5 Reasons Why You Should Bring SEO In-House

In-house SEOs generally don’t get much of a voice in our industry. I spent my entire SEO career working from the agency side, years before setting up NeoMam. At the early stages of our agency, most of our work was sold through some of the largest agencies in the UK.

Over the past few years I have seen a large number of skilled practitioners move in-house and I have been very impressed with what they have been able to achieve, compared to what I saw from agencies.

In this post, I have worked with a number of the top in-house SEO’s in our industry to understand some of the benefits of working in-house over choosing an agency.

Here are five reasons why you should bring SEO in-house:

SEO-cookie-cutter

The days of a cookie cutter approach to SEO are over. You can no longer have one process that can be applied directly to every type of client. Agencies are also businesses and providing a customised service for every client will quickly become costly.

When SEO was more about the purchasing of anchor text links, there was far less need for complex changes from the client’s side. SEO in 2016 is far more technical and any supporting content marketing requires significant input from marketing, branding, PR and product teams.

An in-house team is built from the ground up to support the unique issues facing that company and have a far bigger chance of providing a return on investment.

 

 

nick-andrews

Nick Andrews — SEO Manager, Debenhams

Just over two years ago I made the decision at Debenhams to remove our SEO agency and invest in an in-house SEO team and since then have never looked back.

All of the issues and struggles that we used to have with an agency disappeared almost immediately. We no longer waste time debating why targets are being missed, spend a significant proportion of the SEO budget on management fees and have to explain for the 20th time why renaming an entire category or implementing canonical tags will take over one year to achieve.

Agency priorities and in-house priorities were often very misaligned which was evidenced by Debenhams going through 3 different SEO agencies within three years. The agencies were too slow to provide support and just couldn’t adapt to suit our ways of working and provide the bespoke service that we required.

Within two years I’ve grown my team from 1 to 10 people who are all completely aligned with the needs of the business. They know who to speak to, how to speak to them and what to say to obtain sign off and support. They know what SEO activity is achievable, are commercially focused with what will deliver profit (not revenue) and what will create a positive impression with the PR team. Not only that but we are now incredibly reactive, we provide insight and support across the business within the hour without having to wait for an agency response or a PowerPoint 5 days later and can provide immediate training. With a greater presence of SEOs within head office, we are in more meetings and influencing decision-making every day of the week whether it be what content to produce and what the website should look like right up to buying level where our insight often feeds into what the buyers should be buying for the UK market.

Not every business will be the same; we are a very large organisation compared to most, however for Debenhams the in-house setup has achieved significantly greater results than any of the previous agency relationships.”


 

Freddie Chatt — SEO Manager, Amara

Freddie Chatt
SEO Manager, Amara

Usually, in-house teams can react a lot faster and action new plans much quicker than agencies. This is partly due to the lower amount of communication levels that is required and partly because in-house SEO teams learn the business much more than agencies. They know what they can and can’t do based on previous experience with creative directors but also know what angles that they can play with.”

 

in-house-SEO-faster-implementation

Getting SEO advice implemented is a big challenge, especially with large enterprise clients. With an internal team, you can break down the ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality and find a way to get SEO implemented quicker.  

When you compare an outside agency that meets with their client sporadically against a team working together in the same office every day of the week, it’s clear who has more power to get changes actioned.

 

Brock Ellison — SEO Manager, AT&T

Brock Ellison — SEO Manager, AT&T

Working with the internal IT team helps get implementation done quickly. Currently, we were working on getting videos embedded and from an agency that could take 6 months plus.

Now that I’m in-house (worked agency 4 yrs) it’s safe to say that being in-house has helped pushed, and reduced cost, to make the site a better all around experience”


 

 

Stuart Kerr — Head of SEO, Liberty Games

Stuart Kerr — Head of SEO, Liberty Games

If the organisation has in-house SEO function, there’s usually a good chance they understand the value SEO can provide, and as such you can often be in a better position to action any changes you need that may not be directly within your sphere of influence (for example technical changes to the website).”

 

 


 

Thomas Smith — SEO Manager, Graduate-Jobs.com

Thomas Smith — SEO Manager, Graduate-Jobs.com

“Working as an in-house SEO manager with the support of a development and content team allows for responsive implementation of ideas. With increasing competition for results, as well as rising investment in SEO, the ability to act swiftly has never been more important.

In contrast to an agency environment, in-house SEOs are able to stay ahead of the competition by removing the barriers to production. This all too often can hold a project back and devalue the relevancy and competitive elements at the time of release.”

inhouse-SEO-leadership-support

 

Modern SEO can no longer exist in its silo. Good SEO campaigns need support from the head of marketing and above. Without approval from the leadership team, it’s likely that SEO won’t receive the support from the wider business.

An internal SEO team can build strong relationships and educate the wider team on the benefits of SEO. In comparison, an SEO agency will have to rely on pre-existing relationships and the monthly or quarterly meetings with department heads.

 

Marcin Chirowski — Head of SEO & Content Marketing, EF English Live

Marcin Chirowski — Head of SEO & Content Marketing, EF English Live

Having a full 360 view of what’s going on in the business and ability to impact internal decisions is, in my opinion, the biggest benefit of an in-house SEO team. External SEO agencies face a substantial internal barrier when it comes to a decision-making process and rely on internal people to get things done. That’s not the case for in-house SEO team who are heavily involved in decisions as the internal stakeholders understand the implications of not looping in the SEO team.

Being in-house also mean you get to see the full impact of your actions on the business which is highly rewarding and challenging at the same time.”


 

Carl Hallam — SEO and Content Manager, Eharmony

Carl Hallam — SEO and Content Manager, Eharmony

“Having worked as a Head of SEO for one of the biggest companies in the UK, where your responsibility is to set strategy and educate, inspire and more often than not, be a politician (in the corporate sense) so your team can drive for the success of your SEO strategy.”

 

                                                           

 

inhouse-SEO-focus

 

There are many benefits to working with a search marketing agency, but it is inevitable that you will never be that agency’s sole focus. One of the benefits of bringing the function in-house is the ability to focus on your site and business needs to gain a really detailed understanding of what is happening.

Search is getting more, rather than less, complicated. In some respects (such as outreach) it is also getting much harder. As such, the role of specialist agencies that complete specific tasks as part of your strategy becomes vital.

 

Joel Turner — Marketing Director, KickOff.co.uk

Joel Turner — Marketing Director, KickOff.co.uk

“Having not long left an agency I’ve immediately noticed the amount of focus you can give a site when dedicated to it every day. Organic search is more complex than it has ever been, and if you really want to move a site forwards it demands focus. There are a lot of factors to consider and testing is vital to success in SEO.

I think often the client-agency relationship is too focused on the ‘expertise’ of agencies, when in reality there are not many situations and decisions in search that are not subjective. I can now see the benefit of having an overarching view on what is happening and then bringing specialist agencies or consultants to do a specific job.”


 

“In competitive search verticals it’s really important to closely monitor and audit your backlink profile. Unfortunately, this has to be a weekly task in our industry and takes up a lot of time.

Doing this in-house is the only way to keep this process cost effective.”

 

 

inhouse-SEO-content-opportunities

 

One of the biggest challenges for SEO in 2016 is producing high quality content that is relevant to your brand. Agencies spend a lot of time trying to understand a business but there is a limit to how much time they can spend with each client.

In-house teams sit with the wider business and can uncover opportunities that an agency might miss. They will find it easier to uncover knowledge and talent within the business that can be leveraged to create content that stands out from competitors.

 

Nick Andrews — SEO Manager, Debenhams

Nick Andrews — SEO Manager, Debenhams


“With a greater presence of SEOs within head office, we are in more meetings and influencing decision making every day of the week whether it be what content to produce and what the website should look like right up to buying level where our insight often feeds into what the buyers should be buying for the UK market.”

 


 

 

Fraser Wood — Content Strategist at Explosive Brands {Former Digital Content Manager, Lloyds Pharmacy)

Fraser Wood — Content Strategist at Explosive Brands (Former Digital Content Manager, Lloyds Pharmacy)

From my perspective bringing SEO in-house can lead to greater oversight of content and keyword opportunities. Whether it’s an ad hoc discussion with a customer service colleague or a marketing meeting with senior staff, those lightbulb moments of great content can come from anywhere at anytime.

An in-house team can be much better placed to pick up on these opportunities and then rapidly capitalise on them. If it’s done right and it leverages the rich experience within the business, these content ideas can often pre-empt ad hoc or seasonal changes in search volume and push your content ahead of your competitors.

Additionally, an internal SEO team are more likely to ensure that the source of those ideas is officially acknowledged, thus improving internal PR for the department and improving company cooperation. In my experience, sourcing ideas from internal teams, creating great content which ranks, and then feeding those results back into the wider team, is the best way to secure and improve buy-in for SEO and future content spend.


 

Maria Santos — Digital Marketing Manager, People for Research

Maria Santos — Digital Marketing Manager, People for Research

“No one is better equipped to continuously develop a company’s SEO strategy than a SEO professional that works in-house. This is irrevocably true for a simple, but extremely important reason: the in-house professional knows the service/product and the company’s audience in a way that is impossible for someone working from the outside. Knowing your people and planning with them in mind is the basis of a successful SEO strategy.”

 

closing-remarks

 

I am certain that many SEO agency owners will disagree with many of the points brought up by this post.

I personally believe our industry is changing dramatically and that the old agency model is outdated to fit the current challenge of competing online.

NeoMam has always been about specialisation to the detriment of missing out on other types of work:

  • We don’t do SEO strategy
  • We don’t do keyword research
  • We don’t do technical SEO recommendations
  • We don’t help with site migration
  • We don’t do PPC
  • We don’t touch your newsletter

We do create awesome content and guarantee that big name publishers are going to pick it up.

I expect over the next 5 years we are going to see more agencies become experts at their specific skill set and see far less of the generalist agencies that provide everything under one roof.

And in 10 years it will likely all change again as we know the SEO industry doesn’t stand still.

 

Be sure to leave your comments below as I am keen to hear from both sides of this debate.

 

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42 comments

  • Chris Wheeler June 3, 2016   Reply →

    While I agree with some of these points, and have seen first hand evidence of why it can be better to keep SEO in-house, I think that there are also compelling arguments against this. In the fist place, it is my firm belief that SEO is dead in its own right. SEO by its very nature relies on focus toward ranking your website, and that is where it ends. As Google and other engines do not want your website to rank (despite their protestations to the contrary) – it is more and more difficult to succeed in organic listing of major key phrases. It is quite true that you not only need to understand the signals the search engine gives as to how it engages with your pages, but also how viewers do. In my experience, there are very few people, let alone agencies who get this. If you have an in-house SEO team you are reliant (as you are with an agency) on their knowledge and understanding of how to rank. For example. are they commercial? do they understand their audience? do they look not just at ranking but conversion? Have they got a social media handle? Can they code? Do they understand website?
    I build my agency on these foundations. It is interesting that Debenhams was cited as an example of success in-house. Of course, with over 9.7million organic visitors a month to their site, 66,900 PPC visitors, 153,700 back links to their site, and 485,253 listings in the top 100 in Google, you would be pleased to be associated with these numbers. However, you are still paying (probably) a team of staff to complete this work, and even though this is bringing riches, when you scratch the surface of the site, I can tell you five things about it:

    1. The brand carries the business. Most conversion is on brand-based phrases
    2. The PPC traffic looks to have decreased 25% in the past 30 days.
    3. Most product or category based search phrases (whether in the top 10 of Google or not, appear not convert more than 1% of overall traffic.
    4. The PPC equivalent cost of this traffic is £3.8 million per month.
    5. Traffic has not really increased or decreased in the past 12 months. So no improvement to show.

    So, as I never assume anything from a client requirement, I would ask the business whether this was firstly an accurate picture, secondly I would not assume their needs, but work with them to create an holistic campaign, and then plan and improve on (typically) a consultative level to offer more to their team.

    As a conclusion therefore, I would say that if you have the right agency, with people carrying over 20 years of experience online, then you might find that you can gain but perhaps not either or, but both together working as a team in its own right.

  • Minnie mouse June 4, 2016   Reply →

    I have unfortunately the experience of supporting many many people who have been ripped off in SEO or web design and development a lot of people have lost there small businesses because of a toad in the business. Learn all you need to be able to do it yourself, you may not get to the top ranking as quick but your way will be ethical and have longevity.

    • Danny Ashton June 4, 2016   Reply →

      I am sorry to hear that and thanks for the comment.

      I know many agencies that are certainly not toads but I am aware there are many that prey on small businesses.

      I think the big challenge is that most good agencies start at prices that are out of budget for most small businesses. The reality is that impactful SEO campaigns in 2016 have significant costs. Hiring an SEO agency for less than £5k per month is usually not recommended.

      At NeoMam we provide only the link building aspect of a campaign and it starts at £5k per month although is likely overkill for most small/medium size businesses.

      With lower budgets, inhouse certainly makes sense and you don’t have to get someone full time straight away.

  • SNT June 4, 2016   Reply →

    We hired Chris Wheeler and his company Metalfrog Studios, paying them a total of nearly £20k over 8 months, we are now seriously looking at getting an in house SEO and found this article to make a lot of sense and could help eliminate the dangers associated with hiring SEO agencies.

    We have personally asked Chris Wheeler 10 times to provide us with the details of what activity his agency actually carried out in the 8 months and who did the work and 10 time he has refused to provide us with this information.

    Our sales went to record low levels and we can find no evidence of any quality SEO / Digital Marketing work being done. We found a lot of keyword stuffed links from very dodgy looking websites and not much else.

    We have heard from a lot of other companies who have had similar or worse experiences with Metalfrog and ex Metalfrog employees who have provided information about how the company operates.
    SEO is an unregulated industry where literally anyone could set up an agency tmrw and claim they have been ‘online’ for 20 years and promise you the earth.
    If you hire an agency how do you know what they are actually doing? If you do SEO in house then at least that person is in your office everyday and you know what they are doing, why they are doing it and how successful it’s being.

    We paid Metalfrog £1850 per month + VAT for digital marketing. I’ve been told I could have hired a competent SEO full time and in house for around the same amount – an absolute no brainier for us.

    • Danny Ashton June 4, 2016   Reply →

      Thanks for the comment SNT.

      Sorry to hear you have had a bad experience with a provider.

      I’m a big advocate of performance pricing for this very reason. Clients and agencies need to have a clear idea of what is expected to happen and in what time frames and what is success and failure.

      Since the start of this year, we now base our pricing on some features we can generate for clients. If we don’t hit them, then we do another campaign for free until we do. (Not a sales pitch – honest)

      I always recommend clients on smaller budgets (<£5k per month) to break yearly budget into campaigns rather than the standard monthly retainer model. Do you need technical SEO of an existing site - purchase this as a separately and compare freelancers/agencies/consultants. If you need more links or content again, see them as sperate entities and be open to different providers for each. Some agencies are great at some things and less good at others. By breaking the various activities into campaigns then you spread your risk and also increase your chances of getting a best in class provider for each task. An SEO in-house will also help you to identify which things you should do internally and those that would be best to be sent to a freelancers/agencies/consultant. One thing I would tell you (and any other person looking to hire in-house or agency) is to make sure you check in with people in the SEO industry beforehand. We are very close knit and most of us don't want anything bad to happen to any client and like to protect our industry from those looking to ruin it.

    • Unhappy June 6, 2016   Reply →

      I really hope you get some justice after you spent so much money

  • SBS June 5, 2016   Reply →

    We too have suffered at the hands of Metal Frog. No montly reports (which were part of the contract) despite numerous requests. No idea what they did, if anything. Seems like you unfortunately have to kiss a few frogs before you get to your Prince Charming.

    • Danny Ashton June 6, 2016   Reply →

      Again sorry to hear.

      I always recommend trying out a small campaign before signing up on a long term contract.

      Hope you find your Prince Charming soon!

  • Chris Wheeler June 6, 2016   Reply →

    I think that you will find that there are 2 sides to every comment, and that my company is VERY ethical. We always have contracts for our client’s protection. Equally, SNT have a canny way of manipulating facts to suit themselves. I am sure you agree that employees views are very subjective, and that they are typically ex-employees for a reason?
    We have correspondence from past suppliers of SNT, who confirm that this kind of behaviour is symptomatic of one of its directors! He has previous, and we have concrete proof he has tried to set himself up as an SEO expert on TOP SEOS, before the listing was mysteriously removed!
    He also does not mention that me and colleagues visited on several occassions. A cost, obviously. When we did not visit we reported.
    We were pleased to supply concrete evidence of our work, but we asked for assurances that once proven, SNT would remove any slurs to our good name on the Internet, and furthermore issue an apology. This was sent on 26th February 2016, copied to our solicitor. We have received no such assurances, so can only assume SNT would not comply and continue their public abuse!

    Interesting also that Minnie Mouse was removed from one of my client’s websites where she sold her wares!
    Also, that she cost my company hundreds of man hours, and yet we still gave her her money back!
    This is well documented, of course!

    And SBS – if we knew who this was, we would comment.

    I have put a call into your office this morning to talk to you. I look forward to your reply.

    • SNT June 6, 2016   Reply →

      Mr Wheeler, you continue to spread lies and malicious false statements about our company and one of it’s directors. We thought you would have stopped doing this when we had no choice but to report you to West Yorkshire police over one particular disgusting and false accusation you made which you received a verbal warning for.

      1) We have never ever paid anyone £2500 + VAT per month for SEO or Digital Marketing services.

      2) We have it in writing from TOPSEOS themselves that the profile that was created for us on their website was not created by anyone who works for our company and they deleted this themselves.

      3) We have set ourselves up as SEO experts? This laughable claim is backed up by what? You have a person or a company who will openly state that they have been approached by SNT or an SNT director in order to sell SEO services? As we know this is impossible it’s just yet another lie.

      4) Yes you sent us a list of outrageous and deluded demands that we had to agree to before you would send us any information about the work you carried out on our account. This included us not being able to get an independent experts to verify your information and claims. Very ethical and transparent wouldn’t you say?

      5) Yep we were offered a payment plan for the website by Metalfrog which was great. It wasn’t delivered on time, in fact very late, and your commercial director Paul Reeve sent me an email when it was ready telling us you wouldn’t make it live until the final payment had been made. We have since had the website completely re-designed and re-optimised and since we have seen significant increasings in our rankings in Google, with one major keyword in particular hitting page 2 already.

      6) Hundreds of hours of free work? I’ll hazard a guess you can’t prove this and don’t have it documented? You did what was necessary to connivence us to leave our then SEO agency and move to Metalfrog. When will you stop talking about stuff you apparently did for free for us and provide us with information about what was carried out on our account over 8 months for a spend of £1§850 + VAT? This is the 11th time i have asked you for this and you still refuse to provide this information. VERY ethical.

      I did receive a letter from a lady threatening me with legal action from corporate@metalfrog – but when i phoned Metalfrog and asked for her the chap who answered the phone had never heard of her. Interesting that isn’t it Chris?

      7) I received a letter from your solicitor, i responded and haven’t heard anything from him or you since. That was February.

      We will be publishing an incredibly detailed account of our experience with your company soon. It covers absolutely everything. You’ll of course have the right to reply and i’m sure the SEO community with be the judges.

    • Unhappy June 6, 2016   Reply →

      “SNT have a canny way of manipulating facts to suit themselves”

      I haven’t seen them do this. Can you provide proof?

      ” I am sure you agree that employees views are very subjective, and that they are typically ex-employees for a reason?”

      Why do you have so many ex-employees?

      “We have correspondence from past suppliers of SNT, who confirm that this kind of behaviour is symptomatic of one of its directors!”

      Very professional looking up all of the previous agencies.

      “He has previous, and we have concrete proof he has tried to set himself up as an SEO expert on TOP SEOS, before the listing was mysteriously removed!”

      It isn’t at all possible you fabricated this yourself?

      “We were pleased to supply concrete evidence of our work, but we asked for assurances that once proven, SNT would remove any slurs to our good name on the Internet, and furthermore issue an apology.”

      I witnessed your exchange on Facebook and you came across very obstructive when asked for the evidence. You should need to issue ultimatums before providing proof of your work. Your customer has a right to see what was delivered, and that’s the absolute end of the matter. Your customer shouldn’t even need to ask, they should have received regular reports. Why didn’t they get them?

  • Chris Wheeler June 6, 2016   Reply →

    What SNT also fail to mention (conveniently) is that they were paying £2500 plus VAT per month prior to contracting us, and that we offered them a payment plan for their website, and advised not to do anything with this until we could see some real improvements – rather than simply make them believe they needed a new one. We also carried out hundreds of hours of extraneous development work on their old site, without an invoice being raised!

  • SBS June 6, 2016   Reply →

    You don’t know who we are because there are so many outstanding complaints against you. It must be difficult to manage them all.

  • Chris Wheeler June 6, 2016   Reply →

    We actually don’t have ‘so many outstanding complaints’ , as you put it. This is nothing more than bullying. Obviously, you have some ulterior motive, as with SNT! I have never knowingly done anything which can be considered unethical and if you knew me and anything about how my business came about, then you would know that too. If anyone had a complaint against me or my business I would deal with this in a very professional manner and through proper channels, not online.

  • Chris Wheeler June 6, 2016   Reply →

    This was our original reply to Minnie Mouse:

    Dear Ms Griffin-Rogers We are sorry that you feel the way you do.
    There are a number of inaccuracies in the statement made in this review.
    We completed work for you which totaled £80 plus VAT.
    You were invoiced the amount and actually did not pay the VAT on it, citing that you ‘had not noticed it’.
    As a gesture of good will, you will know that we gave you a full refund on or around 16th March 2015. This was despite carrying out 16 hours of work: Hosting
    E-mail setup and support
    Web development support
    Research and audit on the site.
    Your site was looked after very well while in our hands.
    Since it has left it has been down (on average) over 23.2% of every week. (We have proof and screen shots from Uptime Monitor and Internetseer to back this up, if required.

    Also, we note complaints made on several occasions to the providers subsequent to us, and subsequent to them!
    We have never threatened anyone with anything.
    We packaged your site up, as it was, and delivered it back to you, at no cost.
    We advised that once the site left our hosting we could not be responsible for it.
    In a pre-emptive move we also contacted Ryman at the same time to ensure that there was clarity in our actions, and that we had acted diligently and professionally in this matter.
    You did recommend us to a ‘customer’. We not only gained work from this relationship (which we are successfully carrying out) but we also were asked, by that customer, to remove your products from their site. You will note that this is still the case. We wish you well for the future. hope you get what you are looking for, and trust that this is an end to the matter.

    Clearly, Minnie Mouse cannot leave this alone, and has nothing better to do with her time!
    We acted professionally, responsibly and with diligence in this matter, all round.

    • Minnie mouse June 6, 2016   Reply →

      Sorry I don’t follow Kerrie Griffin Rodgers?

    • Unhappy June 6, 2016   Reply →

      “Since it has left it has been down (on average) over 23.2% of every week.”

      I have seen you make this claim several times regarding this particular website. You claim to have the proof, yet never publish it. This is a common tactic from you, “I have the proof but won’t provide it”. It makes you look dishonest and unethical. Why not provide the proof here and now? If you don’t, everybody reading this thread will reach the obvious conclusion about you…

    • Mrs. J Alcock June 9, 2016   Reply →

      This is what the SEO Manager at Debenhams had to say about Mr Wheelers information!!
      Interesting reading I think

      “Hi Chris, as the SEO Manager for Debenhams who your post here relates to here I’d love to know how you managed to obtain our keyword conversion data, PPC visit data, what we spend on paid search and overall traffic figures which you present so readily.

      Let’s face it, your estimate of our PPC spend is ludicrous and you have absolutely no idea what traffic we receive and whether it is increasing or decreasing – no tools you use will provide you with that information, only we know those numbers.

      Your assumptions here are based on a limited volume or publicly available keyword data that focuses on visibility metrics and not traffic/visits/conversions.

      Every point you make in your 1-5 list couldn’t be further from the truth I’m afraid.”

      Having been stung myself by an agency at huge financial loss I wish that the industry was regulated to save SME’s from being taken in by fast talking, arrogant salesmen (which is all they are) who promise the earth and deliver absolutely nothing whilst happily taking your money
      It is clear by the response from Debenhams that they use grand figures and false information to worm their way into unsuspecting companies, relieve them of large amounts of money and then potentially devastate the business – clearly only for financial gain
      This has to be stopped

  • Disgruntled SEO agency customer June 6, 2016   Reply →

    I agree with this article, we also used Metal Frog due to Theo Paphitis’s recommendation in his SBS group and did not get any return on our investment. The amount of work done was extremely low and of a poor quality and arguably of no benefit in terms of SEO. For example, one or two retweets does not substantiate a social media marketing campaign. Since taking digitial marketing in house we have achieved far better result than we ever did with an agency.

  • unhappy June 6, 2016   Reply →

    As if Chris Wheeler/Metalfrog is here criticising the opinions of industry experts. His ‘SEO’ expertise extends about as far as running his customer’s websites through online tools and getting his daughter to create dodgy backlinks. Sorry, that’s incorrect as she doesn’t work there anymore and neither does anybody else really. His little backwater agency in the backwater city of Norwich has been reduced to nothing more than a skeleton crew in recent months. The majority of Metalfrog’s services are now outsourced to freelancers, but they still like to give the impression that everything is managed in-house.

    The stories I’ve heard through the grapevine about this company are shocking and it’s a surprise they are still trading.

  • SNT June 6, 2016   Reply →

    If anyone is interested in how Metalfrog Studios Ltd Managing Director Chris talks about his clients on his companies social media;

    https://i.imgsafe.org/5d39da765a.jpg

    and lets not forgot they are a company who offer legal guarantees for page 1 google or free service;

    https://i.imgsafe.org/5d46a842f1.jpg

  • Angry consumer June 6, 2016   Reply →

    Unbelievable I know many customers that used metalfrog and got ripped off. The stories I have heard and evidence seen is shocking. I even heard that he stated that he saw knew that debenhams had over 400 errors on there site ??

    From all evidence I have seen metalfrog is a scrupulous company and must be not allowed to con innocent people because he had a photo with Theo paphitis

  • Disillusioned with SEO June 6, 2016   Reply →

    We too have been stung by Metal Frog and so I’m not surprised at reading some of the comments here about Chris Wheeler and the way he operates.
    I think the SEO industry as a whole needs regulating. It seems that absolutely anyone can set up an SEO agency with no qualifications or credentials whatsoever. Saying that you’ve been doing something for 20 years doesn’t make you an expert or a professional – I’ve been flying overseas on a regular basis for longer than that but it doesn’t mean I can pilot the plane! I would never call myself an expert or a professional in something that I have no qualifications in.

    Many of the companies that Metal Frog told me they were working with are no longer their clients. Why is that? Because Metal Frog didn’t deliver.
    Chris Wheeler claims he’s being bullied yet he thinks it’s absolutely fine to troll people on Twitter and invite people to contact him and he’ll disclose financial details of the people he’s trolled. If that’s not unethical, I don’t know what is.

    You would never employ a plumber or an electrician (for example) and pay them up front without having had them carry out the work to a satisfactory standard so why should you pay an SEO agency if they’re not doing what they promised to do? A truly ethical company would get you to pay on results once they’ve been achieved,

    I agree with the author of this post that in-house SEO is the way forward. That person is then accountable to the Company they are working for. At the end of the day, they will have a far better knowledge of the company they are employed by and are much better positioned to promote that company than an outside agency that has got someone to sign up to them for 8 months and who will then occasionally produce an excel spreadsheet when prompted (and who sometimes forget to change the name of the company on the top of the sheet). Since taking SEO in-house, we have achieved far better results
    Until the SEO business is regulated, there will always be companies like Metal Frog, dragging the genuine people in the industry down.

  • SBS June 7, 2016   Reply →

    I’ve just seen the ‘big nose from North London’ comment which is an out and out racist comment. Disgusting.

  • Jonathan Guy June 8, 2016   Reply →

    Great article Danny and it certainly seems to have stirred the debate!

    For me, the key line is at the end; “I personally believe our industry is changing dramatically and that the old agency model is outdated to fit the current challenge of competing online.” Frankly I agree.

    The old Agency model is ill-equipped to handle the current digital environment and as technical SEO becomes fundamental to setting a site up correctly, taking SEO in-house can be the right solution for bigger brands and websites.

    Of course, this still leaves millions of SME businesses in the UK who could not afford to employ an SEO in-house and for those, outsourcing is the only practical solution.

    • Danny Ashton June 8, 2016   Reply →

      Thanks for the comment Jonathan.

      I agree that there is also a place for lower level investment needs of SME’s that good agencies can support. The big challenge is winning back trust as these clients are the sector most heavily targetted by less ethical agencies who overpromise.

      • Disillusioned with SEO June 8, 2016   Reply →

        This is the problem Danny. Unfortunately, as it would seem with Metal Frog, there are many companies out there that prey on SMEs. They know they are an easy target as they generally won’t have someone working in-house that knows their way around SEO. They then blind the SME with terminology that they usually don’t understand and then promise them excellent page 1 rankings, which never materialise. How do SMEs know a good SEO company from a bad one? This is why a good, ethical company should only agree to be paid once they’ve delivered what they promised. And of course, there’s then the issue of giving a dodgy company access to the website and who knows what they get up to once they’re in there!

        • Danny Ashton June 8, 2016   Reply →

          SEO has often been sold as something that is simple to implement that will give returns quickly. In 2016 this is just not the case. Tactics used by agencies in previous years are now detrimental and the vast majority make no difference. SEO is more akin to Marketing in general, it needs a clear strategy and it’s an investment that will require time/money. If you are a business owner in a space that relies heavily on SEO you need to get a basic understanding, the same way you would for sales/marketing/finance. There are plenty of good resources that don’t take ages to read but give you a great overview of SEO in 2016:

          https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo
          http://backlinko.com/keyword-research
          http://backlinko.com/link-building

          Hope the above is useful and thanks again for your comment.

          • Disillusioned with SEO June 9, 2016  

            Thanks Danny

            They make very interesting reading. We are finding that Google’s recent update has resulted in a number of ranking drops for us and we think that it’s likely to do with in-bound links. We hope that the work we are doing in-house will soon push us back up the rankings to the positions we previously held and enjoyed for a number of years.

  • Whataliar June 10, 2016   Reply →

    I’m aghast to be reading this. This guy has long been considered the laughing stock of digital in the region, I have no idea how he’s managed to stay in businessfor this long.

    His claims of being some kind of digital guru since 1996 is laughable. He was partner with an even shadier guy in Norwich in 2005 who ripped people off too, Phillip his name was. Chris never knew a thing about websites then and probably even less so now!

    Back then, he tried to con local web agencies into parting with their practices so he could steal them as his own

    Any team members of any merit he had have left in droves too.

    It’s disgusting this idiot still gets any business and gives not only hardworking digital marketeers a bad name,but also the area he bases himself.

    Seriously, stop milking the Paphitis handshake, nobody cares!

    • SBSWinner June 11, 2016   Reply →

      The problem is that it is the Theo Paphitis handshake that has lured so many unsuspecting companies into appointing him to work for them.
      The Theo Paphitis #sbs group is being used as a platform to entice SME’s who are in the belief that Theo has endorsed his work, and is used by him extensively during his sales pitch. When you are told that Theo has endorsed a company you believe that it should be a decent, honest company to work for.
      Unfortunately Theo and Rymans are doing nothing to intervene despite the many complaints that have been lodged with them which is very concerning for those still being taken in

    • SNT June 12, 2016   Reply →

      whataliar – could you please email me when you get a chance customerjoy@well-lit.co.uk

      Thank you

    • Unhappy June 17, 2016   Reply →

      “I came to Norfolk in 2005, had a bad experience with a business partner and setup Metalfrog Studios in 2007. In 2009 the company went limited.”

      This is what Chris Wheeler has to say about his old business partner

  • SBS June 11, 2016   Reply →

    We completely relied on the Theo Paphitis and Ryman endorsement/testimonial and as far as I am aware Chris and MetalFrog are still part of that group using it as a means to get more work (and do the work badly or not at all). Winning SBS with Ryman was actually the worst thing that happened to us. What a shame as we were extremely excited about all the benefits it would bring. All it has brought us, is into contact with the most unprofessional shady people we have EVER had the misfortune to meet, that being Chris and his partner Paul Reeve, nearly destroying our business in the process.

  • Unhappy June 17, 2016   Reply →

    Chris has published his own article on this subject and is continuing with the rubbish about Debenham’s SEO stats: http://www.norfolkchamber.co.uk/knowledge/article/seo-relationships-house-solution-or-better-partner-agency

    • Jonathan June 21, 2016   Reply →

      Very interesting. It adds nothing to the argument for or against, is badly written and littered with grammatical errors.

      Not the best advertisement if you are espousing customer satisfaction through professional SEO. Nor is the ‘SEO Agency’ anchor text stuffed into the article……

  • Unhappy June 17, 2016   Reply →

    IS YOUR WEBSITE IN THIS LIST?

    http://www.peopleperhour.com/freelancer/chris/managing-director-of-metalfrog-stud/461698?ref=buyer (see: My Buyer Activity tab)

    YOU MAKE THINK METALFROG IS DEVELOPING YOUR SITE, BUT CHANCES ARE THEY ARE NOT!!! MOST LIKELY YOUR WEBSITE WAS OUTSOURCED TO THE CHEAPEST BIDDER!!

  • SOTAJ June 21, 2016   Reply →

    Also be very careful, as this is how professional Metalfrog are – NOT ONLY do they outsource your work they also leave “LIVE” document links on the page so everyone can see you log in details, password etc. NO WONDER people have reported about being hacked whilst hosted with them.

    http://www.peopleperhour.com/job/new-project-pr-vg-1166623

    • Unhappy June 21, 2016   Reply →

      Holy s***! I didn’t spot this when I found their account. That is absolutely unbelievable and unforgivable. Their client, Vangard Airsoft, should be outraged by this.

      Either Metalfrog are very very stupid, or they simply don’t care about security. Whichever it is should be enough reason to avoid ever entrusting your website to them!!!!

      In this document they even admit that the website they originally built was not up to scratch! Presumably that was given to an unreliable freelancer who couldn’t get the job done. I know of several Metalfrog clients who are currently suffering endless delays, and it’s no wonder! Their sites get passed around half the freelancers on People Per Hour before being finished!

      One person in these comments, SNT, may be interested to know that Metalfrog have gone out of their way to find a customer who specializes in LED lighting!! They’re advertising for a freelancer for it on People Per Hour. I’ve heard of them do this before: fall out with a customer then find one of their competitors so they can punish their old customer by getting the competitor to rank higher!! And they claim to be ethical hahaha. Make sure you check your backlinks and other SEO in case they’re doing some black hat tricks to reduce your rankings!!

  • Chiro July 12, 2016   Reply →

    Hi, Danny and thanks for sharing this necessary post. I do agree with you and the way you explained about bringing SEO at home is quite awesome.

    • Danny Ashton July 14, 2016   Reply →

      Thanks Chiro, glad you found the post useful. I like how you say bringing SEO home :)

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