SEOmoz Hands Consulting Services To Distilled

Rand Fishkin

The Seattle-based SEO agency SEOmoz is exiting the consulting business to focus on software and tools, according to the company's chief executive officer Rand Fishkin. Consulting services have been handed to London-based search marketing agency Distilled, which has had a long-standing partnership with the firm.

Distilled will assume SEOmoz's consulting businesses, supporting clients from a new Seattle office the company plans to open this week. The location will become the hub for operations in the United States.

Fishkin lays out the reasons for getting out of the agency business. In a blog post he points to his most recent numbers -- 2008 -- to emphasize how companies invest in search marketing, and explains how new tools could track important data, identify actionable metrics and report externally the missed opportunities in the competitive landscape. SEOmoz recently released Open Site Explorer, a link analyses tool.

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Distilled co-founder Will Critchlow tells Online Media Daily that no cash will change hands initially, but the company will pay SEOmoz a "small commission" on work received through the relationship.

SEOmoz keeps the brand and people. Distilled assumes the client relationships and will handle all future inquiries. No layoffs are expected. In fact, Distilled plans to hire a handful of SEO consultants to support clients in the United States.

The deal also means that Distilled experts will continue to write for the SEOmoz blog and answer questions, as well as promote and support the tools and product development. The company will have full access to the SEOmoz toolset and provide insight to help keep the tools relevant. In the future, Distilled will run the SEO consulting page on SEOmoz.org and handle all inquiries for "bespoke" consulting work, too.

"We have already signed a client in Silicon Valley and have another on the East Coast ready to roll," Critchlow says.

Some speculate that venture capitalist (VC) funding that SEOmoz received in 2007 prompted Fishkin's decision to drop the SEO consulting business in favor of focusing on software tools. "I think it had a lot to do with the decision, but I wouldn't say it forced them," Critchlow says, adding that the funding allowed Fishkin to follow SEOmoz's business plan.

Sources say that two years ago, SEOmoz had virtually zero clients, and that the company really never made money in consulting. Distilled did most of the work.

Nevertheless, the SEO industry could see other companies shed consulting work as more tools are built to sort through mounds of data that online creates, Critchlow says, pointing to an analytics tool called Raven from Sitening.

It appears that SEO consultants grapple with the ethical dilemma of offering both software tools and services. SEO consulting firm Sitening also provided services until recently. Jon Henshaw explains in a blog post that the "explosive growth" of Raven during the past few months has enabled the firm to discontinue SEO consulting services.

Critchlow expects to see more of this kind of transformation among SEO companies.

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