Alright. I’ve been an SEO guy for over a decade now.
I’ve worked both client-side and agency-side.
Having worked at agencies, and also managed agencies whilst working client-side, I’ve formed an opinion on why some agencies have and deliver a shit service when it comes to SEO.
I’m going to break this opinion-piece into 3 parts.
The point of these is to hopefully give you something to think about when working with or choosing an SEO agency to work with.
Because SEO, sometimes, comes down to the talent you have, it’s important to be aware of the talent you have working on your account, and indeed, the leadership of the talent.
So, one reason why some agencies have a shit SEO service is because of the leadership.
SEO is still a relatively new Digital Marketing channel. It’s a baby.
Historically, the leadership at agencies – and in this context, I’m including everyone from middle management, upwards – I’m talking about Management-Leadership as a broad spectrum.
Historically, the leadership at agencies, as it pertains to Digital Marketing, are from what generation…?
Gen Xs, right?
Gen Xs came up under Boomers.
Whilst Boomers have been in marketing way before Digital Marketing, they weren’t the first generation to really come up on Digital Marketing – Gen Xs were.
In a similar way, you may find Gen Xs on Social Media (on TikTok, for example) but Gen Z are really the generation coming into the workforce with the expansion of Social Media, you know?
Gen Xs came into the workforce with the emergence of Digital Marketing.
The way Gen Xs saw their leaders (Boomers) servicing marketing needs is very different to the way younger marketers service marketing needs because of the emergence of Digital Marketing.
Because Digital Marketing was so new during the period of Boomer leaders in agencies, they relied heavily on Gen Xs taking the realm in servicing Digital Marketing needs.
This is to say, Gen Xs saw and were taught a leadership style that was very hands-off.
In other words, Boomers didn’t know what the heck they were doing with Digital Marketing, so their leadership to Gen Xs was rubbish.
Gen Xs came up in a time where they had to figure things out with ‘autonomy’, ‘ownership’.
This is why they had a habit of working late, burning the midnight oil, going to extreme lengths to deliver.
Why does all of this matter?
It all matters because this type of leadership style was used on, and taught to, Millennials.
If Gen Xs came up on Digital Marketing, what did Millennials come up on? SEO.
The leaders to Millennials are Gen Xs.
Gen Xs don’t know SEO – or didn’t, in the early days.
What do they do when they need to service SEO and don’t really know SEO?
They rely heavily on those who do know – Millennials.
And as such, when it comes to servicing SEO, the part that Gen Xs are very familiar and comfortable with is the selling of the service. Not the doing of the service, the selling of the service.
The selling of the service has been the part of SEO that’s easiest to grasp.
What part of SEO has historically been the easiest to grasp…?
What does everyone think SEO is all about…?
Keywords, rankings, and you guessed it, links.
What was the most profitable part of SEO that agencies sold? Links.
Up until Penguin, SEO was synonymous with links. Backlinks.
Selling backlinks was a quick-win for agencies. Heck, this was money in the bank! A cash cow for agencies.
When it came to SEO, agencies, and by extension, the leadership at agencies (Gen Xs) focused more on selling the service rather than performing the service.
What did we have as a result?
We had leaders at agencies who were more salespeople than marketers – at least when it comes to Digital Marketing.
A big problem within the SEO industry is non-SEOs selling SEO when they do not know much about SEO.
Not only do they not know much about SEO, they rely heavily on SEOs to service what they have sold.
There used to be a big gap between non-SEO leaders selling the service and those who are actually SEOs, who are hired and tasked to deliver the service.
Thankfully, this is changing now. There are now many more SEOs in leadership positions, at agencies these days.
Just as I advocate for brands to engage more with SEOs, at all levels, including the board level, this is something that needs to be in place at agencies.
An agency that service SEO needs that have a leadership team that does not include an SEO person is an agency that’s going to provide you a shit SEO service.
Count. On. It.
When working with an agency, scrutinise the leadership team.
Ensure the agency has been doing SEO for several years.
You’ll have a hard time with an agency that’s new to servicing SEO.
Carry out research on their churn rate – both employees within SEO, or at least Digital Marketing – and the churn of the clients they provide SEO services to.
If their client retention is low and their ratings are low, run.
You’ll have a hard time working with them.
They won’t serve you, you’ll serve them – as experience they learn from for the next client they then service.
If you have a relationship with an agency that you’re not very happy with, consider the leadership behind the service you’re receiving.
Now, I’m not referring to the overall leadership of the agency – although, there is something to be said of this.
But I’m referring specifically to the leadership behind the SEO service being offered to you.
Like SEO itself, the more you’re aware of the agency you hire, the more likely you are to flourish with your SEO.
SEO, sometimes, comes down to the talent you have. It’s important to be aware of the talent you have working on your account, and indeed, the leadership of the talent.