SEO agency vs SEO freelancer - Which one should I hire?

If you have the budget for it, hiring an SEO agency is generally the better choice because agencies have teams dedicated to each aspect of SEO: technical SEO, SEO strategy, content writing, backlink building, conversion tracking, etc.

It's very difficult to find an SEO freelancer who's good at all these SEO subsections. Most SEO freelancers specialize in one part of SEO, and they might know a little bit about the others.

For example, on our team, our technical SEO is very good at auditing websites and identifying mistakes that’s affecting a website’s rankings. However, he doesn’t know how to write content.

Our content writers are very good at creating thought leadership-type content that helps clients generate conversions, but they can't build backlinks.

However, everything has pros and cons, so in this guide, we wanted to help you decide whether you should hire an SEO agency vs SEO freelancer depending on your needs.

Note: We are a conversion-based SEO agency. While we do measure traffic and rankings, our main KPI is client conversions. We generate conversions by prioritizing high-buying intent keywords and writing articles that show ready-to-buy readers how your product solves their pain points better than the competition. So if you’re thinking about partnering with a conversion-based SEO agency, consider booking a quick discovery call.

When is hiring an SEO agency best?

These are some reasons why hiring an SEO agency is better than hiring an SEO freelancer:

  • You’ll have teams dedicated to each subsection of SEO
  • You’ll drive conversions to your product
  • You won’t have to manage multiple freelancers
  • You can easily scale your SEO operations
  • You’ll save money (maybe)

You’ll have teams dedicated to each subsection of SEO

As mentioned above, the biggest benefit of hiring an SEO agency is gaining access to professionals specializing in every part of SEO, such as technical SEO, content writing, and backlink building.

These SEO professionals work together to create and execute a complete SEO strategy.

With freelancers, they’ll usually excel in one subsection of SEO.

This is okay if you only have one SEO problem you'd like to solve, but if you want to create a holistic SEO strategy with this approach, you'll need to hire and manage several freelancers, and at this point, you might as well build an in-house team.

You’ll drive conversions to your product

If you partner with a conversion-based SEO agency, you can easily calculate your ROI on the retainer you’re paying them. For instance, if an agency brought in $80,000 of conversions over the last year and you paid the agency $24,000, then your return is 230 percent.

Generally speaking, SEO freelancers don’t take responsibility for conversions. If you browse through Fiverr or Upwork, you’ll find that they usually complete very specific SEO tasks, whether it’s optimizing 15 pages on your website or building five backlinks.

Again, this is fine if you have a couple of tasks you want taken care of, but if you’re looking to drive product conversions, an SEO agency is a better choice.

You won’t have to manage multiple freelancers

Working with an agency also requires less in-house management because you’re outsourcing the entire SEO process. You don't have to worry about writers publishing content on time or SEOs building enough backlinks. Everything is taken care of by the agency.

Most agencies will hop on a video call with you every week or two to update you on:

  • Why they are targeting certain keywords
  • Which articles they published
  • Any backlinks they've built
  • New product sign-ups that came from the articles they published 

These calls take around 30 minutes, but they require almost no work from your side.

Compare this to hiring a team of SEO freelancers, where you have to keep up to date on whether writers are publishing on time, strategists are targeting the right keywords, and SEOs are building backlinks to authority websites.

When we do discovery calls with clients, we always hear how they tried to hire a couple of freelancers, but the management process was so tedious that they decided to just outsource everything.

You can easily scale your SEO operations

When your business grows or you start offering different products and services, you can easily scale your SEO efforts by asking your agency to publish content more frequently and build more backlinks.

These SEO agencies have the internal capacity to scale SEO instantly and handle these bigger projects.

However, let's say you're working with freelancers and want to scale SEO. You'll have to hire more freelancers, which requires both time and money as you're posting job ads, screening applicants, conducting interviews, etc.

Once everybody is on board, you'll need to manage this larger team by overseeing daily operations, which takes more time out of your day.

You’ll save money (maybe)

Hiring an affordable, conversion-based SEO agency can sometimes be cheaper than hiring a freelancer.

Let's do the math: Backlinko says SEO freelancers charge between $50 and $150 per hour. So, let's use the middle ground. Say you hire an SEO freelancer for $100. You need them to build an SEO strategy and write bottom-of-the-funnel articles. Say this takes 40 hours per month.

You'll be paying $4,000 per month for this freelancer and they won't even handle technical SEO and backlink building.

Compare this figure to SEO agencies, specifically our agency, SaaSpirin. We can't talk about other agencies’ pricing, but our Full SEO package costs $2,499 monthly. This includes a website audit, bottom-of-the-funnel SEO strategy, detailed product-based articles, backlink building, and conversion tracking.

In this scenario, you'll save $1,500 while taking care of every aspect of SEO.

When should you hire an SEO freelancer?

However, hiring an SEO agency isn't always a good idea. This is when we'd recommend going with a freelancer:

  • You only need SEO help in one specific area
  • You want more financial flexibility

You only need SEO help in one specific area

If you already have an in-house SEO team and need a specific task to be done like backlink building, maybe because your current staff's schedule is full, then hiring a freelancer makes sense.

You won't have to commit to hiring an agency that offers a holistic conversion-based approach because your current team is already doing that. You can just get someone to spend a couple of hours building links or optimizing web pages.

We see this most commonly with backlink building because it's the most frustrating and boring part of SEO. You're basically sending hundreds of cold emails, hoping for one or two responses. So, even if companies have in-house employees and they need to build a few quick links to a new post, they'll hire a freelancer to do this.

You want more financial flexibility

In the section above, we mentioned that hiring an SEO agency can sometimes be cheaper. 

While this may be true, an SEO agency is a bigger commitment since many will require you to stay with them for at least six months to a year. (Side note: We do not require clients to stay for a minimum time period; you can cancel anytime.)

So when business is slow, you might not be able to pause your “subscription.”

With freelancers, you can budget for 15 hours every month and have them complete specific SEO tasks within these 15 hours. After this period, there's no obligation to continue working with them.

If a freelancer does a great job, you’ll obviously use them again in the future. But the flexibility of not having to set thousands of dollars aside for the next six months can make freelancers a better choice for smaller businesses.

Partner with a conversion-based SEO agency today!

This is Our Methodology for driving conversions to our clients’ websites:

  • Run a website audit: This website audit identifies technical and content problems you’re making. Once we fix these problems, we normally see an increase in rankings within a few weeks.
  • Target bottom-of-the-funnel search terms: We prioritize bottom-of-the-funnel search terms because they convert best. Searchers typing in “best budgeting software for investors” or “best HR software for small businesses” are ready to buy. They don’t need nurturing.
  • Write content that highlights your product differentiators: We write bottom-of-the-funnel content that presents your product as the solution to readers’ pain points and highlights why it’s better than the competition. This allows us to convert around four to eight percent of readers.
  • Track conversions inside Google Analytics: We report on conversions monthly by tracking it inside Google Analytics so you can calculate the return on the retainer you’re paying us.
  • Build backlinks to high-converting articles: The last part of our process involves building backlinks to these high-converting pieces so we can rank higher, bring in more ready-to-buy traffic, and thus, more conversions.

If you’re thinking about partnering with a conversion-based SEO agency or you’d like to learn more about Our Methodology, consider hopping a 15-minute discovery call!