Search engine optimization (SEO) is ever-changing – primarily because search engines want to continue offering an improved and more personalized user experience every time. Search engine results page (SERP) rankings, traffic, conversions, and return on investment (ROI) aren’t static metrics anymore. The performance of these key metrics is likely to change each day for many reasons, some obvious while others influenced by various external factors. Constantly improving upon these metrics make SEO an ongoing process, led by continuous testing, monitoring and analysis.
“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.” – Jill Whalen
Today, SEO isn’t just a trending business topic. It is one of the foundation stones of an effective digital marketing strategy. Naturally, business leaders should not evaluate SEO only as it relates to potential sales and ROI, but also in terms of resource allocation to derive maximum returns. As such, the question arises: whether you should do 100 percent of your SEO in-house or consider outsourcing.
Understanding When You Should Manage SEO In-House
Getting started with SEO? Or maybe you haven’t seen success with your last SEO strategy? There is a reason why you can rest easy about SEO: the trends change so fast that there is scope for everyone to start fresh.
It is rightly said by Jordan Teicher, Director of Content @Contently:
“SEO isn’t about gaming the system anymore. It’s about learning how to play by the rules.”
In other words, SEO isn’t just about implementing the right tricks. One should also understand how Google and other crawlers constantly change to put the best and most relevant content in front of the readers.
Before you get started with SEO in-house, there are two major considerations:
- Do you have the right skills, knowledge and talent pool to curate and manage a results-driven SEO strategy?
- What is your budget? If you are a startup business or a small organization with a limited budget and a less complex website, in-house SEO can be your best bet. It is a cost-effective method, while the results can be far-reaching. And the reasons are clear: small businesses are smaller scale, extremely agile and highly flexible.
But do small businesses understand industry best practices and tactics for effective SEO?
According to The Manifest, nearly 80 percent of businesses with SEO strategies are confident they understand SEO best practices and most rely on in-house staff for their SEO strategies.
As such, a major segment of small businesses hires an in-house SEO team to manage their organic marketing strategies. According to Small Business SEO Statistics 2021 published by The Manifest, approximately three-quarters of small businesses (70 percent) invest in an in-house team to build an effective SEO strategy that can help boost their online visibility.
So, as a small business owner, if you are want to implement SEO best practices, it is ideal to have an in-house team to build a successful long-term SEO strategy. However, SEO is an ongoing process and a long-term investment. That means it takes time to build and optimize website content, improve SERP rankings and boost conversions.
But what makes a successful SEO strategy for small businesses that focus on in-house optimization? It should ideally consist of long-term planning and goal-setting.
And not just small businesses! In-house SEO can be the ideal engagement model even for larger companies with multiple websites. But doing SEO in-house would mean you need to hire dedicated talent to build aggressive strategies that deliver results. Businesses also need to invest in modern tools and ensure their employees are regularly updating their skills through training on the latest trends and best practices.
Remember, an in-house SEO structure (with a multi-disciplined approach) can make or break the success of your website. Therefore, you need to consider several factors when building your company’s in-house SEO structure.
Key Considerations in Developing Your In-House SEO Structure
Do you want to do SEO in-house? Here are some key considerations to develop an optimum in-house SEO structure.
In-house SEO would mean recruiting the best talent pool, regularly training them and equipping the team with advanced tools to help build and manage an effective optimization strategy. And here comes the importance of budgeting: Evaluate the cost of hiring and retaining an internal SEO team against your company turnover. Is it worth it?
2. Size of the Company
The size of your business and organizational hierarchy also play an integral role in determining the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. For large enterprises, with a more complex structure and involvement of management, it might be challenging to scale your SEO campaigns properly. This may affect the results expected from the strategy. Additionally, with too many tasks and key results areas (KRAs) on hand, SEO may not be the key priority of your digital marketing team.
For smaller companies with a nimbler hierarchy, it is easier to implement changes and keep up with the latest updates to derive effective results.
3. How Each Team Member Will Contribute to the SEO Strategy
If you want to do SEO 100 percent in-house, it is important to set clear guidelines on what is expected from each team member. This includes determining specific roles of an SEO manager, content writer, SEO specialist, link builder and social media manager.
4. Who Will Perform Each SEO Process and How
For a successful in-house SEO structure, it is important that each team member takes ownership of processes and how these will be performed. Set clear guidelines for each, including how they perform the tasks, what tools they need and who will they report and how frequently.
For SEO experts, processes and tools for keyword research, off-site optimization or content development should be in place.
Similarly, link builders must have advanced tools and best practices at their disposal to establish internal and outbound linking.
The reporting hierarchy should also be clearly defined, including which parameters should be monitored and reported and in what format.
Benefits of In-House SEO
There are several advantages of doing SEO in-house – compare these against outsourcing to an SEO agency and make informed decisions.
- Gain complete control of your SEO process at all times: This is one of the primary reasons why many companies choose to do SEO in-house – better control of the process and improved transparency. Whether you are in charge of your SEO campaign or have a dedicated internal team, you can constantly keep track, implement changes and make improvements. In-house SEO gives you more flexibility.
- Have a dedicated team for your SEO campaign: With in-house SEO, you are guaranteed to have an SEO expert fully immersed in managing your campaigns. Unlike agencies that have hundreds of SEO projects on hand, you or your in-house team are likely to dedicate more time to build a successful strategy.
- Encourage collaboration: Your in-house SEO team will collaborate with other teams like web design and development, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, etc. to curate an effective marketing plan that delivers results.
- Get cost-effective solutions: Most businesses consider in-house SEO to be more economical than hiring an agency. However, that depends. For small businesses that typically have one website, it is often not necessary to hire an entire team – the SEO campaign can be managed single-handedly. This can help you save more money than the fees of an SEO agency. But for more complex and multiple websites, it is essential to have a dedicated team managing the campaign. As such, it would involve costs related to hiring a team, their salaries and perks, training and development, bonuses, etc. In that case, hiring an agency would be more cost-effective than in-house SEO.
Common Challenges of In-House SEO
However, in-house SEO does not always bear the fruits of your labor so easily. Here are some of the common challenges that managing SEO internally can bring with it:
- Lack of direction: When doing SEO in-house, it might feel that there are so many things to do, but you aren’t sure where to begin. You may come up with unique ideas, but spend most of your time managing other tasks that you do not get a chance to build your own strategy. If you are managing SEO single-handedly, lack of direction and not setting the right key performance indicators (KPIs) may be your biggest challenges.
- Not keeping pace with the latest changes: One of the key weaknesses of in-house SEO – whether you are doing it alone or have an internal team – is you may lose track of the latest developments and trends in the digital marketing landscape. Operating within the limits of one company or industry often makes it difficult to have a grasp of the bigger landscape as it changes.
- Talent gap: Another major challenge of in-house SEO is not being able to hire all the SEO specialists you may need to run a successful campaign. Except for large companies with a huge marketing budget, it is virtually impossible to hire individual experts in design, content development, link builders, SEO management, etc. This is because SEO is not your core business and you may not want to invest heavily in hiring a dedicated team with so many specialists. Alternatively, your in-house SEO specialist needs to be a master in all these fields, which is quite challenging.
If your business is facing the above-mentioned in-house SEO challenges, outsourcing can be a good choice. The following chart clearly defines the advantages and limitations of in-house SEO vs. outsourcing to an agency:
A Balance of In-House SEO and Outsourcing Is the Way To Go
Keeping in mind the challenges and complexities that come with doing SEO in-house, it is ideal to strike a perfect balance between managing internally and outsourcing to an agency. While smaller SEO tasks can be performed in-house, it is often a good idea to outsource complex and bigger SEO campaigns to an experienced agency. They have in-depth knowledge and expertise in SEO – because it is their core business, not yours.
Many good SEO agencies keep track of the latest industry trends and best practices and can implement the same for your business. They have dedicated team members, tools and access to resources that help devise an effective strategy based on the understanding of your business. Often, outsourcing to an SEO agency can be more economical than the recurring cost of hiring an entire SEO team.
So, if you want to have more control over your campaigns while ensuring greater results, an optimum balance of in-house SEO and outsourcing is the way to go.