SEO for Ecommerce Sites – In-House vs Agency & Other Questions…

November 2, 2012

This week’s #ecomchat topic was ‘SEO for E-Commerce’. A broad, massive, divisive, ambiguous, unwieldy, gargantuan topic, ideally suited to a medium where you have to squeeze any thoughts into 140 characters, surely?

The 3 “SEO for Ecommerce” Questions Were:

Q1: “With all the complexities of #ecommerce biz what are pros/cons/nuances of In-house vs Agency for #ecommerce SEO? #Ecomchat”

Q2: “Which aspects of SEO should #ecommerce keep in-house, vs which outsourced?”

Q3: “Which elements of SEO do you most often see #Ecommerce sites getting wrong?”

There were a couple of hundred tweets around this, so here are the selected answers from hands-on SEOs, agency owners, in-house dev and marketing people, and many others:


EcomChat – In-House vs External SEO for Ecommerce

Here is the selected summary of the latest #ecomchat, running at 5.30pm UK time each Monday on twitter.

Storified by dan barker · Fri, Nov 02 2012 05:05:58

#ecomchat Q1. With all the complexities of #ecommerce biz, what are the pros/cons/nuances of In-house vs Agency for #ecommerce SEO?dan barker
@danbarker In house great if you are a big company but for small businesses isn’t practical at all #ecomchatGaz Copeland
@danbarker challenge finding an agency willing to learn about your business and fitting with it rather than the other way round #ecomchatGaz Copeland
@stokedseo do you mean there is zero in-house resource at all? Surely some basics of SEO are best done in-house? #ecomchatJames Gurd
@JamesGurd definitely, I’m mean having a specific person #ecomchatGaz Copeland
@danbarker Agency generally much more efficient and focused day to day #ecomchatGaz Copeland
#A1 Its all down to communication, internal or external – knowledge is part, understanding is best @JamesGurd #ecomchatRussell McAthy
SEO requires skill / expertise across a multitude of disciplines. As such, often a combo of in-house + agency works best #ecomchatBen Potter
#ecomchat a1) I like to ensure a base in-house competency then external for the real expertise otherwise you pay a lot to be told basicsDan Coleman
@danielmcoleman How would you define ‘base in-house competency” Daniel? I think the line can be hard to define #ecomchatJames Gurd
@JamesGurd #ecomchat understanding how to technically structure a site, ability to execute strategy through day to day activities etc. 1/2Dan Coleman
@JamesGurd #ecomchat 2/2 …ability to track performance to a degree and react, blogger outreach etc. But work with externals on strategy.Dan Coleman
@DanielMColeman agree entirely. We’ve found a lot of clients want to do executional stuff but need agency support for strategy #ecomchatBen Potter
@BennaP totally agree with this. It’s impossible to manage post penguin SEO in house. Equally, agencies need help from in house #EcomChatDaniel Clutterbuck
@danbarker #ecomchat Q1 Also, agency have experience across wide variety of clients/verticals. Often encountered problem before &can applyHyderali Shaikh
MT @millerian If the inhouse job role is protected, invaluable. Our exp: inhouse get drafted into everything else, agency focussed #ecomchatdan barker
@danbarker #ecomchat Q1 Also, agency have experience across wide variety of clients/verticals. Often encountered problem before & can applyIan Miller
@millerian I like that answer. How do you deal with sticking close to stock/technical changes, etc? #ecomchatdan barker
@danbarker #ecomchat Cliche, but close working relationship. We also use feeds a lot to monitor, & custom dashboards for search trends etc.Ian Miller
The basics of #SEO should be taught to all digital in-house marketing team. #ecomchatDaniel Austin
#ecomchat A1) I think certain tasks eg link building are often too labour intensive to justify extra head count for in-house SEOChris Dyson
A1) #ecomchat I’ve found that for business with limited in-house experience, working with agency to help drive strategy can work really wellJames Gurd
MT @tm_nash In-house are better positioned to champion SEO into all (relevant) projects. #ecomchatdan barker
@tm_nsh @danbarker Not saying negative, agree internal champion great. Just realities of time management, esp for smaller ecoms #ecomchatIan Miller
@tm_nsh @millerian Issue is that sometimes internal SEOs don’t get listened to – agencies can have less political barriers #ecomchatJames Gurd
we also find in-house staff are already involved in SEO without knowing it i.e. PR people. They’re just not joining the dots #ecomchatBen Potter
@rootswebsol + link building also requires specialist skills that a generalist might not have e.g. elements of PR #ecomchatJames Gurd
Your in-house #SEO should be working with comms/marketing/PR #ecomchatDaniel Austin
@hyderali_ That is where most of the company failed. They consider SEO after the set up 🙁 #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh
SEO should be at the core of any online business, it should be considered from step 1, I.e. Company name/Domain decisions #ecomchatJoshua Geake
A1) #ecomchat In-house resource can focus on doing the everyday essentials, outsource elements like link building that need specific skillsJames Gurd
@JamesGurd So you mean to say an ecommerce company should hire both agency as well as in-house? #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh
@RootsWebSol: #ecomchat A1) I think certain tasks eg link building are often 2 labour intensive 2 justify extra head count for in-house SEOHyderali Shaikh
@hyderali_ agreed! Usually a couple of months in with zero traffic #ecomchatGaz Copeland
@hyderali_ I think there should be someone in-house to deliver the basics, then use agency to drive strategy + specialist skills #ecomchatJames Gurd
@hyderali_ For example, ensuring product catalogue updates follow an approved process for optimisation #ecomchatJames Gurd
I think a lot of it boils down to the size and complexity of your organisation as to what route you go down…#ecomchatDaniel Austin
@DanielJAustin and budget! #ecomchatBen Potter
Great discussion to follow/join RT @danbarker: Very nice varied debate on pros/cons of ‘in-house’ vs ‘agency seo for Ecommerce. #ecomchatAndrew Warren-Payne
#ecomchat A1. I think if decent targets are set for external it works better. Often agencies sell a process that doesn’t deliver results.dan barker
#ecomchat A1. Or at least – it should be very clear what is being bought/sold. ‘results’ or ‘recommendations’ or ‘benchmarking’ etc.dan barker
#ecomchat A1. Whereas in-house SEOs will usually focus on ‘results’. (lots of) agencies more often sell a process.dan barker
@danbarker Agree about decent targets – which means you need someone in-house who understands SEO to set them #ecomchatJames Gurd
I’ve seen SEO projects go nowhere and cost a lot of money because they weren’t being driven from inside out #ecomchatJames Gurd
That said, as @danielJAustin @BennaP point out, it comes down to size and budget. If you have no inhouse skill, what do you do? #ecomchatJames Gurd
@JamesGurd #ecomchat and what do you do if you can’t recruit because you don’t know what you need?Richard Fergie
Risk of relying 100% on agency is skewed priorities. Are they doing what’s in your best interests? Not all agencies born equal #ecomchatJames Gurd
That’s not saying I don’t value SEO agencies – I really do. Just think you get most from them when you work in tandem #ecomchatJames Gurd
#EcomChat I think there’s a role in the ecommerce solution supplier training in house on technical SEO. Changing product titles for example!Daniel Clutterbuck
I’m working w/ecommerce co whr d client hired both inhouse & agency & given them 3 product categories each to achieve ranking. #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh
#ecomchat a1. Sometimes outside consultants are better placed to get changes pushed up the web dev job queue quickerChris Dyson
@JamesGurd @tm_nsh @danbarker I agree with @BennaP, very important for inhouse “owner” even if not executing. #ecomchatIan Miller
@danbarker @JamesGurd #ecomchat but I also don’t want a chunk of my budget going on telling my devs to use an H1 tagDan Coleman
@JamesGurd I think beneficial for in-house to understand, and reduces risk, but doesn’t have to follow. #ecomchatdan barker
@JamesGurd Eg. If I set target of ‘10% growth in sales via non-brand organic search’, I don’t need to know what rel=prev means. #ecomchatdan barker
@danbarker No you don’t but someone has to validate any dev work that involves cost – otherwise you don’t evaluate impact #ecomchatJames Gurd
@danbarker And stuff like rel=prev needs some dev work. Not sensible to let an agency drive your dev work unchecked #ecomchatJames Gurd
@JamesGurd not sure I agree. I’d sooner hand over page-level dev tweaks than the entire strategy. #ecomchatdan barker
@JamesGurd eg. any #ecommerce biz owner will hand over lots of dev responsibility to the devs themselves. #ecomchatdan barker
@danbarker I didn’t say handover the entire strategy? I meant that agencies can help a business drive its strategy #ecomchatJames Gurd
@danbarker By knowing how to execute advanced elements of SEO around link building, online PR, social etc #ecomchatJames Gurd
@JamesGurd content marketing 😀 #ecomchatRichard Fergie
@richardfergie Ha ha 30 mins and CM arrives. SEO is dead. Long live content marketing! #ecomchatJames Gurd
#EcomChat the agency needs to know how to run an ecommerce website or have retail experience. Long-term SEO and stock forecasting is tough.Daniel Clutterbuck
Using #EcomChat as an #Aperitif whilst waiting for a friend at Kings Cross to meet for drinksMatthew Phelan
@JamesGurd think we’re about to get into a semantic argument about the word ‘strategy’ 😉 why not ask the next Q. #ecomchatdan barker
Ok let’s move on to Q2) before we run out of time! Which aspects would you keep in-house vs which outsourced? #ecomchat @danbarkerJames Gurd
q2 kind of depends on what the skill, resource and inclination of the in-house team is #ecomchatBen Potter
anything can be managed in-house with the right motivation, training and support #ecomchatBen Potter
@BennaP what do you think of @millerian’s point earlier that ‘external’ may have experience of lots & lots of situations? #ecomchatdan barker
@danbarker @millerian totally agree with that point, especially if they have specialist sector experience #ecomchatBen Potter
@danbarker @BennaP I think that’s a good point – some agencies have wide experience across multiple clients/verticals etc #EcomChatJames Gurd
@JamesGurd equally, some are specialists in just one sector *coughs loudly* and this can yield real benefits #ecomchatBen Potter
@JamesGurd @danbarker copywriting and link building #EcomChatDaniel Clutterbuck
@JamesGurd Yes, fully agreed. In-house ppl have more knowledge & exp then agencies #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh
@JamesGurd But we can also compare content of in-house & agencies & will measure which would drive more traffic & revenue. #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh
#Ecomchat Q3: Which elements of SEO do you most often see #Ecommerce sites getting wrong?dan barker
@danbarker lack of anything link worthy most common/important for me #ecomchatGaz Copeland
RT @danbarker duplicate content is most common, but biggest for me is lack of linkable assets #ecomchatdan barker
(that should have said:) RT @robbarham duplicate content is most common, but biggest for me is lack of linkable assets #ecomchatdan barker
A3) For me it’s the technical stuff, behind the scenes set-up – site structure, internal linking, code efficiency etc #EcomChatJames Gurd
A3) e.g. page load speed – not enough people monitor continuously and think through impact of adding new elements #EcomChatJames Gurd
@webmgrs A3) Duplicate pages, session ids, missing Alt Tags on image #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh
#ecomchat A3. One common gap is sites failing to use their own products for SEO. See for an eg of this done v welldan barker
A3 #ecomchat. For me it’s seeing SEO as isolated from other marketing activity.Robert Easson
A3 needs to be integrated. Experience of inhouse and using agencies for SEO tell me it rarely is fully integrated #ecomchatRobert Easson
Looks like 2 common ‘opportunity’ themes for #ecommerce SEO: 1) Stuff that people actually want to link to; 2) Technical stuff. #ecomchatdan barker
That’s the hour up. #ecomchat went v fast today. Thanks from @jamesgurd & I for chipping in! We’ll write up later on https://ecomchat.orgdan barker
Oh My! IT’s over. Time ran so fast. Talk on #ecommerce needs more hrs. #ecomchatHyderali Shaikh


Thanks very much to everyone who participated, including: @bennap, @danieljaustin, @danielmcoleman, @daniel_webtise, @davechaffey, @futuretracy, @jamesgurd, @jilllrobb, @jocelynkirby, @matthewphelan, @richardfergie, @rootswebsol, @stokedseo, @agwp, @beyondcontent, @cpbishop, @cranberrypanda, @danbarker, @gcharlton, @geake, @hyderali_, @markbolitho, @millerian, @priteshpatel9, @radhikamohta, @robeasson, @swifty7, @therustybear, @walkerama, @webmgrs

The next #ecomchat will be on Monday, at 5.30pm UK time. For more info if you’d like to join in, see our ‘about ecomchat’ page.


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