Selling The Search Engine Optimization Business Model is what many of the biggest, most well known names in SEO do.
Take a look at moz.com, searchengineland.com, searchenginejournal.com, bruceclay.com, searchenginewatch.com, and seobook.com to see that most give away a lot of knowledge (content) but also sell premium SEO training and access to tools.
Big SEO Firms in Their Infancy
Most were originally started by hands on working SEO technicians who expanded their business model from there and moved into more managerial roles managing a team of other SEOs. Often those others were trusted acquaintances they got to know over the years through link exchanges, while some they trained from scratch. During the process they had to systematize how SEO was to be taught until it was laid out to be as much of a science as possible.
Moving Ahead From SEO Management to SEO Entrepreneur
Fully staffed, this process of team building now enabled them to take on Search Engine Optimization for larger and larger companies. Many of the above mentioned web firms (and I don’t mean to leave any others out, because there are many) got their start in or before the .com bubble burst of 2,000.
As a side note, inadequate SEO was mostly not the problem back then. Much of the bubble burst was brick and mortar businesses not knowing how to take advantage of and capitalize on the visitors SEO brought them. A small percentage of the problem some businesses experienced was due to hacks who sold gullible clients snake oil services. Caveat Emptor, web designers before the turn of the millennium (and since) claim to be able to perform SEO when they cant. Read my post on what to look for in a prospective SEO for more on that topic.
The Programming Factor
As SEO firms grew those who had become well capitalized enough, and who had entrepreneurial vision, would also bring programmers aboard to develop tools that could be used in-house to help them perform faster, more detailed analysis of meta keywords (no longer a factor anywhere), back-links (more commonly referred to in the industry as backlinks), meta-content, page rank (no longer a real factor), and more.
Selling The System of How to Become an SEO
Here’s where it gets interesting. Once the larger entrepreneurs with programmed tools to perform SEO had set up their model to train their own in-house SEOs, these same firms realized that they could train those interested in becoming SEOs by selling the system, and granting them access to use the tools they had originally developed for themselves. I surmise that the last thing most of these firms would want to do is to release their latest and greatest proprietary SEO software to the rest of the world for a fee. As previously stated neither page rank nor meta keywords are a factor in Search Engine Optimization. However, if you’ve ever subscribed to use any of these tools you’ll see that they still include one or both of those outdated SEO factors.
So the growth model in the 90’s and early 2000’s from SEO Technician, to SEO Manager, to SEO Entrepreneur led to Selling The Search Engine Optimization Business Model in much the same way McDonald’s or Burger King (or any franchises) does. Either individually or as a bundle, by selling the steps and keeping them updated, and with access to seminar or online training, plus the option to buy server time for use of the online tools at the development level they’re allowed access to. That is to say that those who are learning and have signed up have access to the public set of tools on the server at whatever level is being released for general public consumption to those who can afford them, but not necessarily the current version the SEO firm itself is currently using for itself.
Thus today there are essentially two types of SEO firms, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive of one another.
First let me say that I am leaving out entirely the non-seo marketers, some of whom are part of corporations with websites where the company’s desire is to perform in-house SEO on its own. I am also leaving out those with financial backing who decided to start up SEO firms from scratch without having any expertise who put together a qualified team of SEOs, Web Marketers, Programmers etc and then started marketing, which requires financial backing.
The Congregation and the Preachers
Essentially there are two types of SEO firms. Those who focus on the technical end of website search engine optimization, and the “In” Crowd, aka those who focus on selling how to perform search engine optimization to other SEOs.
Hope in miracles
The average plodding, over-worked, working SEO who’s writing content, optimizing sites, updating social media, making and editing videos, and doing product photography to help conversion and transaction rates (guilty) needs to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and the promise of a golden future just up ahead by performing enough SEO and website building to finally make it big. Many SEOs will finally set aside enough money to be able to afford to attend a search expo or conference in a far away city. And from time to time one of the faces in the crowd actually makes it to the stage to speak. There is a heaven. I can do it too!
The SEO Made Men and The Wise Guys (or the “In” Crowd and their not always so permanent Satellite Members
I joke of course, and this is an analogy, so no offense to anyone who thinks I’m speaking derogatorily. In fact though, the fastest way OUT of the “In” Crowd is to divulge any inside SEO secret they’ve shared with you to the rest of the SEO community. While it’s neither inexpensive nor easy to become a satellite member of the Made Man SEO In Crowd of top SEOs on the annual circuit tours, it is usually financially rewarding in that once you’ve proven yourself capable, paid a lot of money, and demonstrated that you’re not off your rocker you may get the opportunity to eventually become an SEO wise guy. In so doing you’ll gain a lot of the prestige of the big boys and are much more likely to pick up a few lucrative jobs.
You don’t have to be part of the in crowd to gain jobs at these conventions however because there are always headhunters there from any number of major, and not so major corporations looking to hire.
Building Your Own Company Based on The Search Engine Optimization Business Model
Even if you’re just at an expo or convention as a face in the crowd don’t overlook the value of networking with everyone you can who seems to have potential. Take everyone’s business card and ask questions about their experience and what they do. Ask what they believe their strong points are, where they’d like to be in the next five years, and gravitate towards those who have more or different skills than you that you could use on a big job where you need a team made up of people with various skills who can handle multiple tasks at once in a specific order to (in short order) quickly and thoroughly optimize a website, create content, and properly share that content in social media. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for a project manager, because the whole point of Building Your Own Company Based on The Search Engine Optimization Business Model is to move away from micromanagement – which is hands on SEO actually is… to finally becoming free enough to become an entrepreneur yourself.