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Is There a Conflict of Interest Between Your Company and Your Advertising Agency or SEO Firm?

Your advertising agency may ignore what you don't point out.

Outsourcing is a boon to business.  Handing off auxiliary functions to outsiders enables companies to concentrate on their core competencies, saving costs, increasing efficiency and achieving excellence.  At least, that's the theory.  And often, there's a lot of truth to it.  

But there's also traps for the naive.  One of these is that the outside firms will truly serve you interests.  In the case of advertising agencies and SEO firms, that can be a dubious assumption.  

Now, we are not suggesting that these firms will not fulfill their contractual obligations.  However, they may — when it's in their interest — construe those obligations more narrowly than the arena of responsibility you think you're entrusting to them.  This can allow certain functions to fall through the cracks.  

For example, DomainSherpa points out:

The intricacies of using domain names as an advertising channel are unfamiliar to most Madison Avenue-type firms, which are likely to be managing the marketing efforts of large brands. Such agencies generally are valued for their creativity and campaign management, not for negotiating the purchase of domain names and developing search-engine optimized websites.

In addition, many advertising agencies make a flat commission from managing the annual spend of their customers’ marketing budget. That makes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising a favorite recommendation to include in a customer’s marketing plan – the more a customer spends, the more an advertising firm earns.

Building a website for toothpaste.com, on the other hand, is a one-time project, not an ongoing, billable advertising campaign. It is done when the advertising firm finishes what has been approved by the customer. (Although, arguably, the website should be updated yearly as trends in searching and web usage continue to evolve.)

Thus, to have a conflict of interest doesn't require that your advertising agency actually act against your interest. It may simply be convenient for them to construe their responsibility to be close to home, so they can neglect unprofitable areas like domain name strategy that you may think "you've got covered."

Your SEO firm may want to keep some things to themselves.

Likewise, you may look to your SEO firm to handle your search engine exposure, but there are some things they could do in that regard which they might conveniently overlook.  For example, unless it is specifically on their assigned list of duties to look for available domain names related to your business, why should they bother?  

But suppose they do find one.  Deployed effectively, it might decrease your need for them.  On the other hand, if they had a surrogate purchase it for them, they might be able to use it to generate leads they could sell to you (or to your competitors!) for far more more than they could get by purchasing it for you, and you would never be the wiser.  

We are not saying, of course, that your SEO firm would actually do something like this.  Nor do we know that any firms have done it.  Rather, our point is that they could.  This creates a potential conflict of interest in the functions of SEO firms as commonly conceived.  Put differently... watch your back.

The bottom line?  You outsource it, you lose it.

Chances are, your ad agency and SEO firm are honest companies that do a good job on your behalf.  On the other hand, it simply isn't wise to leave domain name strategy in their hands.  If you don't want to be left empty-handed while your competitors grab all the "good ones", you need to proactively take charge of this in-house.

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