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When to Hire a Freelance SEO vs. Agency

May 4, 2023

by Hannah Hicklen

You want to invest more in SEO to grow your business, but who should you hire: a freelance SEO specialist or an SEO agency? Learn more about the pros and cons of each before choosing a partner to hire. 

When you conduct an online search, what do you click on first? Most people click on the first few search results. In fact, the first result generates a click-through rate of 39.85%, while the second has a CTR of just 18%, and the third only has a CTR of 10%. The average click through rate just decreases the further down a page you scroll. 

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the strategic way a company tries to improve their website’s visibility online. With the goal of having their website appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and increasing traffic to their website, SEO is a great way for companies to grow their business online.

How Can an SEO Expert Provide Support for Your Business? 

  • Keyword research 
  • Monitor rankings 
  • Write SEO-friendly web content 
  • Website auditing 
  • Competitive analysis 
  • Technical SEO 
  • Link building 

However, companies that don’t have the resources or expertise to optimize their website on their own may need to outsource their SEO efforts to either a freelancer or an SEO agency. 

Learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of each to determine which one would be the best partner for your business. 

SEO Freelancers vs SEO Agencies

Looking to hire an SEO expert? Search for top-rated SEO companies on Clutch, then filter by location, client ratings, and cost to find the perfect partner for your business. 

Freelance SEO Experts 

What is a Freelance SEO Expert? 

A freelance SEO expert is an individual who can provide a variety of SEO services such as keyword research, traffic monitoring, content development, competitive analysis, and link building. 

They can be hired for either short-term or long-term projects and can easily be integrated with your internal digital marketing team. 
4 Benefits of Hiring a Freelance SEO Expert

Are you considering hiring a freelance SEO professional? Here are the top reasons why you should:

  1. An affordable way to improve rankings 
  2. Flexible scheduling 
  3. Solid understanding of SEO trends & strategies 
  4. Can easily be integrated with your digital marketing team

An Affordable Way to Improve Rankings 

Everyone knows that SEO is an important part of any digital marketing strategy. After all, you can’t grow your brand awareness or have any conversions if people aren’t visiting your website. However, hiring an internal SEO team or even an SEO agency can be pricey. 

Companies with smaller SEO budgets can benefit from hiring an SEO freelancer because they are considerably more affordable. Because they charge hourly rates, digital marketing teams can easily manage how much they’re spending on SEO specifically. 

They can also negotiate the terms of their partnership to ensure that they’re only paying for the services they really need. Particularly if your business only needs support in a few areas, hiring a freelancer can be a great option. 

For instance, if you only need help optimizing your website content or managing your Google My Business account, but do not require a full audit of your website, a freelance SEO expert can easily support your needs without breaking the bank.  

Flexible Scheduling 

One of the best reasons to hire a freelancer is because they’re extremely flexible. You can hire them for a brief period or bring them on for longer, more extensive projects. This means that you can have them working on a variety of different tasks for your team. Then, when the project is over, it’s easy to go your separate ways. You can always bring them back on if you need additional support. 

Solid Understanding of SEO Trends & Strategies 

Like SEO experts that work at an SEO agency, freelancers are extremely knowledgeable in their field. In fact, many have worked for SEO companies in the past, while others have worked as an SEO specialist for a company’s in-house team, before choosing to go into business on their own. 

With a good understanding of industry trends and experience, they’re capable of creating a custom SEO strategy for your website just like an agency would. 

Just make sure you ask your freelancer about their previous experience before you hire them. This will help you gauge whether or not they will be a good fit for your project. 

Can Easily Be Integrated with Your Digital Marketing Team

Some companies already have a digital marketing team, but they need additional support with SEO. If they’re not in a place where they can hire a full-time SEO specialist, a freelancer is a great alternative because they can still be very involved with the team.

When you find the right freelancing partner, you can spend time building your relationship and strengthening your communication with them. With a stronger relationship, you will be able to bounce ideas off one another, provide feedback, and discuss potential ways to move forward. 

Not only will communication be better when you can work closely with an SEO partner, but they will have a better understanding of your business goals, audience, and strategic initiatives. 

4 Challenges of Hiring a Freelance SEO Expert

While SEO freelancers can help support your digital marketing efforts, here are a few reasons why working with them can be challenging: 

  1. May lack technical SEO experience 
  2. Long-term partnerships are more effective for SEO 
  3. May not have access to valuable SEO tools 
  4. Internal team has to spend more time managing them

May Lack Technical SEO Experience 

An individual freelancer will only be able to support SEO in the areas that they’re familiar with, whereas an SEO company has a full team of experts that specialize in different areas. For SEO in particular, it can be challenging to find an SEO specialist with the technical expertise to improve your site’s performance. 

Many SEOs have built their experience on the SEO skills such as content development and building backlink profiles. While these skills are really beneficial, if your site needs more support resolving technical issues, some SEO freelancers may be able to diagnose the problem but won’t be able to fix it without support from your development team. 

Alternatively, an SEO company will have experts in both areas, ensuring that they are able to support all of your needs. 

Long-Term Partnerships are More Effective for SEO 

It can take awhile for companies to see an impact from their SEO efforts, if at all. To be effective, companies need to constantly monitor keyword rankings, website performance, and traffic, all while developing new and unique web content, improving site architecture, and resolving issues. Then, if they stop investing in SEO, they are likely to see a rapid decline in their site’s rankings as well. 

Therefore, it often isn’t effective to hire an SEO specialist for a short-term project. Rather, you need to invest in long-term partnership. While it is possible to hire an SEO freelancer for long-term contracts, an SEO company can provide more consistent support over a longer period of time. 

May Not Have Access to Valuable SEO Tools 

Many SEO specialists have to rely on various tools to monitor a website’s performance, traffic, and keyword rankings. Most of the time, these are subscription-based services that can be too expensive for a freelancer to pay for on their own. 

Because of this, you will need to add another seat to your subscription for your freelancer if that’s what you want them to use. 

An SEO company, however, probably has tools that they prefer to use and are familiar with. Even if you bring them on to work with your internal tools, they will be able to get up to speed quickly. 

Internal Team Has to Spend More Time Managing Them

Freelancers have very little oversight — they have nobody reviewing their work, communicating details, and providing feedback. In order for the partnership to run smoothly, an internal team member has to manage them and provide work. This can detract from their own responsibilities and impact your team’s success. 

In comparison, an SEO company is likely to require less oversight. You may only need to meet with them when they deliver status updates or reports. 

SEO Agencies

What is an SEO Agency? 

An SEO agency is a larger organization that has experience with every aspect of building an SEO strategy — from keyword research and content development to  technical aspects like coding. Unlike a freelancer, they usually have several experts that specialize in certain areas. This allows them to provide several different services and execute an SEO strategy from beginning to end. 

4 Benefits of Hiring an SEO Agency

An SEO company may be a better choice for your business if you have the budget for it. Here are some of their strengths: 

  1. Extensive experience and proven track record 
  2. Can be trusted to work with your SEO tools 
  3. Can execute a comprehensive SEO strategy 
  4. Available for a lasting partnership

Extensive Experience & Proven Track Record 

SEO companies have worked with many different companies in various industries. Through that, they’ve become familiar with assessing a website’s weaknesses and creating comprehensive SEO strategies that are effective. 

With a robust portfolio, SEO agencies can showcase how they have made a lasting impact on their clients’ digital marketing strategies and bottom line. Additionally, their experience can inform the SEO strategy that they outline for your company’s specific needs.

As a result, you can feel confident that the SEO partner that you hire is capable of delivering the results you’re looking for. 

Can Be Trusted to Work with your Website

Some company leaders can feel hesitant to hand over access to the company website or to their tracking tools. You don’t want to hand over editing access to just anybody. After all, any time you hand over company information to a third party is a risk. 

For many reasons, an SEO company may be easier to trust than a freelancer: they have a reputation in the industry, individuals work in teams and have more oversight, and they’ve likely worked with technology like this in the past. 

By working with a company you can trust, you’ll be able to collaborate more effectively and streamline your SEO efforts. 

Can Execute a Comprehensive SEO Strategy 

Search engine optimization is multifaceted and includes everything from writing on-site content, keyword research, and building a backlink profile to technical aspects like managing your website’s code, creating an intuitive website architecture, creating a robots.txt file, internal linking, and managing 404 errors. 

As you can imagine, it can be difficult to find one person who not only has the expertise needed to execute everything in your SEO strategy, but also who has the time to. 

SEO agencies, on the other hand, have many experts who can support your project. With a more comprehensive SEO strategy, you will be more likely to see measurable results. 

Available for a Lasting Partnership

SEO is not a set it and leave it kind of project. How website rank changes all the time thanks to your competitors’ efforts, algorithm updates, and more. Therefore, companies need to stay on top of their SEO efforts to see lasting results. 

SEO companies are a great option for companies who see the value in investing in SEO, but don’t have the internal resources to support all of their efforts. 

Many SEO companies can be hired on retainer or for longer contracts in which they will dedicate a set amount of time each week to managing your SEO. Whether you want a partner who spends just a few hours monitoring your website’s performance or one who can handle everything from start to finish, you’ll be able to find the partner who can support your ongoing SEO needs. 

4 Challenges of Hiring an SEO Agency

Before hiring an SEO company, carefully consider the cons of working with one as well: 

  1. Can take a long time to see results 
  2. More expensive than SEO freelancers 
  3. May require long-term contracts 
  4. May not be as invested in your success 

Can Take a Long Time to See Results 

As mentioned above, SEO may take awhile to produce results. While the impact on website traffic and conversions can make SEO well-worth the investment in the long run, it can be difficult to justify the expense of working with an SEO agency when it’s difficult to measure their impact right away. 

If your upper management isn’t fully on board with investing in SEO or they don’t understand the nuances of the industry, they may want to terminate the partnership before you’re able to see the results. 

More Expensive Than SEO Freelancers 

SEO companies are generally more expensive than freelancers because they have more resources and have built up a reputation in their field. That being said, how much they charge varies depending on the services they provide, where they’re located, how many employees have, and their experience. 

Learn more about how much it costs to hire an SEO partner in Clutch’s SEO Pricing Guide

May Require Long-Term Contracts 

Since SEO companies can’t guarantee results in a certain time period and understand that SEO takes time to be successful, they may require longer contracts. 

While this is largely to protect their business, it does make it difficult for companies who are on a tight budget to work with an SEO agency. Freelancers, on the other hand, are more flexible and can be brought on for specific projects. 

May Not  Be as Invested in Your Success 

SEO companies have many different clients, and even those who are working with your business may be working on several different projects at the same time. Even if they are adept at balancing their workload, they may not be as invested in your company’s success. 

An in-house team or an SEO freelancer who is well-integrated in your team may be more invested in your company’s success. However, that depends entirely on the team involved and your relationship with them. 

Investing in SEO is An Effective Way to Grow Your Online Business — But Choosing an SEO Partner Depends on Your Budget and Needs

Both freelance SEO specialists and SEO agencies can help improve your website’s rankings and increase traffic to your website, but they both have their strengths and weaknesses. 

While SEO freelancers are often more affordable and can easily be integrated with the rest of your team, they often have limited resources and lack oversight. At the same time, SEO companies can be costly, but they have experienced teams that can provide ongoing support as long as you want to invest in SEO. 

Carefully consider the pros and cons of each before reaching out to potential partners. 

Looking to hire an SEO expert? Search for top-rated SEO companies on Clutch, then filter by location, client ratings, and cost to find the perfect partner for your business. 

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