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In-House vs. Agency SEO, Compared

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In House Vs Agency Seo Tn

Whether to invest in building an in-house SEO team or working with an outside agency is a complex decision for marketing executives and business owners. The factors that influence this decision are typically (a) expected ROI, (b) availability of talent, and (c) internal SEO experience, as shown in the table below:

In-House vs Agency SEO, Summarized

In-House SEO Agency SEO
Cost (Annual Average) $225,000-$337,000 $120,000-$180,000
Pros Full control of the campaign Existing experience & expertise
Faster turnaround times on changes Lower startup cost than in-house
Better understanding of your business Access to specialized tools
Cons Requires specialized SEO knowledge Tough to vet, given the number of SEO agencies and disparateness of their offerings
Time-consuming for subject matter experts who are needed elsewhere Takes time to learn your industry
Best For Companies with strong existing in-house content teams Companies with limited SEO experience or resources

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of handling your SEO in-house compared to those of working with an experienced agency.

In-House vs Agency SEO: Cost Comparison

Contrary to what one might expect, companies stand to pay significantly more when managing their SEO campaign in-house. Assuming a company doesn’t already have an in-house team of marketers available, they will have to bring on at least four specialists (as shown in the table below) which will be a costly expense if they are paying for a quality team. It is important to note that these base expenses do not account for the necessary tools for keyword research, tracking, and analytics. 

In-House SEO Team Cost Breakdown

Team Member Average Annual Cost 
(Assuming 3-5 Years Experience)
Writer $72,000
Web Developer $125,000
Graphic Designer $62,000
SEO Strategist $78,000
Total $337,000

On the other hand, hiring a full-service SEO agency can cost between $10,000-15,000 a month, depending on their skill and reputation, leading to an annual cost of between $120,000-$180,000. The exact cost will depend not only on the agency chosen, but also your company’s specific goals and needs, and the complexity of your industry and niche.

SEO agencies, however, do come in a variety of different packages. Businesses that have strong in-house content teams with little SEO experience often find that they have little need of additional content, and require only strategic consulting and technical optimization services. Three common types of SEO packages are compared in the table below.

SEO Agency Packages, Compared

Tier Service Overview Content Creation SEO Strategy  Pricing
1 Performs technical SEO audit & keyword research and builds conversion paths. Works with industry experts to create thought leadership content. Main KPI is MQLs. 8 pages / month written by industry SMEs and based on interviews with your team Custom strategy tailored to your industry, business goals, and target audience. Strategy constantly updated based on results. $10,000 to $15,000/mo
2 Performs a technical audit & keyword research. Creates general content, often assisted by AI, as well as link building. KPIs are rankings and organic traffic. 2-4 blog articles / month written by in-house generalists General strategy based on SEO best practices. Strategy is updated quarterly. $7,500 to $12,500/mo
3 Restructures web pages and tags, followed by monthly maintenance and link building. Does not offer content creation services but will optimize existing content. No content creation services offered. Limited research to determine high volume keywords. No search intent analysis or strategy updates. $5,000 up front and $2,500/mo

In-House vs Agency SEO: Pros & Cons

We briefly touched on pros and cons in the introduction for this article:

In-House SEO Agency SEO
Pros Full control of the campaign Existing experience & expertise
Faster turnaround times on changes Lower startup cost than in-house
Better understanding of your business Access to specialized tools
Cons Requires specialized SEO knowledge Tough to vet, given the number of SEO agencies and disparateness of their offerings
Time-consuming for subject matter experts who are needed elsewhere Takes time to learn your industry

In summary, in-house SEO leads to streamlined content production that will better reflects your business at the expense of a) the greater expenditure associated with hiring SEO specialists or b) lower quality content that will likely take longer to rank. For companies that already have an in-house team of writers with SEO experience, this is likely to be the best choice.

By contrast, an eternal agency will already have the experts and tools to create excellent content for your businesses, but even expert writers will need time to learn your business’s industry and niche. Businesses with very hands-on management teams may also find it difficult to give up control over their marketing campaigns, leading to increased friction that hampers an agency’s ability to deliver results.

Deciding between In-House vs Agency SEO

The determining factor for most companies is whether or not they already employ an experienced marketing team with the bandwidth to begin an SEO campaign. If so, in-house SEO is an attractive option to consider, despite its potential drawbacks. Relatively few businesses have this option, however, and most choose to work with an external SEO agency, either on a long-term basis or as a temporary solution while setting up an internal team. 

If you’d like to learn more about working with an SEO agency, you’ll be interested in articles SEO Management Cost: A 2024 Pricing Survey, which breaks down common pricing and packages in more detail, and SEO Agency Scope of Work: What To Expect, describing the scope of services you can expect to receive. If you’d like to learn more about our services, you can reach out here.

Evan Bailyn

Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.

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