At this stage of the game, companies understands the value of investing in organic traffic to their web assets. Unfortunately while a non negotiable strategy, SEO continues to be one of the most misunderstood marketing channels in the business and therefore routinely outsourced without a clear understanding of the WHY
In this article lets examine the pros and cons that you may want to consider before handing off one of your most strategic marketing weapons to an outsider.
Pros of outsourcing SEO
Entrusting a crucial part of your marketing to a specialist agency allows you to focus on the things that you do best. These could be sales, leadership or even other marketing channels. In trying to do everything at once by yourself, you may not reach critical mass in any.
Good SEO will also need staying abreast of algorithm updates, advanced SERP features as well as constant monitoring of ranking progress which requires time and dedication, something only a specialist can provide.
Agencies have the benefit of volumes and therefore assembly line processes that allow them to research, identify and create content assets and link networks more efficiently.
Running an online survey for one brand on one platform requires almost as much time as running it for several brands given that the time investment is mostly in understanding parameters and setting up the campaign. The same logic is true for creating social profiles or directory submissions. Agencies give you volumes that internal teams cannot.
Navigating troubled waters
Partnering with agencies also provides access to multiple tool insights ( subsidized over several clients) and advice from experienced industry experts that can really save the day when traffic nosedives for no apparent reason.
If only to hear “ It is completely normal for keyword ranks to fluctuate by x%”, it is great to have an expert on call when you are unsure of what is happening. Truer still when the discipline lacks any real body of data that you can refer to in times of crisis.
Those were the pros..Now for the Cons of outsourcing SEO
Weak cross channel integration / leverages
SEO, SMO, SEM, Email marketing, Lead generation, Inside sales…etc. are NOT watertight silos that function independent of each other. They need a common strategy and feed off each other’s wins and failures. In a fast changing ecosystem where agility is paramount, it can be suicidal to delay inputs from or worse cut off the SEO feed entirely.
Again, some risks can be mitigated by continuing to monitor search analytics or frequent updates and meetings but the advantages of having all digital teams in one workspace, sharing inputs and planning campaigns together is invaluable to the success of a campaign.
Weaker domain/customer insights
The foundation stone of any successful SEO program is based on target search strings which comes from a deep understanding of the customer segments. External consultants, however senior do not live and breathe a brand like an employee and lack the intuitive insights available to an internal team.
You could circumvent this risk by spending time and effort in the quality of your brief and transactions but it’s never the same. An external agency may know SEO better but will never understand the brand better than an employee. The tradeoff is real!
Agency bias in progress updates
Or what I like to call the “ The agency dilemma”. Agencies work on a retainer which means that they NEED to show progress month on month regardless of the very real constraints posed by the algorithmic updates, competitive spends, last minute keyword modifications or delayed approvals. At the very least, they have to package and sell the information as a win. This often translates to short term hacks, misinformation and in cases, damage to long term SEO prospects.
There is no real workaround to this except being conscious and aware of the nature of the partnership and the underlying risks. There is no motivation for an agency to hurt a brand unless it is to protect one’s own. Be cognizant of that reality and tread accordingly.
So while you can outsource your security, your payrolls and definitely your catering, agencies are not always the best solution for achieving SEO success.
Even as evaluate the weightage of factors in your unique scenario, I would suggest the below regardless of your final choice.
1. Invest in a marketing toolkit
SEMrush, MOZ, Ahref and even the humble Google Analytics provide insights and bubble up issues keeping you abreast of progress on key success metrics. In addition you can pull out keywords rankings , competitive performance as well as stay aware of any major fluctuations in traffic performance. This gives you first hand access to your brand performance.
2. An owner for your SEO in-house
Till the point you decide to outsource this person can manage basic optimization, escalate issues as well as run and analyze reports from the tool that you have invested in. Once you do bring in an agency, this same person can liase with them to provide inputs as well as ensure that efforts are integrated across channels. There is no reason why the same person cannot be responsible for social or PPC given the scope of activities planned.
3. Common marketing goals
SEO is just one pointy tool in what is pretty large box to help you achieve traffic, conversions or brand visibility. Ensure that all teams – in-house or outsourced are aware and understand your bigger marketing goals. These could be the event next month that you have to fill seats for or the PR needed for the CEO’s visit at the end of the year. This ensures that all efforts are cross leveraged and amplified for maximum efficiency.
We would love to hear your experience with “ To outsource or not” in the comments below.