand, are more likely to be out on their own rather than working in cubicles somewhere. This is because they understand their expertise and processes are extremely valuable and worth far more than a typical 9-to-5 SEO professional who is learning on the job. These veterans know how to streamline while producing amazing results. And as a result, they can provide expert strategy and execution for a fraction of the price.
But cost-efficiency is nothing if an agency can’t deliver results. SEO is complex. Search engines like Google are continually shifting the goal posts, doing their best to service the 12+ billion web searches that are made every month. It takes a dedicated staff to do their best to track changes and implement solutions in real time.
Yes, outsourcing the work can be faster and cheaper. But, most importantly, trusting an outside expert can be far more effective than waiting for the “SEO person” in the marketing department to get himself up to speed on the latest algorithm update.
It takes an expert to keep the company’s website flush with organic search traffic. The distance between an average manager’s deliverables and those of an agency SEO expert with an army of staff can make the difference between success and failure on the web. The stakes here couldn’t be higher.
Sounds like an easy decision, right? Not so fast, sparky — there are reasons why companies are still hesitant when it comes to outsourcing SEO services.
Can Outsourcing Be Trusted?
When you outsource your SEO, you are taking a leap of faith that the SEO company will do what they say they will — and that’s deliver results. They can send you all the pretty little reports in the world, but if they don’t move the needle and deliver, it’s money burned. And it’s these real-world experiences of burning money that have led to the adoption of the in-house SEO teams and are why companies are reluctant to venture outside again.
What Are They Doing?
When you outsource SEO, you’re handing over control to another company. Gone are the days of walking down the hall to see what has been done and what will get done tomorrow. Wondering what they are doing and how your money is being spent will constantly be in the back of your mind.
With in-house teams, these uncertainties are removed, and you get full control and transparency. At any time of the day, you can see firsthand what has been done and what is on the agenda for tomorrow. This control and transparency is why many companies prefer in-house teams over outsourcing.
So, Which One Is Right For You?
Only you can make that decision, but here are a few things you’ll want to look for in either an in-house team or an SEO firm:
• Successful SEO campaigns for competitive search terms. Results are the main goal of any in-house or outsourced SEO campaign. So, it’s vital that whoever is running your program has a proven track record of success with competitive search terms.
Any successful SEO professional who can show you verifiable case studies of successful campaigns for competitive terms is worth consideration. However, be careful of the fly-by-night “expert” who shows you a few cherry-picked statistics on low volume and low competitive search terms as “proof” of their successes.
• Open to speaking with existing clients. Reliable SEO companies and experts have nothing to hide. In fact, they’re eager to let you talk with past or current clients because they know a satisfied customer will make their case better than they ever could.
• Willingness to explain the variables that go into creating a custom campaign. No two industries are the same. Each requires its own tailored strategy for success. If someone can’t tell you in detail what they plan to do for your site, look for someone who can.
Change is the only constant in search. If you can master it or find someone who can, there’s no limit to how far you can grow your business.
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John is the head of marketing at the 'Australian Marketing Agency'. John's expertise lies in creating outstanding and innovative solutions to help businesses reach their full potential by developing brand stories and user experiences which viscerally connects with the target audience and delivers mind-blowing results.