In-House SEO Training: Navigating Differences from Agency Life

By Gabrio Linari, Last Updated on 26 February 2024

The vast world of search engine optimization is a realm of constant evolution, and the dynamics between agency and in-house roles play a pivotal role in this ever-shifting landscape. In-house SEO training is essential in my opinion. For many, like myself, the SEO journey commences within the bustling environment of an agency in London. It’s here that budding professionals are exposed to a myriad of clients, rapidly accumulating a wealth of experience and broadening their horizons.

With a decade of industry experience as an SEO Director and Consultant under my belt, I’ve navigated both terrains extensively. One observation stands out: the unparalleled depth of expertise and understanding one can gain in an in-house role. This depth often sets the stage for true mastery. This guide is designed to enlighten you about the art of honing one individual to become a standout in-house SEO expert, while also shedding light on the inherent contrasts when juxtaposed against the fast-paced world of agency roles.

agency or in-house seo

1. Depth vs. Breadth

Agency Side: Within the fast-paced environment of agencies, SEO specialists are often tasked with handling multiple clients simultaneously. This environment, with its diverse challenges and shifting priorities, certainly broadens an individual’s experience. However, it also brings its set of pressures. For newer or junior team members, the sheer volume of tasks can be overwhelming. Without the experience or assertiveness to manage workload effectively, it’s easy to feel stressed, especially when there’s more work than one can handle.

Client Side: On the other hand, an in-house role offers a more focused experience, cantered around a single brand or product. In this setting, an SEO specialist becomes an integral part of the company, delving deep into its intricacies. Though this might mean fewer varied challenges day-to-day, it allows for a more personalized and detailed approach to SEO strategies, aligning closely with the company’s core values and goals.

2. Mastering In-House SEO

Agency Side: Working in an agency is akin to being in a rapid learning boot camp. With the diverse array of clients, industries, and challenges encountered, there’s a constant influx of new scenarios demanding adaptive thinking. Joining esteemed agencies, such as iProspect or iCrossing, can significantly accelerate one’s career trajectory. The exposure and mentoring available in such elite environments are unparalleled, setting up professionals for success in ways they might not have previously imagined. This variety not only aids in building a versatile skill set but also sharpens the ability to apply SEO principles across different contexts. However, while the continuous learning is invaluable, it might sometimes fall short in capturing the depth of understanding a particular brand’s long-term evolution.

Client Side: As an in-house SEO specialist, you serve not just as a team member but as the go-to subject matter expert for the entire organization. From the CEO to the Director of Marketing, and even extending to departments like HR, people at all levels will turn to you for guidance on SEO matters. Embedded within the brand’s DNA, you’ll experience the brand’s digital journey firsthand and exert a deep influence over its course.

This role requires more than just a solid grasp of SEO. You must always be prepared with clear, data-backed answers and, when unprecedented challenges arise, you’ll need to craft compelling narratives that align with the brand’s direction. Regular interactions with C-level stakeholders become a routine aspect of your role, leaving little room for generic answers like “it depends.”

You’re expected to provide detailed explanations, utilize strategic foresight, and offer clear recommendations. In this capacity, you’re not simply an SEO specialist; you act as a strategic linchpin, crucial to shaping and guiding the brand’s online trajectory.

3. Cross-department Synergy vs. In-House Leadership

Agency Side: Within the bustling ecosystem of an agency, SEO trainees learn the importance of cross-departmental collaboration. They often engage with various teams, from PPC experts to content creators, all united for a shared client goal. Effective leadership in this context means understanding how to harness this collective knowledge, navigate different departmental objectives, and align them for the client’s success. SEO training in such an environment equips individuals with the skills to manage diverse teams and bring cohesiveness to varied strategies.

Client Side: Leading in-house SEO roles present a different challenge. As the go-to SEO expert, your role evolves from just implementing strategies to becoming a key decision-maker and educator. Training becomes paramount here, not just for oneself but for the wider organization. With SEO intricacies woven into broader company goals, leadership involves guiding teams, from product to PR, ensuring SEO best practices are ingrained in their activities. It’s about cultivating an environment where every department understands and values the nuances of SEO, and that stems from effective in-house training.

4. Broad Horizons vs. Deep Dive

Agencies offer a diverse range of projects. You might work on local SEO campaigns or broad international strategies. You’ll meet peers from various specialties, like paid advertising or social media. This diversity fosters continuous learning. It’s an environment where you can pinpoint your strengths. Training encourages exploration. Later, you can specialize based on your interests. Overall, agency work offers broad horizons. Here, growth touches multiple areas of digital marketing.

Client Side: In-house roles, while specialized, offer profound opportunities for vertical growth. As the chief SEO expert, there’s a clear path to evolve into more strategic roles within the organization. In this role, you do more than just optimize websites; you comprehend business objectives, align SEO tactics with overarching company goals, and may even influence critical business decisions. Training is vital as it enhances your SEO knowledge while also building your leadership, strategy, and communication skills. This well-rounded expertise, fortified by ongoing training, can open doors to elevated roles such as Digital Marketing Manager, Director of Digital Strategy, or even C-level positions, showcasing the depth of career growth available in-house.

5. Continuous Learning & Professional Development

Agency Side: Agencies often serve as hotbeds for fresh trends and innovations. The client diversity necessitates that professionals stay abreast with the latest in the industry. Regular workshops, webinars, and collaboration with digital peers are a routine, ensuring that your knowledge is always updated.

Client Side: In the in-house setting, leadership is paramount. While you might not experience the same breadth of projects as in an agency, the depth of the role allows for a rigorous understanding of specific industry trends and best practices. Leading the SEO initiatives requires continuous learning, intrinsic as you aim to maintain the brand’s digital edge. This often involves a commitment to industry conferences, certifications, and close collaborations with platforms like Google and Bing.

The Power of Specialized In-House SEO Training

While both agency and in-house environments present numerous learning opportunities, there’s a unique power in targeted in-house SEO training. This is where my consultancy services come into play.

With over a decade of experience, I offer:

Investing in specialized in-house SEO training does more than just boost skills. It ensures your brand stays resilient and forward-thinking in a constantly changing digital environment.

If you are plateauing in your in-house role or if you want to make the leap, get in touch today. Alternatively, feel free to say a friendly hello on LinkedIn.