SEO Agency vs In-House vs Freelance: Which is Better for Your Business?

May 26, 2022

Key Points

  • SEO is vital to establish an online presence, simplify lead generation and increase organic traffic. When looking for the right professional for your company, it’s necessary to assess expertise, resources and expenses.
  • In house SEO consultants may better understand your brand; however, it takes a lot of time to establish a full team with the necessary skill. This is the most costly option, especially as you account for employee turnover.
  • Outsourcing is an attractive option for businesses hoping to save time on marketing and gain access to an experience. As it stands, freelancers are the most affordable option, but they may not have the capacity to grow your business in the same way an agency can. An agency has vast experience developing brands thanks to its teams of industry experts. They also have the capability to adapt to updates and changing business goals.
  • It’s essential to get clear on what you want from SEO services, your budget and expectations from the engagement. If you’re serious about growing your brand in an efficient and sustainable manner, book a free discovery call with NUOPTIMA to discuss how our SEO services may suit your business.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is crucial to growing an online business. By optimising your website for search engines, like Google, your webpages climb higher in search results, increase organic traffic and establish your online presence. A good SEO strategy also simplifies lead generation and increases ROI. However, SEO is ever-changing; from algorithm rules to best practices, it is hard to stay up to date, not to mention time-consuming and difficult to get right. This article explores the long-standing debate over which is better, an SEO agency, a freelancer or an in-house consultant.

When hiring a SEO professional, look out for his or her expertise, efficiency and be clear on your budget and desired results

What to Look for in an SEO Professional?

No matter which option you choose, there are a few key things to look for in an SEO professional to ensure they suit your business objectives.

Expertise: First and foremost, you must consider if they have the right experience. Do they have evidence of working with other brands in your niche or previous success growing websites with SEO? Do they need additional training to meet your requirements? What aspects of SEO do they understand, and is it enough to achieve your goals?

Efficiency: The time it takes to see results will vary. The nature of SEO is that it takes time to implement – it is a long term strategy to boost organic rankings and traffic to your site. However, if you want results quickly, the most efficient way to grow is by outsourcing to experts like NUOPTIMA. With teams of specialists working together, it’s easier to meet your targets. An in-house team may not have the same background experience; therefore, it could take months (if not longer) of trial and error before you establish a suitable strategy and complete all the necessary tasks.

Expense: Consider your budget and be realistic about what SEO services cost. Some businesses are disappointed in their experience with an SEO professional because they didn’t understand what they were paying for or the extent of work that needed doing.
Keep in mind that while you’re assessing which option is best, it’s essential to manage your expectations. You must decide what you want from this investment and get clear on what it takes to do SEO properly.

SEO Freelancer vs In-House SEO vs SEO Agency: Which is Right for You?

In-House SEO Specialist:

An in-house specialist is simply an employee within your company who manages your SEO efforts. Depending on the size of your business, some will have an entire in-house team, while others, like startups, may only have one specialist.

Pros:

  • Brand knowledge: An employee in-house will undoubtedly have greater knowledge of your brand. As they work very closely with the business every day, they experience the culture and have a deeper understanding of the company’s values than an agency or freelancer. Therefore, an SEO manager will better understand your brand’s needs and adapt the marketing strategy with that in mind.
  • Form a closer relationship with the team: As your in-house consultant works with you daily, you form a closer relationship with them (or the wider group). You may see an improvement in communication and find it easier to navigate potential problems as your employees work collaboratively.
  • Focused work: Unlike outsourcing SEO services, an in-house employee or team only works on your business growth because they aren’t juggling multiple clients. In this way, you know the team is focused solely on your projects and prioritises your development.

Cons:

  • Knowledge Gaps: Although an in-house team may have a deeper focus and understanding of your brand, they may have knowledge gaps. Effective SEO implementation takes a considerable amount of time and consists of various components, including content creation, technical fixes, link-building and more. For small businesses and startups, it’s common to have knowledge gaps in-house because it takes diverse expertise to carry out all the necessary optimisation tasks. You may need to train employees or consider hiring more people; however, this can be very costly and take time to establish the right team.
  • Hard to find and keep talent: It can be hard to keep an employee for a long time as there may be little career progression in an in-house role. Many SEO professionals prefer to work in an agency because it gives them an abundance of experience on different projects! For this reason, you may find it hard to sustain a team long term, increasing turnover costs and time spent hiring new talent.

SEO Freelancer:

An SEO freelancer is an individual hired on a contractual basis. They may assist businesses on a per-project basis or as a retainer package. Below we look into the pros and cons of investing in an SEO freelancer.

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing: Freelancers tend to charge less than an agency because they have fewer outgoing expenses. Of the three options, they are the most affordable.
  • Flexibility: As they only have to manage their own schedule, freelancers are typically more flexible with their availability compared to a busy agency or an in-house team who follow standardised hours. For this reason, work tends to get completed quicker, and business owners have more involvement with the project if you wish.
  • Communication: Businesses only need to discuss the work with one person, making communicating business needs easier. Although an agency typically assigns an account manager to each client, when you communicate with a freelancer, you’re talking directly to the person carrying out the work. With that in mind, it may be easier to discuss your expectations from the project and any problems that arise.

Cons:

  • Not all freelancers are the same: Everyone who freelancers will have different ways of working. Some prefer to be given instructions on a project and use their expertise to complete the work. On the other hand, some SEO freelancers may develop marketing strategies and curate ideas. However, not all freelancers are the same, and it’s essential to vet a freelancer like you would a potential employee. You need to ensure they have the right resources and expertise to meet your requirements. For this reason, hiring a freelancer can be time-consuming, and they may not have the expertise you need.
  • May not be suitable for the long term: Most freelancers work on a per-project basis or offer retainer packages. While they may be great at completing projects quickly or carrying out smaller tasks, an SEO freelancer may not have the skill, time or resources to offer entire SEO management. Therefore, it might be harder to see significant growth by hiring an individual.
Pros and cons of in-house SEO experts, freelancers and SEO agencies so you can decide which one suits our business needs best

SEO Agency:

An SEO agency is a team of professionals, including SEO consultants, writers, social media marketers, technical members, PPC experts and more. An agency can offer a vast range of services depending on your needs, including a full-stack SEO package to scale your brand. They may carry out various tasks such as link building, content writing, social media marketing and technical SEO (including essential mobile optimisations). Below we have outlined the pros and cons of hiring an SEO agency.

Pros:

  • Unmatched expertise: When you work with a digital marketing agency, you gain access to their entire team of people. This includes their content specialists, SEO experts, social media marketers, and technical teams. Your business benefits from their collective experience, which is reflected in the results. With so many people dedicated to your goals, you will likely see significant results in less time. Moreover, here at NUOPTIMA, we have many SEO case studies showcasing our previous successes and how we have grown brands within various industries.
  • Reporting and analysis: If you or your team is unfamiliar with analysing data, you could be missing out on a huge growth opportunity. An agency has the resources and skill to deliver regular updates about your site’s performance. They have the expertise to interpret the data and determine the best steps to improve your SEO or solve potential problems.
  • Teamwork and strategy: Hiring an agency provides access to multiple teams of experts in different fields. Not only is this cheaper than hiring or training an in-house team, but it improves SEO optimisation. An excellent strategy considers how multiple aspects of SEO work together to boost the performance of your site. Thanks to their professional teamwork, an agency may take a holistic approach to implementing an effective SEO strategy. Put simply, it is too much for one person to do.
  • An SEO agency can adapt to your goals: An agency is equipped with the skills, experience and resources to adapt to your unique needs. For instance, the requirements of a business blog vs an eCommerce website will differ. NUOPTIMA is well-versed in various industries and has helped companies from diverse niches get to the first page of Google.
  • Staying up to date with industry changes: In the world of digital, everything is constantly changing. Back in 2019, Google began to roll out its new mobile-first algorithm prioritising the growing number of mobile users. This was a huge deal for businesses that hadn’t optimised their mobile site or implemented technical SEO. Likewise, in the December 2020 update, the search engine giant updated the way they ranked “YMYL” (Your Money Your Life) pages affecting various businesses across health and wellness, finance, legal sectors and more. An agency has the capacity to pivot as these changes occur by using its expertise and resources to navigate these difficult times. NUOPTIMA saw these challenges first hand, particularly for our sister company Alphagreen, a health and wellness marketplace. Despite losing a considerable amount of organic traffic, the NUOPTIMA team was able to divert their SEO strategy and recovered 552% of traffic.
  • Easier to scale: If you’re ready to scale your business, an agency is prepared to support you because they already have the resources, experience and necessary processes to manage growing brands. While it’s possible to scale in-house, you must have an appropriate size team, proper procedures, and skills to support the company’s impending growth. Unfortunately, building out your team is time-consuming and costly. With an agency, they are ready to pivot and modify the strategy to suit your changing objectives and expansion.

Cons:

  • Expenses: While an agency is more cost-effective compared to an in-house team, they are, of course, more expensive than an SEO freelancer. Consequently, if your business wants to outsource SEO services, it’s vital to consider what you can genuinely afford. SEO is an investment, and to increase your ROI, an agency is more experienced and better equipped to deliver significant results. They may be a better investment than an in-house team that may lack the experience of growing multiple brands.
  • Understanding your brand: Compared to an in-house team, an agency may not understand the ins and outs of your brand as well. That said, here at NUOPTIMA, we know every business is different. We do our best to learn your values, understand your business objectives and work with you to curate an appropriate, effective growth strategy.

Can Outsourcing SEO Services Benefit Your Business?

The endless debate on whether you should train an in-house team or hire outside your company remains.

There is no right or wrong answer to this, but it’s essential to choose the one that fits your business best. Now we have gone over the pros and cons of an in-house marketing team, freelancer and agency, let’s recap the main points to decide if outsourcing SEO is right for you.

  • Saves time: Do you have time to train your internal team, and if so will it be sufficient to create the marketing talent you need? It can take a long time to train someone to a proficient level, thus holding you back from making progress. Moreover, it’s worth considering if you have the time to dedicate to SEO. If the answer is no, outsourcing will support your business without adding extra tasks to your plate.
  • Access to unique experience: SEO is fundamental to digital marketing; without it, your business will struggle to keep up with the vast competition. Outsourcing gives you access to a professional with previous experience growing brands like yours, and they are already equipped with knowledge, tactics, and strategies to get started. NUOPTIMA has numerous teams of experts from content writers, SEO professionals, tech consultants and more. Investing in an agency will give you access to this unmatched experience level.
  • Access to resources: The right resources go far in the success of your SEO efforts. For instance, keyword research is a significant part of any strategy, but you need the right tools and software to do thorough SEO research. Access to resources is a huge reason to outsource your services, as it saves you money on essential tools. Furthermore, agencies understand how to use specialistic software and utilise it to the fullest. Consequently, you don’t have to learn the complexities of SEO tools, saving you time and money.

Final Thoughts

There are clear advantages to all three options, but the right one for you depends on the needs of the business. It’s essential first to assess your expectations, budget and goals for the future. Consider if you want to expand down the line and what, if any, resources do you already have access to in-house? This will help you determine what level of assistance you need. For instance, if you have an excellent SEO strategist in house, you may need some hands-on practical assistance from an SEO copywriter or link building expert. Your business may benefit from outsourcing the work for these types of services.
In-house talent is the most expensive option, and so, as it stands, an SEO agency may be the best investment if you’re serious about growing your business. At NUOPTIMA, we offer various services to suit your business’s needs, from helping you build high-quality backlinks to full SEO management. That said, every business differs, and it’s important to consider what suits you best.

Book a free discovery call with the NUOPTIMA team and learn how SEO can support your business growth.

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FAQs

What are the benefits of outsourcing SEO services compared to an in-house team?
An in-house SEO team may have a deeper understanding of your brand and its values. However, it is the most expensive and time-consuming option. Outsourcing SEO services to an agency saves your business a considerable amount of time, gives you access to numerous experts in different fields and professional resources, and can facilitate future expansion.
What to look for in an SEO professional?
A professional SEO consultant should have experience assessing and implementing key SEO techniques. Businesses should assess if the SEO services meet their needs. Consequently, one should consider efficiency and capacity; do they have the resources or team to carry out the work you need? Finally, be realistic about what SEO services cost and the budget you can allocate.
How to choose an SEO agency?
Firstly, start by determining what services you require and the budget you can allocate. A good SEO agency will have case studies to view that depict the previous work they have done with other brands. You may also consider word-of-mouth reputation, communication skills and pricing.

By: Viktor Bartak

Head of SEO

Linkedin

Viktor Bartak has received a Master of Science degree in nuclear physics. He uses his scientific background and approaches to data analytics in search engine optimization. In 2007, he started his career in SEO working on his own projects, and began taking on clients in 2012. Throughout his career, he has worked with over 250 websites, optimized and consulted large international marketplaces, online stores, and corporate, B2B, and B2C websites.

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