Over the last decade, search engine optimization companies (SEOs) have reaped the benefit of a nascent industry saturated with businesses small and large dying to take the hill on Google (ie. Rank #1 for a keyword) as the digital and Internet search era exploded.
In order to get results, we’ve seen an unbelievable variety of black and white hat techniques being used by these SEO firms to get an edge.
Some of it has been disgraceful.
Some of it has been commendable.
The SEO Shift
But because the search engines and folks like Matt Cutts have made it their mission to get rid of the crap and demand more excellence from businesses and SEOs alike, we now find ourselves in an incredible transition.
“Gaming the system” has been replaced by “Embracing the system”— a system that is now built around content that talks, walks, and thinks like the consumer– and answers every possible question or need they have. (Content Marketing)
And it’s because of this new model so many SEO companies are in huge trouble. In fact, I’d venture to say that over half of the SEO companies that are around today will be gone within the next two years.
Frankly, some will deserve it. On the other hand, some will have been left behind by a new era of search engine optimization — one that is intricately connected to understanding the principles of content marketing.
But before I tackle the merging of SEO and content marketing, let me explain the big, fat problem of many SEO company business models.
The Problem with Old-School SEO Companies
Currently, almost every client we have here at TSL was using an SEO company when we started working together. And with the large majority, their relationship with said company had gone like this:
1. SEO company comes in and identifies keyword opportunities for client— much of which are location- based—as those are the easiest (at least in the past) to identify and get immediate results for with respect to search engine rankings.
2. Over the next couple of months, the SEO company produces pages targeting said keywords. Often times, these pages are buried somewhere in the site, not so much to be “read” per se(from a quality, information-driven standpoint), but rather to rank for a keyword and get a visitor to the website.
3. After about 6 months, the SEO firm has now stopped producing content (because the location stuff has run dry) and so they are giving the client a report each month about how “they are staying on top of Google’s changes” and “adjusting content” and “staying ahead of the search engines” and blah, blah, blah.
4. After a few months of this, the client no longer has any idea what the heck they’re paying for.
Although these 4 steps may come as a surprise or exaggeration to some, I’ve seen them over and over and over again. In fact, the first question I always ask a prospect or client that is using an SEO company is as follows:
“How much content have they added to your site over the last 90 days?”
As you might imagine, the most common answer is, “I’m really not sure.”
Some will take these statements as an attack on all SEO companies, but it’s not meant to be.
80% of SEO companies are not worth what they’re getting paid.
20% of SEO companies are worth every bit of their monthly retainer fees.
This being said, any SEO firm that cares about their clients and the future success of an organization is now starting to talk about and implement content marketing. They realize more is needed, and a content marketing culture is generally the one solution that makes the most sense for the long haul.
Should You Fire Your SEO Company?
Clearly, I can’t make a blanket statement to that end for every company and person reading this post, but I can say this if you’re wondering about the current value of your SEO firm:
1. If you have no idea what your SEO is doing each month, then you have a serious problem.
2. If all your SEO does is give you “keyword ranking reports” each month, then you have a problem.
3. If your SEO isn’t talking about content marketing and its need on your site, then you have a problem.
4. And if your SEO isn’t pushing for new, fresh, and informative content on your site each month, then you have a problem.
This is exactly why the future of SEO companies and their business models will look more like marketing agencies with many diverse services than simply hired guns that help companies rank for keywords.
In fact, my prediction is the acronym itself will change from “SEO” to “SCM”—search content marketers.
I could be wrong about the exact phraseology, but there is no question a major shift is in the air, as well it should be.
But as with all of this stuff, time will tell.
How do you see the evolution of SEO companies? Do you feel content marketing will have to be a part of their service offerings?
Jump in folks, I’d love to hear your thoughts.