It's my first post with the guys at SEO Scoop (thanks guys!), and I thought what better way to introduce myself than offer a bit of an insight into my life at the moment, following some big changes to my life as a SEO...that of moving to a large-scale agency from various SME SEO roles. I'm hoping this might be helpful commentary to those considering roles in either SME SEO or corporate SEO.

SME SEO to Corporate SEO

I have previously been freelancing for 3 SME agencies in the UK along with an in-house role, and the recent move to Mediaedge:cia has been really quite an exciting change. As a result I have been fortunate enough to get a great insight into different SEO working environments, and that's exactly what I'm going to share with you here...the differences between working for a SME SEO and a corporate SEO.

I won't over-introduce Mediaedge:cia as I would be at risk of selling their services :), but the general gist of it is that they are a large media agency, part of marketing and communications group WPP. They are not exclusively a SEO agency at all but rather marketers, media planners and strategists. I currently work as SEO Manager as part of the Digital and Interactive team but also meeting regularly with offline marketers focussed on TV, radio, press, display, etc, so this should provide a little context to my observations.

Workflow Integration and the Multiplier Effect

SEO Workflow Integration

I started my new role just last month, and more than anything in my new role, I have been fascinated by the change in workflow. By this, I mean the change in how projects are planned, managed and delivered by the various departments. Importantly, it's exciting because you see how integrated SEO can be.

Deeply embedded in SEO is the notion that it is a real marketer's paradise, where art and science meet. Huge successes can be borne as a result of integrating these mindsets. Wider than this though is the apparent opportunity to successfully integrate SEO into the planning and operations of the organisations marketing activity. It adds value to the SEO efforts, but with all integrated media planning there's a multiplier effect. When several marketing channels are used together effectively they create a synergy that totals more than the sum of their parts...for SEO and cumulative awareness, or buzz, this is excellent news for both the client and the agency involved!

Client and Market Fact Finding

SEO CommunicationOne great aspect of working for a large agency is that you are in daily contact with planners and managers that deal with all aspects of the marketing and communications of brands, companies and their websites. Learning about the company and their activity can become easier. Equally though, you could say that the one-on-one contact with SME's creates a basis where information is less-likely to be missed in the communication loop...this is, however, something that could be debated at quite some length but comes down to how engaged people are in the fact finding stage, how bespoke their services are and how rigorous their information management systems are.

Now though, it's good to know that there are people around me that can help capture information and spot opportunities. Regardless of who you work for, it's good to have a network of people and resources.

Client Communication and Client Buy-in

One item that I have found quite different is the client contact. Working with SME's there's plenty of client contact, where the SEO is in direct contact with the webmaster, designer and/or developer of the site, but large agencies can sometimes work quite differently. Often, both the marketing agency and the client has a team of managers, marketers, media planners and assistants to manage the work at each end. The initial point of contact might therefore be a Brand Manager, IT Director, Product Manager...a position that might be quite removed from the day-to-day roles of the website administration. The SEO process therefore has to be sold into multiple-types of staff in a way that can be fragmented up, down or across the organisation. Then again though, I'm guessing as SEO's, you're all pretty used-to trying to tell people exactly what you do!!

When working with global clients SEO might be a relatively small proportion of the marketing budget, as opposed to SME SEO, whereby it might envelop the entire marketing budget! If it's packaged-up as being one of many marketing channels, it needs all the integration you can muster, which means that it's not all about us SEO's! That's OK though, they'll come around. πŸ˜‰

SEO's Scalability

One thing that has surprised me is that SEO in many ways does appear to be totally scalable. Resource-wise too, it does seem that as the client gets larger, the market becomes more competitive but the output of the SEO activity can grow too, so there is not a limit in capacity.

The biggest difference though appears to be in the diversity and richness of the outputs of the SEO activity...these can both be diluted in the meaning that is communicated to the search engines – i.e. the more content out there the more scope there is to rank for more terms, but equally this could dilute the topic-centric focus which can help more competitive terms rank.

Reviewing/managing/building links when the initial link-profile is 10's of thousands of links might be quite a task but it does create the situation where less quality-driven links can be absorbed as part of the link-profile. Importantly though, are they really worth the time and effort as a few dozen low-value links are not really going to have much impact on the sites visibility when it started out at 10,000 links. This means that we must return back to quality factors, creative social engagement and marketing integration to generate the quality links that are necessary...with a big client and big brand, there is great scope for this though...

Marketing Traction

One great advantage is that big agencies work with big brands that people recognise, which can provide the initial traction to get campaigns moving as they don't need to overcome the education process of what/who the company or product is.

SME's though, arguably, have the benefit of speed and versatility, where they can make quick decisions and have the content out there ranking positively because of it's timely response...a great opportunity when there's so much trend data about on what's hot. Pro's and cons of each I guess...

Data Sample SizeSample Size

With relatively smaller sites, if you believe you have just increased the visitor figures by 100% per month, but in real terms this is 500 visitors more/day it is not the best sample to segment and analyse. The advanced segmentation process that you can delve into with sites that have much larger volumes provide a larger degree of accuracy and information for marketing purposes, and if you like toying with analytics then this is great news!

Hands-on vs. Economies of Scale

At an SME level, any sort of SEO work has to be carried out in a very hands-on manner. I have really enjoyed much of this SEO, especially the onsite analysis and work. SME SEO provides great scope for developing a broad range of skills including onsite optimisation, link-building, PR, PPC and client management, because many tasks had to be done manually as there were not the budgets to provide supplementary analysis tools, etc.

Buying in services and resources can be a great benefit of working for large-scale companies. So too can the access to a variety of more information sources.

Freelancers and the self-employed (have to) know everything

Freelancing puts you on the frontline and so instilled the need to read and read and research SEO and search marketing, but I have never regretted giving that time when I did. In case you were wondering, I didn't know everything by the way, but one thing I did learn from the experience was that working for yourself really does keep you on your toes!

Awesome SEO

My experience in search marketing to-date has been awesome. Search marketing is an excellent career to be in, and regardless of whether you are a SME SEO, freelancer, large-agency SEO, in-house SEO or affiliate webmaster, the opportunities for building an interesting career are endless. One thing you'll get to know about me, is my enthusiasm for what I do is completely sickening, odd and all-in-all, very geeky, but really, SEO IS AWESOME!

Contributing Positively

Progress!In retrospect, this post has been a bit dry and a bit of a list in parts, but having provided a brief insight into the differences between SME SEO and corporate SEO, ultimately it doesn't matter whether you work for a large or small provider, but rather what is important is that you enjoy what you do. It's advice my pops gave me a long time ago – if you enjoy what you do, you take an interest in it, work hard and ultimately become successful at it! I think the varied nature of SEO and it's integration into other areas of digital marketing and offline marketing lends itself to creating a great career – what do you think?

P.S. Of course I've made some generalisations, but what are your thoughts? SME SEO, corporate SEO, freelancing or in-house SEO? Please feel free to share...

Author: Ben McKay, a SEO Manager at Mediaedge:cia who writes at Just Me and My.

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19 Responses to “Migrating from SME SEO to Corporate SEO: A real life story by Ben McKay”

  1. Martyn says:

    Even with the differences between SME SEO and corporate SEO I think there are going to be benefits and weaknesses in both areas. Even though I prefer the smaller company with customer contact doesn't mean that If I did work within a corporate SEO frim I wouldn't enjoy that either. Its really good to see someone else experiences within the different areas and how they have found working around it.

  2. I work for a small interactive agency in Tampa called Bayshore Solutions – I think I feel like we are in the middle of your explanations:

    -All SEOs work closely with designers, IT and developers to produce SEO friendly website. So we have to be technical

    -The SEO team has to know EVERYTHING and keep up with EVERYTHING like you said – so we have to stay on our toes!

    -I have to deal with so many companies big and small (For some SEO is a tiny part of their Marketing budget and for some SEO IS their marketing budget.)

    -Sometimes my contact at the company maybe the IT guy, sometimes the VP of marketing

    Either way – I love SEO! Great post – I really enjoyed it!

  3. Ben McKay says:

    Interesting to get another very similar account – thanks for commenting!


  4. Very interesting and personal post.

    I can imagine it has been a huge step for you, but often this is where you really grow as a person and as an SEO.

    I think 2009 and 2010 will bring a lot of changes to a lot of people, and somehow we all have to embrace this change, and maximize the benefits.

  5. Bill Cook says:

    Sorry to nit-pick but it may be helpful to some readers if you define 'SME'. I assume you mean 'small to medium enterprise' but here in the states we usually say, 'small to medium business' or 'SMB'.

  6. You passion for SEO seems infectious and without a doubt you put your heart and soul into your projects. Your clients must be very happy.

  7. Ben McKay says:

    That's really nice of you Nick – thanks very much! I'm please that cam across!


  8. Ben McKay says:

    Thank's guys for the comments.

    Just to clarify – by SME, you're right Bill, I mean Small to Medium Enterprise.

    Cheers for the prompt.

  9. Simon says:

    Hi Ben,

    Welcome to MEC! I look after search at the MEC Sydney office. I have a similar background to you, so from small agency to big media agency. I have had many of the same experiences as you've mentioned.

    One thing I think it vital in a large agency like MEC is to build solid relationships internally – this is the key to getting easy buy in from the clients themselves. For the first 6 months it was all about agency education, if the account management teams (who are the main point of contact wtih clients) understand and feel comfortable talking about search, then our job is 10x easier. Obviously this education continues in line with developments in the industry, but maybe not quite on the same learning curve.



  10. Thank you or the wonderful article. It is very interesting to see the differences compared from small business SEO to working on SEO in a large firm and how much integration into campaigns and can really drive the overall success of even large businesses.

    I used to dabble in SEO a few years back, then moved back into a purley creative role. Over the past year however, I jumped back into SEO and LOVE every minute of it. I love the research, analytics, and ROI tracking and conversions of campaigns.

    I also spend a lot of free time researching the latest and greatest trends and technological advancements in SEO. I enjoy keeping up with SEO on a daily basis. It sounds geeky, and most people you speak with have no clue what your talking about. Once clients realize the benefits of SEO, they never go back. You must integrate it into everything you do for the web. (Or you should)

    I also enjoy SEO because it does keep you on your toes, and it keeps you sharp. Especially when you end up knowing more about your clients competition as well as other industries. SEO has opened many doors for me, and also gives me outstanding conversational tools to keep people up-to-date on trends, events, and industry standards, and advancements that many people would not be aware of otherwise.

    It is quite a unique field and if you get more than one SEO guru in a room – beware – the energy, learning, conversation and inspiration could last for hours!!!

  11. SirBigWig says:


    Nice post.

    Do you find your strategy changes, the sort of links you try to acquire? Do you think that in some respects Corporate SEO is more like online PR than actual optimisation>?

  12. STEVIE BLACK says:

    Another word of caution from the trenches – recently I have had the additional duties of developing, writing, and producing podcasts added to my list – see my LinkedIn profile at:

    To my surprise, each enterprise account I have spoken with in prep for the podcasts, and even during the podcasts themselves, has revealed astonishingly important information about the company, the business cycles, the business goals, and even the business focus. In a each case, my firm has been working with their brand managers, marketing people, and IT/web departments for more than a year. Based on the info I discovered, we may not have the SEO fixed on the right topics, issues, perhaps even the right areas of the site itself. Major changes have resulted in these organizations, and of course in their websites, as a result.

    So the caution here is when starting out with a company, either internal or external, make sure the net is cast far and wide across the organization, especially if the business has global presence and regional offices, because the key to successful SEO -not to mention fiscally-wise SEO- may be to understand all the pieces from their perspective rather than relying on the aggregate view from the top or from the Marketing Division.

    Great submission, Ben, keep on writing.


  13. Ben McKay says:

    Hi Simon,

    Thanks for the comment – good to meet another MEC guy online! Interestingly, I think I'll be involved in looking towards running other parts of the agency through various aspects of SEO, in addition to the work in progress meetings…all pretty positive stuff in my opinion.

    Cheers for the comment – will be in touch!

    @Lanette, I really like this point: "I also enjoy SEO because it does keep you on your toes, and it keeps you sharp. Especially when you end up knowing more about your clients competition as well as other industries." …invaluable in any SEO and online marketing activity, and always worth considering. (And don't worry – it's not that geeky – otherwise that would make us all geeks!).

    @SirBigWig, I would say that a lot of the activity to date has revolved around finding opportunities to capitalise on their other marketing or PR opportunities – essentially being very efficient with the SEO efforts. Onsite SEO is still very much the same but scaled-upwards of course. I would always say though that if people can look beyond 'link-building' to partnership-building and contact-building and optimisation of marketing efforts, then there is often better scope for offsite optimisation. Great question! :)

    @Stevie Black, please could you add the LinkedIn link again as it's broken. Thanks for the kind words, and I think you have provided some excellent advice around learning about the company in question.

    Thanks all,


  14. SirBigWig says:

    I thought as much. I wonder how some agencies would pitch SEO to large, well established corporate websites that have already had thorough onsite optimisation and lots of beefy inbound links. Personally I would imagine it is more about promoting the brand rather than chasing keywords and traffic? Maybe not?

  15. STEVIE BLACK says:


    Thanks for the prompt to redo the link – this one should work.

    This post is generating some nice discussion points and we have discussed them internally here at McDougall. Am looking forward to more good side-topics.


  16. SEO Malta says:

    Congratulations on taking this important step. SEO is not an exact science by no means and having loads of different experiences can only enrich our knowledge. As long as we find motivation in what we do, both in-house, freelancing, etc I guess all give their own rewards.

  17. In regards to your post, Sirbigwig,

    I do agree with the fact that now SEO is heavily used to create brand awareness. Many companies are strategically using SEO to build their PR for online and offline presence.

  18. First of all I would like to congratulate you for this great success in you career.

    SEO and SEM are very challenging jobs from every aspect of the work and if you are into this profession you have to face very frequent changes and always you have to keep your self updated with search engines. In this profession if your techniques worked you are successful or completely lost.

    By the way, congratulation once again.

  19. Ben McKay says:

    Haha! Very true!

    And thanks for the kind words. :)