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SEO for two companies in same field

4:55 am on Feb 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This month I started doing a bit of SEO work for a small company's site. I was just contacted by another company (who is in the same business) to do some SEO for them, also. I have worked with both in the past.

I would be working on the same keywords, phrases, requesting reciprocal links from the same sites, etc. Is it common for those who do SEO to work with two companies so similar? I'd be competing against myself - among the hundreds of other similar sites, of course... :)

Any advice or thoughts? Is it even right to do this? I'm not advanced in SEO, but have been seeing some good results so far. I'm just a beginner.

6:58 am on Feb 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Competing for the same phrases and getting backlinks from the same site? That would be unethical IMHO. Plus the fact that having split interests in the matter will probably interfere at some point and you won't be able to give it all for the other company.

Think outside the box (as most people say on this board). Target relevant but different keyphrases that bring in as much quality traffic as the keywords for the other company. Get backlinks from the same sites if you like, only with different keywords in the anchor text. Diversify as much as you can. After all, what's important is delivering traffic that converts and not simply ranking for a keyword.

3:38 pm on Feb 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the reply. There are aspects of the businesses that differ from each other. In fact now that I think about it more, there were some great keywords and venues that just didn't fit in quite right with the first, but would work well for the second. It really did seem unethical to me, but I think simply focusing on each site for what it is and not trying to push either in a certain direction for the sake of ranking well is really the key. What's most difficult about this is I have almost a personal relationship with the owners of each of these businesses, with opportunities to do more/different work in the future, so I really don't want to refuse either.
7:30 pm on Feb 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I don't see anything unethical about seo-ing for two companies in the same business. There are 10 spots available on page 1. My problem would be with the 11th client :)
8:36 am on Feb 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well, althought I am new to this forum I have been doing SE promotion for a few years. I would totally welcome the opportunity to promote similiar sites.

If you are into analyzing statistic, then you could possibly learn alot from doing these projects. What a beautiful thing, to be able to compete against yourself and win.

9:42 am on Mar 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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>There are 10 spots available on page 1.

Hehe, that sounds like something I might have said a few months ago ;)

Today there are 15 or 20 spots on page 1 seen by the majority of searchers (Yahoo + MSN).....no need to stop at 10 now :)

From experience I can tell you the last thing you need to worry about is ethics in this game. Get 3 clients to the top and all their competitors will come banging on your door wanting the same treatment and offering to pay much more.

Is it unethical to take on another 10 or 15 in the same industry? If you have an ethical problem with it just ask the first 3 if they wish to pay to keep the rest at bay.

Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't....but you solve your ethical problem either way......you let them make the decision for you!

I don't see too many posts here stating that Google AdWords or Overture are unethical because they adopt a FFA (Fee For All) bidding system.....what is good for the Gander in sponsored results should be good for the Geese in free SERP's :)

9:58 am on Mar 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Actually I see no problem at all as competition is good - especially when you work with/through "partnerships" with mutual goals. Keep out the riff-raff!

Also it's quite arrogant for you and/or the first client to believe they can dominate "all" results by themselves.

There is enormous opportunity here for both (and more). If you don't believe me -- why would SEOs come here and share information with everyone including their competitors?


It has miles of advantages and but a few disadvantages... the biggest disadvantage being able to get the client to stop believing I want it all, with no help!

Start thinking what two competitors can do together to gain a competitive advantage over the thousand or so other competitors that are out there... if you can keep you "ethics" in check they will both be with you a very long time and money in the bank! ;)

If I remember correctly wasn't Brett an SEO when starting WebmasterWorld ... seems strange helping all his competitors, compete! :)

11:31 pm on Mar 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Yeah but how would the 2 companies feel if they found out your were also helping out their competition?

Sure, webmasters are all for SEOing everybody, that is how you make your money. But thses companies are paying for a service to be ahead of their competitors not #2 or 11, with 2 sites, someone has to be #2.

5:52 am on Mar 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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>Yeah but how would the 2 companies feel if they found out your were also helping out their competition?

Tell them that you have been approached by their competition and ask them what they want to do about it. Even better, offer them exclusivity on day one. If they want to pay for exclusivity....great, if not then what exactly do they expect? For their SEO to live in poverty? That is bad business for all, and most experienced business owners will see it that way.

By giving the first client the choice of paying to keep the competition away you have been more than ethical.

Exclusivity is only available in a few industries, the one that comes to mind most is commercial advertising....not dissimilar to SEO. If you want the exclusive services of a Madison Avenue firm you can bet your bippy you will be paying to prevent your competition from using them.....why should SEO's behave any differently?

SEO's are not Attorney's, we have no legal conflict of interest to consider. Therefore SEO's are more like Ad agencies, exclusivity is available at a price.....the client gets to choose.

7:46 am on Mar 3, 2004 (gmt 0)


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I faced a similar situation very recently and still haven't resolved it. I was approached by a Canadian company for some SEO consulting. I'd like to work with them, but part of what they do directly competes with an existing client and I saw that as a conflict of interest.

To make things extra interesting, it was my existing client who recommended me, because he is partnering with this company in one area. However he had not thought about how that might place me in a conflict of interest regarding the other area.

I told the other company that in the area of overlap my primary loyalty would be to my first client, and there might be times when because of that I'd have to tell them "I'll do this for you but not that." If they could live with that, we could work together. I didn't give examples, but I did at least want to name the problem in principle. The person who approached me has been on vacation, so I haven't heard back from them yet.

To a lesser extent I face similar tension between being a consultant and being an affiliate for assorted merchants. One place I draw the line is that if I'm doing PPC work for someone I will not do any bidding of my own that would outbid them. That's an easy line to draw because as an affiliate my narrower margins usually force that anyway!

Another line I draw is that if someone wants consulting in an area where I do affiliate work, I won't take down any of my existing pages or promotions, although I might agree not to do anything new in that sector.

4:08 am on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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It's an ethical question that only you can answer for yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself how you would react if you were in client #1's position. Then look at it as though you're in client #2's position.

I had this happen a while back and went to my first client and told them I was approached by this other company to do the same thing as I did for them. The only difference is that they are in two different locations. They didn't have a problem with it. But, I was glad that I asked and it demonstrated to them my professionality and credibility. You never know when it might come back and bite you.

8:04 am on Mar 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Two weeks ago, one of my major suppliers (and competitor) asked me to take a look at an SEO company they were interested in hiring. The first thing I told them to do (if they hired them) was to insist on exclusivity and to get a no competition clause for 6 months after the end of the contract.

Having been in advertisng, marketing and sales in one form or another for nearly 30 years, my take on SEO is this:

The client (quite rightly) presumes his SEO will have his best interests in mind when optimizing his site. I think it is fair to say that this is what the client thinks he is hiring you for when he walks in the door. And ... its a reasonable assumption on his part!

If I were to hire an SEO, I would certainly not expect my SEO to believe that #20 or even #10 would be considered his "best effort". If that were the case, I would look for another SEO because he obviously has a different take on business than I.

Although its a different situation, I see the arguments posted here not unlike what LookSmart did when they took money from site owners to be included in their directory and then turned around and went PPC. They said they never promised that your $300.00 PFI fee was forever.

True, they didn't say that ... but it was unethical in my mind because they knew darned well what the expectation of the client was.

If representing even one other competing site ... then it is not possible for the SEO to have both parties best interests uppermost in his mind when optimizing the site. Its the push-me-pull-you problem of diametrically opposed interests.

Would Coca Cola and Pepsi hire the same advertising agency? Of course not! The thought is absolutely preposterous.

What is the ultimate goal of an advertising agency ... aside from "branding"? It is to increase "targeted impressions", thereby increasing sales. Right? How do they accomplish that? With the best darned ad campaign they can produce.

An SEO is the internet equivalent of an advertising agency ... without the "artwork" or "story boards". His raw material is the pretty web site some talented webmaster designed. His job is to increase "targeted impressions", thereby increasing sales. Right? How do you do that? By giving the client the best darned effort you can.

You cannot give your best effort to two (or more) competing clients. As a client, I would never even consider using an SEO who is working with a competitor and I would absolutely expect full disclosure of his client list prior to signing an agreement.

I suppose its a buyer beware thing. Why would anyone hire someone who can't possibly give them their best effort? There is a lot to be said for ethics. If I were in the SEO business, I would have a full disclosure policy as well as a "one client per" policy for competing companies. There are a lot of fish in the sea. There's no need to duplicate efforts.

Just my humble opinion.

8:10 pm on Mar 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Liane, I can definitely see your point. I found the idea of SEOing for 2 companies thing intriging from a scientific point of view, not one of greed.

To be able to compete against oneself, having constant knowledge of the inner workings of what you are up against would, in my humble opinion, take my promotion to a new level. But your point, I believe, has be taken well. Ethics is and has to always be job one.


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