IndustryIn-house SEO vs outsourced agency talent: Who wins the debate?

In-house SEO vs outsourced agency talent: Who wins the debate?

Managing SEO is overwhelming and every decision maker faces the inevitable dilemma, "should I hire in-house or outsource?"

In-house SEO vs outsourced agency talent Who wins the debate

30-second summary:

  • SEO involves a lot of tasks, processes, and technicalities that are hard to master and manage
  • Investing in an in-house team can have lots of advantages, like building specialized talent, greater control over performance, productivity, brand and process alignment
  • However, outsourcing to an SEO agency may not deliver the above-mentioned benefits but can be easier on your marketing budget and overheads
  • So, how do you identify the right fit for your business?

There are too many parts of SEO and many of those parts are constantly moving and changing. The more a site grows, the more challenging SEO is going to be. So what’s a better approach: to start building your own in-house SEO team or rely on an agency or freelancers?

Let’s see…

Pros and cons of building your own team

Pro #1: You build your own internal talent and knowledge

Your team is your biggest asset. Your company is only as good as the people behind it. These are all cliches but they hold true.

Having an in-house team to rely on makes your SEO strategy more consistent and aligned with your company’s culture and your product positioning strategy. Plus, there is a smoother flow of ideas and communication that leads to better results. You also stand to gain from the cross-pollination of talent that feeds into innovation and greater problem-solving.

Con #1: Talents tend to move on

There’s one huge issue with talented people: They tend to overgrow their employing businesses, and they do that pretty quickly.

It often becomes hard (and expensive) to keep the talent, even if your organization was the one that grew it.

Pro #2: You hold someone responsible

If you are good at hiring, you will likely find someone responsible who will take their training and tasks seriously. The person will have clear ownership which makes everyone’s lives easier and your business more effective. 

Any business initiative is going to be successful only if there’s someone inside the company to “own” it.

In-house teams are easier to control, you can ask for and obtain reports within a day. You can ask for clarifications without running out of your billable hours.

Con #2: It is expensive

Not many businesses can afford to have an internal SEO that has nothing but SEO… Apart from regular and inevitable payroll, there are also HR processes that contribute to the overall expenses. And let’s not forget about employee insurance and other benefits.

Yes, growing your own team is generally a great investment but only if your budget allows it. Plus, there’s always a risk your investment will simply leave your company one day (see above).

Pro #3: You own your data

Privacy is a big issue when it comes to letting anyone do marketing for you. On the other hand, you can also control the technology and privacy much more efficiently ensuring that your data is accessible to your internal team only.

Additionally, when you outsource anything, you will inevitably miss lots of data, like contacts that were acquired, templates that worked better, and other assets.

When you have the work done internally, you end up accumulating contacts you can rely on going forward. You also eventually build your own data and find innovative ways to build it into your search marketing strategy.

Con #4: It is slower

Unless you have a huge team, SEO tasks will pile up. They are very hard to organize and scale without outside help because there are too many variables and most of them are done on a continuous and regular basis.

Relying on freelancers to outsource SEO tasks is often the only way to get things done and free some time for looking into analytics to align your SEO strategy better.

Pro #5: The process can be better integrated

SEO is no longer an island. It can only be really effective if it is well-integrated into all processes within an organization, including product development, IT, sales, and customer support.

The intersection of digital and physical consumer experiences is also a strong reason as to why SEO needs to have strong integration with digital marketing, martech, and sales. Your business can achieve its goals only if it has a unified footprint.

Con #5: You cannot build a team that is good at everything

The biggest problem with SEO is that there are several moving parts that require absolutely different training and skill sets.

Remember the graph?

SEO graph and relativitySource: Anthony Palomarez

SEO always includes content creation and optimization, technical support, and link building (which normally includes email outreach, relationship building, and linkable asset creation which, in turn, involves graphic design or video production tasks).

If you need to understand all of these moving parts better, I have a simplified flow chart for you:

the scope of SEO

Let’s not forget that many of those parts will have to evolve based on ever-changing Google guidelines and ever-developing search algorithms that are hard to keep up with.

With such a variety of skills required, building a team that would handle almost everything is next to impossible, even for corporate entities.

Of course, today’s technology makes it much easier. You don’t have a web developer to build a landing page, or handle on-page SEO essentials. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create visuals, or even put together an effective lead magnet.

But even with smart technology, to handle all the parts of an SEO services strategy you will need a pretty huge team, which is – again – expensive.

The truth is somewhere in the middle

The takeaway from the above is somewhat of a dilemma: You want a team to control something that you may never be able to control.

The best solution is usually in the middle:

  • Hire an SEO manager who has thorough SEO knowledge
  • Let that SEO manager find companies and freelancers to outsource different moving parts to

This means having an SEO manager who is brilliant at both SEO and project management.

Yes, it will take time to find the right person but finding the right person is never easy. 

It is well worth your time though:

  • Your in-house person will be able to “translate” any SEO jargon to you whenever you need to understand what is going on
  • You will have someone owning the strategy and process 
  • There will be a person who will be inside your company to ensure your SEO strategy is aligned with your overall product positioning strategy and include other teams in the SEO processes

In reality, if you want your SEO strategy to deliver results, you need both: An internal person (or a team) and someone outside your company to rely on. This is not a question of choosing one.

Conclusion

Managing SEO is hard. Don’t feel discouraged. There’s no valid alternative to organic search traffic. Find the right person who will be able to manage the process for you and find reliable partners to outsource different SEO tasks to. This way you will keep the strategy under control while still being able to afford it. Good luck!


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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