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Don't Fall for the Fantasy of Effective In-House SEO

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Don't Fall for the Fantasy of Effective In-House SEO

Andy Kerns
Don't Fall for the Fantasy of Effective In-House SEO
Please note this post is published under “Opinion” category and reflects the personal views of the author. If you disagree or have an opinion you would like to offer, feel free to discuss in comments!

This article is under our "Opinion" category. We recommend you share your thoughts with the author.

In a recent post here on SEMRush, my esteemed fellow marketer, Ron Dod, partner and CEO of Visiture, said he feels it shouldn’t be hard to build an internal SEO team capable of “world Google domination.”

With all due respect, Mr. Dod, I beg to differ.

For a vast majority of businesses (and all businesses that aren’t household names in more than three countries), it’s not just hard, it’s damn near impossible. And the prospect of building a successful in-house SEO team that’s more durable, more versatile and less expensive than an SEO agency, is a fantasy.

What follows is a counterpoint to Mr. Dod’s thesis, based on a number of different data points and realities. It will cover four primary subjects:

  1. Real world cost of full-time employees
  2. Millennial turnover
  3. Creative capacity and experience
  4. Emotional burden of addressing failure

Mr. Dod’s article describes SEO teams in a variety of shapes and sizes. I’ll focus on what he calls the “Enterprise Team,” because, frankly, it’s the only one that could begin to compete with the capabilities of a fully flexed agency. An Enterprise Team is made up of the following:

  • 1 VP/Director, salary $100k
  • 1 Manager, salary $60k
  • 2 Specialists, salaries $45k each
  • 2 Copywriters/Outreach Specialists, salaries $45k each

It’s also noted this team would need approximately $34,000 for tools and training. (I think that number’s a bit low when you factor in the time to learn tools, the time to do the training, and the time to shop for both, but it’s one of the points I agree with most).

The rest of the numbers for the Enterprise Team—all of which add up to $340k—are fantastic (in the bad way). Keep reading, I’ll back that up.

Real world cost

Studies (upon studies) show the real cost of an employee goes staggeringly beyond base salary. One report, by software company Deltek, estimates the cost of benefits, overhead and administrative fees at 78 percent of each individual base salary. And there are plenty more resources to back that up. Going by those numbers, $340k becomes $605k.

That’s more than half a million bucks, annually.

Millennial turnover

Speaking of staggering numbers: According to Gallup, millennials are three times more likely than any other generation to have changed jobs in the last 12 months. And 91 percent of them expect to be at their current job less than three years. Sorry folks, you can’t afford the burden of that turnover. SEO takes time, it takes a drumbeat of strategic excellence and creative output. Millennials, if used sparingly, will sabotage you.

The difference between an in-house team of 3 to 4 people and an agency of 20 to 50, is the depth of that agency roster. If anyone drops out, there are two people ready to pick up the slack. We deal with millennial turnover just like anyone else. The difference is, we have more millennials.

Creative capacity and experience

In his proposal, Mr. Dod notes that a copywriter is “a very critical piece of the team” (we couldn’t agree more), and suggests Enterprise Teams should pick up two of them, for the low price of $45k each.

Ah ah ah. Wait one minute. A salaried copywriter at $45k is gonna be pretty green. As in still trying to buff off the tendency toward the kind of ornate prose that’s celebrated in undergrad creative writing workshops but reviled in the business world.

So there’s that.

More important, there’s this—if you’re gonna pay more than half-a-million bucks per year for an Enterprise Team lead by a VP/Director and tasked with world domination, you better be getting more than blogs! That kind of money should get you a whole range of exciting content—graphics, guides, interactives, data visualization. If you’re putting money towards link building, in earnest, you want stuff that’s gonna get picked up and shared by top news and industry publications. You want stuff that gets on Huffington Post, Yahoo, Inc., Mental Floss, Forbes.

To do that, by yourself, from scratch, is a helluva task. You need creative experts—graphic designers, programmers, data analysts, and a creative lead to drive ideation and tie it all together.

I won’t even mention what that team will set you back, but I can guarantee this—when you belly up to the table and sign with a great agency, you’re getting all of it, in spades. You’re getting decades of combined experience and specialization. You’re getting everything you could possibly want or need, in pursuit of SEO world domination.

Emotional burden of addressing failure

This may be the most controversial part of this argument, but it’s one we can’t look away from. We don’t like to think about emotions in a business context, because they’re not typically welcome. The problem is, they’re always here, just beneath the surface, informing all aspects of our work.

You ask any manager or leader, what’s the single most difficult part of her job, the part she dreads most, the part she’d do anything to avoid—it’s letting someone go.

And right behind that, it’s having to manage and push people who aren’t getting the job done, while stall and let things drag out, in order to avoid doing the one thing you hate most.

In his post, Mr. Dod talks about keeping an in-house team accountable, but advises that we “not berate them if goals are not being met.” Sheesh. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Is it realistic though? Turns out, it doesn’t matter. Whether or not you’re comfortable berating your team for not meeting goals, is a moot point.

Why? Because nobody is shy about berating an agency that’s getting paid top dollar on an hourly basis. And that’s great for business. By presenting as a collective team of people, agencies open themselves to full and frequent criticism from their clients if they fail to meet expectations. Again, that’s good for business.

Take this one step further: suppose you spend a year or so building your enterprise team, and after another year, you’re not seeing the desired results? Also, let’s say you can’t quite put your finger on the problem. It’s not any one person, or weak point, the crew just isn’t getting it done. Or, maybe they’re making progress, just not justifying their $600k-per-year cost.

Then what? Do you axe the whole team? Do you march 3 to 4 people into your office, one-at-a-time—people you like and have relationships with—to tell them they don’t have a job anymore?  If so, that’s a heavy burden.

On the flip side, no one’s losing sleep over the prospect of firing their agency. Good agencies have lots of millennials and lots of clients. They can handle it, and their clients know that.

Still, let’s say you’re shrewd, you’re tough, you’re a consummate business person, and yeah, absolutely, you could axe that whole team if it isn’t performing. Now there’s just one question left to answer: Where are you going the minute that blood bath is over?

You’re going to an agency.

Curious to know the full might of what you’ll get from an agency? Behold—the ten-armed monster!

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Andy Kerns is a Content Strategist at Digital Third Coast, an award-winning digital marketing agency in Chicago, IL.
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Boaz Sasson
I disagree with this post on a few levels, but I'll try to keep this short.

First, the post is based on a false comparison, or strawman of sorts, since its comparing the best case agency side against the worst case in-house scenario, which is disingenuous.

Second, most of the issues raised against in-house teams (cost, turnover, creativity, experience, and emotions) can bu just as true in an agency scenario.

Third, the in-house team used as a model here is like something from the Flintstones era of SEO, I don't think many modern in-house teams are buyit on this model anymore, since SEO is part of a much larger process.

Fourth, I don't agree with many of the specific facts/costs listed, as they do not match my personal experience.

Lastly, it seems like the real issue is how hard it is to find quality SEO, and that's equally difficult on either side of the fence painted here.
Fabrizio Ballarini
Hi Andy. I read Ron Don's article and find it quite reasonable, it's a practical example that might not fit to everyone but can be a good start. I also agree with some of your arguments in the article but find it's too blindly pro-agency. I worked in agency before and now building an in-house SEO team at TransferWise, so I've seen both sides. I personally think the truth stays in the middle and rather than pushing one side would be more helpful to educate companies on how to choose based on size (enterprise vs startup), setup (how they operate), resources (not only budget).
My view on some of the points raised:
Costs - I agree with Ammon Johns view below. Not necessarily on the fact agencies are not transparent/honest (good ones are), but it's hardly cheaper to hire a good agency as clients need to pay for operational cost and agencies need to make money (training & skills you mentioned are not free, clients pay for it). I think it's normal to expect a markup on talents time and makes sense to pay it when you can't deliver the same performance in-house.
Turnover - Agree in-house turnover can be painful (I'm currently hiring, it's terribly hard) but agency turnover can be even higher from my experience which means that despite having constant resources probably quality and skills of talents are not.
Skills & addressing failure - Companies can equally hire specialists and work with contractors to have the same flexibility. Same goes for firing people when it doesn't work, firing an agency and getting a new one it's equally painful and time consuming.
My advice in the agency vs in-house debate:
1 Hire an experienced SEO consultant to assess how strategic is the SEO investment to your company long term success.
2 Evaluate pros & cons by auditing existing team,process and budget.
3 Be prepared to commit to your choice long term and nail execution. SEO is not about short term wins, choose someone who cares about it.
Spending for your SEO is really expensive but that will not be your basis in getting the service of SEO company because you must do due diligence first. Check the company's track record and if you're convinced with their credibility, then that's the time to hire them. Try seodataservice website. They are offering great list of services in an affordable price.

More power to you guys and learn from this post. :)
Rohan Ayyar
Totally with you here, Andy.

Unfortunately, in an in-house vs. agency debate, organizational dynamics take far more precedence over focus on ROI.

The single most ubiquitous problem an in-house SEO team that doesn’t work in partnership with an external agency faces, is the implementation of its recommendations. You might argue that it boils down to individual powers of persuasiveness, but the number of in-house marketers who can convince management to carry out their suggestions pales in comparison to those who run into constant delays and doubt-walls. When you aren’t spending that much money on something, you don’t have a strong inclination to dust it up and use it. Same logic as exercising at home vs. going to the gym.

Then there is the question of hiring a VP/Director of SEO. That position is almost as comical as “Growth Evangelist” and the Ninja-Samurai-Spiderman spectrum. Most mainstream enterprises have a CMO and a CIO. There’s no place for an executive dangling in between.

Again, SEO isn’t a standalone marketing activity or channel. Who is going to do your PPC, social media, infographics, or populate data layer variables for Google Tag Manager? In the real world, marketing usually happens in budget-influenced bursts. Which is probably why we have the concept of “campaigns.” Depending on the priority a typical organization gives to SEO – someone here said you can do it yourself as it isn’t rocket science – I find it hard to believe that in-house SEO can be super-effective unless money and resources are irrevocably allocated.

Granted, in-house SEOs do have a better chance of understanding your brand, but how easy is it to keep them happy and hang on to them for long? On the other hand, you can say “Let’s be just friends” to your agency at any time!

This debate has, at the most, one shade of grey. The best arrangement is, as Russ Jones said, “a passionate internal team that can keep up with an agency’s recommendations, and build on any given strategy."
Hive Digital, Inc.
The question of an in house SEO team vs Agency has been around for ages, but I am a firm believer of the middle ground for this conversation. Agencies offer the technical knowledge, tools, and experience that often culminates towards a more in depth strategy and an outside of the box look at your organization.

At the same time, I find that organizations gain the most benefit from working with vendors when accompanied by an internal employee that has working SEO knowledge and experience. Especially for larger sites that exist in a highly competitive vertical. More often than not, there will be technical discussions that require a ping-pong style discussion to expand on industry knowledge and ultimately develop a Unique Selling Proposition / competitive edge that may not be as visible to a hired agency.

At the end of the day, Agencies are great at looking at an organization from the outside in, with a focus on how they compare to the local competition. Successful SEO relationships develop when you have a passionate internal team that can keep up with an agency’s recommendations, and build on any given strategy with real-world and time-tested experience.
Andy Kerns
Hive Digital, Inc.
This is a great point, Russ! You nailed it. When there's a good base of SEO knowledge on the client side it accelerates the work, and the results, like nothing else.
Sona Bulgadaryan
Finding the ritgh team for the company is difficult and requires more investment. Hiring an SEO expert or agency is costly as they are already experts, but inhouse team is more dedicated and will be nore caring about the company, will stay longer. I would hire the SEO specialist in house and hire copywriters and other team members remotely for keeping cost affective.
Anyway the situation depends on the need and budget of the company.
Anton Shulke
Sona Bulgadaryan
I would argue with "will stay longer" point. Imagine you got green, young SEO-to-be. They work for you, for low pay as they are not really experts yet. They learn, got SEO on their CVs and... Let's face it go for more money, no?
Teodora Petkova
Given the need to choose whether to invest in an agency or an in-house team, I would start with the big question: is the company ready to walk the talk of semantic search engine optimization. That is, the figures and the pros and cons they support matter only if they support the strategic decision of acting and being a trusted company in a data-driven environment. To be more specific, "the full might" someone might want to get is does not lie in the agency or in the in-house team, it starts with the realization of basic digital literacy, which anyone on the team should have. And for a small company this might do, together with integrity when doing business.
Andy Kerns, would love to hear your thoughts on Content teams :)
Andy Kerns
Teodora Petkova
Hey Teodora, another really great point here, I'm so happy to see the thoughtful discussion this has generated... and to hear so many people talking with real care and integrity about their work and service to their company/clients. My thoughts on content teams are plentiful, mainly because that's what my daily work revolves around. It's hard to know where to start, but I guess to offer an extension of some of the things I put forth in the article, one thing I've been grappling with a fair amount lately is the need for a content team (in-house or agency) to create things that serve business goals above all else. We shouldn't be doing content wizardry just because we have a wand and we like watching cool stuff come to life, we should be serving our clients' very pointed goals. That's what impresses me these days--focused purpose over "coolness."

As for the teams themselves, I always say look for ideas everywhere, from every single one of your people, expect them at any given time, and celebrate them when they arrive! It's so important to establish a creative atmosphere that supports that freedom. For some people there's a frightening distance between something being on the tip of their tongue and being out in the room and into our ears. It keeps me up at night worrying about ideas that never get shared because someone doubted themselves.
Teodora Petkova
Andy Kerns
Thank you Andy. Your perspective is much appreciated. I wrote that question because what keeps me up at night currently is developing an "ideas board" within an organization where everyone can contribute. My main goal is to get SMEs involved in the "meat" of a post. And then a writer can make that digitally enticing and serving business goals. I have some progress within the company I am trying to build that, but again, "content" is still perceived as something only the marketing team does.
Again, really nice to read your reply. Thank you.
Andy Kerns
Teodora Petkova
Yes, that is a challenge indeed. I like to get people (SMEs, in this case) into an imagined state that has nothing to do with content or marketing. Cocktail party, family picnic, standing on a stage in front of 10,000 people, etc. Have them get in that mindset then say something to the effect of, "OK, you need to talk about what's going on with your work or your industry lately, you need to be interesting and you need to cut to the chase. Tell me, what do you talk about?" It's a laughably simple device but I've found it really helps people, they get it.
Andy Drinkwater
One of my major problems with SEO Agencies, is that I have a hard time understanding what they do, and why, sometimes. Specialising in SEO Audits, I am hired more and more by companies asking me to check the work that their SEO agency is performing and more and more, I see some very poor work from both a technical standpoint and also from a strategic view.

I am not going to tar all agencies with the same brush, because i know that there are some good ones out there and they seem to 'get' SEO. Another problem I find with agencies is that when there is a change from Google, they can be very slow to react to it - if they do at all (as I saw from one agency about 3 weeks ago) and they prefer to try and baffle clients with bullshit and tell them that "this is just the way Google is now".

Omi mentions that the in-house SEO team will get the company and brand, but can you really find the people you need? It really isn't cheap and you will spend a lot of time talking to potential prospects, asking questions, interviewing, deliberating, sweating and probably drinking as well... Well, perhaps.

Not all companies have the money, time and effort to put into building these in-house teams but if I were paying the bills, I would be doing a lot of soul searching over which was my preferred option.

A very interesting debate.
Deepak Shukla
Very interesting article. It's like someone assuming that marathons are the same as ultramarathons (42km vs 100km) - they ARE NOT. Or having transitioned from running funded startups (which bombed) to a digital marketing agency - I realise I didn't understand marketing then. To move the needle in a way that's meaningful even companies such as Uber hire agencies for advice etc. Meaning that an in-house team just won't have the time/expertise or resources to hit all areas - or will do - half arsedly.
Gina Fiedel
As someone in the position of advising our small business (oftentimes micro) and non-profit web design and web development clients how to tackle their SEO challenges and aspirations, the option of building a highly qualified as opposed to fly by the seat of your pants in-house team is non-existent. It's simply out of the question. And usually, so is the option of signing on with an agency.

It's a rock and a hard place scenario that has to find a solution somehow for any business that wants to get serious and invest but doesn't have enough cash to do it right. That leaves us with fledgling or small firms (still very hard to find) and individuals who have the chops but are still only one person trying to win wars for several entities. Building a jerry-rigged team of piecemeal specialists is what often happens so even if it solves some part of the problem, it's still lacking cohesion.

I'm still working on it and while there is more help available out there these days, it's still a big hurdle I've yet to climb over happily.
William Rock
The difference is that some agencies don't train their employees and expect them to figure it out on their own time ... Don't get me wrong most agencies #ROCK ...

The same goes with in house SEO's as most of the time continued education is not considered therefore lacking current skills needed for future website conversion opportunity giving that up to your competition.

Creating an opportunity for an SEO the opportunity to grow not only in the SEO space but giving them an opportunity to achieve a well rounded knowledge in marketing, analytics, PPC and more can help tremendously.

Technology is always changing, especially Search.

what can we teach new SEO's ?

The answer is to empower them a way to gain current knowledge allowing them to take your company from Good 2 Great :)
The in-house SEO is a pig, the agency is a chicken to paraphrase SCRUM stakeholders. The pig (ham) has more to lose than the chicken (egg) ... the in-house SEO, especially if they are given more than just a wage, (let's say they get equity in a startup) is much more likely to strive to succeed. The agency has various clients, the easier ones are probably the ones best to keep, the harder ones are going to be not worth the effort most times...
Sheldon Campbell
I think in-housers have it tough... as an outsider, it's relatively easy for me to tell the MD or CEO their idea is a POS, whereas the in-house folks typically need to be a little more circumspect.
Also, when the company is paying an outside pro, they need to heed their advice, or tacitly admit they made a poor choice. That need is much less with an in-house SEO, IMO.
Andy Kerns
Sheldon Campbell
Very insightful points Sheldon, I'm really glad you brought up interpersonal dynamics like this, there's a whole host of other things to discuss on the subject. I can say for sure that we, on the agency side, put great value on our opportunities to be frank and direct with our clients about what we think is best. It's very healthy for the work and pursuit of goals. And thinking about communication within the agency, absolutely, there's a directness and radical honesty we can reserve for some of our clients, that's inevitably quite tough to turn around and share with people on your own team.
Malhar Barai
A debate no one has won so far :)

Coming from a large B2B enterprise, having handled in-house as well as agency, I have got my lessons, sometimes the hard way.

The answer lies in - finding that fine balance between doing things in-house and knowing honestly what your own team CANNOT do. And then finding a good agency that will help you do the tasks that your teams are unable to do.

Each team will have their own strengths that should be leveraged.

Yes, not everything can be done in-house!
Alisa Sky-Eagle Smith
"A salaried copywriter at $45k is gonna be pretty green. As in still trying to buff off the tendency toward the kind of ornate prose that’s celebrated in undergrad creative writing workshops but reviled in the business world."

This is hilarious because it's true. Been there, done that as a writer and now have to re-train every writing intern that comes in.
Omi Sido
If I have to comment I don't even know where to start.
Almost every single point of this article is right and wrong at the same time.

The endless debate.

For the last 4-5 years, I've been managing in-house teams with the added bonus of external SEO agencies and I believe this to be the way to go forward.

The two points I want to mention here are:

In-house SEOs are normally far more familiar with a company's brand standards and brand identity, which means they are able to build content that falls more into line with a company's vision.
It may not be clear straight away but this is of a paramount importance for big corporations.

On the other side, agencies generally have access to more tools and reporting. Let's be honest their entire livelihood depends on using the best and most current tools. As in-house teams can't afford to buy many SEO tools I see a lot of in-house teams struggling to see the bigger picture, thus unable to tweak a company SEO (digital marketing) strategy over time when a new direction is needed.
Andy Kerns
Omi Sido
These are two great points, I've definitely heard them mentioned before by a number of very sharp people. To clarify on the brand standards and identity side, a lot of the SEO work we do is very high-level link building that involves getting our clients' content placed on some of the most highly trafficked sites in the world, in a non-promotional context. If anything, we're fighting against that content being too closely associated with the brand. So intimacy with brand standards and identity is not very important.
Maxweb SEO
Omi Sido
An excellent reply to an excellent article! The reality of this matter is based on the size of the company in question and its ability to soak the salaries of the SEO team required.
Don White
I think I can totally relate to this article being in small businesses myself over the years. Its almost impossible for start ups to allocate budget for SEO teams with so much budget overhead coming from the start up cost, advertising and keeping the lights on for the new company. My suggestion to all the companies that can't afford SEO services has always been to do some basic SEO research and do it yourself which for the most part is not rocket science. The difference between basic SEO optimization and no optimization could be first page ranking and fifth page ranking.

The only problem I have seen with so many small companies is they don't understand the importance of Organic SEO searches and they keep investing in advertising as they can see direct results. But this is not a long term solution or should not be a long term strategy for any business. This will always fail in the long run. But my experience over the years is no matter how much you explain these things to anyone the only way to learn these things is by experience. Just my 2 cents as I am myself learning and evolving !!!
Oh, the humanity! Where is it? You write about your SEO team as if they're not quite human. Instead of figuring out how to replace a failing team, consider communicating with the team. It makes sense to empower, train, support, and encourage your team. Reading your description I get the feeling that management is hiding being a see-through mirror watching the calamity build and then blow up. Be clear about your expectations and inform your team about goals and expectations. Allow team members to ask for help without that ask being treated like a weakness or failure. This applies to in-house teams, of course.
Andy Kerns
Mark Seattle
Mr. Seattle,
Our management, on the agency side, is definitely not standing behind fun house mirrors. They actually sit in glass cubes that hover over our desks, like drones, but they're very encouraging! Constantly giving us thumbs up and dropping snacks down. I'd call it a very healthy environment.

To your point about our SEO team being not quite human, I think that's a question that many have grappled with before. As Brandon Flowers once put it, "Are we human? Or are we dancer?"
Alicia Anderson
As an "experienced in-house" - I believe that there are pros and cons to both models. I've worked in both situations, and I think the best thing about being in-house for me is that I can truly learn the whole landscape of the user and conversion cycle in a deep way that I never could in a shoot and move agency environment. The key here is to decentralize the team across the entire site, not to create a department. I strongly believe that anyone who touches the website or brick and mortar brand of a site is on the SEO team. Everyone's got to know when SEO matters. Then the in-house becomes the go-to expert and has time for deep investigations.

That being said, the emotional side is real. I've been so invested in a site that I in-house for that when the search entries go down for any reason beyond seasonality it sent me under my desk in tears. My first panda hit was shattering. But I had to pick myself up and find new KPIs and recover. Resilience isn't born out of smooth sailing
Alicia Anderson
I've been on both sides, but there is something to be said for the ability to get things done in house. It's a different world than being on the outside and trying to earn buy-in. That said, I think you always need fresh perspectives and there is a ton of talent at agencies and they can be a great source of knowledge.
Alicia Anderson
Jordan Silton
Every in house team I've worked on has hired external consultants and agencies to get that fresh perspective :)
Ron Dod
Obviously, I love this article being on the agency side :). You make a lot of great points too!
Andy Kerns
Ron Dod
Yeah, I thought you might like the pro-agency argument! And thanks for kicking off the debate with your article, it gave me a lot to think about, and reminded me how tough this decision can be for businesses.
Melissa Fach
Really good points, Andy. Something else I am thinking about is to have "an internal SEO team capable of world Google domination.” you would have to hire an extremely experienced SEO and they don't come cheap. I know many that wouldn't take an in-house just for less than $150K because they can make the same money or more working for clients.

Most of the really experienced SEOs I know don't want to go in-house because they lose the freedom of working the hours they choose - which is important. SEO requires a ton of observation, analytical thinking, research and what I call "brain power". So working "normal hours" doesn't always work, they like to take breaks and clear their head...they may work 10pm-4am one day, and 7am-3pm a different day.

I have nothing against millennials, but there is a lot of millennial employee turnover in the US and they need a lot of training. So, do you leave the "training" to the head SEO and if so how do they make the time?

An great internal SEO team will cost a company big time and if they have the financial resources than good for them, but I think they need to look at the numbers you discussed and consider everything - salaries, bonuses, insurance, workman's comp, other departments needed to support them, etc. - and compare it with the costs of hiring a really good agency that could meet their needs. Which one makes more financial sense?
Andy Kerns
Melissa Fach
Great points Melissa! As a one-time freelancer myself, I believe you left out two other types of workdays: 7am to 4am and 1pm to 3pm ;)
Melissa Fach
Andy Kerns
True :)
Ammon Johns
Melissa Fach
I've spent quite a lot of my career in building in-house teams. I do that because it works. Once you start to get really serious about SEO, where hiring an agency to actually put 1 spotty junior on the job for 2 days a month but charge you more than his entire month's wages (which is the reality of agencies for most clients who aren't the famous on 3 continent types), you either need to run ridiculous costs with the agencies, add in more agencies, or build an in-house team for all the day-to-day efforts and only hire in trainers and consultants a few times per year.

Agencies still have a role in supporting in-house teams, particularly in running additional supportive campaigns, but long term they cannot compete with the cost efficiencies once an actual FULL TIME worker is needed. You know as well as I do that every agency out there charges on the hourly rate of its highest qualified, and then allocates someone far cheaper. Clients single-handedly paying a junior SEOs salary for just a couple of days a week is not just not unusual, its the norm.
Andy Kerns
Ammon Johns
Any client that puts up with 2 days of work a month from a spotty junior has only itself to blame. That's an exploitative relationship, and a bad agency. I can tell you one thing for sure: like in 3rd grade arithmetic, we're constantly showing our work at my agency. Clients know exactly what we do for them, and how much it costs. And we're accountable to prove the value.
Melissa Fach
Ammon Johns
I have to wonder if there are differences in the U.S. vs. the U.K.
Fabrizio Ballarini
Melissa Fach
I think Ammon made a different point. Not talking about agencies who charge you a month and give you 2 days worth of work (these are scams you should always avoid). But reality of operational margins that agencies need to build in hourly rates against wages of their staff. No matter how transparent your are with your clients there is a premium for the resources you allocate to them. This is the agency model and I think it's the same everywhere.

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