SEO Agency vs. In-House SEO: What’s the difference?


Kim Atkinson Ontario SEO
Kim Atkinson
January 4, 2022
Choosing an In-House SEO VS SEO Agency

Hiring an SEO Agency vs. In-House SEO Specialist

How do you decide which will enhance your odds of achieving worldwide (web) domination? 

There comes a time in most businesses where they need to decide if it makes sense to hire an search engine optimization specialist or outsource their SEO efforts to an agency. We could never hope to address all the nuances of each unique business’s decision-making process, but we can take a look at some general rules of thumb help you decide on whether you need to hire someone for your in-house team or collaborate with a digital marketing agency to amp up your online presence.

If, after reading our rant of pros, cons and questions, you are interested in having a chat about your particular SEO situation, don’t hesitate to reach out. We will be glad to talk you through your next steps. The only thing we love (almost) as much as giving unsolicited advice is providing answers to questions people asked.

Does in-house or agency SEO cost more?

Show me the money 

Honestly, I hate the saying, “It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” because it’s actually easy to compare fruits. One is orange, tangy and soft. The other is crispy, sweet and a variety of colors. See? Easy. So, insert whichever other colloquialism accurately demonstrates how difficult it is to compare the investment in in-house versus agency SEO.

When you hire a full-time person, you are likely paying out a full salary. Additionally, your costs may  also include benefits, paid vacation and all that jazz. In return for this sizeable investment, you get: 

  • 35ish hours of work each week 
  • Their unique expertise they are bringing to the digital table
  • Long-term loyalty (hopefully)

You can also likely bank on this person to eventually understand the ins and outs of your business, and they should be readily able to align your digital tactics with your overarching brand strategy. Also important in this calculation is training not only of your new team member but the time of everyone else who must train and oversee this new employee, assuming of course you have someone with the knowledge and experience to evaluate their work.

Let’s say a full-time SEO person demands a salary of $60,000 per year. Keep in mind, this number does not allocate a dime for digital ad spending. So, if you want to boost posts or advertise on the Googles, you will need loosen the purse strings a little bit more.  

If you were to invest that salary into an external SEO agency, you could expect to get a lot of bang for your buck. With average monthly SEO costs from an agency like ours sitting at around $5,000 per month, $60,000 would buy you a lot more direct SEO work than your salaried employee. 

Define your goals before you hire an in-house SEO specialist or agency

When considering which direction works for you, consider your goals rather than dollar signs

The reason it’s hard to talk cost comparison is because when you work with an external company, you get just that – an entire company. Alternatively, if you hire a digital marketer or SEO specialist, you get one person who has one set of skills. While the new employee may spend more time working, these hours will only bear the fruit of one set of hands, brain and portfolio.

Hiring a full-time person may make sense if you only have one particular marketing goal. For example, if all you are trying to do is increase your social engagements, one person may be a smart choice. A jack-of-all-trades may also work well if you are simply looking for someone to manage your existing website and social medial platforms, rather than generate a fully fleshed-out SEO strategy or handle more labor-intensive tasks such as digital advertising. 

Working with an agency works well for companies who want to:

  • Grow
  • Launch multi-platform campaigns and initiatives
  • Access specialized knowledge and technical skill sets in response to evolving needs
  • Develop short and long term marketing strategies with seasoned experts
  • Take advantage of insights gleaned from working within and beyond your competitive market

Do you want to build an in-house marketing team?

Every business owner is familiar with the complexities and rewards of hiring new people. There are both challenges and opportunities when it comes to selecting employees for cultural fit and competency. Sometimes, you strike gold and a new hire blows your socks off. Other times, you have high hopes and the person does not live up to their resume.

When deciding whether to bring on the digital firepower you need to compete online, take the time to consider how much recruiting and training you want to do. The employment pool in digital marketing is currently very limited. Be ready to compete for experienced people and move quickly, or you will lose out in this market.

If you are in it for the long haul and want to build a bigger team, do you have the resources to invest in their professional development (an absolute necessity in the digital marketing industry)? Before deciding, figure out exactly what the role demands and choose a person based not only on where you are at, but also where you hope to go. 

If you want to make improvements fast(er) and enjoy a turnkey business transaction, an agency will provide that. The company you hire has already been through the hiring process. They will have chosen very specific experts to fill particular roles and those people will all have experience serving companies in your industry. An agency will easily adapt to your brand voice and act as an extension of your business because that’s what they are paid to do. Best of all, they will handpick the team members who will most seamlessly align with your strategy. 

Still unsure whether an in-house hero or SEO agency?

Why not try mocking up a job description for what you want to achieve and see if it sounds like one person or plenty? If you realize you are describing an “employee” who has a decade of experience doing SEO, website management, online advertising and content management, there is a good chance you would benefit from an agency taking charge of your digital needs. 

If that is the case, hold onto your description. More than just the talent you need, outline the fit you can’t work without. Then, as you are searching for an SEO agency or sifting through RFPs, you can ensure you are not settling for bold claims with little substance. Before you sign on the dotted agency line, get to know the team you will be working with. Never hesitate to ask for references – just like you would with an employee – and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and to see actual results. 

Take your agency hire as seriously as you would a full-time employee  

The industry’s best agencies will operate as an extension of your brand