SEO Freelancer vs. In-House SEO vs. SEO Agency: Search engine optimization (SEO) has become crucial to any digital marketing strategy today. With as many as 8.5 billion searches on Google daily, businesses cannot afford to ignore SEO.
Implementing an effective SEO strategy is key to driving qualified organic traffic, leads, and sales for your business. But should you hire an SEO freelancer, have an in-house expert, or outsource it to an SEO agency? Before drawing out a comparison between the three, let’s have a quick look at why SEO is a must in today’s digital world.
What to Look for in an SEO Expert
To find the right SEO professional for your business, here are 5 key skills and abilities to look for:
- Technical Skills: They should have a strong grasp of technical SEO best practices like site architecture, speed optimization, security, etc. Technical shortcomings can negatively impact rankings.
- Content Skills: The SEO expert needs to know how to optimize your website content and blogs with relevant keywords to improve rankings and click-through rates.
- Analytics Skills: They must be able to dig into traffic analytics data to identify issues and opportunities. An analytical approach is a must.
- Communication Skills: A good SEO pro can clearly explain technical concepts and data insights using simple terms your whole team understands.
- Up-to-date Knowledge: With Google algorithm updates happening constantly, your SEO expert needs to stay current on the latest trends and changes in the field.
The right SEO talent requires a blend of technical abilities, communication skills, and analytical thinking. Assess expertise across these areas to choose the best fit for your business goals.
Now let’s see how freelancers, in-house SEO, and agencies measure up on these parameters. Let’s explore the pros, cons, and key considerations for each option in detail:
SEO Freelancer vs. In-House SEO vs. SEO Agency
A freelance SEO consultant works independently and provides SEO services to clients on a project basis.
Pros of Hiring an SEO Freelancer
|SEO freelancers typically charge $50 – $150 per hour based on their experience level. While this is lower than big agency rates, seasoned freelancers still provide high-quality work. Their rates are affordable for small businesses and startups compared to agencies that charge thousands per month. Freelancers allow you to get professional SEO work done without a huge investment upfront.
|The best SEO freelancers focus solely on optimizing websites for search engines. They immerse themselves completely in activities like keyword research, technical SEO, content creation, link building, and local SEO day after day. This allows them to dedicate themselves fully to mastering the nuances of SEO and staying updated on the latest Google algorithm changes.
|SEO freelancers work with multiple clients and can adapt their availability based on your unique needs. This flexibility is useful when you have an urgent time-sensitive project come up or need ad hoc assistance with something like migrating an old website. Freelancers can work during evenings or weekends to accommodate your schedule.
|Freelancers work remotely and independently. They do not have company overheads like office space, equipment, employee salaries, etc. to worry about. This allows them to keep their rates affordable and offer competitive value. More of what you pay goes directly towards the actual SEO work compared to agencies.
|An individual SEO freelancer will usually take on only as many clients as they can provide quality service to. Their business depends on keeping a small roster of happy clients rather than volume. This means you get greater individual attention on your SEO initiatives compared to being one of many agency accounts.
Cons of Hiring an SEO Freelancer
|The bandwidth of a solo freelancer is limited compared to an entire agency team. They may excel at optimizing a small business website but don’t have the capacity to scale and handle large enterprise projects with thousands of pages. If you anticipate rapidly expanding your web presence, a freelancer may not be able to grow with you.
|Lack of Holistic Services
|Most freelance SEO consultants offer only search optimization services. For your other digital marketing needs like pay-per-click ads, web design, analytics, or content creation, you will have to find separate specialized freelancers. This means more relationships to manage rather than having a full-service agency.
|Risk of Churn
|There is some risk that the freelancer may eventually move to a more lucrative or stable full-time position. Some periodic churn is common in freelancing. This forces you to restart the search for a new freelancer and rebuild the relationship every few years.
Having an in-house SEO expert entails hiring an employee solely focused on your brand’s SEO initiatives.
Pros of In-House SEO
|Better Knowledge of Brand Goals
|An in-house SEO expert works closely with your team and attends internal meetings. Being immersed in your brand day-to-day gives them a deeper understanding of your target audience, products/services, business objectives, and marketing initiatives. They can optimize SEO with the bigger-picture goals in mind.
|Quicker Turnaround Times
|With an in-house SEO pro-on-premises, any optimizations or changes get implemented quicker without waiting on an outside provider’s availability. Having them nearby also allows for better collaboration with your web developers, content team, and other marketing functions.
|Closer Collaboration with Broader Marketing
|Your in-house SEO expert can seamlessly collaborate with other teams on initiatives like content strategy, social media, PPC ads, etc., ensuring alignment.
|Greater Control and Visibility
|You have complete control over the talent hired and campaigns executed without relying on an external partner. With an in-house team member, you have full visibility into the day-to-day SEO tasks and strategies being implemented for your brand.
|An in-house resource that stays for years builds significant institutional knowledge about your website and audience. This cannot be easily replicated by an outside agency. There is no need to re-educate new account managers.
Cons of In-House SEO
|Demand exceeds supply when it comes to in-house SEO talent. Those looking to switch jobs may lack hands-on skills. You may need to train or start with a generalist marketer rather than a specialist.
|Steep Learning Curve
|Even an experienced new hire will take a few months to learn the nuances of your website and business before optimizing effectively. Expect a slow start until they get up to speed.
|No matter how talented, a single in-house resource will have limited bandwidth. If they take leave or exit, your SEO efforts stall. Agencies provide cross-trained teams.
|Being focused on just one brand may lead to an insular perspective and a lack of exposure to wider industry best practices that agencies provide. Some outside perspective is healthy.
|Salary Costs Add Up
|While cheaper than an agency long-term, paying a full-time annual salary of $50k – $75k for an adept SEO pro is a considerable investment for smaller businesses on a tight budget.
|Risk of Turnover
|Your in-house SEO resource may leave for another job leading to loss of institutional knowledge and having to repeat hiring.
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Hiring an SEO Agency
SEO agencies offer a full suite of search optimization services and have an experienced team working together across client accounts.
Pros of Hiring an SEO Agency
|Depth of Expertise
|Agencies employ teams of specialists across technical SEO, content strategy, link building, site speed, analytics, data science, and more. This depth and breadth of in-house expertise allow them to optimize websites from all angles.
|Exposure to Best Practices
|With hundreds of clients across diverse industries, SEO agencies are exposed to and test a wide variety of strategies. They can apply the best practices learned from these engagements to improve your website and campaigns.
|Agency teams can scale up initiatives as your business grows. They have the bandwidth to handle large complex websites with thousands of pages and ever-growing content.
|End-to-End Digital Marketing Services
|Most agencies offer integrated services like PPC ads, web design, email marketing, social media marketing along SEO. This makes them a one-stop shop.
|There is no finish line in SEO. Reputed agencies proactively analyze data, research new opportunities, and make ongoing optimization recommendations.
|Agencies provide detailed reporting on key metrics, activities, and insights on a weekly or monthly basis. This reporting allows you to track SEO impact and ROI.
Cons of Hiring an SEO Agency
|The average monthly retainer quoted by agencies is $3209/month based on services required. This is higher than a freelancer or in-house costs.
|You have less control over day-to-day SEO tasks compared to managing an in-house resource. However, many agencies involve clients closely in strategy and planning.
|If your account manager leaves, the handoff process to a new team can disrupt momentum slightly. Reputed agencies minimize this disruption.
|Communication takes more effort when working with an external partner compared to an in-house team.
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The right SEO solution depends entirely on your specific needs and goals as a business. Each option has pros and cons.
Freelancers provide an affordable option for smaller businesses but can only scale a little. In-house SEO builds valuable institutional knowledge but requires finding and retaining the right talent.
SEO agencies offer the most comprehensive solution but at a higher price. Assess your budget, growth goals, need for control, and expertise levels to determine the ideal mix.
Many larger companies use a hybrid model – having 1 or 2 in-house SEO experts to maintain focus on their brand and goals while outsourcing bigger projects to an SEO agency for bandwidth and execution.
With a solid SEO strategy and the right partner, you can improve your brand’s visibility and access new customers online. The effort required is well worth the substantial upside in revenues today.