In-house vs agency: The battle for SEO

The debate of deciding whether to stay in-house for all your SEO needs or enlist the support of an external agency reigns on, writes Laura Middlebrook, PR and content executive at IDHL.

Both have their own merits. From reduced costs when using your own team to saving time and resource through agency support which can make managing your SEO tricky.

Ultimately, your decision comes down to which will benefit your business most. But when it comes to scaling your brand, does your in-house team have what it takes to propel your organic presence to the next level? Here, we discuss why you should consider working with a specialist SEO agency to help support your business growth.

The know-how to succeed

An in-house team undoubtedly has its own strengths that benefit the business. Nobody understands your brand better than an internal team who work day in, day out with your products and services.

But how far can they take your SEO strategy?

Working with an agency, you have access to expertise you may not have in-house. Often, internal teams are one or two members who manage multiple marketing disciplines across your brand. On the other hand, agencies are often home to dedicated SEO experts whose role is solely to enhance their clients’ organic performance.

Technical SEO account manager, Tino Schreuders, described his experience of working in an in-house SEO team: “The largest SEO team I’ve worked with in-house is three. This creates its own set of challenges when you’re working on a strategy as you don’t really have anyone to spar with. Whereas if you’re working as part of a wider team, you can discuss these things. The amount of help you can get from just asking a question to a group of others is impressive and then you can form your own opinion based on that.”

When leaning on the expertise of an agency, you’ll be dealing with one or two key members of their team. But, behind the faces you talk to, there is a team of experienced SEO whizzes working together to boost your brand’s performance. Even if they’re not working directly on your project, you’ll benefit from key insights across multiple experts to help your SEO strategy excel.

Although your in-house team is ingrained in your business, this can sometimes hinder the progress of your online strategy. Agencies can look at your brand objectively while learning about your wider business to pinpoint areas of your strategy that might be missing the mark.

Access to more

The digital space doesn’t stand still. With continuous development and algorithm updates, keeping up-to-date is vital to your online success. As an in-house team, you need to carefully consider how your team is equipped to keep up with the landscape. With an abundance of different tools available to support your digital marketing and SEO, it’s important to trial which platforms are worth investing in.

Agencies are well-versed in responding to the rapid changes that are part and parcel of the digital world. Working with multiple clients, agency teams have access to tried and tested best-in-class tools that help to deliver SEO results that are a cut above the competition. Alongside a bigger budget for third-party systems, agencies often have their own proprietary software too. From competitor analysis to specialist keyword analysis, agencies have the time, resource and finances to develop and invest in next-level software that most in-house teams can’t match.

Specialist SEO agencies must constantly evolve to keep up with the ever-changing SEO goalposts. From their own internal training to support from their partners, such as Google or Meta, agencies have access to a wealth of support that in-house teams often don’t.

Making the choice: in-house vs agency

Ultimately, the decision whether to keep your SEO in-house or work with an agency comes down to your business goals. As the online landscape becomes increasingly competitive, no matter what industry you’re in, your SEO needs to work harder than it ever has before to help you stand out.

With more brands appearing in the space you operate in, you need to understand how this impacts your SEO rankings and your organic traffic. For example, as the women’s fashion sector grows, competition for keywords such as ‘women’s dresses’ has become fiercer over the years. The below graph from Google Trends shows the increase in search term popularity highlighting the saturation brands face to rank highly for their key terms.

Working with an agency, you have access to the best in the business. With a huge wealth of experience in numerous sectors, agencies can think outside of the box to ensure your SEO is always on the up. While in-house teams are vastly experienced in their sector and have unparalleled insider knowledge, they may not have the skill set or resource to continuously propel your organic presence forward.

The right decision comes down to a number of factors including what you want to achieve with your SEO, your industry and your budget.

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