In-house vs. agency SEO work: The pros and cons

Roughly half of the Twitter DMs I obtain are makes an attempt to promote me “high-quality visitor hyperlink posting.”

The different half are lifelong agency SEOs trying to transfer in-house, asking me learn how to make the transfer and to evaluate their resumes. 

While I began my profession in a hyperlink constructing agency (the actual trenches of SEO) and have the utmost respect for companies, I’d wish to share insights into how I really feel about in-house vs. agency life.

Disclaimer: This is my expertise and not reflective of everybody’s fact. If you’ve determined to make the change in-house, I like to recommend talking to those that made the transfer, as this text is only one knowledge level.

The advantages of agency life

Truthfully, I want each SEO began their profession at an agency. Like a boot camp, the pace of agency life early in your profession will probably be very formative. 

Being in-house your complete life (particularly at only one or two firms) may give you a tunnel-vision view of the world. 

The publicity to websites of various sizes and the SEO savviness one can get inside an agency are unparalleled. 

Experience is a superpower in SEO, so whereas now in life I (clearly) get pleasure from in-house life, I extremely advocate SEOs work at companies, even when only for a number of years.

Here are different benefits of working in an agency:

  • Exposure to many consumers and verticals.
  • Learning unbelievable challenge administration expertise.
  • Many senior folks mentoring you in what you do.
  • Quickly studying a repeatable playbook of greatest practices for every vertical.
  • Company incentives (i.e., sending you to SEO occasions or permitting you to talk).
  • A extra developed profession ladder (i.e., a possibility to be Director or Sr. Director).
  • Fewer conferences and simpler transition to consulting.

Exposure to many consumers and verticals

One of the most important shortcomings I see in SEO hires is a scarcity of expertise working throughout websites of various sizes with completely different assets. 

Even if you happen to can spend your complete SEO profession at a extremely aggressive SEO-driven firm (e.g., Tripadvisor, Condé Nast), that gained’t essentially translate properly into doing SEO for a brand new SaaS firm with restricted assets and no bespoke or customized tooling. 

In an agency, you get to make use of quite a lot of the shoppers’ homegrown instruments and off-the-shelf SEO instruments your shoppers might already be purchased into, so that you’ll know the proper software for the job.

Learning unbelievable challenge administration expertise

A scarcity of challenge and stakeholder administration expertise can usually cripple your profession.

I recommend SEOs concentrate on these soft skills in the event that they ever need to transfer in-house. 

It’s a survival talent most agency SEOs choose up as they juggle shopper work and relationships.

Early mentorship and a repeatable playbook

In an agency, assuming SEO is a generally bought service, there may be lots of senior SEOs with huge expertise round you. 

Generally talking, each vertical has greatest practices which might be pretty repeatable and normally work. 

Having this wealth of information and expertise round you possibly can shortly uplevel you and compensate to your personal lack of expertise. 

In-house, you may be the one SEO making an attempt to determine it out whereas educating your self. 

I’ve usually discovered fully self-taught SEOs to be a bit of undisciplined in the event that they by no means acquired suggestions early of their careers from different SEOs. 

Company incentives to ship you to SEO occasions or will let you communicate

Public talking could be an unbelievable platform to construct your SEO profession. It’s additionally nice for networking and discussing SEO ways privately with different SEOs.

Quite frankly, they’re additionally fairly enjoyable if you happen to’re social like me! 

But being in-house, it’s uncommon that firms pays so that you can do public talking or attend SEO occasions. There’s merely little incentive to take action. 

Agencies want new enterprise, so sending staff to occasions and placing themselves in entrance of firms trying to find out about SEO makes fiscal sense. 

It’s an effective way to construct your agency’s model and herald inbound leads.

Within some organizations, sending SEO staff to talk is typically seen as a double adverse. Not solely is it expensive, however the expertise can be prone to be poached and they gained’t have the ability to simply anonymize their knowledge. 

No firm desires their secrets and techniques overtly shared with the world to stay indefinitely on SlideShare, the place rivals can simply see them. 

The greatest firms I’ve been in allowed for a single convention annually. Generally, it’s worthwhile to communicate concerning the work of different firms to qualify for talking engagements.

A extra developed profession ladder for SEO

If you’re the one SEO in your organization or one of some, and SEO shouldn’t be a serious lever, it’s unlikely SEO could have a well-defined profession ladder.

For instance, you may have to champion the creation of a senior place like Director of SEO – and, probably, it’d by no means occur. 

Due to the variety of SEOs and the customer-facing side of companies, I really feel that agency SEO roles at Director and VP ranges are way more frequent than in-house. 

The key exception I’ve seen is for SEO-driven firms, similar to Booking, Yelp or Tripadvisor.

Most in-house SEO roles prime out at “Lead” or “Head of SEO.” 

Some circumvent this by taking up different groups, like SEM. But extra generally, firms will give an SEO group to a paid search lead than give paid search to SEO. 

When thousands and thousands of {dollars} of funds are on the road, prudent funds spend is usually optimized for rolling search groups underneath a single search lead.

Fewer conferences since you’re a guide and a neater transition to consulting

I’ve so much of conferences. In my expertise with an agency and my very own consulting pals, many can have simply ~2 conferences most per day. 

As an SEO lead in a multinational firm, it’s not uncommon for essentially the most senior SEO to be in 5-6 hours of conferences a day. This is particularly frequent as you begin taking up extra initiatives or merchandise throughout the firm. 

It can be a lot simpler to transition from being an agency SEO into consulting since you:

  • Have the playbook.
  • Know learn how to pitch shoppers. 
  • Understand the nuts and bolts of operating a enterprise that sells SEO. 

Consulting is a sexy proposition if in case you have the very best shoppers. I do know most of the greatest SEOs who simply generate incomes of a number of hundred thousand a 12 months with just some shoppers. 

I’ve seen lifelong in-house SEOs battle with this transition. In distinction, it appeared second nature for my agency SEO pals to start facet hustles and finally transition into working full-time for themselves.

Get the day by day e-newsletter search entrepreneurs depend on.

The advantages of being in-house

Becoming an in-house SEO has numerous benefits which I actually get pleasure from. Some of them embody:

  • Having a greater high quality of life (for me, no less than). 
  • More alternatives for constant, deep work.
  • Not caring if shoppers fireplace you.
  • Going into tech or SEO product.

Better high quality of life

I do know some companies have a top quality of life. But by their nature, I’ve all the time discovered the work to be extra reactive relying on who the shopper is. 

I’ve additionally witnessed some shoppers being abusive to companies, as they are often a straightforward scapegoat when issues go south. 

It is nearly all the time painful for me to hitch a brand new firm. There’s a stage of needing to “show your self” initially. 

Yet over time, I discover the familiarity and friendships I’ve constructed inside an organization enable me to have a top quality of life I’m not assured I may discover in an agency with new firms, groups and stakeholders on a regular basis. 

This stage of peace and consolation normally occurs at across the 1.5-year mark, once you’ve had some wins and lastly really feel “settled.” 

My high quality of life is fairly distinctive, and I’ve no complaints at many of the massive firms I labored for.

More alternatives for constant, deep work

When you concentrate on only one buyer (your organization) day by day, getting the buy-in wanted for meaty, huge multi-year initiatives turns into a lot simpler. 

It additionally allows you to be an actual subject material knowledgeable in your merchandise, permitting you to tackle thrilling and out-of-the-box SEO concepts and not simply execute greatest practices. 

A number of my agency pals discover this lack of selection boring, however I personally love with the ability to assume deeply a couple of smaller portfolio of merchandise.

Not having to care in case your shoppers fireplace you 

Oftentimes, companies may need a giant shopper representing a disproportionate share of income within the agency. Losing shoppers like this usually can imply layoffs will shortly observe. 

This is kind of nerve-racking for me as a result of now I’ve to fret about doing SEO and holding the entire shoppers. 

Worrying about SEO outcomes and impression is sufficient for me, and I don’t like having my job safety tied too closely to a single buyer.

Going into tech and/or SEO product 

Tech has been a career-changer. I get to do what I really like together with engaged on merchandise I take advantage of day by day and receiving some extensively lauded business perks similar to:

  • Stock packages.
  • Generous advantages.
  • World-class snacks.
  • A advantageous training in huge firm vernacular (i.e., “taking a step again” to supply outcomes that basically “transfer the needle”). 

I acknowledge that I bought extremely fortunate with my timing at Square. Most tech firms fail, and it’s a extremely tumultuous business for the time being. But I’m deeply glad and appreciative of my expertise in tech, and it’s an unbelievable approach to construct wealth. 

Working for a tech firm additionally means there may be normally a big product administration group. 

This means you may have the ability to be part of and switch right into a extra conventional tech ladder and, finally, a extra well-rounded progress chief who maybe now not even does SEO. 

If you need to go into product, working for a tech firm is probably going the best approach to finally switch into this position fashion (if it doesn’t exist but).

Improving your probabilities of getting employed in-house

Interviewing for an in-house position? 

The commonest mistake I see agency SEOs make is spending an excessive amount of time discussing new enterprise when in-house firms merely don’t care. 

Here are my options:

Change the variety of shoppers to the variety of websites you owned

In-house hiring managers don’t care how a lot you billed or what number of shoppers you managed. They need to know the outcomes you produced for any specific shopper.

Focus on quantitative progress numbers, the dimensions of the websites, and the instruments you have got familiarity with. Remove something associated to promoting/closing shoppers.

If you have been a group supervisor, say it!

Mention how many individuals you employed and/or managed. Hiring is certainly one of your most vital jobs as a pacesetter, so if you happen to’re an ideal folks supervisor, allow them to know.

Name drop

Big firms like understanding you labored for different huge firms, particularly in the event that they’re rivals or firms like them.

If you had a sexy shopper base, allow them to know, and it is going to assist your resume stick out to the hiring supervisor.

Don’t be nervous

Remember, the corporate desires to fill this position essentially the most. It is of their greatest curiosity to love you.

If the corporate treats you poorly, this isn’t the proper firm for you, and it is best to transfer on.

Opinions expressed on this article are these of the visitor creator and not essentially Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

New on Search Engine Land

About The Author

Jackie Chu

Jackie Chu is presently the SEO Intelligence Lead at Uber Technologies in San Francisco. She has deep expertise in B2B, B2C and on-line publishing, and has led SEO and ASO efforts each in-house and as a guide for firms like Square, Dropbox and Yahoo. In addition to doing SEO, she loves losing cash at Barry’s Bootcamp, ingesting glowing wine and hanging out along with her mini Goldendoodle, Bailey.

Recommended For You

Leave a Reply