Working At a Digital Marketing Agency: Pros and Cons

It’s the dream of many an agency SEO to be hired in-house and go work on ONE brand and ONE website or portfolio of websites. This promised land of milk and honey seemingly evades most SEOs, though, so most of us end up working for an agency, at least until we can take the plunge to strike out on our own (this becomes less of a reasonable proposition as you have children :)). I’m not quite sure how the math works, though, on the client side- if you’re paying 10k a month for SEO you could easily hire a seasoned veteran to work in-house. Why fracture communication and add a layer of abstraction when you can just put someone on the payroll? My feeling- based on my own experiences- is that a lot of Marketing departments outsource their SEO not only because they don’t have a clue how to do it- or just plain don’t want to learn- but because they want a scapegoat, somewhere to point the figure if the ROI on the project doesn’t materialize.

The pros of working for an SEO agency

Working at an agency is a great opportunity to learn- chances are you’ll work on a wide variety of accounts, big and small, responsive and unresponsive, willing to listen and not willing to listen, with a budget, with next-to-no budget, with the ability and desire to write content or an absolute abhorrence of writing content- the list goes on and on. You’ll also have the ability to work with a lot of other like minded and talented people- the agencies I’ve worked at provide integrated SEO, PPC, Social Media and Reputation Management services, and the exposure to and assistance from all of those different individuals is absolutely invaluable. You learn a lot fast, as you are exposed to all sorts of sites from the rinky-dink 5 page site for that mom and pop hotel in the Poconos, to the client with 4 domains and 65,000 URLs. You also get the benefit of having a large pool of clients in different verticals to test with- though you don’t want to do TOO much testing on a live clients’ site! Additionally, you get the benefit of a Google rep if you’re a well-respected agency, meaning you’ll know what new programs and betas are coming down the pipe in advance. There’s also the not-unattractive benefit of a regular paycheck and health insurance, as well as a standard 40-hour work week (wow, it’s really, REALLY hard to type that with a straight face) and, to reiterate- a pool of like-minded peers to collaborate with. To me, that’s the biggest advantage of working at an SEO or digital marketing agency.

Cons of working for an SEO agency

With all good things come some bad, and I’ll be the first to admit that working at an agency isn’t all upside. First of all, there’s a level of disconnect between you and the client, as normally you aren’t situated geographically near them. This is not always a bad thing, as sometimes it’s okay to keep a client that’s overly demanding at arm’s length, so to speak. However, it does add a layer of abstraction as things are done over the phone and via shared documents and GoToMeeting. Another con is that you’re likely to have several (maybe even too many) accounts to work on at the same time. Now, if you’re an SEO like I am, who treats every client campaign as if it’s their own, this is going to be difficult for you. There may be whole days- or even a week- that pass where you don’t even get to look at one of your clients’ sites. I have worked for agencies before where SEO account managers handled as many s 40 separate accounts. That’s only an hour per week to spend on each site, and of course, some clients pay more than others and as such they deserve more attention. It’s a fine line to walk but what it means in the end is that not every client will get as much attention as you’d like to give them- this is just a fact of agency life. You’ll also be stressed working at an agency; you’ll have very few chances to catch your breath. I’ve had times over my last 4 years working for agencies when I’ve had to sit in more than twenty meetings a week. Expect that number to go up if you take on more responsibility, such as managing client communications! It’s extremely fast paced and as SEOs are wont to work 24 hours a day, burnout is a real possibility.

Which kind of SEO are you? In-house or Agency? Did I miss any pros or cons? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!


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