Should you hire an in-house SEO or Internet marketing person or team? This is a question plaguing many small to medium size businesses.

Back in the mid-to-late 1990’s you either did Search Engine Optimization for your own business, or you were a consultant for others.  There really were no ‘in-house’ SEO’s.   SEO was a new concept back then, so there weren’t employee positions for this.

Now – many expert SEO’s charge $200, $500, even $1,000 per hour – and may still not offer expertise in Pay-per-Click, Social Media, Usability, and Analytics… all things a company needs for success in today’s online world.  So many companies are re-thinking their online strategies and are comparing the benefits of a consultant or agency against an in-house team.  But is this the right move for you?  Let’s lay it out a bit.

A typical Internet Marketing Services (IMS) agency will charge a minimum of $1,500 per month for their services.  In many cases, this rate will be their bottomfeeder rate, and you may not get the service level that another client gets who pays…say $5,000 per month.  It can be frustrating for small businesses who truly value an expense like $1,500 per month.  At the same time, a smaller company like this could never afford an in-house person, or team. 

Why?  To start, a low salary for someone who only knows SEO would be in the range of $40 – $60k per year.  For someone a bit more experienced and with knowledge in SEO, PPC, SMM, Usability, Analytics… an average salary would be more like $75 – $95k per year.  Management salaries are far more, with VP positions reaching as high as $300k per year.

There are also things like conference expenses so your in-house person or team can stay educated on the changes in the search market.  Expect to pay at least $10k per year, per in-house person, for these conferences.

Then you will need to budget for tools.  This may not be as expensive, but you’ll usually need tools for:

  • Keyword analysis
  • SEO tracking and scanning
  • PPC management (maybe…maybe not)
  • Social media and reputation management monitoring
  • Competitive intelligence analysis
  • Usability testing
  • Analytics
  • and others as necessary

In total, these tools may cost as little as $500 per month…or on a high end, you may need to budget upwards of $25 – $35k per year – but this is usually reserved for big-business needs.

Now, total expenses will vary greatly depending on whether one person can handle everything in-house, or if you will need a 3-5 person (or more) team. 

There really is no magic formula for this.  If you prefer more control of an in-house person or team, then the business need may outweigh costs.  If you can find a good, personable consultant, you may be far better off outsourcing.  But if you are focused on significant growth, and you expect a large portion of your revenue to come from the web… you may want to consider building an in-house team.

One final note.  Unless you pay top-dollar, and recruit people who are already highly experienced in the field to run your in-house team (expect salary in the range of $120k – $200k)… expect to keep a consultant on for a while…even after your in-house team is built.  This is primarily for ongoing training, and ensuring your team is equipped with everything they need to succeed.

If you already know you want to keep SEO in-house, you might be interested in my new anyone-can-learn SEO guide, The Indisputable Guide to SEO Success.

If you’d like to analyze the needs of your business, or compare in-house vs. consulting, feel free to reach out to me on our contact page