Monday was my 6 month mark at SEER Interactive, and I believe it’s definitely time for my first blog post. Looking back at my time at SEER, it’s clear that it’s been one of the biggest learning experiences of my professional life so far. I was in the SEO field for 3 years prior to SEER, but the last half year has taught me more about SEO than the previous 3 combined. Being surrounded by a team of other talented Search Professionals every day who continue to refine an evolving process has definitely been a prime contributor to that.
I came to SEER from an In-house SEO position which is a completely different world than the Agency environment. There are pros and cons to working with each and I wanted to share the un-candy coated truth today, based on my experiences.
I have to start off by saying, when you’re exclusively working with one industry you get to know the industry pretty well.
The In-house SEO is entrenched in their industry all day, every day. Let’s say you have an internal SEO Specialist for your online store that sells toys. If you’re doing the SEO for this store, you will see the trends for toy sales and search volume for toy related keywords every day, all year. You’ll know what market trends make traffic spike and which make traffic plummet. You’ll know what works and what strategies are wastes of time in your niche.
The agency SEO Specialist may not be immersed in the same field all day, however they get to see market trends and algorithm shifts for a variety of industries and websites. They can see how the most recent Google algorithm change affected different types of websites with different functions and goals. They can see how a change in the economy, a different time of the year, or even what SEO strategies affect businesses in the financial sector and at the same time see how it is influencing the health industry. Agencies get a more comprehensive view of the SEO industry as a whole and see more of what affects search engine rankings.
At an In-house position exclusively meant for SEO, you get good at creating work for yourself. At the start of an SEO project there is an industry analysis, keyword research, page targeting, content development, link building strategies…however, after the initial kick off tasks the project is running on all of the initial research and strategy. When your job is to do SEO for one website, 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, you need to make sure that you’re continuously working on something new, looking for finding new opportunities for your website to be optimized, and making sure you still have a job. I have to say, you definitely get good at finding every possible optimization opportunity!
In the agency, after doing all of the initial kickoff work you can follow your strategy. You have other clients to work on, so you don’t continuously search for alternative strategies. If something works, it works; if it doesn’t work, you do your research, find out what does work, and refine your strategy. Why look for alternatives if something is already working? You make changes only once it stops working, not just because you feel the need to be continuously working on something. Besides, there are other clients that need work done for them, so there is never a loss of SEO tasks to do at any time.
Again, let’s go back to the toy store. You are exposed to this industry every day as an In-house SEO Specialist. You see what works and what doesn’t. However, when you find out something doesn’t work that’s it; you don’t touch it anymore. Why bother wasting time on a strategy that doesn’t work?
Let’s again bring this back to an agency. They’re working on the Toy Store and a certain strategy doesn’t help their important keywords rank. You’d move on like the In-house SEO Specialist, however this same strategy may work for a University that is also a client. Since I started at SEER, I’ve explored realms of SEO that I never even set foot in because it was already determined by another Senior SEO Specialist that they didn’t work for the website I was involved in. Getting your feet wet with all of the different areas of SEO is a definite with an agency.
One of the biggest changes from switching to an agency setting was the speed at which day to day operations took place.
Going back to the online toy store example again, you’re in the process of getting a great link on the blog of a daycare with a great online presence. They’re inviting your toy industry specialists to talk about what toys are most popular for each age bracket, geographic location, and income class. The best part is you can link back to your site as many times as you want with whatever anchor text you desire! What is the problem here? You’re waiting on your content writers to deliver the content. What do you do while you wait for this?
Let’s say this toy store was using an agency and the same lack of content situation is presented; the SEO Specialist at the agency would take this break to work on another client project. Just because you’re waiting on someone for one SEO Project doesn’t mean that you need to be a sitting duck. Like I said earlier, there are always other clients with SEO tasks to be completed!
The Final Word
My take on the In-house vs. Agency debate has two conclusions:
- As an SEO Professional, I have appreciated my time in an agency more than an In-house position. The experience with various industries, the opportunity to be exposed to various SEO strategies and see what kinds of sites/industries they fail/succeed in, and the fast pace are why I prefer my current set up. I can see why someone would prefer to be exclusive to one website that they can master, but I prefer the versatility.
- From the perspective of a company looking to have SEO done, I think the optimal solution is to have an SEO Agency work with an In-house SEO specialist. Usually the In-house SEO Specialist has other non-SEO tasks that come their way, so having the agency behind them to work with will yield the best results in my opinion. This isn’t always possible however, mostly because of budgets, so honestly I’d have to say an SEO Agency would be my preferred choice. The agency is engrossed in SEO all day, so it’s their job to only focus on that. Plus, if it comes time where the company doesn't need full time SEO anymore, they won’t have to worry about reallocating someone’s job functions in the company.
I’ll finish with saying I’m glad to be part of a team like SEER. Working with a great team of intelligent Search Professionals with different strengths and weaknesses makes me learn something every day. It’s also the reason it’s taken me 6 months to write a blog post…when you’re surrounded by great minds, it’s tough to determine which bits of SEO wisdom are wise or just old news.
Does anyone else have experience working with/in an In-house and/or agency setting? I’d love to hear other perspectives about it!