How to Build an in-house SEO Agency

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Outsource your SEO, or build an in-house SEO team? That’s the question that many small to medium sized businesses face. Should I hire a full-time employee to handle all my internet marketing needs? Or, should I partner with an SEO agency? In this article, we will explore all the necessary components to create a successful in-house SEO team.

A Stick Figure Guy Literally Building an SEO Agency

Benefits of building an in-house SEO team

  • You retain full control of everything that happens
  • Save money. An SEO agency must pad its SEO packages with sales commissions and management fees. These are reasonable fees to pass on to the client-- fees you can save by putting together your own team.
  • Better Content. Business owners know their own business better than any outsider could. Thus, if the business owner is intimately involved in the content creation process, the end result will be more unique.


Benefits of Outsourcing your SEO to an Agency

  • Accountability and Results. By working with a reputable firm, you’re more likely to hit your goals. If you build your own in-house SEO team, the accountability rests squarely on your own shoulders.
  • Save money? I know I listed this as a benefit of having your own team; however, many SEO agencies benefit from economies of scale. For example, here at LA Local SEO, we have a team of writers, a team of programmers, and a separate team of designers. Instead of having one SEO consultant do everything-- we have specialists tackling each individual task. In this manner, we are able to deliver a complete SEO package at a lower cost than if you were to hire each person individually.
  • Scalable. As your business grows, so too will your SEO team. At some point you will need to ask yourself if you're in the [your industry] business, or the SEO business. A very similar decision a business faces is whether to hire an in-house attorney or to retain the services of a law firm.


Positions & Areas of Specialty that your SEO team needs to Master

Google Analytics & Google Search Console Specialist

Step 1 for any SEO campaign is to get these two tools setup properly. Hopefully you have someone on your team that lives and breathes inside Google Analytics. You also want to devise a site-wide SEO strategy to use the “www” or “non-www” version of your site, and be consistent with that for the life of the business. For example, here at LA Local SEO, we practice using the “www” version. So all links that we create will look like this “http://www.lalocalseo.com” instead of “http://lalocalseo.com”. The SEO effects of doing this are debatable. However, Google Analytics & Search Console will not function properly unless you have specified and are tracking the correct version of the site.

Your in-house seo guy/gal/team needs to be able to analyze and digest the massive amount of information that Google provides. If the setup process is not performed correctly, your analytics data becomes inaccurate, and therefore unusable.

For example: after setting up Google Analytics & Search Console, the very next step should be setting up a “referral spam filter.” We’ll show you how to do this in another blog post. Referral spam can single-handedly skew and kill your data.

Then, there’s actually analyzing the data-- providing actionable insights based on the data. Figuring out what changes caused what spikes or drop in traffic is more art than science. The average layman using Google Analytics for the first time can become slightly overwhelmed from the myriad information presented.


Keyword Research & Analysis

I've seen keyword research commoditized to the point where it has lost value in the eyes of the consumer. Anyone with an Adwords account and a keyboard is capable of doing "keyword research." However, the process of helping a business owner narrow down what keywords to target, and more importantly, HOW to target them, is a specialized task. A really good Keyword Researcher will confidently tell a client that certain keywords are not very valuable and not worth optimizing for.


PPC & Google Adwords Specialist

This skill position overlaps with keyword research, but can exist as its own position. Generally, your PPC expert will be skilled at keyword research since both go hand-in-hand. Anyone can “run” a Google PPC campaign, but a specialist will lower cost per click, improve conversion rates, and increase the number of qualified leads. Even if we pretend like Bing doesn’t exist, and Google is the only Pay-Per-Click game in town, you’ll still need your PPC specialist to be very familiar with AdWords. This person should be an expert at conversion optimization: creating PPC landing pages that convert traffic into valuable leads. Some skills here overlap with the "design" department. Keep in mind: improving conversion rate from 1% to 2% may not seem like much, but it reflects a 100% increase (or doubling) of the amount of live leads produced through the website.


Web Design

This position doesn't necessarily need a ton of investment. I'm a big fan of great designs, but most businesses can achieve superior results with very average designs. Also, professionally themed design templates can be purchased for cheap, or even free. You just need someone who knows what they're doing, but not the best designer in the world. It probably won't make sense to employ someone full time.


Web Programming

If your site was well built from the outset, then ongoing programming will be very minimal. However, to become competitive for the most desirable keyword phrases on Google, you may eventually need to tweak or completely restructure the website. You can get by with an average coder. We recommend contracting with an expert programmer because installing messy code on your website is akin to swallowing generic black market medication: it all looks the same initially-- but you WILL feel the difference later. Going cheap in this department is jumping over a dollar to save a nickel.


On-site Optimization/Technical Guru

It would be great if this person is also your writer. Part of "optimizing" a page inevitably involves copywriting; however, the technical stuff includes Page Speed, canonicalization, friendly URLs, 301 redirects, internal linking, duplicate content, broken links... all that technical stuff that doesn't involve much creativity. Although the perception of on-site optimization has also been commoditized similar to keyword research, a skilled on-site optimization expert is worth his/her weight in gold. There is "good enough" optimization. Then, there's virtually flawless optimization. The difference can mean page 1 of Google or bust.


Excellent Copywriting

If you can only invest in one area, do this. Content is the backbone of your website and SEO efforts. Your writer will be the single greatest contributor to improving your online traffic. Pick one that's got expertise in your industry and has demonstrated strong persuasive writing ability.


Social Media Superstar

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Linked In, SnapChat, Periscope, and tomorrow's next biggest startup. Regarding SEO, there are many direct benefits and even more indirect benefits associated with social media. It's important to not only setup your profiles, but to also post consistently and engage with your followers. Don't be scared. Just jump in and like Nike says, "Just Do It." I guarantee that the business owner will not be able to manage all the social media streams and run the company at the same time. Common practice has been to assign this task to a close friend or family member-- while this can be cost effective, having your son/daughter [insert unpaid family member] manage your social media, it can also be a huge mistake. It's better to have a trained professional handling your external marketing efforts, whether it's email, print, digital, or social. Accountability is the main concern. Will the results be spectacular or mediocre? Are you really willing to fire your son or daughter for doing a poor job?

Even with a small team, these social media tasks can be shared, especially with social media management software like Hootsuite (that's what we use).


Link Building

One aspect of link building is the super boring task of creating online citations and listing your business in all the relevant industry directories. The other side of "link building" is actually "relationship building." You're not going to get high-quality links unless you're out building relationships with bloggers, journalists, and reporters.


The Unknown

Who is paying attention to Google's daily algorithm shifts? Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird. No, I didn't just visit the Los Angeles Zoo-- but I did just list Google's major algorithm updates over the last few years. Are we responding properly to these changes? What if something's not working, what should we do differently? Our account managers assume the majority of these tasks.

If you can find a single person who can do it all, please call me first because I'd like to hire that SEO ninja full time. Otherwise, it's likely you will have to involve at least two or three people to engineer a successful SEO campaign. If you feel that search engine optimization is best left to the professionals, then maybe we should chat.

Cool

Conclusion

Sure, this article was written to discourage you from taking the plunge. Maybe you thought SEO was a lot simpler? It was simpler in the past. In 2015, the SEO success formula requires that you do everything stated above, and then some. It’s entirely possible to do it yourself, but consider the time and resources involved. The last thing you want to do is burn thousands of dollars hiring people that don’t work out and then end up calling us anyways. 

p.s. Our VP of sales, Garrett Morosky, can be reached at 424-234-5371 ext:8024.

 


James WilsonSeptember 11 2015, 12:18 PM You sly dog. Alright, I'm convinced.

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