Should I hire a full-time SEO or hire an SEO expert?

How to hire an seo expert

In my ten years of experience in SEO, I have worked for both agencies and internally for clients. Companies I have worked with as global SEO manager include Intuit, Knight Frank, Jimmy Choo, Belstaff and Abcam. When it comes to agencies, I’ve worked for the likes of Verve Search, Omnicom, Publicis group and Pacific. Thanks to this experience, I’m well-positioned to outline the positives and negatives of working with in-house SEO teams and consultants.

For a long time, I believed that hiring a full-time SEO was better than using an agency or any external source. As such, I convinced several brands to create an internal SEO team. But now I’m happy to hold my hands up and say I was wrong.

Lots of brands opt to hire an internal SEO team because of poor past experiences with agencies. It’s often that the agency failed to deliver the results their initial proposal and project planning promised. In my experience, that’s because work tends to be delivered by a junior team of SEOs with only a few years of experience. Factors like conservative budgeting also impacts the time an agency can spend on a project and limits the results.

That’s not to say all agencies offer sub-optimal work and many have improved by changing their business model completely. Nowadays, few agencies have an agile team of consultants they work with. Depending on the client, they’ll allocate them a dedicated consultant that works directly with them as an external source.

That said, hiring a growth advisor and consultant really makes the biggest difference. That’s especially true when it comes to finding someone who can deliver consistent results and adapt to your business’ requirements for each project. Not only is this a better option than hiring an internal team or going through an agency, it’s also better value for money.

Want to know why hiring a full-time SEO isn’t always the right choice? Then read on…

Anyone can claim to be an SEO expert

Because the SEO industry isn’t regulated. Often someone will spend a few years working in an agency and think they’ve seen it all. In my time I’ve interviewed plenty of SEOs who claim to be experts and look good on paper. But, once you start asking questions, you realise they lack both experience and technical skill. Don’t get me started on some of the questions clients ask during interviews. That’s a matter for another post.

Missing the holistic approach

One thing lots of SEOs lack are experience with strategy and taking a holistic approach. That means, if you’re looking to hire a whole SEO team, you would need to budget for a technical expert, a strategic mind and a content creator. And that’s the bare minimum. For a fully-fledged team, the list goes on, particularly if you’re an international business. That’s because you would need to hire an SEO expert for each of your local markets, as well as liaise with the global team.

Company hierarchy holds back SEOs

Internal SEOs often find themselves restricted by hierarchical structure because they aren’t in the room where decision making is made. This common form of company politics restricts individual employees and stops them from expanding on their role.

Can’t see the bigger picture

Whilst this has improved in recent years, many SEOs tend to be reactive and focus on the more minute details. By this, I mean things like meta titles, schema and page speed. But by doing that they miss out on the bigger picture of a company’s SEO strategy.

SEOs may struggle with collaboration

When it comes to working within a company, it can be hard for internal SEO to work alongside different stakeholders and c-suite executives. This is particularly the case when it comes to collaborating with different departments. Often a lack of understanding, authority and power means it can be hard to shout about delivery and results.

Hiring a whole team is expensive

I’ve seen junior roles advertised for between £34-55k, and when it comes to a Head of SEO, you’re looking at a minimum of £90k. For a well-rounded SEO expert that can expand and build processes with real results, you’re looking at much more. Not to mention the cost of any external agency or team to helps deliver select projects.

As is clear from the above, hiring a full-time SEO can be fairly hit or miss when not executed properly. That’s where hiring a freelancer SEO expert can come in useful.

The experience needed to make change

One major benefit of an SEO consultant is their ability to tackle each project differently. They have the experience and expertise necessary to deliver a holistic strategy and offer informed recommendations on directions you should explore. For example, international targeting, the opportunity to deliver ideas that grow traffic and conversion, assist in a business’ digital transformation and offer digital growth advice.
They aren’t bound by the hierarchy of a company so aren’t restricted in the same way as a team. Often this means they can make big changes happen.

They have your interests at heart

An external consultant will also offer an honest and frank opinion when it comes to bringing in additional third parties. They’ll let you know if an agency is worth considering and can advise on what agency to use for specific projects. Remember, their overarching goal is to deliver good results and keep the client on their books. So, they’ll always have your best interests at heart.

However, there are some things to be wary of when hiring an SEO expert.

Are they really an SEO expert?

There are plenty of consultants advertising themselves as an ‘expert’ but lack exposure and experience. Whilst these ‘experts’ may be cheaper; their mistakes will likely cost you more in the long run. When choosing an SEO expert, look for one with a proven track record of successes, similar clientele and relevant domain experience. These show they’re capable of understanding your business and customer audience.

What’s their workload like?

Another concern is the lack of time dedicated to your work. A great consultant will only take on one or two projects per month so they can focus on each one. Saying that, many consultants surround themselves with a team they trust to outsource work to. This means they consistently deliver quality work and can take on more projects. It’s important to check that they’ll have sufficient time to work alongside your existing team in an integrated way. This means they can also outsource some of the work to your existing website team.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on this. I’d love to hear if you’ve had a different experience, think I’ve missed something or have a fun tale to tell. Whatever the case, let me know in the comments or reach out directly.