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Hiring an SEO – In house or Outsource?

You have worked hard to establish your business, you know that hiring the right people is important but at the same time you sometimes need to outsource certain elements of your business because everyone else is just too busy to handle more work! You have heard a lot of hype about online marketing , but its all a bit murky. How do I avoid the snake oil salesmen of the industry and how do I know what’s best for my business?

So you have established you want to get more involved online. You may already have a website, you may not. Don’t worry if you haven’t because sometimes its best to get search engine marketing advice on a website concept, before its built. In fact it usually works out cheaper this way, this is because the website is structured correctly the first time around, not the second! So who do you seek for advice?

Search / Website Marketing Agency Pro’s

  1. Experience Across A Diverse Selection of Websites and Industries
  2. Generally cheaper than hiring an in house Search Engine Marketing Person
  3. Usually works within a team of other knowledgeable experts
  4. Will usually have access to industry tools (some of them expensive) that help with your marketing efforts
  5. Agencies usually have people who can also manage Pay Per Click Campaigns and Experts with Web Analytics

Search / Website Marketing Agency Con’s

  1. Usually has more than 1 client to look after and work with
  2. Generally pays most attention to the loudest client or client with the most money
  3. Is somtimes limited as to what they can do for your website. (They may not have direct access to it) or they might only offer consulting and cannot implement changes on your website.
  4. Depending on your budget – An agency might not be able to provide you with a full solution – rather a cut down version

Ok so that last point is a little moot, but it does happen. Sometimes its just not possible to provide a complete solution because a client just doesn’t have the budget for one. Of course if this is the case, you probably are not looking for a full time person to take care of your online marketing anyway.

In House Search / Website Marketing Pro’s

  1. Full time dedicated to your website(s)
  2. Can sometimes have more influence over changes made to your website
  3. Can be more cost effective if you run large marketing campaigns
  4. Alway accessible to discuss issues / reports and other website activity

In House Search / Website Marketing Con’s

  1. Can be more expensive than hiring an external agency
  2. May not be experiences with large websites with lots of content
  3. May not be experienced with search engine marketing in your industry or niche
  4. Might lack expensive tools and may not be up to date with latest industry trends – due to keeping busy on your project

As you can see there are several pro’s and con’s to each. Are you still confused as to what may suit you? That’s ok consider the following issues with an in house seo

  • Paying a Salary of € 40,000 + in the Irish Market (I think this is the minimum good seo’s should be on in Ireland)
  • Sick and Holiday Leave
  • Any additional hidden costs with hiring someone
  • The cost of hiring someone who isn’t up to scratch (rehiring later)
  • How many websites do you manage or want them to manage?

From what I wrote above you may be thinking I’m against hiring an in house search marketing person. That’s not quite true. It really depends on your website and what its worth to you. It also depends on if you have multiple sites you need managed. It can also depend on the individual and their qualifications.

In house professional check list

  1. Experience optimising websites – Get them to show you results for previous clients or websites
  2. Understanding of Pay Per Click Marketing using Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing or other engines
  3. An understanding of web analytics – Will help with your efforts online in general
  4. An understanding of marketing in general
  5. Understands basic XHTML and CSS (Very Important!)
  6. Some programming knowledge either php / aspx / perl / cold fusion / ruby on rails etc..
  7. Experience using ethical search engine marketing techniques

Its an extensive list, but not one out of reach for those in the industry for a couple of years. A good interview question would be:
What do you look at when optimising a website?
If they have difficulty explaining that one, they probably won’t be that great at search engine marketing.

Selecting an Agency Checklist

  1. Can you list some previous clients you obtained good results for?
  2. Check their ranking for terms such as “Online Marketing” , ” search engine optimisation” etc.. If they are not ranking for those terms, ask them which ones they appear highest for or which ones they are doing well for that are competitive terms. Shorter terms are harder to rank for: “Website Marketing” is harder to rank for than ” Website Marketing Dublin, Ireland”
  3. Ask them about what methods they will use to help you rank higher. If they are particularly secretive if might be best to give them a miss. In particular ask them how they will get more incoming links to your website.
  4. Ask them why you should choose them over their competitors. What is their selling point?


To summarize, selecting an agency is probably a better idea if you are just starting out in online marketing. Its a great way to test the waters and get your toes wet so to speak. If you see potential in your industry and are getting good results, but your agency can’t help you expand further, either due to budget or time constraints. It might be good to look at a full time search engine marketing expert. Really serious campaigns require great care and nurture and involve ALOT of hard work. Regular reporting and tracking your campaigns will become extremely important to help determine what is and is not working. You may find an agency can’t dedicate the time you need spent on your websites. If that’s the case it might pay to start looking to hire someone.

I hope that helps some of you confused out there. As always feel free to contact me, should you have any questions and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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