The Cost of SEO: Bring It In-house or Use An Agency?

By Andy Kerns

Now that you’re hip to the most effective and sophisticated SEO practices, are you thinking about firing your digital marketing agency and hiring some young blood to take care of everything in-house? Are you thinking about going from an SEO renter to an SEO owner?

Of course you are. What a great idea! Good for you.

Or is it?

In case any of you snoozed through the fun part, here are the facts, again, in black and white: a top-level SEO hire will cost you $99-per-hour and work for you three times as many hours throughout the year with, at best, one third the skills of an agency team.

Not for you?

A top level, ass-kicking SEO team will cost you more than half a million bucks in the first year and almost half a million bucks each year thereafter, if, of course, you’re a millennial whisperer.

Not for you?

And a great digital marketing agency, in terms of skill, experience, and the almighty results-per-dollar, will blow both those other two options away.

(For you.)

First, we agencies hire the best SEO talent, well before you ever lay eyes on it. Why? Because they want to be here. They want a diverse range of clients, unique challenges around every corner, and guaranteed work. They want to be part of an established and energetic team that has a clear direction, clear formulas for success, and enough flexibility to experiment and conquer the future. Sorry guys, but we know the deal—it’s tough for you to give them much of that.

As you consider the merits of each side, there are many pitfalls to avoid. Most important, don’t get too hung up on cost… at first. It’s a tricky path coming to understand the results-per-dollar from both an in-house SEO hire and an agency, but the important points are plain and simple:

  • Agencies will cost more per hour
  • In-house hires will do more work per year
  • Still, there is no substitute for the abilities of a talented agency

By all means, negotiate a budget that works for you and your agency, but don’t ever underestimate the ability of a multi-armed monster.


Lyndsey Maddox

Chief Executive Officer

Email Lyndsey. Find out how we can help.

Work with DTC


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Or call us at (773) 904-2700

    Lyndsey will get in touch with you as soon as possible.