Are you more inclined to hire a personal trainer that is fit or a couch potato? Would you take diet advice from someone that is 50 pounds overweight? Or would you ask the fashion advice of a store worker that dressed in rags? Probably not. At least, I wouldn’t. So why then do companies that sell SEO services have such poorly optimized web sites?

I was mulling that question on my train ride home one day and I came up with the following reasons why SEO companies often don’t make an effort to optimize their own web sites.

1. Potential clients will be wowed by fancy Flash intros which is worth more than organic search traffic.
2. Already have too many clients so improving their web site would just waste time that would otherwise be billable.
3. Potential clients are unfamiliar with the methods of evaluating how well a site is optimized so there is little concern about being outed.
4. It’s cheaper to just pay for PPC ads in the search engines.
5. SEO doesn’t really work. The whole industry is just one big sham, don’t ya know?

Here are what Google “sees” for 3 SEO company web sites (all appear in AdAge’s search marketing fact pack) with brief commentary from me.

Avenue A | Razorfish
First up is Avenue A | Razorfish — a company that you’d think is large enough and resource-rich enough to handle the small internal project of optimizing their web site. Notice the browser title has no keywords and there is no content on the page. Nice! Maybe this is why Chris Boggs left 

Acronym Media
And I have to give a thumbs-down to Acronym Media too. While there appears to be some attempt at having content, it just isn’t enough to obtain rankings in the competitive SEO space. At least the browser title has a good keyword in it. I have it on good information that the site is being re-designed.

Reprise Media
At last, I get to pick on Reprise Media. Did I ever mention that my resume submission went ignored by these folks? Yeah, I’m a bitter, bitter guy. So let’s see what we’ve got. It looks like the home page has all of 20 words on it including stopwords. Not too good. SEOs go around telling everyone to have a minimum of 200-250 words and then turn around and use just 1/10 of that on their own company sites.

Tsk. Tsk.

But the home page at least is trying to put some keywords in the title. Actually, I think Reprise is trying too hard here. Their title includes common industry phrases along with their associated acronyms, but they ended up with 130+ characters when ideally the title should be less than 65. Looks like they couldn’t make up their minds which I imagine partly explains why they’re not ranking in the top 100 results of Google.

You’re probably wondering if all SEO company web sites are poorly optimized. I was wondering that, too. Fortunately, I was able to find some bright spots. In particular, iProspect’s and Fathom’s sites are good examples of what to do. Very focussed titles and plenty of search-engine readable content on the page. At first blush iCrossing’s site looks like it’s just another bad Flash implementation, but they’ve at least used sIFR so that search engines see plain text. Their copy isn’t keyword-rich, but at least there’s copy and they get a thumbs up from me for using an advanced SEO technique.

So there you have it — the 21st century’s version of the shoemaker’s shoes being the worst in town. Maybe I could sell these companies my SEO services. Oh wait, I work for one of them so that wouldn’t go over so well…

Here’s What Some Of Our Readers Have Said

Joe: know some of these companies. Many have been doing this so long and have huge clients and get many referrals. They feel their sites doesn’t need to rank. Their arrogance will one day cost them clients. Here is a classic example.. just came across my desk..
They want 5 – 7 years experience for 50k in NYC… wonder what that will get them?

Marios Alexandrou:Joe, That job posting seems to be messed up a bit. The salary at the bottom is as you said, but over to the right there’s an information box that lists a salary of $120K.

Bill Muller: Thanks so much for the acknowledgement that we at iProspect try to walk the walk as well as talk the talk when it comes to search engine optimization of our own website ( We have an internal account team (known affectionately as the iTeam) that treats our site just like any other paying client and ensures that we are visible on our most important keywords. Thanks again for noticing.
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Leonard: In the last few months I have been involved in the selection process of an SEO vendor for a couple of large-ish sites (well big names anyway). New management and new budgets allowed for us to seek the best of the best SEO partners out there. As you say in your post, most SEO companies don’t do great at SEO’ing their own sites and it really reflects badly when prospective customers discover that. The irony is that one of the first things that a prospective customer does is to do that search. It also doesn’t help SEO vendor’s Web sites that there are smart SEO bloggers out there. It’s a never BS a BS’er situation. But, it can work really well when the SEO vendor and the client recognize it and use it to their advantage, e.g. when a good SEO company partners with a good content provider.
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