I was talking to Will Scott on the phone last week; I found talking to a busy local seo on the phone a little like riding a NYC subway at rush hour… we later resumed the conversation by email; but before the rushing by of the proverbial trains, a very important topic came up: Will shared with me his practice of client exclusivity. He defined exclusivity as only one client per business type in each geographic area. I admired him for that practice and was interested that it was one of the first things he shared with me about his firm. I took that as an indication of how important he considered it to be.
David Ogilvy wrote in Ogilvy On Advertising, “There is a convention that agencies should not serve more than one client in any category. Some clients are fiercely jealous when when their agencies violate this convention to the point of firing them.”
Have times changed? Search Engine Watch published an article about iCrossing aligning their teams into verticals. It would seem to me this would turn the old notion on its head, rather than going to great lengths to protect a client’s information… great length’s have been gone to… to share it…and leverage it.
The world changes everyday… the complexity of advertising changes everyday… and heck, even us humans change everyday. However, human nature doesn’t change everyday… it doesn’t change at all.
Let’s say a certain SEO has had a client for years… and they now rank 3 for a hugely competitive phrase… all is good. They, then take on a client in the same industry and 6 months later that client ranks number 2 for the coveted phrase. Is that Ok with everyone… are both clients excited about client #2′s success? Hmmm…
How about paid search? Would it be any different, should they expect client exclusivity? This is a question that small business owners need to ask, for perhaps, the first time in history.
I recently found 7 advertisers listed in the same category in the same city in a popular IYP… who were all put there by the same SEM firm (copying the url and pasting it into an HTML editor reveals the name of the firm. I didn’t actually click on any of the PPC listings). Obviously, there is nothing going on that could be characterized as unethical… as I would expect they made no promise of exclusivity. But can this set-up really benefit all 7 advertisers?
First, a brief examination of the listings: 3 are on the first page and 4 on the second, all are paying additional money to have the listing in color (the same color) and a graphic to the right of the listing that reads “Click Here.”
Was there some test conducted in this heading that revealed this color/text combination revealed some benefit… and that that benefit was not reduced by having 7 such listings set up that same way. Has the knowledge gleaned by having so many advertisers in the same heading been leveraged to benefit them all? I have a hard time believing “click here” could provide that kind of inspiration to shoppers and that kind of insulation to its repeated use.
How about bid advice? Is this something you want as a small business from your SEM firm?
How should the SEM go about handling that? If little advice is given… well… maybe things could end up as they are… 3 on the first page and 4 on the second… I don’t know. But I would think in an IYP, where ad position is going to be a huge factor in the number of clicks received… a small business would want to work closely with their SEM.
However, if this firm felt like it is important to get near the top of the search results on the first page of an IYP (like I do), they could create a huge bidding war among their own advertisers. That’s a tough spot to be in… which of course would only be compounded if they charged their advertisers on a percentage of spend.
At a quick glance… I cannot see any benefit to being this firm’s client in this category.
Small business owners, you should insist on more. The internet empowers… no longer should you expect less… if GM would fire their ad agency for taking Ford as a client… so, I think, should you.