Microsoft, which runs Live Search and is the parent company of aQuantive, which owns Avenue A Razorfish, is now partnering with another search marketing firm, The Search Agency, to offer SEO and Paid Search Marketing services to small businesses.
Add this to Microsoft’s adManager which takes care of paid search for small or medium sized businesses, and resells Ask.com Sponsored Listings, and Microsoft seems to have a wide selection of search marketing services.
The Microsoft Office Live Small Business unit, which provides Internet based services for small businesses, partnered with The Search Agency to deliver search marketing services where The Search Agency will manage keyword advertising campaigns for Microsoft Office Live Small Business customers along with giving courses covering the basics of search engine marketing.
Ethics in Search Engines Offering Search Marketing?
Microsoft is not the only search engine offering SEO and search marketing services. When Google decided to acquire DoubleClick, they also acquired Performics, an affiliate marketing and SEO company. To date, Performics is still part of the package, meaning that Google will be running one of the most popular SEO companies on the market.
In my opinion, when a search engine owns an SEO firm, there is a conflict of interest. The SEO companies can leverage their association with Microsoft and Google, to obtain clients, or just tell prospects “Google owns our company, nuff said.”
Are the search engines and their parent companies identifying the profitability of search marketing firms and the opportunity of the upsell, you bet your butt they are!
And this trend will probably not stop anytime soon. Enter companies like Yahoo, Business.com, Verizon Superpages and other firms which attract the small to medium sized paid search advertiser, which already sees the benefits of paid search, and selling a profit heavy SEO package is in the best interest of the search engine.
Not to mention what happens when Performics customers start ranking higher on Google or The Search Agency or Avenue A customers dominating Live Search.
Is it ethical for a search engine to own an SEO or search marketing company?