Outhouse consultant

This week I have been approached by a number of potential clients who have been working with in-house SEO groups from large media companies. I had not been aware of that these groups were now selling services outside of their companies. I had a few of reactions:

1. The prices these groups are charging are amazing (time to raise my rates!)

2. It seems like a number of these relationships came about as a result of investments by the media co’s. E.g. I invest in you and as part of that investment I require you to hire my SEO team.

3. Are these in-house groups so underutilized that they have time to service clients outside of the corporation? If so why does the corporation need an in-house SEO group?

4. Are these media co’s looking at SEO as a new profit center? If so why are their clients looking for alternatives? Is this just normal client churn?  Can an in-house SEO group effectively service an out-house (insert joke here) client without conflicts arising? What happens when the mother ship needs all of your attention? How do you prioritize?

I guess it’s no different for us outhouse consultants juggling all of their clients except that no one client has such a hold on me because it pays my salary or my benefits, provides 401k matches or throws a lame holiday party for me every year.

To my readers who are in-house SEOs who also service outside clients I’d love to hear more about how your businesses are structured.

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14 Response Comments

  • Michael Dorausch  November 16, 2007 at 8:46 am

    “Are these media co’s looking at SEO as a new profit center?”

    For some, I believe that’s the case. I think these companies are looking to recoup lost opportunities that have moved to the Internet and are trying to regain profits anyway they can.

    It’s a common theme for a big company (like a yellowpages company) to offer SEO services to small businesses like mine.

    IMO it’s a bad investment for the small-business owner.

  • Jeff Quipp  November 16, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Are you finding Andrew that these large media companies have made SEO a focus, or engage in it only at a very high level? I ask because I’ve run into a number, but they do it very high level only.

  • Andrew Shotland  November 16, 2007 at 10:51 am

    I think it must be high level. I just looked over someone’s site who had SEO work done by a big media co in house team and I couldn’t believe how much of the basic stuff they missed. That said maybe the client never implemented it correctly. Whichever is the case the end result is the same.

  • TimDineen  November 16, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I think I know who you are talking about.

    I commented on Sphinn and don’t want to repeat, but I agree with all of your points except I don’t think they are using it as profit center as much as a means to retain good talent by investing in the SEO’s agency.

  • Marios Alexandrou  November 16, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    I’ve worked with one of these in-house teams that also did consulting work. Their focus really was consulting though. They didn’t actually “DO” the work which certainly cut down on the time investment they needed to make. One big benefit that came out of the relationship was credibility for SEO since my management at the time was skeptical of the whole thing.

  • Perry  November 17, 2007 at 5:37 am

    I think you are spot on Andrew, SEO should remain clearly located in the outhouse, as you so aptly put it 😉

  • Andrew Shotland  November 17, 2007 at 7:06 am

    Of course what Perry is driving at is the fact that some of our best thinking happens in the outhouse.

  • John Clinebell  November 17, 2007 at 11:11 am

    It’s funny, our company is kinda backwards from what you’re describing: through building an SEO business within the company to boost our client websites, our management is finally starting to see how in-house SEO (at all!) might be worth investing in. Up until now, none of our company sites have had any changes to the SEO on them for probably 2-3 years! Hopefully that will change soon.. if they decide to listen to us. Isn’t that always the struggle of an SEO professional in a larger organization?

  • Andrew Shotland  November 17, 2007 at 11:57 am

    That’s pretty funny John. Sort of like Jack Daniels selling whiskey but never enjoying a glass for himself.

  • Lyndon  November 17, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Interesting, I have come back from SMX London thinking the same thing. There is a lot of people out there not offering a premium service.

    Nice to hear you a raising your rates, it seems I have to do it monthly 🙂

  • Jeff Tadie  November 19, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Hey Andrew, first comment for us on your blog…just found you a few weeks back.

    We’re an SEM/SEO team that services small- and medium-sized businesses in US & Latin America using premise reps, inbound tel (we did outbound tel for 3+ years for AOL YP, Local.com, etc…learned a ton, lost a ton) and via our new retail stores in a growing number of markets, http://www.YourMarketingCorner.com

    Lately, we’re seeing local businesses who feel they’ve been burned by one-call telemarketers (Merchant Circle, StoresOnline, etc). These SMBs are now taking the time to understand online and make well-informed decisions. And more and more are willing to invest hundreds of dollars per mth, rather than the low-budget auto-submittal services that for $30/mth, or $99/yr.

    So, changes are occuring at local SMB level for SEM/SEO as well.

    Thanks, Jeff

  • Jordan K  December 2, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Addressing #4, I don’t think they clients are looking for alternatives per say, but just another source to monetize. I know a lot of large advertising agencies are turning to SEO just because of the demand from their clients and you’re right…they charge a TON!

  • John  June 24, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Its kind of funny, I read your post and it gives me a total flashback.

    While on the phone speaking with some larger companies about their prior experiences with some “inhouse seo’s” it was pretty apparent that they were for the most part, dealing with standard consultations. Few had any real serps or websites to show they were for real. But this soon turned to a convo about whether it was worth paying the true SEO guys their rate (people who are good enough to not need or have time to take clients).

    We joked about the fact that it would be bringing that inhouse traffic, but by method of outhouse. It was funny enough to me that I tossed up a page on outhouseseo.com.

    Thanks for the flashback 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland  June 24, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Love the tagline John. You may want to yank some of that text off the page or someone might mistake you for a usability consultant 🙂