Should you handle SEO internally or should you hire an agency?

Digital 360 on 8 May 2017

So, you or your company need to focus on SEO. Great! But now you have a decision to make. Do you hire an SEO consultant to be a part of your team? Or do you outsource the work to an SEO agency?

There are pros and cons for each option. Making the right choice comes down to the kind of company you run, your available resources, and the kind of SEO goals you want to achieve.

In-house SEO

In-house SEO means hiring an individual or team to work for your company to focus solely on improving your SEO.

Hiring somebody in-house to manage SEO means they’ll be an integral part of your team. They'll know the ins and outs of the business as well as you do. It also means they’ll be able to build close relationships with the rest of your team, which is great for company coordination, communication, and a sense of company autonomy.

An ideal time to employ an in-house SEO consultant is in the early stages of establishing the business. This is because your SEO can work with your business, building it from the ground up. Focus is one of the primary benefits of hiring an in-house consultant – and having a single person or team dedicated to monitoring your competitors and potential opportunities can be invaluable at this crucial stage.

An in-house SEO consultant is also ideal if you need direct control over your SEO strategy. Being your employees, an in-house team will share your company vision, and you’ll be able to ensure that you can step in and work with your SEO team hands-on at any point if necessary.

However, this focus can be a double-edged sword. If you’ve employed a full-time consultant – as is normally the case – your business will be the only they’re focussing on. The risk here is that they develop a kind of ‘tunnel vision’. Because their focus is on your business and only your business, it can be hard to gain outside perspective when challenges arise. In-house consultants can sometimes become quite insular to their industry, meaning that they don’t always keep up with new industry trends or identify new opportunities.

An in-house SEO consultant can be quite expensive to hire full-time, so budget depending on your company’s requirements – if the workload isn’t incredibly heavy, and the same work can be accomplished part-time, an in-house SEO specialist may not be the right choice for your business.

SEO Agency

An SEO agency is a team of specialists, including strategists, copywriters and developers, that will work with your businesses to improve search rankings.

Because SEO agencies work with multiple clients at a time, they’re able to avoid the myopia in-house roles fall victim to. And, given their experience working across so many industries, if your site has a particular SEO problem, chances are they’ve seen it – and they know how to fix it.

With their myriad of clients and experience, SEO agencies are well-versed on what works, what doesn’t, and which strategy will deliver the best results. And because an SEO agency has already done the employee ‘screening’ for you – hiring only those with proven expertise – you can rest assured that your SEO team are top-notch in their field. In effect, an agency pools a diverse set of skills to build an entire team for your company. Rather than a single person, you'll get access to a range of specialists in strategy, content and development.

These skills could even expand outside of SEO. Your new agency may offer a whole range of digital services, from PPC advertising to email and social media marketing – which is great if your company has few or no team members specialising in digital marketing.

An SEO agency is also great if your site has been up and running for some time. At this stage, you may be seeking extra guidance to improve your SEO, keep up with trends, and outrank competitors. As agencies have more resources at hand compared to that of an individual SEO consultant, they’re always on top of monitoring SEO trends and Google algorithm updates.

Although the hourly rate of an SEO agency can seem quite high, in the long run it often works out more cost effective than a full-time employee, as you won't be paying for benefits outside of their immediate services.

The biggest issue with SEO agencies is their level of involvement with your company. Agencies can be at a disadvantage compared to in-house when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of the business. However, developing a strong relationship between your team and the agency team can overcome this. Look for an SEO agency with fewer, select clients, and make sure you're happy with the person who will be managing your account.

So, which is right for you?

At the end of the day, it comes back to your business and your priorities.

If you’re just beginning to establish your brand image, have the budget, and require a generalist marketer within the company, hiring an SEO consultant might make sense. Alternatively, if SEO can be managed externally and you need a cost-efficient way to access a range of digital skills, an SEO agency may be your right answer.

Still not sure whether an SEO agency is best for you? Talk to one of our specialists today.