Due to some unique and unexpected circumstances in my life, I took positions with 2 larger web development companies which was very eye opening, I was so excited about each of these prospects that I was considering shutting down 2 Dogs Design and begin a long-term career with a bigger agency….but sadly, these experiences made me see that not every company has the same values and ethics that we here at 2 Dogs Design offer.
Both of these companies required a pretty in depth interview process, one I even drove 2 hours to meet in person which I thought spoke volumes about their commitment to me as a future employee and their business. Each of these experiences took place late 2013 – early 2014.
AGENCY 1 – General SEO/Digital Marketing Agency
I was hired on as a contractor to do some creative design work for this mid-sized agency that had no real specific industry focus. The company is virtual where the co-owners work out of their home – I was offered a part time contractor position to do web design, banner design and other creatives. I knew going in that it would be part time and I was OK with that.
For a short while I worked on a variety of projects including banner design, web design and some other design tasks. It was OK, but I found myself being constantly criticized and my work being edited by higher ups that had no background in web UX or design in general. My designs were changed before the client even got to review them.
After some time I was asked if I would like to go full time and take on some SEO clients. I jumped at the chance.
I was full time for about 2 months before they said, sorry we cannot afford you anymore. I then went back down to part time and not too long after I left.
I have to say, to this day I really do like the people there. The owners were really nice, but I found them to be lacking in focus and clear management.
1) They took on jobs even though they did not have anyone to do the work. I took on an e-book creation project on which we lost a lot of money because we had no e-book experience.
2) Although I was hired for my experience, the owner would constantly offer his “input” into designs – without even letting the client see them first. Showing a lack of respect for me and my 10 years of experience in the industry.
3) SEO back links were still being done by Indian consultants in mass back-link campaigns – this was 2013 -2014, this type of back linking should not be going on – nor should it ever have been.
4) About the time I left they had lost one of their largest SEO accounts due to poor performance.
5) No employee loyalty. I went from part time to full time in a few months and then just a short time after being brought to full time was put back to part time because “they did not have enough work”. Ultimately, I think I was too expensive – even though they doubled my hourly rate to bill clients.
AGENCY 2 – Niche Specific Web Development/Digital Marketing Agency
I had many interviews with this company via conference call and phone. They were an amazing group of people that I truly felt comfortable with and they said all the right things. I turned down the offer initially because the pay was too low – but came back a few months later because I could not stop thinking about it. They brought me on board as an SEO Analyst. I was excited, but it was short lived.
The week I started was their annual conference, which I could not attend. But I spent the week getting acclimated to their systems and taking on-line courses through DistilledU, I was impressed that they offered this and enjoyed the process.
After the conference I had a “mentor” I worked with to help me acclimate to the way they did things. This is where I started to see the cracks and had concerns about my future with the company.
While I was there – which was only a few weeks, the job seemed to transition from an SEO role to a more inclusive “Sales and SEO consultant” position. This job was not just about SEO, but about selling additional services and “managing” the clients entire sales funnel. For the record, sales is not my thing.
1) Their hourly billable rate to clients was almost 6 times what they were paying me.
2) Clients were being billed for hours they were not getting. For example, If they were paying $5,000 per month and the hourly rate is $150 – they should expect approximately 33 hours each month of work. But yet I would be allocated approximately 20 hours. I understand the need to make a profit – but they are already making a lot on the difference between my hourly rate and their billable rate – why do they need to cut hours too.
3) We would use overseas help for a variety of tasks paying less than $5 per hour. Let’s just leave that at that.
4) They would hire Junior Analysts and assign them high level work that they were not ready for, a client is paying for an experienced analyst, that is what they should get.
5) Their expectations were for the SEO analysts to also be involved in the clients sales process. We were to track data regarding contact form leads, phone leads etc. and were to follow up with the client to ensure they are following up on these leads properly. Often we were told to “listen to the calls” that came in to ensure that those answering the phones were handling the calls properly to best convert those leads. We were expected to “teach” them how to properly handle their leads. We were also asked to “up-sell” services that could help them even more – for every up-sell we could get a client to sign on for, the agency would get a commission – not us, but the agency.
6) They still use spammy back link techniques – in combination with good ones, but still there should be NO spammy back link techniques – EVER!
7) Unrealistic workload. Analysts had more clients than they could really handle, which in turn affects client results.
8) Poor on-site optimization. Given all the changes with the algorithms this past year, you would expect your agency would do things properly. This particular agency was still over optimizing content and writing for the search engines and not users.
9) Then there was the issue of a client that launched a website in 2013, designed and created by this company. The client claims they hated the website from the start – so they wanted a new website, this company was glad to oblige – and billed them for a second full build out. So over $20K for 2 websites in 1 year. The kicker is that the company dragged its feet on the new website and did not meet deadline expectations. All in all they did not show an ounce of effort with the client.
Now, I am not by any means saying all big agencies are doing things this way, but this has definitely left me with a bad feeling about the industry in general.
I completely understand the need to make a profit, but not at the risk of hurting clients or not treating employees fairly.
Where does that leave 2 Dogs Design?
Stronger and more confident than ever that we have a great group that can take care of clients in the best way possible! 2 Dogs Design was meant to be and I will grow my little Web Design and SEO Agency into a powerhouse that can help businesses grow online in the most honest and ethical ways! I think we travel certain paths for a reason – and this path has helped me learn how to better create a customer focused agency that offers great value and results.
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.