Even back in 2005, Stoney deGeyter had the following thoughts on Finding the Perfect SEO Firm:
SEO companies come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got your solo SEOs that either
- do everything themselves and/or
- sub-contract out many aspects of each campaign while maintaining a tight control on the quality and results of the project.
Then you have your big SEO firms that employ 20+ employees that handle various aspects of your account. These firms can often turn into SEO factories and can lack the ability to treat each client individually, because everything is done in bulk.
Since then, Google has certainly made it even more difficult for that ‘bulk’ approach. In this guest post, Christine Adams gives a current view on how those SEO factories are making out.
In the last five years, search engine optimization (SEO) has become better known among mainstream professionals across multiple industries. In its infancy, SEO was not widely understood, which allowed for dubious companies to take advantage of website owners who were flush with cash and desperate to increase traffic. Today, many more people who own websites are at least familiar with search engines like Google. They have a basic understanding that adding meta tags alone will not provide the rankings and traffic that a comprehensive SEO campaign can provide and are savvy enough to avoid scammers.
SEO service providers who offered legitimate services and could show results began to see real profits. In recent years, Fortune 500 companies like Reuters-Thompson / Findlaw and LexisNexis have launched Internet marketing divisions and picked up significant sales in the SEO and Internet marketing industry. These large firms are in a position of (nearly) unlimited resources, with sales reps all over the country soliciting the clients with the biggest pockets. With so much fresh meat, these companies have found themselves with a problem; how to fill more orders with a minimum increase in staffing.
In the attempt to make SEO scalable, large Internet marketing firms have had to rethink how they do SEO. Instead of assigning a number of clients to one SEO specialist – which would limit profitability by having to hire a new SEO specialist for every x number of new clients – the SEO client has become just another cog on the assembly line. Instead of qualified professionals, large firms have enough clients where they can hire less qualified workers and train them to do one task only – i.e. only doing meta tags, or only doing article writing. In theory, this seems much more efficient; in practice, SEO and “efficiency” don’t go hand in hand.
By giving the same links and the same exact treatment to each client, certain risks present themselves. Let’s look at two cases;
Closed-Network Reciprocal Links
One of these Fortune 500 companies has recently moved to reduce costs and increase efficiency by using web properties they already own; their sites and their clients’ sites. Links to other clients are placed on each client’s ‘resource’ page, essentially creating a closed network of reciprocal links. Should Google find some sites spammy, the entire network is ‘infected’.
Buying High PR Links
Another large firm that did over $17M in SEO sales in 2008 found traditional SEO means unscalable as well; their solution was to buy paid links in bulk on high PR sites from a third party service and outsource content writing. The obvious problem with this solution is that this isn’t really SEO, as you’re only providing temporary links, which result in temporary rankings. Once you stop paying for the text links, you lose all rankings. On the other hand, this firm might benefit from this effect, as it would keep customers paying!
In reality, both of these ‘solutions’ for scaling SEO are bad for the customer, as each company has put all its eggs in one basket. A good SEO campaign should contain a diverse array of white-hat (Google-approved) links and should be able to change strategy on the drop of a dime to keep up with ever changing search engine algorithms. Are workers with limited training on assembly lines able to change gears the day, week or month after search engines change algorithms? Me thinks not.