SEO agency vs in-house SEO - Here's how to know if you should hire an agency or build an in-house team

If you’re a small to medium-sized business owner with a marketing budget of under $10,000 per month, then hiring an SEO agency is better.

SEO agencies typically charge between $2,000 and $10,000 per month, and they take care of every aspect of SEO, including technical audits, SEO strategy, content writing, backlink building, and conversion tracking; you won’t have to manage a team of employees and pay $15,000+ every month in salaries.

However, if you’re part of a larger organization and you can afford to spend $15,000+ per month on employee salaries, then it’s worth building your own team. This in-house SEO team will be dedicated to understanding your product and customers instead of working on multiple businesses at once.

In the guide below, we wanted to discuss in more detail the benefits of hiring an SEO agency vs in-house SEO team.

Who are we: We’re a full-service SaaS SEO agency that helps software startups reach 10K organic monthly visitors in 12 months. Our complete optimization program covers the core areas of SEO with a specialized focus on growing SaaS companies. Nicolas Jacobeus started SaaSpirin after years of building SaaS products only to see companies struggle to gain traction in search. Book a call with him now to secure your free audit + traffic projection.

Why should I hire an SEO agency?

These are some reasons why you should hire an SEO agency instead of building an in-house team:

  1. It’s cheaper 
  2. You can hit the ground running immediately 
  3. You don't have to manage a team yourself
  4. You access more SEO experience and expertise 
  5. It's easier to calculate ROI
  6. You can scale quickly
  7. It’s more reliable

1. It's cheaper

The biggest benefit to working with an SEO agency is price. For example, our SEO agency, SaaSpirin, charges $2,999 per month. This package consists of:

  • A technical and content website audit
  • A bottom-of-the-funnel keyword strategy
  • Four product-based content pieces per month
  • Backlink building to high-authority websites
  • Conversion tracking inside Google Analytics

This is everything you need to bring in organic conversions.

Compare this to building an in-house SEO team, where you'll have to pay employee salaries, recruiter fees, onboarding expenses, etc.

Let’s do a rough estimation: According to Backlinko, hiring an SEO employee costs between $50 and $150 per hour. Let's say you're paying your SEO employees $50 per hour, and they are working 130 hours per month. You'll have to pay each employee $6,500 per month.

Say you're hiring four employees. One for technical audits, one for SEO strategy and content writing, one for building backlinks, and one Google Analytics expert for measuring and tracking conversions.

That's $26,000 per month out of your pocket, not to mention paying for the SEO tools that your employees will need to do their job.

Paying $26,000 might be okay for larger companies with big budgets. But this is most likely unfeasible if you're a startup or medium-sized business.

2. You don't have to manage a team yourself

When doing discovery calls with potential customers, we always hear stories about how they tried to build an in-house SEO team, but managing several full-time employees was so time-consuming that they decided to outsource everything to an agency.

This is another reason why hiring an SEO agency is better. SEO agencies will handle everything needed to generate organic traffic and conversions with little to no work required on your side. 

Most agencies will just do a weekly or biweekly video call with you to update you on the content they published, the backlinks they built, and any new website visitors that turned into customers. 

You won’t have to manage an SEO team or worry about publishing content or building backlinks.

3. You can hit the ground running immediately

When you hire an SEO agency, you can hit the ground running within a couple of weeks.

The entire onboarding process involves one or two video calls where the agency will ask questions about your product, your customers, and your competitors.

From here, they’ll begin writing articles, and maybe you'll need to hop on another few calls in case the agency has any more questions.

However, when you’re building an in-house SEO team, you'll need to post job ads, screen applicants, do job interviews, pay recruiters, and onboard these employees. From here, your employees will have to build rapport with each other and establish clear work processes, and this entire process can take 6+ months.

4. You access more SEO experience and expertise

An agency like ours with a track record of taking new websites from zero to 10K monthly traffic has the expertise to bring in results. 

This expertise is perfect for small to medium-sized businesses because you don't have to worry about whether a new employee has the skills to take you to 10K monthly traffic. You can simply look at the case studies on an SEO agency’s website to see the traffic and conversions they generated for previous clients.

On the flip side, finding a full-time employee with a proven track record of generating traffic and conversions is difficult. In our experience, these professionals usually start their own SEO agencies; they aren’t working for a single company.

So if you decide to go the in-house route, you'll have to take a gamble on employees who might not have experience generating traffic and conversions.

5. It's easier to calculate your ROI

If you're hiring an SEO agency that reports on conversions every month, it'll be easy to calculate the ROI on the retainer you're paying them.

All you have to do is take the net return on your investment, divide it by the retainer you’re paying, and multiply this number by 100.

For example, if you paid an SEO agency $24,000 over 12 months and they brought in $80,000 worth of conversions, you can use this formula to get an ROI percentage of 230 percent.

Doing this with an in-house SEO team is possible, but you'll have to add the salaries of your SEO employees, the amount of money you're paying for subscriptions, and any employee benefits and perks.

6. You can scale quickly

Hiring an SEO agency also gives you more flexibility when your business grows, or you start offering more products and services.

If sales is doing well and you want to scale SEO, you can simply ask your SEO agency to publish more articles and build more backlinks for a bigger monthly retainer.

However, if you have an in-house team, you'll need to hire additional staff, which can take a couple of months. This new staff will have to get accustomed to how your company does things, affecting how fast you can scale SEO.

7. It’s more reliable

Outsourcing SEO to an agency is more reliable than building an in-house team because you won't have to deal with employees quitting or calling in sick. 

The SEO agency publishes a couple of articles monthly and builds a certain number of backlinks to these articles. Good SEO agencies will meet all these deadlines, regardless of whether their content writer is sick or their Google Analytics expert took annual leave.

When managing an in-house SEO team, there's no guarantee that you'll achieve your SEO targets every month. People will fall sick or take leave, and you'll have to hire freelancers to fill in.

When should you build an in-house team?

However, hiring SEO agencies isn’t always the best option. Here are two scenarios that we believe building an in-house team is better:

  • You’re part of a larger organization
  • You’re writing technical content

You’re part of a larger organization

However, hiring an SEO agency isn't always the best decision. If you're part of a larger organization and you have the resources to hire several SEO employees, then it might be a good idea to invest in your own SEO team.

This in-house SEO team will put all their time and effort into understanding your product, competition, and target customer. They won't be juggling several clients at once.

And if you have extra budget, you can avoid many drawbacks of building an in-house SEO team, such as managing the team yourself. You can hire a marketing manager to manage everything and report to you once a week or so.

You’re writing technical content

We also find that if you’re writing technical content, maybe you’re writing in-depth guides on data structures or large language models, it’s much easier to have one of your software engineers write the article. 

This is because engineers understand the nitty-gritty of solving these technical problems. If they’re struggling to communicate their ideas clearly, you could have an editor or writer review their drafts.

When hiring an SEO agency, especially an SEO agency with minimal technical experience, the writing process can get frustrating. It’s common for the SEO agency to make technical mistakes, and the back and forth of fixing these mistakes takes longer than if you just had a software engineer write the article.

Take your website to 10K monthly traffic starting today!

If you want to achieve the goal of generating 10K monthly traffic and consistent conversions within the next 12 months, consider hopping on a quick discovery call with us. Here’s a high-level explanation of our SEO process:

  • We run a keyword gap analysis: Instead of haphazardly choosing keywords, we’ll put all the keywords your competitors are ranking for in a spreadsheet and filter out the keywords you already rank for. This leaves us with a spreadsheet of keywords you have the potential to rank for
  • We write detailed, product-based articles. To rank for these keywords, we'll first have to gain an understanding of your customers and their pain points, as well as how your product solves these pain points. We'll then use this information in our article to show readers how your product is better than the alternatives.
  • We track conversions inside Google Analytics: We'll also set up attribution tracking inside Google Analytics, so we know which articles are generating conversions.
  • We build backlinks to high-converting articles: Once we understand which articles bring in the most conversions, we'll build backlinks to these articles. Our reasoning for this is that as we rank higher and drive more high-intent traffic to these bottom-of-the-funnel posts, we'll drive more conversions.

If you're interested in learning more about our zero to 10K approach, book a call with our founder here.