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5 reasons you might not need an SEO agency

Outsourcing your SEO? Think again. Eli Schwartz offers five reasons to keep your SEO in-house.

4 min read

Digital TechnologyMarketing

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As technology and the ways customers discover and make purchases changes, executives and marketing leaders find themselves managing an ever-growing remit of customer acquisition channels.

Therefore, modern marketing requires larger teams than ever to man these various channels. This is a near impossible task in our current environment of low unemployment and fierce competition for marketing hires.

The shortcut to overcoming this hiring gap is to outsource marketing efforts to an agency — of which I am a huge proponent for some channels, but not for SEO.

I am a huge proponent of product-led SEO. Great SEO is a critical component of a product that requires the deepest customer empathy and is not something that should simply be outsourced to an external party. However, this isn’t the only reason you might not need an SEO agency and should consider bringing your SEO in-house.

Here are the top 5 reasons you might not need an SEO agency:

1. At its core, SEO is a strategic effort. However, it’s difficult for any agency that doesn’t have the cachet of a large brand to sell themselves as a strategic partner. To compensate for this, most agencies sell deliverables, most of which you don’t need. Most popular amongst these deliverables is an SEO audit.

2. One deliverable you might need help with is content, but agencies do this from a keyword perspective. They will turn to a keyword research tool like Semrush or Ahrefs and then just produce content that is formulated around these words. These words might be popular search terms according to a tool, but they might not be the words your actual customers might use.

3. Utilized correctly, SEO agencies should be an extension of your SEO strategy, and without a strategy it is unlikely that the agency efforts will be successful. If you take the time to develop a strategy, you might very well discover that you could do everything SEO related in your strategy internally.

4. While many marketing leaders look at SEO as a channel they need to invest in, it’s also highly possible that you might not need to do SEO at all. I have found in my consulting practice that there are many businesses that are not discovered via search engines and therefore an SEO effort is unlikely to ever be successful.

5.  As I alluded to early on in this article, built correctly, SEO is a key part of your product and it’s not just a collection of blog posts targeted at keywords. As a product, it incorporates your key value proposition, your brand messaging, and it has a place in your acquisition funnel. The same way that very few companies would ever outsource their sales or their cultural development to an external agency, SEO should also not necessarily be outsourced to an agency.

SEO agencies are effective when they are an extension of a company’s internal SEO efforts. Some teams might need assistance with doing digital public relations or help with developing content ideas, but the key drivers of these efforts should all be internal. You might not need an SEO expert in-house if you could lean on an external SEO expert to help with ideas, but the questions to these experts should come internally, rather than ideas being pushed by an agency.

If you choose to work with an SEO agency, start with knowing exactly what you want that agency to do for you rather than with the goal of having an agency tell you what to do. Many of the most successful SEO strategies on the internet came from internal teams, not agencies, and you will be in great company if you choose to go it alone.


Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant for leading B2B and B2C companies whose ability to demystify and navigate the SEO has generated billions of dollars for some of the internet’s top websites. As head of SurveyMonkey’s SEO team, he helped launch the first Asia-Pacific office and grew the company’s organic search from 1% of revenue to a key driver of global revenue. This column is based on topics discussed in his book, Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy.