As a financial services firm, should you do your SEO (search engine optimisation) yourself – or, get an agency to help you?
There are other options, of course. However, this broad dichotomy is often the choice facing many financial planning businesses. What are the differences and similarities between the two? Is any one approach better than the other?
In this guide, our SEO team at MarketingAdviser offers some answers to these questions within the financial services industry. We hope this content is useful to you and helps inform your decisions.
If you’d like to discuss your own financial SEO with us, get in touch for a free, no-commitment consultation.
Our team at MarketingAdviser has worked in both contexts – i.e. implementing an SEO strategy within a specific business, and also on the behalf of other businesses within an agency environment.
This has helped us spot some notable similarities, which we’ll address first.
First of all, the same broad set of SEO skills are relevant in both contexts. So, no special skills are required if your financial planning firm wants to bring the SEO in-house, or outsource it to an external partner.
Both require identical technical knowledge (e.g. how to approach a robots.txt file and how to optimise a page for “on-site” SEO).
Secondly, the same tools are often used in both cases for financial SEO. This typically includes the likes of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, a keyword planning tool (e.g. SEMRush) and Moz).
Thirdly, both in-house and external SEOs need to be skilled in gathering SEO information and presenting it in a way that it easy for everyone else to understand. After all, most financial planners are extremely busy running their business and dealing with clients. They do not have time to become experts in digital marketing jargon, and need someone to explain it clearly.
There are, however, some significant differences to “in-house” and “agency” SEO for financial services which need consideration.
First of all, in-house SEO requires hiring at least one person to do the work. This could be a part/full-time employee, a freelancer or maybe an intern (e.g. a recent marketing graduate). An agency is usually engaged in a monthly retainer.
These differences throw up some important questions. In particular, if you hire an unpaid intern, how long do you intend to keep them around? Is the intention to eventually bring them into a paid role? If so, does this person understand the deal?
Bear in mind that, whilst interns are “free” (or “cheap”), they may not stick around if they feel they are getting a bad deal. Fresh into their careers, moreover, they likely will not have the experience to come up with the best marketing strategies and campaigns.
The advantage of an experienced full/part-time SEO employee, of course, is that this person can truly “embed” into your financial planning business. She/he can truly get to know your team, clients and workplace culture – help to ensure that these are reflected authentically in your marketing.
This internal SEO person can also help out with other important business tasks more readily, when required (e.g. helping prepare a meeting room for a client). They are in the office to speak to readily, if you have a question about digital marketing.
On the other hand, an employee comes with big commitments and responsibilities. If the hire turns out to be a bad one, for instance, then it is harder to get rid of an internal SEO than it is to sever an unproductive relationship with an external agency.
An employee can also turn out to be more expensive than an SEO agency when holidays, pay, sick leave and other HR factors are brought into the picture. This person may also come with greater demands over time – such as increasing pay and/or promotions.
An SEO agency, however, may be “cheaper” in the short and long term. They typically come with a monthly fee/retainer, plus some extras like ad spend (e.g. paid directly to Google Ads). This can make it easier to plan your marketing budget and ROI expectations.
Moreover, an external partner potentially gives you access to a team of professional marketers – not just a single employee. This potentially allows your budget to stretch further, with more hands to implement your plan and more minds to come up with ideas.
However, an SEO agency comes with its own risks. They cannot integrate into your business in the same way as an employee. This means that there will, inevitably, be less familiarity with your clients, team and brand. Also, an external agency is often within their rights to walk away from your relationship more easily. An employee, for instance, may need to give 3 months’ notice to hand in his/her resignation, whilst an SEO agency may only need to give 30 days’ notice.
Which is best?
As you might start to see, no single approach is truly “better”. What really matters is the nature of your business, its strategy and goals which an affect the suitability of each option.
Depending on your needs, an internal SEO person or an external agency may be more appropriate. For instance, a small financial planning business may not have the resources to employ a dedicated SEO person so early in its business cycle. Instead, the costs of a financial marketing agency may be more realistic.
However, if you truly value having a specialist who is readily “at hand” within your office and who can “embed” into your team over the long term, then an SEO employee may be the best idea.
Of course, this is not necessarily an “either-or” choice. We often speak with financial planners who have an internal marketing person, for instance, whilst also wanting to work with an outside agency to help with some of the marketing strategy and “heavy lifting” involved with implementing it.