Hiring an SEO Company or Keep It In-House?


What’s The Difference Between An In-House SEO Versus An Agency? 

Before deciding on whether hiring an SEO specialist full-time or bringing on an agency is most advantageous for your business, it’s important first to understand the differences between the two:

  • An In-house SEO is hired full-time by a company or organization to manage Search Engine Optimization.
    • This individual typically works a standard 40-hour workweek.
    • An In-House SEO specialist will typically oversee an agency or manage a group of team members internally.
    • It can also be common for an in-house SEO to serve as the “one-stop shop,” being responsible for all execution aspects of SEO.
  • An Agency is a company hired on a retainer basis or brought for a one-time project.
    • An agency typically consists of a team of SEO and web marketing experts, not working full-time.
    • In most instances, an agency works less than 40 hours per week on an account.
    • An agency brings a unique perspective based on its SEO experience across numerous clients.

My In-House And Agency Experience 

Before starting The Media Captain, I worked in-house for SafeAuto Insurance, handling their search engine optimization. This was one of the greatest professional experiences of my career.

Since I now own an agency, you may think I’m biased toward hiring an agency versus the in-house route. This isn’t the case. There are many instances when hiring an in-house person is the best move for an organization, which I’ll get into later in this blog.

When working at SafeAuto, I managed several SEO agencies, both large and small. This gave me a great perspective of what I like and dislike on the agency side.

I also saw what it was like working with internal resources and reporting to a CMO. There were benefits of being an in-house SEO along with drawbacks.

After going through my list of pros and cons for hiring an SEO company vs. bringing it in-house, I hope you can make a more informed decision for your business as to which option will serve you best.

Related: How I helped SafeAuto recover from a Google Penalty

Keeping it In-House [Pros] 

Better understanding of the product or service

When an agency is brought on board, there is a learning curve for them to truly understand what the client is selling or the service being offered. When SEO efforts are in-house, the person managing the search engine optimization over time will better understand the core business, which can help with overall strategy and execution.

Even though SafeAuto only offered car insurance in 16 states, they generated money for each lead outside of their 16 states through SureHits. Being in-house allowed me to understand this process better and develop a strategy for creating city and state-level pages outside of their 16 states.

Time Allocation

When you keep the marketing efforts in-house, this is the employee’s full-time job, meaning they can allocate 40 hours weekly to SEO-related projects. An agency couldn’t dedicate this much time because they are split between numerous accounts.

While working for SafeAuto, I was tasked with disavowing over 1 million low-quality backlinks due to a Google penalty they had received. There was so much time involved with this task that it was more suited for someone in-house like myself.

Collaboration & Access to Key Stakeholders

When you have all of the resources under one roof for product development, IT, marketing, and customer service, getting approval on projects and collaborating is easier. Communication is more streamlined in-house.

When I was in-house for SafeAuto, writing content without speaking with an expert was hard. I would rely on claims adjusters and others more familiar with the terminology and legality. Being in-house made it easy to connect with the right people.

SafeAuto’s website wasn’t WordPress. They had an entire IT department due to the complexity of their site. Being in-house allowed me to get a lay of the land on how their IT department worked and who I needed to connect with to ensure SEO implementations were made on the site.

Related Blog: Downside of Outsourcing SEO Efforts Overseas

More Patience

Agencies have a lot of pressure to increase SEO rankings quickly. There seems to be more patience for in-house SEOs, which is good since SEO success doesn’t happen overnight. When your SEO strategy isn’t rushed, it can mature more adequately, resulting in longer-term wins.

Keeping It In-House [Cons] 

High Turnover

According to AdWeek, turnover in the advertising industry is higher than in related industries. There is a lot of time and training that goes into teaching a new associate the ins and outs of a business. If a marketing employee for your company only stays around for a year or two, this likely won’t be worth the time investment or financial commitment.

Related Blog: The Cost of SEO


Between a full-time salary and benefits, the cost of hiring in-house could outweigh hiring an agency. This completely depends on which agency you hire but typically, businesses take the agency route because there are less expenses involved.

Related Blog: Measuring the ROI of SEO

Not A Jack Of All Trades

When hiring an SEO person in-house, many businesses think they are a jack of all trades, meaning they will handle everything SEO-related. An individual can be great at writing blogs and enhancing content, but they lack development skills or technical prowess. This can result in hiring more people in-house or bringing on an agency to assist when there’s a void.

Hiring an Agency [Pros]


An established SEO agency has likely worked with hundreds of clients, many times in the same industry. This gives the agency an advantage in knowing the proper framework needed to improve SEO keyword rankings. Even though an agency can’t allocate as much time as a full-time employee, the right strategy could make you work smarter, not harder.

Unique Perspective

When you are not involved in the day-to-day activity, you have a unique outlook on a business and can provide insight that you might miss from being so entrenched within the business.


When it comes to working with an SEO agency, there are deliverables based on an agreement that contractually must be completed each month. While an in-house specialist might have every intention to write blogs and do outreach for backlink opportunities, meetings, and other daily activities can get in the way.


An established agency will have a team of SEO specialists on its staff, including content writers, strategists, developers, and designers. By having experts for on-site, off-site, technical, and local SEO, you can develop a more comprehensive strategy.

Hiring an Agency [Cons]

Locked into a bad contract

There will be some agencies that make you commit to a 12-month agreement. Don’t do this. Make sure to get a 30-day or 45-day opt-out within the agreement in case you aren’t pleased with the results or the relationship.

Shady Practices

The agency SafeAuto had hired prior to my arrival built millions of low-quality backlinks, resulting in a devastating Google penalty in 2012. The wrong hire, whether in-house or with an agency, can be a huge set-up. Ask for 3-5 references before moving forward with an agency, and do your due diligence.

Lack of Time

There are some businesses that need at least 40-hours of work (or more) committed to SEO.  A Client/Agency relationship isn’t going to work if there is the expectation that the agency will be at your disposal 24/7/365. The agency shouldn’t over-promise on time/deliverables, and the Client shouldn’t have this expectation.


There is no right or wrong answer on whether to bring your SEO efforts in-house or hire an agency with an established track record. Having the right SEO strategy plus competent execution is key to overall success. This can be accomplished either through an in-house team or an agency.

If you would like to contact our agency, we can help you consult on making the right decision.

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