Ongoing SEO: just web design agency subterfuge?

Often when we talk to prospective clients about their existing online marketing setup, we find that “the SEO is done by our website design agency”. That’s fine; at least somebody is handling it. But if we then enquire about what the agency is doing for its ongoing fee, the answer can be, well, a bit vague. I’m sure it must have seemed like a sensible idea at the time though.

Here’s what happens, according to one web designer I know. Website design is a very competitive business; design agencies need to keep their prices ridiculously low if they’re to win customers. If there is any way they can offload some of their costs into an ongoing contract, that’s ideal.

One such accepted ongoing task is the mysterious “SEO”. Decent SEO involves a lot of time and effort, but sadly, clients don’t often appreciate that. They see one agency charging £20,000 for a website rebuild, and another (which is doing the SEO work and including it in the cost) charging £30,000. They go for the cheaper quote.

However, the way the cheaper agency does a good job for the lower price is by also getting a £500/month “SEO” contract for, say, two years. In reality, the bulk of the SEO work was done when the site was designed, as it should be. This is still the agency doing their job properly. It’s just a bit of subterfuge – the work done should be the same.

The main thing to ensure is that your website design agency, whether they’re charging for SEO work at the time or charging for it retrospecively, actually did the work before the site was handed over. Too often I see new websites delivered with automatically-generated page titles and no description meta tags, to name some of the biggest SEO crimes.

1 thought on “Ongoing SEO: just web design agency subterfuge?”

  1. This is very familiar, in fact it’s the scenario I walked into this year. One part of the business with an underperforming site (hardly any pages of written content for search engines to find) was being charged £300 a month by the developer to improve things. A frank conversation with them revealed that all the activity they could actually name was updating meta descriptions. A Screaming Frog extract showed that only half a dozen pages were worthy of any meta data so once that’s populated what are you charging for in month 2?

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