Why Early-Stage Startups Should NOT Hire A Full-Time SEO

Think it's time to hire an SEO? Not so fast. You SHOULD invest in search, but why spend $60K+ on a junior when you could just do THIS instead?

Early-stage startups shouldn’t hire an SEO.

I’ll give you three big reasons why:

1. Full-time employees are expensive

A full-time SEO is expensive, no matter how junior you try to hire.

Nathan Gotch shared a great post on LinkedIn on the actual costs of a FT entry-level SEO specialist.

TL;DR: You’re paying $5,000+ monthly BEFORE you even factor in “soft” costs like hiring expenses, training, SG&A, benefits, etc.

2. Full-time employees cost you time

Monetary costs aside, hiring a full-time SEO will cost you (the founder) time.

It’s going to require you or someone else on your team invest time into training and onboarding them. Since they’re junior, you’re probably on the hook for 2-3 hours per week for teaching them the ropes, running 1:1s, and ultimately fixing the things they can’t deliver on as well.

3. Full-time employees with little experience need to learn

And on top of all that, they’re not even going to step in and crush it right away. They haven’t put in the reps yet, so there’s going to be a (steep) learning curve for them.

So by jumping straight to a FT hire, you’re committing to…

  • $5K/mo salary expense
  • Benefits / Hiring / HR / SG&A costs
  • 2-3 hours of your own time every week
  • Minimal actual results

Do you really have the time?

Think about it—do you really have the runway to invest >150 hours of your own personal time AND >$60K for the next 12 months… just to maybe get a few clicks from organic search that don’t convert?

Didn’t think so.

What startups should do instead

Here’s the good news:

You don’t actually NEED to dive into the SEO deep-end right away with a full-time hire that doesn’t have a ton of experience.

Just do this instead:

  • Hire a senior SEO consultant to own strategy & steer the ship
  • Outsource search-focused content creation to an agency
  • Hold both accountable to business metric targets (not ‘hours worked’ like a FT hire)

The actual dollar investment will likely be LESS than the full-time hire, you don’t need to personally manage another person, and since you’re hiring senior people, you won’t need to basically become the expert yourself so you can handhold the way you need to with juniors.

And by holding them to actual business metrics you can maximize the likelihood of net-positive returns.

After all, you’re not paying them for 2080 hours per year regardless of what gets accomplished like you are a FT employee—you’re paying them to own specific initiatives with specific objectives.

Thank me later.

When you SHOULD hire a full-time SEO

And before I get in trouble for throwing early-career SEOs under the bus, let me be super clear:

This is JUST for early-stage startups.

If you already have an established in-house SEO team and you’re running a larger company, you should absolutely hire entry-level SEOs with ambition. If they’re hungry, you can get great returns from the hiring decision and help the next wave of marketers grow.

But in the early-stages, the stakes are just too high.

You don’t have the luxury of time and scale. If you make the wrong call, you could be 6 months down the line with $40K spent, dozens of hours lost, and nothing to show for it.

Instead, just hire Backstage SEO to do it for you.


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We’ll build a research-backed, conversion-led search marketing strategy to help you bring more qualified traffic to your website (and convert attention into opportunities). 

We’ll create (or refresh) optimized content assets that help get you in front of your ideal buyers when they’re looking for solutions like yours.

Get 1:1 time with Josh to talk organic growth strategy, content marketing, demand capture, fantasy football, and anything in between. I’ve got a decade of experience working with seed-stage startups through to B2B SaaS unicorns to lean on.


Josh Gallant

I help B2B SaaS companies grow with conversion-led SEO.

Big on building scalable systems & frameworks for growth. I write about how B2B SaaS companies can unlock better results from organic search. Follow me on LinkedIn for more.

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