City Agencies vs. Country Agencies – What’s the Difference?

by Guest Author on August 12, 2010 · 1 comment

As part of the ongoing guest post series on Holistic Search, Rhys Wynne compares the experiences of working at a small boutique country agency against that of working in a larger city based organisation

A few months ago I decided I had enough of living in North Wales & decided to up sticks & move to Manchester, I needed a change from my job at the time as head of SEO at a small web design agency, and managed to land myself in a position at a similar sized company based in Altrincham.

Even though by description they are both SEO & Web Design agencies and both are SME’s, there are some noticeable differences between working in a city & working in the country.

Less Competition (in general) in the Country
Working in North Wales I first of all managed to land myself a position in a company at the time that I probably wouldn’t have obtained if I applied in the city, there is a brain drain in most sectors in the country & for cutting edge fields such as IT, finding the right people can be tricky. This is something I was glad for when I was looking for work, but it was terrible when headhunting new staff – least of all my replacement when moving on! I did manage to build a team of competent SEO’s, with the help of a great support network, but it was tough (although I’ve yet to be involved in the recruitment process in the city, so it could be tough here as well).
Furthermore, for the majority of the SEO clients we managed we achieved remarkable results. The reason being is they were only targeting phrases in and around the area. With the exception of the tourism sector, a lot of page one rankings were achievable relatively quickly. Even traditional high value niches such as the financial & legal sectors were achieved with simple on page optimisation.

Less Work in the Country
Of course part of the reason that results were easy to come by was the fact that not every business had a web presence, and not every web presence was effectively optimised. Although this could lead to potentially a lot of work, unfortunately often convincing them to invest in a web site & a link building campaign varied from tricky to nigh on impossible. This was likely due to the area and the way they did business – in fact North Wales did have a number of schemes to boost the web presence of businesses with financial incentives.
Those who did decide to invest did see in general an upturn in business, and whilst it was tricky obtaining the work, retaining it month on month was straightforward as the client often saw a return by being the only optimised site within that industry in the area.

More Varied Work in The City
There were two types of clients I dealt with 80% of the time in my previous position:-

  • Hotels
  • Caravan Sites

Often in the country you have only one or two different industries which support large swathes of the population, and although it can be fun writing travel guides & tourist information content, it can be a bit monotonous if you do it all the time. Very few clients are in the same niche in my current position, so it helps me become more rounded with knowledge in a number of sectors. SEOs in my eyes make ideal quiz team members!

More Social Events & Access to Knowledge in the City
This was the deciding factor in moving. I had been to a couple of SEO events in Manchester (mainly the Manchester Seo events), and loved them tremendously. There was not as many in North Wales (indeed any!), and although I had attempted to start a North Wales Twestival, it hardly got off the ground (this was probably more my lack of enthusiasm rather than there not being a vibrant Twitter community, as there is). Seemingly every week there’s some sort of digital event happening in Manchester, so as a new face in the city, I am not short of things to do.
Likewise back in North Wales I felt I was a bit of a big fish in a little pond (actually it was more akin to a whale in a teardrop), in that there were very few people I could sit down with, discuss ideas & brainstorm with, without first of all explaining what SEO is and why you cannot just put “britney spears” over and over again in the meta keyword tag. Manchester on the other hand there are always people to talk to. Yes you can do this over MSN, Skype or Twitter no problem, but I’d much prefer doing it over a beer, wouldn’t you?

In Conclusion
Whilst I had a great time working in the country for an agency, I feel that moving to the city has helped my career tremendously. Getting to know some very talented SEOs, as well as the challenge & greater competition has helped me grow into a more competent SEO. With that said I know people who have moved the other way – obtained experience working in the city & applied it successfully to a country-based agency. The experience gained in both fields is invaluable, and whilst a lot of the work is the same, there are differences present in both.

As to which is better? I can’t say really. Both have their place in the industry, targeting different client bases. Of course other factors to consider are external factors such as family & friends should you wish to switch from a country agency to a city agency. Of course, if it’s not too much trouble, you can certainly try both & see which one you prefer.

Rhys Wynne is a SEO Consultant at Manual Link Building. Outside of his day job he posts his ramblings on SEO, Blogging & Social Media at The Gospel According to Rhys.

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