Big Agency SEO

Most large advertising agencies don’t offer search engine optimization services. The trend lately has been for holding companies to buy search specific shops and try and cram a square peg into a round hole by making the partner agencies use the search agencies for any work coming down the pike.

What ends up happening  is that relationships with the larger agency can be damaged as you never know what kind of client support you will get from the newly acquired "search agency" – or better what kind of support the big agency will allow.

I’ve seen clients running elsewhere, looking for more search support than they get from their agency. It’s usually the not the purchased search agency that is at fault, but the territorialism that exists with big agencies and their own accounts. When I was with a large agency, we were encouraged to do business with others within the holding company, but very little incentive was offered. And it was always far more profitable to work it in-house (from a P&L standpoint) than to outsource the work to another shop. So sometimes we did things we might not have been best suited to do.

My opinion is that  large agencies should build their own in-house practices rather than outsource to another firm they don’t trust. I know this is a somewhat controversial view, and I’ve been at the smaller search agency that did white label work for the bigger traditional agency and seen some success with that. But I’ve never understood why a big agency would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a search firm when they could start their own practice in-house. I know the barrier of entry is very high to start to a successful search practice at a large agency, but the potential return on this investment definitely seems worth the risk.

I’d love to hear other opinions.


  1. Hi Tony,
    I think you make a great point. We’re not a large agency, not a small one – about 50 employees. Every new concept goes through a porcess of us deciding whether or not we need to “reinvent the wheel.” I think there comes a time where you need to stop and ask yourself if it’s smart to build the application and program yourself or ask someone to white label it for you.

    I think we are at about 50/50 for most decisions so far. If we think we can build it better then we’ll do it, but if we think others are doing a great job, we jump on board. We also run into a manpower issue with this decision. There are a lot of variables that come into play when you’re making this decision, especially if you don’t have a huge stable of resources.

  2. Hello folks. I’m new and I’m making my first post.

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