You are ready to grow your business with SEO – the most effective organic marketing technique on the planet but you are faced with a big dilemma – whether to hire an SEO agency or hire an individual SEO expert? ahhh what to do!
It’s a big question for sure because the success of your business depends on it.
Don’t worry! I got it covered for you. This article will answer all your questions and help you make a better decision for your business.
From my own years of experience working in agency environment and as an individual consultant, from the research, I did for this article and after talking to many other SEO friends, I will cover 6 MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS THAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER before you signup. This will certainly help you decide which option is the best for you.
There is a lot of difference in the way an SEO expert works and the way an SEO agency or SEO company works. It is not one size fits all. See all 6 points mentioned below and decide based on this information what suits YOUR business the most.
SEO Agency vs. SEO Expert
I’ll discuss various factors below which can positively or negatively impact your project. Then we divide them into each category (agency or expert). Read each of them carefully.
#1 High Rate of Turnover of the Employees
SEO Agency – Agencies mostly have a high turnover rate of its active employees. So there is a high risk that your account is passed on from one to another time to time. Since employee replacement is quite a common phenomenon in an SEO Agency, confusion may often set in.
An expert can be easily replaced with another one often due to many reasons- not following some rule, not following the company’s structure, issues with the manager, not mixing well with the old culture of the team and so on. Not to mention, redundancy is very common too.
All this confusion, pressure on expert and replacements time to time can impact your project negatively.
SEO Expert – No such issue when you work with individual experienced SEO expert. Well, they can’t replace themselves, right?
SEO Agency – Approaching the SEO Agency out rightly means you have to pay more from your limited budget in most cases.
An agency has a lot of overheads such as beautiful offices, receptionist, staff other than experts (sales, admin, support and accounting staff), regular events, functions, office maintenance, variety of bills and more. All these costs are passed on to you of course unless it is a non-profit organisation.
SEO Expert – An individual consultant does not have all these overheads. He/she works mostly from home office or small offices. All these savings are passed on to the clients. You get more value in less investment.
#3 Pressure of a Large number of projects
SEO Agency –Since agencies have a huge number of clients (they have to, to cover huge costs mentioned above and to make a profit), their each SEO expert has a very large number of projects to manage at one point of time. The number can easily go from 40 to 70 projects per person. If one person, no matter how expert or skilled he/she is, handle such a large number of projects then you can imagine the care your individual project will get.
SEO Expert – It depends on individual but usually individual consultant work with a small number of clients. This is due to two reasons – their personal preference and they do not have a team of sales staff bringing new customers 24/7. Their time is mostly spent working on projects so they can deliver great outcome and get referrals. This is great for clients and also for the consultant.
#3 Knowing Your SEO Expert (in agency vs. individual)
SEO Agency – It is important for you (client) to know your SEO consultant. Is he skilled, experienced, does he care and so on.
In agency, as mentioned earlier, employee redundancy or replacement is common. In some cases, comparatively new SEOs (with less than a year experience) are hired and are trained In-house. This new SEO may end up managing your project. Though they get the training, there is a difference between a newly trained expert and an expert with a decade of experience. right?
Can you choose? Usually, you can’t because you don’t even know who is handling your project. You only talk to an account manager in an agency who remains medium between client and SEO team.
SEO Expert – Here, you will know who is working + managing your project (usually all in one, so things are easier and simpler). This means you have the chance to do your due diligence to find more about your SEO expert before you commit to anything.
How? 1. Talk to them first directly on phone or face to face and you will get an idea about his skills and prior experience. 2. Check his/her personal website or Linkedin Profile. Every experienced professional have a Linkedin Profile. There is no reason not to have one. 3. Check their previous work portfolio. Once you are satisfied, you can rest with peace of mind that your project is in the right hands.
Staying away from inexperienced freelancers is your responsibility. Whether it’s an SEO agency or a car mechanic, it pays to do your research before committing to use their services. Also, going for too cheap is not good in the long run; especially in case of Search Engine Optimisation.
#4 Focus on High Paying Clients
SEO Agency – Usually, an agency with expert sales staff, can bring in high paying clients with a budget of more than $5,000 a month. It is common to have a mix of small to large budget clients in any agency. Who do you think will get more preference and focus – someone paying $5K or $500 a month?
SEO Expert – Individual SEOs usually work with small businesses. The low fee with high value usually attracts the sole traders or small businesses to individual consultants.
SEO Agency – Because many people handle a project in agencies, chaos and confusion can happen.
Usually in any agency SEO does the basic SEO work, SEO manager also adds instructions on what to do on that project (in some cases team leader or a colleague can also interfere) and Account manager communicates with the client.
Imagine, all these communicating with each other over several projects they have to deal with. If there are 5 SEO experts handling 50-70 projects each then it is 300-350 projects that need to be dealt with correct communication regularly between all these employees working together on 300+ projects.
Problem is SEO expert in the agency is not independent to take his own decisions, and in many cases can’t communicate directly with clients. This leads to the frustrations and confusions. With many people working on your project (and 200 others), miscommunication can result. On the other end, you will end up unsure who to hold accountable.
SEO Expert – Individual SEO can take his own decision based on his own experience, they don’t have any pressure from any boss and because they are the only one handling your project, they know all the ins and outs of your project, your goals, your future budget even your favourite movie sometimes!
You can build up great work relations with your SEO consultant and they can be your personal advisor on growing your business online. You can rest with peace of mind that you know the person very well and hence can depend on him/her for digital needs.
#6 – Issues resulting from Corporate Structure
SEO Agency – Because bigger agencies or corporations follow a certain structure, SEO experts can’t simply focus on the work the way they wish to. They are not independent and there are a lot of distractions.
Minor distractions like a chat over water cooler is ok but usually, that’s not all. They have to divide their time attending meetings, creating long reports for managers, personal meetings with managers to satisfy them, attending sessions and not to mention other distractions like training newcomers, taking part in events and more that come with corporates. Somewhere the real work takes a back seat with all this going on around an SEO expert.
Harvard Business Review talks about this in detail about how meetings and unnecessary corporate things create madness and reduce productivity.
SEO Expert – Individual SEO can produce a high outcome for you in less time due to high productivity because his complete focus is simply on improving your website, its rankings and nothing else. Time invested in your project rather than in corporate events is a much better use of time.
#7 – Transparency
SEO Agency – It is hard to get transparency in agencies as mentioned above there are a lot of people involved. First, you talk to sales and after signup, you regularly deal with a campaign manager instead of SEO. A campaign manager is adept in customer relations and their job is to present the outcome in best way possible to clients regardless of what it really is. Your message is delivered to SEO via CM and SEOs message delivered to you via CM.
Further, stay away from shady marketing techniques from those agencies who claim GUARANTEE.
Yes, this old chestnut. Many have been seduced by the promises of page one rankings on Google in 3 months or so. SEO is an art, not a science, and Google’s algorithms are too obscure for any company to make a specific guarantee on results. SEO is an organic process and it, therefore, takes time to see results. The good news is that once positive results are achieved, it’s hard for your rankings to be displaced, providing a good volume of relevant visitors to your site.
SEO Expert – Individual SEO consultant directly talks to you. Here you are talking directly to an expert who handles everything in your project and if transparent, can completely inform and educate you about your website’s current SEO status, what you can expect and your overall ROI (Return on investment).
#8 – Freedom to Leave When things go wrong
SEO Agency – Most agencies will have some sort of contract of 6 to 12 months. If things going well, all good but if you are not happy for some reason then you may be stuck for many more months.
SEO Expert – Individual consultant usually does not have any binding contracts. Some may have 3 to 6 months contract but you can easily negotiate this with them. I personally prefer to leave it open to a monthly basis with no exit fee because I have the confidence that my clients will never leave. Some clients have been with me for many years on a monthly basis. But if for some reason they wish to cancel, they are free to do so.
#9 – Facilities vs. Skill
SEO Agency – If you love walking into fancy offices, talking to a receptionist and listening to a sales superstar before you signup then going for a bigger agency may be the thing for you. However, you may have to spend two to three times more for the service.
SEO Expert – Individual SEO Consultant may have a small office but if he or she is experienced then they can deliver great outcome regardless of some fancy things mentioned above.
Compare this to Doctors. If you are suffering from a life-threatening disease, who do you need the most?- A less skilled (or unknown) doctor in a fancy clinic or a well known and experienced doctor who is skilled in saving patients suffering from that particular disease.
“It is the substance over the form that matters not the other way around” – Shiv Khera
If you are a medium to large business with a huge marketing budget ($2K- $20K per month) to spend then SEO agency may be the right choice for you as you get all the right mix you need while if you are a small business or sole trader with small marketing budget ($500- $2K per month) then individual SEO expert is much better option for you to get high return on investment.