In a business development role, the question "Should I hire an SEO company?" comes up more frequently than I expect. And the answer isn't always yes. Not every company should hire Seer, or perhaps any SEO company at all. Many aren’t ready to bring one on board. It’s essential that needs and services match.
Should I Hire an Agency for SEO?
1. Hire an agency if you have internal resources dedicated to SEO
It’s been ages since anyone can simply go out and hire an SEO agency and “do that SEO thing and get us results” with zero effort internally. If you want to make SEO work with any company, you have to dedicate time and resources internally.
You also need buy-in from the top down so SEO work can be prioritized among the numerous other initiatives the company is working on.
2. Hire an agency if you trust your data
Any good SEO or digital marketing agency is going to want to clear up any data integrity issues prior to setting goals or moving ahead with a project. Without knowing how much you have in your bucket and what holes need to be plugged, how do we really know what is achievable?
From double-counting sessions to having e-commerce tracking set up to knowing your conversion funnel, there’s a lot to track (and track confidently) prior to starting SEO.
Have you transitioned to GA4 yet? Universal Analytics stops collecting data in 2023!
3. Hire an agency if you have development resources available
If you can't implement recommendations, why pay for them in the first place? Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Ensure you have resources available to imlement recommendations from your SEO company.
Whether it's title tags, redirects, internal linking, or a hundred other potential edits, you need dev resources especially if your agency is conducting a technical audit.
4. Hire an agency if you have enough budget
A typical 12-month project for a medium or large sized business will be $120K or more. This typically includes technical SEO, a dedicated team, project plan/strategy, setting goals, content strategy, etc. If that budget doesn’t make sense for 12 months, hiring someone in-house who has the skills likely isn’t cheaper (salary, benefits, fixed costs).
If for some reason you don’t have enough to hire a legitimate agency, finding a solid individual consultant to help give the site a shot in the arm could be a good move. There are plenty of solid consultants out there as well as people working for agencies who take clients on the side. Making the case for a bigger SEO budget through using a small one is something we see often. It also never hurts to ask if an agency you love that is out of your price range can do a three-month sprint or pilot program.
Being in business development, a line commonly echoed is "Seer typically isn't the most expensive, but we're never the cheapest." If you find that Seer's pricepoint isn't a match for your budget, we've done some significant vetting.
This answer leaves room for interpretation, so let me clarify some questions below surrounding budgeting decisions.
How much does it cost to hire an SEO agency?
- Agencies may charge between $500 - $15,000 per month. It all depends on the needs of the site, whether it's a smaller local business, a medium sized business targeting a larger region of customers, or an enterprise business targeting customer internationally. Get more than one quote when evaluating to understand what you get and the projected ROI.
How much does it cost to hire someone for SEO?
- A full time SEO Manager has a salary range of $59,000 - $74,000 as of 2023. If you tack on benefits and other costs, you're looking at close to $100k for a full time in-house SEO manager. (source). A senior manager with a track record of success is often well north of this range.
Are there SEO pricing packages?
- Many agencies will offer a package in the form of a retainer. This is typically based on hours allocated to optimize your website over the course of a year. Again, any SEO pricing package should have an ROI attached to it as well as the ability to opt out with 30-60 days notice.
5. Don't hire an agency if you determine they’re a bad fit for your culture
I want to ensure Seer is as much of a fit for our prospects as I want our prospects to be a fit for Seer. If your culture has plans that might change at the drop of a hat because of what the CMO says, a lot of agencies might signal that they can’t work in that environment.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking for an agency to communicate daily, have weekly calls, send reports weekly or monthly, and be an extension of your team, you need to ask how they communicate with clients to ensure it aligns with your needs.
6. Don't hire an agency if they're going to lock you into a 12 month agreement
We all want to be treated fairly. If for some reason you’re not getting results after six to seven months and need to pull the plug, you shouldn’t have to pay for another five to six months for something that isn’t working for you. So 30- or 60-day outs for either party should be something to have in your contract, as well as ensuring the agency will play nice and have a transition plan for the next agency should that be the case.
7. Don't hire an agency if they aren't prioritizing revenue as the most important goal
Any agency that leads with “we can get you ranked for XYZ” should be an immediate flag to slowly move the phone away from your ear and back on the hook. Hang up.
"Agencies should be asking for your goals, what you’ve done in the past to achieve them, and how they can drive revenue for your business."
You can’t pay your bills in rankings and the agency you select shouldn’t measure their success based on rankings. Rankings are a great early indicator that things are headed in the right direction, but if they aren’t followed by increases in traffic, conversions, and revenue, then they’re simply a vanity metric.
8. Yes, hire an agency if you’re also investing in other marketing channels
SEO in a vacuum doesn’t typically work. It plays nicely when used in combination with PPC, PR, email, social, and brand advocates. SEO can provide a technically sound site and well-optimized content, but if there aren’t other channels helping to drive authority and traffic to the site, SEO could take an extremely long time to pay off. Even the best content needs a way to be shared and gain authority to then drive traffic organically.
Your potential SEO agency should want to collaborate with these other channels, sharing information to create a data-driven approach for success. An SEO company will want your search query reports, calls to action that drove open rates for email campaigns, and so much more. Finding data-driven opportunities is exciting and you should hear that over the phone or see it in person with the agency you select.
9. Yes, hire an agency if you’re looking for long-term success
Unless there’s something easily fixable on your site (like blocking it entirely with your robots.txt file), the majority of SEO is building long-term successes and value. If you need immediate traffic, paid search is a much more realistic way to achieve those quick wins. You’ll spend some to get some, but you could set up a campaign within a day and start selling and learning how customers react to different calls to action in PPC.
Before any of that, you’ll want to ensure you have your analytics configured and set up correctly so you can track what people are doing on your site. If you have data integrity concerns, perhaps finding the right analytics team is the first step you’ll want to take, or just find an agency like Seer that does both.
10, Yes, hire an agency if you’re invested in knowing your audience
Any good SEO agency isn’t going to talk about keywords and throwing content up to see what sticks. They’ll want to connect with you, the expert on your business. They’ll want to connect with customer life cycles, life stages that trigger actions, how people use your product, how people search for it, understanding if we’re reaching everyone just about to enter your funnel and catering those ready to convert too.
Now that you've read through if you should hire, find out how to choose the right SEO agency here.
Should your company hire an SEO agency?
Ultimately, when your organization has the right resources and finds a company that values revenue and longterm strategy (that involves additional marketing channels) - that is when you should hire an SEO agency.
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This post was originally published in 2018, and last updated March 2023.