Lee Odden

SEO Services: Value Meal or Consulting that Provides Value?

Most people like things simple and “pre-packaged” solutions do well to attract mass market appeal. Just look at the popularity of “value meals” at popular fast food restaurants and other consumer products.

In the business to business world, the simplification of products and services into such groupings is not so practical, “Did you want the #3 or #4 enterprise CRM software package?”. Yet judging by the inquiries many search marketing companies get, it is high in demand: “Can you tell me about your SEO packages?”.

This is particularly true with the trend started at the turn of this century towards the commoditization of search marketing consulting services. At that time the task of improving online sales via search engines was a predictable matter of optimizing meta data and on-page copy, submitting to directories and search engines. Of course, this is the search marketing industry, so things have changed.

Sustainable search marketing strategies and tactics are somewhat in flux as search engines continually improve search quality and refine anti search spam methods. Social and personalized search as well as Google Universal are monumental changes most marketers are still trying to understand and adjust to. However, for the most part the same fundamental principles of promoting a web site are still true: Make it easy for a relevant audience to find your content and buy from you.

In addition to those principles are the need to provide platforms and tools for interaction and engagement. Audiences are becoming more and more accustomed to the social aspect of buying and researching online in the form of ecommerce social networking and media.

What’s curious to me is that some search engine optimization companies continue to rely on the simplification of services into “packages”. For the most part, these services are focused on the “value” SEM market of budget focused small businesses. I understand the need to simplify things for the buyer, but it really doesn’t serve the client very well to predefine what it will take to solve their online marketing problem. This is especially true with all the unknowns of social media and search engines pulling more data sources into standard search results.

Not only are some agencies perpetuating the “value meal” packaging of services, but many client side marketers perceive search marketing as something to be understood in terms of predefined sets of services that are proportionately scalable. I wonder how many sales conversations wind up with a selection between “Platinum, Gold or Silver” SEO services? “Oh, and did you want some fries, oops I mean social media with that?” Such a model of sourcing vendors is a better match for selecting greasy food than $100k/year search marketing consulting.

Preset packaged services for most web site marketing projects really aren’t going to solve company online marketing problems with any degree of predictability. Each situation is unique in that what it takes to hit a home run for one company web site is entirely different than another. That makes it a bit more challenging to find and compare SEO vendors and certainly makes it more challenging to scale as a SEO consulting company, but it is the reality of modern search marketing.

Imagine two B2B technology companies: One is an older site with 1000 or so pages of well organized, optimized content updated/added to monthly. Another with 500 plus pages with a similar state of site architecture and optimization but also includes a regularly updated blog, a podcast and periodic video. While there are many more factors to consider ranging from links to editorial and content creation resources, the second situation provides the search marketer with a lot more/different assets to work with for the purpose of promoting the web site.

This doesn’t mean situation #1 is a lost cause. In fact, it may have even more opportunity if a commitment to creating and promoting content in more formats than standard text is made. What’s important to note is that the execution and delivery of consulting services would be different.

Offering the same set of pre-packeged services to both companies will either limit the search marketing agency or the client in reaching the desired online marketing goals. It is only through the unique consideration of each situation that will allow real value in consulting to be provided and client online marketing objectives to be achieved.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. I think this is especially due to the fact that most people are too lazy to do something themselves. Then smart people see that, and create services tailored to their needs.

    Great post!


  2. In some ways, getting pre-packaged services is part of the learning process.

    Just like if you went into a foreign restaurant for the first time, if the menu had a taster menu, surly you would pick that because you had little idea of the suitability of all the other items on offer.

    The key is to do research and fully understand what your needs are, objectively. Then you can mix and match bespoke solutions to cater to that need.

  3. I agree. Consulting is not a place for “value meals”. I also agree that offering these kinds of packages lowers the quality of services that can be supplied and can potentially ruin the relationship with the client.

    I think that SEM should always be approached as a custom solution for every client as this allows the client to receive all the service that they really need for a great campaign, as well as allowing the consultant/firm to receive compensation for everything the do.

    Great post.

  4. I disagree. I think that prepackaged services make a ton of sense, especially for an important, large and underserved part of the market.

    There are many (over 25 million) small companies that need a simple SEO and marketing solution, and developing a “custom” proposal for all these companies just isn’t scalable.

    Of course big companies will alwasy have budget for $10K+ monthly fees and they should get custom stuff and have a personal consultant hold their hand for that kind of money.

    But for the vast majority of businesses, a prepackaged service might not solve all their problems, but it brings a ton of value – customers are happy and vendors make money.

    Mike Volpe

  5. Mike, I can understand your position since HubSpot serves that particular market. I do indicate in the post, “For the most part, these services are focused on the “value” SEM market of budget focused small businesses.”

    The focus of this post in the position against packaging search marketing services concerns larger organizations more so than very small businesses just getting on the web.

  6. Lee,

    I think that prepackaged deals are ok for the small internet business owner who is just starting out and doesn’t really know what he/she wants. However, I do agree that packaging services for bigger companies is pretty difficult. A smart SEO firm knows to sit down one-on-one with the client to assess exactly what services would benefit the company.

  7. Avatar Randy Duermyer says

    I think packages have their place in the business, but packages need to be customizable and flexible depending on the specific needs of the client, the client’s goals and objectives, the client’s market, the state of the client’s existing online presence, the speed at which the client wants to achieve goals and objectives, changes in the industry, etc.

    I agree that one-size-fits-all never works, but in my mind offering customized and flexible package plans helps define the client’s expectations up front, in a measurable way. Until the results start showing up, it also gives clients a way to see that they’re getting their money’s worth. It’s then much easier for the consultant to live up to and exceed those expectations, adding value and trust in the client’s eyes, which in turns solidifies the ongoing relationship with the client. To me, that makes the package offering a Happy Meal and not a Crappy Meal.

  8. Do somebody knows a us-seo how works for europe too? We search for an interesting partner in usa. please give feedback to us. greetings

  9. Avatar Motobootverleih says

    I think that SEM should always be approached as a custom solution for every client as this allows the client to receive all the service that they really need for a great campaign, as well as allowing the consultant/firm to receive compensation for everything the do.

  10. I think that SEO and SEM is always a individual service that you can’t offer like a value menu. Every client and every business needs a individual consulting and service…


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