There's a lot to digest when thinking about hiring an in-house SEO or outsourcing SEO to an agency of some sort.
Sit back, grab a coffee (or a beer if it's that time of the day), and start thinking about what your next move should be. This article should be effective in helping you to decide in which direction you want to take your search engine optimization efforts.
Things to Consider...
Do you have the time it takes to learn about SEO and the money it takes to build out a team of qualified individuals?
There is no school for SEO and there isn't an "SEO degree" out there for students to spend 4 years of studying to obtain. SEO is a community of self-taught and self-motivated individuals. Where do you even begin to find these types of people?
Most of the time you will know you have a good SEO at your doorstep when they start telling you what YOU need rather than the other way around. It's the same as it is with programmers that start spitting out a lot of jargon that you have never heard before. If you are going to go the in-house route - you want to make sure that he or she WOWs you with their knowledge.
But if you are trying to run your own company, are you really going to be able to start a new division within the infrastructure? It's an honest question that you have to ask yourself and you have to remember that it's only worth it in the long run if you are able to hold that team together - and managing a whole other in-house division is putting a lot on your table.
What resources do you have in order to run a tight ship. And honestly, are you even aware of what resources you would need?
Tools, tools, tools. You wouldn't run a roofing company without tear-off bars, shingles, ladders, and dump trucks would you? The same goes for SEO. There are many different elements that supplement SEO and it isn't some kind of one-dimensional thing.
Besides the major tools that an experienced SEO has at his hip that helps him study, prospect, and acquire links, research keywords and implement strategy, find critical errors with web site functionality and on-site optimization, and much more - an SEO agency usually has graphic designers, programmers, and project managers which all help create the traffic funnels that you need for your website to be successful in their own way.
So ask yourself this question: Besides determining how much it is going to take build out and manage your SEO team, what are the things that are going to be outsourced? You will obviously have to outsource some of your web development. Are you sure you want to go heavy on the SEO and cheap on everything else that comes with building a web presence?
Will the advantages of the in-house SEO knowing your company inside-and-out outweigh the experience and residual network effects of SEO outsourcing to a company?
It is true that you will be much more engaged with your in-house SEO team members. You will have direct and easy access to him or her each and every day, and the fact that the employee can get to know your business through discovery every single day is an invaluable experience. You know that the in-house SEO's focus will be solely on your project each and every day. But take a minute to consider the opposite advantages of this.
Allowing to use the resources that an agency has gained over the years by working with a plethora of different business types and business is also very ideal. Their experience gives them invaluable insight to the Internet industry and how it works at all different levels and angles (some SEO companies specialize in one field only but that isn't always a good thing for this exact reason). Sometimes strategies and practices that are learned from one industry, can be applied to another. You are constantly learning new things.
Are there other areas in the marketing services department that you would like to cover other than SEO?
Sometimes the best SEO is indirectly done with things that have nothing to do with SEO (at least technically) like building a brand.
SEM (search advertising) is a very powerful tool. And things like brochure creations, booth designs, power point presentations, and much-much more are always just a phone call away with many online marketing agencies.
If your small business needs a web site or outsources a lot of its coding (which is done over sea many times and done the WRONG way), then going with an online marketing agency is definitely your best option. Many of them carry their own internal programmers and are experienced in the hard core script writing that will make sure your site speed is super fast (a major SEO factor and one that a lot of companies that do their own SEO have a huge problem with).
How much experience are you looking for?
Or in other words, how much on the job training are you going to be willing to put up with?
What does better rankings in the search engines mean to you and your company? What areas of online marketing are you trying to cover?
SEO is known to be a great return on your investment (email marketing is the best ROI strategy). With better rankings, what could your company accomplish? Are you the type of website and company that could benefit by a lot of organic discovery in the search results pages (SERPs)? Think about what your possible ROI could be and if you would actually spend less money outsourcing your SEO rather than taking on a couple of team members.