Should You Hire an SEO Agency or an In-House Specialist?

Garry Grant

Jan 23, 20176 min read
Should You Hire an SEO Agency

SEO can be a demanding task for any business. Are you better off hiring an agency team or bringing someone in house to handle your website’s SEO duties? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but their purpose is the same: to use SEO to help grow your business.

I’d like to explore the pros and cons of hiring an agency versus an in-house specialist. Looking closely at both will help you figure out which will be the best fit for your business.

Pros of Hiring an SEO Agency

You get a wide array of knowledge. Strategic SEO is so much more than simply knowing how to research keywords. An experienced agency team will bring their extensive knowledge of the digital marketing sphere to your campaign. Their extensive familiarity with mobile, digital advertising, as well as general tech news will help them align your goals with current standards. Furthermore, this will help them seize opportunities for growth.

A good SEO agency will also have experience working with many different clients across many different industries. This will grant them the unique perspective they need to apply their vast SEO know-how to your business.

You get a team of SEO experts up to date on the latest algorithmic changes. Full-service SEO agencies can be comprised of Account Managers, Content Writers, Web Developers, and many more, all of whom have practical working knowledge of what they can contribute to improve your SEO campaign.

With Google and other search engines constantly tweaking their algorithms, having a team that is always in-the-know can prove invaluable when responding to sudden changes.

Additionally, when working with an agency, SEO is rarely the only service you could take advantage of. During the course of your campaign, you may discover your website needs to implement a new key feature. Implementing it could be as easy as a phone call and an amendment to the agency’s scope of work. Basically, you get a bit more flexibility in what you can do with your SEO when you work with an agency.

Hiring an agency is often cheaper than hiring an in-house SEO specialist. Bringing on an in-house SEO specialist can be costly. You may have to scale up their pay according to their experience or salary demands to secure the right person for the job, and that’s not even counting benefits, bonuses, or pay raises. With an agency, you’ll only pay for their services, usually in the form of a monthly fee.

You can usually escalate issues up the chain of command. Problems may arise while working with your SEO agency. Maybe you have a disagreement about something in the contract, or your main point of contact isn’t answering your calls and emails. All the while, your campaign is suffering during this dispute. However, there is a simple solution—if your contact is being problematic, you can let their boss know.

Is the Account Manager not answering your calls lately? Reach out to the Senior Account Manager. Keep going up the hierarchy until you get the answers you need. You might not be able to get all the way up to the CEO just to get your calls answered, but with an agency, you’ll find it easier to get your campaign back on the right track.

You can fire your agency if they fail to deliver. Ultimately, if an SEO agency isn’t getting the results you want, you can fire them. Maybe deadlines aren’t being met, or the quality of their work doesn’t match what was promised. Maybe you just don’t get along. Since you’re paying for agency to provide a service, it’s not unreasonable to cut them loose when that service isn’t working.

Cons of Hiring an SEO Agency

You’re restricted to a purely virtual relationship. Most of the time, you will not be meeting your agency team in person. Most correspondences will be conducted through email or phone. This can make it difficult to brainstorm ideas together or implement an immediate change.

Of course, you could try to find a local agency who can regularly meet with you face-to-face. However, by doing so you limit yourself to only what’s available near you. Not every agency will have the same experience and knowledge; choosing a local agency runs the risk of settling for a team that doesn’t meet your every need.

You are just one of many clients they have to juggle. Unfortunately, you will not have your agency’s full, undivided attention. They will make time for you, of course — you’re paying them, after all—but if you’re expecting VIP treatment all the time, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

You may have to measure your expectations when communicating with your agency. They may not have time to answer every single question you have right when you ask it. You have to put a certain level of trust in your agency that they’ll adhere to the contract and will perform what’s expected of them. That may mean leaving them alone enough for them to do their job.

Pros of Hiring an In-House Specialist

You have someone exclusively focused and working on your website. As we said before, an agency will have many other clients besides you. They simply can’t devote all their time to your site’s SEO. But when you hire someone in-house, you get their full, undivided attention to your site. They can spend more time drilling down into your Analytics or experimenting with long-tail keywords to execute the best possible SEO strategy for your company.

They’ll have a complete understanding and knowledge of your company’s products and needs. Bringing someone on in-house lets you invest them fully into the inner workings of the company. Apart from the experience and knowledge they bring to the job, you’ll be able to teach them your company inside and out.

Over time, an in-house specialist will become invested in the company. They’ll become familiar with its everyday social interactions to its long-term business goals. This thorough knowledge will allow your in-house SEO specialist to deliver work that should perfectly meet the company’s vision.

You have someone to physically talk to and who can build relationships within your organization. Many who hire an SEO agency find the lack of face-to-face interaction a major hindrance to their success. If that’s the case, an in-house specialist will better meet your needs.

Have an in-depth SEO question or suggestion? Having someone in-house means you can walk over to their desk and ask them. You can explore ideas more organically than you could over email or over the phone, which can lead to new discoveries and revelations about how to make SEO work best for your company.

Cons of Hiring an In-House Specialist

Typically, they cost more than hiring an agency. According to The Guardian, “companies increasingly look for rounded individuals who can combine analytical rigor with the ability to apply this knowledge in a practical and creative context.”

Hiring a specialist is essentially like hiring an entire agency in one person; you’ll typically have to pay a lot for all that experience and knowledge. Benefits, education, essential SEO tools—the costs can start to add up when you bring a full-time employee onboard rather than some hired guns.

Your project depends entirely on the talents and skills of your in-house SEO specialist. Many different factors contribute to a successful SEO strategy. If your specialist’s skills aren’t up to snuff, you might not get the results you’re looking for. You also won’t benefit from a variety of specialties like you would with an agency team; you’ll only have one person’s skillset to work with.

Making the Informed Choice

In today’s fast-paced, tech-obsessed world, you can’t ignore SEO. The success of your business relies on customers choosing you over your competitors, and SEO is a relatively low-cost method to help you achieve that. Identifying what you need, both in terms of your website’s SEO and your personal and financial needs, will be the first step toward choosing between an agency or an in-house specialist:

Do you want a hired gun, who may not be available all the time, but offers insider knowledge and flexibility? An SEO agency can offer all that, and maybe more.

Or do you want someone who will become intimately familiar with your business goals for an added cost? Then the in-house specialist is the way to go.

Weigh these options carefully; the success of your website could be determined by this one decision.

Author Photo
Garry Grant is the CEO of Search Engine Optimization, Inc., a San Diego internet marketing agency. For over 20 years he has been improving rankings and integrating custom SEO services for businesses of all sizes.