I’ve noticed a trend lately in strategic alliances that seems to be a relatively recent twist to a previous trend in the SEO community. It got me thinking about why it may be happening.
The Kiddie Pool
I’ve only been playing in the SEO pool for about eight years. In the beginning, I stayed in the shallow end, because I not only didn’t know how to swim, I didn’t even know how deep the pool was. I stuck to the kiddie pool.
During the first three years of reading, studying, watching videos and playing around with a couple of personal sites, I noticed that a lot of folks were specializing in a particular aspect of SEO/IM. Some focused on link-building, some on PPC and others plied their trade in conversions, copywriting or maybe stayed strictly in the on-page arena. So I decided to concentrate in the area in which I already had plenty of experience – copywriting.
Feet on the Bottom, Hand on the Edge
Over the next 4 or 5 years, as I edged into the middle of the pool (always careful to stay near the edge), I got to know a lot more SEO and IM professionals, and saw that most of them had their own specialties, even if they dabbled in other areas. But most of them collaborated with other specialists when they needed extensive expertise beyond their own.
Lately, though, I’ve seen a new trend forming, perhaps in order to be able to compete with the larger agencies that have several specialists on staff. I’m seeing more and more strategic alliances forming, so that smaller shops and individuals can offer a more complete package to their clients. Such alliances have been around for a long while, of course, between pros that know and trust each other. It just seems that broader alliances are the order of the day now.
The Deep End
Now I’ve pushed off from the pool’s edge, into the deep end of the pool. We also formed such strategic alliances, so that we could offer a consolidated contract to our clients that needed more than SEO copywriting. A good portion of our work was often web copy, so once that was done, our contribution was over. But through our alliances, we could offer link building, PPC, custom coding or a number of other services as well. It made sense for us and for our clients.
Now I’m seeing an increasing number of SEOs and Internet marketers establish formal alliances on a larger scale. Instead of just having an SEO copywriter or link builder that they like working with, many are now establishing a circle of such “partners”, where all can collaborate and each can offer the services of the others, sometimes even with friendly competitors.
As I said, I started wondering why this new twist was developing, and a number of possible reasons occurred to me:
1. An expanded offering can mean more business – If a prospect says he’s looking for a service you don’t specialize in, you no longer have to refer him to someone else;
2. Your alliance partners are an additional source of business, effectively expanding your marketing reach;
3. It also presents an opportunity to learn new skills;
4. It offers the client a single point of contact for campaigns;
5. It provides for closer coordination of different aspects of a campaign, reducing conflicts and time lost in implementation of specific tasks;
6. It offers the project manager more control over the level of expertise of others involved in the project.
The structure of such alliances can vary greatly, and in many cases, won’t even be visible to those outside the circle. Some may be simply a loose association while others may be formalized contractually. Some may be only a lead network while others offer shared discounted pricing and even profit sharing. Still others may be more tightly bound, providing some level of exclusivity.
The common aspect is that strategic alliances offer many advantages to all concerned, including the client. That is what I see as the strongest driving factor to this trend. It’s a win-win-win opportunity.
As I stated earlier, this sort of alliance is not a new concept in on-line services. The main differences I see are the increasingly broader reach across several services (including some that are considered by many to be non-SEO tasks) and the fact that more independent providers seem to be engaging with others in such collaborative groups.
What Other Effects Might There Be?
It also occurs to me that there may be other benefits in the long-term. Alliances between like-minded practitioners will usually be governed by similar mindsets. We’ve all seen discussions, sometimes heated, about what is ethical, what are the best practices or what tactic will be most successful. Since professionals that disagree strongly on the wisdom of some techniques are unlikely to form such partnerships, it stands to reason that the formation of such groups could gradually bring the community closer to agreeing on what such best practices are and what really is “ethical” or “best practice”.