SEO Agency Vs. In-House: The Great Debate

So we were fired the other day.  Well, sort of.

The engagement in question began two years ago.  At the time we got involved, business for was tough for Malcolm*, the owner of the a service based company with multiple location in the State of Michigan.  He had recently made the difficult decision to release much of his management-level staff, including his friend and right-hand man, Christopher*.  Malcolm had also at this time just relocated to a much smaller office space in the interest of conserving precious cash and ultimately staying in business.

*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

A major reason things weren’t going well was the fact that his business’s web presence was a mess. He was spending close to $20,000 annually on Google Adwords and wasn’t getting a single lead for what was at the time a significant portion of his advertising budget.  His websites were very outdated both in terms of design, accuracy and content, contained bad links, incorrect contact/personnel information, etc..  It was so bad in fact that his contact forms didn’t even work.

Fast forward two years.

In the short period of 24 months we were able to fix his websites by updating the design and consistently adding quality content, which not only increased conversions but also helped with search engine placement for relevant keywords.  We researched and subsequently tailored the messaging of the sites to resonate with the target market, and set up the appropriate lead capture functions to make it as easy as possible for site visitors to contact Malcolm’s sales team.  We audited his existing Google Adwords campaigns and re-engineered his campaigns to generate targeted leads and ultimately create new customers Malcolm wouldn’t otherwise have obtained.

The results?

It was determined that Malcolm needed to secure three new client engagements to offset the yearly costs of our retainers.  At our end-of-year meeting in December 2014, Malcolm told us that he’d earned the business of at least 18 new clients from our efforts, and possibly more.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a 500% return on investment.

Then a month later, Malcolm terminated our contract.  With all of the additional revenues he now had at his disposal, the business decision was made to replace our services with those of an in-house full-time employee.

Malcolm came to the conclusion that for the cost of a single full-time employee, which was probably around two times the expense of our monthly retainer, he could get a lot more labor.  If you’re a business owner or manager watching your labor costs, it’s not the most illogical conclusion to come to.  While we had big plans for 2015 and it’s disappointing to have this engagement come to an abrupt end, we wish Malcolm and the staff members we’ve enjoyed working with nothing but the best of luck and success going forward.

The question then becomes, did Malcolm make the right choice?

digital marketing grand rapids mi

Image courtesy of Ambro at

To find the multitude of talents and different skill sets that an agency offers in a single individual is almost impossible.  In fact, in our circles we refer to such people as unicorns for good reason.  When you engage an agency, the biggest value is the fact that you are gaining access to a team of professionals, each with their own particular specialty.  You get multiple team members who’ve been assigned to your campaign because their specific skill set matches your needs.  You get exactly what you pay for, and while an agency’s rates are usually higher than that of an in-house employee from an hourly perspective, you get and ultimately only pay for exactly what you need.  In comparison:


  • Don’t call in sick
  • Give you access to a multitude of talented individuals
  • Don’t require the typical unemployment/FICA obligations of an employee
  • Don’t require benefits
  • Aren’t likely to quit and go work for a competitor
  • Give you exactly what you pay for and you only pay for what you need
  • Are easy to fire if results are unsatisfactory
  • Are easy to replace


In-house Employees:

  • Are usually cheaper per hour
  • Have to be trained
  • Have to be monitored more closely
  • Are sometimes more difficult/costly to terminate
  • Tend to be costly to recruit
  • May quit for better opportunities
  • May miss work due to illnesses, pregnancies, family emergencies and other issues
  • Are often skilled in only one or two areas

At the end of the day, if you’re a business owner or hiring manager, you have to come to your own conclusions as to whether hiring in-house is a better fit for your organization.  If your agency is only performing one or two specific tasks, then it might make more sense to drop them in favor of an employee.  However, if you’re considering this move, there are two major things to be aware of:

internet marketing grand rapids

Image courtesy of shirophoto at

If your agency has been doing a good job, severing ties and replacing them with an in-house employee carries it’s own set of risks.  For one, if it doesn’t work out with the employee, you may need to re-engage the agency to get things back on track – and they might not be available a second time around. And two, you need to be very sure that the individual you’re trusting is as competent as they seem to be.  Talk is cheap – and you have to ask yourself, if this person really possessed the multitude of skills that they say they do, wouldn’t they be working for an agency like us?

Is Your Brand About What You Do or Who You Are?

Brands are a funny thing.  They convey trust, reliability, safety, confidence, luxury, value and many other emotions and sentiments – all with a single word, phrase or image.  It’s a remarkable phenomenon really.  For example, the brand name ‘Lexus’ immediately invokes luxury and quality, as the word itself is derived from the terms ‘luxury’ and ‘elegance’.  ‘Nike’ is aptly named after the Greek goddess of victory.

In full disclosure, this post is intended to serve as an announcement of sorts.  As you may or may not already be aware, as of January 1st, the Enliven SEO & Design brand is being retired in favor of our new company name, MoxieMen Incorporated.  The new website which is currently under construction is located at (more…)

Five of the Most Important SEO Performance Metrics

Part one of this two-part series discussed the importance of SEO measurables when analyzing SEO performance.

google-analytics-grand-rapidsIf you’re familiar with Google Analytics or any other Web traffic stats program, you know there are a lot of ways to look at data, and a lot of data to look at.  From visitors, to traffic sources, to time spent on the site, to number of pages visited, to the device that they viewed you site from to where on Earth they visited your site from, and on and on – there is a mind-numbing amount of information to sift through. But what does it all mean?  Which data points are most important?  Here are five of the most important SEO performance metrics we like to focus on, along with a brief explanation as to their importance: (more…)

Measurables: What Good SEO Companies Offer

Recently, I was in a discovery meeting with a business owner, “Marcus”, who’d just – earlier that same day in fact – cut off his former SEO service provider.  After spending a considerable sum of money with this particular person, Marcus cut him loose due to poor accountability and an overall lack of results.

If you’ve ever discussed SEO and Web Marketing in general with me or a reputable SEO service provider, you know most of the initial questions are to gauge where things currently stand with your marketing efforts.  After all, you can’t know where you’re headed if you don’t know where you are.  My conversation with Marcus was a very positive one, and I look forward to future discussions as to how Enliven can help his company achieve their goals.  But the discussion started off a little on the rocky side, hence the following exchange: (more…)

Why I am Encouraging Everyone to Switch From Hostgator to

When you work in tech, about the only thing you can count on is that change is inevitable.  And on top of that, good things don’t always stay good for all that long.  It is the nature of such things.

For years – and quite frankly since I began working in this industry I’ve used Hostgator exclusively for my Web hosting needs. I have also referred dozens of customers to them – friends, acquaintances, clients and the like – all with superior results.  In the beginning, I was impressed with the quality of their product and their excellent customer service that always went way above and beyond for me.  On numerous occasions I would find myself on the phone with their tech-support, frequently seeking solutions to problems that were often in no way their responsibility to deal with.  I sung their praises and proudly referred as many people to them as I could.

Unfortunately, those days are over. (more…)

Get The Enliven Advantage

What you’re about to read may come off as self congratulatory.  If you find this off-putting, please know that this isn’t my intention.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

If you live in Michigan, you’ve most certainly heard of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm.  They’ve been around forever, and their ads are ever-present during Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings games both in their respective stadiums/arenas as well as during the broadcasts on Fox Sports Detroit.  Their slogan is a not-so-subtle nudge that recommends you ‘Get the Bernstein Advantage‘. Enliven SEO & Design has a long track record of helping clients be more successful with their digital marketing efforts.  If you’re so inclined, read through the numerous real testimonials published from our clients.

The reason this is the case is because we only offer our services to clients we can actually help.