In-house or outsource? It's one of the biggest questions facing businesses today, particularly when it comes to the fast-paced world of digital marketing and SEO.
You may have already considered the in house vs outsourcing pros and cons. You have more control over the activities in-house staff, but more expertise to hand with an agency. In-house staff require more admin and commitment, but outsourcing also seems like a major financial undertaking. However, what many businesses fail to understand is just how much expertise you are tapping into when you hire an agency with dedicated SEO specialists.
SEO should be a priority for every modern business, but it's not the kind of marketing technique that can be implemented overnight. It may be tempting to push your existing marketing team towards the implementation of an SEO and content marketing strategy, but the reality is that successful SEO requires highly specialist expertise and a great deal of time and dedication. That's where an SEO specialist comes in.
If your site isn't ranking high up on the first page of Google, it's almost invisible to a huge proportion of consumers.
Agencies that specialise in SEO handle all aspects of search engine optimisation, from researching keywords right through to analysing organic traffic, handling link building, content creation and design along the way. They align content marketing strategies with SEO strategies, and formulate actionable plans to increase their clients' organic traffic, sales & leads. They'll also stay ahead of the latest trends to ensure their clients' organic search presence is keeping up with the competition.
So, what's the harm in hiring an SEO specialist in-house, rather than hiring an agency? Well, there are many. Let's take an in-depth look at why an SEO and content marketing agency might be a better investment than an in-house hire.
Although the annual salary of a junior marketing or SEO hire may seem appealing, you have to be aware that a single employee is unlikely to have the skills and experience to handle all aspects of your SEO and content marketing strategy. If they can, it's likely that they'll need to be a highly experienced candidate, which means an even higher salary. For reference, an SEO Manager's average salary is around £32,137, and Digital Marketing Manager around £32,183, although the top candidates in these positions earn in excess of £47,000. Plus, you have to factor in recruitment costs, paid annual leave, sick leave, benefits, pensions and all the other overheads associated with adding a new employee to payroll. When you hire an agency, you can chat about your budget and get a level of service that fits in line with it. When you agree on fees, you're safe in the knowledge that you're getting all the expertise and service you need, without the extra overheads of having extra staff members directly on your payroll.
There's a serious skills gap in the marketing industry right now due to the rapid rate at which marketing trends and technologies are developing. An in-house hire, no matter how experienced, is unlikely to have the skills needed to handle all aspects of your SEO and content marketing strategy. Many businesses get around this by providing staff with ongoing training, but this is expensive and takes time. You never have to train an agency; it's their job to be up to date with the latest trends and technologies, and their collective knowledge means you don't have to worry about a skills gap.
When you hire in-house staff, they can get a deeper understanding of your brand, business and customers because they're working on the inside. But this isn't always a good thing. An agency can bring fresh perspectives, see your business from a new light, and utilise their experience from other industries to bring new ideas and techniques that in-house staff may never previously considered.
Another benefit to the fresh perspective of agencies? They can see things from a more customer-focused point of view, something that can be hard for in-house staff to do when they're in the nitty gritty of the business day to day.
It can be tough for in-house staff to take risks and make major changes to the status quo, not only because they put their job on the line when trying new ideas, but because they may not have the skills and experience needed to follow through successfully. Agencies are far better equipped for trying new ideas that may be a little higher risk, but with high reward.
Hiring in-house staff is a drain on time. You have the recruitment and interview process to go through, plus training as your new staff gets settled into their role. Plus, you have all this to deal with every time you hire a newbie. With an agency, there's a brief settling-in period as they learn everything they need to know about your business, then they can get straight to work on your campaigns.
Every new member of in-house staff requires desk space, equipment, hardware and software, and they add extra expense to your utilities. For small businesses, all these little expenses quickly add up. Plus, there's the added admin time to consider - your accountant needs to add them to payroll, and someone needs to handle training, reviews and general HR duties. Hiring an agency saves you all of this time and expense.
Agencies thrive off the collective knowledge of their team. As a whole, they can offer significantly more experience, knowledge and skills than a single person ever could. When you hire an agency, you're working with a whole team of SEO and content marketing experts, for significantly less expense than it would cost you to hire them individually.
Even if you hire an in-house SEO or content marketing manager who has a huge range of skills, you'll still be faced with outsourcing key tasks which require very particular skills, such as copywriting or graphic design. Many agencies will provide these elements as part of their service. By outsourcing everything to one agency, you can typically save costs compared to reaching out to several different agencies for multiple aspects of your marketing strategy.
As well as saving costs, you can also enjoy better alignment of your marketing strategies when outsourcing them all in one place. If a single agency is handling every single aspect of a project or campaign, they can ensure that all facets of SEO and content marketing align perfectly to deliver the best possible results.
Agencies always have contacts and are happy to share these with their clients. This can help you out with a whole host of tasks, from getting your content in with a popular publisher, to being put in touch with the very best in graphic design. Although in-house hires may have some great contacts on hand, an agency is guaranteed to have far more because they have collective experience and industry knowledge.
There's some really brilliant automation and analytics software out there to make SEO and digital marketing processes more advanced, streamlined and effective. The trouble is, much of it is incredibly expensive and therefore totally off limits for small businesses on strict budgets. Agencies? They have all this new technology at their fingertips and they'll be using it as part of your campaigns. Working with an agency is the best way to get access to advanced software without the investment.
It's common for small businesses to dole out various marketing tasks to existing members of staff, who may not have the time or skills to perform them properly. By outsourcing all aspects of your SEO and content marketing to agency, you can take the pressure these employees and allow them to be more productive in other aspects of their role.
Sick leave, annual leave, or resignations can hold projects back when they're handled totally in-house. When you work with an agency, you have a whole team taking care of your projects to ensure they always maintain momentum, no matter how much disruption is going on in your own business.
When you handle all your marketing in-house, the only way to scale up is to hire new employees, meaning a pretty significant leap in budget. Agencies make it incredibly easy to scale up and down your marketing efforts in line with modest budget changes, and with no hassle of hiring or firing staff.
Agencies are experts in the SEO and marketing field and by nature keep on top the latest trends which they can then help their clients make the most of. In-house marketers are unlikely to have the time needed to stay abreast of industry developments and new technologies, never mind implement them successfully.
Agencies often work with a variety of business types in a range of industries, which makes them highly versatile and well equipped at dealing with new challenges and scenarios. They're constantly learning, adapting and picking up new skills, which your in-house staff simply can't do when they're only focusing on your business.
Hiring an agency can seem like a daunting prospect in terms of relinquishing control to individuals who aren't directly responsible to you or in your office on a daily basis. However, a reputable agency will always give you complete access to your essential data, periodically check in with you so that you know exactly what's going on, and have you sign off on important decisions. This means you retain control whilst offloading a huge amount of work and freeing up more of your time to focus on other aspects of your business.
82% of digital marketers learn on the job, which is no big surprise - it's the kind of job that calls for hands-on experience. However, for small businesses, it can be risky to hire junior recruits who are learning as they work if they don't have plenty of guidance from experienced senior staff. When you hire an agency, you'll be working with a team of experts with varying skill levels who are able to use proven, effective techniques without learning as they go. And when agencies hire newbies, you can rest assured that they'll be working under the careful guidance of an SEO or marketing veteran, which means there's significantly less risk for your business.
56% of organizations don't feel they're capable of defining a focused digital strategy. This can be down to a whole host of reasons, from a gap in experience and skills in in-house staff, to a lack of effective automation and analytics software. An agency will always work to define a focused SEO and content marketing strategy with you, because in doing so that can set benchmarks to prove that they're delivering results. If you feel like your digital strategy is lacking focus and drive, an agency could really help.
Since agencies are focused on achieving measurable results, they are highly skilled in measuring outcomes and can help you to get an accurate assessment of your ROI for SEO and content marketing efforts. An in-house marketer, who may be overstretched dealing with various different aspects of marketing, may have difficulty fully assessing the ROI of specific campaigns or strategies.
Young marketers change jobs every 2 to 3 years, which can leave small businesses with a frustratingly high staff turnover. When your SEO and content marketing goals are pinned on one or two in-house individuals, resignations can seem like a nightmare - projects are put on hold, recruitment takes time and costs money, and training up of new recruits can be slow. When you hire an agency you don't have any of this to worry about because there's an entire team taking care of your business' account.
It's not uncommon for in-house staff to become bogged down with a variety of daily tasks and distracted by urgent projects, forcing them to prioritise everything over SEO and digital marketing. Agencies don't have the same distractions, and can achieve results far more efficiently. Plus, when things need to happen quickly, it's easier to ask an agency for a rush job than it is to ask in-house staff to work faster when they're already at full capacity.