As someone who has helped search marketers build up their in-house search resources for years, you might think that there are never any reasons that I'd recommend using an agency. But you'd be wrong. There are always situations that require a different approach, and in most cases the right answer is a hybrid approach to search. Read on for why you might not want to do everything in house.
Most of you know that I spent eight years at ibm.com, starting and then overseeing their search marketing program for much of that time. And you probably think that IBM is big enough to do everything in house. But we never did.
You might also know that today I serve as chief strategist for Converseon and we sell search services so now I must be this big time outsourcing proponent, right? Well, no.
In reality, it's hard to be a purist about doing things in-house or outsourcing. Most companies (yes, even small ones) eventually realize that they need to do a mix of outsourcing and in-house. If you try to outsource everything, you'll find that the agency you hire can't change your Web pages. They can't decide what keywords you should use. They don't know what products you sell.
But agencies have advantages. They are up on everything going on in search. They have contacts with all the search engines. They can help you understand best practices. They have people that get paid a lot of money--people you probably can't afford in-house.
Everyone thinks that they can hire people that will figure it out for them, but the truth is that once those people get really smart about search marketing, an agency will offer them more money to work for them. If that happens to you, it can be quite painful, at least in the short term.
If you can truly retain those highly-skilled folks, then go for it. You have the advantage that they will learn your business and they will be devoting all of their time to you. But most businesses find that a hybrid approach make sense. Hire an agency to help you with strategy and best practices. But make sure that your in-house folks are ready to implement what the vaunted search consulatnts recommend--they can't do the work without your team.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, Web personalization, and Web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.
Mike also founded and writes for the Biznology newsletter and blog, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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