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Posted by Lindsay

When I was an in-house SEO I hired outside SEO consultants. Now as the outside SEO consultant I often work with in-house SEOs. In the comments of my most recent post, an interesting question came up, "…why would a company who has an in-house SEO expert hire an external company?"

Here are 8 excellent reasons why talented in-house SEOs often bring in outside help.

1. Specialized Expertise

Not too long ago, SEO was a niche marketing specialization. I remember when even Internet Marketing was considered a highly niche specialization. In fact, my college marketing instructor tried to talk me out of Internet Marketing because it was too niche and I ran the risk of limiting my prospects down the line.

Times have sure changed. As the search engines have matured and the SEO industry has evolved along with them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be on top of every SEO related factor. Even something as specific as SEO is segmenting into specializations. Experts have emerged in social media promotion, local SEO, mobile SEO, copy-writing for SEO, link-building, and so on.

Duane Forrester "I hired the external consultants simply because they had more experience in the area I needed support in. Everyone needs to learn new things, so you’re rarely an expert in everything at once. Hiring the external consultant gets around a lot of hurdles and ramps up your program much quicker. Their deeper domain expertise allowed me to focus in areas I was strong in, while our entire SEO effort moved forward at the desired pace. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else already has an established, productive program that can benefit you?"
Duane Forrester is an in-house SEO with Microsoft, running their program for MSN.  He is also the author of How To make Money With Your Blog and Turn Clicks into Customers. In his spare time, he writes for Search Engine Land.

I like what Duane said about the hiring of external consultants ramping up your program quicker. By knowing and doing what you do best and outsourcing other tasks, you can super-charge your site’s SEO and get closer to your potential traffic level.

If I worked for a national business comprised on thousands of brick-and-mortar locations (think Burger King), I’d definitely look at retaining the services of someone like David Mihm to ensure I had all the right pieces in place. I doubt that many people reading this post are as well versed on the intricacies of Local SEO as David.

How about mobile? You have the choice to either delve into the details yourself or do as other talented in-house SEOs have done and hire someone like Cindy Krum who wrote the book on Mobile Marketing. Literally.

cindy krum
"Mobile SEO is a niche within a niche, and it is pretty specialized. Top in-house SEO’s have brought me in to help with mobile SEO, simply because they don’t have time to learn the niche. There is a lot to know, and it is easy to make mistakes. Mobile is still a small part of most in-house SEO’s traffic, so they want to know that things are set up correctly, but they don’t have enough bandwidth to devote to learning the niche or even shepherding the project."
Cindy Krum is the CEO and Founder of Rank-Mobile, LLC, and author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are. She also hosts a weekly radio show called Mobile Presence, acts as an SEOmoz Associate, responding to Q&A about mobile SEO.

Why bumble around yourself on such specialized niches when you can focus on the pieces you know best and outsource those pieces to a more qualified expert? You don’t need to be everything SEO all the time. Give yourself a break!

2. Too Much to Do. Too Little Time.

Effective SEO is a lot of work. Managing the internal politics can be a full-time job unto itself! Perhaps you are confident that you have the strategy nailed down but you just can’t get your projects through the pipeline fast enough. In order to keep things moving while you consider the next big project it can help to hire an outside consultant.

"I outsource as necessary for specific tasks, not for general consulting or strategy. Specific examples include content creation for new pages on a site, link building, and social promotion of blog content. This has generally worked out well as I’m able to shape efforts and budget across all aspects of Internet marketing while having a specific challenge or need addressed by the consulting company."
John Santangelo is an Internet marketing professional based in Jacksonville, FL and currently works in-house as the Search Marketing Manager for a staffing firm.

Once you’ve established what needs to be done, hiring an SEO consultant can help you push through a task list and get closer to your goals.

3. Fresh Perspective

money idea!Working on the same website for years on end can get mighty boring. You can only come up with so many interesting articles related to nylons, and if you have to rewrite the homepage title tag one more time you’re going to scream. With boredom comes creative stagnation. Bringing in the right SEO consultant can help get the creative juices flowing again. Fresh eyes bring fresh ideas to help your business grow.

At SEOmoz we used to provide whirlwind audits in our boardroom. The client would bring along their best and brightest SEOs, marketing folks, and development staff. We’d go through their site and point out areas for improvement. One particular client comes to mind; well known brand, important website, talented SEO expertise… They’d blocked an important directory in the robots.txt. Sometimes when you are too close to a problem you can miss little details like a line in your robots.txt or an important redirect.

4. Educational Purposes

At SEOmoz we often sold an educational component along with our site audits. We’d go in with slide decks and teach anywhere from one to dozens of in-house resources some of our knowledge. This empowers the in-house team to move forward on their own, knowing a little more. Training can be formal or otherwise. Topher describes his outsourced project as a learning experience.


"As the in-house at CNN.com I have used a agency (Bruce Clay) and have brought in an outside consultant. I think a good SEO has to know what they don’t know and I do not know mobile SEO well at all. I went and asked about for a mobile SEO expert and Cindy Krum’s name came up all over the place so I brought her in and she was great. I am still not an expert on Mobile SEO but I for sure know a heck of a lot more now then I did before because of her."
Topher Kohan is the SEO Coordinator for CNN. He joined CNN, a division of Turner broadcasting and a Time Warner company, in early 2008 after two years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5. Validation

SEO enhancements can be expensive to implement and sometimes take months or even years to complete. Based on high level experience across more web properties, an outsourced consultant can help you prioritize your enhancements and validate your project plan to ensure you make the most of the development investment.


"Outside SEO consultants typically have very broad experiences with a variety of websites and industries. Our role is to come along side the in-house team and help them manage the process of inserting SEO into the overall marketing and web production schedules and tackle the different hurdles associated with that. The in-house SEOs are our biggest allies to help us navigate the internal roadblocks and in return we are their biggest allies for getting their projects implemented."
Todd Friesen in the Vice President of Search for Position Technologies Inc. and has been working in SEO and online marketing since 1999 with many high profile clients such as Nike and the NCAA.

At SEOmoz we enjoyed working with strong in-house SEO individuals or teams for our consulting gigs. I suspect that this is true for most SEO consultants that specialize more on strategy and less on implementation.

6. Collaboration

As in-house SEOs, a lot of folks work independently. It can be refreshing and rewarding to expand on the one-man show. Marty describes how he and his employer benefit from expanding his team from time to time to meet a need.

marty
"It really benefits me to be able to divvy up the responsibilities for things like site architecture, internal linking, etc. to an outside firm/person I trust while I focus on other important tasks like content migrations and cleanup with our internal web team. I find it very useful to spread the workload in order to be able to launch a redeveloped site sooner rather than later and in most instances it is also more cost effective in the time savings."
Marty Martin is an SEM/SEO with a broad range of experience working for colleges and universities, regional and state tourism, government and business. He is employed currently as an in-house SEO for Leisure Publishing Co., Inc. in Virginia.

7. Overcome Internal Politics

Of course you know your stuff when it comes to SEO. That is how you got your in-house SEO job, right? Then why do you spend so much of your time selling the value of your projects and negotiating for resources? One challenge that a lot of in-house SEOs face is finding the time to do actual SEO work. External consultants can help pave the way to get home grown ideas implemented.

jessica bowman
"Sometimes in-house SEO departments need help convincing another department that their ideas are solid. We do a lot of consulting that helps the different departments learn how to play together throughout the development life cycle."
Jessica Bowman is an SEO Expert, international speaker, member of the SEMPO Board of Directors and works with companies to figure out what they need to build a successful in-house SEO program.

8. Breadth of Knowledge

As an in-house SEO for a growing business, the challenges you face for the first time have more often than not been considered and successfully addressed by another SEO somewhere out there in cyberspace.

will critchlow
"A number of our clients have in-house SEO teams and we love working alongside them. There’s quite a range of reasons why we’d be brought in. One of the most common reasons is because we have specific experience across a range of sites or in solving a specific tough problem."
Will Critchlow is the Director of Distilled, an SEO and internet marketing firm in London and Seattle.

Lets say you’ve inadvertently landed yourself a Google penalty. How do you diagnose the problem, get it fixed, and request forgiveness with a successful outcome? A consultant who has helped other websites work their way out of a penalty situation can be invaluable.

There are plenty of less dramatic examples. How do you implement a WordPress powered blog as a sub-folder of a .Net site? How do you handle millions of constantly expiring pages (as is common with job boards and classified ad sites)? How will you write a compelling link bait piece?

Action Items

The next time you get push back when proposing to hire an SEO consultant, choose from the reasons outlined in this post to support your case.

  1. We need specialized expertise.
  2. We have too much to do. We’ll get this project moving faster if I can get some help.
  3. We can learn a lot from an outside expert.
  4. We want to double check our strategies before we get going.
  5. We would benefit from collaboration with other SEOs.
  6. A consultant can help us work through the concerns of marketing/IT/executives.
  7. We need the help of someone who has done (insert complicated initiative) before.

In-house SEOs hire outside assistance for all kinds of things from strategy, implementation, retainer, special projects and more. Are you an in-house SEO that has worked with external SEO experts? I’d love to hear your experience.

Happy optimizing!

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