In-House SEO Versus Working with an Agency: The Pros and Cons
It can be difficult to decide whether to invest in building an in-house team or work with an agency to meet your SEO needs. While there’s no right or wrong approach, it’s always good to lay out your options to understand what will suit your objectives, business and budget.
In this blog, we break down the different considerations when it comes to deciding whether in-house or employing the services of a professional SEO agency is right for your business.
Teamwork makes the dream work
When working with an SEO agency, while you may have one or two key points of contact, your account is likely backed by a wider team of experts there to support your SEO efforts to help you achieve greater things.
From SEO veterans to emerging talent, each individual will have their insight to share, benefitting your business with ranging experience. One step removed from your business, their objectivity could make all the difference in you reaching your goals. With all those experts focused on you, a great new idea could be just around the corner…
Technical Analyst, Tino Schreuders, described his experience of working in an in-house SEO team:
“The largest number of SEO people I’ve worked with in-house is three. This creates its own set of challenges when you’re working on a strategy as you don’t really have anyone to spar with. Whereas if you’re working as part of a wider team, you can discuss these things. The amount of help you can get from just asking a question to a group of others is impressive and then you can form your own opinion based on that.”
Access to the tools you need
Working with an agency, your SEO activity will benefit from industry-leading technologies that you may not otherwise have access to. From auditing software, rank trackers and tool subscriptions are standard for agencies. It’s one thing having a tool, it’s another knowing how to use it, what it’s good for, where its weaknesses lie and to be able to plug those gaps with another tool to get the information needed to set your SEO strategy up for success.
Some agencies (like us) even invest in developing their own in-house tools to compliment widely used SEO tools to better satisfy their clients’ needs. We have an internal R&D team dedicated to creating and maintaining exclusive tools that allow us to be more efficient and achieve even better results for you.
Having access to such a variety of tools in-house to satisfy your SEO needs can become expensive, fast. Your business may lack the dedicated budget required or the skills to make the most of the latest technologies that will support you in achieving the results you want to see.
The wider SEO community
Digital is a rapidly changing industry, where significant things can happen in microseconds, and agencies are accustomed to this. A good agency should have systems and processes in place to cope with the pace, identify changes in the landscape and be prepared to deal with them.
As an SEO agency, it’s our job to constantly monitor the organic landscape to understand what’s happening in the wider SEO community and how Google’s changes could impact you. Doing so allows us to continue to implement SEO best practices that will increase your organic visibility and help you reach your objectives.
If you choose to go down the in-house route, you’ll need to consider how you enable your team to keep on top of the latest developments in the SEO arena and empower their involvement in the SEO community.
Exposure to SEO challenges
Combined with servicing multiple clients in the various industries at any one time, agencies will have encountered a huge range of SEO challenges and are equipped with processes and tactics to tackle them. This collective wisdom allows you to gain a more rounded experience and can be leveraged to grow your business.
Using an in-house team means their knowledge, while specialised, will be limited to one (or a few) websites at a time. As such, the experience that’s applied to your SEO may be limited too.
Having worked on both in-house and within an agency, Technical Analyst, Tino Schreuders, shares his insight:
“I’ve worked in-house for a long time, and I’ve also worked closely with agencies on the other side of the table. When you work in-house, there aren’t many new issues that come your way so there aren’t many new challenges either. When you’re working across a varied spectrum of businesses and websites you can grow quicker and learn on the job because you’re confronted with problems that you wouldn’t really experience when you’re working on one website.”
Immersion and business knowledge
One of the greatest advantages of an in-house SEO team is the all-important business knowledge they will hold. As an in-house marketer, you will be part of the everyday workings of the business and have first-hand insight into any changes, processes, and objectives.
If your business is part of a niche industry, you may be concerned that an agency isn’t able to build up an understanding as well as an in-house employee can. Consider if there are agencies out there with extensive experience within your industry who can truly get under the skin of your business and what you want to achieve. In these cases, they could apply their knowledge from working with other accounts to better your results.
Protection of business intelligence
Even a smaller agency will have multiple clients, each with their own goals and visions. This means you won’t always be the sole focus of your agency team and they could even be working with competitors within your field. While this can be advantageous from an experience and expertise point of view, it may also make you feel vulnerable.
For this reason, it’s understandable that certain businesses feel much more comfortable keeping the inner workings of their strategy in-house. But that’s not to mean you shouldn’t consider working with an SEO agency. Discuss with potential agencies who else they work with in your industry and understand the processes that are in place to manage this conflict of interest. You’ll likely find that they’ve come across this scenario before and, from non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to careful management of who’s involved in your account, they will have ways to ensure your business information is protected providing you with reassurance needed.
Communication and reactivity
You may feel comforted by having an in-house team on hand. Internal to your business, they’ll be able to react fast to changes and act on new plans with urgency. It can be a more streamlined experience with internal teams holding strong relationships across the wider business. These relationships enable faster reaction times which aren’t limited by contracted hours.
Unlike in-house where you have immediate access, hiring an SEO agency may mean you have to incorporate fixed meetings rather than being able to have those quick chats to discuss progress and changes. This could result in delayed responses and prevent such team reactivity when compared to an in-house team.
That being said, a good agency will have the processes in place to support ongoing communication with the necessary people, whenever you need it. Just hear it from Head of Client Services, Jen Milne:
“We are always on hand. For ad hoc communication, the client can email us, text us, call us and we have that availability. We’re always there to support and answer any questions they have on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. So, from a communication point of view, we are the first point of contact for clients. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a scheduled call, it’s literally whenever they need us.
The technical teams often don’t have the same flexibility in terms of being at the end of a phone all the time, but we can speak with them whenever we need to alongside the formal review catch-ups. That combination of formal structuring as well as the ad hoc communication works really well.”
Attracting the right people
Key to your SEO success – whether you choose an in-house or agency approach – is having the right people working with you.
To attract an experienced specialist to join your business, you need to consider what is important to them. How will you keep the role interesting and varied so that they continue to develop and your business benefits from these newly learnt skills and experiences.
What happens if they choose to move on? It is important to have a team of varying levels that can satisfy your business’ SEO needs while having the opportunity to develop themselves. As such, thought needs to be put into how you can attract and satisfy those that will make a difference to your business.
“To be part of an industry that is growing is something that’s really enticing. Even better, to be part of a company that actively encourages career progression and especially career progression internally. For example, when we recruit, we try to bring people on at junior level and bring them up through the ranks. If you like to work hard and want to progress, you will progress as quick as you want too.” – SEO Account Director Andy Turner
What’s right for your business?
When choosing which team would be most beneficial to your SEO needs, you need to understand your goals and interests before setting out on choosing in-house or agency-led SEO.
Both teams, while posing their own benefits, work in different ways. Nevertheless, a good agency will have state-of-the-art tools, a data-driven mindset and an array of experience to drive your efforts forward.
At WMG, we have a growing SEO team who work across our range of clients. While our numbers are growing, we always strive to ensure our people never feel like a cog in a machine. That’s why we’ve created a close-knit culture of support and progression to ensure our SEO specialists can drive the best results for your business. Want to find out more about working with an SEO agency? Get in touch to chat.