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SEO agency versus in-house team: pros and cons

SEO agency versus in-house team

Categories: SEO

Back in the day, businesses would hire an SEO expert to optimise their site while they concentrated on running their business. But search optimisation isn’t a one-person job anymore.

You need programmers who code with performance in mind, content marketers who consider audiences and search engines, social media managers to promote your content and advertisers to generate the leads SEO isn’t really designed for.

You need a team.

Which leaves you with two options: hire an agency or build your own team of SEO and marketing pros. Today, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of each approach.

The pros of hiring an SEO agency

Essentially, hiring an SEO agency means everything is set up for you from day one. You choose an agency, work with them on your objectives and you’re set to go.

  • Instant experts: You get an instant team of experts ready to make things happen – no training required.
  • Cutting edge: A good agency will always be up-to-date with the latest industry developments, techniques and technology.
  • More than SEO: Modern SEO needs solid content marketing, paid advertising, social promotion and other marketing strategies to make an impact.
  • Software and tools: Agencies come with powerful tools, all bought and paid for.
  • Hassle-free: Aside from not having to hire a new team, you don’t have to worry about an office to fit them in or anything else.

Hiring an agency means you can concentrate on running your business. Trying to integrate a marketing team into your current setup might be more hassle than it’s worth – and that’s before you even think about hitting targets.

The cons of hiring an SEO agency

As always, there are no perfect answers in this field and hiring an agency to handle your SEO efforts comes with a few compromises.

  • Choosing a good agency: There are lots of agencies claiming to offer SEO and identifying the good ones can be a challenge
  • Agencies have other clients: Unlike an in-house team an agency will have other clients to think about.
  • Ownership: You might not own the accounts or data from certain tools (check this before signing anything).

The biggest issue with hiring an agency is making sure you get a good one. Although, this isn’t really any different to the old days of hiring a single SEO expert. It’s also easier to pick one agency than a full team of marketing SEO/marketing experts, which kind of sums up the main issue with in-house teams.

The pros of building an in-house team

Having your own in-house SEO team makes your business the priority and this is important for some brands.

  • It’s your team: An in-house team works on your SEO strategy and yours only.
  • Company knowledge: They will naturally be exposed to more of the goings-on in your company
  • Communication: You can speak to them instantly and at any time.

You probably won’t see the benefits right away. It’ll take time for your team to get up to speed and you’ll need a good marketing manager to work between them and upper management.

The cons of in-house teams

The main problem with building an in-house team is the time and money it takes to get things up and running. This isn’t going to happen overnight.

  • Recruitment: Instead of hiring one agency, you have to hire a full team of talent – and this is where most businesses struggle.
  • Training: It will take time to get them up to speed.
  • Limited resources: You’ve got an SEO team but who’s going to handle your content, advertising and social workload?
  • Cost: Building an in-house team is generally more expensive than hiring an agency.
  • Tunnel-vision: An internal team may not always see things from an outside perspective.

If you can deal with those issues and you don’t need fast results, then building your own team of SEO pros could be the way to go.

SEO agency vs in-house team: the cost

You might think hiring an SEO agency is more expensive than building your own team, but it doesn’t tend to work out this way. Yes, an agency needs to make profit on top of their workload but they also take a lot of the financial burden off you at the same time.

For example, a full suite of enterprise tools would cost you thousands. Whereas an SEO agency already has these tools bought and paid for, ready for you to make the most of. You also have wages, job perks, employer obligations, equipment and all kinds of other expenses to think about. Every uniform, chair and even every tea bag adds expense that would otherwise be covered by your agency.

It’s not only the financial cost, but also time. With an agency you don’t need to find staff, hire them, train them and hope they end up integrating well with your existing business.

Who should hire an SEO agency?

If you want to focus on your business while marketers take care of marketing, the agency route is for you. You don’t have to worry about building a new team or any of the disruption it might cause – let alone the financial aspect.

Likewise, if you need fast results, flexibility or to get an edge on your industry rivals, then hiring an agency is probably the best option.

Who should build in-house SEO team?

The best candidates for building in-house SEO teams are the industry leaders. They tend to have the budget for it and they’re already sitting high in the search ranking – so they can afford to be a little more patient.

They’re also used to hiring plenty of staff and have the reputation to attract top talent.

It’s not always a big vs small business debate, though. If you’re in the software game and your team already has developers, designers and other creative/techies, it could make sense to expand your existing team. There’s a big difference between this and a construction firm creating an entirely new marketing team.

If you need more advice on choosing between an SEO agency and going in-house, our team of specialists are more than happy to help you make the decision. You can fill out the form below or reach out to us on social media.

Kerry is head of the SEO team working on small business campaigns. This is a position she has held since 2012, after working for the company since 2007 when she switched to specialising in SEO. Prior to working for Vertical Leap, Kerry held a number of in-house and agency roles in digital marketing, including managing the website for a round the world yacht race.

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