• Zach

    Well said! I am coming from the other side of things, working at bigger SEO firm (200+ clients) to now Director of Online Marketing for a home services marketing company. Each side definitely has their pros and cons, but my vote goes to in-house all the way. No clients, less organizational hurdles, and more flexibility. When I want to try out an extremely tin-foil tactic, I do. To your ‘toy website’ example, I couldn’t agree more. I spend all day every day beating my head against the wall looking at the same SERPS, same competitors, and same keywords. Can really get old, but allows you to dial in on specifics and details you generally don’t have time for on the agency side. Although, I will say I miss my laid back, no shortage of search geek agency office!

  • Mark mitchell

    Finally a truly insightful, no agenda, not emotive, nicely written article on this debate

    Apart from the ones I have wrote about as well :-)

    Great great post

    Mark – head of search OMD

  • David Karalis

    @Zach – I agree with your points about the flexibility of In-house, but I actually find the client side of agencies to be favorable. I enjoy working with different types and sizes of companies and really learning about all of the industries and types of businesses out there. The search geek agency atmosphere is definitely appreciated as well :)

    @Mark – Thank you for the kind words; I’ll have to read your posts sometime!

  • Marcos Alonso

    Well done!
    I made your inverse job experience. I started at a big agency and than came to an inhouse team, and i agree with a lot of things you said ;)
    But, I don´t know in USA, but i see here in Brazil the market is becoming much more inhouse than working with SEO agencies, mainlly for e-commerce, but to have a realy seo experience you have to work in an agencie.


  • David Karalis

    Thank you for the feedback Marcos!

    I’m not sure on the US ratio of In-house vs Agency, but I definitely agree with you; to get the full SEO experience, agency is the way to go.

    Not to say I didn’t enjoy In-house though!


    It really depends on the person and how inclined you are to do some self learning.

    If you are in the online space, the best experience is to set up your own sites. You learn about all the hurdles in creating a web entity that creates revenue.

    I went from a head of search role, agency side to an in house role overseeing the strategy for europe. Both of them are quite different, but I don’t agree the inhouse should just be someone who has an understanding of SEO, they should be able to hold their own with an agency, especially if managing multiple agencies across a range of countries.

    But I do agree you get a lot of varied experience agency side !!!

  • iPullRank


    Seems like you and I are in the same boat. I just hit my 6th month at RF and I also have worked in an in-house role as well. I’ve worked for smaller agencies before too but it’s safe to say that a big agency is the way to go if you’re gonna do this stuff.

    To be completely honest working on an in-house team is boring. I worked on an in-house team in the basement waterproofing, basement finishing, and crawlspace repair space before and it had gotten so easy that I had written tools to automate the process.

    High-profile agency life is much more fast-paced and you get to touch on so many different industries and you really get to see the affect of your changes. Working with enterprise clients you get to go after some some high profile unbranded terms and see how these algorithm shifts can truly affect high traffic sites. It’s just much more exciting!

    Also working at a big agency… lot of people will court you…From Google on down to the API providers. So it has a lot of great perks for really getting mastery of the graft.

    Granted you can see a lot of that on an in-house team for an enterprise client, but working on one client year after year…it’s just entirely too mundane.

    In any event, I agree with everything you’re saying here.

    Great post!


  • Chotrul SEO

    It might be worth adding that in fact it’s potentially a three way split:
    In house vs Agency vs freelancer

    The latter is not to be forgotten, especially as it can often be the cheapest option by far.

  • George Murphy

    Great post! I guess the major challenge when deciding to go in-house is to find a product or service that you believe in, and that can compensate you as much as an agency can.

  • David Karalis

    Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and opinions! I definitely think that this can sometimes vary on a case by case situation.

    @Chotrul SEO – I agree, I believe freelance SEO is a good and cost effective option for some sites. However I feel that having an entire agency continuously working on SEO, or an In-house on top of the website every day is often a good route. Again, it’s case by case!

  • Norma

    I am sure i am very late to comment on this post, but I have to. Please if anyone happen to read this entry now, please give me your thoughts on what I feel.

    I was working for a agency, and went through many clients and websites. But the whole experince is quite unstatisfactory. First of all the clients will have a contract signed up for 2 – 3 months, (on page is just a month), most of the recommendation the clients don’t want to implement and agency don’t have much time (botheration too) convince it as there are line of clients waiting for SEO. There were times, the client walked in today and the next day he wants tags, it was crazy.

    Though I got a lot of opportunities to learn every day every minute, I never really had a chance to be proud about the work, once the contract is over, i never looked back at their site, let alone following the SERP of keywords. Same thing would happend with link building.

    So i thought in-house is the better thing but after reading this i am not sure. But definately having our own website is a great way to learn what ever we want to.

    Any one had this sort of experince with agencies. I don’t want to say the agecny wasn’t good the situation was so.

    Thank YOu

  • David Karalis

    Thanks for the comment Norma! I can see where you are coming from, but I have to say my experiences haven’t been like that. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the clients on longer contracts so I could witness the effect our efforts were having. I’m also fortunate to have really awesome clients who don’t provide non-implementation obstacles!

    Both definitely have pros and cons, and there is an ideal for everyone. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

    - David