Infographic: Hiring an Agency vs. Hiring in-House SEO
Everyone knows SEO is essential for online success in 2021.
But what’s the best way to achieve SEO success — an SEO agency or an in-house specialist?
We answer that question with our infographic. Check out the answer for yourself below!
Infographic: Should You Hire an Agency or in-House SEO?
In the infographic, we rate each category on a scale of 1 to 5 for SEO agencies (left) and in-house specialists (right).
At the end of the infographic, we add up the numbers of each category to determine the best allocation of your marketing dollar.
Cost is the #1 consideration for most businesses. And it should be — it directly impacts your bottom line.
Agencies are the clear winner in this category. The average cost of SEO service from an agency is $1,500.
On the other hand, the average monthly salary of an in-house SEO specialist is $4,613, and that’s not even including benefits like insurance.
So if you’re looking to spend less for your SEO results, SEO agencies are the better choice.
Like any job, skill is crucial to success.
In general, SEO agencies will be more skillful when it comes to marketing your business online. They exclusively work in Internet marketing and they have the knowledge, expertise, and experience of multiple people at their disposal. In theory, there’s nothing they can’t do.
In-house SEOs are also skilled, but they’re limited by being a single person. If you want the same versatility and professionalism as an SEO agency, you’ll have to hire an entire department, which could approach diminishing returns for your investment.
Time is another important factor to an SEO strategy.
In almost all cases, SEO agencies can only dedicate a certain amount of hours to your website every week. That’s because they have lots of clients, and they all demand attention based on the rate they pay to the agency.
On the other hand, an in-house SEO expert works on your site 40 hours every week unless you tell them otherwise. With a skilled marketer, that time commitment can quickly pay off for your business.
In this category, in-house SEOs are the clear winner.
Experience refers to the amount of time a person (or group of people) have dedicated to learning SEO. What wisdom have they earned that makes them better at their job than someone else?
For SEO agencies, experience is always available. Agencies have lots of people who specialize in different areas and learn as much as they can at all times.
In-house SEOs have different previous experiences. If you want to get the same experience as an agency, you’ll have to hire an entire department, which takes a lot of time, money, testing, and patience.
Efficiency is a measure of the amount of work an SEO can do in a given amount of time without any errors.
SEO agencies have this down pat because they’ve established and tested different ways to get the best possible results. They’re also versatile enough to continually adapt to SEO changes, which happen frequently.
In-house hires most likely have their own processes from previous jobs and have to learn your specific method of working. That adaptation takes a lot of time with very little payout, giving in-house SEOs lower efficiency overall.
6. Industry Knowledge
Industry knowledge refers to how well someone knows your business and how it operates.
SEO agencies probably know your business pretty well because they’ve most likely worked with other companies in your industry. If they haven’t they may have heard of your industry second-hand or read case studies on it.
In-house SEOs probably don’t know your industry unless they work in an ultra-specific combination niche of your industry and SEO. There’s not much work for someone that specialized, so you’ll probably have to spend some time training your new hires to bring them up to speed.
7. SEO Knowledge
SEO knowledge is a measure of how well someone knows Internet marketing as a whole.
Agencies will always dominate this category because they have multiple people. At any given moment, it’s almost a sure bet that someone has learned the latest news and told their coworkers. The more employees an agency has, the more likely it is that they’re up-to-date on everything in the SEO world.
In-house hires can only do so much in one day. With all the projects they have to manage on any given day, they’d have to take time away from their productivity to learn about the latest news. That means they’ll probably fall behind, which can cost your business real dollars in the future.
Output is a measurement of the raw work an agency or in-house hire can do.
SEO agencies can simply do more since they have more people, training, and specialties. They can assign multiple people to one task and get it done in a hurry.
When an in-house hire is responsible for SEO from start to finish, that means they invest a lot more time into every project they get. That slows them down, reduces output, and limits what your company can do online.
Reliability is key when working on an SEO project. If you want something to get done, you need someone who’s reliable.
SEO agencies have to be reliable through-and-through. If they’re not, they go out of business. It’s as simple as that.
In-house hires may not be reliable. Unfortunately, you never know until you’ve hired someone long-term. If you accidentally hire someone who frequently flakes on projects, that’s all lost time and money for your business.
Professionalism is a reflection of how easy it is to constructively work with others.
SEO agencies have to be professional. If they’re not, they lose clients and go out of business.
In-house SEOs act as employees of your business. That means you can expect a certain level of egotism, negotiation, and even the threat of quitting — especially when their annual reviews come around.
Control is another important factor in SEO. Do you have control over your projects, when they’re completed, and make changes?
For SEO agencies, you won’t have that much control. Agencies work on a contract basis, so you also can’t terminate an agency early without facing penalties. Essentially, you’re at the agency’s mercy for a lot of what they create and change on your site.
On the other hand, in-house SEOs are constantly at your disposal. You can control everything they do for your site and when they do it, and you can terminate them for causing problems.
Diversity refers to the variety of skills that an SEO agency or hire can offer.
Agencies are the clear winner in this category since they can have dozens (or even hundreds) of specialists in hyper-specific niches.
In-house hires, on the other hand, probably only specialize in one or two areas with limited skills in others. You’ll need a full SEO department at your business to pull off any big-scale projects in a timely manner.
Scope refers to the possibilities that an SEO agency or hire brings to the table for your business.
SEO agencies can do a lot, and they always have other services available if you want to diversify your marketing portfolio and improve your business.
In-house hires can only do so much though, and you’ll need a big team for any major projects — just like with diversity.
Scalability refers to the capability of an agency or hire to continually improve your company’s marketing strategy as your business grows.
Agencies are great for this. They know that building a small business into a regional power requires a certain amount of work, and going from a regional power to a statewide corporation requires even more. With an agency at your disposal, you can continually grow for years without needing to switch to another marketing partner.
In-house hires are limited by their personal skillsets. So if you want to grow your business past its limits, you’ll need to add more members to your SEO team. That requires more money, time, and testing to get it all working well.
Speed refers to how quickly an agency or in-house hire can complete a task.
Agencies can start and complete tasks in no time. With so many experts, they may even be able to beat your deadline without sacrificing quality.
In-house hires often work on a balance of speed vs. quality. So if you want something quickly, you’ll have to sacrifice quality, and it you want something good, you’ll have to get it later than you want.
At the end of the day, your return on investment is more important than anything else. After all, no business wants to waste money.
SEO agencies are experts at earning ROI because they know that’s what makes a difference to a business. No matter the task, ROI is always the objective for an agency, and they know just how to get it.
But in-house hires need to experiment, test, and learn before earning a high ROI for your business. What worked for their last employee may not work for you, and they may not have the experience they need to get a strong ROI for your as quickly as possible.
17. Ongoing Maintenance
Ongoing maintenance refers to the work put into making sure your website continually earns results for your business.
SEO agencies often require maintenance packages and additional payment to consistently keep your rankings high. That costs you more money in the short-run, but it’s up to you how much you’re willing to pay for long-term results.
In-house specialists, on the other hand, have as much time as they need to maintain your SEO rankings. You can dedicate as much of their weekly 40 hours to maintenance as you’d like, and it won’t cost you anything more than their salaries.
Independence is a measure of how much you’ll have to guide an SEO agency or in-house hire.
SEO agencies are generally independent. They have the processes and ideas they need to get results for you, and if they don’t, they at least know how they can test to get the best results.
In-house SEOs, on the other hand, will commonly require guidance. They need ideas, strategies, and managing that they haven’t had to create before. That takes up a lot of time and money, compared to an agency.
Every SEO agency or independent hire requires tools to do their jobs well.
SEO agencies already have the tools they need because they use them over and over again. Basically, they just need to use the tools for your business and you’re set.
With in-house SEOs, you’ll need to front the cash for all the tools to help someone do their job. There are a lot of tools out there, and it’s possible some won’t work for you. Every time you find one that’s not a right fit, that’s money down the drain — and time wasted using it.
Startup refers to how efficiently someone can set up your SEO strategy.
SEO agencies just need your payment. Once that’s done, they’re on your side.
But hiring an in-house specialist takes a lot of time and money. There’s the application process, interviewing, deliberating, and even firing if you hire the wrong person. Considering SEO agencies cost way less than individual hires anyway, there’s no comparison — agencies clearly win in this category.
Overall, SEOs meet 91% of the criteria we established for this infographic.
Unfortunately, in-house specialists only achieved 51%.
With that in mind, SEO agencies are almost twice as effective as in-house hires because of their affordability, skill, and more.
Want to know more?
Check out our list of the best SEO companies in the world.
And if you have any questions, you can always contact us!