Rand Fishkin recently put up a post titled: Wasting Time or Clearly Incompetent – The SEO Consulting Debate. In it Rand refers to a post by Brian Provost at ScoreBoard Media Group titled: The First Question You Should Ask Your SEO Consultant. Brian has since published an update titled: Attack of the SEOmoz Clones: More Thoughts On SEO Consulting.
The gist of it is – if you are such a great SEO, wouldn’t you make a ton more money publishing your own sites? And even though it reeks a little bit of the SEO are scum debates that were raging through the blogoshpere a short while back, and I stayed out of that one because I just don’t dignify questions like “when did you stop beating your wife?”, Brian Provost’s question does have some merit (note that Brian’s update post does make it clear that it was not specifically an attack on SEOs
We happen to use a mix of consulting and publishing our own sites here at STC. Without question, I have made far more money on the sites we publish ourselves than the consulting business. But launching a new site in a highly competitive market is an investment and takes time. Particularly since our model is to build up valuable assets for sale at a later date to a third party.
Consulting provides short term cash flow while you are building your sites up. It also provides exposure to different aspects of search, and helps me broaden my horizons, and learn lessons that I apply in our own sites (lessons go the other way too …). It also becomes a platform for developing relationships and contacts that are invaluable for our publishing business. We have a veritable win-win situation where the two businesses feed each other.
Other high quality SEOs have their own reasons for preferring to consult. It can be as simple as wanting to have greater degrees of freedom over one’s schedule. Some people consult because they can go to their kids chess tournament at school even when it happens during the work day. Hard to do when you are a publisher fighting for market share day in and day out.
And then there are the Rand’s of the world, that simply have a great passion for developing and publishing great content. A mix of a media personality and a consultant at the same time. And so it can simply be about what makes you get excited about getting out of bed in the morning. And this is perfectly valid too.
Don’t buy into the SEO’s are scum hype, or spend your time defending yourself from it, it’s truly a waste of time. There are scum in every profession. Enough people write about SEO’s being scum that I can assure you that some (not all, but some) of those writers are scum too. It’s just about statistics. If enough people are doing something, then some of them are bad people.
You want a good thing to look for in an SEO? See if they have a passion for success, and a passion for winning. I am not saying that this is a question you ask, it’s a thing you sense when you talk to them. Of course, make sure they are competent, check references, whatever, but more importantly, make sure they will be passionate about winning with your business. If you have those 2 things, then they are probably a good bet for you to work with.
But hey, with tweaks to each situation, that advice will work in any part of your life.