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In-House vs Outsourcing Marketing: The Ins and Outs

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In-House vs Outsourcing Marketing: The Ins and Outs

Looking to expand your marketing capabilities? Then you should know what are the benefits and challenges of going in-house vs outsourcing marketing. Some companies have been working on moving their marketing teams in-house especially as the pandemic wears on, but others prefer to focus on their core functions and hire an external agency instead. The question is, what is right for you and your company?

  1. What is in-house marketing?
  2. What is outsourced marketing?
  3. Key takeaway

What is in-house marketing?

In-house marketing is exactly what it sounds like—having a marketing team that is internal to the company. For example, here in SEO Hacker we have our own marketing team that is in charge of promoting the company, so we don’t have to hire an external agency to do the marketing for us.

According to The Drum, 57% of multinational companies have created in-house marketing departments, with an additional 17% considering building one. The pandemic has also accelerated the creation of these departments as companies want to be more cost-effective and practical, especially since companies are trying to be more frugal in their expenses.

Benefits of in-house vs outsourcing marketing

Companies would not be hurrying to build an in-house marketing team if there were no benefits. Here are some of them.

Potentially lower costs for the company

I’m going to be mentioning costs quite a bit in this article, and that’s really because the idea of lower or higher costs depends a lot on a number of factors. When looking at the benefits of in-house marketing, costs can be lower depending on two things: first is the skill set your team already has, and second is how willing you are to spend on building and managing a team of your own.

For example, if you have a small but strong marketing team right from the start, then that could be cost-effective. You can also opt to migrate some employees to a marketing role, but that is if the other teams can handle losing some team members. Then you also have to spend on training and resources for marketing.

If the total of those costs are lower than hiring an agency, then you can say that costs are lower with an in-house marketing team.

Stronger brand familiarity

Simple—your in-house marketing team is exposed to the day-to-day processes of your company, therefore they are more familiar with your brand. And since they are your employees, that means they also know your company philosophy and culture. You have the same (or at least, similar) work processes and they know the best approach for your company because they are embedded in the company.

Faster communication

There is no need to email or coordinate a meeting with an accounts manager because you literally can just walk over to their desks and they can walk over to yours. There is also less potential for miscommunication because the team already has an understanding of what the company wants.

For my company, we just use Slack to communicate with each other. Everyone is one message away.

More transparency and control

An in-house marketing team will be focused on your business only and considering how you already have a similar outlook and they have an in-depth understanding of your brand philosophy, then that translates to more control.

In terms of transparency, you get to really know how the marketing efforts are playing out as the team has more access to company data, therefore they have more transparent reports.

When you outsource marketing to another agency, they can only really give you the data that is showing up on their dashboards unless you will be providing them other numbers, such as your revenue.

Challenges of in-house vs outsourcing marketing

Just like there are benefits, there are also challenges to going in-house vs outsourcing marketing.

More work for the employees

First and foremost, especially if you have a limited budget for your marketing team, is that there is more work for your employees. Marketing is not a one-time or one-strategy thing; there are marketing plans to be made for different platforms, experiments, designs, executions, and monitoring.

For example, there is content marketing, email marketing, Pay-Per-Click, and SEO. These have different functions and need different strategies, and they have their own sets of skill sets that are integral to their success. For example, I update our SEO Hacker blog every Tuesday. I also have a podcast that has its dedicated team of producers, editors, and developers. My subscribers get updated every Monday through email. I also have my personal blog. Lastly, we have a retargeting and remarketing practice to ensure that our leads come back to our website.

So if you’re considering fully moving your marketing in-house, you need to look at the workload for those digital marketing strategies and figure out a way to balance them while ensuring your company is being cost-effective.

Limited skill set

With a limited budget comes a limited skill set. Unless you’re the kind of company owner who has no issues with overworking your team, then you won’t have the same skill set that outsourcing marketing to another agency will get you.

Lack of resources

Another challenge that your company could potentially have is the lack of resources, especially if you can’t afford multiple marketing experts and the tools that are needed for effective marketing.

Marketing is not as simple as creating a graphic and coming up with witty one-liners to catch your audience’s attention. It involves market research, keyword research, and a whole lot of strategizing. These strategies are based on data and not just solely on gut feeling. So if you have no way of getting data and monitoring your results, then effective marketing will be difficult to achieve.

Needing new employees

I sound like a broken record at this point, but marketing truly is an investment, and it’s one you shouldn’t skimp on. At some point, hiring and training new experts will be the investment you need to make. That said, going in-house vs outsourcing marketing can end up becoming more expensive for some companies as they end up hiring more people.

What is outsourced marketing?

Outsourced marketing is the exact opposite of in-house marketing. According to Hinge, outsourced marketing is the practice of partnering with an external agency for the company’s marketing needs.

Benefits of outsourced marketing vs in-house

Just as there are benefits to having an in-house team, there are also benefits to hiring an agency.

Companies can focus their resources on core functions

If you aren’t a marketing agency—let’s say, you’re in the construction business—and you’re thinking of having an in-house marketing team, that means you will have to budget your resources on functions that are outside of your business.

When you outsource your marketing, especially if you find a good partner, you get to just focus on whatever your company really does as the marketing portion can be entrusted to someone else.

That is also why in finding an agency, it’s integral that you know how to find a good one.

Access to a specialized team

One of the best things about outsourcing your marketing instead of building one in-house is that you get access to a team of experts at potentially a fraction of the cost. As I mentioned earlier, marketing isn’t a one-time thing. And it certainly isn’t a one-person endeavor.

Hiring an agency means you get writers, developers, designers, and researchers—basically, an entire team of people who live and breathe marketing—to do the work for you while you focus on other things. For example, here’s our team.

More resources for lower costs

Like I said earlier, I will be mentioning costs a couple of times in this post. As you get an entire team when you hire an agency, you also get their resources to be used for your benefit.

Now, some will say that hiring an agency is expensive. It really depends on how you see it and if you do have a workable budget. For example, our SEO services package costs $2,500 to $5,500 per month, with a 12 months lock-in. Yes, that is expensive, but take a look at what’s in the package:

  • Site analysis
  • Keyword research
  • Blog setup
  • Quality SEO copywriting
  • Link building
  • On-page optimization
  • Paid directory listing
  • Google Analytics reports
  • Guest posting
  • Monthly reports

And those are just the headers. For example, check out the “Quality SEO copywriting header.”

Quality SEO copywriting
Here is the “On-page optimization” header:

On-page optimization
As you can see, they involve a lot of work, and they involve their own tools and resources to be done right as well. So, yes, it seems expensive, but that’s because there’s an entire team composed of people with various specialties that is working for you.

Imagine if you have to hire people to do all these things, especially if the core function of your business is far from marketing.

Reduced risks

When you outsource marketing to a reputable agency, you ensure that your marketing is taken care of well. The team they assign to you will work hard to ensure that you aren’t wasting the money you’re spending on them on risky endeavors because everything is well-researched. And in the event that they will need to do some experimentation, the results of those experiments are well-documented so they know what’s working and what isn’t.

Challenges of outsourcing marketing vs in-house

There are a couple of challenges that need to be considered when outsourcing marketing vs going in-house.

Communication can potentially be tricky

In this case, the marketing team won’t be a desk or a chat away. They’re completely in a different company, so meetings will definitely need to be scheduled and coordinated. The agency can try to offset this challenge by assigning an accounts manager to your company whom you can contact whenever you have concerns.

Sometimes miscommunication can still happen, but that is why it’s incredibly important to be open and to just overcommunicate instead of expecting that both parties already understand the expectations and concerns of the partner.

Difference in company values

Another challenge that a company can have is looking for an agency that has similar values as they do. You wouldn’t want to end up hiring a company that believes in employing shady tactics or doesn’t believe in transparency.

That’s why when looking for an agency, make sure you check what their current and previous clients have to say about them. Do they take unnecessary risks? Were they difficult to communicate with? Do they see their clients as mere clients, or as partners? It’s important that you and your agency are a good fit for each other so that you can work together smoothly.

It can be expensive if you don’t have the budget

Again, we go back to budget concerns. As I mentioned earlier, outsourcing marketing can be a bit expensive, but that’s because there is plenty of work that comes with marketing. If you don’t have the budget, you can opt to go in-house and start your marketing on a smaller scale.

One thing that some companies do is to work on a hybrid setup. For example, a full digital marketing package from SEO Hacker costs around $3,500 to $9,900. Some of our partners decide to go with our SEO package, or even our email sales automation package which costs around $1,000 to $3,000. They outsource that work to us and work on their own marketing which they have a team for, and we coordinate our efforts to make sure we’re aligned.

For companies that don’t exactly have the budget for a full outsourcing or a full in-house team, a hybrid setup is the perfect solution.

For example, here are our clients, and plenty of them have a hybrid setup with us:

SEO Hacker in-house vs outsourcing marketing clients

Less access to the team

Unlike if you have an in-house marketing team, you only really get to communicate with the accounts manager assigned to you when you decide to outsource your marketing. In an in-house setup, you get to speak with everybody, but that isn’t possible with an agency unless you specifically request to do so.

Key takeaway

So, should you go for in-house vs outsourcing marketing to another agency? The question here is, as always, what does your company need? And can you afford it?

Whether you build your team in-house or outsource your marketing, there will be a set of benefits and challenges. It could be too expensive, or new employees could be difficult to train. There could be more risks involved or a potential for miscommunication. Or you could find that either one is more cost-effective and practical for you in the long run.

And for those who don’t have the resources to go fully in-house or outsourced, a hybrid setup can be the way to go. It’s the best of both worlds for some, although it could have its own challenges such as coordination and alignment. But at least, that option is available.

Do you think going in-house vs outsourcing marketing is the way to go? Or is it vice-versa, or even both? Let me know in the comments what you think!


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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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Google’s Statement About CTR And HCU

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Google's Statement About CTR And HCU

In a series of tweets, Google’s SearchLiaison responded to a question that connected click-through rates (CTR) and HCU (Helpful Content Update) with how Google ranks websites, remarking that if the associated ideas were true it would be impossible for any new website to rank.

Users Are Voting With Their Feet?

Search Liaison’s answer was to a tweet that quoted an interview answer by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the quote being, “Users vote with their feet”.

Here is the tweet:

“If the HCU (Navboost, whatever you want to call it) is clicks/user reaction based – how could sites hit by the HCU ever hope to recover if we’re no longer being served to Google readers?

@sundarpichai “Users vote with their feet”,

Okay I’ve changed my whole site – let them vote!”

The above tweet appears to connect Pichai’s statement to Navboost, user clicks and rankings. But as you’ll see below, Sundar’s statement about users voting “with their feet” has nothing to do with clicks or ranking algorithms.

Background Information

Sundar Pichai’s answer about users voting “with their feet” has nothing to do with clicks.

The problem with the interview question (and Sundar Pichai’s answer) is that the question and answer are in the context of “AI-powered search and the future of the web.”

The interviewer at The Verge used a site called HouseFresh as an example of a site that’s losing traffic because of Google’s platform shift to the new AI Overviews.

But the HouseFresh site’s complaints predate AI Overviews. Their complaints are about Google ranking low quality “big media” product reviews over independent sites like HouseFresh.

HouseFresh wrote:

“Big media publishers are inundating the web with subpar product recommendations you can’t trust…

Savvy SEOs at big media publishers (or third-party vendors hired by them) realized that they could create pages for ‘best of’ product recommendations without the need to invest any time or effort in actually testing and reviewing the products first.”

Sundar Pichai’s answer has nothing to do with why HouseFresh is losing traffic. His answer is about AI Overviews. HouseFresh’s issues are about low quality big brands outranking them. Two different things.

  • The Verge-affiliated interviewer was mistaken to cite HouseFresh in connection with Google’s platform shift to AI Overviews.
  • Furthermore, Pichai’s statement has nothing to do with clicks and rankings.

Here is the interview question published on The Verge:

“There’s an air purifier blog that we covered called HouseFresh. There’s a gaming site called Retro Dodo. Both of these sites have said, “Look, our Google traffic went to zero. Our businesses are doomed.”

…Is that the right outcome here in all of this — that the people who care so much about video games or air purifiers that they started websites and made the content for the web are the ones getting hurt the most in the platform shift?”

Sundar Pichai answered:

“It’s always difficult to talk about individual cases, and at the end of the day, we are trying to satisfy user expectations. Users are voting with their feet, and people are trying to figure out what’s valuable to them. We are doing it at scale, and I can’t answer on the particular site—”

Pichai’s answer has nothing to do with ranking websites and absolutely zero context with the HCU. What Pichai’s answer means is that users are determining whether or not AI Overviews are helpful to them.

SearchLiaison’s Answer

Let’s reset the context of SearchLiaison’s answer, here is the tweet (again) that started the discussion:

“If the HCU (Navboost, whatever you want to call it) is clicks/user reaction based – how could sites hit by the HCU ever hope to recover if we’re no longer being served to Google readers?

@sundarpichai “Users vote with their feet”,

Okay I’ve changed my whole site – let them vote!”

Here is SearchLiaison’s response:

“If you think further about this type of belief, no one would ever rank in the first place if that were supposedly all that matters — because how would a new site (including your site, which would have been new at one point) ever been seen?

The reality is we use a variety of different ranking signals including, but not solely, “aggregated and anonymized interaction data” as covered here:”

The person who started the discussion responded with:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

When a client says something like “writing new articles to be found through search” I always follow up with questions to understand what they mean. I’m not commenting about the person who made the tweet, I’m just making an observation about past conversations I’ve had with clients. When a client says something like that, they sometimes mean that they’re researching Google keywords and competitor sites and using that keyword data verbatim within their content instead of relying on their own personal expertise and understanding of what the readers want and need.

Here’s SearchLiaison’s answer:

“As I’ve said before, I think everyone should focus on doing whatever they think is best for their readers. I know it can be confusing when people get lots of advice from different places, and then they also hear about all these things Google is supposedly doing, or not doing, and really they just want to focus on content. If you’re lost, again, focus on that. That is your touchstone.”

Site Promotion To People

SearchLiaison next addressed the excellent question about off-site promotion where he strongly asserted focusing on the readers. A lot of SEOs focus on promoting sites to Google, which is what link building is all about.

Promoting sites to people is super important. It’s one of the things that I see high ranking sites do and, although I won’t mention specifics, I believe it feeds into higher rankings in an indirect way.

SearchLiaison continued:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.

Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.

This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things). It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

What About False Positives?

The phrase false positive is used in many contexts and one of them is to describe the situation of a high quality site that loses rankings because an algorithm erroneously identified it as low quality. SearchLiaison offered hope to high quality sites that may have seen a decrease in traffic, saying that it’s possible that the next update may offer a positive change.

He tweeted:

“As to the inevitable “but I’ve done all these things when will I recover!” questions, I’d go back to what we’ve said before. It might be the next core update will help, as covered here:

It might also be that, as I said here, it’s us in some of these cases, not the sites, and that part of us releasing future updates is doing a better job in some of these cases:

SearchLiaison linked to a tweet by John Mueller from a month ago where he said that the search team is looking for ways to surface more helpful content.

“I can’t make any promises, but the team working on this is explicitly evaluating how sites can / will improve in Search for the next update. It would be great to show more users the content that folks have worked hard on, and where sites have taken helpfulness to heart.”

Is Your Site High Quality?

Everyone likes to think that their site is high quality and most times it is. But there are also cases where a site publisher will do “everything right” in terms of following SEO practices but what they’re unaware of is that those “good SEO practices” that are backfiring on them.

One example, in my opinion, is the widely practiced strategy of copying what competitors are doing but “doing it better.” I’ve been hands-on involved in SEO for well over 20 years and that’s an example of building a site for Google and not for users. It’s a strategy that explicitly begins and ends with the question of “what is Google ranking and how can I create that?”

That kind of strategy can create patterns that overtly signal that a site is not created for users.  It’s also a recipe for creating a site that offers nothing new from what Google is already ranking. So before assuming that everything is fine with the site, be certain that everything is indeed fine with the site.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Michael Vi



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