Will My SEO Company End Up Competing With Me?

Mar 22, 2010 • 8:02 am | comments (10) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEM / SEO Companies

A WebmasterWorld thread has an individual that almost hired an SEO company asking himself if it is asking for trouble when hiring such an SEO company. This person's understanding or thought process is that if he hires an SEO company that sees the success his site is achieving in the search results, that ultimately, that SEO company might decide to get into the business themselves.

It is an interesting question and I have had clients and prospects ask me this exact question on the web development front. For me, the answer is, we hope that your success would lead to more work for us and we would both be successful for a profitable web venture. SEO companies, web development companies and so on - they like to specialize in what they do best - make better web sites. They don't always deal best with specific niches and dealing with customers and customer service, but they do a great job at helping those who do a great job at that build a web site that can handle it.

This member posted at WebmasterWorld saying:

I've reached a point where I am wondering if the hiring of an SEO company could easily wind up being a competitor in disguise. It took a while before the SEO company was ultimately determined to be in direct competition.

Some clients make contractors sign non-compete agreements - that is always a solution. But ultimately you need to be comfortable sharing your business's most intimate details with your contractors and if you cannot do that, then it might be hard to ask for outside help.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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03/22/2010 12:21 pm

Barry, I have been asked that question a few times by prospective clients. My answer is that you need to do business with established companies who don't own any of their own web assets. If the company so much as runs it's own affiliates you need to watch out. Most SEO shops who are good could have decided to do this from day one but choose not to as you mentioned in the post. SEO consultants are just that good at SEO and most likely bad at the shipping or support side of a consumer business.

Paul Silver

03/22/2010 12:37 pm

There is a lot more to running a profitable business than optimising your way onto SERPs, getting traffic to a site and helping convert that user. Could the SEO company start becoming an affiliate in that industry? Yes. But I would not be concerned about an SEO firm launching their own business in that particular industry, interesting thought though.


03/22/2010 12:41 pm

Why not make the SEO company sign an NDA or non-compete agreement.

Barry Schwartz

03/22/2010 12:56 pm

@Mayer Yep @Paul Yep @Ron I said that, yea.


03/22/2010 01:24 pm

This is certainly a very interesting topic. We sign Non-Compete agreements all the time, but we use them as a bargaining tool for longer contractual agreements.

Mukul Verma

03/22/2010 03:04 pm

I agree with Paul. Your SEO is one part of the bigger system. If you are running a successful business, you have to look at the systems (automation), customer service, process for customer to get the product, techincal side of it and so on. SEO only one aspect, so I would not be concerned. Cheers, Mukul


03/22/2010 04:31 pm

I have had clients suggest that to me and my standard response is: Do you have plans to open up a SEO Company once I increase your bottom line? This usually gets a "surprise" then giggle out of the client when they realize how it sounds. If you client is sincere about this, then, "yes" the Non-Compete clause or NDA would be good. If this is a small sized business, I would worry about the lack of trust in such a business relationship and try to give them more SEO Education before proceeding.

No Name

03/23/2010 01:56 pm

I have had no problems answering this question. But in my experience, the ones who ask are SMBs. On one hand, I think SEOs walk themselves into this situation because of the type of sales. I've worked in SEO firms where they were like boiler room, hit the leads, call 100+ calls a day, sell SEO "packages" etc. When you approach prospects like that, you open yourself to questioning. If you approach prospects with an agency style, you convince them - and then it becomes "how much?" - but that's a different monster. On the other hand, SMBs are run by either 1)jaded ppl or 2)business retards. What I mean is this: SMBs often are run by 1 or a small cadre of ppl. SMBs are often very very stingy with money - always cry a river about spending money and nickle and dime on everything. Granted, they have to be - they are SMBs with limited budgets. But this can cause them to be either jaded or just retarded. Jaded means they have been burned before; legitimately victimized or from burned from ignorance & lack of research & wrong expectations before committing money. Because they are jaded they get overly defensive. Then there are the retards. These are SMBs who are accidental entrepreneurs or still operate in that employee mentality. These ppl think everyone is out to get them. They cry rivers when their competitors get more visibility and they think that their competitors MUST be cheating cuz how else could their competitors be ahead? If prospects bring this issue up right away, I lose interest. I mean, you're already starting on the wrong foot - better to cut it off or else suffer as an SEO firm from either a cantankerous client or suffer bad rep. If we've been pitching and negotiating for a bit of time, then I would work with them and even do an NDA. But it's easy to skirt this question: Oh, no you don't have to worry about that, I'm an SEO. SEO is my business. I don't know how to run your business. You know your margins, you have the industry connects, you know your customers better. I can only help you market your business better, but I can't run your business. ...on a side note, I can see where concerns like this come up if SMBs work with "SEOs" who say - I'll SEO your site for free for a portion of the revenue or profits. This type of "pay for performance" is where both SEOs and prospects get into trouble.

Advertising Agency

03/16/2011 04:43 pm

We typically will sign a non-compete agreement for a fee and a longer contract time, otherwise, the client is aware that we have the right to compete within a certain distance of their business. This is our livelihood so, in our opinion, we have the right to seek out business.


03/11/2012 11:08 pm

At Net66 if we see a client success in their industry we not only compete we go in and take their lead-generation program. We have have done this before and to be honest, no one cares about the legal battle as it is more expensive then the leads themselves. 

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