When first looking to offer something new, most businesses fall in line with one of two schools of thought:
- Build it internally
- Purchase or outsource it
There are pros and cons to both sides of the coin.
Here’s an example: Say you’re looking to expand the selection of products your company sells. Building a new offering in-house would allow you complete control over the size and shape of the new product. The drawback? Building it yourself usually takes significant internal resources and time. If, instead, you chose to purchase a product from another organization (let’s call them Acme Corp) and whitelabel it — or maybe even purchase Acme Corp itself — you’ll be able to go to market sooner, but you’ll almost certainly have less control over the product you’re offering.
The idea of “build internally” or “purchase externally” doesn’t just apply to products — it also includes internal programs like market research, sales strategy development, and even professional training. In fact, it includes almost everything that makes up an organization, from its processes to its people.
Think back to the last product (internal or external) your company released. In which camp is your organization? Whether you go the outsourcing or building in-house route depends on your business and the situation at hand. There are arguments for the merits of both, and some organizations employ a mix of multiple strategies.
Let’s look at some of the considerations and use cases for why you may want to choose one over the other when it comes to training — in particular, SEO training.
Is SEO training unique?
It’s worth examining if (and how) SEO education differs from other flavors of professional training. While SEO training is a different beast than, say, learning to code or how to do business accounting, from my perspective as an online trainer, teaching SEO isn’t remarkably different than teaching any kind of digital marketing.
SEO versus digital marketing training
Do these two actually differ from each other at all? Search engine optimization is a subset of what digital marketing is all about, so they’re related. But there are differences, nonetheless. Let’s take a closer look:
The training face-off
|Digital Marketing Education||SEO Education|
|Focuses on all aspects of how to attract traffic, convert those visitors into leads, and help transform those leads into customers||Mainly focuses on how to best attract visitors|
|Covers ways to attract visitors from all sources||Deals almost exclusively with increasing or refining traffic from search engines|
|Deals with topics like email marketing, marketing automation, social media, content creation, and beyond||Hones in on topics like keyword research, site architecture, on- and off-page optimization, and analytics (though may also include topics like content creation as they pertain to generating search traffic)|
|Typically measures ROI in terms of marketing or sales-qualified leads generated||Most direct ROI numbers are around traffic generated by source (namely search engines or search-influenced sources)|
The right column, for our purposes in this article, is how we’ll be defining “SEO training.”
Now that we’re on the same page with what we mean when discussing SEO training, let’s dive into the ten-thousand-dollar question*: should you build and run this type of training in-house, or outsource it?
*Yes, some SEO training programs really do cost that much.
Outsourcing: the benefits
Let’s start our tour of outsourcing versus building training in-house by examining the pros of hiring an outside trainer or signing up for an SEO training course:
1. Outsourcing saves time.
Whether it’s hours devoted to developing an SEO curriculum, putting together lessons, actually teaching, or following up with trainees after your session, building and delivering from-scratch training can take an enormous amount of time and effort.
Outsourcing means you get hours in your day back, and because the training is built by professionals, the end product may be higher quality than something built internally.
2. Outsourcing can save you money.
Note “can” (and not “will”) save you money. If you only need training one (or a few) time(s), or if you have a relatively small group of people enrolled, it can be significantly more cost-effective to outsource training.
On the other hand, if you have a large number of people to train or plan on offering a course on a regular basis (for example, as part of new hire onboarding), it may be worth the upfront cost to develop in-house training.
3. Outsourcing lets you put more budget towards day-to-day operations.
It may sound counterintuitive, but companies that “run lean” or dedicate the lion’s share of budget to day-to-day operations may not be able to sacrifice the man hours necessary to develop, deliver, and maintain a training program. Outsourcing one is often significantly less expensive for the scale these organizations need.
4. Don’t have an internal expert, but need new internal expertise? No problem.
If you’re looking to strengthen existing SEO skills or build your company’s SEO expertise from the ground up, but aren’t ready to hire a search marketing manager just yet, finding a good SEO training course or bringing in an outside trainer can provide the skills you’re looking for.
It’s also useful for agencies hoping to offer full SEO services or building an SEO pilot program. Bringing in outside help to train up a few team members on key skills means you don’t need to invest in a net new hire for a program with an uncertain future.
5. Outsourced training makes it easier to reach a remote or multi-lingual team.
It’s as common to hear about companies expanding to open their first satellite office in Beijing as it is to hear that office is in Boston. Thanks to the Internet, today’s world is smaller than ever.
If yours is one of the many companies with international workers or a largely remote workforce, it can be hard to deliver training that’s equally accessible and applicable to everyone. In situations like this — and especially if you have a multilingual workforce — outsourcing training that’s available in various languages can be a great option.
6. Outsourcing may give you access to accreditations or certifications.
Many online and in-person SEO training programs include some sort of certification of completion or proficiency. If that’s a priority, you’ll want to purchase an in-person or online program from an organization with industry name recognition that offers a certification.
7. Outsourcing gives you access to the best quality educators.
Whether you’re a full-fledged Google algorithm guru or just know your way around a site crawl, no one can argue that you’ve got some SEO chops. You already know the material, so it should be no trouble to whip up some training based on your expertise… right?
Maybe, but maybe not. “Doing” skills are different than teaching skills; being skilled at SEO doesn’t automatically correlate to being skilled at teaching SEO. And, perhaps more importantly, teaching doesn’t automatically lead to learning. Just because you have knowledge to share doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be as successful as possible when helping your colleagues actually learn.
One of the biggest benefits of outsourced training is that it gives you access to professional educators, not just folks with practical experience who educate in their free time.
Outsourcing: the drawbacks
Now that we’ve covered some of the benefits of outsourcing training, let’s give in-house training the same treatment. What are cons of relying on a 3rd-party provider for your SEO training needs?
1. Only relying on outsourced education doesn’t give you any equity.
No, I’m not talking about link equity. The equity I’m referring to here is, metaphorically, the same kind of equity you get from buying a house versus renting an apartment.
As a renter, you’re only paying for access to the property — not an actual stake in it. Buying, on the other hand, may take more effort and investment upfront, but it gives you control (and ownership!) over the actual property itself.
What does this metaphor have to do with in-house versus outsourced training? Only relying on outsourced efforts means you’re continually paying someone else for access to their educational property. If you have training needs that span over many employees or many years, this can get very expensive. In those cases, while it may initially be more costly to develop training in-house, it’s a better long-term investment because of the ‘equity’ it provides.
2. Outsourcing training doesn’t always scale with growing businesses.
Plan ahead for the long-term: If you’re growing your organization and plan on having multiple people involved in creating optimized content for your website, it may be a better long-term investment to build in-house training that grows with your team.
3. Outsourced training generally focuses on best practices and one-size-fits-most processes.
Most training programs center on teaching “best practices” or general strategies. If you have a specific process or way of doing SEO, it may be difficult (if not impossible) for an outside trainer to communicate your optimization process — in your terms, using your tools — to your team. For some organizations, that alone may be enough to tilt the scales towards creating all training in-house.
4. Have specific content needs? Building your own curriculum may be your best bet.
Related to having unique processes, having specific content needs also may mean that outsourcing training isn’t the best bet for you. Only want to learn about optimizing content for mobile search engines and advanced link building strategies, but don’t want to have to pay for access to 30 other courses to get the two you do? While some training providers can build a fully custom program designed around exactly what you want to learn, many may come as standard “packages” with little flexibility around what you can learn as a whole or within each session.
5. Training for large teams often comes with a large price tag.
Almost any type of purchasable training program — be it pre-recorded videos, live sessions, in-person classroom experiences, or otherwise — are priced on a “per seat” basis. If your team either needs access to multiple sessions, you have many team members who’ll all need access to the same courses, or both, outsourced training can quickly get pricey.
6. Your access to training materials may be limited.
Some SEO training providers place legal restrictions on re-using the their training materials. This means you may not be able to record sessions, download slides, or distribute useful materials to your team. If sharing the educational love with your coworkers is a deal breaker for you, consider creating and running your SEO training in-house. If you’re still leaning towards using an outside provider, be sure to read their FAQs or legal materials before pulling the trigger.
Key questions to ask
While there are many benefits of outsourcing your SEO training needs, depending on your specific needs there may be an equal number of drawbacks. When considering the right training route for your team it’s worth taking the time to consider questions like:
- How many people need to take this training right now? And over the next one to two years?
- Do I have the internal expertise (or access to it) to create high quality training myself?
- Will it cost me more to build training than it’s currently worth?
- Will it take me longer to build training than value it will provide?
- When do I need my employees trained by? Do I have time to wait, or is there an immediate need?
- Do I need a general SEO training program, one that focuses on specific topics, or one that details my unique process?
- Are the outsourced training options available to me worth the price? What do they include?
- Is it important to get some sort of certification, badge, or other certificate of proficiency upon completion of the training?
The answers to these questions may not give you a black-and-white answer as to whether building training in-house or finding an outside provider is the best choice for you, but they can help make the decision a bit less murky.
Thinking of going the outsourced route for some (or all) of your team’s SEO training? Check out Moz Academy’s online workshops.