At Conductor’s C3 conference last month we presented new research that gave attendees a view of how SEO is maturing in the organization (Why 2013 Will be the Year of the SEO). We looked at factors like headcount, budget, where SEO sits in the organization, and more, and concluded that SEO is indeed rapidly maturing in the organization.

Over the course of the conference, several agency partners inquired how responses might have differed for agencies versus in-house SEOs/consultants. Having received a strong survey response from agencies—more than a quarter (27%) of the 616 respondents from our joint Search Engine Watch survey were agency professionals— we decided to shed some light on how our agency friends’ practices and goals differ from those of in-house SEOs/consultants.

SEO Practioner Type

Below, we break out several key survey questions on instances with substantial differences between in-house SEOs/consultants and agency responses.

Agencies Position Search in Its Own Department

Looking first at where search is positioned in the organization, we find that it is its own department over half the time for agencies (52%) compared to 16% of the time for in-house/consultants. Agencies also have far less distribution across departments in which search is positioned: 98% of agencies position search in the top two departments (‘own department’ or ‘Marketing’) compared to 62% for in-house/consultants.

Search becoming it's own department for agencies and in-house SEOs

Agencies Planning to Grow SEO Headcount Substantially More than In-House/Consultants

Although both agencies and in-house SEO professionals intend to grow headcount significantly in the coming year, analysis shows that agencies plan to do so even more substantially than in-house SEOs/consultants. 72% of agency respondents indicate they plan to increase headcount in the next 12 months compared to 55% of in-house SEOs/consultants.

SEOs will further increase headcounts in 2013

Agency and In-House Priorities Differ

When asking respondents about their top three goals in the coming year, the difference in priorities for agencies compared to their in-house and consultant counterparts becomes apparent. In-house SEOs/consultants state improving their content development strategy as a top priority, while the top priority for agencies is to show ROI—perhaps acknowledging the agency need to continuously measure and demonstrate value to clients. Additionally, due to their need to manage multiple clients and workflows simultaneously, tracking SEO workflow/project management is another significant priority for agencies.

Biggest goals for SEOs in 2013

Conclusion: Agencies Approach to SEO Can Differ Substantially from In-House/Consultants

Our analysis of several survey questions shows there are substantial differences in how agencies approach key elements of SEO compared to in-house SEOs/consultants. From organizational structure, to headcount allocation, to top goals for the coming year, agencies have a specific way of doing things that best match the unique challenges of their business.