There is often a perception that if you hire an SEO consultant to do the work for you, then the SEO work is off your plate. The reality is that even if you outsource to an SEO consultant, there are still things that you must do in-house. These are the activities that few SEO consultants can pull off unless they come into your office and work in-house on a regular on-going basis. This article will outline activities that a consultant will take on versus those duties that must be managed in-house.
When you outsource search engine optimization, your SEO consultant will pick up the bulk of the SEO action items by taking on the following:
- Internet Marketing Plan - your SEO consultant will take a look at where you are today, where you could be and how to get you to the next level with search engines. This often includes a SWOT-style analysis and a competitor analysis
- Website Analysis - the SEO consultant will do a technical inspection to identify your site's search engine friendliness and what changes are needed to make your website more search engine friendly
- Keyword Research - your SEO consultant will do a thorough research and analysis to find the best keywords for your SEO campaign. They will balance the total search volume with the likelihood that you will reach page one so that you get the largest ROI in the fastest amount of time
- SEO Copywriting - this is where your SEO consultant will incorporate keywords into your website copy. Often these changes are made so that the copy better matches the expectations of people coming to your website from a search engine - because their expectations are slightly different than those referred by other channels
- Link Building - this is where you get links to your website. I always say that links are half of the formula to reach the top of search engines. When it comes to link building, your SEO consultant will submit to directories and contact other websites to get links that point to your website
- Keyword Ranking Reports - these reports indicate where your website is ranking on the search engines. While you can do it yourself, it's often convenient for a consultant to do this for you if you are targeting a large volume of keywords
- Report on Conversions and ROI - if you give your SEO consultant access to the right data, they can provide reports on your conversions and ROI
These are the major SEO activities that we think about. On the surface, these are the SEO action items. However, this isn't everything that is needed to make SEO a success at your company. Even if you outsource, you still need to assign someone with the following responsibilities:
- Get the changes implemented by IT - they won't always like what the consultant has recommended, which means that someone in-house needs to keep IT focused on coming up with a search friendly solution with your SEO consultant
- Work with stakeholders to approve SEO copy - the SEO consultant will optimise your website content and your stakeholders are likely to cringe at the prospect of incorporating the needed number of keyword repetitions. Someone in-house will need to work with business sponsors and all relevant stakeholders to accept the changes recommended by your SEO consultant. This is less of an issue with smaller companies, and a big challenge at larger companies where there are numerous stakeholders
- Keep SEO top of mind, high in priority and in scope - even though everyone may have bought into the technical and content changes for SEO, it does not mean they will stay high in priority. As time goes on and project deadlines loom, project managers look for ways to reduce scope and SEO is often one of the first cuts to be made. Simultaneously, as marketers look at the content again and again, SEO copy changes are at risk of slowly being removed in an effort to improve copy quality. Sometimes it is merely because SEO isn't top of mind as time passes; because of this, someone in-house needs to champion SEO to keep it top of mind, high in priority and not cut out of projects in an attempt to reduce project timelines.
- Ensure SEO changes aren't removed - often what happens is that you work with an SEO consultant, get all approvals, launch SEO changes and feel the on-site elements are fairly solid. As time goes on the SEO changes inadvertently get removed as copy is tweaked and new site enhancements are added. Someone in-house needs to stay on top of site enhancements so that SEO changes aren't deleted with future site updates.
While outsourcing to an SEO consultant significantly reduces your workload, don't assume that you won't have many action items - there will always be SEO work to do in-house and with a little guidance and SEO training, your in-house employee will ultimately benefit also.
Jessica Bowman is Director of SEO at Business.com and is an independent consultant specializing in SEO in-house.