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.