Search engine optimisation has been a hot topic for anyone managing a website since it exploded onto the marketing scene in the late-90s.
We all agree that if you want your target market to find your site, it needs to appear on the result pages of the top search engines – after all, 93% of web traffic comes via this route.
So, who should you trust to get your website up to Google’s standards – do you hire your own in-house team or go with an established SEO agency?
Agency or in-house – what’s the difference?
Before we look at the pros and cons of using an SEO agency or hiring an in-house team, let’s remind ourselves what we mean when we talk about in-house vs agency.
- In-house SEO means doing the work yourself.
That might involve employing someone new who specialises in search engine optimisation or delegating the task to someone who already works there (usually a marketing manager).
- An SEO agency does the work on your behalf.
When you hire an agency, you get instant access to a group of SEO specialists. Once you’ve signed up with an agency, you can expect them to start working on your site immediately.
At this point, you might be wondering why you even have to use a specialist.
Do you need an SEO company? How hard can SEO DIY be? In theory, there’s nothing stopping you from doing it yourself, but you might be surprised at how hard this discipline is to master.
How hard is it to do SEO yourself?
Here’s the kicker – with search engine optimisation, the goalposts are constantly changing and you have to be dynamic.
Google looks at hundreds of factors to determine where pages should appear on its results pages and they change them frequently. To be successful, you’ve got to commit to staying up to date with the changes.
If you have a lot on your plate already and looking after search engine optimisation isn’t your only responsibility, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stay on top of what’s happening in the industry.
You’ll find lots of guides online for beginners that take you through doing your own SEO, but when it comes to looking after your website, there’s more to it than just a few simple steps.
There are a lot of technical aspects to improving your website’s visibility too, for example.
Updating your website with keyword-rich content is essential, but you also have to consider internal links, metadata, page structure, markup schema – and that’s just ‘on-page SEO’.
You also need to consider who else is linking to your site and your brand’s reputation.
Hiring an SEO agency – pros and cons
When you hire an SEO company, you get immediate access to a team of experts who can hit the ground running. Each one has experience and skills in their field, from link building to content creation and conversion rate optimisation.
You’ll also directly benefit from your agency’s access to professional software that can give you an insight into your performance and improve your site’s visibility (in other words, Google analytics isn’t enough on its own!).
At Marketing Labs, we use lots of different tools, which allow us to get a complete picture of what’s happening with our clients’ websites behind the scenes. It also means we can identify and take advantage of untapped opportunities at a fast pace.
With an SEO agency, you have the flexibility to increase your marketing spend when things are going well. You can easily scale up or down the scope of work to suit your budget, which is far less risky than employing someone.
Using an SEO firm, the pros and cons at a glance
|An agency can hit the ground running – no waiting for recruitment or training
|It can be hard to find an agency you like and trust
|Access to lots of people all under one roof, which means shorter turnaround times and little downtime
|You won’t be the SEO agency’s only client
|They have experience working in different industries so they know what ‘good’ looks like
|Most agencies have access to professional SEO tools that can benefit your website
|There is less risk and more flexibility if you want to scale up (or down)
Keeping your SEO in-house – pros and cons
There’s no doubt that having someone on the inside makes communication between internal departments easier. The people working in the business will be the first to know about things that might affect the SEO strategy, and they can respond quickly.
Unfortunately, businesses that want to keep their SEO in-house often give the job to someone in the marketing department who already has a lot on their plate and doesn’t have time to do it properly.
If you don’t keep up with the work, you risk your hard-earned rankings disappearing overnight. The only way for your business to benefit is to employ a dedicated team of people looking after your online performance.
Most good SEO agencies will send you monthly reports, but with an in-house team, you have greater visibility over what’s happening daily and can check in whenever you want.
Doing your own SEO, the pros and cons at a glance
|Communication and collaboration between departments is easier when you have your own in-house SEO professionals
|Giving the job to one person could easily overwhelm them and affect results
|They’re the first to find out about changes to the business, and they can react quickly
|It can be expensive and time-consuming to find the right people
|You have greater visibility over what the team are doing day-to-day
|You won’t have access to as many SEO experts in specialist fields, or the same number of professional tools as an agency
|They’re focussed on your website(s) only
Is it expensive to use an SEO agency?
Depending on where you are in the country, and the SEO services you need, hiring an agency on a retainer will cost you somewhere between £1,200 and £9,000 per month.
According to Indeed.com, the average salary of an SEO specialist in the UK is £34,865, which comes out at £2,469 per month. As with all jobs, if you’re willing to pay more, you’ll attract a higher-quality candidate.
When you’re hiring in-house, you also have to consider training, equipment, licenses for software, and monthly subscriptions to those professional SEO tools we mentioned earlier.
What’s most important here is your return on investment. With a team of experts primed and ready to go, hiring an SEO agency is guaranteed to deliver quicker results than employing someone to do the job.
While you will see results eventually, with just one person in-house dedicated to improving your site’s visibility, it’s likely to take much longer.
How to decide between in-house or agency
Ultimately, only you can decide what’s right for your business. There are lots of things to think about here, but we recommend you start by looking at the size of the task and your budget.
To get a better idea of what needs doing, request a free SEO audit from a digital marketing agency like Marketing Labs. This will help you determine what work lies ahead and what kind of support you’ll need in the short and long term.