In today’s high-tech environment, many business leaders will eventually ask themselves if they can get more out of their digital marketing if they bring it in-house or hire a digital marketing agency.  Smaller business owners may even consider doing it themselves due to budgetary constraints.

So the question is this: Can you do it yourself, or do you really need a digital marketing agency?

The simple answer is that all three approaches can be successful: you truly can do it yourself, you absolutely can hire a team in house, and you certainly can hire an outside company. Note, though, that each scenario offers its own set of challenges. Ultimately, business leaders need to weigh the pros and cons for each, and decide which option is best for their business.

Consider the following to help you make this decision more easily:

Do It Yourself (DIY) SEO

Those who choose to do their own SEO often make the decision because of budgetary restraints. If you know you need SEO for your business, but you can’t afford it, then you have to do it yourself.

In reality, it is unlikely you will have the time to invest to become a true SEO expert (especially if your business is growing). But you can do some basic things for yourself that will have an impact, and if it brings some results then you might consider investing in some outside help.

Check out our article on 7 Focus Areas for Your SEO on what you need to know about managing an SEO campaign.

If you’re going to do it yourself, at least make sure to cover the basics:

  • Research your competition and see what they’re doing
  • Plan out what you need in order to be competitive
  • Evaluate their content and create better content for your site
  • Update your online directory listings either by doing it manually or look into software like Moz or BrightLocal

If you can afford to hire someone, but you think you would prefer to do it yourself and save the money (or, maybe you think you’ll do a better job), consider these questions:

Do you have the time to commit to SEO?

It is not that you can’t do your own SEO, rather it’s an issue of whether or not you have the time to do it successfully. Take a look at the article, SEO for Dummies: Learn SEO in 10 Simple Steps, where the author explains how you can do SEO for yourself. He provides useful information and describes the tools that will help you do the job, but he doesn’t address the time commitment required to do SEO efficiently and effectively.

To put the time issue into perspective, take a look at  How Much Time Does SEO Really Take, where the author actually breaks down SEO tasks and assigns a time value for each.  

Ultimately, your industry, location and competition will determine what time and resources will be required for a successful SEO campaign. For example, if you are trying to rank for hundreds of different keywords against heavy competition, you will need to spend far more time than someone who just wants a better chance at ranking locally in a mildly competitive industry.

Do you have the time to commit to SEO?

Digital marketing takes a lot of time if you do it correctly. Although you may have time when you begin, what is your plan if you bring in more customers? As you get busier with your business, it’s unlikely you’ll continue to have the time needed to continue managing your SEO campaign without losing some ground.

What is your competition doing?

Digital marketing, especially Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is a bit of an arms race, so it’s important that you know what your competitors are doing and what you need to do to beat them online.

With that in mind, if your competition has hired a team who specializes in digital marketing, you have to wonder if it’s wise to try and beat them while you manage your digital marketing, or just your SEO, on the side.

As is the case with any marketing campaign, your success relies entirely on frequency and consistency. If you are going do your own digital marketing, make sure you commit to frequent and consistent management of your campaign.

In-House Digital Marketing vs Hiring an Outside Agency

The debate over whether to bring your digital marketing in-house vs. hiring an outside agency always begins with the question:

Can you get more for less?

For most companies, the answer is no. In order to cover each area of SEO appropriately, the staffing costs generally outweigh the need or benefit you could get from hiring an outside agency. With that said, some companies do indeed benefit from an in-house team.

According to data pulled from Glassdoor, if you want an in-house team of agency-level experts, the projected annual cost ranges from $742,000 – $1,019,500. On the low end, if you forgo top-level specialists and hire a team of generalists, the annual cost ranges from $337,053 – $946,953.

Compare that to an annual cost ranging from $12,000 – $200,000 to get the experience and quality from a team of SEO specialists.

Finally, when it comes to cost, an in-house team will cost more year-by-year, as they get pay increases, larger 401k contributions, increased healthcare expenses, etc. Plus, aside from payroll and related expenses, you will have increased operational costs, such as office space and equipment.

By contrast, a digital marketing agency will cost the same year after year.

Aside from cost considerations, consider the following if you’re trying to decide between an in-house team vs. an agency:

What advantages are there with an in-house team?

Traditionally, outside agencies have controlled all aspects of their clients’ digital marketing. They often control their domain, hosting, online paid ad accounts, etc., which leaves the client vulnerable if the agency is unethical. This also opens up concerns about competitors working with the same company and gaining insight into your company either now or in the future. Of course, a Non-Disclosure Agreement and a Non-Competition Agreement, or clause, can address these concerns but expect to pay a premium if you’re asking a company to turn away other business.

Read: Our Commitment to You: You Own Everything

The good news is that some agencies are moving away from the model where many other agencies have historically coached their teams to “make it painful to leave.” Nevertheless, the risk of having an outside company controlling everything is a strong motivator for some companies who want to protect their marketing assets or strategies.

Tip: If you’re worried you don’t have control or even access to your online assets, have your agency or employees set up everything for you while designating you as the administrator on all accounts. Then they can add themselves to your accounts, and you can change your passwords once they’re done. If anything goes wrong, you simply log into your accounts and remove anyone you wish to from your campaign.

Another key benefit is speed. When you have a team that reports to you exclusively, your priorities are their only priorities. Agencies have other clients and need to balance many priorities at once. In this regard, the premium you pay for an in-house team brings an undeniable benefit.

Finally, companies bring marketing teams in-house thinking that an internal team will likely know their business on a deeper level because they only focus on their business. While there is some truth in that line of thinking, a proper agency who works with other businesses similar to yours will have the same experience in your industry while bringing you insight from other businesses and other markets.

You’ll need more than one person.

Many companies have tried bringing in one person and have them act as a jack of all trades. Thus, they inevitably get a master of none.

To perform at the highest level, digital marketing requires a team of specialists working together to implement and continually refine a winning strategy. A competitive team includes a web developer, a copywriter, a designer, an online paid advertising manager, a marketing strategist, and a technical strategist for SEO and social media.

It’s important to note that digital marketing agencies usually have these specialists as part of their team.

Can you properly manage an in-house digital marketing team?

In today’s world, every business leader should understand how to manage their online presence as well as any other department in their organization. In reality, most business leaders simply don’t know how.

If you’re going to bring a team in-house, do you know how to manage a team

responsible for your digital marketing campaign?

Managing an in-house team requires:

  • Determining the right budget
  • Projecting a realistic ROI
  • Hiring the right people
  • Training and developing skill sets to meet the needs of your organization
  • Setting reasonable objectives
  • Measuring and monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) beyond revenue
  • Fitting a marketing team within your culture
  • Retaining talent

Bringing in an in-house team will also require another layer of management and supervision.

How do you keep an in-house digital marketing team engaged?

As with any industry, marketing professionals expect more than just their salary.  They crave high energy environments that allow them to be creative and inspire artistic expression.

Consider these points:

  • Does your company culture lend itself to what marketing professionals will expect?
  • Do you have offer similar or better perks to match what agencies might offer?
  • How do you keep your talented marketing specialists inspired?

As a business leader, you need to consider if you can provide an environment that attracts and retains the right marketing talent. Furthermore, you need to consider if the rest of your organization will be compatible with a marketing team and their needs.

Would using a digital marketing agency help you achieve faster business growth?

Using a digital marketing agency will most likely help you achieve faster business growth because you have the experts dealing with the day-to-day digital marketing requirements and challenges.  You then can concentrate on what you do best–managing your business.

If you hire the right company, you should see better results than an in-house team. With that said, there are some in-house teams that are phenomenal, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Educate Yourself and Decide

If you are going to bring a team in-house, you need to learn enough about digital marketing to manage the people who work for you.

If you choose to hire an outside agency, you’ll still need to learn enough about digital marketing to manage the people who work for you. Although, you won’t need to have as a deep an understanding because an agency should have a skilled account manager who can help you make informed decisions.

With either scenario, here is a basic list of areas you need to cover with your team:

  • Competitive Analysis (Mystery Shopping, Spying)
  • Planning & Strategy
  • Website Development & Optimization (On-Site SEO)
  • Content Development & Optimization (Copy, Photos, Video)
  • Online Directory Listing Management
  • Reputation Management
  • Link Building
  • Online Paid Advertising

Check out our guide, 7 Focus Areas for Your SEO, to learn what you need to know to manage your online presence more efficiently.

Beyond this basic list, If you are going to hire an agency, you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • Do they understand your industry and your specific market?
  • How will you measure their performance?
  • Who will be working on your campaign?
  • Can you reach them by email or cell phone?

Remember you also need to know what your competition is doing. Whichever choice you make, the goal is to outpace your competition.

Final Thoughts

Digital Marketing is not easy–it is hard work. For your business, you need to decide if you want to do it yourself, if you want to bring it in-house, or if you want to hire an agency. Whichever approach you choose, you should determine which one best meets your budget, your needs, your competition, and your goals.

Photo of Airto Zamorano, founder of numana seo.
Photo of Airto Zamorano, founder of numana seo.

Airto Zamorano
Co-Founder, CEO
Numana SEO/Numana Medical

Don’t have time to do it yourself? Don’t want to do it yourself? Reach out to us for various levels of support ranging from total online management to consulting your own in-house team.

Photo of Airto Zamorano, founder of numana seo.

Written By Airto Zamorano

Don’t have time to do it yourself? Don’t want to do it yourself? Reach out to us for various levels of support ranging from total online management to consulting your own in-house team.

About Numana SEO

Numana SEO is a digital marketing agency that focuses on supporting business leaders to help them achieve online success.

Our team is comprised of experienced professionals from various industries who have hired marketing agencies, and who have developed in-house teams. Of course, we now fall into the DIY category as our business is digital marketing!

Reach out to us if you have any questions whether it’s about how we can work together, or if you’re just looking for some insight. We hope our educational approach will serve you well even if it’s not with our company.