16 Jan 2006

Big SEO Company – I’m going to take your clients away.

Tonight I got another lead (that is like so many we get), where the person tells me in his email:

My contract with [edited out big name SEO company] expired last month. They focused on keywords and metatags but ignored link building. My rankings on Yahoo and MSN improved, but I am still absent on Google. I want to achieve rankings for some important keywords on the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN). I believe this will require some refinement of content and a lot of link building….

I don’t get it….I just don’t get it…..people pay huge money to huge SEO companies and the get very fancy meta tags and keyword analysis for their 12 month contract….I think I’ve ranted about this before…but how do these big companies get away with selling “meta tag and on page optimization” for 12 month contracts….and NO LINK BUILDING….I just don’t get it!…..here’s another kicker….I know that some of these big companies (including the big SEO company name I removed above) have people who work for them who know better….they just gotta know that meta tags and on page optimization alone can’t do squat for rankings….I don’t get it.

Maybe I shouldn’t bitch….the more of the big companies that continue to do 1997 SEO, the better my company looks, and the more of their clients I’m going to take from them (because the biggest part of our work involves working on getting our clients links).

How do the big companies get away with selling 1997 SEO Techniques….or am I just “off” in my perceptions?

End of rant.

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[tags]SEO, Search engine optimization, links, link building, internet marketing, SEM, search engine marketing[/tags]

Comments

  1. your_store January 16, 2006 at 10:23 PM

    Going by the number of cold calls on my voicemail, I think the majors are more concerned w/ sales than service.

  2. Peter T Davis January 17, 2006 at 12:29 AM

    Are you saying it’s all about the links?

  3. Nick Wilsdon January 17, 2006 at 6:36 AM

    The problem now is that links are harder to come by – at least for those not trained in the ways of the linkninja 😉 When you’re a large company you need to find processes that can be automated on a large scale by people with little training. The large companies themselves only have one or two consultants who “really” understand what is going on in the world of search and can set policy and methods.

    This has always been the advantage of the lone consultancy or smaller companies – you have a much greater chance of actually dealing on a day to day basis with someone trained in SEO/SEM. Their staff can also be trained to a much higher level of quality – as they too have that increased level of contact with the SEO/SEM consultant(s).

  4. Mike Pedersen January 17, 2006 at 7:55 AM

    I totally agree. Some of the fees are outrageous and the services are horrible. There are some great SEO forums…including yours that any newbie could learn enough to get started at least.

  5. Brian Turner January 17, 2006 at 8:03 AM

    I think it’s more a case that consumers need to be more aware of who the right level of companies is to go with.

    There are obviously companies aimed at the more corporate level – in which case, it would be made for a small business to throw cash at corporate level pricing.

    I tried to make that point at Mike Grehan’s blog over here:
    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=17554653&postID=113726570060959383

    when Mike asked Andy Hagans in public how he’d allocate a mere $1000 budget.

    It is interesting to compare how you perform against competitors, though – I posted up a graphical comparison on my corproate blog after a client came on board from another big SEO company. I won’t link to it from here, as it may be seen as rival advertising, but let’s just say the results were *very* different.

  6. Jim January 17, 2006 at 9:46 AM

    ya know Brian you make a good point…it’s almost a clash of company sizes…Mike asks how someone can only charge $1000, and what services they can provide for that….I’ll ask the other side….how can a big SEO company charge 10k per month for meta tag and on page optimization?

  7. aaron wall January 17, 2006 at 11:28 AM

    I think that is why you see so many articles trying to push people away from small SEOs toward branded big firms. And another reason big firms try to hire big names to be lead generators. There is no substance to the service so may as well try to glamorize a call center.

    You can charge $1,000 a month AND still build links. I have done it. I have helped others set up biz models that do it.

  8. Brian Combs January 17, 2006 at 1:22 PM

    Part of the issue, I think, is that link building is hard work, and the big boys don’t seem to want to work that hard.

    When you focus exclusively on on-page optimization, you can hire a failed journalism student, teach him or her to write to particular keyword densities, pay him or her $20/hour, and charge $300/hour (or more). As a business model, that baby scales!

    And, better yet, when the search engines change their algorithms next week, you can charge for the rewriting of the SEO copy. Good stuff!

    Of course, I have to be able to sleep at night, so such a model doesn’t work for me…

  9. Esoos Bobnar January 17, 2006 at 3:26 PM

    Ironically, by the tiime many of these big companies get around to focusing on offering link building services, that strategy might be as out of date as meta tags are now.

    Of course, from a marketing point of view, many of these companies are just offering what customers think they want, rather than what they really need. It’s not very ethical, but it probably helps close more sales.

  10. Janet January 17, 2006 at 3:55 PM

    A bad SEO company is the reason I learned as much as I did about SEO.

    I hired an SEO company, paid them, and all they did was make few things on the homepage and never once mentioned links (I , was a total newbie).

    From there, I decided to forget about them and learned all I could about optimization and pushed a gambling site to the top for 2 word phrases I wanted – not the 3 word phrases they suggested were obtainable – without their “help”. Actually, I did get #1 position on google for the 3-word phrase they suggested and guess what? No traffic!

    (Of course, then came the attacks: 302 redirect hijacks, stolen content and assorted other dastardly deeds aimed at sites who do well for profitable phrases)

    It’s amazing to me that any SEO company would not even mention links to a customer. That’s wacked.

    I haven’t trusted pro SEO’s after that, although I’ve made some good money on occasion helping other webmasters who have asked (I wouldn’t do it full time, I don’t enjoy it – too much of it involved trying to educate people who want to pinch pennies. How much patience you guys must have!) 😛

  11. Lee Odden January 17, 2006 at 4:13 PM

    I think some of the companies looking for simple, quick-fix solutions get caught up in the big churn and burn SEO companies’ sales pitch which leads them to expect more than what’s possible.

    SEO does not scale well but can be very profitable and so this crap happens. Once a SEO company gets to a certain size and has a greedy management team, trouble.

  12. Lee Odden January 17, 2006 at 4:14 PM

    Forgot to mention: There is a company in my town that specializes in law firm SEO that does zero link building (some directory submissions) and they literally have thousands of clients. I just don’t get it.

  13. SEO Intermediate January 17, 2006 at 4:17 PM

    I get alot of SEO calls since I’m visible as an advertiser on PPC. They routinely have someone who sets up an appointment, runs a report (usually badly on my site) and someone else with either 15 or 30 minutes trying to sell me.

    The reports are badly run. Very amateurish sales and marketing. BTW – I just listed by favorite free SEO tools and your cool-oh tool is a favorite – http://learn-to-market-online116.blogspot.com/2006/01/free-online-seo-tools-review.html

  14. Jeff Molander January 17, 2006 at 7:30 PM

    Jim:
    A quick read of Marketing Sherpa’s Benchmark report gives clear answers. Clients have no idea what they’re buying because it’s “too technical.” In the end a good suit beats a qualified guy in his home office who is able to present and then execute a plan.

  15. Dave January 17, 2006 at 10:05 PM

    Esoos: ‘Ironically, by the tiime many of these big companies get around to focusing on offering link building services, that strategy might be as out of date as meta tags are now.’

    I think that’s a very valid point. So what might it be next? Where should we be looking next? Who’s planning for these developments? How do you ensure long-term stability with so much staked on SER’s?

  16. Cameron Olthuis January 18, 2006 at 4:10 AM

    A couple years ago I worked for one of these firms. I hated it.

    I called it assembly line SEO. Every single client’s site was optimized in the same way. Same number of pages, keywords, links (all 5 of them), etc was the same.

    I would always suggest to the boss that things be done differently, correctly. He never listened. Needless to say I didn’t last long.

    I hated my job . I felt so bad for every client I worked with.

    I don’t think the firm ended up doing to well, they used have first page rankings for SEO phrases and now they have nothing. Although the salesmen could still be cranking out the deals.

    After this experience I refused to work for another SEO firm.

  17. Bjorn Solstad January 19, 2006 at 8:59 AM

    What I find amusing (at least for the SEM companies I know in Norway), is that they employ more sales staff than SEM’s. When I get the cold-calls from them I always have a laugh, since the seller sounds very strange when he finds our sites ranking at first page for all the words he is trying to sell me.

    When he starts asking how I do it, I can hear from his comments that he knows nothing whatsoever about what he is selling.

    Also, I ask myself “why do these companies need to cold-call, if they are so good at search engine marketing?”

    I don’t get it.

    To comment on subject: It is a simple fact that links are king, content is queen when it comes to ranking in Google at least. MSN is another story though. But who cares about them?

  18. Brian Turner January 19, 2006 at 10:27 AM

    I agree, Jim – there are different levels of companies for different services. If mom & pop simply to buy a few text links, it would be insane to invest thousands in consultancy on the issue.

    Yes, there is a level where large companies will pay high odds for consultancy alone – or even basic services – but if a company has a budget to comfortably work to that, then kudos if the relationship works for both.

    What I really dislike is the idea of charging consultancy fees to small mom & pops – it’s a mismatching of business targeting, IMO.

    If you have a small budget (ie, $1k-$5k), and you’re only offered consultancy, then IMO the services are mismatched – mom & pop need a company that will hold their hand and get them statrted, long enough to see that their not paying for a service – they’re investing in profitable expansion.

    2c.

  19. Esoos January 19, 2006 at 10:25 PM

    Dave: ” So what might it be next? Where should we be looking next? Who’s planning for these developments? How do you ensure long-term stability with so much staked on SER’s? ”

    Hard to say. Tracking user actions will probably be a big factor, a la:

    http://www.stuntdubl.com/2005/05/18/personalize-search-trustrank/

  20. Andy January 20, 2006 at 5:35 PM

    Please post again, Jim. I need some more entertainment.

    Today I had to do this to keep myself happy.

  21. Janet January 20, 2006 at 9:01 PM

    Andy, can’t sign your petition until British Columbia becomes a State. 😛

  22. Sluz January 21, 2006 at 1:31 AM

    Hi Jim,

    “Are you willing to invest at least… $10,000 monthly for extremely competitive markets? This is what we charge for aiming at “natural” rankings (not PPC).”

    10K per month or about 120K per year is about what the large companies with dozens of blue chip clients were quoting me.

    If my boss saw two companies who both wanted 10K per month and one had dozens of other large, nationally recognized brands and the other one had few if any (I don’t know if this is the case. You don’t list your client names). Even though you would probably do a better job in my opinion, he would never understand the buy rational for the SEO Company with few if any large, nationally recognized brands. He would feel safer going with what he would perceive to be the “SEO Industry leader” (if the cost were about the same.)

  23. IncrediBILL January 24, 2006 at 7:35 PM

    The problem is the industry is still mostly snake oil and the customers really don’t understand what’s going on so the first firm that sells them the best story with good referrals probably wins,

    Then a few months later reality cramps set in when the results are being monitored.

    It’s very similar at some level to selling gambling systems to help people win as nobody can beat gambling or the search engines all the time, you can do your best and skill helps but luck is always nice too.

  24. Social Patterns February 4, 2006 at 1:45 PM

    Large SEO Firms Suck?

    I’ve been meaning to write something about this topic for a while, but never really got around to it. Do large SEO firms suck?
    Jim Boykin, CEO of WeBuildPages, has ranted before about large SEO firms:
    I don’t get it…I just don&#821…

  25. Chris Boggs February 6, 2006 at 4:46 PM

    funny i commented on this in my blog just the other day. hadn’t seen this post but I agree that smaller firms are still the best bang for the buck, with the exception of some of the major players that do get results (and charge an arm and a leg)

  26. nuevojefe February 8, 2006 at 3:40 AM

    It really comes down to scaling, and (quality) link building is very difficult for most companies to scale, apparently.

    Classic case scenario is an SEO/SEM firm gets a few big name clients who have PR7/8 and crap rankings then they optimize Titles and Metas, adjust keyword density, and do internal linking and end up with top rankings (that the client should have had anyways if their site was built right).

    Now they’ve got great references, they have money to create fancy ass graphs and presentations and spend major money on their site “creative”, hire some big names, and show off all the bells and whistles. Then, when it comes down to performance they fail to meet expectations 80% of the time as 80% of their clients aren’t just suffering from “lack of meta-tag” disease. They need real link development, intelligent content optimization, and something to drive some viral linking/traffic.

  27. u8v8 February 25, 2006 at 10:21 PM

    If you have millons of visitors, no need to SEO, but if you only have few visitors, SEO is waster your time, I think.

  28. Jon Payne March 4, 2006 at 12:37 AM

    So you are implying that there is something more important than META tags? Get out!

    Seriously though I very much agree with you. I’m also stunned that these companies tend not to work to actually make the site better – more “link worthy” so that it can actually build a few natural links by itself. They tend to just slap on some meta tags, maybe tweak the titles and run rankings reports for MSN. (Yawn)

  29. decaff May 1, 2006 at 7:45 PM

    Another issue faced with the ‘big SEO firms’.. .. is the base values represented by the founders…who can sometimes be very aggressive successful sales people who love nothing more then spending their time knocking down objections from dissatisfied clients who bought into thier hype (and many times their marketing literature will have ‘hooks’ buried to assist with the live phone close…)

    Once in the circuit the client finds out that they really can’t do what they say…and the old excuse comes into play…’the search engine’s algo just changed…it will take us weeks to several months to get you back into the mix’ … and this is tied in with their carefully crafted legalize embedded in everything they publish about their services…

    Give’s the small guys an edge who can build out personalized “honest” working relationships and work to educate their respective clients regarding ‘expectations’ vs. ‘reality’ where the engines and organic listings are concerned…and what the future may hold…

  30. Nick Garner December 20, 2007 at 2:24 PM

    I get it….since I used to work in one of those 3rd rate / charge a fortune companies

    – search engines are still a mystery to most brands
    – by their internal makeup, they can only really deal with linear stuff like “I spend this on advertising I get that ROI”
    – they respond to big SEO companies; ‘theyre like us – so we hire them’
    – they typically only let 3rd party companies do consultancy / offer recommendations because they don’t trust anyone with their web property
    – so, when youre technially handcuffed, you have to somehow sell the fact you are good value on a $10,000 monthly retainer, so you talk about simple stuff like meta tags, because they are simple enough to comprehend
    – don’t forget ‘brands’ are still on 1999 SEO and yes it seems wierd but remember, by reading this blog, youre on the cutting edge of SEO!

    The problem is that big companies find the hardcore SEO scene really, really inaccessable. So if you want to make money with them, you have to play a different game.

    and of course, BIG companies see a $10k retainer as small change.

  31. zahir seo4growth February 18, 2008 at 8:12 AM

    Although the post originally was from 2006, i must add the practice still continues. The companies in question (surely like the one you omitted) more often than not forget about link building until the end.

    Depending on the savvy-ness of the client in question, they often hide behind a privacy screen, continuing to bill but without delivering. Seeing a snail cover the distance of the london marathon is probably quicker, that seeing a site improve.

    Like the last poster mentioned the 10k retainer is probably small change & i’m sure the pitch at the 20page report they give out, usually helps clinch the deal.

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