In-House SEO: The Grass Isn’t Always Greener | Mediaworks

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We have all been there; we’ve seen a service carried out by a company and thought “Hey, I could do that myself – it doesn’t look that hard”.  What we tend to forget is that the service provided by that company is what they do for a living.  That’s why that shed you tried to build yourself may have turned out lopsided, or that bathroom you tried to tile doesn’t look the same as the brochure.

Every so often we encounter these scenarios with a client. There is never any malice involved; clients simply take business decisions to take the service in house for reasons ranging from budgets to expansion. In most cases however, the largest contributing factor has been the thought “Why pay them, we can do that”.

When looking at the results of an SEO campaign it easy to see how one can come to this conclusion. The majority of Search Engine Optimisation companies will have encountered a client relinquishing their services in favour of taking their online marketing efforts in house (ourselves included).

For example, with many of our own online marketing campaigns we work with our clients to educate them on the basics of SEO, how they can implement these practises and use their own contacts to assist with their campaigns and it’s with this kind of information that many SEO agencies witnessed companies around the UK in 2009 and 2010 decide to move their SEO activities in-house.

However, in 2010 we experienced a large surge in customers rewarding us with their online marketing budgets months after they had decided to move their SEO in-house. It was interesting to hear the reasons for why they had decided to move in house and, ultimately, why they wanted to return.

Why SEO Is Moved In-House

When posing this question the answer we received the most was “cost”. A common occurrence was to appoint a marketing graduate or an entry-level marketer to look after the SEO campaign. They were employed to look after all aspects of the SEO campaign including:

  • Content creation
  • Content optimisation
  • Link building
  • Reporting (performance and analytical)
  • Strategy

That is a lot to undertake for one person, particularly with large multi-national brands. However, it can work and there are many success stories out there, but these are few and far between based on our experience.

Why In-House SEO Doesn’t Always Work

Surprisingly, the common answer we received was “experience”. Whilst all of the above requirements for an SEO campaign are more often than not achieved, many clients commented that overall experience of the “bigger picture” was something that their in-house SEO lacked.

They weren’t able to provide answers to technical problems that were impacting on their campaigns such as site speed, crawl errors, indexation, redirects etc.; something that was taken for granted previously.

We were also surprised to hear that “costs” was another factor. Despite the savings in costs that many clients thought they were making when employing someone in-house, they were surprised at the additional costs that SEO incurred for their business.

As a digital marketing agency there are many investments that we make that get passed onto all of our clients. These can range from:

  • Toolsets
  • Processes
  • Partnerships
  • Memberships & knowledge base
  • Conference attendance

Many clients of SEO agencies underestimate the work that goes on in the background to be able to provide solutions and strategy plans to problems through constant re-education and investment in knowledge.

To many of the clients who returned to us, search engine optimisation was more costly to them when they left based purely on the investment they had to make in their own company. And of course, if they didn’t make that investment the performance of their SEO campaign would have suffered.

Added Benefits

When investing in a Search Engine Optimisation campaign with an online marketing agency, you are investing several things that might not be available when creating an in-house SEO team. These can include:

  • Extensive technical knowledge. By working with hundreds of websites and fixing problems the likelihood is that the annoying problem you are having with your SEO campaign can be easily identified and rectified.
  • Tools. Access to industry tools that normally cost hundreds of pounds a month
  • Experience. Years of hands-on experience with SEO campaigns including what strategy works, what strategy doesn’t and more importantly – Why!
  • Manpower and resources. The ability to turn work around much quicker due to investment in processes.

Whilst in-house SEO can work, sometimes it really does pay to stand back and let someone else build your shed.


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