It’s a common question that companies who are considering hiring a search engine optimization company often face – is this something that we can do in-house? More importantly, can we do this in-house and get the same results that an expert search engine optimization company would provide?
As this article will demonstrate, clearly the answer is “yes” to both questions. However, as this article will also demonstrate, getting the types of results that an expert at search engine optimization can provide will cost you – often more than outsourcing.
For the purpose of this article, I’m ignoring the multitudes of companies that decide to dump the job on somebody already in their organization (usually an IT person who already has too much to do) rather than hiring a search engine optimization company.
It has been my experience that while some of these people eventually provide decent results, they are the exception. More often than not, the project never leaves the ground, or the effort is halfhearted at best. In a worst case scenario, your internal person may embrace tactics that no expert search engine optimization company would ever use because they can put your site at risk of penalization or outright removal from the engine indexes.
My company often works with firms after they have used non-expert internal talent to optimize their website, and most of the time we are actually doing more work because much of what has been done is ineffective or dangerous. We have to take everything apart and put it all back together, often while making requests to the search engines to have penalties lifted.
The real goal of this article, however, is to assume that a business has decided to embark on a search engine optimization campaign, and that it is also committed to using a proven expert in search engine optimization.
The choice then is simple – does the business hire an experienced resource to work in-house or should it instead go with an outsourced search engine optimization company?
A recent study by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, published in the January 2008 edition of DM News (“Healthy SEM Salaries Rule: SEMPO Survey”), points out that experience in search engine marketing carries a high price tag.
For instance, if you were looking to hire someone with more than five years of experience in search engine marketing, you could expect to pay between $100,000 and $200,000 per year.
For somebody with experience but not five or more years, you can expect to pay anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 per year. If nothing else, these real world figures should convince discerning companies that expert search engine optimization and marketing is not something that you should dump off on an existing employee without any experience in the field.
The free market has determined that expert search engine optimization and marketing is worth at least $60,000 per year for a full time position, and up to $200,000 per year. On the other hand, most reputable search agencies have many more than five years of collective experience in the search engine marketing industry.
In addition, a high percentage of these agencies offer SEO services that cost considerably less than $60,000 per year, to say nothing of $200,000 per year. It should also be noted that this figure neglects to include any of the additional costs associated with hiring – benefits, training, and so on. In addition, an expert search engine optimization company will have a broad range of sites from which to draw knowledge, while your in-house expert will likely only have one, or a handful at best.
To be fair, there are certain advantages to hiring an in-house expert. First of all, experts will have their feet to the fire, so to speak. A search engine optimization company isn’t likely to go out of business if it under performs on your site, but an in-house expert in search engine optimization is likely to lose his or her job.
It’s also much easier to get the whole team together to discuss your SEO initiatives at any time you choose when you are working with someone in-house. And hey, when you’re paying someone $200,000 per year, you can be pretty certain that you’re going to get top-notch work. But can an expert search engine optimization company give you that same level of work for a lot less money? Probably.
There are many compelling reasons why your business should hire an expert search engine optimization company rather than bring in an SEO expert internally or simply give the SEO project to an existing team member. Financially, it makes sense. But more so, you’re more likely to get the results over the short and long term with an outsourced company for all of the reasons noted above. I’m not saying you have to hire an SEO company – at first. I’m saying eventually you’ll probably want to.
About the Author
Scott Buresh is the founder and CEO of Medium Blue (www.mediumblue.com), which was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld in 2006 and 2007. Scott’s articles have appeared in numerous publications, including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Brown, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue is an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.
SEO campaigns can consume a lot of budget very quickly with very little return in the short run. Let’s face it, there are a many things that need to be done and time is money. So what are the tricks to a successful (and cost effective) SEO campaign?
First – establish a benchmark. If you don’t know where you are starting, you won’t know if you are winning the battle. Find out how you rank on the search engines of your choice for your most cherished keywords.
Now choose carefully – you want to pick one or two search engines and a handful of keywords. Each search engine is different and while some will like your SEO tuning, others will hate it and your rankings may drop, so it is very important that you make a conscious decision as to the ones you want to improve on.
Once you have done that – then look at your competitors, and see what they are doing. If they have been successful, then by emulating them, you too will be successful.
Now go and make your changes – update your copy, your meta-tags, your titles, your image texts – all of the things that a decent SEO tune up will do.
Now for the hard part – have patience. It will take somewhere close to a month or maybe more for those changes to have any effect, so there is no point in making changes on a Monday and expect a shift in your rankings by Tuesday. It is simply not going to happen – so get back to your regular business and make a note in your diary to re-check your rankings in a month.
Rinse and repeat on a monthly basis.
Simple isn’t it – well not quite, because even if your site is fully SEO’d there are other factors that you need to work on, and those are called back links.
According to recent publications, consumers spent more than $100 billion online at U.S. based e-commerce sites last year, which does not include online auction sites, travel spending, or corporate purchases. That’s a significant increase over last year – more than 20%. There has never been a better time to be on the receiving end of that spending pattern, and the market keeps improving.
Many people start an e-commerce site as their primary business. If you have a brick and mortar store where you sell products or simply operate a business from home, starting an e-commerce site can provide an additional sales channel for you.
Creating a Web site for the purpose of selling products or services online entails a large amount of research and planning. When you start an online business, forgetting one simple step can make the difference between success and failure.
Here are 8 steps to help you get started:
1. Create a business and marketing plan. Schedule a time to meet with your business partners or team members. Brainstorm together and lay out all of your plans in one document. This plan should incorporate all start-up and recurring costs. Set up an overall expense budget and sales forecast.
2. Choose a good Web site address (domain name) to help customers find you. You will need to select a domain name for the site that accurately represents what you are selling and helps brand your business. However, did you consider that the search engines will also be using your domain name as a symbol of what you sell? Give some thought to an appropriate URL and go shopping for one.
3. Select the right e-commerce software with a shopping cart. In order to sell products on your Web site, you have a few options. You can hire someone to develop custom online storefront functionality. However, most small businesses who are looking for more cost effective solutions purchase e-commerce Web site hosting software. This allows your customers to select products from your Web site, put them into the shopping cart on your site, and then checkout using their choice of various payment methods.
4. Apply for a business account (merchant account) for processing credit cards. It is critical to give your customers multiple payment options on your Web site. Most customers are accustomed to paying for goods and services online using their credit card. In order to accept credit cards as payment for your products, you must apply for what is called a merchant account. If you do not accept credit cards on your Web site, you are doing a great disservice to your site’s potential for success, so make sure you apply.
5. Secure your site to let customers know it is safe to do business with you. As an online merchant, security is a key consideration for you. If you are going to accept consumer financial information such as credit card payments, you are responsible for ensuring that data is protected and secure and that you meet credit card company security requirements.
6. Design your site to be user-friendly. Once you have all of the products uploaded to the Web site and you can accept credit cards it’s time to work on improving the site’s appearance before you go live with your new online storefront.
7. Test the site. You only have one chance to make a first impression with each visitor, so be sure that you test and tweak your site before going live with it. Plan at least a few days or weeks to do this. Make sure everything is working properly or all of your efforts can be for naught.
You might try inviting a few friends to help you test the site. Ask them to visit your Web site while you watch their browsing behavior. Try not to say anything as they click around. Give them fifteen minutes, and then ask them about their experience.
8. Promote your site online. Promoting your site on the Web can be expensive and complex, but taking advantage of search engine behavior to drive targeted traffic to your site can result in a favorable long-term return on your up-front investment, whether that investment is your time or money.
Using these tips, you can quickly and easily start selling products online. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but is actually quite simple. There are many vendors who can help fulfill the needs laid out in each action step. View examples of how others have used these simple steps for marketing effectiveness. Follow these steps and in no time at all you’ll be up and running.
When you use your self-published books as a sales tool to identify customers and make additional sales, then your self-published books become a money-generating tool that can drive a million-dollar business.
Customers expect a book to cost $9.95, $19.95, or perhaps as much as $49.95. With production costs, that doesn’t give you a lot of money to promote your books and generate sales. It depends on your income goals, but if it consists of selling your books alone, you’d have to sell hundreds or thousands of books a month to earn any substantial income. Your operation costs and marketing expenses would quickly exceed the revenues.
There is a better way. When you use your self-published books as a sales tool to identify customers and make additional sales, then your self-published books become a money-generating tool that can drive a million-dollar business.
Here Are 3 Examples of How Your Self-Published Books Can Create a Highly Profitable Business:
1. Well-known speaking and presentation skills coach builds a massive list of targeted, hungry prospects and a multi-million dollar business with a self-published book. Speaking and presentation skills coach, Susan Berkley self-published her book, Speak to Influence: How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice in 1999.
The book has sold over 14,000 copies, is now in the second printing of its second edition, and continues to sell every month. Susan still gets quoted from her book, even though it is over seven years old. In fact, the book recently scored blurbs in Glamor and Self magazines without even trying.
More importantly, Susan invites her book buyers to sign up for her free e-zine through her website. In the e-zine, Susan offers subscriptions to her monthly paid newsletter, and promotes her products, teleseminars and consulting/coaching services.
The revenue from these additional services and products is many times higher than anything she has received from publishing her book. Best of all, Susan can easily market new products whenever she likes. If she decides she needs more money, she creates another program, sends an e-mail to her list, and makes sales-all from a list created through her self-published book.
2. A mortgage expert increases web traffic and generates millions of dollars of revenue for his mortgage brokerage company from his self-published book. Brian Sacks’ self-published book, Yes, You Can Get a Mortgage: Even If You’ve Had a Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, or Other Credit Issue has helped thousands achieve the American dream of home ownership.
For Brian, this $19.14 book has generated a constant flow of great customers and millions of dollars of revenue for his mortgage brokerage company. Brian invites book readers to visit his website for more information and a personal evaluation. Quite often, this evaluation leads to mortgage services with fees ranging from $5,000.00 to $15,000.00.
3. The source for accurate celebrity contact information creates monthly, recurring revenue from his self-published book. Jordan McAuley self-published his book, Contact Any Celebrity, and sold it for $55.00. This book that provides contact information for celebrities is useful for authors who want positive quotes from celebrities to put on their book covers, fans seeking autographs, and charities looking for celebrity endorsements.
Even though $55.00 for a book is a great price, Jordan didn’t stop there. He created a membership website with data that wouldn’t fit into the finished book. Jordan includes publicist information, additional phone numbers, and charities the celebrity already supports. It’s a lot of useful information specifically for authors and charities.
Jordan charges only $9.95 a month for membership and promotes this option throughout his book. So instead of selling a book and getting paid once, Jordan has created monthly, recurring revenue from individuals who want constant access to more extensive and constantly updated information.
Final Self-Published Thoughts
Too many authors see the self-publishing of a book as their end goal. When that book hits bookstores, they breathe a sigh of relief and pat themselves on the back for a big accomplishment. Yes, you should be proud, but don’t stop there. Self-publishing a book opens the door to hundreds of other business opportunities.
So what can you actually learn by segmenting your audience?
Direct marketers are always looking for ways to improve targeting to make a bigger impact on their audience. One traditional approach is “market segmentation,” where people are grouped by some set of characteristics.
One of the ideas behind segmentation is that it allows us to describe product benefits in ways that impact a particular audience. Since the same features in a product provide different benefits to different groups of people, it makes sense to segment the audience into groups where each marketing message can be delivered more efficiently. But there is another benefit to market segmentation on the Web–you can learn more about your audience.
Profiling individuals on the Web allows us to not only select which message to deliver to each individual, but also helps us learn about the needs and interests of each person. This can be used to segment an audience in ways that traditional direct marketers have only dreamed of.
So what can we actually learn by segmenting our audience?
Perhaps the easiest thing to learn is which products are purchased by the same people. Web sites that use collaborative filtering are helping marketers and consumers answer this question. You’ve probably seen sites that say, “People who bought this product also purchased these other products.”
For instance, if a group of customers buys what appear to be unrelated products, try cross-promoting the two products and see if other customers buy that combination, too. By using market segmentation tools and techniques, unique groups of people can be identified and marketing programs created to take advantage of this opportunity.
Even without collaborative filtering, we can use standard database queries to identify a number of clusters and learn about our audience. By just using your customer data file it’s possible to segment your audience by geography, season, order size, frequency of purchase, and other data that you already collect.
For example, how does the geographic distribution of your customers compare to the country as a whole? California has 12 percent of the US population, so if less than 12 percent of your U.S. customers are from California, that segment might not respond to the same marketing messages as other regions. By targeting a different email message to that market segment, you might find results are higher than sending the same email newsletter to everyone.
Many traditional catalogers project the profitability of customer segments by just using the recency of the latest order, the frequency of ordering, and the monetary size of the order (RFM Analysis).
In addition to RFM analysis, Web marketers have an additional source of data — Web server log data that can be combined with purchase history data. We can learn a great deal about our customers by looking for patterns of Web behavior that lead to greater revenue.
For those with a strong interest in analytical and statistical techniques, there are a number of data mining products on the market that can help the savvy marketer find the smallest of segments in a market. By linking your Web traffic data to your customer database, you can answer more complex Web-related questions that can’t be answered based on Web browsing behavior alone such as:
- Is the cumulative amount of time spent on the site during multiple sessions related to inquiry or sales activity?
- Is the number of visits to the Web site a predictor of e-commerce sales?
- What is the click-through rate for each product page to the shopping cart page?
- Which affiliates generate customers with the highest profit margins?
- Are people who come to your Web site from one search engine more likely to make a purchase than people using the same search phrase at a different search engine?
There are almost as many ways to segment a market as there are data that can be collected. Fortunately, there are tools available for Web marketers to make sense of the massive amount of data.
As more companies integrate databases and e-commerce into their sites, Web marketers will be able to use market segmentation to learn more about their customers and improve performance of each aspect of Web marketing.