In-house SEO Team Costs
How much does an in-house SEO team cost?
According to GlassDoor, the average salary for an in-house SEO in the US is $62,380. Indeed.com reports a similar average salary of $62,796. Of course, an effective SEO & inbound marketing team typically requires multiple team members, including an Analyst ($69,759), Public Relations ($52,103), Content Writer ($44,449), Link Builder ($33,372), and at least some time from a Developer ($87,661) and Designer ($59,989). Ideally, the team is coordinated by an experienced Director of SEO ($96,085) or VP Marketing ($179,268).
Of course, salary is only a portion of the cost of your in-house SEO team. You’ll also need to account for taxes, office space, benefits, recruiting, training, vacation, software, equipment, management, and overhead time. A good rule of thumb is to double the salary to get your true fully-loaded labor cost, giving you a range of about $8K / month for a single entry-level marketing generalist, about $50K / month for a minimally viable 3-4 person SEO team, and hundreds of thousands for the large and experienced teams utilized by big players.
What does an in-house SEO team typically do?
The capabilities of your in-house SEO team will vary greatly based on who you hire. I frequently hear prospects question our costs with comments along the lines of “well, we operate in a low-cost area so we can hire a good marketer here for $15-20 / hr.” Even in low-cost areas, those rates will only buy you an inexperienced entry-level marketer or intern. If you’re lucky, they’ll be good at one or two areas (say, content and social media), but certainly won’t be familiar with the full range of skills necessary for effective inbound marketing. Also, once you add in all of the associated costs (inexperienced people need a lot of management time and training), you quickly realize you’re paying as much for your inexperienced in-house team member as you would be for an inexperienced consultant.
Anyone who would expect a one-person SEO team to achieve good results probably doesn’t understand the range of skills required for effective modern SEO. In-house teams start to become viable when they include multiple team members to cover the disparate skills needed. A typical “minimum viable team” consists of an excellent copywriter who’s also trained in optimization, a PR / promotion specialist who can earn links and press coverage, a content strategist who can recruit and manage a team of bloggers, and a technical person who can make changes to the website and fix technical SEO issues.
Pros of an In-House SEO Team
Assuming you’ve covered the range of skills required and have an effective manager to set the strategy and coordinate it all, an in-house SEO team should be able to achieve excellent results. Since the team works only on your business, they become intensely familiar with the website, your products, and customers. They can build and nurture long-lasting relationships with bloggers, journalists, and other influencers.
Perhaps most importantly, in-house SEO teams know how to get stuff done in your organization. No agency team will ever match their understanding of your internal politics, roles, and priorities. Since SEO often is a cross-functional role, those internal relationships and allies throughout the organization can be essential to getting things done.
Cons of an In-House SEO Team
Since an in-house SEO team only works on one website at a time, they lack the perspective that an agency team gains by being able to observe what works across dozens of different client websites. When algorithms change, or new techniques or technologies emerge, agency teams are usually the first to understand what is going on and know how best to take advantage of it.
Because agencies have been through it all before with multiple clients, they’re typically able to develop much better defined processes, whereas an in-house team is generally seeing each new challenge for the first time, essentially making it up as they go along.
In-house SEO teams require time to build up, train and integrate with your organization. It may be years before your in-house team is functioning like the well-oiled machine they need to be in order to compete with the best, whereas you can have an entire agency team working for you in a week or so.