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Posted by on June 20, 2009


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Something becomes a commodity when the supply becomes widely available through increased sources. A few years ago, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) services were fairly exclusive offerings. Ten years ago, the concept of SEO and SEM were almost non-existent. At some point, someone connected the fact that people start looking for products and services through search engines first. The Search Engine is the High Street of the Web. An industry was born.

So what has become of the SEO/SEM industry? Largely, it has become a commodity. Two or three years ago, an SEO firm might charge a small fortune to optimize a site or microsite. Some technical work was done, careful crafting of words and off you went. Today, almost all CMS (Content Management Systems) solutions, including free blogging solutions, include SEO tools. Some better than others. There are hundreds of courses and entire conferences dedicated to SEO and SEM strategies and services. Dozens of companies in India offer SEO and link building services for small fees. Web designers and interactive agencies hang the SEO shingle on their offerings as well and the prices have fallen.

The upside is that the “education phase” of educating businesses on the inherent and critical value of SEO has all but passed and most marketers know that optimizing their site for search results in the major engines is just part of their mix.

So in part, SEO as a service offering has become commoditized. There is a downside here though, and that is at the cost of the clients who buy these services. Enough companies and consultants have hit the SEO gold rush that many of the lower-end services are lower end for a reason – they tend to be “one-off” services that neglect to inform the client of the need to manage their SEO efforts over time with the critical value of “organic SEO” that takes longer but is often more rewarding.

It falls now to that old saying “buyer beware.” So while much of SEO can be bought cheap, it usually ends up costing the client more when they do. Inevitably, search results fall off fairly quickly after a campaign has ended or a competitor pushes you down the results pages. Some ad agencies and consultants have built very strong practices around high-value SEO services. Good traditional agencies have acquired the talent and learned to incorporate it into their offering, and good consultants are found organically.

After all, if an SEO service provider has to advertise yet doesn’t appear in the top organic search results, something has to be funny. Kind of like an electrician showing up in a plumbers van. SEO services have become a commodity; that’s not necessarily a good thing in this case.

Comments

  1. Kyle Racki
    August 2, 2009

    I think commoditization in this case occurred when the service became in such high demand that it forced companies who make websites to learn it and add it to their list of services.

    Most/all businesses who have websites don’t know the first thing when it comes to SEO, how results are obtained, or even that there is an SEO industry of professionals — all they know is they want to be first on Google when people type my name or product.

    That being said, communications agencies who say they do SEO need to be more specific. Do they build sites with standards allowing the content to be easily indexed by bots? Do they implement link-building strategies? Keyword research? Web copywriting?

    SEO has become so broad a service, that you can now have sub-specialists. But it’s funny, you still have dinosaurs out there who think they are SEO experts because they know how to stuff poorly chosen keywords in tags.

    Not sure if I’m adding to your post, or just rambling – but great post by the way!

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