Business Decisions: Hire In-House SEO? Outsource to an SEO Company?

I’ve been a professional SEO consultant on both sides of the fence.  I’ve been the in-house subject matter expert, and I’ve acted as a consultant via an SEO or marketing firm.

You’ve figured out that you need SEO expertise for your online marketing. Now what?  You must decide whether to hire someone full-time, or outsource your SEO to another company.  No one can answer that question but you.  It depends on everything from your business needs to your budget.  In this blog post I’m going to outline the pros and cons of hiring in-house,  as well as the pros and cons of outsourcing.

Pros and Cons of Hiring an In-House SEO Expert

Pros –

  • Expertise in your Business – Complete immersion in your business, product, customer base, subject area will allow the SEO consultant the time and freedom to explore a large number  of avenues on behalf of your brand
  • Locked-in Hours – Guaranteed dedicated time on your website(s) and project(s)
  • Potential Ability to Multitask – SEO is a diverse field that takes a lot of creativity and a lot of analytical ability. If you’ve hired someone who is adept at SEO, it’s likely that he or she is also able to help out with other areas of internet marketing, or marketing in general.  Your SEO might be able to optimize SEM campaigns, copywrite, create press releases, manage social media campaigns, or design websites or banner ads

Cons –

  • Isolation – By isolating this rare SEO bird from his or her flock, you might make it a little tough for this in-house expert to learn the most up-to-date information about search trends and changes
  • One person can only do so much – Some activities, such as link-building, can take a great deal of time and effort for relatively little reward. If your SEO employee is spending all of his or her time on this, you might be losing ground in other areas
  • The Dark Side of Multitasking – If your SEO employee is becoming a jack of all trades, this means that his or her attention is not focused solely on the organic search rankings of your websites

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing SEO to a Firm

Pros –

  • Up to the Minute – The best SEO firms have people at every conference, people watching twitter, people watching Google for the very latest news in search.  These people will be well-versed and well-trained
  • More People to Man the Task the most expensive consultant will spend only the hours needed to get things started, and then the less expensive lackeys will do link building and a lot of the grunt work. This can mean a cost savings hour over hour.  Plus, if there’s a PR crisis, there are more people to help
  • Potential Ability to Multitask – SEO firms will also be able to help with more than one area of internet marketing than simply SEO… for a price

Cons –

  • Your Business is Not the Focus – Marketing, SEO and Internet firms have to have more than one client to survive. Therefore, it’s likely that they aren’t going to have the time or ability to delve deeply into your business, products and customer base
  • Set it and Forget it – Many businesses believe that SEO is a one-time purchase. They believe that they can purchase the service of an SEO company for a few months and then walk away.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. The website will need an ongoing strategy for content, link-building and community involvement.
  • Set it and Forget it – Part 2 – The other erroneous belief that I see on the part of businesses is that they can use a computer program to do their SEO work for them, and they don’t have to have a human being physically touching the account.  Don’t fall for this.  It doesn’t work.

My personal opinion is that a hybrid model of the two might be better than selecting one or the other.

If you use a company for a short time, you can then hire someone who knows your business (or, better yet, train and promote from within) to focus on the ongoing strategy, content updates and link-building.

If you hire an in-house SEO expert, it might be a good idea to be willing to outsource the time-intensive work like link-building, and limit the amount of extra tasks you assign that individual.