Online Exclusive: What's an In-House Team to Do?

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In last week's column, we talked about why you might consider outsourcing your paid search, rather than sticking with in-house search management. But if you do decide to outsource your paid search, what happens to your current in-house team? Surprisingly, outsourcing might actually make your in-house team more - not less - valuable. It's just a matter of understanding what everyone does best.


What we do best, what you do best. Paid search covers a huge span of your online - and even offline - marketing. It starts at the search engine; but it proceeds to your landing page, your shopping cart, and even your call center or bricks-and-mortar store. It's about finding the keywords your customers search on, and understanding how to construct your buy-path architecture in the very way that leads from keywords to conversions.


Managing that wide span of responsibilities is what paid search firms do best.


But it isn't everything in the picture. Because paid search requires a remarkably deep understanding of your business; but on its own, no paid search firm can create a marketing picture of everything your business needs, offers, or can afford to do in marketing. That's a picture only the client can create.


Here's one example. Maybe there's a real opportunity for a certain kind of lift beyond just ROI - a lift in brand recognition, say; or a lift in market share; or an opportunity to push back hard against one major competitor. But deciding on any one initiative requires deciding where to focus your spend. Which means that taking advantage of an opportunity is only relevant if it's in keeping with your larger business goals. And you - not the search firm you've hired - best understand what it is that those larger business goals are.


Or a different scenario.Maybe your search firm wants to move your campaign beyond the search results page. Maybe they're suggesting a landing page test, for instance. But which of your landing pages are the ones that should be tested? Which match up best with the goals you're trying to reach through paid search? The more input the search firm can get from you on this question, the better equipped they'll be in choosing the landing pages to test - and the more informative the test results will be.


In other words, the best search firms are experts at taking everything your business has to offer, and using search to apply those assets in the way that helps your business. But you're the expert in determining what those assets are, and what your goals are. The search firm is just there to apply those goals and assets.


Where your in-house team fits in. Having an intermediary that truly understands both sides of the picture - that can help you determine where a given search initiative ought to fit within your overall marketing goals; and that helps the search firm best understand what your goals are and how to best translate those goals into search - can make for an unbeatable campaign.


As it happens, your in-house team is better situated to serve as that kind of bridge than anyone else. They understand search overall, and your campaign specifically, better than anyone else in your company. And they understand your business a lot better than anyone in your account team at the outsourced search marketing firm.


So we suggest putting your in-house team to work as that bridge between the outsourced firm and your business. Or, put differently, making your in-house team the search wing of your marketing strategy group. That's the best way to optimize everyone's skills.


And it's the best way to bring everyone together into a group that's far more powerful, and more efficient, than the sum of its parts.


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