SEO Agency vs. In-House Team: Which is right for you?

Updated on 8 Oct 2020 by Elliott Davidson

As your business grows, a common question pops up:

How am I going to get all the marketing work done?

It’s not a bad problem to have. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy fix. You need help. Who provides this help boils down to two options:

Hire full time employees to focus on the digital marketing or hire an agency to do it for you.

SEO Agency vs. In-House Team

There is no right or wrong answer here.

The right option for you depends so much on your business, goals, budget and time you want to invest.

Before you jump in and start weighing up the pros and cons of both options, there are some factors to consider:

3 Factors to consider

When it comes to picking between agency or in-house, there’s three areas you really want to focus in on:

Expertise, Efficiency and Expense.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into these first:

#1 Expertise

This is so dependent on the individual, nevermind agency or inhouse. But regardless of what specific expertise criteria you require, you are going to want future workers to offer the services you need, have some brand/industry knowledge and be aware of trends.

#2 Efficiency

Knowing what to do is essential. Not taking ages to do it is important too. The speed and efficiency at which tasks can be completed, emails answered and issues handled is vital.

#3 Expense

The elephant in the room – how much is it going to cost. The cost of inhouse team vs an agency and which will provide the best ROI is going to be probably be one of your biggest deciding factors.

Should we hire and train an in-house team or look to hire an agency?

SEO is important.

This is no secret nor is it anything new. So it goes without saying that putting the success of your businesses SEO in the hands of anyone is a important decision to make.

Whether you are developing a new SEO strategy or revising an existing one, going with an inhouse SEO or an agency is the first big question you need to answer.

Both can work.

But which is right for you and your business?

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both:

In House Advantages

One of the biggest advantages of hiring in-house is brand knowledge.

Nobody will understand your business better than you, or the people that work and are around you.

An agency may try to get a deep understanding of your business, but the reality is that they will be at a disadvantage compared to an in house marketer.


An in house marketers will be part of your business every working day. They’ll be immersed in your company and its culture. Not to mention it’s visions and goals.

Being part of and understanding how your business works helps to form closer working relationships. This kind of immersion is hard to compete with.

And it’ll give an in house marketer a clearer grasp of things.

Whilst an agency offers an outside perspective, they may take some time to build up background knowledge.

What’s more, if your business is part of a niche industry, an agency may take time getting up to speed with the ins and outs.

There’s no doubt an agency could build up enough industry knowledge about your brand. It’s just that internal staff members have a clear advantage.

They can go to in house experts, leverage internal resources and get brand knowledge directly from the horse’s mouth.

When it comes to things like producing content, this access to knowledge will allow them to go more in-depth and more technical.

What’s more, by knowing the ins and outs of you business, inhouse employees are in a better position to focus and prioritize work. Afterall all, they won’t have to juggle accounts like their agency counterpart.

A deep knowledge of the industry will also allow an inhouse marketer to focus and prioritize the work that will move the needle.

This type of knowledge takes time to build up and is even harder to do from outside.

TL;DR – Inhouse Advantages

  • Brand knowledge – an agency wont know your band as well as you (or your employees)
  • Understanding how your business works forms a closer working relationship between you and your inhouse team
  • Focus and prioritisation of the work as they aren’t juggling accounts.

In House Disadvantages

There are downsides to inhouse too.

It can be hard to recruit and retain talent. Why?

Because many marketers who want to build a career will prefer to go the agency route as they get to work on a variety of campaigns and expand their knowledge.

There’s no getting around the fact that working in house, on just one website vs a range of websites may seem limiting in terms of career growth and in gaining experience.

Working on a range of websites and a range of industries has another benefit:


Working in an agency means you work on lots of different type of projects and can learn what works well (and what doesn’t). This type of real world experience is hard to match.

Knowing what works and what doesn’t based on past experience is a real advantage for your business. Something a inhouse worker may lack.

You also need to consider team size.

In-house teams tend to be smaller than agencies (but not always). In cases of large businesses with lean in-house teams, there maybe a need to work with specialist agencies instead of a full service one.

For most small to medium businesses, there is likely to be only one person in-house. And quite often their knowledge tends to be broad and not specialist compared to an agency.

What’s more, having an inhouse team or even just one marketer can get expensive. Paying for a range of tools like auditing software, rank trackers and other subscriptions every month adds up.

If you want your inhouse team to be effective, you need to equip them.

Whereas if you hire an agency, they will provide their own tools. It’s part of what you pay them for.

TL;DR – Inhouse Disadvantages

  • Can be hard to recruit talent and keep talent around long term.
  • Broader knowledge and less experience in different types of projects compared to an agency.
  • Can also get expensive if you need to hire a specialist agency as well as in-house and paying for tools adds up

Agency Advantages

Hiring an agency gets you a certain level of expertise and experience.

Think about it:

If you hire a copywriter and then expect them to also do technical SEO and they don’t have those skills, you’re going to have a bad time.

To get tasks done outside your inhouse teams skillset, you will either need to train them or hire someone who can do it. Both of which can be time consuming and costly.

However with an agency, a team is provided for you based on your requirements. If you need a job doing, there will be someone to do it, get results and report back.

After all, a good agency is going to use it’s experience to be results-driven in order to keep you on board. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

And that’s what’s great about agencies:

You gain their collective wisdom.

A good agency will have encountered all manner of problems before and will have dealt with them. They will be equipped with strategies and tactics.

Leverage this to help grow your business.

Another benefit of hiring an agency is scaling. Scaling an inhouse team is more than doable, but it is costly.

If you need to ramp up a campaign and you don’t have enough people inhouse to manage it, you and your team will struggle.

On the other hand, if you are using an agency, just increase your monthly retainer to get the work done.

It’ll be quicker than hiring and training new staff.

TL;DR – Agency Advantages

  • Experienced team provided for you, no need to hire and train one.
  • Results driven to keep you on board.
  • Can tap into collective wisdom.
  • Opportunity to scale.

Agency Disadvantages

One of the biggest drawbacks of an agency is not having their sole focus. Not in the same way you would with an inhouse marketer anyway.

Even a small agency is likely to have other clients. Your work will be planned out, distributed and given an allotted amount of hours based on what you pay.

There is nothing wrong with this, but sometimes you may face slower turnaround times when compared to inhouse.

In order to get work done, you may have to prioritise specific tasks to move them along.

Now this can definitely happen with inhouse employees too. But it’s easy to manage them. Which leads on nicely to the next point.

Communication can have it’s own challengers with an agency.

You won’t be able to pop over to their office for a quick chat. Face to face chats will have to be planned and booked in advance due to busy schedules on both sides.

Although this can be overcome by setting regular meetings to catch up on work. This largely depends on how you run your business as to how many times you want to do this.

This lack of a personal touch can make it feel like a virtual service.

If you like the idea of having a team, having an agency work on your account may feel like the opposite.

Setting up meetings and scheduling work can lead to longer waiting times to get work done.

TL;DR – Agency Disadvantages

  • Agency not working on your site full time.
  • Communication can be a challenge.
  • Can feel like a lack of team.
  • Longer waiting times for work to be completed.

Questions you should ask yourself

There is no right or wrong answer for choosing between an agency or in-house. The answer really comes down to you and your business.

However, there are some questions that could help your narrow down your answer.

Remember the three E’s from the start?

Hint: Expertise, Efficiency and Expense.

Well these questions all come back to them.

What type of experience are you looking for?

If you are a company in a large industry that sells a specific product, you want to hire someone with experience, or at the very least knowledge of your industry.

You need someone with expertise.

This could come from either a agency that specialises in your area or a inhouse employee with industry experience.

The point is, experience and expertise is valuable and it can come from both inhouse and an agency.

What type of person do I need?

If this is your first hire, you might not know exactly what you need or what skillsets are on offer to you.

But it’s important to think what tasks you want your agency or inhouse team to do and how efficient you want them done.

In fact, you could even ask them what they prefer doing. People generally like doing what they are good at.

This may help you decide which way to go.

How much will it cost?

High quality work is an expense. There’s no way getting around this.

If you want the best, you have to pay.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to list the price differences between inhouse and agencies.

But it’s an important factor to consider. Look at how much you are willing to spend. Look at what you need vs what options are available. And match them up.

Investing in inhouse SEO or an agency is exactly that: an investment and should be treated in the same manner.

So which one do I pick?

Choosing an SEO agency or an in-house marketer is a big move for any business.

Let’s be honest, we may be a little biased here. After all, we are a marketing agency and we’d love to help you grow your business. Check out our work with us page to see if we’d be a good fit.

On the other hand, an inhouse marketer may be better for you. There really is no right or wrong answer.

Still unsure which to pick? Why not take our quiz to find out which option suits your business best:


It ultimately comes down to one thing:

Which best suits your business goals?

All businesses are different, with different needs. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages and a combination of the two may in fact be the best approach.

You need to decide which benefits best fit your business:

If you want brand knowledge, a closer working relationship and focus, then inhouse is probably the way to go.

If you want an experienced, scaleable team, collective wisdom and a results-driven approach, then agency is the way to go.

Either can work. Which you pick depends where your priorities lie.