After reading Jessica Bowman’s recent article “When the Honeymoon Ends, In-house” I got to thinking about my own position as an in-house SEM and the problems with us folk moving around, going agency side and leaving to start SEM companies.
Does in-house SEM/SEO/SMOs have a limited shelf life? Yes – in a number of ways. Right now, SEM is the hottest thing since the programmer boom of the 90’s. That can mean that to fill a gap a company chooses someone in house, trains them up and gets them working on things. They learn a bit, think they know a lot, then after consulting on the side for awhile they quit to do their own thing. Or they get poached (and not in a white wine sauce).
SEMs also have a limited shelf life if they are not kept fresh. That doesn’t mean wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing them in the fridge to hide them away. Keeping an SEM fresh means sending them to conferences, giving them job-relevant projects, setting aside time each week for them to read blogs/news/industry chat, and getting them networking. Freshness extends shelf life.
Some companies feel they cannot invest time/money in training someone up (or hiring in) and so think simply choosing a SEM firm is the answer. Outsourcing your SEM work is only part of the solution – you will still need someone in-house to do the grunt work and implement those aspects of the assessment that are possible, while working with IT to get the rest done. If the company fails to get the SEM to talk with the developers, this cuts IT off from SEM. Really, that is a ‘bad thing’. Trust the voice of experience– your in-house SEM *must* talk to IT and have a direct line of communication with them. In teaching IT a bit of SEM and demonstrating in a practical sense that they have a clue, much more will be accomplished by your in-house SEM than by forcing them to direct all requests through someone with limited technical expertise.
Will you lose the SEM you spend time and money training? Possibly – which is why having a corporate culture of a blog or other accessible system for knowledge transfer helps. Your SEM can blog the work they did, how they did it and what they are working on, including timelines that they can refer back to when trying to examine ranking fluctuations. This is best used as an information repository and not a review tool.
Love your in-house SEM and they will love you back. Treat them well, understand their ways and keep them in the loop. Do what you can to integrate SEM in to your corporate culture and keep your SEM talking to as many divisions as possible. Train them well, keep them involved and you’ll keep them for years. Regular gifts of chocolate help as well *grins*