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SEO Agency vs In-house SEO: 7 Factors To Help You Decide What’s Best For You

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Running a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign is a time-consuming and complex process and requires more than simple or advanced tools. Choosing whether to handle SEO on your own, or seek the help of an SEO Agency, or a Freelance SEO expert in the field, is an important, albeit challenging, decision.

Businesses might mull over investing in SEO, preferring to go with a DIY approach to cut costs. For an informed choice between an SEO Agency vs In-house SEO, there are several factors you should consider.

SEO Agency vs In-house SEO? Seven Factors To Consider

1. Motivation

Your business is proof that motivation and desire can result in success — but you also know that you can’t do everything yourself. An SEO campaign is a long haul and complicated to execute successfully. 

If you are going to run out of steam mid-way, or struggle to achieve your goals, it’ll be counterproductive to your business. 

If you choose to handle in-house SEO team, you have to be driven to execute it well. If the decision is made to save time or money, your results will likely be underwhelming.

On the other hand, if you choose to work with an SEO Company, it doesn’t imply you lose control of the project. Work with an SEO Agency that understands your desire to be involved and hands-on with this aspect of your business. Decision-making should still be collaborative.

If you are unsure of maintaining the level of motivation required to handle this time-consuming and sometimes complex task, your best bet is to hire an SEO Agency. 

But wait, there are more factors to consider before you make up your mind.

2. SEO Project Requirements

When you decide to run SEO campaigns, you should already have analysed your SEO needs.

SEO needs refer to the complexity of the strategies and tasks to achieve your SEO goals. There are two kinds of SEO needs:

Simple SEO needs

If your SEO requirements are relatively straightforward, an in-house SEO team might be the right choice. Simple SEO needs are often characterised by a consistent and routine set of actions that can be managed by an internal team without requiring specialised expertise.

This includes handling simple tasks such as optimising on-page elements (meta tags, content, images), performing basic keyword research, and setting up local listings.

Complex SEO needs

If your SEO needs are more complex, an agency might be the better choice.

Complex SEO needs involve a wide range of activities such as in-depth technical audits and fixes, advanced keyword analysis, backlink analysis & link building, content strategy based on user journey, and comprehensive competitor analysis.

Those tasks demand specialised skills, advanced tools, and expertise that an SEO agency can provide.

3. SEO Experience

There are many variables for optimising your site for SEO. Online marketing is a dynamic and constantly evolving field. SEO in particular can be a challenging field, with various moving parts, algorithmic updates, and a periodically changing SERP landscape.

When picking your team to handle SEO, whether in-house or an outside SEO agency, your first requirement should be their level of experience with SEO, and the results they have achieved. 

If you want to handle SEO internally but don’t have people with the right experience, you can hire an experienced SEO professional to head the project. You can do this on a project basis or contract basis or as a full-time addition to your team. 

SEO projects require long-term monitoring, management, and updating. Make sure your staff can handle its demands.

4. Time

To get long-term results with SEO, you can not scrunch on time. Time is needed to stay on top of SEO trends, and to maintain and update your work constantly. Failing this could put you right back where you started. 

Be practical about how much time you can give to this aspect of your business. SEO is a full-time job really, and whether you do it in-house, or work with outside experts, ensure they can dedicate adequate time to it. If you treat it like a peripheral concern, you will get less than optimal results. 

If you decide to work with external SEO professionals, ask them about the time they foresee devoting to the project, and the time they will need from you and your staff.

The time required per month is usually a function of the size of the site and the depth of work needed to move the SEO needle. Clarifying time at the start of a campaign will avoid misunderstandings and allow your SEO Campaign to move forward smoothly.

5. Communication Preferences

When it comes to SEO efforts, communication is crucial. You need to be aware of how you and your entire team prefer to communicate and work together.

You’ll have more direct and immediate communication with in-house SEO. Team members are physically present within the organisation. This makes interactions, meetings, and discussions more accessible.

While with agency SEO, they typically offer a more remote communication model. Communication (especially in a post-Covid World) often happens through virtual channels such as email, video calls, WhatsApp calls, phone calls, and project management tools. Further, an agency will have multiple clients and will likely require a greater turn-around time to adhoc requests.

6. Performance Measurement

You can’t run SEO campaigns without performance measurement. You need it to accurately measure the success and effectiveness of your efforts.

When managing an SEO in-house team, you have direct control over the data and analytics tools you use to measure performance.

Advantages of In-House Performance Measurement:

    1. Immediate Insights: With direct access to data, you can quickly analyse performance trends and make real-time adjustments.
    2. Custom Analytics: You have the flexibility to set up custom tracking and reporting systems tailored to your specific needs.
    3. Data Privacy: Sensitive data remains within your organisation’s control.

On the other side, agencies often provide detailed reporting and analytics as part of their service. They use specialised tools to track the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Advantages of Agency Performance Measurement:

    1. Expert Reporting: Agencies are skilled at creating clear, easy-to-understand performance reports with relevant KPIs.
    2. External Insights: Agencies can provide an objective assessment of your SEO strategy’s effectiveness and suggest improvements.
    3. Consolidated Data: Agencies often use premium analytics tools that consolidate data from various sources for a more comprehensive view.

7. Budget

This can be the decisive factor for most businesses, and often the first consideration. However, it’s listed as the last one here, because that’s how it should be. When you have considered all the other factors, then you can determine what you are budgeting for. 

If, after doing this assessment, you find that you can take on your SEO project in-house, then you need to assess your budget for additional, experienced SEO staff, the time you’ll devote to it, the tools necessary to plan and implement the project, and other ongoing costs.

If you decide to work with an SEO Agency, then you need to consult them to determine project setup costs, monthly retainer fees and any additional costs based on your specific business requirements.

Contrary to the belief that in-house team is more cost-effective, you may find that working with outside SEO professionals may yield a better return on investment. Additionally, costs will be lower than if you hired the necessary staff in-house. 

You could also consider trying a hybrid approach wherein you bring in a junior SEO professional to work in-house and hire an external SEO Consultant to guide and assign tasks to the junior team member.

Compare the cost projections for different scenarios and consult your financial advisors before coming to a decision.

If you are still undecided, we are listing the pros and cons of both in-house team and agency SEO.

Pros and Cons of In-House SEO

Pros: 

  • Sole focus on your Business goals with SEO campaign
  • Ability to quickly make required changes
  • Better understanding of your industry niche, company values and goals
  • Easy cross-functional collaboration with, IT, operations etc

Cons:

  • Hiring & Onboarding an in-house SEO can be time-consuming & expensive
  • They may struggle with task prioritisation
  • Recurring costs for various SEO tools, required for analysis

Pros and Cons of Agency SEO

Pros: 

  • Save on hiring, on-boarding and other associated costs that come with hiring in-house
  • Immediate start as no hiring/training needed
  • Prior industry experience and exposure to resolve SEO issues and achieve desired results
  • All areas of SEO (On-page, Off-page, Technical SEO) well taken care of 
  • Better results & traction in a shorter time-span

Cons:

  • SEO Agencies work for multiple clients. They will likely allocate a fixed number of hours to your Campaign
  • Finding an SEO agency that you like, trust and is affordable may be challenging
  • Higher upfront costs compared to an entry or mid-level SEO specialist

Still Can’t Decide?

Besides the factors listed here, speak to people – business owners, SEO professionals, colleagues – those who can help you arrive at a decision or share experiences with you. Do your research and make an informed choice. There’s plenty of information and sources to tap into. 

A Parting Advice: Be pragmatic, think long-term, and consider your strengths and limitations, before making a commitment.

Are you looking for an SEO Agency to help your Business grow online? 

Give us a go with a 20-minute SEO Discovery Call or claim your Free 15-point SEO Audit to get your Home Page SEO Score.

Medha Dixit
medha@digitalchakra.co.uk

Medha Dixit is an eCommerce SEO Consultant and Founder at Digital Chakra, a UK based Internet Marketing Company, focused on helping small & mid-sized eCommerce Businesses rank higher in Google's Organic Search Results. Medha is a Computer Science Engineer and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, India's Top Business School. She considers herself to be a sponge, absorbing knowledge whilst also constantly striving to build & improve. Medha has helped clients in UK, India, and US generate millions in revenue through SEO. Say hello on LinkedIn or feel free to drop an email at hello@digitalchakra.co.uk.

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