In-House SEM – Limited Shelf Life?

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*

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6 Responses to “In-House SEM – Limited Shelf Life?”

  1. Julie Joyce says:

    I agree, especially about keeping your SEOs fresh. There’s definitely a worry about having your team poached (that’s how I left my last job actually) but at the same time, if you deny people the chance to learn more you’re never going to improve your in-house group. Think of all you’ve learned from the people you meet at a conference. Think of a team who never leaves their office and doesn’t know anyone else in the field then. It’s not a good thing at all.

  2. Judith Lewis says:

    I think a network is part of what makes an SEO/M valuable. It extends an individuals problem solving ability and keeps ideas flowing – just ask the two guys here where I work I’m constantly throwing post links at.

    I just wish I got regular gifts of chocolate where I am now *laughs* *winks*

  3. jrochlitz says:

    I am new in this field as of this year and am doing all I can to keep up. I plan on attending a conference here soon and in the mean time I am taking online courses, researching and learning from a co-worker. I am an in-house SEM/SEO/ICP “specialist” ;) , but we do outsource some of our SEM. Does that make me less valuable I wonder? Do you have any tips as to what I can do to keep on the cutting-edge of things and sustain a longer shelf life?

  4. No I really don’t think you outsourcing some of your SEM cuts your shelf life. I agree with some of Judith’s points but I would be vary of saying “limited shelf life”! I am an SEO agency side and often deal with in-house SEO/SEMs, I think it’s a smart move to outsource some of the work. Especially link building etc that can get very time consuming. I wouln’t worry at all! SEOs and SEMs are still in GREAT demand! Keep on learning and visiting blogs and forums to keep up to date, you are doing the right thing!

  5. Judith Lewis says:

    Limited shelf life in one company perhaps *laughs* ;) PLEASE don’t take the limited shelf life to mean SEMs will no longer be valuable – they grow and move on or they are kept fresh and remain.

    jrochitz – never think that just because some of the work is outsourced that you aren’t as valuable :D Look at it as a way to tap in to someone elses brain for awhile. Outsourced jobs offer any SEO/M the valuable opportunity to see how someone else approaches that same task. Think what you’d do then see what they did then combine and kick butt!

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    Considering in-house SEOs and outsourced ones may have vastly different opinions about how to optimize, I don’t think either has a limited shelf life. I think there’s a place for both types in most situations. Link building seems especially viable for outsourcing since you can get away with having a less intense understanding of the intricacies of a site. That is in no way intended to mean that a link developer is less valuable though–I actually think a good link developer is sometimes THE key to getting a site to do well but if you’re trying to do that in-house and trying to do everything else, you’re going to be spread way too thin.

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