11 min.
Should you hire an SEO agency or an in-house SEO specialist?
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Should you hire an SEO agency or an in-house SEO specialist?

Content & SEO

With the deprecation of third-party cookies disrupting traditional advertising targeting tactics and the arrival of Law 25 in Quebec, SEO has gained in importance.

Given the current context of data loss, the impact of new rules for SEO shouldn’t be taken lightly considering the crucial role it plays in attracting qualified traffic and maximizing your visibility online. To cope with the new challenges that have arrived on their doorstep, companies are facing a dilemma: Is it better to hire an external SEO agency or an internal SEO resource?

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, and the answer depends on a number of factors.
In this article, we’ll explore these options in-depth and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision based on your specific needs.


Hiring an SEO agency

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The main advantages

Cutting-edge innovation 

Working with an SEO agency offers direct access to talented professionals who must excel on a daily basis and remain on the cutting edge of the latest trends to be competitive.

The only way to be comfortable in this kind of environment is to be passionate about your field and stimulated by innovation.

At the best agencies, this innovative and inquisitive outlook brings maximum value to clients.

A history of work with a wide variety of clients and industries

SEO agencies have a wealth of experience collaborating with a multitude of clients from a range of industries.

For example, at Adviso, we have over 20 years of experience in the field working with a multitude of industries in Canada and even in the United States.

This wealth of experience gives us a nuanced approach based on a history of case studies and lessons learned.

An agency’s track record can be an incredible growth accelerator when it has been well-documented and exploited by everyone.

Regular skill updates

The world of SEO changes at breakneck speed.

Agencies have no choice but to invest in continuous training of their experts to ensure they are up to date on the latest changes in algorithms and industry best practices.

At Adviso, each expert is required to take charge of their own Personal Development Plan (PDP) in collaboration with their manager and must continually evolve the plan each year based on their career goals (and those of the agency).

Additionally, a training budget is made available to support their development.

On the client side, where I spent several years, the importance of continuous training is often neglected.

Collaboration with other fields of expertise

An SEO agency is not limited to just its own expertise in technical SEO or content marketing.

Although this isn’t true of every agency, the best are equipped with a range of experts in all the main areas of digital marketing.

At Adviso, the SEO team works closely with other agency experts, such as specialists in digital media, user experience (UX), conversion rate optimization (CRO), relationship marketing and data intelligence, but also with those working in data engineering.

This interdisciplinary synergy allows us to offer turnkey services that evolve based on our clients’ growth and that brings them maximum value.

High quality standards

Due to the nature of their work, SEO agencies need to rigorously maintain quality standards to guarantee the satisfaction of their clients.

By relying on the right experts for the right mandates, establishing the right methodologies, and also mastering the right tools for the right task, work quality is increased considerably.

Hiring an agency generally means investing in a high standard of quality, thereby reducing the risk that your SEO strategy doesn’t bring the expected results.

I say “generally,” because unfortunately, not all agencies put quality ahead of quantity.

Responsiveness and delivery timelines

Using an SEO agency ensures a certain responsiveness and usually shorter delivery times.

Agencies have at their disposal a diverse range of specialists and can quickly mobilize teams to respond to urgent needs.

This translates to a capacity to deliver SEO projects within tight timelines, thereby ensuring that your company remains competitive in the marketplace.

This agility is crucial, especially in SEO, where search algorithms are constantly evolving and competition is aggressive.

The main disadvantages

Lack of customization

A customized approach is essential to fulfilling a company’s specific needs.

Certain agencies, due to their operational model or their client portfolio, may adopt a standardized approach. This is often the case with agencies who serve small and/or medium-sized businesses.

This lack of customization may lead to the use of tactics that don’t correspond to the particularities of the business or its target market, thereby compromising the possibility of obtaining optimal results.

At Adviso, we are uniquely positioned in the SEO agency marketplace, since the majority of our clients are medium or large businesses.

For many years our success has been based precisely in our capacity to create tailored strategies based on our clients’ business challenges.

Every company has unique issues and deserves a customized approach based on their business goals, resources and level of maturity.

Lack of knowledge of the business

Every company has its own history, unique organizational culture and operational particularities.

Despite its best efforts, an external SEO agency cannot fully comprehend all these details, especially in a situation where it is not provide consulting services on a continual basis.

This situation may lead to a disconnect between the SEO strategies that are suggested and the reality of the business.

For this reason, Adviso accords great importance to project launches, organizing work-in-progress meetings to obtain client feedback before we get too far advanced in the project, and doing post-mortems to put what we’ve learned by the end of the mandate to good use.

So if your agency doesn’t have a deep understanding of the brand, its values and its customers, SEO recommendations may be less relevant and therefore have less impact.

Remote communications

Fluid communications are essential to the success of any collaboration, especially when handled from a distance, given the new realities of today’s working world.

When working with an external SEO agency, you may encounter challenges related to remote communications.

Whether this is due to time zone differences, access to communication tools, delays responding to messages or simply a lack of regular face-to-face meetings, barriers to transparent and effective communication may impact the speed of execution and the mutual understanding of goals.

To remedy the situation, Adviso decided to integrate itself into its clients’ operations to the greatest extent possible so it could become an extension of their own teams.

The success of such an initiative is mainly due to the project manager and/or account manager, who are both responsible for ensuring the communication lines remain open while SEO experts are focusing on their tasks.

Less control over activities and their visibility

Entrusting your SEO to external experts may feel like losing some amount of control.

When there is no direct or constant presence, it may be hard for companies to track in real time what methodologies are used and which adjustments have been made, or even to evaluate the quality of the work.

This distance may create some uncertainty or concerns regarding the direction of SEO activities.

The best way to assuage this feeling is to choose a fully transparent agency that takes pride in the excellence of its client services.

At Adviso, transparency is one of our five core values, and it’s just one of the reasons so many of our clients have retained our services for such a long time!

Furthermore, we schedule follow-up meetings based on our clients’ preferences to ensure they maintain good visibility on the work in progress.

Risk of unethical techniques

Unfortunately, the SEO industry is not completely free of agencies employing unethical tactics. We’re referring here to “black hat” techniques whose goal is to manipulate search engines.

If an agency chooses to go down this road to get quick results, this could threaten their reputation and lead to penalties that may include the complete removal of a page or even a whole website.

At Adviso, we not only respect the foundational principles of Google search, but also comply with rules about spam to ensure that our clients sleep well at night.

We’re proud that we respect best practices to generate sustainable growth that conforms with professional standards in place.

With this in mind, if you choose to go with an agency, base your decision on its reputation and the quality of the services it offers.

Hiring an in-house SEO specialist

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The main advantages

Deep understanding of the history of the website

An internal SEO resource will have valuable insight into the history of the company’s website, which provides them with an understanding of past changes and their impact.

This provides a significant advantage when it comes time to evaluate website performance.

When you know that SEO is a long-term investment, being up to date on work already performed on the site in recent years has big strategic value.

With this information, specialists are able to understand what has worked well and less well and make adjustments as a result.

After all, SEO is an endless process of continual improvement. As we’ll see later, this advantage is conditional, however, upon being able to retain your staff.

Relationship with other departments

Working within the same company greatly facilitates collaboration with other departments.

Close relationships and easy face-to-face communications strengthen mutual understanding and the effectiveness of working as a team, which thereby contributes to more integrated, coherent projects.

Good SEO specialists build trust-based relationships with their co-workers, since they know that they are the ones who will be implementing their recommendations.

This interdependence should lead specialists to prioritize this aspect of their work.

But for other reasons, silos still have a significant presence within organizations and considerably reduce what should be an advantage in comparison to agencies.

At Adviso, our goal is to help your teams build lasting relationships by fully integrating with your marketing activities and web projects.

Upstream involvement in web and marketing projects

Although it isn’t always the case, an internal SEO resource should be involved in the very first stages of a web or marketing project, thereby promoting harmonious integration of the SEO.

Given the fact that the SEO specialist is internal, part of their role is to communicate with other teams to know when their presence is needed.

This proximity to key co-workers is essential and limits the risk of resorting to bad practices, but also maximizes the integration of practices recommended by search engines.

By anticipating SEO needs from the beginning, you can maximize your chance of success and the efficiency of your web projects.

Since they are several levels removed, agencies have an additional challenge to overcome in this sense.

With experience, however, they can encourage the creation of connections with key teams and the sharing of information with their main client so they know when to step in during projects.

Deep understanding of the industry and customers

An SEO resource integrated into the company lives and breathes the same air as the other employees, and thereby is intimately familiar with the industry, the nuances of the marketplace, the products or services offered and, ultimately, the target audience.

This kind of everyday immersion allows them to grasp details and particularities that might escape an external agency.

In complex industries where several marketplaces are present as well as a large number of competitors, this is no small advantage.

That said, it’s an aspect that is highly dependent on the ability of the client to retain their employees continuously for several years, which can be a big challenge for many businesses.

Direct access to upper management

An internal SEO specialist should be able to benefit from direct, privileged access to upper management, which facilitates fast, transparent communication of SEO performance and results.

This proximity enables a mutual understanding of goals and expectations, ensuring that reports and data analyses are aligned with the company’s strategic priorities.

This deep integration within the company’s organizational structure also simplifies the process of showing a return on investment for SEO, allowing the specialist to highlight the positive impact of their work on the company’s financial results and growth.

But since SEO is a marketing activity, we sometimes notice that SEO specialists often don’t have this kind of direct access, and the activation of their recommendations depends on their ability to gather together key information and influence their co-workers.

In fact, one of Adviso’s strong points is helping SEO specialists better communicate and gain influence internally within an organization.

There is still quite a lot of work to do to evolve organizational structures and democratize SEO internally.

Availability on demand and priority management

Being a full-fledged employee of the company, an internal SEO specialist is always available to answer questions, recommend strategies or intervene in case of an emergency.

This proximity facilitates daily communication and ensures an unrivalled ability to react to situations, which is particularly crucial when unforeseen changes occur or there are major SEO updates.

This adaptability facilitates instant reactivity to unexpected projects, which could prove to be very useful.

However, we have observed that too much availability of resources without governance considerably reduces the impact of SEO activities.

When priorities are changing every week, it’s really hard for a team to stay on course and keep working on what’s actually important.

At Adviso, we recommend establishing a road map on a quarterly basis to prioritize the work to be done. At the same time, a bank of hours can be made available to respond to ad hoc requests. 

But be warned: This road map shouldn’t be the sole focus of attention!

When working internally, it’s a lot harder to turn down requests because the right mechanisms or stakeholders are not always in place to filter requests and prioritize activities so that predetermined goals can be met.

The main disadvantages

Effect of employee churn

Hiring an internal SEO resource could be risky because of employee churn.

This is particularly the case if your goal is to internalize 100% of your expertise in this area.

The loss of a key employee may interrupt SEO activities and take away time and resources to recruit and train a replacement, thereby compromising the continuity of strategies that are already in place.

The loss of an SEO specialist who takes a huge quantity of knowledge with them might prove costly and have a noticeable effect for quite some time.

This is a major risk when you realize that 53% of a site’s traffic comes from organic search.

If you were an investor, it would be like investing over 50% of your portfolio in a single company.

Developing a trust-based, long-term relationship with an agency would let you considerably reduce this risk.

Limited skills

An internal SEO specialist may have deep knowledge of certain areas of SEO, but it’s hard for a single person to master every aspect of this complex discipline.

As I often tell our clients and internal resources at Adviso, SEO is such a deep topic it’s impossible to master every aspect perfectly.

For example, I notice three basic profile types within the industry (excluding link-building experts): technical SEO experts (the most common type, but the really good ones are hard to find), content marketing experts (often really good with content, but not with SEO) and hybrid SEO experts (these generalists are so rare they’re practically unicorns).

Each profile requires different key skills and behind each of them lies a vast playing field to be explored that often takes years to master.

For the internal SEO specialist who finds they are having to juggle all these balls alone or, even worse, who has the title of SEO expert while also fulfilling other digital marketing roles, this is not a winning formula.

Lack of perspective and diverse experiences

Working internally often means being submerged in just one sector or type of company.

We covered the risk related to employee churn earlier. Well it turns out that if by chance you are able to keep your employees for a long time, you will then be exposed to a risk in terms of their lack of diversity of experience.

In addition, a resource that is too close to their projects may lack objectivity and perspective, which also represents a risk.

This lack of perspective is often one of the reasons clients turn to SEO agencies—so they can access a fresh, impartial point of view of a situation.

After 12 years of experience in digital marketing, both internally and in an agency, my observation is that the best SEO specialist you can hire internally can never rival the diversity of experience of an agency that has worked with a variety of clients and industries for a number of years.


I briefly mentioned above the advantage of having someone who is available upon request.

But internal resources are often loaded up with many responsibilities, which may dilute their attention and reduce the effectiveness of their work.

Managing several tasks simultaneously can considerably reduce their capacity to fully focus on SEO activities with high added value.

At Adviso, we believe in the importance of having pairs of project managers to ensure the success of our SEO projects.

If these roles do not exist internally, the SEO specialist assumes these responsibilities by default.

You can therefore see the notable difference between internal specialists, who are required to wear many hats, and agency experts who have the opportunity, at least technically, to dedicate themselves fully to their role as an SEO expert.

I should mention here that not every agency lets their experts work purely in their field of expertise. In fact, many SEO agencies integrate the project management role into these experts’ responsibilities.

This is not the case at Adviso, which is what allows our experts to stand apart from the competition, since they are able to focus their attention on their work and make use of colleagues to manage contracts, deadlines, meetings, etc.


SEO professionals, often by nature more introverted, can tend to work in isolation when integrated into an internal team, maintaining their distance from other marketing departments.

This tendency to work in a silo might hinder crucial collaborative possibilities and the sharing of ideas, which are essential elements  to the successful integration of SEO strategies within a larger marketing project.

This lack of exchange and communication can also limit innovation and creativity, potentially affecting a company’s ability to conduct marketing campaigns that are cohesive and effective on every front.

Because the success of SEO activities depends on our ability to convince and influence our co-workers, with the goal being to get them to implement our recommendations, self-isolating SEO specialists are not a guarantee of success.

Unfortunately, this is still too often a tendency we see with our clients.

Our role as an agency is to help them get out of their comfort zone to create lasting relationships with their co-workers and stop considering a technical SEO audit or SEO content brief as an end in itself. These are merely where the work begins.

Limited access to professional tools

In organizations with more or less mature SEO disciplines, freeing up budgets to obtain good tools can be quite a challenge.

And yet, without basic tools, it’s impossible for SEO specialists to do their work effectively. After all, without the right tools, a mechanic can’t be a mechanic. The same is true of an SEO specialist.

Given the nature of agency activities, investing in a range of advanced tools is not optional—it’s essential in order to remain at the top of the pack.

At Adviso, we regularly try out many tools to constantly improve our tool box and ensure we are maximizing our productivity.

Working with an agency is often therefore one way of obtaining access to these tools indirectly, without having to invest in expensive licences.

On the client side, the exception to the rule is the occasional time we find a manager who is experienced with demonstrating the ROI for SEO and also has the marketing budget to cover technological tools.

High initial costs and hidden costs 

So far we’ve covered a lot of different angles but without talking about the elephant in the room: costs.

Hiring an internal SEO resource is a bit like buying your water heater instead of renting it: the high initial cost gets amortized over time.

In a world in which it’s hard to keep your employees, this amortization is lost whenever an employee quits. It’s as if the water heater you bought breaks after just two or three years.

On the other hand, the structure of the costs of an internal SEO expert is a lot more complex and is often underestimated, since there is a panoply of hidden costs that need to be taken into consideration.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the charges you will have to pay if you decide to take on an internal resource:

  • Recruiting fees (sourcing, job description, criminal record analysis, job posting fees, marketing budget, employee referral program budget, etc.)
  • Salary and bonus
  • Benefits (insurance coverage, parental leave) and RRSP
  • Technology costs (computer, phone, tools, etc.)
  • Continuous training budget
  • Recruiting fees (sourcing, job description, criminal record analysis, job posting fees, marketing budget, employee referral program budget, etc.)
  • Investment of time by all people who are involved to any degree in the different stages of an employee’s tenure

These expenses can quickly accumulate if you intend to put together an entire team and go beyond the cost of hiring an agency, which is often more predictable in terms of costs.

How can you make the right choice?

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In this digital age when SEO is essential to the visibility of your brand online, choosing between an external SEO agency and an internal resource is a critical decision.

If your company values a range of experience that is constantly updated and you are ready to invest in a high-quality solution at the forefront of innovation, opting for an SEO agency might be the wisest decision.

If you value full integration, deep knowledge of your sector and close collaboration between your teams, opting for an internal SEO specialist could be the best option for you.

At Adviso, we understand the advantages and disadvantages of both options and often recommend a hybrid solution.


Because in the ideal world, all medium and large companies should be making use of an internal SEO resource who works in close collaboration with an external SEO resource. This way, the strengths of each option can be truly maximized and the disadvantages limited.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for help evaluating your needs and determining which options works best for you.

And now that we’ve answered this question about SEO, why not continue this line of thought and consider whether internalizing your SEM practice might be a good idea?