Where to Start When Considering Managing SEO: In-House, Balanced, Agency

Many companies can’t deny the lure of driving millions of pre-qualified visitors to their website. Organic search is, and will continue to be, a trusted source of quality traffic online.

Where to begin, when deciding on whether to build an in-house team or utilize an agency, is a decision businesses of all sizes struggle with. Many articles cover the pros and cons of having an in-house team vs. an agency, but let’s start off with how to make that decision in the first place.

Most companies start out only concerned with cost. Realistically, this probably isn’t the best approach. I’ve worked as an in-house SEO, a consultant and at agencies. The first thing each business should consider is their size (small, mid- to large size and enterprise).

In the world of search, size does matter, because scalability, flexibility, and agility are the key. Yes, cost does weigh in as a factor, but as a starting point, sizing things up will make life much easier.


Small Business Advantage

The small business can take advantage of having SEO in-house which is a cost-effective method of supporting SEO within the organization.

The reasons are clear, small businesses are typically, highly flexible, extremely agile, and smaller scale.

Dedicating a resource to performing well within a channel can be a highly effective strategy, especially when there are less stakeholders and red tape to get through.

You won’t regret this decision as your business grows and it’s the ideal starting point for laying the foundation for an SEO inclusive marketing and tech structure.

Mid-to-Large Size Business Advantage

Mid- to large size businesses tend to have similar structure when it comes to process around brand, content, web design and site changes. They also have a marketing budget and defined goal, so the balanced approach tends to serve quite well.

An in-house representative, whether they are a natural search practitioner or not, with the ability to utilize an agency for insight, support, and quick reference for best practices is usually the best approach. Why? Well now we’re in an organization that still has some flexibility, however, agility is strained and the scale has increased substantially.

Contracting resources to supplement/augment staff is typical. This is why having someone on the inside who understands the inner workings of the business manage these resources is a must.

Having this balance also regulates cost and increases output, as the agency will have more of the heavy lifting to do in terms of identifying opportunity and providing the strategy.

Enterprise Advantage

Agency is the only way to go when you have an enterprise organization. Mind you, there are many organizations with an in-house agency, this isn’t the same, nor should it be mistaken for “in-house” SEO. This does not change the fact that in order to scale you need a model that is focused, experienced, that can also be expanded appropriately.

Enterprise organizations don’t have the flexibility because they’re grounded in structure and process.

The agility dynamic is reliant upon a strong understanding that within the organization are many sub-groups, each with stakeholders and priorities that get prioritized against business objectives. This can be the largest barrier to overcome as initiatives can take years to be executed.

An agency partner should understand this process and provide insight and opportunity to ensure the benefits of SEO can be scaled, regardless of the constraints to flexibility and agility. This in itself is the value add to an enterprise organization.


There are many pros and cons to selecting how natural search is integrated into your digital marketing program. The best way to approach a problem is understanding your organization and the problem itself.

Are you a small business that functions simliarly to a mid-to-large size business? Then aligning with a mid-to-large size approach is probably a better fit.

Remember, regardless of the size of your organization, success with SEO is contingent upon flexibility, agility, and scale.

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