In my earlier years in business at a Fortune 100 company I was pretty much 100% against outsourcing anything. The reasons for this were simple. Every week I saw a new parade of consultants brought in by our VP (not naming names) at amazingly high prices. I sat in their meetings and listened to their ideas, and I was not impressed. All the while, I saw many internal teams (not all, mind you) that needed more attention and resources and were ready and able to answer the needs of the business. But they were not getting the executive face-time because these consultants would surround our VP like protective warriors. Yes, politics were partly to blame. But from my simple cubical-view of the corporate world I developed the notion that outsourcing was not all that good.
Things changed for me as I moved up the ranks. What I know now, that I didn't know as an earlier manager, is that scale is amazingly difficult. I can look back now and appreciate that our VP was reaching outside of his organization because he felt that the answers did not lie within. And as I think about a company trying to decide to outsource SEO or build an internal competency, I see many of the same struggles.
We have all heard the economy of scale arguments before as the push to outsource has been around for nearly 15 years now. As a firm specializes in only a single point-service, they can accomplish things that no single team could ever afford to do... So the question here is: Does that logic apply to outsourcing SEO?
Let's take HubShout as our example. Here are a few things that we could simply not do if we were not the team that people outsource SEO to:
1) Extensive API development: The expense of developing, maintaining and updating API calls to Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, CallFire and Analytics is significant. I doubt very much that we could do all of this if we were an in-house SEO team. Because we have a robust SEO reseller program, we have funds from many partnerships to drive this development. They all get this functionality as part of a co-op.
2) Staying current on SEO research: SEO is moving all the time. As you consider if you want to outsource SEO, you will do some of this research. And you should. However, it doesn't stop there. If you decide to keep the function in-house, you need to be doing this research all the time. Again, our SEO reseller plans require that we stay on top of what's happening in the SEO community. This Google algo update, that Matt Cutt's blog post, what's the hot topic on Spinn, etc, etc. It is endless. If we didn't have so many SEO reseller customers, there is no way we could keep up.
3) Link-Building Is hard: When it comes to link-building, scale is really really helpful. This is just a mathematical truism based on how Google analyzes the Internet. They favor sites with diverse linking patterns. They view narrow linking patterns, especially ones that are similar to other linking patterns, as manufactured or unnatural. People think about link-building from the acquisition side. In other words, how do I get more links? When you outsource SEO, you get a team that thinks about links from the search engine's point of view: Where are the best links and how is my pattern of in-bound links really looking to the search engines?
In the end, everyone who outsources SEO or signs up for an SEO reseller program will, at some point, ask the question: "How long will it take for me to rank." As much as Google tells the world not to answer the question, it is logical to want to know. This is marketing. We are in business. ROI's need to be calculated and strategies built around estimates of customers... Based on these reasons above, and probably about 100 more I could write, there really is an economy of scale to SEO. Perhaps the economy of scale to outsource SEO is even higher than some other business functions given the nature of the activity. This should lead you to the conclusion that there is a strong business case to find a reputable SEO reseller program to partner with and move your SEO function out.