In the know

Instinct blog

Latest articles
Back to Blog list
Creative + Marketing

Search marketing roles: agency vs. in-house

We recruit for roles across all aspects of paid search, SEO and social media - agency-side and in-house. So what are the major differences? What might suit you best?


Every search marketing agency is structured differently depending on its size and client base, but almost all are similar in that they recruit at all skill levels, from graduates through to heads of PPC and so on. Graduates and junior execs can expect a tailored training programme to help them develop a specialist search marketing career.

Depending on the search agency’s structure, you might work within a specialist display or PPC team, honing your skills in a very specific area, or you might work across several different skill sets. This structure is what we’ve seen most agencies moving towards over recent years, allowing their employees to try out lots of different elements of search marketing, and learn from each.

The big advantages of search agency life are that you’re working in a specialist search environment, surrounded by and learning from a talented team. Agencies usually invest a lot in training and development, and the forward-thinking ones will always be on top of the latest technologies and attending the biggest conferences.

You’ll also almost certainly have the opportunity to work across multiple clients, which can be both stimulating and rewarding, allowing you to develop broader sector expertise. On the other hand, being spread across different accounts can present unique time and resource management challenges.


In-house search roles are as varied as the companies out there with an internal search function. Instinct works across multiple sectors, from retail to blue chip. What they all have in common is of course that you’ll be focusing all your attentions on the search marketing for that specific company – a single client, if you like.

The size of the company will dictate whether you’re working alone or as part of a team – either way it’s likely that you’ll be connected with all elements of paid and organic search, social media and display advertising, as in-house roles tend to be multi-faceted. Companies with smaller teams usually recruit for more experienced positions only – heads of search for example – whilst those with larger in-house search functions may also offer graduate and junior positions, with training structures in place.

Of course, the smaller the team – and it might just be you – the more you individually need to answer to the company’s senior management, and without the support of an agency team, this can be challenging. If your management team isn’t yet digitally ‘switched on’ it can be a battle getting investment for the technologies and conferences you need. But if you succeed, the rewards can be second to none.

What's right for me?

It’s impossible to dictate whether an agency or in-house role will suit an individual better, as the jobs themselves vary so much. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:

  • At this stage in your career, would you prefer to work across multiple sectors, keeping your skill set broad, or hone in on one in particular?
  • What kind of team do you want to be working within and alongside – how much specialist support do you need and want?
  • Which areas of search are you particularly interested in?
  • Which technologies do you want to work with, and which conferences do you want to attend?

If you’re a search or digital marketing professional looking for your next challenge, why not get in touch with our Creative and Marketing recruitment team today? You can call 0161 714 0600 or email