Agencies often aim to foster long-term relationships with their clients, creating a dependency so the client signs on year after year.

Sometimes, that partnership turns into something more.

Blueclaw Media, an SEO agency, helped their client, sports and gaming media company XLMedia, increase traffic to their websites. Once they’d worked together for over a year, XLMedia acquired the agency and brought it in-house.

The agency was founded by Fergus Clawson founded in 2007. Clawson had discovered SEO a few years prior and found himself engrossed in early SEO forums. “I thought to myself, I can offer this ‘SEO thing’ for growing businesses,” he said in a 2019 interview with Prolific North.

It didn’t take long for that “SEO thing” to evolve into a business of its own. Blueclaw, based in the U.K. city of Leeds, eventually added pay-per-click advertising, content marketing and digital PR as bolt-on services. The company’s clients included Royal Caribbean International and Leisure Pass Group.

Blueclaw started working with London-based XLMedia in December 2020, working to boost performance and traffic on XLMedia’s stable of websites focused on sports, gaming, and personal finance.

That collaboration served as a trial run for the two teams before XLMedia acquired Blueclaw.

“Having worked closely with them for over 12 months, we’ve been able to experience firsthand the quality of their work and are hugely excited at the prospect of Blueclaw’s expertise being rolled out across our broader portfolio,” XLMedia CEO Stuart Simms said in the acquisition announcement.

Terms of the Blueclaw and XLMedia deal

XLMedia had previously purchased CBWG, a media and sports betting firm, for $25 million in a deal that included cash, stock, and multi-year earn-out potential.

For the Blueclaw deal, XLMedia paid about $840,000 USD (£600,000) when the deal was signed, and committed to the same amount at the end of year one, plus the same amount again as an earn-out dependent on performance.

Blueclaw had $1.5 million USD (£1.1 million) revenue for the year prior to the deal, and EBITDA of $140,000 USD (£100,000).

The Blueclaw team continued to work separately from XLMedia for the first few months post-acquisition, focusing on XLMedia’s European sports business. Clawson stayed on for a year after the deal, spending his time working on SEO performance for XLMedia properties and developing the internal agency post-purchase.

In April 2023, Clawson and his wife, Jenny, launched a new SEO agency named Searchbeam. Their website says it’s “not your typical digital agency, but rather a consultancy service that provides expert advice, support, and assistance to brands, partners, and agencies.”

Clawson did not respond to requests for comment.