Is SEO Scalable?

This is not one of those I post a title and answer my own question. I have my doubts here.  I see that SEO makes money. But what I don’t see are the mega-SEO agencies – and the ones that I would consider major are making a push into other forms of marketing (see i-crossing becoming a full-service agency). Most SEO firms are small shops with a core group of clientele. Once an SEO firm reaches 50 people, it seems to either implode or get bought by a larger entity.

My question, to you, dear readers, is simply can search engine optimization (not PPC, not Social Media, etc) scale by itself? I’m tending to think it can’t for the following reasons.

- SEO doesn’t live in a vacuum and can’t operate as such. SEO data is essentially the best way to steer other marketing departments and SEOs who operate in a silo are doomed to stay in that silo
- The minute you train a good SEO person, they realize what they can make by hanging up a shingle and many do just that.
- Managing SEO for a large group of clients tends to lead to too many client service people and not enough actual ditch-digging SEO specialists. This makes it very hard to scale.
- Clients aren’t willing to pay for the overhead of a big agency that just does SEO.

My thoughts are that in order for a firm to scale, they must increase their offerings beyond SEO, but I’m up for someone proving me wrong.


  1. Interesting premise. Your points about not SEO not living in a vacuum and good practitioners able to make a great living on their own.

    The key question is whether SEO can be boiled to a set of procedures. Having a few high-level customer facing folks and then a group of moderately paid soldiers following the script and doing the real work.

    I also believe that there will be significant downward pressure on pricing for SEO services which lessen the temptation of striking out on your own.

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