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Search Engine Marketing: Outsource or In House?

Search Engine Marketing: Outsource or In House?

Barry Schwartz is covering the current Search Engine Strategies Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

The next Search Engine Strategies session I thought would be interesting to report on was Search Engine Marketing: Outsource or In House?. Chris Sherman is moderating this panel, which includes Drew Graham from Kelkoo, Bill Hunt from IBM, Joseph Morin from Autobytel (SEW Forum Mod) and Jan Rencke from Destination Stockholm (former WMW Mod).

Jan Rencke was first up, he described what he does and how competitive his industry is (he compared hotel reservations to porn, and gambling). Its pretty amazing, Marcia (our new mod at SEW) told me about a post that Jan placed at WMW and he actually referred to it on his first slide. He created 20 web sites, with 150 pages each, rich cross linked content in 19 languages, translated from english, self loading frameset for easy maintenance, simple no frills homespun coding, external style sheets, and optimized only for Google (not others).

He then said, only 8% of the world’s population understand english, 28% if all Europeans understand english, and 41% in western-europe understand english. He then listed the 20 sites, with the domain names he created, its in his slide but some were,, etc. He said he has good keywords in the domain name, and this was what he wanted to illustrate. Each page on the sites, printed to about 1 – 2 full pages. They linked the content richly, if you look at one of his sites, you will see a listing of flags across the top. If you click on the flags, you will be taken to an other site, for that country. So instead of just requesting the language request on the index page, they did it on a page by page basis.

He then displayed some source code from the page and discusses how using Frontpage and other editors can tarnish you code. Then he went into how to reduce duplication, i.e. pulling same images, using relative links, giving access to translators, etc. Simple SEO for Google; (1) keywords in URL (2) keywords in title, (3) different title descriptions, etc. (4) h1 tags, p tags h2 tags, etc. (5) use external style sheets, (6) all pages crossed linked not just top level, (7) keywords in link text, (8) no links in scripts and (9) ODP submission. In addition, he performed SEO and PPC together.

Bill Hunt from IBM was next up, he is a well known speaker in this niche topic. His task was to optimize for specific language search marketing, not an easy task. They developed a methodology, which he will now go through. First thing they did was develop a search marketing committee, which started out at 5 people and now is up to 150 people involved in ibm. They first analyze the site, they first remove crawl barriers, then educate the players, they fix templates (optimize templates), keyword management, then create scorecards, then page audits based on scorecard, train the PR teams (for link building purposes, blogs, news sites, and where they link and how they link (anchor text, specific pages), develop partner links and monitor & promote search metrics.

He said, he first targets infrastructure and then coding and then content. Most SEOs start with content, then code and then build infrastructure. I am a big fan of Bill’s methodology here. They hold training sessions for each stage in the methodology. He showed how he pulled the product name in the title, h1 tag, description area, and meta information. Then he reviewed the scorecard he developed, its way to detailed (but also simple to look at) for me to write about here. Maybe we can convince Bill to discuss this scorecard in the forums. 🙂

Be on the look out for Bill’s book to be released soon, to be named “”. If he writes as well as he speaks, this book is going to be well worth it. His presentation is at

Joseph Morin, SEW Forum moderator and is the SEO master for Autobytel. They do offline ads (they did a superbowl ad), affiliate marketing, PPC and SEO (which is Joseph’s area). Before the SEM campaign they had 800 pages listed in Google. He discussed the challenges he had, politically, optimizing big company sites. Now the site has 300,000 pages indexed and traffic is way up. He discussed the “value of a visitor” and discussed how a search visitor might be worth more then an affiliate visitor. Shopping sites, high number of SKUs, constantly evolving (adding), heavy content sites and location factors all make for good candidates for in house SEM. In house advantages include; better knowledge of product/industry, industry contacts, day to day operations is easier and typically bigger budgets. Advantages to outsourcing include; pay for SEM as you go, your agency might be more up to date with the latest SEO news, SEM industry contacts are in different industries (so it helps take strategies from other industries to yours).

Drew Graham represents Kelkoo, the largest shopping search engine in Europe. He focuses mostly on the PPC side and not on the SEO side. They are active in 10 European countries, including Sweden. Kelkoo’s business model is to make money on the margin between the spend and the sale of PPC ads. They keep SEM in house, it works well for them. He feels that pretty much anyone managing many keywords should do it in house, and not outsource. They built some internal tools to manage spend (KOBO, keyword optimization back office). The program (at least the way I understand it) automatically logs into Google or Overture and acts as a human, in other words – a bot sophisticated. This KOBO system basically puts all the data into one place to help manage the keywords across all advertisers and logins.

Q: To Jan, what are your thoughts on having your sites on a different server?
A: Jan says he has all his 20+ sites on one server in London on the same IP address for over two years. He has not had a problem yet with rankings. He thinks people discussing this is and putting sites on multiple servers are paranoid.

Q: About keywords in the URL, how important?
A: Bill explained it as it helps people link to you with those keywords. The main benefit is that they will link to you with the URL. Jan disagrees with Bill and says that having the keywords URL helps. He quotes Brett Tabke as agreeing with Bill. Jan says its one of the most argued topics, and its a religion.

Q: Do SEM firms know what they are doing?
A: Joseph says it depends on the firm.

Columnist Barry Schwartz is the Editor of Search Engine Roundtable and President of RustyBrick, Inc., a Web services firm specializing in customized online technology that helps companies decrease costs and increase sales.

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Loren Baker Founder at Foundation Digital

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ...

Search Engine Marketing: Outsource or In House?

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