Learn the pros and cons of outsourcing SEO versus hiring an in-house team to better help you in making the right investment for your organization.
For many organizations, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a business essential in generating leads. Depending on where your business is at in its journey will influence whether it makes more sense to hire out and hire in.
Below I’ll explain some of the pros and cons of these two approaches, and when you might need both, so you can confidently select the option that will work best for your business.
Here are a few factors to consider before moving forward with your investment.
One main consideration is to determine your budget. Whether you work with an SEO agency, consultant, or in-house professional, the investment is going to look different. I put together a post on how much SEO costs that can help break down the different pricing models. The important thing is to set a marketing budget that appropriately matches your business and don’t be afraid to augment it if needed.
Whether interviewing an SEO agency or a potential new team member, think about the level of experience they have and if it’s adequate for the work that needs to be done. Review their website, portfolio, resume, etc., carefully. Ask for recommendations, testimonials, or case studies to see what other businesses say about them.
Some organizations bring on a new hire or move a current team member into an SEO role with the intent of training them. This can be a great option as long as you provide them the resources they need to succeed, such as training materials, access to tools, and tickets to conferences.
What are your goals? The time and resources it takes to develop a strong in-house SEO team won’t make sense if you’ll only need them for a couple of months. On the other hand, an agency may not be able to understand the nuances of your business the way an in-house digital marketing team can. Additionally, if your team juggles multiple marketing duties, outsourcing allows them to focus on other projects.
The point of this section is to emphasize the importance of getting laser-focused on the type of support you need. Now let’s examine the pros and cons of hiring in-house vs outsourcing SEO services.
SEO can be outsourced to agencies or consultants based anywhere around the world as the work can be done remotely. There is no shortage of SEOs out there but selecting the right one can sound overwhelming. That’s why I wrote a post on how to find an SEO consultant to help you get started.
Here are the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing SEO to get an idea of what to expect.
- Lower costs: Paying salary, benefits, and overhead for team members is typically more expensive than outsourcing rates. There are also the added costs of paying for tools, training, and miscellaneous expenses that can pop up when hiring in-house.
- Access to knowledge: When working with a larger agency, there is access to a variety of SEOs with specialized knowledge, including e-commerce, technical, and international. For example, I used to work at a company with over 40 SEOs from around the world. Whenever I had a specific question, I could easily get the answer from a team member.
- Time savings: Hiring in-house support takes a lot of thoughtful consideration. Of course, hiring an SEO agency or consultant also takes time, but the difference is that once you select a company, they can usually scale up or down more easily depending on the level of support needed.
This can sometimes happen much faster than trying to hire internally. Plus, when scaling down, it would be uncomfortable having to let an internal team member go versus letting the SEO company simply move their team member to another account.
- Access to tools: From my experience, some SEO agencies and consultants have access to a lot of tools and can get the best pricing. That’s because they have more clients and can negotiate pricing. Those savings are then passed down. I’ve worked with SEO agencies that have subscriptions to almost everything. This was helpful in extracting more data to inform appropriate next steps.
- Confusing contracts: Before signing a contract, make sure you carefully review it and understand what you’re getting into. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad apples that will overcharge and underdeliver. There’s also no shortage of buzzwords that get thrown around. Ask for clarification on what’s being delivered and when.
- Not as agile: When dealing with an SEO agency or consultant with too many clients, they might not be as responsive and agile as an in-house team since they have other client commitments. This is usually true for companies that charge clients $500/month; in order for them to turn a profit, they need to have a lot more clients.
- Vision disconnect: It’s possible that the strategy an SEO agency or consultant creates doesn’t align with your branding and vision because they’re an outsider. Vision alignment is one of the most important factors to consider before even hiring someone. They are essentially an extension of your team and are representing you. The strategies they implement need to be reflective of your values.
Hiring an In-House Team
Similar to outsourcing, there are advantages and disadvantages to hiring an in-house SEO team. Whether you’re thinking about expanding an existing team or building one from the ground up, here are some considerations.
- Cross-department communication: Being a part of the company makes it easier for your marketing team to communicate with other departments, such as product and sales, which can lead to discovering and resolving bottlenecks.
You’re also less likely to be wondering what they’re working on or the status of a project because you’ll have more direct oversight. This is especially true if you’ve worked with an SEO agency or consultant with piss poor communication. You can’t just send them a Slack/Teams message or walk over to their desk.
- Shared company culture: An internal SEO team will share your company culture, ensuring that the strategies they create align with the brand and vision. These are team members that are collectively working hard to better the communities they live in. They believe in the product and the value it brings to your customers. Of course, this is all assuming you have an amazing company culture.
- Streamlined processes: Since your team is focused solely on the business, they’ll be able to streamline processes and possibly achieve results faster.
- Higher costs: As we mentioned earlier, hiring employees comes with more costs in the long run because of salary, benefits, and overhead.
- Training and tools: You’re responsible for the ongoing training of your in-house team and providing the necessary tools and software for your team to be effective.
- Inexperience: Employees can lack the experience and skills that an established SEO agency/consultant has.
A Combined SEO Approach
While every organization wants to rank high in Google search results, attract information-seeking customers, and ultimately grow revenue, the best way to achieve those goals will look different for everyone. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer because there are pros and cons to in-house SEO vs outsourcing.
For some businesses, a hybrid SEO approach makes the most sense. An SEO consultant can train an in-house digital marketing team on best practices, keyword research, content marketing, analytics and reporting, and more, so your team members are equipped to accomplish long-term SEO goals.
Which SEO approach have you found to work best for your business?