Cooperation between the in-house SEO team and SEO agency. How to make it work?

Cooperation between the in-house SEO team and SEO agency. How to make it work?

Companies often prefer to keep all the processes within the company and its team. With the reason being the safety of confidential information, there’s still a lot of advantages of opening up for external agencies. This happens in the case of managing SEO processes. In this entry, we’ll explore why it might be beneficial for in-house SEO teams to reach out to the SEO companies and how to make this work.

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In-house SEO Team – What Is It?

Let’s start by explaining exactly what the in-house SEO team is. An in-house team is a group of employees responsible for particular tasks within an organization. Depending on the company size and profile, an in-house team will contain a certain number of people, starting from a single employee delegated to deal with, let’s say e-mail marketing.

What is in-house SEO team?

Often, the separation of in-house teams will concern larger departments, e.g. marketing, where we will find a separate team dealing with SEO, different from content, and yet different from social media activity, and so on. From my experience, there’s a common trend of in-house SEO teams reaching out for cooperation in a particular area of the process e.g. link building, consultancy, or SEO oriented content creation, etc.

However, there are many more reasons why cooperation between SEO companies and in-house marketing teams gets more popular!

Why in-house SEO Team Might Need SEO Agency

A fresh angle

When working in a company’s SEO team, you work only on one website. While optimizing your business site it’s important to really know the business itself, so with that in mind, the internal team seems like a great solution that can really bulk up the results. However, it has its downsides – focusing on one website leads to narrowing the perception of the whole SEO process. Often, working in such conditions, specialists miss the latest trends, changes in the search engine algorithm. This all adds to poor SEO strategy and its final results.

Another issue, faced by in-house SEO teams, worth noticing is limited access to the SEO professional tools.

Tools

Working with sophisticated SEO tools gives specialists the opportunity to gather more information about the process, have better control over results, and simply plan the SEO strategy better. In-house SEO teams are often limited by a pre-imposed budget for tools and need to compromise in this matter. Therefore, cooperating with an experienced SEO company provides the team with access to proven and more capable SEO tools to use throughout the process.

What tools do SEO Agencies use?

Linking possibilities

Another, and important from the website growth perspective, aspect is the lack of link building resources faced by in-house SEO teams. Creating a solid base of high-quality websites to put your websites’ link on takes time & engagement that in-house groups often simply aren’t able to allocate.

Access to linking resources is usually the main reason for companies with internal SEO teams reaching out to SEO agencies. This results in many agencies being hired only for the link building campaign purpose.

“Companies that have in-house SEO teams often outsource specific SEO process elements to the SEO agencies. It’s reasonable for a couple of reasons. First, the agency already has some experience in a given market or country and knows what works best, has proven ways to build links. Then it’s the matter of competition analysis – they  [the agency] already created a base of valuable link sources that pay off SEO wise in a particular industry. It all sums up to great time and resources savings for in-house SEO teams.”

Gosia Tarnawska, Delante
Gosia Tarnawska
SEO Team Leader, Delante

Pros & Cons of In-house Team and SEO Agency Cooperation

A new perspective – a fresh approach – better results

The first and most converting into better results advantage of the in-house SEO team and SEO agency joining forces is the broad approach to SEO that the agency team can bring. Working with many different websites and industries allows agencies to take a wide-angle look at what works best in terms of optimizing.

“SEO specialists working for an agency usually have a broader and more comprehensive view of the SEO process as they work with many different websites. Also, they’ll be up to date with recent and upcoming trends, so they’ll be more capable of quick reaction to any Google updates”

Wojciech Urban, Delante
Wojciech Urban
SEO Specialist, Delante

As Wojciech mentioned – analyzing many data obtained from various sources can give an interesting insight into trends that currently starts to show up. For example, when checking on our clients’ stats recently, we have noticed sudden drops in ranking positions for a couple of clients whose industries were not even related. Then after 24 hours, positions got back to the initial rank (from 1 position to 60 and then, back to the first one!). This gave us a hint that the algorithm change is on its way – we were right!

Knowledge exchange

An SEO agency may provide an in-house SEO team not only with a fresh look at SEO matters but also, as Kristina Bogdanović notices, can bring some useful knowledge. In fact, it can work in both ways!

“Both teams can give their best and unique insights into the plan and enrich each others’ knowledge and experiences.
The good thing is that an SEO agency can give a new point of view and new ideas that the in-house SEO team didn’t think of yet. (…) Both sides can get the best possible result if they make an agreement and plan together.”

Kristina Bogdanović, MyTrendyPhone
Kristina Bogdanović
SEO Specialist, MyTrendyPhone

On the other hand, in-house employees become a precious source of business and particular industry insights. SEO Agencies, with every experience, get more information about the characteristics of the most successful SEO campaigns for every field.

Shared responsibility

Time for some drawbacks. One of the major problems that often occur when the SEO agency starts to work with an internal SEO team is the question of who’s actually responsible for the final results.

It’s clear that the in-house team will be held accountable for the general SEO process performance, but does it mean that they should take the effects of SEO agency work on themselves during the evaluation process? Alternatively – the agency that provides the company with a strategic SEO plan. If the team won’t do their work properly the strategy might be to blame.

Such scenarios can really scare off from engaging in SEO agency – in-house team collaboration.

Meeting deadlines

Eventually – all beloved deadlines. One of the cons of separating the SEO process between two teams is that keeping deadlines gets more complex. After all, not only more people work on different tasks but it’s happening in an entirely different company!

How to make this work?

Clear expectations & cooperation rules

The first moments of cooperation can be crucial for the whole project’s success. Both teams should make it clear what are their expectations of the upcoming collaboration. Not only it’s important that they get to know each other better but also to share their thoughts and hopes for the effects that are going to be achieved. This way the atmosphere is clear and no misunderstandings will interfere with the right cooperation flow.

“Cooperation with a company that has an internal SEO department (or at least one person responsible for SEO processes) is a really good idea – if we solve one prosaic problem. Usually, when entering new cooperation, the agency will start its work from keyword analysis and website audit. It’s important to not make it look like evaluating in-house work is done. Clear and open communication will be the key at this point so that there’s no misunderstanding of the SEO agency intentions. After all, they are there to help – not upstage the in-house team!”

Wojciech Urban, Delante
Wojciech Urban
SEO Specialist, Delante

Effective onboarding

What will definitely help with making the cooperation between the internal team and agency easier and more effective is providing the outsourced company with all possible details about the company’s work.

Understanding the business of our clients is always a priority at Delante & putting ourselves in our clients’ shoes for years now, we noticed that it’s the most solid base for great SEO strategy there is. That’s why, after introducing both teams to each other it’s good to create an onboarding session.

The most beneficial will be a quick workshop where the SEO agency team will be able to get familiar with:

  • the company’s history,
  • the way they approach their clients,
  • products/areas they want to focus on,
  • main goals of the whole business,
  • goals for the SEO project,
  • communication flow within the company.

Well-separated duties

Another, but still crucial for the cooperation, aspect is the separation of the duties. Beneficial cooperation means that both teams, in-house and agency’s, have a clear task to take care of. Make sure that assigned tasks are not only well-described (so there’s no doubt of what should be done) but also written down in the agreement. Seems like extra paperwork and unnecessary bureaucracy? After all, teams should trust each other, right? Sure, but as a saying goes – better safe than sorry, so written agreement just in case will be great to have.

Also, such a solution will keep the whole cooperation in order. We all know the situation like that recalled by Martina:

“(…) If I were in a situation to do so (entering in the cooperation with an SEO agency) I would expect my team (the team I am currently cooperating with is the content team) to cooperate with the agency and also raise their expectations from the start. We have processes in place and unless they could be improved by the agency we would like to work the same way. From my perspective, I would definitely set up some status meetings or calls and the agency would be given measurable KPIs and OKRs. I used to work before with agencies and my experience is that oftentimes if there are not statuses things do not happen. I am not saying this is a case for every agency but my experience.”

Martina Zrzavá Libřická
SEO Manager, Socialbakers

Reporting

Last but surely not least! I can’t even stress out enough on how important thorough reporting is in case of in-house SEO – Agency teams cooperation. And in any cooperation to be fair! No one likes to base the evaluation on guessing so make sure to gather all the crucial data in one report.

At the very beginning, both teams should express their preferences according to the date they want to be provided and the time when reports are being composed. Usually, the agencies maintain the monthly reporting process, but that can be adjusted to the company’s needs. Also, it’s nice to agree on the reporting format (should we make a monthly call to discuss the results, or maybe the pdf file will be enough?) and the tools that will be used to gather the data. This way, the transparency will even make the cooperation better!

“[Cooperation between in-house SEO team and the SEO agency] Also, it’s a great solution for clients who often find it difficult to properly evaluate hired agency’s work. In this case, in-house SEO specialists will be a great asset!  Such a cooperation model also allows dividing duties between more employees and outsourcing only a few SEO elements such as link-building, leaving the on-site work to an internal developer who better understands its structure, logical flow, and business goals.“

Wojciech Urban, Delante
Wojciech Urban
SEO Specialist, Delante

As every business model, cooperation between in-house SEO crews and SEO agencies have pros and cons. The drive to increase the effectiveness of the process is one of the factors that make such a solution more and more popular. It’s fair to say that with every company being different and each business having its own specifics it’s not a deal for everyone. From an agency perspective, great things can come from well-designed cooperation, so if you’re considering engaging with one – don’t wait, check your options. Get in touch 🙂

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Author
Head of SEO & SEM - Matt Calik

Head of SEO & SEM

Technical SEO specialist experienced in creating scalable processes based on agile methodologies. Responsible for international SEO strategies. He has strongly analytical approach to online marketing supported by over 12 years of experience. Previously associated with IT, motorsport, tobacco and financial markets. He has been building Delante for 5 years where he is Head of SEO and SEM department.

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