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SEO Agency Week: When to Employ an SEO Agency

Episode Overview: SEO agencies are lifesavers when an organization’s SEO efforts lull and website performance dips, but not every organization needs, or is well suited for, agency services. Join host Ben as he continues his Agency Week discussion with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton who shares his expertise on when a company should hire a SEO agency, how they work with companies and when organizations should avoid seeking agency services.


  • The best time to consider working with an SEO agency is for temporary projects where hiring a full-time employee doesn’t make sense for your business plan or to bring in an industry expert to provide direction to your team.
  • Another excellent reason to bring in an agency is when your SEO efforts or performance plateaus. Bringing in an expert who can look at a situation with fresh eyes and present new strategies can drastically improve your efforts.
  • One aspect to consider before hiring an agency is to determine if it will fit in with your organization’s long term strategy and decide whether it’s best to build out an internal team to fulfill long-term goals or maintain a longer agency partnership.
  • A common misconception with agencies is that they can deliver results in just weeks. In reality, it can take weeks or months for web crawlers to comb your website and is important to keep in mind if an agency promises results in less than a month.


Ben:                 Welcome to Agency Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re publishing an episode every day covering what you need to know to master the relationship between agencies and in house SEOs. Joining us again for Agency Week is Tyson Stockton who is the director of services at Searchmetrics. And today Tyson and I are going to continue Agency Week by helping you understand whether you need an agency or not. Okay. Here’s the third installment of Agency Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. Tyson, welcome back to Agency Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:              Thank you Ben. Hump day. Halfway through.

Ben:                 Happy Wednesday. Happy hump day. So far, we’ve talked about what are the different types of SEO agencies, what are some of the products and services and how do you figure out whether an agency is credible or not? I think one of the most important things about finding the right agency for you is understanding whether you need an agency and what’s the problem that you’re trying to have them solve. How do you make the build versus buy decision? When you’re thinking about your SEO strategies, when should you be bringing an agency on board to help you?

Tyson:              Yeah, there’s a few different reasons why I think it makes sense for companies to bring in an agency and those are going to vary drastically. There’s going to be some, there’s pretty obvious pieces, and then there’s other ones that just come with some of the nuances or quirks to just like corporate structure and yeah, what resources people have available. So the obvious ones are … I think a really good example is maybe it’s a temporary project, so it’s something that you’re, I may be going through this migration, I’m anticipating that I’m going to have X amount of additional work that needs to be done. It doesn’t make sense for me to hire another full time employee because once the migration is complete, I don’t anticipate it being there. Therefore this is a great opportunity to bring in someone from the outside and leverage them for their expertise. It could also be, and that could be both in skillset or bandwidth of your team.

Ben:                 So the scope of the relationship, and you know a lot of the times you have projects that are time-bound, if you’re working on something that’s project based, you don’t want to bring somebody on that’s full time just to have to get rid of them. What are some other places and times when you need an agency?

Tyson:              Yeah. The other ones too is like if it’s specific gaps amongst the team and that may not be a full kind of like resource gap as well. And so that could be in the scenario of, “Hey, I have SEO team members, but I still have this gap in SEO strategy.” So I mean to bring in someone and I want to leverage them for their expertise and industry knowledge to help give direction to my team. And so that could be a specific need for it. Another one, which is like, it’s not as much of a need or makeup on initiatives that you’re working on, but it’s something that I think a lot of, especially enterprise businesses run into, that you could have companies that have freezes or holds on head counts. They don’t necessarily have the same restrictions on their budget. So you have companies that are like, hey, I can’t get a head count for it, therefore I’m going outside and I can use budget for these efforts, but I don’t have the analysis.

Ben:                 I always thought that was the funniest thing. When I worked at eBay, it’s been a decade. I have no idea how they staffed their business now, but there was like 50% of the floor on the marketing team was contractors and 50% were in house employees and we were all one team and some of the contractors had been there for years, maybe even close to a decade. They were just lifers at eBay, but they were hired through some sort of a staffing agency and were consultants. I always thought that was funny and I guess the rationale there is you don’t have to pay your agency member the same type of benefits and you also get to classify them as a marketing expense. That part of the workforce, which helps you essentially manage to the street a little better.

Tyson:              And think that latter piece is one that is a lot more calm than I think a lot of people realize that that is something … It’s not unique to any one company. A lot of these larger tech companies in particular are faced with that same piece. And I think sometimes it’s rather clever for individuals that are managing those efforts to be able to kind of work around it in that way. And I think agencies in this conversation are to that point is sometimes a card that they have to play in this whole kind of resource battle that you see in a lot of these larger businesses.

Ben:                 There’s also agencies that can help you improve your overall horsepower. When you’re sitting there and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a team. We’re doing pretty well in SEO, it’s a priority.” At what point do you say, “Look, there’s also other expertise that’s out there that can help us overcome some obstacles and hurdles.” When does it make sense to just amplify what you’re already doing well?

Tyson:              Well Ben, and I think one of the realities that a lot of businesses face is you do hit those plateaus and sometimes having a fresh set of eyes or having a new skillset or an expert within a certain area can oftentimes help you kind of get past those plateaus or hurdles when you’re starting to see your own performance lull and you’re not … What you’re doing obviously isn’t necessarily working. So maybe your previous strategies and tactics are not having the same yields coming in, new perspective, new set of eyes. It can oftentimes get you back on track and see something that may be missed because your team had just been looking at the same problem again and again or there’s a bias from past performance.

Ben:                 Yeah, I think there’s one other component to that, which is sometimes your goals change and you might have a high performing team, but the expectations just become astronomic and sometimes you’ve got to call in the cavalry and whether that be improving your strategy, bringing on more horsepower, agencies can also help you boost that as well. Tyson, having worked with lots of agencies and having managed them as well, what’s the flip side of the coin? When don’t you need an agency and where have you seen companies bring agencies in house where they were better off actually developing the capabilities in house?

Tyson:              There’s a few different situations. I think one there’s some on the more nuanced side is sometimes you might have a company culture that does not mesh as well with having outside voices and outside parties join and that is something I’ve seen in the past too, so knowing your organization and your culture, that’s like a big aspect.

Tyson:              And then I think another one is also how does it fit with your long term strategy? And I think this is a really critical piece because when we’re looking at SEO there’s always like the immediate, but you have to at least have a few people in the organization. They’re thinking about SEO from a very high level strategic three, five years down the road. And when you’re looking at that, there are sometimes benefits of having the investment and building infrastructure internally that then is going to be paying dividends, not just for that immediate year for future years to come.

Tyson:              And I think different agencies have different approaches to this. You can certainly also use agencies as almost like a Band-Aid or a transition model for that. So if you don’t want to sacrifice waiting a couple of years to actually build out and get the team lined up. But I think that’s one element that companies need to think about is how does using an agency also fit with the long term strategy of how they’re staffing and planning their own internal pieces.

Ben:                 So if you go to the other side of the table and you’re thinking from the agency and the service providers perspective, when do you think an agency relationship doesn’t make sense for the agency? How can you tell? What are the relationships that are just going to be a pain in the butt not valuable, just not going to work.

Tyson:              Two big areas is going to be expectations and also internal resources. And what I mean by this is expectations. If on a client side someone expects a 50% growth in two months, that’s not likely. I mean it’s not impossible but very unlikely just because the time that it takes to deploy then crawlers, I mean everything that we kind of know this general SEO performance, those short windows are just unreasonable expectations that usually set things up not for success because you’re going to get frustrations and it’s usually not a good thing for either side of the table. The other big one which I think is like more common and then a little bit harder to pinpoint is internal resources. So oftentimes with specifically SEO agencies, you have, like we mentioned in one of the earlier episodes, that does it all, so they have a program or they have a UX person.

Tyson:              Then they can actually push the changes live to your site. But a lot of SEO specialist agencies may not be providing the actual resources of deploying code. And personally, that’s also something that I would typically always recommend to keep in house, if you’re a large company. If you have an agency that’s making recommendations and identify and lining up the work that needs to be done, or you have one developer in house that’s shared across all facets of the business and SEO is not only your number one priority, there’s no way that that development resource is going to keep up with the agency and therefore one, you’re not going to get the yield, that real partnership that you want, but it’s also going to be like a poor use of funds because you’re investing more in the time and delivery from the agency than your team’s actually able to absorb.

Tyson:              So I think this is something that in the kind of goes back a little bit to scoping the right elements of engagement but you have to make sure that the rate or the speed that your internal team working with the agency and the rate or resources that the agencies dedicating to your business, that has to be a match. And if that’s not a match, that’s when you’re going to see slow progress. You’re going to have frustrations, overspend, underspend also in some cases, and that’s going to, I would say it’d be like the most common issue in starting off the engagement but also just like something that should be avoided and it can be avoided if you have the right scoping organization.

Ben:                 At the end of the day an agency relationship is really about the relationship, so clearly communicating what the expectations are with the resources are upfront is really going to help you figure out whether you’re a right fit for each other and we’re going to talk more about this and thinking about how to evaluate which agency is right for you tomorrow.

Ben:                 So that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, director of services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is, Tyson underscore Stockton. Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast head over to where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests.

Ben:                 You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voices of search on Twitter and my personal handle is Ben J. Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed and we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week, including tomorrow when Tyson and I talk about how to evaluate if an agency is right for you. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Tyson Stockton

Tyson Stockton

Tyson has over 10 years' experience in the digital marketing industry. As Vice President of Client and Account Management, Tyson manages the Enterprise Client Success team and SEO Consulting efforts at Searchmetrics. Tyson has worked with some of world’s largest enterprise websites including Fortune 500 and global eCommerce leaders. Prior to Searchmetrics, Tyson worked on the in-house side managing the SEO and SEM efforts of a collection of 14 sports specialty eCommerce companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

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