Microsoft Joins Google in Offering SEO Services, Is This Ethical?

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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 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,, 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?

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • Bert

    These companies have possible access to people and data that no one else has, like lists of unexploited keywords for cheap PPC campaigns, cutting edge competitor info or even algo-info. Nobody knows for sure, but only the suggestion of it makes that these companies have an edge over other companies, only because they are owned by a search engine.

    Even worse, I think these practices will make the work of people like Matt Cutts a lot harder. I mean, who cares about Whitehat or Blackhat practices if a Google or MSN joins the SEO business?

    Maybe Performics employees use Google Blogs and domains to ‘promote’ their clients? I don’t know, but it could happen, because they are owned by Google.

    Maybe Performics clients get huge discounts on PPC campaigns? I don’t know, but it could happen, because they are owned by Google.

    But maybe the most important question is: why does a search engine acquire and hold on to a company doing NSO (how natural can you get ๐Ÿ˜‰ and PPC campaigns, knowing the conflict of interests?

  • Gamermk

    I think its pretty obvious that this is not ethical. Expect a court case in the future forcing Google, MSN, and Yahoo to give up their respective algorithms in order to level the playing field.

  • Michael

    This remind me of how Ticketmaster is now getting into the secondary market of ticketsales, by starting the fan to fan exchange and also offering auctions. In the long run its going to hurt the regular seo companies, unless they keep there costs high for seo & allow your normal seo firm to pickup the mom and pop seo jobs. All-in-all its just taking a big part of the pie out of any seo professionals hands.

  • john andrews

    I think it will be fine for Microsoft, but sub-optimal for the clients. MS can’t push the limits, so how can they be competitive for their clients?

  • jeff

    I think they are all crap… they want to dominate all the money in the Web.

  • seo staff

    I think this will change the strategy of the older SEO companies. Microsoft entering in SEO services will make more competition to all SEO companies.

  • Jeffrey Henderson

    As much as I think this is highly unethical of M$ and Google I must say I really don’t care. Since when have big companies ever been limited by ethics?

    The bottom line is there are tons of customers out there and if you work hard and take good care of your clients you’re business will prosper.

  • Bert

    @ Jeffrey. Tons of customers until they launch their Google SEO Truly Elite software… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • SEO Web Design

    Dominating the search market. But that is definitely not right because there is always a conflict of interests.

  • eorganics

    Its good to hear that Microsoft entering in SEO.

  • James S. Nelson

    “Hello Everyone !!
    As we all know that Microsoft is one of best brand in whole world.I really Appreciate their decision reagarding SEO Services.If some one is from Marketing field, so seo make it easier to do marketing of their services and Goods And it will also make more competition to all Seo companies.