Only Bad SEOs Work In-house?

Since I announced I was going to help other SEO professionals get work at seo agencies and as in-house seo’s it’s been a crazy 24 hours. After making the SEO Job post and twitter I have been amazed at the response. We’ve been swamped by quite a few CV’s from some very talented people who are woefully underpaid. It may be a while before we can reply to everyone.

A number of people have told me that the best SEO’s are those who are self employed and that in-house guys are just trained monkies. It’s simply not the case as not everyone wants the stress, pressure and lack of security being your own boss brings.

Some people want to be able to leave the work at the office and simply have a good time and get paid a heck of a lot of money for what they do with no worries about where the next client will come from.

Personally, it’s not for me. Not that anyone would ever employ me anyway and I love the high-wire act of working for yourself. But simply because you do seo in-house does not mean you are any less talented.

And there is no reason why you shouldn’t be well paid if you are hot stuff.

26 thoughts on “Only Bad SEOs Work In-house?”

  1. I think the “being paid well” part is usually the biggest rub. Very often, by the nature of what you do, you can calculate down to the penny how much value you brought to the organization. The more you know you’re only seeing a tiny fraction of that, the more appealing going off and doing your own thing becomes.

  2. Inhouse SEOs get paid MUCH more than agency SEOs. SEO positions at agencies are terribly low paid, in England anyway

  3. The process of finding clients, selling them on SEO, and doing all the billing – even before you look at contracts, incorporation and taxation – may not be someone’s skill set. Yet, they are all useful in being in business for oneself. In fact, they’re critical for that.

    Being in-house may not be about being a ‘bad’ SEO. It may be about following your strengths… which may not be sales or business management!

  4. I worked in an agency, directed 40 SEO accounts through a small team of SEO’s. I got to the point where I wanted to focus on one, really big website in house. I just got tired of clients for a while. I’m really happy with the decision I made, becuase my in house team is leagues ahead of my old agency team!

  5. Coming from an in-house position to now owning my own firm, I can say that I am much more “ahead of the curve” now than I have ever been. I am forced to research NEW stuff versus using what I have already learned up to that point to keep the pace with competition.

    I did utilize some of my day reading up on stuff, but surprisingly not as much time as I do now.

    Either way, I consider myself a pretty sharp SEO, so I wouldn’t say in-house guys are “bad”, but definitely overworked for the amount they are paid. I make more in a month now that I did in 6 months working on a salary.

    The startup (planning & execution) of my business was very stressful, but it you plan ahead and execute using a list or some form of order, then it’s much easier to manage. Now that it’s over, I am reaping the benefits.

  6. Ah, living a peaceful life of an inhouse SEO is my call, too. I simply have other passions in life and that’s where I’d probably afford to go solo, start my company, etc.

    As for inhouse SEOs being stupid, I don’t relate lack of education to the job they have. Some freelancers might be in the back, too.

    That being said, an inhouse SEO position is a great way to get started, if you want to learn SEO, while paying your bills.

  7. While I don’t think In-House SEOs are bad, I just don’t think that in general they are as talented as freelancers. The reason is this:

    An in-house SEO works with one company, and is in a closed environment. Very often they will get results for their company, get their pay check and see little pressure to improve their game.

    A freelance SEO often works with a number of clients, usually have their own sites too and get a much broader view of online marketing as they get to see it from multiple angles which causes them to broaden their tactics and network which they can their leverage for their clients.

    A freelance SEO (being self employed) usually (but not always) has a bigger drive for success and will always want to earn more. They do this by improving their game so they can continually charge clients more and more, and possibly earn more from their own websites and projects.

    I’m not saying in-house SEOs are all worse, and all freelance SEOs are great. There’s still a lot of in-house and freelance SEOs that are crap, and some that are good. I just think the environment of a freelance SEO (who has mutliple clients and some of their own sites) tends to improve their game more than an in-house SEO.

  8. Chris, let’s just look into a couple of recent projects that I undertook as an inhouse marketer:
    – built several sites on Drupal from scratch
    – started learning about various topics, related to company business
    – started writing a book in a topic, relevant to the company (gonna be a 100-200 page book)
    – now working on iPhone app ideas
    – discussing ideas on more projects within the company
    – consulting a client on usability/social media

    While all the above is done within a company by a single human, I wouldn’t consider it to be a single project. There are at least 5 projects. If I weren’t in the company, I wouldn’t have taken the usability client either.

    Thus, I don’t think it is about inhouse or freelance, but on how much you learn at the job and whether you enjoy it or not. I have seen dozens of resumes of graduates who have no experience in SEO, only a few actually learn something by themselves, for example. And yes, I think that it is not only talent, but constant learning of whatever you need to do your job right.

    Though I have to admit I kinda stopped reading Sphinn, but if I ever want to catchup on any topic, I remember the blogs I need to visit (including this one).

    Again, if you consider clients, most of them need the same things done, but in different industries, which can get boring (it would for me). If you always work in a couple of topics only, you need to expand your reach using more methods to promote your site, which can be challenging and fun.

  9. The debate is Agency v In-house v Freelance. Then for freelancers the pull is between clients and own sites.

    The benefits of each are pretty obvious so it has to be each to their own and it’s got to be unfair to say that freelancers are better.

    But that’s all a bit dull and obvious so let’s have some fun: what’s the holy grail for an SEO? (Lyndon: this is another post methinks) Surely it’s doing whatever you want when you want whilst your own sites pull in as much money as you want? Will this comment help me get there?

  10. agreed, though unfortunately, there are too many in house SEOs that simply do little to nothing, because they may be hired without experience or ever really learning much or stepping it up to the next level. that could potentially bring down the reputation of the good ones, this is partly do to them being seen as a group rather then individually and partly do to the difficulty of standing out at a big corporation. say one seo gets an A+ another a C- another a D and another a B-, they four SEOs would be looked at as an average of a C, and maybe the one or two that shine would be looked over for that reason. not saying that always can happen as it is possible for those to eventually get what is due, but it also may take a while.

    just a hypothetical thought as to where this stigma might come from,

  11. I worked for one of the largest SEO agencies and we considered ourselves holier than thou in the SEO world…..however I got a great offer from a travel company to work in house and improve their web presence. It was a tough decision but a good one.

    I have since recieved a couple of offers from both agency and online web companies which i’ve turned down as working in-house is comfy and unregulated.

    In the bigger agencies they train you to be template monkeys, original SEO thinking is discouraged which was my frustration.

    In an in house role I’m the master of my domains and can do watever I feel is necessary to promote them online. I won’t decide to restrict myself to 20 phrases and write a report and take some snapshots which is ussually what packaged seo is like in a corporate agency environment.

    Whoever said that the best SEO’s work for agencies are obviously not the best SEO’s or they would have questioned their agencies effectiveness in selling prepackaged hourly consulting and templated seo solutions.

  12. Mark, the reason I work inhouse, not solo, is because I need a guaranteed source of income. Working freelance doesn’t provide that. So that’s what makes an inhouse position for me the only choice.

    I am constantly contemplating an idea of developing my site to provide the same overthetop income that you are talking about, but without an inhouse position, it is near impossible without worrying too much.

    So, it is not just “as much money as possible” for everyone, still 🙂

  13. I really don’t see there being a issue over the skills of agency, in-house or freelance SEOs. There are bad agency SEOs, great in-house SEOs and visa versa. I think we’re reaching the satge where most of the people that have been around for a few years have experience of both. Different skills sets suits different people to each role.

  14. While I’m not knocking in house – I’ve done it myself – I think that the big problem with working in house is the lack of contact with peers and the transfer of knowledge. Sure you can spend time online in searchengineland, high rankings forum etc. and learn a lot (and I mean a lot) there’s still a lot to be learned from working with peers on a day to day basis.

  15. I’ve been on the agency side forever, first at an ISP, working from the programming, design side.. now i work at an ad agency, PR Firm… I’ve learned a lot fro the PR side of the business i would not have learned working in-house and would not have had the opportunity to do SEO in the fortune 500 space or ORM in the Forbes 400 space. Do i want to go out on my own? hell no.. i don’t want to do paperwork, don’t want to write proposals, etc.. would i work for an in-house, sure.. if the money is right or the industry is something i have a passion for..

  16. Here is an inherent problem that some (not all of course) in-house have to overcome: who is hiring and how do they know an SEO is good or not? I recently spoke to a guy recruiting an in-houser for a big publishing co. All he cared about was cost – thought he could get a good SEO to handle a lot of potentially huge sites for £30K. He has to be lucky to get someone good and hungry.

  17. As the man Sly Stone once sang, “different strokes for different folks”. I used to work in-house and worked with some incredibly talented people. Some of those are still there and some have moved agency side.

    There’s no inherent way of doing things (in-house, agency or freelance) that is better than the other, or noticeably awash with more talented people. The only thing I would say is that the “we’re better than you” type comment nearly always comes from freelancers!


  18. Well i’m 80% in-house and 20% agency and the in-house stuff is definitely more rewarding, however my SEO audit & consulting skills have improved massively from the agency time so I guess they compliment each other.

  19. @Charles, don’t you mean “interested” 😉

    Look, in a CV, correct spelling is vital, on a blog not as much, it’s not that I cannot spell, I jsut type so fast and am writing something new instead of checking for spleelsing mistakes.

  20. Mark, typically, an employer can judge a SEO by how SEO looks at the challenges and shows the ways to solve them.

    Unfortunately, however, most bosses do hire people not on how they can help the company, but on silly questions, emotions or personal preference/blood relationships.

  21. Same as some of the ones above, I went from freelance to in-house and now am doing both!

    I’m finding that I’m busier than ever and more immersed in SEO too. It’s done me well, but then again I wanted to teach myself as much as possible in the shortest time as possible.

    Ben McKay

  22. Having worked at an agency that paid poorly I’m now at one that pays the market rate – almost 50% more. Still, having read some of the comments above, it’s tempting to consider in-house as the site becomes your own, it’s no longer just a 9-5 job, and who wouldn’t enjoy a personal challenge of that nature !

  23. Don´t know if I agree with you on this one, Lyndoman. If every in-house had done a bad job, in-house wouldn´t excist. I can see your angle when u´re saying they train people, sure they do. Of course this might look very unpassionated, but though it´s usually after search engines guidelines, and keep their promisses to their costumers, then it can´t be that bad. But I guess it´s plenty of SEOs who knows more than average Joe, and work freelance. But we can´t say who´s the best one until we have some documents of traffic and sale 😛

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