SEO vendors vs hiring in-house and how to choose an SEO company

With tight budgets and competing priorities, some marketers decide to put search engine optimization (SEO) on the back burner when planning their marketing strategy. Unfortunately, not investing in SEO can have major ramifications for your online visibility. With an average traffic share of 53% across industries, organic search “remains the dominant source of trackable web traffic and the largest digital channel,” according to BridghtEdge

Read Is SEO worth it? here.

If you’ve been in the market for a SEO service plan, you’ve probably read the articles detailing the warning signs of a bad provider: pitches or prices that seem too good to be true, buying links, and guarantees of #1 rankings top the list.

While many red flags are obvious, it can be harder to determine what makes an SEO company great.

  • How do you know if they have the skills to meet your particular set of needs?
  • What should you be looking for?

To make your decision easier, we have outlined four signs of a good SEO firm.

Agency vs In-house

So how do you decide how to best invest in SEO? For many marketers, the process begins by deciding whether to outsource the work to an SEO agency or bringing someone in-house. There are several factors to consider when weighing your decision. 

Cost

One of the biggest considerations when choosing between in-house and agency is budget. Bringing an employee in-house to work on digital marketing will require a salary and benefits, which can be costly and vary widely depending on your industry, location, and the specific role you’re hiring for. Glassdoor, for example, puts the average salary of a digital marketing specialist at roughly $50,000/year.

Agencies, on the other hand, typically bundle their services into packages or bill by the hour. According to Direction, “The majority of SEO campaigns from leading agencies in 2020 cost between $1,500-$10,000/month, with a 6-month contract being the typical agreement.”

Learn more about digital marketing pricing here.

Scope of Work

Whether you can justify these costs largely depends on the scope of work. Nowadays, digital marketing has just become marketing – it’s mandatory if you want to stay competitive and expand your reach. If your current marketing team is struggling to keep up with your existing tasks, you likely need to grow your internal team to become more efficient and remain competitive. But not every company has enough work to support a new employee indefinitely. If you need help for a limited period of time or on a certain project, outsourcing may be more cost-efficient. 

Specialization

Your final consideration is the level of specialization you require. A good digital marketing specialist will be a valuable addition to your marketing team by helping you with SEO, digital advertising, social media, and more. However, this in-house employee will have to divide their time between multiple marketing tactics and will likely be a “jack of all trades” rather than a SEO expert. 

If your website is struggling to generate organic traffic, it can be worthwhile to hire an agency that specializes in SEO. A good agency will do a thorough SEO audit of your website, create a strategy to address their findings, and carry out tasks that will have the biggest impact on your organic visibility. Hiring a specialist is especially important for SEO-heavy projects like website redesigns, where even seemingly small changes to design, architecture, and content can have major ramifications for your rankings and traffic.

How to choose an SEO company

If you’ve been in the market for a SEO service plan, you’ve probably read the articles detailing the warning signs of a bad provider: pitches or prices that seem too good to be true, buying links, and guarantees of #1 rankings top the list.

While many red flags are obvious, it can be harder to determine what makes an SEO company great.

  • How do you know if they have the skills to meet your particular set of needs?
  • What should you be looking for?

To make your decision easier, we have outlined four signs of a good SEO firm.

They demonstrate expertise.

A good SEO company will be able to demonstrate their expertise with a strong online presence.

This includes:

  • Positive reviews on Google My Business, Yelp, and social media platforms like Facebook.
  • Case studies that clearly outline the work they’ve done and the results they achieved. The work should have been completed in the past couple years, since Google’s algorithm is always changing — strategies that worked ten years ago will likely not work today (or may even get you penalized).
  • Customer testimonials. You can find them on the website, or ask to speak to a customer directly.
  • Valid industry certifications. Certifications should come from established brands and platforms like Google and Facebook. These companies are industry leaders offering formal training and certification (such as the Google Analytics Individual Qualification and Facebook Blueprint Certification, respectively). Certification from marketing platforms like HubSpot and SEO tools like SEMRush will ensure you are working with an experienced SEO provider.
  • Bonus: A company that is a Google Partner. Google Partners have passed certification exams and received a badge from Google that verifies their status. Google Partners can specialize in skills like search advertising and display advertising, and receive benefits from Google like educational and growth opportunities. Some agencies like Pure Visibility have become a Premier Google Partner, which adds an extra layer of recognition.

They communicate with you.

An experienced SEO team will know how to communicate the work they do (and its impact) to all levels of the organizational structure. This includes formal reporting like presentation decks and dashboards, as well as more frequent or casual communication like emails.

To get a feel for an SEO agency’s level of customer experience, ask:

  • How quickly do you typically respond to emails?
  • How often do you meet with your clients?
  • When and how often would I expect to see reports?
  • How many clients do your project managers handle at once?

If a company is unresponsive or overloading themselves with work, it’s best to steer clear. This will also give you an idea of what you can expect when you have questions or need a report pulled. Some agencies might not be able to handle the level of service you require, and it’s best to know that up front.

They’re transparent about their work.

A company that takes the time to understand your goals and has SEO expertise should be able to produce good results and prove it. Look for companies that prepare client reports, provide metrics, and explain it all in a way that makes sense. While a less-trustworthy SEO company may be vague about its progress, an honest one will keep you in the loop and back up what they’re saying.  

A good SEO company will also be open and honest about the work they do. There is no “secret” to SEO success, and anyone that insists otherwise is either ignorant or relying on gray and black hat tactics. An honest practitioner with nothing to hide should have no problem explaining their methods and why they work. They should be able to back it up with cold hard data, and won’t be vague about the details. 

HubSpot’s Introduction to Black Hat SEO includes many of the tactics you should look out for, including keyword stuffing, low-quality content, private blog networks and paid links. If a company alludes to any of these tactics (or describes practices that sound suspiciously similar), it’s a red flag. Remember, black hat practices can cause Google to penalize your site.

How to choose the right SEO company for you.

The four traits we listed above are a great starting point to help you find the right SEO provider for your needs. Ask yourself how the companies you’re considering stack up in these areas. And then consider which team you’re most excited to work with. Personality fit may be somewhat intangible, but it’s worth extra consideration when choosing an SEO company that’s a good fit for your business.


Interested in hiring an SEO company? Check out our SEO plans.

 

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