SEO Agency vs In-house SEO – What to Do?

SEO Agency vs InHouse

You have recognised that your website needs search engine optimisation to achieve your business goals so do you outsource to an SEO agency or recruit in-house SEO expertise?

This thorny question has been faced by many businesses, large and small. There is no right answer that applies to all enterprises and all circumstances. Both outsourced, SEO agencies and building in-house SEO expertise have their pros and cons which we’ve examined here.

SEO Agency In-House SEO
SEO Expertise High Low – Medium
SEO Experience High Low – Medium
Recruitment Costs None High
Ongoing Costs Medium High
SEO Tools (Software) Professional Intermediate
Success Likelihood High Low – Medium

SEO Agencies

Specialist SEO agencies vary in size from small, boutique agencies consisting of only a handful of people to huge agencies employing teams in multiple offices all around the world. When evaluating SEO agencies its important to consider their size, their client-base and how they interact with customers. A smaller, more agile SEO agency is most often the best choice for a small to medium sized enterprise (SME).

A key advantage that agencies have over in-house SEO people is the breadth and depth of their collective knowledge and experience. An SEO agency employing a number of experienced SEO consultants, strategists, content experts and analysts has a valuable pool of expertise to call upon when needed. Teams of specialists who are each entirely focused on key aspects of SEO campaigns will have developed exceedingly high levels of expertise and experience in their specific areas. Whereas an in-house search engine optimiser is most likely to be less specialised, more of a ‘generalist’ and may lack the in-depth knowledge and experience held by SEO agency personnel.

Another important advantage of outsourcing to a good SEO agency is that the agency will most likely already be highly proficient in using various pieces of expensive, enterprise level SEO software. SEO software tools are immensely useful in SEO campaigns for a variety of tasks from keyword research to competitor analysis. Setting up an in-house SEO capability would require significant investment in the right SEO software along with the need to learn how to use the tools effectively.

Google rolls out many ranking algorithm updates every year and keeping up to date with these and the impact they have is challenging. SEO agencies have an advantage as they tend to make certain they are constantly aware of the latest SEO news, Google updates and what others in the SEO world are saying. By remaining in-touch with the wider world of SEO agencies are better able to respond to these often impactful changes. In-house search engine optimisers are likely to be more focused on the SEO campaign and may not have time available to stay abreast of important Google updates and SEO news.

SEO agencies also have the advantage of working with clients from a range of industries and market sectors. They may already have valuable experience in your specific niche but they are also able to transfer knowledge and experience gained from other markets.

Key Benefits of Working with a Professional SEO Agency

Here’s a roundup of the key benefits gained when working with a reputable, professional SEO agency.

  1. There are many agencies to choose from enabling you to find one that meets your specific business needs.
  2. Small, agile agencies tend to be the best choice for small to medium sized enterprises.
  3. Professional SEO agencies are experts in their field.
  4. SEO agencies will have people with various specialisms including: SEO strategists, technical SEO specialists, content experts, analytics professionals, digital PR and outreach.
  5. SEO agencies are equipped with up-to-date marketing software suites and essential SEO tools and resources.
  6. An SEO agency may already have valuable experience in your market sector or niche.
  7. Your SEO agency will provide you with valuable market insight and competitor analysis.
  8. Professional SEO agencies ensure that they are always fully aware of all Google updates and their impact.
  9. SEO agencies attend expensive conferences enabling them to remain abreast of trends and developments in the industry.
  10. SEO agencies share knowledge and experience gained across multiple accounts, campaigns and sectors.
  11. Analysis and reporting provided by SEO agencies is of a very high, professional standard.
  12. Your SEO agency will be able to tell you whether you are achieving a good return on your SEO investment.
  13. An agile SEO agency will adapt to meet your specific requirements.
  14. Partnering with an SEO agency is the cost-effective way to meet your business SEO requirements.
  15. Your SEO agency will provide ongoing advice and guidance that will help meet your business needs>
  16. By commissioning the services of a great SEO agency you will save time and lots of potential headaches.

In House SEO

One of the key advantages of having your own in-house SEO resource is the immediacy of communications. Your own SEO team are always on hand to provide advice, recommendations, guidance and updates on your SEO status. But a good relationship with a small, flexible SEO agency can also fulfil this basic requirement.

Another advantage often cited when considering in-house SEO expertise is the familiarity gained with your business and client base. In-house SEOs will get to know and understand both your culture and your target audience and should be able to beneficially use this valuable insight. However, there can be advantages in taking a more objective view, such as identifying ineffective or inefficient business processes, that an external agency is better placed to provide. A good working relationship with an SEO agency should enable them to gain detailed familiarity with both your business and you customers.

You may also think that by building your own in-house SEO team you will be able to exercise more control over your SEO campaigns and be more flexible than if you commission SEO services from an agency. While it is true that you will be able to quickly redirect your in-house SEO resources wherever and whenever you want, this is also achievable with an agile SEO agency. A good working relationship with a professional SEO agency should provide you with the flexibility and control that you want while offering the many advantages previously noted.

It is sometimes suggested that by focusing upon just one business website in-house SEO teams have an advantage over SEO agency based employees who are likely to be dealing with multiple websites and accounts. While this dedicated focus may appear to be advantageous the experience gained by agency based SEOs working on a variety of websites with diverse architectures can be far more beneficial.

An important challenge that exists when building in-house SEO teams is the ongoing need for training. SEO is constantly changing and SEOs remain up-to-date with the ever changing landscape by attending conferences, engaging in online discussions and sharing insights and ideas. The need for this ongoing training needs to be borne in mind when recruiting in-house SEO people. SEO agencies need to remain highly familiar with the ever-changing SEO landscape and will generally have established conference attendance routines and regular involvement in various online discussions and forums.

An option which can potentially be beneficial is to develop SEO skills within your existing marketing team. By building these skills and familiarity your existing staff will be better placed to liaise efficiently and effectively with your SEO agency.

Cost Considerations

Having examined some of the pros and cons of both employing an SEO agency and building an in-house SEO resource let’s consider what for most businesses will be a significant concern – costs!

Staff recruitment is an expensive process, which is why many businesses use employment agencies. It’s a process which is fraught with pitfalls when recruiting SEO expertise.

  • Do you know how many SEO experts your business needs?/li>
  • Can you define the skills that they must have?
  • Are you able to effectively determine whether an SEO candidate will meet your needs?
  • You will be trusting your SEO people with your valuable business website, can you be certain they will not cause problems?

Once recruited, your new SEO personnel will undergo a probationary period and hopefully be delivering valuable work very quickly. But there is no guarantee that they will successfully pass their probationary assessment or get up-to-speed as quickly as you would like.

Furthermore, you will need to pay your new SEO people salaries which are consistent with others in the industry. If you are not offering adequate salaries then you are unlikely to attract the best candidates.

SEO Agency or In-House SEO

We’ve highlighted many of the factors that need to be considered when weighing up the best approach for your business. The bottom line is that commissioning services from a reputable SEO agency will cost you significantly less than what it would cost to build your own internal SEO capability. Partnering with a professional, agile SEO agency is generally the most cost-effective option that will deliver the results your business needs and continue to support your objectives as your business grows.

Daniel Bianchini

Author Daniel Bianchini

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