So, you need search engine optimization services. Maybe you have an in-house marketing team but need consultations or help. Or maybe you are alone, looking to hire someone.
That’s where the question of the day comes: should you hire an SEO agency or a freelancer?
The answer is far from simple. You need to factor everything into your decision – your budget, the size of your company, goals, experience…
That is why we’re here. Below we’ll discuss the most important points to consider before choosing an agency or a freelancer. And after that, you’ll know exactly what to do.
SEO agencies have a whole slew of people at their disposal. They have content writers, link builders, designers, etc. They delegate tasks between a lot of people.
This ensures that there will be multiple people who will look over the project. There’s little room for mistakes. Agencies have a brand image to uphold, so they’ll do everything they can to give the best results.
Agencies, of course, have a mind of their own. They will be there for all your inquiries and suggestions but remain largely independent. It is less likely they will let you decide on strategies, or ask for any detailed input, even if you have it.
Additionally, there are cases where an agency’s company culture clashes with that of the client. The human factor is also a thing to consider.
There is a common misconception that SEO freelancers are not skilled enough. If they were, they would have a job in an agency, right?
Well, not quite.
While it may be true for some of them, others simply love the freedom freelancing brings. They have more time to devote to their clients, they’re often extremely well organized and treat deadlines with great respect.
They’re very aware that your project’s marketing is in their hands, and they will often put in 110%. Additionally, they’re more open to your input concerning the strategies they employ in the project.
Freelancers can take on only so much work. They are a one-person team and can spread thin over several clients.
Finding the perfect consultant for your specific SEO needs can take a while. Not to mention a lot of trial and error.
How to Decide?
Because there are a lot of factors involved, the answer is not a simple “A or B”.
That is why we decided to make a checklist you can follow. Each point represents one aspect of your business:
- Company Size
- Digital Marketing Needs
- Previous Experience
- Personal Involvement
Choosing between freelancers and an agency will depend on where you stand with each of these points. When we go into a little more detail, make notes on which of the two choices would suit you better, in each case. By the time we’re done, you should have a good idea of who to hire. Or, at least, you’ll have a starting point for further consideration.
1. Company Size
This one is a no-brainer. If you’re a starting company that needs to tackle rapid growth, or branches out – freelancing is the way to go. You will still have some control over the decision-making progress and supervise the freelancer to ensure your company suffers little to no losses.
On the other hand, agencies are best suited for already established companies who can afford some riskier methods. You’re not afraid of suffering some losses to potentially tap into a new market, or discover an unpaved road that gives you an edge over your competitors.
The marketing budget goes hand-in-hand with our first point. The way agencies and freelancers charge for their services differs in more than just price. It’s based on their availability, reputation, previous experience, your needs, and current search engine rankings, and so much more.
So, what’s the catch?
- Price varies depending on whether you outsource in the local market, or offshore;
- Charge by tasks (the number of links, number of articles) rather than the whole strategy;
- Cheaper usually because there are no overhead expenses, like with agencies.
- They charge more, but at the same time provide more “bang for the buck”;
- Have an assortment of software and people to pay for;
- Charge by the “bigger picture”.
It all comes down to your budget vs your needs. If SEO is a big part of your business plan for the near future, then you might want to consider investing in an agency. For smaller-scale jobs, it’s safer to go with freelancers.
3. Digital Marketing Needs and Goals
As mentioned above, your business strategy plays a big part in the decision-making process. While there are great solo freelancers, some SEO strategies are just too big for one person to handle.
If SEO is the next big step for your company growth, and you want to focus on a long-term strategy, then an agency will be a good choice. A team of experts can assess your website, find holes in your current plan, then fix and improve upon them.
In these cases, freelancers are usually much better expert SEO consultants, a helping hand for your in-house team. So, if you already have a team, another agency will just make things too crowded. Look for an expert in the field to hire as a project manager.
It may not seem that way, but freelancers and SEO agencies differ in the way they communicate with their clients.
For example, freelancers are often hired off-shore, and the only correspondence is via email, or skype video calls (if necessary). However, they are more likely to contact you often and report on current project progress. They have fewer clients which lets them keep a closer relationship with each client.
Agencies, on the other hand, have more independence. They can work with a greater number of clients, and you’re just one of many they report to. They can have meetings with you, and establish a rapport, but the correspondence will be largely in-house for them. Most of the time, you will just be presented with results, or follow the changing metrics on your own.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much personal involvement you want or need with your SEO expert.
5. Previous Experience
One piece of advice that goes for both freelancers and agencies is to look for previous experience.
As we’ve mentioned, freelancers have fewer clients but can form more reliable bonds with them. They tend to look for smaller companies due to the competitiveness of the market. Word of mouth will be your safest bet with them.
Agencies, on the other hand, are more likely to be picked up by larger companies. They will have more experience with big brands because agencies are perceived as more reliable and experienced.
And knowing this distinction, you should have an idea of where to look and what suits you better.
6. Personal Involvement
How involved are you with search engine optimization?
How involved do you WANT to be?
For those who know quite a bit (or a lot) and need to be aware of every blog post, video, and any piece of content relating to their brand – choose freelancers. They are more inclined to let you steer them, so long as they’re allowed to utilize their skill set.
Those who wish to hand over their objectives and goals for the next quarter and not think about SEO until the results are in – choose the best seo agency. The teams there are specifically made to take the SEO worry off the owners’ hands so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
Before we move on, there is one last factor to discuss, that’s crucial:
If you’re a company with an in-house digital marketing team that only needs some help or guidance, then always go for freelancers. You never know how well an outside agency will cooperate with your team. Not to mention it’s wasteful of your budget.
Secondly, if you’re considering making great strides in search engine optimization for your brand and want to devote a huge chunk of time and budget… then choose to form your own team instead of outsourcing. Sure, it’s costly to pay employees and provide benefits, but you’ll have more frequent correspondence, reliable and easier one-to-one collaboration and more control.
In the freelance vs agency debate, there’s never a straight answer. When it comes to SEO, there never is.
However, we can help you by showing how each choice affects your business in different situations. Use our checklist as a guideline. Add or subtract from it. Make a list of your company priorities and think about why you’re after search engine optimization. After that, you’ll have an idea who you should choose.
And keep in mind that nothing is set in stone. If you choose one option and see that it doesn’t work for you – simply count your losses and go for the other. Businesses evolve and develop, and so will you.