26/07/2012

SEO for Entrepreneurs – Choosing between an SEO Agency and an In-house Team

Many small business owners feel locked out of the SEO game, especially because of the costs associated with it. In addition, the real payoff is delayed, given that SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. However, by paying a fixed amount towards SEO from the start, you will notice small results after a few months. These will become larger in time. A properly implemented SEO campaign should return every cent invested towards it and more.
Nonetheless, few entrepreneurs can afford the capital, patience and time required to follow through the time span required for success in SEO, especially since there is no guarantee of success. While you understand the importance of SEO, the risks and costs involved may seem too hefty, particularly where you’re not assured of eventual success.
There are two ways to go about SEO for your business, using your internal resources or going for a freelance SEO professional or agency. Each option presents its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the specifics. Let’s look into each separately:

Upfront Costs

As an entrepreneur, you can try to do your own SEO, but you will soon find that the effort and time it takes falls beyond what you have time and expertise for. You have two options: to contract a professional or agency on a long-term contract, or hiring an SEO expert(s) to offer the services in-house.
An agency offers a variety of packages designed according to different business needs. There are agencies with basic packages that cost $500, but with these, you cannot expect great results. Typically, monthly rates for SEO range from $1,000 to $10,000 according to the size of the business and specific services required. An advantage of using agencies is that you can pay for individual services according to your requirements at the time.
Conversely, hiring an expert or experts to form an in-house team also depends on the location of the business and the level of expertise and experience need. For medium-to-large cities, an SEO professional can cost between $60,000-100,000 in salary. You may additionally need to hire another SEO with different proficiency, which further increases the associated costs.
An alternative is to hire a part-time contractor at a lower wage, mutually arrived at. However, this means less SEO work and lower levels of expertise leading to lower results from the SEO campaign.

Expertise and efficiency

Agencies employ teams of qualified professionals with different proficiencies: social media specialists, content writers, search marketers, among others. Using an agency, you will be recruiting a few hours of service from each professional. The specialization leads to better efficiency for better results. In addition, more work can be accomplished within a smaller amount of time.
The disadvantage of hiring a single SEO expert is that they may not be well versed in every aspect of SEO, which means their results will not be as good as the results achieved by an entire team of specialist SEO professionals.

Risk of failure

Accountability is always a factor to be considered when working with independent service providers as well as employees. Suppose you employ a dedicated SEO into your team, and see no results one year later. Well, you can fire them, but the money spent in their salaries is irrecoverable, and so is the time wasted.
If on the other hand you sign on with independent agencies, should results not be seen after the pre-agreed timeline, you are in a perfect position to demand discounted services, or even partial refunds. Of course, the specific terms involved are predicated on the agency with which you work and the expectations of your agreement at the start.

This advantage offers agencies an advantage over in-house teams in terms of cost-efficacy.

The final analysis
From the cost vs. benefits point of view, it may be a better option to outsource your SEO services to an independent agency, of course after thorough research into them. Now, while you won’t have complete control or gain total transparency, you still stand to benefit – you receive myriad services from specialized professionals in a single package at a cost that’s less than hiring a similar team to carry out in-house SEO.

In addition, results offered are more professional, organized and efficient, given their cumulative specialization with different techniques of SEO – something you may not get with a single professional. At times, the costs may be higher than what you’d get by hiring one in-house professional.

As your business grows bigger, you may have to re-evaluate your choice. With a bigger budget and having set up much of the professional work in the beginning, you can now afford to hire specialists to work for you round the clock depending on the work that needs to be done. This can offer you better results than what agencies would offer – a few hours of each specialist’s time.

At all times, consider your goals and your budget, and select the option that offers the highest returns at the time. You can always change your mind at a later stage when circumstances change.

Bio: Vinod Jethwani is the CEO and Founder of Walnut Solutions and he helps web based companies with his SEO strategies to grown their revenue. He started his career in 2007 as a software developer with an Indian based MNC and later in 2011 became an entrepreneur. 
Follow him on Twitter @VinodJethwani
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