Within the SEM industry, one debate seems to rage on endlessly for both PPC search and SEO, its close cousin: when to outsource and when to keep search functions in-house.

When the topic of outsourcing search comes up, more often than not it arises for PPC search and SEO simultaneously, which I find very odd. It's certainly true PPC search and organic SEO share a foundational keyword list, and both need to be tracked simultaneously in either a Web analytics or campaign management platform. Nevertheless, strategies and functions diverge dramatically in making specific outsourcing decisions for SEO and PPC SEM.

Since most people think of SEO and PPC outsourcing issues as intertwined, let's look at both. First, the SEO side. A company's SEO objectives must be realistic. The search engines have an imperative to maintain relevance and quality. Your SEO objective should be to have just a little edge in the case when your site and your competition's are nearly identically relevant. The likelihood of achieving and maintaining top rank for a search is fairly small when you're not, in fact, most relevant. Newer companies have an especially difficult time building the kind of online link momentum that can come close to dislodging known brands and domains.

Therefore, SEO objectives should be appropriate to your likelihood of success and tempered by how far away from best practices your Internet presence currently is. If you've identified major issues in regard to search engine friendliness or lack of content relevant to your business, your homework assignment is clear. By identifying the upside opportunity in SEO and the kinds of issues you face, you'll be able to determine the best mix of internal and external staff. Link building is like PR, content creation like a unique form of writing. Tech issues relating to internal link structure, URL formation, and usability often reside within a tech or information architecture role.

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