Should You Hire an SEO Agency or an In-House SEO Expert?

Should You Hire an SEO Agency or an In-House SEO Expert_

You have a website, and you’re getting ready to employ a killer SEO strategy to get your site on Google’s fabled first page of organic results. You’re now faced with a critical decision: Do you hire an in-house specialist or an SEO agency?

According to a study done by LSEO, a digital marketing agency, 81% of companies prefer working with an agency rather than an in-house team. However, that doesn’t mean you should follow the trend. Choosing between one and the other comes down to finding the best fit for your needs, goals, and requirements.

There are pros and cons to both options. These can range from cost and access to instant expertise to availability and adaptability. We’re going to cover a few topics to help you decide, including:

  • Why SEO is important
  • Whether SEO works 
  • How long an optimization strategy can take
  • How much an optimization strategy costs
  • How to hire an SEO agency
  • What you should look for in an SEO expert

What is SEO and Why is it Important?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, means improving the quantity and quality of your website traffic through organic search engine results. In short, it’s the strategy you employ to place better in the ranks.

Search engines will send out crawlers to your website that evaluate different elements, including the content, the keywords, and the user-friendliness of the design. It also checks traffic data, links, domain authority, and more. Then, it feeds that information into an algorithm, which helps determine whether it should show your website or a different page to its users.

If your goal is to get better organic traffic through searches, you’ll need a killer SEO strategy and an expert team to carry it out.

Does SEO Really Work?

The short answer is that, yes, SEO does work. That said, some circumstances can influence the efficacy of your optimization strategy. Tactics that work for some websites or competitors might not necessarily work for you, which is why it’s so vital to work with an agency or expert who understands the unique goals of your business.

Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t always work. However, the reasons behind the failure of an optimization strategy typically include:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Not following through 
  • Giving up too soon
  • Not thinking strategically or long-term
  • Using outdated or “black-hat” practices
  • Lack of audience demand
  • Poor Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) features
  • Technical or user experience issues
  • Lack of investment

Luckily, you can avoid most of these pitfalls simply by working with a knowledgeable design team and SEO specialists.

When Should You Use SEO?

Let’s start by looking at when you shouldn’t use SEO. Yes, there are occasions where an SEO strategy might not get you the results you want. For example, if you’re launching a new service or product, people might not be using the right keywords to find you. Your time would be better spent raising awareness first, then investing in a solid SEO strategy once people know what to search for.

The goal of any SEO strategy is to get you as close to the top of the search results as possible. It helps build your domain’s authority and generates traffic through content, keywords, backlinks, and social media.

Over time, continuous SEO will also give you better insights into your audience, expand your online visibility, and help you adapt to new online optimization requirements.

How Many Hours Does SEO Take?

Businesses and website owners often believe SEO is a one-time task performed during a site’s development. However, SEO is actually a long-term strategy that requires frequent tweaks, adjustments, and monitoring to be truly effective.

According to Search Engine Watch, the initial search engine optimization can take up to 40 hours, depending on your website’s size and the number of pages. Once that’s done, you’ll need to prepare for weekly SEO activities – this is what your in-house team or agency will be doing.

From ongoing monitoring to content development and further optimization, you or your team may need to spend between 28 and 100 hours on SEO every week. Depending on how many optimization activities are included in your strategy and your site’s size, that number may go even higher. Additionally, you may have to wait up to six months before you see any concrete long-term results.

Remember, SEO isn’t a one-and-done event; it’s an ongoing strategic process.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

You’ve likely received many emails from so-called SEO experts that promise first-page results for under $100. According to a study by the Search Engine Journal, 47% of businesses pay between $100 and $500 per month for SEO. Only 5% paid between $1,000 and $5,000 per month.

Why are the prices so different? Unfortunately, the online world is filled with self-proclaimed experts who know just enough SEO jargon to seem to be specialists. As a result, many website owners end up paying for the consequences of “cheap SEO.” These can include Google penalties, lower search ranks, and even getting your domain blacklisted.

Is there a right price? Not really. Determining a monthly budget for your SEO will depend on various factors, including:

  • Which activities you want to be performed
  • How often they need to be done
  • The size of your website

In 2021, SEO projects typically cost between $750 and $2,000 per month, depending on the scope. However, larger one-time projects can cost as much as $30,000.

Remember, SEO is not a commodity, and choosing the “cheapest” provider won’t do you any favors. Your best option is to approach several agencies or specialists and ask for detailed scopes of work before making a final, informed decision.

Do You Need an SEO Agency?

If you’re interested in creating and executing an effective SEO strategy, employing an agency should be one of the first things you consider. Search engine optimization can be tricky, and it’s critical to work with an experienced team rather than hiring a self-proclaimed expert.

Working with a specialist SEO agency can make a significant difference in your search engine ranking. There are also a few benefits that come with choosing an external agency, such as:

  • They come with their own team of experts who have already been vetted and tested
  • If one of their employees leaves, it won’t affect your business or the continuity of service
  • It’s more affordable than hiring an in-house expert or team

However, keep in mind that there are also a few cons to working with an external team, such as:

  • You’re one of their many clients
  • There’s potential for inconsistency
  • They’re separated from your business and may not have the same insights or understanding

If you decide to work with an SEO agency, make sure you give them everything they need to understand your business and goals.

How Do You Choose a Good SEO Agency?

Choosing a good SEO agency can be a daunting task, especially if you’re unsure about what to look for. Here are a few critical points to consider:

  • Do they have any specialties?
  • What services do they offer?
  • Are their online reviews positive or negative?
  • Do they have a portfolio or case studies available?
  • Can they provide references from previous or existing clients?
  • Do they fall into your budget without being cheap?
  • Do they offer unreasonable guarantees?

Never choose an SEO agency on a whim. Instead, take the time to find out if they’ll be a good fit for your needs.

How to Hire an SEO Agency

There’s no set way to hire an SEO agency, but you should do a few things as part of the process. First, start by identifying potential agencies you’d like to work with and provide them with a detailed breakdown of your goals and needs to get them to submit a proposal.

During this step, try to find as much information about the agencies as possible. Online reviews and articles about the companies can give you valuable information.

Once you have several proposals, identify two or three that stand out above the others. You may opt for ones with a similar price range, but don’t be afraid to include ones that fall slightly above or below the average cost.

After identifying your top options, meet with each agency. Even a virtual meeting can give you insight into whether the team may be a good fit for your company. It’ll also allow you to discuss your needs and identify problem areas.

At this point, you should have enough info to make a decision and choose your preferred agency.

What Does an In-House SEO Specialist Do?

An in-house SEO specialist would do everything an external agency would. Despite the higher price tag, it may seem like the more appealing option. So why do more businesses opt to work with agencies if hiring an in-house expert is the better option?

Like with most things, there are pros and cons to hiring an in-house specialist. A few pros are that:

  • They’ll be focused exclusively on your website
  • They’ll have a better understanding of your business’ products and needs
  • You can build strong internal relationships with the team

However, the disadvantages include:

  • An expert can cost significantly more than an external agency
  • The success of the project depends entirely on the capabilities and skills of the hired specialist

You’ll be taking a significantly bigger risk that comes with a hefty price tag. For most businesses, choosing an agency is simply the safer, smarter option.

What an SEO Expert Should Know

There are a few things you’ll want to look for when hiring an SEO expert. Consider factors such as:

  • How many years of experience do they have?
  • Do they understand technical, on-page, and off-page SEO?
  • Do they have a proven track record of success?
  • Are they updated on the latest techniques and requirements?
  • Can they improve local search results?

It’s also essential for the expert to learn the ins and outs of your company. One of the most significant benefits of hiring someone is that they’ll be part of your business, giving them a deeper understanding of your goals.

Bonus Tip: Ask the specialist if they can guarantee you first-page results on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. If the answer is “Yes,” run for the hills. There’s no way any consultant or agency can guarantee top results, as search engines are continuously altering and upgrading their algorithms.

How to Hire an In-House SEO Specialist

Unlike using an agency, hiring an in-house specialist may be a more-intensive process. If it’s an option, try to use a recruitment company with extensive experience hiring effective experts with proven track records.

You’ll need to carefully evaluate each candidate to see if they have a thorough understanding of SEO and current best practices or if they still use outdated and ineffective strategies.

Once you’ve identified one or more potential employees, it’s time to put an offer on the table. Remember that optimization specialists typically make up to $65,000 per year, including bonuses, commission, and profit share.

Conclusion: Choose the Best Fit

Choosing between an in-house SEO expert or an outside agency comes down to the needs of your business. There are pros and cons to each, and you’d have to weigh them against each other to make an informed decision.

Do you prefer working with a hired outside team that offers expert knowledge and flexibility but may not always be available? An SEO agency might just be your best bet. Would you rather have an in-house specialist who understands your business and goals, despite the added cost? Then you may want to hire an SEO expert or team.

Consider your options carefully, and remember to shop around before you make a final choice. The success of your website may depend on that decision.

Do you want to find out how SEO can help you boost your website traffic? We can help!

Author Details


Gary Vela

Digital marketer obsessed with ROI driven campaign and crafting solutions for clients worldwide.

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