How To Get The Best Results: SEO In-House vs Outsourcing
You know that search engine optimisation (SEO) needs to be a priority in 2022.
You know that there are more than 5.6 billion searches conducted on Google every single month.
You know that SEO has 20X more traffic opportunities than PPC, and that the top result in Google has a 34% CTR.
You get it: putting off SEO simply isn’t an option if you want to grow. But what you might not be so sure about is how to invest in SEO in the most effective way possible.
- Do you bring on an SEO specialist in-house that can work on campaigns day in, day out?
- Outsource SEO to an agency or a consultant?
- Or double down on your efforts with a combination of both?
That’s what we’re here to help you figure out.
Nailing the right SEO resourcing is the first step to securing out-of-this-world ROI from your marketing efforts.
If you’re looking to put the pedal to the medal on SEO, these considerations will help you weigh up the pros and cons of each option and find the best choice for your business.
What is SEO outsourcing in marketing?
SEO outsourcing involves tasking out your search engine optimisation campaigns to an expert outside of your business. This might be an independent SEO freelancer, a service provider, or an agency with a team of dedicated SEO experts.
You can outsource specific parts of your digital marketing strategy, such as local SEO, or engage a vendor on all aspects of your game plan, from the audit stage all the way to developing, executing, and optimising your campaign.
Regardless of who you outsource your SEO to, they should also provide regular updates and reporting on how you’re ranking in search results.
Should you outsource your SEO?
Outsourcing SEO can have a huge effect on not just your rankings, but on all aspects of your business.
With the right team on your side, you’ll be able to use their expertise to climb to the top of Google search results, grow your visibility, and bring more qualified organic traffic to your website — all while skyrocketing your ROI.
However, it’s not as simple as saying that every business should be outsourcing SEO, 100% of the time.
The best option for each business will differ depending on a multitude of factors, from budget and resourcing to the amount of control you want to have on your campaigns, your turnaround times, the type of project, and the level of expertise you’re looking for.
Budget and resourcing
One of the biggest influences on whether you should outsource SEO or go in-house is the level of resourcing you’re willing to dedicate, both in terms of budget and time.
When you hire a specialist to work as part of your in-house team, you’ll end up having to pay for their salary, benefits, overheads, training, and onboarding — not to mention the headache of actually having to find someone to fill the role.
On top of that, you’ll need to fork out potentially thousands for SEO tools, which are an essential component of any effective SEO strategy.
On the flipside, when you outsource SEO, you’ll pay a set engagement fee every month, which covers all parts of your SEO campaign.
The provider will take care of all the training and onboarding costs, as well as the cost of any tools needed to get the job done. You can also scale up or scale down your resources depending on your goals and campaigns.
Finding the right expertise
The question of whether outsourcing SEO is the right choice also depends entirely on WHO you outsource SEO services to.
If, for example, you outsource SEO to an agency with experts that have proven experience in your industry, you’ll likely see insane payoffs in rankings and revenue.
But if you wind up working with a consultant that isn’t results-driven or worse, uses black-hat techniques, SEO outsourcing might prove to be more harmful than helpful.
You also want to keep in mind the level of expertise you can get when you outsource versus when you employ someone in-house.
Outsourced agencies have a range of specialists, from local and enterprise SEO specialists to technical experts, copywriters, and analysts; whereas an in-house resource needs to be a jack of all trades.
If you’re after experts who are the best at what they do, a high-quality outsourced team blows in-house resources out of the water almost every time.
Timelines and speed
SEO providers have to juggle multiple clients at the same time, which means you need to expect a reasonable amount of time for them to handle and come back to you on any requests.
As such, you might not be able to tap them on the shoulder and ask them to quickly check how a page is performing in terms of SEO, or put all hands on deck for a last-minute project.
This isn’t to say a good SEO company won’t be responsive — you’ll just need to strike the right balance between short- and long-term priorities, or be willing to commit more budget to a certain project.
Level of control and focus
Outsourcing SEO works best for teams that are more flexible with their campaigns.
If you’re comfortable with letting the experts take the lead and knowing that your outsourced vendor will be working on multiple clients, then outsourcing is likely to be the better option for you.
Want to keep tabs on your search engine optimization efforts and know the status of campaigns are around the clock? An in-house SEO team will give you that high level of control that you’re looking for.
Advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing SEO
#1 Advantage: Get access to a team of specialists
Good SEO teams have experience working on multiple projects for brands in different industries and of different sizes. One of the main benefits of outsourcing to a team of skilled specialists is that your company will instantly gain access to this expertise.
An outsourced agency will be able to draw upon their other projects to advise which tactics are right for your business, where to focus your efforts, and how to optimise your campaigns for performance.
Conversely, an in-house resource may have a learning curve or need time to build up their experience before they can apply the same level of know-how to your campaigns.
#2. Advantage: Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and changes
Every year, Google makes multiple updates to its algorithm, from smaller tweaks to major overhauls (remember Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird?).
If you miss the memo on these, it can severely impact your rankings in search results.
In-house teams can often get caught up on specific campaigns or outcomes, which leaves them with very little time to delve into the macro changes in the search world.
SEO consultants and agencies, on the other hand, make it their job to stay on top of the latest trends and movements, both in the search world and the broader digital marketing industry.
A good SEO outsourcing provider should be the first to let you know when something has changed and how it will affect your business.
#3. Advantage: It’s scalable
Looking to ramp up your SEO efforts or kickstart some new SEO projects? It’s much easier with SEO outsourcing.
When you have an in-house resource, you have two options: bring someone else on board or prioritise their tasks. With an outsourced SEO agency, it’s much easier to scale up or down based on your business needs.
For example, you might invest in more SEO work in the beginning or enlist additional services for a site migration, then dial it back when you’re happy with your performance and pace.
#4. Advantage: Objective perspective on campaigns
Outsourced SEO teams bring a completely objective perspective on campaigns, which can be incredibly beneficial if you’re looking to improve your keyword rankings.
These experts can lend a fresh eye to issues you may have overlooked, or opportunities that you may not have uncovered otherwise.
#5. Advantage: Access to better tools
SEO tools are costly, but they’re necessary if you want to identify new keyword opportunities, track your performance, and pinpoint any issues that may be affecting your rankings.
At the very least, your team will need a few (or all) of these tools if you want to get great results from your SEO:
- SEO analytics for your website
- Competitor analysis tools
- Backlink profile data
- A keyword research tool
- SEO audit tool
- Content marketing tool
An outsourced SEO agency should already have access to these tools, so you won’t need to pay the hefty licensing fee (which can be upwards of $450 a month).
More importantly, because they use these tools every day, they know how to dive into them and extract the data they need to optimise your campaigns.
#1. Disadvantage: It can be tough to find the right SEO company
There’s no question that finding the right SEO provider is challenging. With so many SEO companies out there claiming to be the best, you need to do some research to find a white hat SEO agency that’s truly going to deliver results.
This can be daunting, particularly if you haven’t had a lot of previous experience with SEO outsourcing or you don’t have any in-house knowledge.
#2. Disadvantage: No dedicated resource within your marketing team
As we touched on earlier, outsourcing SEO services to an external firm means you won’t have a dedicated resource that’s working on your company’s content optimization around the clock.
While this shouldn’t be too much of a disadvantage in the day-to-day, it does take a certain level of control away and you may not be able to jump on urgent projects as quickly.
A lack of a dedicated in-house resource also means you won’t be able to retain and pass on SEO knowledge in-house (although some SEO providers do offer training workshops and seminars to help bridge the knowledge gap within your organisation).
How much does it cost to outsource SEO?
The cost to outsource SEO depends on several factors, from your current situation, how much you’ve invested in SEO, your goals and timeline, the services you require, and the level of competition in your industry.
SEO services typically fall into one of four pricing categories:
- Entry-level SEO services: these include basic SEO tasks, like local SEO management or campaign reporting. It is possible to get more from entry-level services, but it typically means your team will either be located offshore or your SEO company won’t be as communicative.
- Mid-range SEO services: Middle-market packages typically include a mix of different services, including link building, local SEO, technical optimisations, and reporting. At this price point, you should be receiving regular communications from your account manager and see steady results from your campaign.
- High-end SEO services: Premium SEO services are a good option for companies looking to be aggressive with their targets without compromising on quality, or eCommerce companies that are selling products online. They’re also worth investing in if your industry is hyper-competitive, as you’ll need to do more to outrank your competitors.
- Enterprise SEO: Enterprise SEO is made for companies with large-scale operations, companies who have multiple brands and websites, or websites with highly complex infrastructure. This is an entirely different breed of SEO and should be outsourced to a dedicated enterprise SEO agency with experience working with brands of a similar size.
There are also different pricing models for outsourcing SEO, depending on what you need. These include:
- Project or fixed-rate contracts. This is a great option if you need a team of SEO experts to work on a dedicated campaign. Most companies will start out with a project because there’s typically a lot of leg work that needs to be done at the beginning of an engagement, such as an SEO analysis, technical audit and game plan.
- Monthly retainers. Monthly retainers are where you pay the SEO company a fixed amount per month to handle your SEO needs, from executing keyword research and high-quality content marketing to performance reporting. This is the most common pricing model out there, because it typically takes anywhere from 6 months to a year before businesses start seeing results from their SEO.
- Pay-for-performance pricing. With this type of pricing model, you pay an outsourced SEO professional or agency for outcomes (i.e. ranking #1 for certain target keywords) rather than for a set volume of deliverables. This approach doesn’t work for all companies, but it is great if you’re chasing aggressive targets or you’re solely focused on results.
- Hourly consulting. This model involves paying an SEO consultant or a digital agency per hour they work on your SEO campaigns. Per-hour consulting fees are often higher than the per-hour fees for a retainer if you break it down, but you do get the added flexibility to adjust your SEO work on a monthly basis.
Because there are so many variables, it’s tough to say how much it would cost for outsourcing SEO. However, as a ballpark figure, entry-level services with digital marketing agencies can start from a few thousand a month, while enterprise-level SEO can be anywhere from $10,000+.
A good frame of reference is the mid-range services, which could cost anywhere from $4000 to $6000 a month for a tech audit, keyword strategy, ongoing link building campaigns and reporting.
One more thing: beware of cheap-as-chips SEO agencies claiming to be able to put you in the top position on Google search results in weeks.
These digital marketing companies are probably using black hat SEO techniques that will end up costing a LOT to fix down the line.
Can SEO be done in-house?
You can hire a dedicated person or even a team of SEO professionals to manage SEO within your company instead of SEO outsourcing.
These employees typically sit within the marketing department and work closely with other members of the business to build and execute your SEO strategy, such as the marketing managers.
Like outsourcing SEO, hiring an in-house SEO team comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. You have someone who is embedded as part of your team, understands the inner workings of your business, and can commit 100% of their time to optimising your website’s organic search visibility.
But while this might seem like a cheaper or better option, it may end up costing you more than you expected — or you might not get the results you’re after.
The advantages and disadvantages of hiring an in-house SEO expert
#1. Advantage: They can focus their efforts
Unlike an agency that has to split its focus between different clients, an in-house SEO expert works exclusively on your business.
You won’t have to worry about them only having a fixed number of hours as part of their retainer — 100% of their time is committed to helping you rank higher in search engine result pages.
However, this focus can also be a double-edged sword.
This laser-sharp dedication to your campaigns may mean that they may overlook legacy issues or big movements in the SEO world.
#2. Advantage: They understand your business
Another advantage of having an in-house SEO expert is that they know your business inside-out.
In-house teams are more in-tune with your company’s rhythm, priorities and strengths, as well as those of your competitors.
This insider knowledge gives rise to more nuanced and tailored SEO strategies — not to mention it’s much easier for them to work with internal stakeholders or quickly shift their priorities if an urgent task crops up.
Your in-house expert can also be the champion for SEO within the broader organisation, working to educate people from different departments on the importance and benefits of SEO, from the marketing manager to CFO.
#1. Disadvantage: Their skills may be more generalist
Most outsourced SEO agencies have a team of specialists working with them. If you need someone who’s an expert in technical SEO, you have access to them as part of your engagement.
The same goes for content marketers, auditors, and analysts. When you hire someone in-house to do your SEO, however, you’ll typically have to opt for a jack of all trades rather than a master of one.
Having a generalist on your team isn’t necessarily a disadvantage as they can cover more ground, but it does mean that you won’t benefit from as much from a specialist’s expertise in a specific area.
This can get particularly challenging when it comes to technical SEO or site migrations, which is why some teams choose to outsource this part as a one-off project.
#2 Disadvantage: The costs can quickly add up
At first glance, hiring a dedicated SEO specialist might seem like the more affordable option. However, this option might not be as cost-effective as you think if you break down everything involved in bringing your SEO in house.
The average salary for an SEO specialist is $83,218, which equates to roughly $6,900 per month.
Add on to that the costs of hiring, training, and SEO tools, and you’re well into $7,000+ per month — the same amount it would cost for a premium SEO agency.
SEO In-House vs Outsourcing SEO: The Verdict
The decision whether to outsource SEO services or do it all in-house depends entirely on your business.
If you’re a smaller business owner working with a limited budget, you’ll get more out of your SEO if you outsource your efforts to an agency.
They’ll be able to advise you on the best strategies and where to invest your time and budget to get the most bang for your buck.
On the other hand, if you’re a larger outfit, it might make more sense to bring your SEO projects in house rather than outsourcing SEO services.
This way, you’ll keep all that SEO expertise within your company and also be able to respond quickly to any business needs as they arise.
Ultimately, no matter which option you choose, the most important question should be about SEO ROI.
Want to see if you’re maximising your SEO efforts with your current approach? Claim your free no-obligation SEO consultation and audit (worth $2,000).
We’ll tell you how you’re performing in comparison with your competitors, and what you need to do to achieve lasting success from search engine optimisation.