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