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In-House vs Outsourced SEO: How to Determine Your Best Option

Sep 16, 2016 / by SEO.com

When does it make the most sense to hire an SEO firm? Should you build out your own in-house team instead? When should you just do it all yourself?

Can you even do it all yourself?

Online marketing covers a wide range of activities, strategies, platforms, and channels. Depending on your needs, you may require a marketing plan that mixes, in different doses, SEO, PPC, Social Media, Web Design, Conversion Optimization, Email Marketing, Content Marketing, and more. On top of that, you can probably divide every one of those into various sub categories and specializations.


Are you in a position where you can develop your own in-house marketing team? Would it be better to allocate those needs to a company that specializes in all of those strategies so you only have to focus on your own core business activities?

Take this quick diagnostic test – let’s call it a company marketing assessment – and see where you currently sit and whether you should go in-house or out to a company that does it professionally. Simply add the numbers of each of your answers together to get the result at the end.

What is your monthly budget for online marketing?

  1. $65k/year
  2. $50k/year
  3. $25k/year
  4. $12k/year
  5. $1,200/year

According to various online sources, the average online marketing manager working for you full time will run somewhere around 65k a year. If you want someone who brings a lot more experience to the company, you’ll be in for even more. And since it’s unlikely that any one person will have all the necessary skills, the reality is that you’ll need a team of 2 or 3 people, which could actually cost upwards of 200K every year.

An agency will be able to work with you at a range of different price points so you can get a range of price services that will match your budget. However, if you are looking at $100 or so a month, then you might want to do some research and see what you can do on your own to optimize your website.

Do You Think Your Web Team Can “SEO a Webpage”?

  1. Search engine optimization and web dev are clearly different things.
  2. Not really. They should be able to understand the basics, though, right?
  3. If I ask nicely.
  4. All that stuff is related, right?
  5. Of course. It’s the internet, so that’s their job.

It’s easy to believe that since the web team is already building a website, they should know how to make it rank really well. That isn’t always the case. The skillset required to effectively optimize your website is very specific, and whoever you put in charge of it needs to know their stuff.

Do You Already Have Employees with Skills Related to Online Marketing?

  1. We have writers, data miners, developers, designers, and advertisers.
  2. We have some people with some background in this area.
  3. A few. We have people who can write.
  4. Not really. We have some people who update their social media accounts on occasion.
  5. My employees can’t spell SEO.

A combination of the right skills can accomplish many of the necessary SEO tasks, and there are often people throughout the company who already have some knowledge and experience. (Though you may still need a manager to pull them all together into a coherent team.)

Do You Have the Resources to Recruit and Maintain a Team?

  1. We have the people, time, and talent to build out a world championship team of awesome.
  2. We have an HR department, and our training processes ensure that no information is lost as employees come and go.
  3. It’s a pain, but it’s doable.
  4. We’re not quite set up to deal with all the taxes, PTO, and health benefits for too many people.
  5. HR only happens to other people’s children.

If you’re going in-house with your online marketing, you need to know you’re getting the best people who fit your company culture.

How Much Do You Rely on the Internet for Your Business?

  1. Every query and click is precious, precious gold to us.
  2. We are an ecommerce business. A click isn’t gold, but it’s at least has a nice, coppery finish.
  3. We manage both online and offline stores.
  4. We’re on the internet because that’s where the cool kids are.
  5. The internet? Is that thing still around?

Ecommerce sites with huge product lines are going to need much more SEO work than small businesses with a highly local focus. The amount you rely on the network will help determine whether you should outsource or not.

Are Your Products and Services Too Complex and Specialized for Non-Employees to Understand?

  1. Extremely so. And our audience knows when anyone is faking their knowledge.
  2. A little. It would take some education to get everyone on up to speed.
  3. It would take some work on their part, but it wouldn’t be too hard.
  4. We pretty much deliver everyday objects people are already looking for.
  5. If you can live without our products, there is probably something wrong with you.

It’s still possible to outsource your online marketing even in the most complex industries, because most of the SEO principles don’t change. Though it may take a little longer to get fully up to speed.

Do You Have the Tools?

  1. We will always have the top-of-the-line everything so we are prepared for every situation.
  2. We’re not opposed to adding or updating the necessary tools to make sure things get done efficiently
  3. You could talk us into getting new tools when it was necessary.
  4. We’re pretty good and making the tools we have work no matter what.
  5. We’ve got spreadsheets. You can do anything with spreadsheets. Stop asking for more than spreadsheets!

There are a lot of tools that help online marketers do their jobs. Some are free and easy to use, some have a pretty serious learning curve to go along with their pretty serious costs.

Can You Keep Up with Changing Trends?

  1. We’re practically on Google’s mailing list for getting a heads up when changes are coming.
  2. We have people who make keeping up with the industry part of their job.
  3. We’re okay waiting until new best practices are well established.
  4. There are more important things to do than reading articles about search engines.
  5. I hear that posting the same article to 15 websites is pretty effective.

The online marketing world changes quickly. Do you have the resources and research time to keep up? If your in-house marketing team is set in their ways, they may fall behind industry trends.

What is Your Target Audience?

  1. Global
  2. Digital distribution
  3. National
  4. Local
  5. Niche audience

If you’re looking to reach a smaller, niche audience, you probably don’t need to hire an entire staff to manage the campaign in house. If, however, you are targeting a much larger audience whose interests change regularly, you may need some dedicated support.


Do You Believe that SEO is a Critical Part of Modern Marketing?

  1. Definitely
  2. Absolutely
  3. Obviously
  4. Duh
  5. Of course

There is never a shortage of articles that claim SEO is dead. Those who really succeed online understand that as long as there is a search engine that relies on an algorithm to deliver relevant results there will always be a set of best practices that you can follow to optimize your online presence.

What’s Your Score?

Add up the numbers of each of your answers to see where you fit into this scale:


10 – 15

You may be ready to build out your own internal SEO team.

16 – 21

A mix of in-house and outsourced SEO could be the most effective

22 – 30

Outsourcing all of your work to a firm may be the most efficient option.

31 – 40

It’s time to get started with an SEO firm, even if it’s just a small contract.

41 – 45

Consider outsourcing one project at a time.

46 – 50

Start slow. Look into some resources and see what you can personally do on your website.


Written by SEO.com

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