Whether your company is small, large, new, or old, the key to a company’s online success lies largely in making search engine optimization a priority. No matter what phase of the life cycle your company is in, the competition is going to be fierce, with more than three million businesses operating online and battling for search rankings.
When your company is ready to invest in improving your online presence, the question becomes: “Do I hire an SEO firm or an in-house employee?”
We have surveyed more than 100 companies and industry experts to see how most businesses would answer that question. Eighty-one percent of respondents preferred hiring an agency over an in-house marketing employee to perform their SEO.
The Benefits of Hiring an SEO Company
Hiring an Agency Is Cost-Effective
Hiring an agency is economically-friendly for your company long term versus hiring an in-house employee, especially if that employee were to leave after a short time. If you are looking to hire an entry-level employee for this role, know that it can be expensive to train new employees. Paying for SEO training courses isn’t cheap. Plus, think about the time that is wasted versus being able to come in and kick off the campaign on day 1. You are essentially paying a salary for a down period.
Chris Giarratana the owner of strategybeam.com told us, “Looking through some listings for SEO Managers on Indeed, I found the range to be $54k-102k (depending on experience). This can be a significant cost for any business, and outsourcing SEO work allows companies to be more flexible with their finances. Outsourcing allows companies to have more transparency with deliverables while also limiting overhead like benefits. Plus, monthly SEO packages usually start around $2k/month. This means that companies can save money and grow their business without tying up their finances in one department.”
Other factors to consider are the costs of salary, benefits, tools needed to get the job done, and any other perks you may offer your full-time employees. When you hire a digital marketing agency, you get a team full of experts, typically three to five employees with industry knowledge who are dedicated to the success of your online business. It’s particularly hard to find an individual in-house who is knowledgeable in all facets of SEO strategy. Agencies typically employ individuals who specialize in the many aspects of organic search, including technical SEO, on-site and off-site SEO in the form of content writing and link building, and analytical reporting.
To have this luxury in-house, a business would need to hire an entire team of employees or an individual with many years of experience at a high salary, which many smaller companies or startups may not have the resources to do. I mentioned the cost of tools and how they don’t always come cheap. Most of the tools we use at LSEO–including SEMrush, ahrefs, and Moz–require monthly subscription fees. It is likely that any agency you work with already has access to these tools, which saves you from having to purchase them yourself.
Agencies Have Years of Experience and Expertise
Agencies live and breathe digital marketing. It’s all they do for hundreds of clients on a regular basis. This is important because SEO is an ever-changing industry. Google is constantly putting out new information about what matters and what does not when it comes to SEO. Google also releases new tactics from time to time as part of their algorithm updates. The search engine giant doesn’t necessarily make it easy to know exactly what each update is about. This is understandable since Google is in the market to provide the best results to users. It is a digital marketing agency’s responsibility to stay up to date on the latest SEO tactics and apply them to client websites.
The process is based on trial and error, and SEO agencies have the time and manpower to research and continually try out new strategies. With an in-house team, this could be time-consuming and even set back your progress if the first strategy doesn’t produce results. Farasat Khan, SEO Specialist at isitwp.com, agrees that it is much less risky to have an agency do the research and experiment with new techniques for you. He said, “Having the capacity to work with so many clients, allows SEO agencies to try and experiment a lot. Hence having proven strategies always comes in handy. Outsourcing SEO allows you to save on the time utilized in trial and error.”
Hiring an agency also provides you with its employees’ years of experience working with different clients in various niches. More than likely, an agency has worked with a business just like yours and can apply what worked and avoid what didn’t. An in-house SEO may not carry that same agency experience.
Real-world SEO experience only grows a digital marketer’s skill sets and ensures that they will be able to provide you with a better strategy to execute. Vinny Dolan of spinalcord.com said, “By hiring an SEO agency you will have access to those who have displayed proven and duplicatable results with an eye toward the future of an ever-evolving industry. Effective agencies should achieve the same results of even the best individuals by taking advantage of specialization and experience.”
You Have Flexibility
Hiring an agency can provide a lot more flexibility for businesses because you can always find a new team to collaborate with if the relationship isn’t working or becomes stagnant. If one team isn’t the right fit for you, go back to the drawing board and find one that’s better suited for your needs. You have that freedom as long as the agreed-upon contract is ethical. On the other hand, hiring employees that aren’t the right fit carries inherent risks.
If you hire an incompetent employee or an entire digital marketing team, it’s much harder to fire an in-house team than it is to exit a contract and find a new agency. Firing internally can negatively impact your organization since remaining employees can lose inter-office friendships that are vital to morale. Firing employees can also leave current employees to question their own job security. This was the deciding factor for ppcprotect.com in choosing to hire an agency over an in-house employee. Sam Carr, who oversees their SEO efforts, told us, “As the person in charge of our SEO efforts, I have the duty of ensuring our SEO is the best it can be and that our organic traffic is seeing continued growth. Having been at the company since its inception, I had the task of deciding whether to build an in-house SEO team or use an agency. In the end, I decided to hire an SEO agency instead of building our own team for a few different reasons. As a SaaS startup, cash flow is extremely important and staying flexible is key to overcoming unexpected financial challenges. With an SEO agency, many will offer short term rolling contracts of just a few months minimum. This means if for whatever reason you want to stop and spend the money elsewhere, then it’s a lot easier than firing members of staff only to re-hire them a few months later.”
On the other hand, if a company works with an agency for a long time, the relationship or progress can become stale. You may want to find a new digital marketing agency to get fresh eyes on the website and develop a new strategy that could help move the needle. We have gotten multiple calls from businesses seeking our services simply because it wasn’t working with their current agency or the results had flatlined. The same thing could happen to us with clients that we currently work with, but we take steps to avoid that. We constantly strategize and develop attack plans to ensure the results grow. Plus, as I mentioned before, SEO is ever-changing, and we need to keep ourselves sharp.
Agency’s Work is Quality
Going hand in hand with experience and expertise is quality of work, which you will get from an SEO agency far more than what a single in-house employee could provide. “In my opinion, the biggest benefit of having an SEO agency is that you’re working with an entire team of folks focused on best practices. They’ll have the best shot at staying up to date with all of the latest tactics, but they’re also going to have access to a variety of sites that they spend time analyzing, so they’ll be in the best position to spot trends and algorithmic impact to produce quality results,” said Megan Upperman of augurian.com. Hiring a trustworthy and seasoned SEO agency can give your site the competitive edge you need with little effort on your part. Low-quality SEO does not just slow down results; in the long run, it can have an adverse effect on your online presence and put you years behind your stiffest competition.
Most agencies, including LSEO, have 20-plus employees working for them. I’ve worked at four digital marketing agencies throughout my career, and I know that four heads are always better than one. While clients may talk to only one or two people who run point on their account, in the background there is a team of people working together to develop strategies that will take your business to the next level.
I’d like to take you into my personal experience for a minute. I’ve been a part of these teams. I know through sitting in many strategy sessions that people may spit out ideas that aren’t fully developed, or even second-guess themselves and simply need another individual to back them up. Heck, I’ve even done it myself, and sometimes I just need a second set of eyes on something. Imagine this happens when you have just one person performing SEO in your organization. Who are you going to turn to? You hired this person because you didn’t have anyone else in-house capable of doing SEO. A full-service digital agency can cover all the bases for you. All you need to do is sit back and monitor their progress and reports.
Time Is Everything
One of the most important benefits of outsourcing and hiring an agency to handle your SEO is the amount of time it will save you and your company. Agencies are already established and have the resources to start the second you sign the contract. If you were to hire an in-house employee or try to create your own in-house SEO team, you would need to post the job opportunity, sort through applications and conduct interviews, and then ultimately wait for the candidate to finish out a two-week notice at his or her current job. That is at least one to two months wasted, whereas an agency could have already done its research and started the actual work on the site.
I’ve referred to this a few times throughout this article and I’m going to come back to it. By hiring an agency, you have a team of dedicated individuals paying close attention to your website. More work can get done in a timely manner, where it might take an in-house employee longer to complete multiple tasks. With an agency, your roadmap to online success can be executed much faster, and the hockey stick on the growth chart can come more quickly. Datis Mohsenipour of outbackteambuilding.com said, “In my experience, I’ve found that hiring external help for SEO is beneficial because two heads are better than one. In the case of most agencies, there are a lot more heads than just two and those folks tend to get together on a weekly basis to share their findings, their successes, their failures, and discuss any new findings or changes in the industry. So by working with an agency, you’re getting the power of multiple experts rolled up into one.”
Agencies for the Win
Instead of hiring someone in-house to become the newest member of your team, hire an agency to become a branch of your team. After all, your success is their success.
That is one of our core values here at LSEO. “Client success is our success” is written on our wall where our employees walk through the door every morning. Agencies don’t survive if they don’t produce results for their clients. That is why they are in business. Sure, it’s nice to be able to hire an in-house employee who is going to be able to interact with your other employees all day. However, the next time you are considering this decision, keep in mind that, when you hire an agency, you are expanding your team by a whole division.
Rather than introducing just one employee to your organization, you will be saying, “Meet our new SEO TEAM.”