Using an SEO Company vs. Hiring an In-House Expert: The True Dollar Cost

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:

[ Search]

It’s a common question that companies who are considering hiring a search engine optimization company often face – is this something that we can do in-house?   More importantly, can we do this in-house and get the same results that an expert search engine optimization company would provide?

As this article will demonstrate, clearly the answer is "yes" to both questions.  However, as this article will also demonstrate, getting the types of results that an expert at search engine optimization can provide will cost you – often more than outsourcing.

For the purpose of this article, I’m ignoring the multitudes of companies that decide to dump the job on somebody already in their organization (usually an IT person who already has too much to do) rather than hiring a search engine optimization company.  It has been my experience that while some of these people eventually provide decent results, they are the exception.  More often than not, the project never leaves the ground, or the effort is halfhearted at best.  In a worst case scenario, your internal person may embrace tactics that no expert search engine optimization company would ever use because they can put your site at risk of penalization or outright removal from the engine indexes.

My company often works with firms after they have used non-expert internal talent to optimize their website, and most of the time we are actually doing more work because much of what has been done is ineffective or dangerous. We have to take everything apart and put it all back together, often while making requests to the search engines to have penalties lifted.

The real goal of this article, however, is to assume that a business has decided to embark on a search engine optimization campaign, and that it is also committed to using a proven expert in search engine optimization.  The choice then is simple – does the business hire an experienced resource to work in-house or should it instead go with an outsourced search engine optimization company?

A recent study by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, published in the January 2008 edition of DM News ("Healthy SEM Salaries Rule: SEMPO Survey"), points out that experience in search engine marketing carries a high price tag.  For instance, if you were looking to hire someone with more than five years of experience in search engine marketing, you could expect to pay between $100,000 and $200,000 per year.  For somebody with experience but not five or more years, you can expect to pay anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

If nothing else, these real world figures should convince discerning companies that expert search engine optimization and marketing is not something that you should dump off on an existing employee without any experience in the field.  The free market has determined that expert search engine optimization and marketing is worth at least $60,000 per year for a full time position, and up to $200,000 per year.

On the other hand, most reputable search agencies have many more than five years of collective experience in the search engine marketing industry.  In addition, a high percentage of these agencies offer SEO services that cost considerably less than $60,000 per year, to say nothing of $200,000 per year.  It should also be noted that this figure neglects to include any of the additional costs associated with hiring – benefits, training, and so on.  In addition, an expert search engine optimization company will have a broad range of sites from which to draw knowledge, while your in-house expert will likely only have one, or a handful at best.

To be fair, there are certain advantages to hiring an in-house expert.  First of all, experts will have their feet to the fire, so to speak.  A search engine optimization company isn’t likely to go out of business if it underperforms on your site, but an in-house expert in search engine optimization is likely to lose his or her job.  It’s also much easier to get the whole team together to discuss your SEO initiatives at any time you choose when you are working with someone in-house. And hey, when you’re paying someone $200,000 per year, you can be pretty certain that you’re going to get top-notch work. But can an expert search engine optimization company give you that same level of work for a lot less money? Probably.


There are many compelling reasons why your business should hire an expert search engine optimization company rather than bring in an SEO expert internally or simply give the SEO project to an existing team member. Financially, it makes sense. But more so, you’re more likely to get the results over the short and long term with an outsourced company for all of the reasons noted above. I’m not saying you have to hire an SEO company – at first. I’m saying eventually you’ll probably want to.

Using an SEO Company vs. Hiring an In-House Expert: The True Dollar Cost
About Scott Buresh
Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue, which was recently named the number one search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data. WebProNews Writer
Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • http://www.posicionarsitio.es H

    Hey Scott. When I saw the title my first thought was "I am sure he is not going to say that  …. so I will tell him that …". While I was reading it the following thoughts were "Yes, he is right but …but I will tellScott ". When I finished reading I saied to myself  "this article is exactly what I think about, I just have to thank Scott"

    So, thanks Scott

    Héctor – www.posicionarsitio.es

  • http://blogs.johnasimpson.com John Simpson

    It is possible that someone in-house could be trained to do this job.  Although the best results will be from someone doing this full-time, someone could be taught to perform these duties as a small part of their overall job.

  • http://www.officialnetwealth.com Guest

    There’s one thing you must remembers and keep saying to yourself.

    You are better served only by yourself.

    No one can guarantee you the top.

    Do it yourself is the best way to go, if you have money to spend hire someone who learned it by mistakes and who can devote most of his time to your project, cause this search engine ranking battel take a lot of time and effort.

    Try and do it yourself or look for someone who will personally do the work for you.

    Company’s may not guarantee you ranking only google bot will.

    seach engine world chane all the time so don’t be fooled by any promises.

    • http://www.modastrass.com petersen

      Hi there


      we outsourced a dedicated craft for 4 hours a day. a "seo specialist".

      everyday we get a report with an excel spreadsheet attached to it

      5 links on pure ad sense sites in pakistan or india with page rank 0 sometimes 1 and once in a month page rank 2

      since we asked them to do social bookmarkings we got 2 links a day on adsense pages and no name directories  (pages created to make money out of people paying for advertising through adwords) and 1 bookmarking

      as a matter of fact this is something that could be done by any unskilled person, even a teenager, or a high school student could do even better

      we are paying top euros for this and i guess it is a rip off, a plain scam!

      when we ask them kindly not to place any more links on adsense sites, their salesman tells us  : do you know matt cuts? he says a link is a link

      wonderfull, isn’t it?


      so get yourself all the for dummies books and read them, afterwards you are probably more capable than any seo superstar company, and if you just invest an hour a day you build 5 links with some worthiness, ask your businesspartners and customers for threeway linking, but beware of hiring "experts". this experts ussually do not do the work themselves but undercontract to some people who can hardly read or write in some far off countries that can hardly read or write properly.

      The really good ones aren’t cheap and the cheap one are just that =cheap

      They  will hire some unskilled labour to do what is most important to you, and give you a lot of high ranking & classified lip work about their expertise and similar bull….

      does it ring a bell?

      so basically, if you make yourself five links a day constantly every day every month you will certrainly be on the top ten on every search engine. of course your content has to be related and you metatagx and your site title relevance.


      if for example you sell shoes, get a vbulletin and a blog and blog and post comments about shoes and let your customers build the content and write the keyword heavy content the serps want. take your one hour a day to build links get yourself a webcatalog to set the backlinks of those giving you inbound links.

      if you are a big company, well then SEO’s will do just what i said, plus get you some speaking domains, and build content loaded sites just like the add sense kiddies do, and  funnel them to your shop plus advice you to pay for inclusion in such or such high ranking directory. plus plus plusplusplusplusplus oplus a big invoice every month. and as soon as you divorce them all your rankings and positioning goes down the tube. worst than a divorce. let me tell you

      if you hire a SEO you never know for sure how long the links they build for you will stay alive….

       kind regards


  • http://www.rankbetterseo.com/ Bill Ross

    Great article.  There are pros and cons to both, and I have been in both positions.

  • http://www.riversagency.com/ Advertising Agency Raleigh

    I guess it would be  on a case by case basis and depend on the status of the site and how much work was needed to get top rankings.

  • http://www.bluewavedesignstudio.com/ SEO Web Design

    Enjoy reading stuff from you. Keep them coming, they always make me think deeper about things I had been thinking about.

  • http://www.riversagency.com/professional-website-design.html website design chapel hill

    I think that working with an outside seo firm that is professional and trustworthy as we do can be just as beneficial as having and internal seo team, and can save you alot of money

  • http://www.seowebdesignfirm.com/seo-training.htm seo training

    The best thing to do is find a seo firm that backs its campaigns with training so that you get more for your money.  If they can train you on good seo practices and teach you how to do what they do it will pay off in the long run.  Thats what we do and its worked well for us.

  • http://chicago.seowebdesignfirm.com/seo-training-class.htm chicago seo class

    Great article. I definitly see positives to both and I feel the key is educating the business as to what they need and what to look for.

  • http://seo.pittwebsite.com SEO Pittsburgh

    I just found this article while looking through the archives here at webpronews and I’d have to day I’m impressed. The article really going in depth into the pros and cons on both sides. I would also have to agree that eventually a company will fall back onto and hire a SEO company. I can see in the long run a SEO company would be more cost effective and could potentially generate better results at a faster pace.

  • http://www.swankigifts.com/article/fashion fashion news and articles

    hopefully this will open up peoples eyes to see that SEO is not a simple thing to do.

  • http://www.seosean.com SEO Service

    I think hiring would be a better option, but off course I’ll say that being that I run an SEO company. But really I think it’s better I’ve seen many other companies try to do SEO on their own only to make things worse or just waist time and money and in the end they call up an expert company to help them with their issue. And in some cases you’ll even give up on SEO entirely thinking it’s not possible.

    Hiring an SEO company allows you to focus on your actual companies’ real product. Unless you’re product is something highly relative to SEO I think in the long run you’ll get more benefit from hiring out. If you want to know more about our services for outsourcing SEO check us out.

  • http://www.answeraddict.com/faq/fitness-questions fitness answers

    Thanks for the great info Scott

  • http://www.siterevamp.com Minneapolis SEO

    Real SEO experts are hard to come by. Yes, they are very expensive. My recommendation is that if you have multiple web sites and SEO is what you rely on for sales, hire a full-time search engine optimizer or two. Most big companies have their in-house SEO. Also, if the SEO brings in multi-millions $ revenues, it justifies hiring a full-time position. However, if you hire an in-house SEO expert, it is like putting all the eggs in one basket. What would you do if the SEO leaves for a better paid job? Also, SEO changes all the time, it can be tricky to keep your in-house SEO well-trained. If you are a small or midsized company, you are better off with an SEO firm.

    Hiring a good SEO firm makes sense if you want to enure stability. It is the SEO firm’s job to keep their knowledge up-to-date and staff the right experts to serve you.

  • http://www.seismologyonline.com Seismology

    To me, the results that a professional SEO company can provide you can never be achieved by hiring one Man SEO.

  • http://www.gomasterkey.com/ Online Real Estate Software

    If you have the time and the capacity, then why not do the search engine campaigns by yourself? But if time is an issue, there are the SEO firms that can help.

  • http://www.dkssystems.com/services/Minneapolis-SEO.asp Minneapolis SEO

    As you have mentioned in your article, in house SEO can be very ineffective or pricey! You either load all the work on someone who reads one book and realistically fails… or hire someone outside as a full time seo, which is pricey.

    I would outsource the SEO if you are only working on one project that and only if you work on multiple web sites would you consider it be beneficial to hire an “expert” seo to work in house.

    thanks for the great read!

  • Guest

    I think it would all depend on cost and quality of service. It all points to dollars. If they can save money and still get the same quality is is irrelevant. Hire a CPA and figure the differential cost analysis. Just my 2 pennies.


  • http://keywordnerd.com St. Paul SEO

    Hiring an SEO firm or doing it yourself is not something a company should takes lightly. If you have an employee that is eager to learn and you willing to provide him/her with the spending budget to hire writers or content creators that is fine. If not, hire a firm.

    In most cases it is best to hire a firm because it is their chosen profession and they are going to stay on top of the latest trends, updates and attend the conferences in an effort to stay educated.

    While on the topic of trends I’m seeing companies trying to do it themselves by hiring a employee at $12-14/hr. Let me be the first to tell you, you get what you pay for by doing it on the cheap. Go with a pro.

  • Lorraine

    Unless you are an seo expert and you have the time to dedicate to all the different aspects of proper seo then you should turn it over to a professional. We tried to handle it in house but it was too much so we hired an seo firm to take over. Best decision we made.

    • http://www.officialnetwealth.com Gsniper2

      You can now hire seo professional for a Fiver on Fiveer.com

  • Join for Access to Our Exclusive Web Tools
  • Sidebar Top
  • Sidebar Middle
  • Sign Up For The Free Newsletter
  • Sidebar Bottom