SEO: To Outsource Or Develop In-House Resources?

Online marketing is complex, and it seems that the number of factors you need to consider to make sure you have the optimal strategy is only increasing. Therefore, it might be tempting to conclude that SEO, or more broadly, online marketing, is something that needs to be outsourced. There is certainly a strong case to be made for hiring external expertise, but outsourcing your SEO strategy completely does have some disadvantages. On the other hand, bringing people in-house has some advantages, but requires in-house people to stay current with developments in the industry. Today’s column will investigate the pros and cons of each approach, and the case for doing a bit of both.

The outsourcing option

Whether outsourcing is best for you depends on your situation. Here are some of the pros and cons of taking this route:


  • Expertise. It can be easier (sometimes much easier) to find someone who has the expertise you need now.
  • Leverage industry exposure. SEO consulting firms have visibility into many different projects across many different types of sites. This breadth of experience is very difficult to recreate in-house.
  • Persuasive power of an external authority. In my last two columns I discussed how important it is to
  • sell management on the benefits of investing in SEO. Management may simply by more willing to believe the advice of a recognized industry authority over their in-house people.


  • Lack of understanding of the internal company environment. Any external organization, no matter how skilled, is simply not going to understand your company as well as someone who lives and breathes your company culture every day.
  • Less committed. SEO consulting firms are likely to have many clients. Losing one client is not desirable, but it is not a disaster either.

The in-house option

Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of hiring your own internal SEO talent:


  • Internal expertise. Consulting relationships are often designed to be temporary, and once a consultant is gone, so is a lot of the knowledge gained around a search marketing campaign. Of course, employee relationships come to an end too, but usually not as often, or as quickly, so the knowledge is retained by the organization for a longer period of time. If you have more than one internal SEO resources this risk is reduced even further.
  • Better positioned to sell internally. Somewhat paradoxically, external authority can be helpful in selling the benefits of SEO, but an employee is in a better position to sell to many different stakeholders within an organization. There are many groups that are impacted by SEO, and they all need to be sold on the process.


  • Potentially more expensive. You can hire a consultant and engage only a portion of their time, but an employee generally requires full time work and benefits.
  • Scarcity of top talent. You may need to train your in-house talent, because many of the top SEO consultants are making a lot of money, and bringing them in-house to work for you could cost you more than you might be willing to pay.
  • Learning on the job. A corollary to the prior point is that to keep costs down you may need someone to learn the necessary skills on the job.

The argument for doing both

While there are compelling arguments for both outsourcing and hiring in-house talent, there are also some strong arguments for doing a bit of both. Given the challenges of staying current with developments in SEO and online marketing, consulting with a firm or individual who makes a living doing just that can be a big advantage. The consultant’s ability to work on different sites and with clients who have a wide range of needs can be a pretty compelling advantage.

On the other hand, hiring an in-house SEO position has advantages as well. As outlined above retaining knowledge and expertise, and the ability to sell across multiple departments in the company can be a huge benefit.

Of course, the needs of every organization are different, but SEO and online marketing are must-haves for your organization. For many, the best choice will be to decide on what expertise is essential to have in-house, and make a plan to build it or buy it. Then, supplement that with external expertise to make sure your in-house team can leverage all of the expertise of external SEO professionals.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Industrial Strength


About The Author: is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric publishes a highly respected interview series and can be followed on Twitter at @stonetemple.

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  • seomonkey

    I outsource repetitive and/or technical tasks. The higher level ideas should be worked inhouse.

  • Mercy Mathews

    I think outsourcing is a good option if you need to concentrate more on your core business. It certainly frees up your time but you’ve got to be careful on the provider you choose. There’s a wealth of tips and advice on IT outsourcing here: Hope this helps.


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