SEO freelancer, agency or an in-house team? Make the right choice!
You are a business ready to plunge into the world of SEO. Whether you are a start-up, or a well-established firm or fall somewhere in the middle, the importance of SEO can never be over-emphasized. With the advancement of the digital era, online traffic has become a major source of revenue for businesses. It is vital to have the right SEO strategy in place! So the next big question arises: how do I approach SEO? One can do it themselves, but then again SEO is a long-term process which requires hard work, patience and practice. One can focus on building an in-house team. Another option is to outsource your SEO to an agency or maybe just reach out to an SEO freelancer! There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your business. This article discusses some of the factors that you need to assess to help make the right choice.
Following are some of the aspects that every business should consider before opting for an approach towards SEO.
If you are a start-up struggling to make ends meet, then it’s probably a good idea to opt for a freelancer. A well-established agency will most likely be expensive and an in-house team would definitely make your overheads escalate.
- Scale of business
Again, a start-up is less likely to have a wide variety of products/services or a large e-commerce presence. Hence, the scope of SEO related work is going to be less compared to a well-established firm with a larger variety offering. A freelancer will be more suited to such a firm. But as it grows in size, it may move from freelancing to hiring an agency to an in-house SEO team in order to benefit from economies of scale.
- Business requirement
What’s your SEO goal? Do you need a fully defined and implemented SEO strategy or are you looking for content-related consultancy only? Usually SEO freelancers tend to be more specialized in their services. Also, they are more likely to be focused on one aspect of SEO compared to another. For example, while one freelancer’s SEO philosophy may concentrate on link building, another may believe more in content.
An agency or an in-house team on the other hand, may offer a more cohesive SEO strategy by offering an all-inclusive deal. An agency may place you on a retainer package which may result in more evident and sustainable results. Also, the presence of multiple team members would mean you will have a more variable philosophical approach towards SEO.
In the end, if your business demands a wider scope of SEO related services then an agency is the key. If you want to focus on one area of SEO and want limited services, then a freelancer might be better.
- Level of expertise
An in-house SEO team may have a lesser exposure to the industry data and hence, its level of expertise may be low. An SEO freelancer or an agency on the other hand are more likely to have handled multiple clients. Amongst them, since a freelancer is more likely to specialize in one aspect of SEO, his/her expertise is likely to be higher than that of an agency.
At this point, I feel it’s important to remove all the biases against a freelancer. Freelancing doesn’t mean incompetency. A person who chooses freelancing as a career may not do so because no one hires him/her. In fact, they may be more competent than an SEO agency. They may choose to be a freelancer simply because they are fond of the lifestyle.
- Availability, flexibility and control
An SEO freelancer and an in-house team are more likely to be available and flexible because the number of projects they handle is likely to be less than those of an agency. The level of control a business can exhibit over them is also likely to be greater because an agency is more likely to have its own set rules for work procedures.
- Willingness to engage in talent-hunting
This is one of the most important factors. Your SEO success depends on your ability to hire smart minds and competent people. Hunting for the right talent is very challenging. An in-house team would mean a constant pressure on HR to bring in the right team members. The problem is enhanced in case of freelancing. Freelancing often means little accountability. SEO freelancers may resort to SEO tricks that may temporary raise traffic to your website but overtime google algorithm may be successful in picking these tricks.
An agency, on the other hand will be more credible as it will have a brand image to protect. The burden of finding the right expertise to carry out your SEO falls on the agency.
To sum it all up, there is no one right approach to SEO. There are multiple factors which need to be considered before deciding between an in-house SEO team, agency or an SEO freelancer. However, no matter what approach one adopts one should do their background check to ensure that they made the right decision. Following are some of the things you can do to perform a background check:
- Google search ranking
Check the google search ranking of the agency/freelancer you intend to hire. Their own ranking should be able to give us a basic insight into their SEO expertise level.
- Freelancing websites (for freelancing only)
Freelance websites like upwork and toptal etc. are able to offer us a credible list of SEO freelancers. We can pick from a variety of SEO freelancer profiles and view statistics like the number of projects handled, ratings and reviews.
This is very important. Look at an agency’s/freelancer’s previous projects. Try to see factors like number of clients handled, duration, results produced etc.
- Website/ Blog
An agency’s website should give us some insight into the services offered, employees, clients, customer reviews etc. In case of the freelancer, his/her blog and blog posts should give us an idea about the level of expertise in the SEO domain. You just have to ensure that the posts have been written by the person himself/herself.
Ask questions! Conduct a detailed interview. Ask them to identify some basic SEO related problems with your website. Ask them where do they see your website in google search ranking over the next month (SEO takes time and anyone who commits to your website appearing on the first page in the first few months is trying to fool you). Try to understand what areas of SEO will they mainly focus on.
- Divide your project into parts
Start by handing them 1 to 2 pages of your website and see how it ranks over the next few months.
In conclusion, before selecting the right SEO approach for your business you need to assess your budget, business-scale and SEO requirements such as the level of expertise. You may also need to consider your need for the availability and flexibility of your resource and your control over it. Lastly, you need to assess your ability to hire a responsible and competent person/ agency who handles your project well. Before hiring a person/agency you need to do your homework. Check their google search ranking, portfolio, website/blog. In case of hiring a freelancer, visit credible freelancing websites to find competent people. Interview well whoever you hire and give them a trial project initially to see how they perform.
Sundas Iftikhar is a marketer at Playbook Communicatons. She has done her MBA in marketing and worked at Nestle Limited.