SEO Factories Lose Their Edge

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

  1. do everything themselves and/or
  2. 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.

Scaling SEO

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.

Christine Adams is a SEO specialist at Sequoia Marketing and a contributing writer to SEO blogs, including

10 thoughts on “SEO Factories Lose Their Edge”

  1. SEO wasn’t widely understood before but as time passed by the Internet competition is getting tighter and people are trying to understand the SEO techniques to improve their sites.

  2. SEO is tricky in a way, if you don’t know what you’re doing you can get your domain banned from google in no time and that’s an epic fail…
    I’ve had experiences with both big and small seo companies and while those big ones can get a lot more work done, the risk of getting banned increases exponentially.

  3. This is really encouraging for us little guys that are just trying to help some small businesses. We can compete a little more for the traffic.

  4. SEO is a great career option and easy money these days, but it is not that easy. Several aspects have to be taken care of. Internet has become a great tool for advertising and marketing of products. With instant feedback, improvement of products can be done. Now every big company has an Internet marketing division, building traffic and making your product viewed almost everywhere in the world and catering to the needs of world wide customers. SEO has definitely done a swell job and played a vital role in globalisation.

  5. Wow, I can’t believe that some SEO companies actually use production line techniques. Surely the quality of service is better if they have one specialist taking care of their needs.

    Very interesting about the reciprocal links.

  6. SEO Really is a great career move, cause theres just so much easy money.
    Cause every big company with the huge wallets have websites and need them to rank for everything, so its just got so much potential

  7. I think this applies to pretty much all industries – the larger a company gets, the less personal a service they can offer, and the more “set packages” are sold, rather than tailoring their service. Catch 22 – you want to use a decent firm, but decent firms become popular, and thereby lose at least part of what made them good in the first place.

  8. There are those companies who want easy SEO. That’s why they buy high PR links. But they simply fail to produce long term investments, which is the key to have a sustainable and successful SEO.

  9. I don’t think they have lost their edge at all. I think the market still supports those who are knowlegeable in SEO. Now a days you can not toss up a website and rank well just by chance it takes SEO to rank well.

  10. Buying high PR links ? Google certainly does pump up the fear way more than it really impacts some sites. But the bottom line is yes, it is a risky behavior. No one knows exactly what will happen if Google catches this. Maybe nothing, especially if you’re a big site. Maybe only a PR downgrade. Maybe a ranking ding. Maybe you’ll be banned altogether.

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