Are search only specialists really best?

by Peter Young on September 28, 2008 · 1 comment

Its a conversation that has come up often in the past, but as many previous ‘search only specialists’ move to a more cross channel approach are the days of ‘the search specialist really over’.

According to a recent report by search engine marketing specialists, Vertical Leap, only 12% of companies in the UK offering SEO services focus exclusively on search. The report went on to say

“Vertical Leap’s researchers analysed the top 300 pages reported by Google for the search phrase ‘search engine optimisation’.

Duplicates, and any non-commercial sites were then removed and each of the remaining 217 sites were analysed for defining information including their geographical location, the services offered specifically by each ‘specialist’ and those of their parent company.

From the sample of 217 businesses, 83% (181) were UK based. Of these 19% specialised in search engine services. The rest offered web design, email marketing, display advertising and hosting among their many other on-line services. “

However it was Matt Hopkins, Vertical Leap’s Managing Director who raised an interesting question

“For me, the impact of this study is that many different companies are listing SEO as only one of their many services. But are they really capable of delivering the service? Managing and implementing an on-going, effective SEO campaign requires specialist skills and experience. It also requires the internal systems and processes to consistently deliver success for clients…I just don’t believe you can get this from someone who is providing multiple services to multiple clients.”

Its certainly an interesting suggestion from Matt and to a certain degree I can see where Matt is coming from. However working for an agency where we offer a range of online marketing disciples (such as display, affiliate, Paid Search and SEO), I also see how well all channels can work if treated as a cohesive unit.

Much of this has to come down to the level of skill of the personel involved. Certainly at Mediavest we are lucky to have Jon Myers on board, someone well respected in the search community, and are lucky to have a comprehensive ‘learning’ programme in place. Each channel has a number of specialists undertaking the service, and is certainly one of the market leading product offerings across the multiple channels out there.

There is also a process of ‘expansion’ within the search sector. Take search marketing specialists Bigmouthmedia. Not happy with their European/global expansion, they have expanded their product offering to include paid search (old news), Affiliate Marketing and more recently Display. Surely no one could doubt such search credentials despite SEO not being their primary focus any more.

However, Matt is certainly right in one thing

Managing and implementing an on-going, effective SEO campaign requires specialist skills and experience

No-one can definitely argue with that

[ This post from Peter Young's blog contains only his personal opinions. ]

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SirBigWig October 21, 2008 at 11:06 am

Good article, however I don’t agree with this….

“despite SEO not being their primary focus any more.” in relation to BMM. That is by far the most profitable area of the business. By a country mile.

Also regarding search specialists and full service agencies, you cannot simply claim that one is better than SEO than another. It depends entirely on how the SEO is done and who is in charge.

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