3 min.
Taking your SEM internal. Will it pay off?
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Taking your SEM internal. Will it pay off?

Business Strategy Paid Media & SEM

For some time now, we’ve seen more and more companies internalize SEM for different reasons. Internalising can have its positives, but working with an agency definitely has its advantages, which is why we’ve decided to do a thorough examination of the issue, to bring to light the advantages of both options.



Why would an executive leader want to internalize SEM, an important element of digital marketing?

Advantages of internalizing

1.More time for management and optimization at less costs

For the executive, of course, it’s often a question of money. And we get it! Doing business with a media agency is a source of significant fees and to save on expenses it seems logical to bring Search marketing in-house.

Depending on the contract you have with your agency, the specialist assigned to your account will have a certain number of hours to dedicate to it. The greater your investment, the more time the specialist will be able to spend working on your account. For example, for a monthly budget of $15,000, your agency charges you a x% management fee, and the specialist assigned to your account has x hours to spend managing your campaigns, depending on how transparent they are about reporting their hours.

With an investment of that size, it’s unlikely you’ll have a dedicated specialist for your account. Given all this, internalizing your SEM services can save you a lot of money and increase the time spent managinf and optimizing your account.

2. More control

Having an in-house specialist will give you more control over your actions and allow for greater flexibility. Communicating with an agency can be costly if it’s poorly organized or if the players are physically removed from each other. Proximity can improve communication and lead to better alignment between everyone involved. In addition, this method offers better control over the final output and allows modifications to be managed more fluidly. Dealing with emergencies is also much easier, knowing that physical proximity will allow for greater adaptability.

3. More transparency

Unless you have access to your account, the monthly or quarterly reports you get are often the only overview you have of your investment. Is that report exhaustive and transparent? Is your agency hiding anything from you?

By internalizing, it’s possible that you’ll have faster access to some data. That said, more and more agencies are offering direct access to platforms and real-time dashboards. 

But be carefull, an internal specialist with expert status could easily falsify results if there was no one external to challenge them. Plan to bring in a consultant on an ad hoc basis. There are so many ways to do SEM that you’ll want to validate some of your actions, whether they were taken by an agency or an internal employee.

Although these three reasons might lead an executive to believe that internalization is a good idea, it’s important to look at both sides of the medal.


Advantages of the agency

Although internalization has several positives, working with an agency can greatly increase your company’s media performance, in spite of the fact that less time is dedicated to the account.

1. Always aware of the latest innovations

Working in an agency on many accounts allows the specialist to test new innovations and always stay on top of new strategies. In addition, rubbing shoulders daily with other Search specialists allows us to talk about the practice, and grow our knowledge every day. The agency also has greater knowledge of the different verticals and the data available, so we can quickly validate certain hypotheses. Suppliers tend to dedicate more time to agencies, knowing that their portfolio is often bigger than that of a direct client. More often than not, this means an agency will have privileged access to certain information and even certain products.

2. An available multidisciplinary team

Adviso is the perfect example of a multidisciplinary agency that can significantly optimize your web performance.

The SEM expert assigned to your account will often have to analyze segments that aren’t necessarily within their purview. Take for example the performance of landing pages, the load time of your pages, or even organic search. It’s not within the mandate of the SEM specialist to optimize these sections of your web marketing efforts, but these different elements could impact the performance of your Search campaigns, particularly the Quality Score.

As specialists within an agency, we have easy access to the best UX, Analytics, Social or SEO experts in the industry to easily offer you complementary services as needed.

Improving the different components of your web marketing can not only improve the performance of your Search campaigns, but also improve your digital returns from all channels combined.

3. A specialist with a single focus

The face of the industry is in constant evolution. In this reality, your dedicated SEM employee could likely be called upon to create campaigns for Facebook, GDN, work on SEO… Quickly, this person will move more and more into the role of a generalist, if you aren’t careful. Maintaining an excellent level of expertise in SEM requires near-complete dedication to the channel. With the quantity of new innovations, changes to interfaces, and more, a generalist will quickly fall behind if their focus is divided between multiple fronts.

4. Access to cutting-edge technology

Agencies will always have superior buying power to an independent company, which can offer several advantages. Take for example platforms like Marin Software, Kenshoo, DBM or DCM. Access to these technology platforms requires a minimum investment, and as the client of an agency, you’ll have access without having to disburse the minimum fees.

Agencies like Adviso also offer technological support that you might not have as a company. At Adviso, our #datasciense team is composed of four people totally dedicated to research and development, which allows all specialists to be more efficient and effective.

The technological advancements that this team develops constitute a significant competitive advantage when you’re making your choice to internalize Search.


Once the advantages for both options are exposed, if you decide to proceed with internalization, the most difficult task is still ahead of you: Finding the right specialist!

Many people in the industry think they’re good, but to be honest, few people are as good as they think they are! Your specialist should have very specific qualities if you want your internalization to succeed. Working on a single account throughout the week could be demotivating for a specialist, so you should be looking for someone who is:

  • Curious
  • Motivated
  • Autonomous
  • Self-taught
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Knows your vertical

Paradoxically, these qualities can also be flaws. A good SEM specialist is a bit obsessive and very controlling, and if you think about it, that’s their job!

Good SEM specialists often have personalities that are difficult for HR departments and more rigid organizations to manage, and this can often create dissatisfaction for the specialist. Your company with therefore have to learn to work with this type of personality, and offer them competitive advantages like tele-commuting, competitive salary, a personal development plan with the possibility to get external training, etc..

In short, the road that leads to internalization can be long and perilous. If you want to move forward with it, the good news is we probably can help you with recruitment, training, and support alike.