In-house, Freelance, Agency, Oh My! How You Should Hire SEO

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You can’t do SEO alone — that much is for certain. SEO is simply too technical and too time-consuming for you to manage on your own. Fortunately, you are not lacking for professional SEO options these days; the booming SEO market offers a wide range of potential hires, giving you precise control over SEO services and costs.

Unfortunately, the wealth of options can be confusing to many first-time business owners who aren’t sure how best to manage their SEO. Here’s a quick guide to your three basic options — freelancers, agencies and in-house employees — so you can make a more informed decision.

In-house SEO

Pros

  • Growth. Whenever businesses add employees, they are growing. This is doubly true of SEO, which will help to build new, useful skills in many in-house employees.
  • Collaboration. SEO is connected to many departments: marketing, sales, customer service. Having an in-house team ensures that communication and collaboration between these groups is efficient.
  • Cohesion. You want your SEO messages to align with your greater brand and corporate culture. Employees naturally understand the brand and will be better at communicating it through SEO.
  • Ownership. Not only will you have more control over your SEO, but your SEO professionals will feel more beholden to their task because they are directly connected to the business’s successes and failures.

Cons

  • Cost. Hiring employees alone can cost several thousands of dollars, and salary and benefits packages for technical workers like SEO experts are high. Plus, you will need to pay for SEO resources and other SEO expenses, like PPC ads and link placements.
  • Shortcomings. Because you likely can’t afford the cream of the SEO crop, you will be working with less-experienced SEO staff to begin with. Over time, being separated from the SEO community will likely decay their knowledge and skill, resulting in less successful SEO.

Freelance SEO

Pros

  • Cost. When you are hiring a freelancer, you are getting just them — which means their prices tend to be exceedingly reasonable, even for an SEO expert with tons of experience.
  • Accessibility. It is exceedingly easy to find SEO freelancers on gig websites like Freelancer or Upwork, and most are more than willing to take your workload on.

Cons

  • Inadequacy. Though some SEO professionals go freelance after building their skill at an agency, many SEO experts get their career start in freelance, meaning you could end up with a greenhorn ill-equipped to fulfill your SEO needs.
  • Bandwidth. Freelancers tend to take on more business than they can manage, meaning your business might not get their full attention, or your projects might take longer to complete. Thus, Freelancers, aren’t often ideal for long-term endeavors like SEO; they are better for brief, one-off projects.
  • Management. Freelancers might be more willing to conform to your expectations, but because they are not employees, you cannot have full control over their processes.

SEO Agency

Pros

  • Proficiency. SEO experts build SEO agencies and staff them with the most experienced, best-trained SEO professionals. When you outsource to an SEO agency, you know you are getting the best SEO services possible.
  • Future-proofing. Agencies invest in continuous training for their staff, so they never fall behind on trends and techniques and continue to offer cutting-edge services.
  • Perspective. Though an agency lacks a deep understanding of your corporate culture, they can offer outside perspective on your brand, giving valuable insights that can lead to greater success.
  • Ease. You can trust an SEO agency to handle your SEO efforts, which is a significant weight off your business leaders shoulders.

Cons

  • Distance. SEO agencies aren’t just outside your business; they can be outside your time zone, too. You should strive to find an agency that prioritizes communication to close any distance between your companies. Do your research before hiring to ensure that the agency best suits your needs.
  • Rights. Some SEO agencies maintain ownership of data they collect or generate while working on your SEO campaign. You should verify this before signing with an agency and try to retain control over your data and that of your customers.

SEO is too important to risk on inexperienced workers, but it also needs to fit neatly into a broader digital marketing budget. You should take the time to review the SEO services that work best for your business needs, so you can achieve the SEO success you deserve.

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Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo Small Business.