At Majux, we’ve worked with scores of law firms over the past decade – boutique firms, single-attorney practices, regional firms, and larger law firms bordering on corporate size. Some of these offices have a full marketing staff, some have a singular marketing manager, and some have only an attorney and paralegal.
In this article, we will share everything we know about the pros and cons of bringing your marketing in-house vs. hiring an agency. We will talk about costs, output, lifestyle considerations, and more.
If you’d like to chat about SEO for attorneys or other inbound channels, we hope you’ll get in touch.
Is Hiring an Agency More Expensive Than an In House Team?
No, hiring an agency is not more expensive than an in-house marketing team. Some agencies charge $10K/mo+ for digital marketing, and even then it’s usually cheaper to outsource. There is an exception to this: law firms spending $1M+ annually or so on attorney PPC advertising. At that point, your management fees may exceed the salary cost of a decent specialist.
Here is a cost benefit analysis for agencies vs. in-house teams.
Marketing Tasks You Will Need to Address
We will organize these tasks into three lists: SEO, development/website management, and paid media. This is not a perfect organization of your marketing needs, nor is it exhaustive, and there is lots of overlap among lists. But this is a good starting point.
Firstly, the SEO list:
- Identifying and executing backlink opportunities
- Building local citations for local SEO
- Google My Business optimization
- Writing and optimizing content, at least on a weekly basis
- Optimizing your website for Google
- Reporting on SEO performance with various tracking tools like CallRail and Google Analytics
Now the website management list:
- Publishing blogs and new pages in your CMS
- Making website revisions
- Design tasks
- The more technical side of search engine optimization, like site speed and adding schema markup
- Creating new pages or designs for conversion tests
Third, the PPC advertising task list:
- Building campaigns in Google Ads, Bing, etc.
- Setting up conversion tracking and reporting systems
- Monitoring and optimizing the PPC campaigns daily
- Making real-time adjustments based on results and budget considerations
- Constant testing of new creative
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but you will need people to at least fulfill these roles.
The Positions You Will Need to Fill and Their Cost
First, let’s talk about your editorial staff – you will need a law firm content strategy to be able to rank on Google and generate leads. If you bring a writer in-house, you will probably need to pay at least $50K or more. You will also need to to hire from time to time, as legal content writers are often post-grads in a transitory stage of their career.
Editorial Team Costs
If you choose to outsource your writing to freelancers, which is not a bad choice (more on that below), you will need an editor in-house. This editor (probably paid $55K+) will need to manage the stable of freelance writers, assign topics, edit the incoming content, and most likely contribute a few pieces of their own each month. As an attorney, you do NOT want to manage your own staff of freelance writers.
The Cost of Bringing Your SEO Team In House
Secondly, you’ll need an SEO team. The SEO professional will need to conduct keyword research to identify topics for your content marketing efforts, edit visible and backend items on your website, edit your blog posts/pages to be Google-friendly, and perhaps most importantly, build backlinks. For agencies, backlinking usually accounts for a salaried position in of itself. For a talented individual who can perform all of these tasks with a high degree of competence, you are probably looking at $65K-$70K+ in salary.
Cost of Hiring a Law Firm PPC Specialist
Experienced PPC professionals usually command $85K + in salary these days. Agencies usually charge between 10% and 20% in markup fees, so you will need to weigh the cost depending on how much you plan to spend on PPC advertising.
Your PPC professional will be setting up and editing search campaigns, display campaigns, building audiences, and running YouTube ads if you have video creative on hand. They will most likely set up your attorney LSA account as well.
Web Development and Design Professionals
Unless you are a corporate firm dealing with constant technical updates, designs for email campaigns, and things like that, it would be hard to justify bringing a designer and web developer in-house. If you do bring your marketing in-house, you may want to consider having your internal marketing manager work with a developer and designer on a contract basis.
Don’t Forget the Cost of Software
Competitive SEO teams need tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Keyword.com, Linkody, and others at their disposal. You may even need to test tools like ClickCease and HotJar if you are running PPC campaigns. These costs can creep up to $500+ per month.
Agencies use these tools for many clients, so the cost makes sense. For in-house teams, a full MarTech suite (in addition to your case management software) could be a bit overwhelming.
Going Halfway: Outsourcing Your Marketing to Contractors
You can either hire directly or use a service like Creative Circle to find SEO, PPC, dev, and design contractors, but you will need to direct their work, manage them, and track performance carefully. These roles are paid hourly, so the contractor’s goals are not aligned with your business goals (it’s not the contractor’s fault, it’s just a symptom of the contractor arrangement).
You could find decent people for under $40/hr. But the output, workload for you, and cost don’t really make sense in a competitive field like law.
Will You Get Better SEO and Digital Marketing Output From an In-House Team?
You might get better output in-house IF your marketing payroll is $200K+ and you are able to hire folks who have agency experience, preferably law firm-specific agency experience. If you are a corporate firm or large regional law firm with a high average case value (personal injury), you might get a decent return on an in-house team.
But generally speaking, your output won’t be as strong if you can’t hire talented marketers with agency experience. Experience in different practice areas, geographic regions, and with numerous tools and strategies makes a marketer much more valuable, and that experience is par for the course in a busy agency.
Should Your Law Firm Hire a Marketing Director?
Yes, once you reach a certain size, you will benefit from an in-house marketing director. You will need someone to hire and manage your agency partners and vendors, track KPIs, and keep an eye on the quality, not just the quantity, of your leads. A good marketing director will also drive your overall strategy – how much you should invest in PPC, organic, top-of-funnel channels like outdoor advertising or video, and more. Marketing directors will also explore captive advertising options and niche-specific DSPs – basically, they will hunt for growth opportunities and hire vendors (like us) who can make it happen.
As an agency, we often help build small personal injury practices where our main point of contact is a partner in the firm. This works with newer firms because the caseload isn’t too high. But as the firm grows and the partner’s attention is diverted to litigating, talking with leads, hiring junior attorneys, or organizing referrals, they rarely have time to focus on marketing.
Call Us, We Can Help You Create a Marketing Strategy
We specialize in SEO for personal injury attorneys, criminal defense marketing, and other law firm growth strategies, and whether you would like to partner with us or chat about in-house hires, we would be happy to hear from you. Get in touch at your earliest convenience.