The Cost of SEO: Bring It In-house or Use An Agency?

As a business, you’re looking for the most cost-effective use of your money—how to get maximum results for the minimum amount of resources. You want to grow your business, boost your website traffic, and generate more leads, all while staying within your marketing budget. Those who want digital marketing for their business can’t overlook search engine optimization or SEO. 

If you’re like most Internet users, then you scroll right past the paid ads on Google and look for organic results. In fact, 70-80% of users only click organic results. Getting listed here is the goal of SEO. The first spot in Google gets a CTR (click-through rate) of 31.7%. And these aren’t random leads—they come from consumers who are looking for your products or services. Once you’ve settled on SEO, the next step is deciding how you want to go about it. Should you assemble your own SEO team in-house, or hire an agency to do the work for you? To help you understand your options, we’ve put together a cost and benefits analysis of each:


Finding the right in-house team is time-consuming

When you hire an agency, you don’t need to worry about selecting the right content writer or outreach specialist for your SEO—the agency has already hand-picked the top talent. If you choose to hire your own team, you’ll need to go through an extensive process: First, you need to make a post on job websites for the position. Then you’ll read through countless job applications and hone in on a few potential candidates. Next is the interview process and selecting the best fit. Now it’s time to train them so that they can finally start working. Most employees take 1-2 years to become fully productive. Down the line, what if they decide this job isn’t for them, or they turn out not to be the best fit? You’ll have to start the process all over from the beginning, and your website still won’t be ranking. And that’s just a single employee. If you’re looking at hiring an entire team, you’ll need some pretty deep pockets and a lot of extra time on your hands.

Your time is money—even if the salary of one employee seems less expensive than an agency, consider how long you’ll spend finding, training, and managing them. This won’t be an issue with an agency; once you start your campaign, the onboarding process begins right away. 


Agencies have more tools to use

Many businesses overlook the cost of the various programs used to track rankings, analyze links, and conduct keyword research. These tools cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. On top of hiring an in-house employee, you’ll need to pay out of pocket for these specific programs. With an agency, these costs are included in the service. 

An agency will be more savvy about any recent changes in search engine algorithms; they work with dozens, sometimes hundreds of other clients, so it’s imperative to their success that they watch any algorithm changes closely. In-house employees, on the other hand, might suffer from tunnel vision—if your rankings suddenly decrease, they may lack the expertise to figure out why.


An individual employee performs one job; an agency has the resources to perform many 

Some businesses prefer in-house employees because all their time is dedicated to their campaign. This comes at one disadvantage: they can only perform so many jobs. SEO agencies have the team to pull off a dynamic and nuanced campaign; they’ve got researchers, writers, editors, developers, link builders, technical specialists, and more. With an in-house staff, you’ll have one or maybe two people to do the same work as an entire agency. This means your staff is limited, their skills are limited, and your results will be limited as a consequence. 

Agencies manage a list of other clients, which makes some businesses wary of hiring an agency. They fear that they’re paying more per hour for less dedicated work in a month. But agencies have valuable experience in SEO that translates into a more informed approach. With an agency, you have a team of people with a dynamic skillset working on your website. You’re paying for expert work for the fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. So much goes into SEO that you can’t expect one or two employees to be masters of everything. A worker that specializes in content creation, keyword research, and outreach can’t take care of programming, designing, and technical audits. 


With in-house SEO, you end up paying more

By comparing the annual salary of a dedicated SEO employee to the cost of an agency, you might think that the agency is more expensive. But that’s before you consider the other costs associated with an in-house employee; there are benefits, retirement plans, and taxes. On top of that, you’ll need to provide a workspace for them—factor in the cost of electronics, furniture, and snacks. Overhead costs don’t always get factored into the budget of an in-house employee. While this number varies depending on how many employees you’re hiring, an agency tends to cost less than managing in-house staff. 


You can scale your campaign with an agency

If you want additional resources to help your rankings, your options are limited with in-house. What if you want more time spent on your campaign, or more links each month? This scalability is one of the greatest advantages to an agency; they have the resources to give you as much or as little time that you need on your campaign. Simply adjust the monthly budget. 


At the end of the day, results are the most important factor when it comes to SEO. Whether you’re paying more or less, you want your website to rank, end of story.

Beyond being more cost-effective, hiring an agency ensures you’ll have access to more expertise, more tools, and more team members to do the work. Outsourcing your SEO to an agency is the best use of your time and money.

Each option has its pros and cons, but the answer becomes clear when you weigh them all together: a small in-house team can’t compare to the capabilities of an agency. First Rank is an SEO agency that’s prepared to handle all aspects of your campaign. If you want to work with a qualified team that’s dedicated to improving your rankings, contact us today.