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Choosing Between a Search Agency and an In-House Resource

Your search agency is now charging you £5k per month so it makes sense to invest in your own in-house SEO Manager and pocket the change. It’s not that simple…..

Taking search marketing in-house seems like a logical step for many businesses as an increasing digital marketing spend begins to dwarf the importance and value of other channels, but the reality is that doing so can be time-consuming, expensive and risky. While clients often appreciate the planning, processes and technological innovation of search agencies, I’ve started a list of other factors to consider when evaluating the business case for taking Search in-house.

Cost

Among the most important issues to consider when taking digital marketing in house is cost. Remember to factor in the cost of recruitment, training, personal development and employment costs. Search specialists have an insatiable desire to learn and that requires an ongoing investment if you want to retain your new recruits.

Skills

It can be hard to tell between genuine search experts and chancers with an imaginative CV, so hiring the right people is critical. A search agency like SiteVisibility have analytics, paid search, linkbuilding, social search, copywriting, outreach, technical, strategic and campaign management specialists who each provide their unique insight into the execution of a campaign, relating to key objectives and Key Performance Indicators. Finding one digital marketing manager with all these specialisms would be a significant achievement. That said, we’re hiring for one right now!!

Staying Ahead

Search Engine optimisation agencies constantly invest in R&D in order to stay ahead of search trends and updates to the Google algorithm. Our team are knee-deep in the development of search and digital marketing techniques, tactics and processes, so starting from scratch can be a daunting undertaking. Expect to allow upto 5% of your team’s time on R&D activities and have a look at what we’ve shared on our blog and podcast.

Flexibility

While we plan and execute campaigns which last for years, often what we do is anticipate or respond to changes in campaign objectives, algorithm changes, competitor activity etc. For example, if a site starts slipping down the SERPs then we will invest extra time trying to work out what is happening. An agency can allow that flexibility where an in-house team may not be so nimble.

Service Level

If you’re not satisfied with a campaign delivered by a search agency, you can terminate your contract. It can be much more troubling to terminate somebody’s employment. By using an agency, a digital marketing campaign is managed throughout the year, without the need for holiday cover to be sought.

Risk

SEO, PPC and online marketing are disciplines which require highly skilled and experienced professionals to manage risks. In search this can be important, as getting banned or punished by Google can mean a complete loss of visibility in the SERPs. By using a search agency, you can ensure that white hat techniques are written into the contract.

Relationships with influential people

Because we spend all our time on digital marketing campaigns, we maintain on-going relationships with bloggers, journalists, webmasters and industry experts who help us to promote our clients and improve our services. When you take your SEO in house, you lose these relationships.

Scalability

Extra skills or resource can be brought into campaigns to support seasonal sales peaks, multiple campaign objectives, international / multi-lingual objectives or conversely switched off when costs need to be trimmed.

You can get the best of both worlds by taking a longer term view and a more collaborative approach. We’ve seen great success by supporting a more gradual strategy, where the agency informs and trains an in-house team on relevant tactics and skills so that the change-over is less disruptive. This will give an employee the chance to get up to speed with the campaign and the industry before taking responsibility for a campaign. The agency is responsible for insights, analysis, introducing search innovations and strategy whilst the in-house team implements campaign fundamentals and ensures the Search strategy is aligned with the business goals.

Of course there’s no right answer and every business will value different factors over others so one company’s solid business case won’t work for another. I’d recommend having an open discussion with your search agency about the issues, risks and opportunities and see how you can work together to achieve the new shared goal. In my nine years in the industry, I’ve seen the pendulum swing between in-house and outsourcing a number of times and I believe an agency should be able to change the way it supports its clients throughout the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. If it goes well, you might find yourself one of those elusive win:wins.

I’m sure there are plenty of other factors to consider or experiences to share so feel free to add your comments.

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