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In House SEO vs External SEO

In House SEO vs External SEO

11 min read

Table of Contents

SEO is crucial for driving relevant organic traffic to your website and boosting brand awareness online. But should you handle SEO in-house or hire an SEO agency? Both options have their own unique pros and cons to consider.

The Benefits of an In-House SEO Team

More Control and Oversight

One of the biggest appeals of building an in-house SEO team is that it allows you to maintain full control over your SEO initiatives. With an in-house team, you dictate the SEO strategy and have direct oversight on day-to-day execution and campaign management.

You don’t have to worry about lack of transparency or misalignment with an external agency. Your team is fully focused on your business goals and working in your best interests. This level of control can provide great peace of mind.

Improved Agility and Responsiveness

In-house SEO teams are able to pivot and adjust campaigns much faster. They have a deeper understanding of your brand, website, and content. This makes it easier to optimize pages and react to algorithm updates.

Additionally, having SEO experts on staff means issues can be addressed immediately. You don’t have to log a ticket and wait for an agency employee to get back to you. Your internal team is just an email or chat away.

Better Alignment With Other Teams

When your SEO team sits on-site, alignment across departments is much tighter. SEO staff can collaborate face-to-face with your developers, content team, and designers on a daily basis. This cross-functional integration leads to higher quality website enhancements and content creation.

In-house SEO experts also gain insight into company initiatives that may impact organic acquisition and rankings. With broader visibility, they can make recommendations and adjustments to minimize risk.

Institutional Knowledge Accumulation

Over time, an internal SEO team develops deep institutional knowledge of your organization and website architecture that would be difficult to replicate externally. They become intimately familiar with your website’s history, assets, and unique challenges.

This knowledge continuity and accumulation is incredibly valuable for optimizing complex sites. Tactics can be refined over months and years to maximize their efficacy. An agency may lack the patience or incentive structure to drive long-term SEO gains.

Potentially Lower Costs

Hiring in-house SEO staff on salary can cost less than paying monthly retainers and fees to an agency. The cost reduction depends on the size of your in-house team and whether you hire junior or senior roles. But for larger organizations, savings may be substantial.

Advantages of Choosing External Marketing SEO Agency

The Advantages of Choosing an SEO Agency

Breadth of Capabilities and Specialization

SEO agencies employ diverse teams with specialized skills in technical SEO, content creation, link building, local SEO, and more. They work with an array of clients and projects, so their expertise is much broader.

Most companies cannot recruit specialists across all aspects of SEO. Agencies also invest more in SEO tools, training, and development to expand their capabilities. This enables them to drive complex campaigns using emerging best practices.

Saves Time and Overhead Costs

Running SEO in-house requires a significant investment of time and resources to hire, train, and manage a team. SEO agencies handle all staffing, allowing you to focus on core business areas. They also take care of administrative tasks like reporting and optimization tracking.

You can outsource SEO without headaches around things like benefits, payroll, holidays, sick days, and equipment. The overhead costs involved in building an in-house staff add up.

Access to Expanded Resources and Networks

SEO agencies maintain extensive professional networks across the industry. They have connections for guest posting, high-quality link building, and earned media. Leveraging these relationships and resources can accelerate your ability to get results.

In addition, agencies have partnerships and can tap freelancers to provide bandwidth during peak workloads. An in-house team lacks this readily available support system and flexibility.

Reduced Risks from Churn or Underperformance

If an in-house SEO employee leaves the company or fails to deliver results, it can severely hamper your organic growth. With an agency, underperforming team members can be quickly replaced and new specialists brought in.

Likewise, if you decide to switch agencies, contracts make this easy. Recovering from hiring the wrong in-house SEO staff can be much more difficult and disruptive. The risks are higher.

Objective External Perspective

Agencies provide an outside view of your website, brand, and SEO strategy. This objectivity allows them to identify issues and flaws that internal teams may have developed “blind spots” around.

Their broader experience also brings fresh ideas and optimization approaches. An external specialist may suggest enhancements your team would never have considered.

Key Factors to Weigh Up

Your Current SEO Maturity

If your company has little organic visibility currently, hiring an established agency to kickstart growth can make sense. Their process and best practices can cultivate SEO faster than building an in-house team from scratch.

But if you already have solid organic traffic and rankings, an internal team may be better positioned to fine-tune tactics and maximize your existing assets.

Long-Term Strategy

In-house SEO has more advantages for long-term, ongoing optimization due to institutional knowledge development and alignment with internal teams. But if you only need short-term help to boost a new product launch, an agency may suit better.

Also consider whether you want to make SEO core to your overall growth strategy. If so, in-house staff may be the way to go.

Size and Complexity of Your Website

Agencies are equipped to handle large-scale, complex SEO projects across multiple sites and languages. For smaller businesses with just a few pages to optimize, an in-house expert or freelancer can provide ample support.

As website size and complexity rises, the benefits of an agency improve. Their ability to manage enterprise SEO at scale makes the outsourced option more compelling.

Budget Availability

Specialized SEO agencies are more expensive than junior in-house staff. Weigh up whether you have the budget to justify a premium service. Also factor in costs like onboarding and training if recruiting internally.

That said, some agencies offer entry-level packages suitable for SMBs on tighter budgets. Shop around before ruling out an agency based on cost alone.

Making the Right SEO Resourcing Choice

Making the Right SEO Resourcing Choice

Deciding between in-house and external SEO agencies comes down to honestly assessing your needs, capabilities, and long-term intentions. Striking the right balance will enable you to execute a sophisticated SEO strategy that delivers value for your business. Prioritize organic growth as a key objective, and invest in the best resources to achieve this – whether internal staff or external experts.

Steps to Take Before Deciding

Before simply defaulting to one option or the other, take time to carefully evaluate and prepare. This will ensure you make the best decision for your specific situation. Useful steps include:

  • Conduct an SEO audit to understand current gaps and quickly-achievable wins. This provides a baseline for defining your needs.
  • Research SEO agencies and create a shortlist of leading contenders if going external. Take free consultations to assess their fit.
  • Conversely, review market salaries and put together a draft job description if hiring in-house. Gauge the availability of suitable candidates.
  • Create an SEO strategy document outlining your goals, metrics, targets, and initial initiatives. This will guide optimization work whether via an agency or your team.
  • Calculate the full cost implications of each option based on the effort required. Avoid choosing primarily on cost to ensure the resourcing fits objectives.

Blending In-House and External Support

Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, many brands find success combining in-house and external SEO agencies. You may start with an agency to kickstart optimization and training, before establishing your internal team.

Alternatively, have your team handle core SEO while an agency provides specialized support in niche areas like link building. This blended model gives you the benefits of both worlds.

Another option is to partner with an SEO expert consultant who can advise and mentor your in-house staff. This amplifies your team’s knowledge and abilities to make optimization sustainable long-term.

Focusing on Complementary Skill Sets

To make a blended internal/external setup work smoothly, make sure roles are clearly defined based on complementary strengths. For instance:

  • In-house staff own SEO strategy and ongoing content optimization
  • The agency provides technical audits and site migration management
  • Your team handles outreach and branded link-building
  • The agency focuses on high-authority industry links
  • With clear divisions like this, you avoid duplication of effort and leverage the unique value each party brings. Alignment and collaboration are still key.

Adapting Your Resourcing as Needs Evolve

As your brand grows and website complexity increases, remain open to reevaluating your SEO resourcing mix. Outsource more specialized tasks if your in-house staff lacks time or expertise. Or, if an agency partnership isn’t providing sufficient value, look to bring capabilities in-house.

Stay agile and don’t be afraid to test different models to find the best formula over time. SEO is an evolving discipline, so you may need a more fluid approach to get it right.


Deciding where to source your SEO talent is a complex choice with positives and negatives to each option. Assess your specific capabilities, long-term goals and budget to determine if an in-house, agency or hybrid approach makes most sense. Focus on how to achieve true alignment and synergy between internal and external resources. With the right SEO talent and strategy in place, you can gain a major competitive advantage through organic search.

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