SEO Agency BigMouthMedia Merges with Global Media
UK SEO agency, Big Mouth Media announced over the weekend that they have merged with Euro online marketing firm Global Media, creating a company which is estimated in value between £100 and £200 million (reports vary depending where you read!).
In a statement for the Scotsman*, Big Mouth Media MD Steve Leach is quoted to have said that the only options for the company were “to be swallowed and cash up or seek investment to acquire and grow”.
Is the SEO agency sector so difficult to scale that options for progression are so limited? Certainly there are only a few SEO agencies in the world that have grown to the size of BMM (£15 million turnover, 50 staff, portfolio of big brand clients), so perhaps it is indeed the case.
Agency side, the SEO industry is fraught with problems. At the core, I’d say there are 2 main issues – experience and scalability.
Outside major metropolitan areas, experienced SEOs are hard to come by. Let’s not mistake “experienced SEOs” with “people who have done SEO for a while” as anyone who has had to fix the work of another “SEO” knows that these aren’t the same.
It’s not that large agencies aren’t attractive to experienced SEOs – it’s just that any SEO worth their salt can earn infinitely more money working for themselves (and probably work less hours and face less stress). And most do. So newbies are hired and trained up (just like any other industry) – some might stay and some might move on (I’m sure that anyone who has ever worked agency side knows a lot of people who have left to go it on their own).
I know for a fact that quite a few of the larger SEO agencies in the UK faced an exodus at some point in their history – where several members of staff left to start up on their own. The SEO industry is very attractive in this respect (in fact one of the main reasons I left BMM was that I managed clients that collectively paid around 20-30 times my annual salary) – but is this necessarily a barrier all SEO agencies need to face?
Maybe when the company reaches a critical mass, staff become less important – not literally of course, but more in perceived sense. The company expands – more people arrive doing the same job as you – job satisfaction decreases and the almighty £££ becomes the over-riding factor in your career? I know a few folks who read Fused Nation have moved on from employment to self employment – anyone care to share their own experiences?
What are your thoughts on the scalability of the SEO agency model? Personally I think current agencies seem to be too marketing agency focused in their style of management – very account management focused. While certain elements of this model are both appropriate and necessary, I do think that SEO agencies need to re-assess their long term strategies for growth.
I launched my own agency this year, so I’ve put a lot of thought into this – perhaps prematurely given that I’m the only member of staff, but I do like to consider these things. One of my first sites (and real SEO successes) was a career advice website (no link; I get enough forum spam from the SEO community thank you very much! ), so this is an area of business I hold close to my heart.
I personally prefer to divide my time between client work and my own projects – I think both compliment each other in terms of research and long term security for me – this is one of the key areas that SEO trumps traditional marketing – marketing agencies don’t really have the resources to make money outside their agency model – SEOs do.
I’d be interested in hearing about everyone else’s agency experiences and thoughts on that side of the industry. I think it’s an area that doesn’t really get discussed quite as fully as everything else in SEO, probably because agencies reign in public discussions quite carefully, particularly in areas where “inside knowledge” can be exposed.
* The Scotsman has removed a couple of comments on the post – nothing wildly exciting or new for the industry, but interesting to see mainstream media censor comments. Just a couple of links to TW threads about Bigmouthmedia being banned from Google earlier this year. So much for objective journalism. Amusing to see adverts for Bigmouthmedia’s competitors in the Adsense block below the article though!
Scott Boyd (aka Marketing Guy) is an Edinburgh based online marketing consultant with over 6 years experience in the industry. He is the founder of SEO agency eFlaunt, where he mixes a
blend of traditional marketing and SEO.
Scott’s musings relating to the marketing and SEO industries can be found on his blog – Fused Nation.