Online Exclusive: Should Search Stay in Your House?

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When should you choose to stay with your in-house paid search management? When should you decide to outsource? This week, we'll give you some ideas that will help you think through the in-house/outsource question in search. We've pinpointed four issues that can help you decide whether in-house paid search management is helping you, or if it might hurt.

Experience has its benefits. An outsourced search management firm has a broad search arsenal of initiatives, strategies, and approaches -- gathered, in the best firms, through hundreds of successful campaigns, across a wide array of industries.

That experience means knowing which campaign trends to watch for, and applying the most powerful initiatives and strategies, based on learnings from search success within your vertical, and from outside of it.

Even if your in-house search management knows your campaign intimately, they only have the experience of that one campaign to draw on. And even if they have past search experience, it's highly unlikely that they can match the collected experience of an established search firm.

What if they leave? When the person (or few people) managing your paid search leaves your business, what happens to your paid search campaign? No matter how good your search management is now, if you lose that person (or that small group of people), all the knowledge your company's gained about managing your paid search -- the campaign history, planning, and understanding your business has worked so hard to develop -- leaves with them. You can always hire someone new, of course, but that new person won't fully understand the campaign history; and there's also no guarantee that the new person you find will be any good.

In other words, even the best in-house search management might be putting all your search eggs in one basket.

But with a good search management firm, you're not putting all your search eggs in one basket. You're investing in the caliber of an entire firm of search professionals, complete with a support infrastructure of cushions that prepare for turnaround -- as any good business has. Even if you do lose a particular campaign manager, you won't lose your whole campaign.

You're only as good as your tools. If you're not working with the best technology, there's a limit to how powerful, customized, or intelligent your search approach can be. But in-house search management tends to work with one-size-fits-all search tools. Very few in-house search management teams (if any at all) work with customizable technology, optimize landing pages, or can track clickpaths beyond a landing page. You need an SEM firm to get that level of technology -- which can translate into a high degree of search management.

When to stay indoors. There definitely are times when in-house search management is absolutely right for you. An in-house firm can be especially useful for small, newer campaigns: in-house campaigns tend to cost less, and they're also an excellent way to get accustomed to the ins and outs of SEM. If you do decide to go with an outsourced firm down the road, having run a campaign in-house will give your business a tremendous amount of insight into what to look for in search management.

Which means that, if your campaign is small, running paid search in-house now can be an extremely valuable investment for when it gets much larger.

Think it over. Is staying with your in-house firm right for you? The issues above should give you some talking points to help you think about the question. Not thinking about the question at all could mean the difference between getting the best possible search management for you -- and staying in the second tier.


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