Why Hire a Digital Marketing Agency? In-House SEO vs Agency

Table of Contents

5 min read

What is the Best Choice for Your Needs?

Although the essence of the job is very similar if not the same, in-house SEO and outsourced marketing specialists can bring different value to your business. In order to hire a digital marketing expert that will truly transform your business, you should start with answering a few simple questions.

  • How much do you or your team members know about SEO in order to hire the right person?
  • What is your approximate budget?
  • When would like to start seeing results?

How to Hire a Marketing Person Based on Your Experience

If you are looking to hire an SEO expert, this, by default means that this isn’t your realm of expertise. This might sound like a paradox, however, your digital marketing experience and general knowledge really matter. CVs and recommendations are all very important, however, they can’t show if the person you interviewed has experience and skills your specific business needs. Therefore, if you feel like you don’t have enough general marketing and, or SEO knowledge to evaluate a candidate, you may need to learn basics yourself first.

In this case, the decision to hire a marketing agency versus in-house employees can come in very handy. Since the whole company specialises in digital marketing, even if you’ll be assigned to work with a junior staff member, he or she has definitely been through a professional interview and training. Additionally, any SEO account manager in an agency will have the full support and backup of their colleagues with various strengths and levels of experience. On top of that, agencies have a certain level of internal quality control that can be difficult to ensure for an in-house employee with no superior personnel within the same speciality.

Another benefit that comes with working with a digital marketing agency is the knowledge and understanding you can gain from their tutelage, in the event you will move your efforts in-house, or decide to hire a marketing manager to take over the workflow.

If you do have some SEO experience, or even if this is your direct position, you probably have different considerations that are more likely to be covered below. However, the additional level of quality control outlined in the previous paragraph will always have its benefits.

Use Your Marketing Budget Efficiently

Budget is always a complicated topic that deserves its own article, if not a guide or an eBook, so we’ll try to keep it simple at this stage.

The first thing to keep in mind is that in marketing, and digital marketing is no exception, budget has a direct correlation with potential results. So, in case you want to see results with minimum to zero investment, you might have to rethink the whole approach. This being said of course, we all have some budget restrictions and aim to be as efficient as possible while minimising our expenses.

When is comes to budget, you have 3 options of hiring:

SEO Freelancer Costs and Benefits

Marketing freelancers can charge anywhere from $30 to over $1,000 per hour depending on their location, experience, and authority. However, let’s focus on a lower scale budget (the average will be around $70-$120), for example, someone you can find on Upwork. If you can pay $1,000 per hour, you probably don’t need our advice anyway, or this type of person will have a whole team behind them, so that it will be more appropriate to cover them under “agencies”.

Freelancers will charge more per hour in comparison to an employee. On the other hand, freelancers work on an hourly basis and not a salary, meaning that if you are just staring and want to see if this is the right investment for you at all, you can hire a freelancer for 10-20 hours per month, which will end up cheaper than hiring an employee. As a bonus, you won’t need to worry about taxes, pensions, insurance, and other expenses connected with hiring an in-house staff member. Last but not least, if you are just starting to expand your digital marketing efforts, you simply might not have enough tasks for a full time, in-house specialist.

In-House SEO Employee Costs and Benefits

A digital marketing specialist’s salary for an in-house employee is somewhere in the realm of $2,000 and will, of course, depend on experience. In addition, you’ll need to pay all business expenses connected to hiring a team member.

The cost will be higher than a freelancer, but, obviously, you’ll get 4 times more time, which, in a perfect world, means 4 times more work done. Additionally, it will give you the opportunity to fully train the person on your business setup, needs, as well as your market and product details. This can be particularly important if your product is complicated and requires an in-depth understanding that is totally out of the scope of “general knowledge”, even for the most advanced geek.

An in-house employee can be more dedicated to your business, and be more focused on your specific needs. On the flip side, working in the same position and performing routine tasks can lead to the progress stagnation, and the overall potential will depend on the personal character of your employee.

Digital Marketing Agency Costs and Benefits

On average, an agency will be the most expensive option with an hourly rate from $90 to $200 and higher. Depending on you budget and your needs, your digital marketing campaign can be comparable to having an in house employee but the time spent working on your website will be significantly lower. This being said, there is a whole hidden world of “behind the scenes” tools agencies use for their campaigns making the most of the time they have. If to put it simply, agencies often can complete tasks faster than an in-house employee, so less time doesn’t always mean less work. And if you want your in-house employee be as efficient as an agency, you’ll have to get a few of those tool that can have significant subscription fees, making your employee more expensive than just a salary.

Overall Efficiency and Results

Any of the above mentioned options can bring you results, the main questions is, how fast? And the secondary question is, how stable will the results be?

When is comes to speed, nothing can win against an agency. When hiring an agency you are also hiring a whole fleet of connections and partners they have, from content writers to developers and designers. SEO agencies can usually help you find PR agencies, ORM specialists and more. Many will even be able to connect you to the right people from their clients’ companies as needed, to help you grow your business outside of the scope of just digital marketing.

In addition, due to less responsibilities and legal obligations, it is much easier to leave an agency then to fire an employee, therefore consultants and agencies are, generally, more pressured to show results as soon as possible in order to keep the client happy. Whereas the internal rotation rate for in-house employees in usually much lower, which can make them do their job slower. This being said, in-house employees will show stability and are more likely to act safer so that they don’t risk their job.

And the Winner Is…

To sum it up, your choice depends on your needs, aspirations and the budget to support it. From our side we prepared a table of comparison that can help you to make your decision:

To conclude, as we can see from the table above, agencies (and let’s add authority consultants with their teams to this category), are the most efficient and result-driven choice. This doesn’t mean that this is the only right choice though. There are lot of talented digital marketers that work in-house as well as many brilliant and reliable freelancers. Our analysis  was simply meant to outline the most general picture on how to hire a marketing specialist depending on your budget and experience, the rest is up to you.


Alona holds a masters degree in Linguistics & Cultural Studies from the Department of International Relationships. Alona has combined her academic knowledge of Social Sciences with her creative and strategic thinking to help her clients reach the toughest audiences through bespoke Digital Marketing Strategies. Alona's strategic approach adds several layers of complexity to the campaigns that enable them to perform time and time again.
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