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When to Hire an In-House SEO Specialist vs. SEO Firm

March 8, 2023

by Anna Peck

Senior SEO Specialist at Clutch.co

When it comes to SEO services, should businesses hire in-house or focus on onboarding an SEO firm? This article will break down the benefits and challenges of both to help businesses make the best business decision.

Nearly 70% of online experiences begin with a search engine. With so many people online, your business needs to begin investing in SEO services to take your company to the top of search results.

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps businesses grow their online presence, benefits their website through organic search and user experience, and builds site credibility for potential customers.

Your marketing team can’t do everything on their own — so looking for an SEO expert to craft your SEO strategy is the perfect step for your business.

Professional SEO agencies or experts can do the following for your business:

  • Link-building services
  • Technical SEO audits
  • On-page SEO support
  • Local SEO
  • Content creation & keyword research
  • Monthly reports & analysis of SEO campaigns

Now that your business knows the importance of having SEO services, the next challenge comes with whether to hire an in-house SEO specialist or to outsource the work to a larger SEO firm. The answer will depend on what your company is looking for in a partner.

seo vs seo

Looking to hire for SEO? Explore our list of the top service providers on Clutch.

Inhouse SEO Specialist

What is an In-House SEO Specialist?

An in-house SEO specialist works full-time as an arm of your company’s marketing team. Their daily SEO work will involve helping your company’s performance as well as budgeting for SEO tools, competitor research, and cross-functional support with social media and other internal teams.

As an individual contributor, an in-house SEO expert will balance and take ownership of many SEO projects.

4 Benefits of Hiring an In-House SEO Specialist

If your marketing team wants to add an in-house SEO specialist to their team, explore the benefits of having SEO support full-time.

  1. Clear focus
  2. Company knowledge
  3. Relationship-building
  4. Visibility

Clear Focus

Your in-house SEO specialist has one goal - making sure your company’s website is running smoothly. All of their work leads to your company and your company only. There is less room for distractions and deprioritization when working with an in-house SEO specialist.

Company Knowledge

Since an in-house SEO specialist will be onboarded like other team members, they will receive a plethora of company knowledge.

An in-house SEO specialist, as part of your team, will know your company’s values, mission, and overall business goals. With this key knowledge, they will be able to translate these values into crafting a strong online presence for your business.

With hiring an SEO company, they likely won’t receive this insider knowledge.


An in-house SEO specialist will be working as part of the marketing team, but will have a chance to collaborate with other teams like development and sales. Closer connections are built with in-house employees than with an outsourced SEO company.


Having an SEO expert as part of your internal team provides business owners and stakeholders with more visibility than working with an outside SEO firm.

With an in-house SEO specialist, everyone internally can see what’s being worked on, while having the ability to make changes to SEO work quickly if needed.

3 Challenges of Hiring an In-House SEO Specialist

Having an in-house SEO specialist can also have some drawbacks that could put some strain on your company’s marketing strategy.

  1. Lack of bandwidth
  2. High costs
  3. Dependence

Lack of Bandwidth

With only one in-house teammate that focuses on SEO, they are likely to be spread thin. An in-house SEO specialist will likely have different KPIs and responsibilities that they will need to prioritize - in the end, the lack of bandwidth could be detrimental to the business if time management isn’t smooth.

Along with juggling different tasks, work might get done slower than a business wants if only one team member is supporting SEO work for all departments in the organization.

High Costs

Hiring an in-house employee for any organization is a costly and time-consuming process. Along with taking the time to recruit a specialized in-house SEO expert, your company will have to include salary and benefits for a full-time employee.

It is possible that your company could hire several in-house SEO specialists to build an in-house SEO team, but that, again, is a costly investment.


Being boxed in with one team member can also lead to difficulty within your overall SEO strategy.

If your in-house SEO specialist’s skillset isn’t up to par, it will impact your company’s results and rankings. But if they are the only person that can perform SEO services, you might be stuck.

For example, your in-house SEO specialist can be superior with organic search and link building, but be on the average side when it comes to copywriting and content creation.

The lack of a certain skill from one team member might impact other projects, but since you’re committed to working with them, your company might be pigeonholed.

SEO Firm

What is an SEO Firm?

An SEO agency is a team of SEO professionals that can provide support to different organizations and small businesses in various industries.

SEO firms work alongside their clients to develop comprehensive SEO strategies and resolve any SEO-related issues.

4 Benefits of Hiring an SEO Firm

SEO firms can deliver a wealth of knowledge to their clients. Here are some of the benefits of hiring an SEO agency:

  1. Wide array of expertise
  2. Up-to-date teams
  3. Lower costs
  4. Levels of command

Wide Array of Expertise

SEO agencies employ different team members that specialize in specific areas of SEO, which means that all aspects of SEO work that your team wants to handle will get handled by an SEO firm.

Having different SEO professionals working with your business can solve any bandwidth issue that might occur with an in-house SEO specialist.

Working with an SEO agency that has completed projects for different types of organizations can also bring a unique perspective.

SEO firms also have specialists that work with PPC and other digital marketing work that your business might want to implement.

Up-to-Date Teams

SEO firms likely have more industry knowledge about up-and-coming tech trends or algorithm updates that an in-house SEO specialist might not.

SEO agencies have plans in place to complete work for businesses because of this, turnaround times for projects and deliverables might be shorter than only working with in-house marketing support.

These industry insights can help provide a company with more support and direction on how to meet their business goals.

Additional Reading: ‘Here’s What ChatGPT Can’t Do For Your Business

Lower Costs

While your company is hiring an SEO agency, your business will still be saving time and money by cutting down the internal hiring process.

Your business also won’t have to invest in benefits like professional development or providing SEO tools since the SEO agency should already be well-versed or have their own systems in place.

Levels of Command

Problems are likely to arise when working with any outsourced partner. When it comes to SEO campaigns, it is important to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

It is better to have an open line of communication with their direct leadership to help remedy the issue.

Ultimately, if an SEO firm isn’t providing the results you want, you can terminate the relationship and find another cost-effective SEO agency that’s a better fit.

3 Challenges of Hiring an SEO Firm

SEO firms can offer a lot of resources to clients, but there are some drawbacks to choosing an agency for SEO support over an in-house team member.

  1. Distant relationships
  2. One of many clients
  3. Reduced transparency & trust

Distant Relationships

One of the cons of hiring an SEO agency can be their location - if they work in a different time zone than your business, there might be difficulty scheduling meetings and communicating priorities.

A majority of collaborations need some face-to-face correspondence, but however, it is important not to limit your business to only working with agencies near you. Choosing a local agency that might not be the best fit isn’t going to set your team up for success just because they can meet in-person.

Be prepared to work with an SEO agency’s schedule if you choose to outsource.

One of Many Clients

SEO firms work with many different clients. While their teams should be able to juggle different projects, that isn’t a guarantee.

Your SEO work could be put on the back burner if it isn’t seen as a top priority for the agency.

Although good SEO agencies should have open communication with their clients about project delays and other factors, it is sometimes easier and even faster to communicate with an internal teammate.

Potential Reduction in Transparency & Trust

There are a lot of agencies out there that promise good SEO services, but in the end, provide only black hat techniques that are harmful to a business.

Vetting an SEO firm takes time, but then when your business hires the right fit, it takes a great amount of trust to bring them on board.

Ensure that the SEO partner your business chooses is top tier by reviewing their services and past work. Customer testimonials can also provide your business clarity on whether they’re a trustworthy organization.

Factors that Influence Your SEO Hiring Choice

Here are several factors that might impact your choice of SEO support:

  1. SEO industry knowledge
  2. Positive online reviews
  3. Skillset
  4. Cost of service
  5. Customer service
  6. SEO tools

Should You Hire an Inhouse SEO Specialist or SEO Firm?

SEO services are an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy for all different types of businesses. To manage SEO effectively, businesses need to hire in-house support or outsource.

If businesses choose to follow the in-house route, your business will need to hire employees but will have a dedicated resource for SEO support. If hiring an SEO company seems to be the right fit, remember that your business isn’t their only client and will work within their contract, but their team is full of skilled SEO professionals that can provide the appropriate support.

Both options can provide success - but all companies are different. Consider the pros and cons of each option and choose your SEO support based on your business goals.

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