There’s a perpetual debate among agency personnel and entrepreneurs over whether agencies are necessary for success in SEO. It’s true that there’s nothing exclusive about SEO agencies—almost anything you can get from an agency, you can figure out and execute on your own behalf, but the time and cost associated with doing it yourself often exceeds the cost of enlisting an agency to begin with. There’s also an accountability factor—you’ll be abandoning some level of control, which is intimidating to some marketers, but you’ve also got someone to hold accountable if something goes wrong.
The advantages and disadvantages are seemingly endless, but it all comes down to this; different types of businesses have different needs, and therefore need different types of resources to meet those needs. While there are businesses of all shapes and sizes that can take advantage of an SEO agency, there’s one group that stands to benefit most from enlisting the help of one: mid-sized businesses.
Small businesses can take advantage of SEO agencies, and be quite successful doing it, but there are a few limitations that prevent them from seeing the same benefits as a mid-sized counterpart.
The biggest problem small businesses face when considering an agency is budgetary limitations. SEO agencies range in cost from very cheap to very expensive, but the cheaper you go, the more likely you are to run into quality problems—which could actually drop your rank instead of building it up. While not all small businesses have a problem with access to capital, it is a common plight, especially for startups. Marketing is important, but spending thousands of dollars a month on an SEO program isn’t exactly efficient when you don’t yet have a reliable revenue stream. Mid-sized businesses have more flexibility when it comes to available spend.
Small businesses have limited personnel, so most aren’t able to hire or keep a dedicated SEO expert. Some aren’t even able to hire a dedicated marketing representative. This isn’t necessarily a pain point for hiring an agency—I’ve worked with several small businesses with no dedicated marketing representative who were able to use an SEO agency with great success. However, having a dedicated point of contact at the company who can help brainstorm, guide, and give feedback ensures a better overall experience. Mid-sized businesses can afford to have such a contact on staff, and are therefore capable of seeing greater results.
Limited history and exposure
There’s nothing wrong with building an SEO campaign from scratch—thousands of new startups do it every year. But if your business is so small that you don’t have any web presence to speak of, it may be too early to start working with an agency. It’s often better to get started on your own, gaining a bit of momentum, then enlisting the help of an agency for a little extra juice. Mid-sized businesses have the perfect opportunity for this.
Similarly, large corporations can use agencies, but not to the same degree that mid-sized businesses can.
Developed in-house teams
On the other end of the spectrum, most large businesses have enough cash flow to afford their own in-house marketing teams, including at least a handful of people who work together on the company’s SEO efforts. With a big enough budget, a company can afford a team director with years of experience, a writer, a developer, a social media expert, and possibly multiple other dedicated roles. These types of businesses can still earn benefits from using an SEO agency—such as tackling excess work that the internal team can’t handle—but that doesn’t use the agency to its greatest benefit the way a mid-sized business can.
Long histories and notoriety
Large companies don’t get established by accident. By the time a company has achieved millions of dollars in revenue, it’s probably naturally attracted some level of authority and recognition on the web. Large companies undoubtedly have websites, and their networks of partners, clients, and customers provide them a natural web of inbound links and authoritative support. As such, they often have great search visibility already. While an SEO agency can help maintain and improve this, agencies are generally better suited to faster, more incremental growth, as with mid-sized businesses.
Greater sense of direction and control
Most large companies already have a firm sense of identity, brand, and mission, all of which dictate an SEO strategy in one way or another. SEO agencies can usually adapt to these unique needs and build a campaign around those client particulars, but ultimately, most large businesses want a greater degree of control over their own endeavors. Mid-sized businesses have some sense of identity already, but are also more flexible when it comes to handing over the reins of a marketing campaign.
The greatest advantage of mid-sized businesses working with an SEO agency is their flexibility. Mid-sized businesses have a perfect balance between the limitations of small- and large-sized businesses, and therefore have the greatest number of options when working with them. They have some in-house marketers, a reasonable budget to work with, and ripe opportunities for growth.
If you’re the owner or a marketer in a mid-sized business and you aren’t already using an agency to help you get the most out of your SEO program, consider enlisting the help of one. Working together, you can create a plan that works for your budget as well as your goals.