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In-house vs. outsourced search marketing

Dave Pasternack of MediaPost’s SearchInsider column wrote today about the debate between in-house and outsourced search marketing campaigns. He correctly termed this debate as ridiculous. but I don’t think it was for the right reason.

Dave labels the debate ridiculous because the value of external search agencies is well-understood. I guess that’s a good point, but it’s also true that no agency can do the whole job of a search campaign. They can’t be responsible for updating pages, for tracking conversion metrics, or countless other things that your company’s staff must do.
So, I think it is a ridiculous debate because no company should try to do a completely in-house or outsourced program.
Unless you are the smallest of businesses, it makes sense to get some expert help on any kind of Internet marketing. If you hire an accountant or a lawyer, you might consider a marketing consultant, too. Or you should at least attend a conference, buy a book, or get some kind of training. It won’t be easy for you to keep up with everything going on all by yourself—you already have a job.
But it’s equally nutty to think that you can outsource your problems. It’s seductive, it’s tempting, but it is still wrong. Your accountant doesn’t make your financial decisions, even if he does your books. Your lawyer doesn’t decide on your deals, even if he reviews your contracts. You can’t outsource search marketing (or any other kind of Internet marketing), even though you can outsource certain parts of it.
You need to be involved with your search marketing efforts, because you need to make strategic decisions, because you know your customers and your offerings best, and because you (or your employees) must execute that strategy.
Don’t get wrapped up in the ridiculous debate about in-house vs. outsourced search marketing. Instead, take a cold look at your organization to understand what you must do and what you must get help with, and divide the tasks between your team and your agency to get the total job done most effectively.


Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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