SEO Agency VS In-House: Which is Better?
On-site, off-site, local, organic…SEO is an ever-evolving puzzle. Get it right, and you’ll have streams of traffic funneling to your website. On the flip side, doing it wrong will negatively impact your business, and it’ll be much better not doing it at all!
For many businesses, this means hiring an SEO professional who can work through the algorithms and generate traffic that increases bottom-line revenue. — No one really cares about traffic until it impacts overall business goals. But which will be most beneficial? Hiring an SEO agency or in-house?
Both have unique advantages and disadvantages, and it’s up to you to weigh your options and choose the one that best fits your business.
We’ve done the heavy lifting for you and compiled this no-BS guide on SEO agencies and building an in-house team in terms of cost, expertise, and workload. We also included the specifics of both to ease your decision-making process. Let’s jump in.
What is an SEO Agency and In-House SEO
An SEO agency is a team of experts that offers SEO services to companies from different industries. SEO agencies work with their clients to engage in SEO audits, keyword research, competitor analysis, content creation, link-building efforts, technical SEO, local SEO, and so on. The goal is to meet client’s expectations through legitimate and proven practices.
On the other hand, an in-house SEO team is a group of individuals that are actual employees of a company, who perform search engine optimization tasks full-time. They work alone or alongside the marketing department. The in-house team is made up of internal marketing professionals hired by your company to execute marketing and SEO operations to increase revenue.
Like agencies, they’re responsible for all SEO activities and have titles such as SEO specialist, SEO manager, SEO director, content marketer/writer, etc.
The volume of people hired for the marketing and SEO roles varies depending on the company’s size and the industry. For context, startups have less marketing budgets than companies with decades of existence and growth; this typically determines the size of their internal marketing team. And in some cases, the efficiency of their marketing campaign.
The more the marketing budget, the better for the team, as there’s more cash to invest in content creation, promotion, and distribution efforts.
Note: The Head of SEO in-house may be a generalist who wears many hats and is responsible for non-SEO-related tasks like paid social campaigns, email marketing, and public relations. These responsibilities are overwhelming; they sometimes hire freelancers to assist with the workload. This often means you’d spend more than the budgeted employee salary and benefits.
Benefits of Hiring an SEO Agency
Quality SEO agencies are focused on one thing: helping you increase your marketing ROI (return on investment). Here’s how.
Professional Experience and Expertise
The success of any agency (or organization) lies within the strength of its team.
An excellent SEO agency comprises industry experts handling specific areas in SEO: web designer, technical SEO analyst, content marketer, web developer, etc. These professionals are industry-certified with a track record of success in their respective niche.
Thanks to their many years of experience, they understand the tricks and tactics to improve your rankings or generate other desired conversions. They are also always on their toes for recent algorithm updates.
Additionally, these professionals have worked on different projects across several industries and built skill sets to address similar use cases efficiently. They can easily spot SEO issues and develop effective solutions for addressing them.
For instance, at HigherVisibility, our team comprises recognized SEO specialists handling different aspects of SEO:
SEO isn’t cheap.
Hiring a skilled SEO professional costs up to $100 per hour and between $2501 – $5000 per project.
Additionally, you’ll spend up to thousands on recruiting, interviews, onboarding, and salary to hire a full-time employee. This doesn’t include other employee benefits or subscription fees for premium SEO tools.
You don’t have to sacrifice quality for costs by hiring an SEO agency.
Many SEO agencies have solutions from several hundred to a few thousand dollars per month, depending on the services and the results you’re looking for.
These agencies also possess cutting-edge software (which you don’t pay for) to help you generate maximum returns on investment. They also cover training and ongoing account management costs to ensure your website is performing at its best. This way, you gain valuable returns for your investment while spending less.
SEO is difficult and highly time-consuming. It requires meticulous attention to detail – in terms of research, keeping up with trends, and monitoring current SEO practices.
Hiring an SEO agency is the only way to go for business owners and marketing directors who already wear many hats.
An SEO agency typically has a reporting dashboard that allows you, as the business owner, to easily track your website performance, monitor your rankings, identify gaps, and generate real-time reports based on the effectiveness of your SEO campaigns.
Some agencies do better by assigning a website manager to you who keeps track of your website health and ensures everything goes as planned. This individual handles unexpected website-related issues, ensuring your website always remains optimized.
HigherVisibility is a perfect case study. Unlike other agencies, we believe transparent communication is key to solidifying client-agency relationships.
This is why we assign a brand success manager (BSM) to each client that regularly informs you of your website performance and the progress of your SEO campaigns:
Access to Latest Technology & Tools
SEO is dynamic.
Search engines are constantly updating their algorithm to meet searchers’ demands. If you want to keep being visible to target consumers on the SERPs, you must keep up with the trends.
Using an SEO agency allows you to do this without spending beyond your budget. They have access to the latest industry-standard and proprietary SEO tools to increase your website rankings and traffic. Sometimes, they build their own proprietary tools to cater to the specific needs of their clients’ businesses.
In addition, some of these agencies invest heavily in training and workshops to stay informed of recent trends in SEO. All these benefits result in efficient time and cost savings for your business.
Strategic Approach to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
With their wealth of experience and objective view of your brand, an SEO agency can create strategic and practical SEO techniques to boost your online presence and increase sales.
A strategic plan will include researching relevant keywords, defining search intent, optimizing content and site for search engines, improving strategies regularly, and so on.
In addition, they can discover problems that your in-house staff would have overlooked due to inexperience in specific areas.
For example, an SEO specialist may be skilled in tackling technical or on-page issues but may not have content creation or graphics design skills. This is where an SEO agency shines.
They have skilled personnel handling each facet of SEO and can provide strategic insights on how you can scale accordingly. Small or medium-sized businesses looking to compete with the larger brands on the SERPs can take advantage of this to compete effectively.
Scalability – Flexibility to adjust services as your business grows
Lastly, one of the best advantages of working with an agency is its ability to help you scale successfully.
A typical SEO agency has handled SEOs for companies of different sizes. They’ve handled challenges and acquired skill sets to generate the desired result through this period.
They also have many tools since they work with different companies and industries. So, they have the resources to easily scale down and up different types of SEO to meet the current needs of your business.
On the contrary, your in-house team may not find it easy to scale because it requires finding additional employees, hiring, training, etc.
Drawbacks of Hiring an SEO Agency
Despite the awesome advantages SEO agencies offer, here are some potential drawbacks:
Less Control Over Your Campaigns & Results
Working with an SEO agency limits your control over your SEO campaigns. And let’s be candid. While most quality SEOs adopt a transparent communication system to keep you informed, we can’t deny that they may not be fully explicit on the tactics used to improve your rankings.
Although this is understandable, every agency has its unique strategy for increasing website rankings. While some may be open about sharing a high-level overview of their strategy, they may hold back the actual roadmap to getting there.
In this case, you have less control over the techniques to raise your search ranks.
How to avoid: Ask the right questions before making any investment. Or, use our checklist to determine if they’re reputable or not.
Risk of Poor Quality Work or Unethical Practices
Another disadvantage is that you risk your website to unethical black hat practices. Let me explain.
There are thousands of SEO agencies online. Not all of these agencies adopt the ethical, white-hat SEO.
You risk exposing your website to poor-quality services or black-hat SEO without proper research. This can hurt your business in several ways:
- Declined rankings
- Loss of quality traffic
- Damage to brand credibility and reputation leading to low domain authority
- Ganers irrelevant backlinks (from spam sites)
Since you have little or no control over the strategies adopted to improve your rankings, you may be in the dark until the damage is done.
How to avoid: Perform quality research on each agency before hiring any of their services. Look out for online reviews (from Google, online directories like G2 and Clutch, and social media). Ask for case studies and references to speak with previous clients.
Limited Insight Into Your Results & Data
Reputable SEO agencies like HigherVisibility have a unique system that shows your website analytics in real time.
You can access vital metrics such as website health, ranking keywords, organic traffic, organic revenue, etc.
How to avoid: Ensure your choice agency provides weekly, monthly, or quarterly reports on your SEO campaigns. This should typically be part of your contract. Also, ask how they report data in accordance with business goals and objectives.
Read more on how to check the credibility of an SEO agency.
Benefits of In-House SEO
Complete Control: The power of managing your SEO strategy in-house
Using an in-house team lets you closely monitor your SEO strategy and keep your company’s data confidential. There are more opportunities to hold regular meetings with your SEO team. You can easily switch strategies quickly, even without needing to schedule formal meetings or calls. With your close supervision, your team will follow Google’s content guidelines and not use black hat SEO techniques.
Deep Understanding: Team members fully comprehend your brand and vision
Your in-house SEO team knows and understands your company’s vision and goals better. They’ve been immersed in the work culture. And their major responsibility is centered solely on improving your company’s SEO.
Also, your in-house staff can easily access your customer data and reviews without necessarily needing you to sign off on access. This helps in shaping the SEO strategy and content created to attract customers. So, when it comes to communicating your brand identity to your audience, they know how to do it better than anyone outside.
Customization: Tailoring strategies for your specific business needs
Using an in-house team will let you customize your SEO campaign to your company’s specific and unique needs. Given the fact that they already have a better understanding of how things work in the organization than an SEO agency.
Also, it’s easier for them to communicate with other internal departments like sales, marketing, customer relations, web development, etc. So they have more information to work with.
Drawbacks of In-House SEO
Cost: Expenses associated with hiring and maintaining an in-house team
In a LinkedIn post, Terry Williams did a breakdown of the expenses associated with hiring an in-house team:
This shows that hiring and maintaining an in-house SEO team can be costly. You can even spend over $150,000 annually to have just one SEO professional. Apart from salary, your recurring expenses will include recruitment, training, benefits, subscription for SEO tools, overhead costs, etc.
You’d also have to dedicate time to training your new employees, and it may take months or years to get returns on your investment. Eventually, they may even leave your company, forcing you to rehire and retrain all over again.
Expertise: Recruiting and retaining skilled SEO professionals
You need people who know exactly what to do to get SEO results. Professionals with experience. However, it can be difficult and expensive to recruit experienced SEO specialists. They’re rare and prefer to work in (or start their own) agencies most of the time.
Your in-house SEO team might have limited experience creating and implementing SEO strategies compared to an agency that has encountered diverse situations working with many companies.
Workload: Balancing SEO tasks with other responsibilities
SEO can sometimes be too wide and complex for one person to know everything about it. Unless you run a large company, you probably have one or two staff in your in-house SEO team.
This means the complex tasks of handling search optimization will be divided between them and other official staff duties. Also, the heavy workload could reduce the quality and efficiency of your SEO strategy and campaigns.
Now that you know the pros and cons of an SEO agency and an in-house team, you can make a better decision for your business. Neither is better than the other. But whatever you choose must align with your business goals and budget. Knowing how your options align with what you define as SEO success is important.
If you’re looking for an SEO agency that takes time to understand and achieve your business goals with a cost-effective strategy, talk to us at HigherVisibility.
Since 2009, we have worked with hundreds of businesses to help them achieve their business goals.
Let us do it for you!