Choosing Between In-House & Outsourcing B2B SEM

B2B managers need to figure out the best way to manage SEO efforts. One key decision is whether to bring SEO in-house or outsource. Your choices usually look something like this:

  • Hire an in-house SEO employee
  • Work with an individual SEO consultant
  • Outsource to a search engine marketing (SEM) agency

Typically this decision is not conducted using a proper cost/benefit analysis comparing costs to the total value you’re receiving. If you think in terms of price only, from lowest to highest, the SEO consultant is typically your cheapest option and the agency the most expensive. But, should you base your decision on price alone?

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons associated with each option.

Hire an in-house SEO employee


  • All B2B marketers should have someone on board who fully understands SEO and internet marketing in general.
  • An in-house SEO usually has direct access to internal resources for quick turnaround of necessary changes to a website.
  • This person usually understands the vertical they operate in better than someone from the outside.
  • They are much more concerned with their company’s success and bottom-line results knowing their job depends on the direct success of their efforts.
  • The in-house person will more than likely guard the company against using tactics that could get the company site banned from the search engines.
  • An intermediate level SEO will at minimum cost around $75,000/yr. > $60,000 salary + $15,000 in benefits or $6,250/mo. Expect to pay $100k+ for advanced level SEOs.


  • In-house SEOs are rarely only working on website optimization. More often than not, the SEO employee is wearing several hats.
  • In-house SEOs are extremely susceptible to “going elsewhere” once they’ve honed their skills. SEO experts are in demand! Commonly they will be approached by the competition, an agency, or seek the opportunity to start their own business.
  • Rarely does an in-house SEO have all the necessary skill requirements such as marketing strategy development, analytics experience, conversion improvement skills, copywriting experience—and the list goes on.

Work with an individual SEO consultant


  • Assuming we’re talking about a qualified, experienced consultant, this person is solely focused on SEO, knowing what’s happening in the industry, ensuring that the techniques they’re using will bring the greatest benefit to their client.
  • The SEO consultant understands that they have to be more than just a traffic generator. An increase in visibility must convert to qualified visitors and finally leads/sales.
  • The smart SEO will belong to a large network of search marketers and will have relationships with different networks allowing them to easily negotiate links purchases and find the best places to help promote their client.
  • There are no out-of-pocket expenses to the client to keep the consultant trained or certified in their discipline.
  • A qualified SEO consultant will at minimum charge between $100 – $200/hr. Monthly contracts range from $3000 – $7500/mo.


  • Individual consultants are usually serving many firms, so the time dedicated to your company may only be 10-33% of their total time.
  • Most SEO consultants are very good at their discipline of SEO but lack additional skills required to generate the maximum ROI for a B2B client in a specific vertical.
  • If traffic is the only thing you’re concerned with, the SEO consultant can certainly add value. But, it is usually outside of the SEO consultants’ expertise to increase overall website ROI.

Outsource to a search marketing agency


  • A solid, experienced agency, especially one who specializes in B2B search marketing, will usually have a much broader perspective and greater experience because of the many different types of clients they work with.
  • Agencies usually have more “tips and tricks” at their disposal to generate results in ways not known to beginner and intermediate optimizers.
  • Agencies work across multiple disciplines such as SEO, PPC, web design, web conversion improvement, analytics, copywriting, email marketing, etc. and therefore have the expertise and resources at their disposal to help their clients achieve the greatest success.
  • Agency personnel usually will have a much broader set of industry resources and contacts to reach out to in order to provide solutions to sometimes complicated issues.
  • More often than not, you can hire a SEM Agency, a team of internet marketing professionals, for the annual cost of one in-house specialist.
  • Typical agency fees for SEO range between $5,000 – $20,000/mo or more depending on the scope of the project.
  • It’s much easier to cancel your contract with an agency than it is to let go of an employee who may be involved in multiple areas of the company.


  • Oftentimes, agencies do not have required access to internal IT resources for a quick turnaround in SEO implementation tasks.
  • Compliance and legal issues may hinder the agency’s ability to execute the most optimal search marketing plan on a timely basis.
  • Agencies must rely on an internal person for proper communication and to be the liaison with IT.

Frankly, I believe the best option, if you can afford it, is to have both an intermediate SEO manager in-house and hire an expert search marketing agency for all the reasons stated above. The bottom line is that your optimal choice will depend on your business, your goals and your budget.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing


About The Author: is VP of SEO Operations of Boulder Colorado-based SmartSearch Marketing, has over 10 years of SEO experience working with many well-known brand names. Follow him @BarryBowman on Twitter.

Connect with the author via: Email | LinkedIn


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  • MarketingJamie

    Hi Barry, Thank you for this nice post. What I like about this is that you included the pros and cons. I will surely talk about this on my blog. (

  • hyderali

    Thanks barry,

    Your post is similar to me – In house SEO employee. I was one of the employee in SEO company but due to some reason that company got shut down and in search of job I landed in B2B company working alone handling all the in house website work.

    In starting I struggle a lot because I was a kind of more of beginner and less of intermediate but anyhow i tried to manage and done the work. But later on after completing 3 months in the company I got selected in other company wanted to join that company coz it was B2C company & I was keen to work over there but here in my b2b company my ceo raise my pay and as everyone loves to work for money i continued my session over here but as my pay increase my workload also. Now i’m managing seo & ppc agency which our company hired.

    Please write some post about how to manage an agency? I want to know as I’m a beginner in this your post will help me a lot.


  • hyderali

    Thanks barry for this gr8 post..

    I’m also working in b2b company as a In house seo employee from last 4 months face struggle in starting but anyhow done the work properly. We also hired agency for seo and ppc and its my work to manage them.

    I’ve 3yrs experience in both seo and ppc but in b2c company. So checking my luck in this b2b company if prove worthful then will be here otherwise i’ll try in other but b2c company.

    I’ll be pleased if you write some post about how to manage seo and ppc agency.


  • Mercy Mathews

    I think if you’re a small business with a financial constraint it always helps to outsource. See how easy it is on http://www.outsourcetofreelancer.


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