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  • SEO Sprints: How to Productize SEO Services

    SEO Sprints: How to Productize SEO Services

    As a search engine optimization (SEO) agency, you want to provide your clients with the best possible services.

    You want to help them rank for their target keywords.

    You want to help them dominate the competition.

    And of course, you want to make good money doing it.

    But there are some major obstacles in your way. SEO campaigns can take a long time to get up and running.

    Economic slowdowns force companies of all shapes and sizes to cut their marketing budget (which, of course, affects their SEO spending).

    And on top of that, it’s often difficult to package your SEO services in a way that’s both sensible and cost-effective for your clients.

    Today, we have a singular solution to all of these problems: SEO sprints.

    The SEO Timeline Problem

    The SEO Timeline Problem

    One of the biggest problems faced by SEO agencies and SEO clients alike is the overall SEO timeline.

    Historically, it’s taken a considerable amount of time and effort to see any meaningful SEO results – and it’s because of threats on multiple fronts.

    Forming a marketing strategy required at least a week or two. Google updated its index slowly and (at times) inconsistently.

    Developing and publishing content could take weeks. And if you faced significant competition, it could be months before you could emerge as a realistic contender.

    All in all, that meant it could take months before you’d even appear in relevant SERPs for your brand – let alone reach the top of them.

    This has always been a hard sell for SEO agencies.

    How do you convince a skeptical client that they should pay you, consistently, for months at a time, with no immediate proof that your efforts are really working?

    This problem is even bigger during times of economic hardship.

    Today, businesses are facing threats like inflation, supply chain issues, labor shortages, and lower consumer spending due to market downturns.

    Marketing and advertising budgets all over the country are getting the axe – and the slowest, least immediately effective marketing strategies are getting cut first.

    SEO sprints offer a solution.

    What Is an SEO Sprint?

    What Is an SEO Sprint?

    SEO sprints take inspiration from development sprints.

    In the agile development world, a “sprint” is a short period of time in which a team commits to finishing a meaningful chunk of work, usually completing an important building block or reaching a noteworthy milestone. It’s a useful way to compartmentalize the entire project – while simultaneously boosting productivity.

    Like with ambulatory sprinting, the work is intense and done in a relatively short burst.

    In SEO, the “chunk” of work to be completed is usually ranking near the top of the SERP for a valuable, yet attainable keyword/phrase. Instead of gradually churning out new blog posts links over the course of months and across 10-20 keywords, you’ll concentrate all your efforts on a single keyword or phrase for a shorter period of time (usually a couple of weeks).

    But just because indexing happens fast, it doesn’t mean that ranking will. Those are two very different phenomena.

    This is possible in part because of Google’s faster and more responsive updates. A decade ago, it might have taken months for your hard work to pay off – but these days, you can sometimes see SERP updates (and greater organic traffic) in a matter of hours.

    The strategy has also recently become popular because increased competition in the SEO space (along with reduced payoffs for ranking highly, in some instances) is forcing SEO agencies and search optimization professionals to get more creative and strategic. SERPs are no longer a “blue ocean” opportunity, so we must be more precise and focused on the work we’re doing.

    Why SEO Agencies Should Focus on Sprints

    Why does this benefit your digital marketing agency?

    What makes sprints a more compelling SEO offer than, say, a traditional retainer structure or a la carte service offerings?

    There are many benefits to keep in mind:

    • Appeal to budget-conscious clients. Some businesses are interested in getting more organic traffic, but they don’t have $10,000 a month to spend on a suite of SEO services and related marketing campaigns. They may be interested in paying a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for a one-and-done push – much like what they could get in a limited-run PPC advertising campaign. Obviously, budget-conscious clients aren’t the most lucrative ones, but it’s worth trying to appeal to them, especially if these limited runs produce a high return on investment (ROI). Over time, you’ll earn a better reputation and you’ll be in a much better position to upsell your clients.
    • Appeal to time-sensitive clients. Freshly launched startups, small businesses, and event marketers are just a few examples of clients who have time-sensitive marketing and advertising needs. These people want to make a massive push, as soon as possible, and see results in a matter of days, rather than months. Ordinarily, these types of clients would never consider SEO; it requires too much of a time investment. But with SEO sprints, it suddenly becomes viable.
    • Easier product packaging. Some SEO agencies love the idea of service offered as a product because it makes for easier product packaging. Instead of putting together vague service packages and monthly programs, you can make a clear, straightforward offer that’s tied to measurable results. You can sell each stage for a fixed fee, or offer various tiers of SEO sprint service, with variable SEO pricing based on the competitive environment and the amount of work you have to provide to get results.
    • Options for recurring revenue. One of the strengths of an marketing sprint is that it can serve as a standalone product, but it can also provide you with an opportunity for recurring revenue. In this structure, you can put together a plan like 3 sprints per month; once your clients discover just how powerful sprints are, they’ll probably be interested in using them more frequently and with regularity.
    • Cleaner strategic focus. In our experience, SEO agencies sometimes struggle with strategic focus. Instead of optimally balancing your time and resources to get the greatest amount of traffic and visibility for your clients, you might be hung up on producing X number of blog posts per month, or building Y number of links per month. With sprints, you no longer have this luxury; for true SEO success, you need a laser-like focus on a specific strategic objective.
    • Repeatable processes. There are clear fundamentals of SEO that must be followed in any campaign, no matter how long or short. But one of the problems that search optimizers have is creating repeatable processes. Because each business’s competitive environment, target audience, and goals are different, each SEO campaign must be different as well. SEO sprints attempt to homogenize the process at least slightly, giving you a repeatable blueprint you can use for almost any client or situation.
    • Opportunities for niche experience development. SEO sprints are a relatively new phenomenon and not something that every SEO agency practices. If you get in early enough, and develop enough experience and expertise in this process, you’ll face minimal competition and eventually develop a unique reputation for this niche specialty. This can be incredibly valuable in generating more referrals in supporting your own marketing and advertising efforts.

    The SEO Sprint Formula

    The SEO Sprint Formula

    We’ve gone over the general idea of a sprint.

    But how do you actually pursue this work?

    • Goal setting. First, you need to set goals. These are going to be different for each client and each SEO sprint. Are you more interested in reaching rank one for a specific keyword, or would you rather optimize for the highest volume of organic traffic? Is this designed to generate a temporary surge of traffic, or is your client more interested in sustainable, long-term results from this sprint? There are no right or wrong answers here; all that matters is that you define your goals and strive to achieve them.
    • Strategic analysis. The most important phase of the SEO sprint process is your strategic analysis. An SEO sprint is only going to be reliably effective if you have a defined strategic focus and an opportunity to see results in a relatively short period of time. You’ll need to consider all the usual factors in your strategic analysis, with an especially heavy focus on keyword research; your choice in keyword targets will make or break your SEO efforts. In performing your research, you will want to use Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, Spyfu, Moz Keyword Explorer and a host of other third-party SEO tools.

    The relevance and search volume associated with your chosen keywords do matter, but arguably, the most important variable to consider is competition. In an SERP with entrenched, tough competitors, a sprint SEO strategy may not be worth it. But with minimal competition and the rest of your strategic variables in balance, you’ll have a clear opportunity to rank. Remember, you have a limited timeframe to work with; you need to prioritize keyword targets that could yield meaningful results in a week or two.

    • User behavioral analysis. Unfortunately, if you want the best results for your clients, you have to think about more than just keyword search volume and competition. You also need to analyze user behavioral patterns.

    Different search terms typically yield different user behavioral patterns. For example, a person searching for “how to increase sales effectiveness” is earlier in the customer journey than a person searching for “sales automation tools.” They’re going to behave differently as a result.

    That doesn’t mean you have to exclusively focus on keywords and phrases that are likely to result in a purchase – but you and your client have to understand the behavioral patterns that are likely to emerge in each scenario, and plan for them accordingly.

    • Core work. You’ll need both onsite and offsite effort to get results in a sprint, just as you would with a normal marketing campaign. In fact, most of your SEO sprint work is going to be functionally similar to work you’d do in an ordinary SEO campaign. You’ll need to produce onsite content, build offsite links, build new pages, repurpose old pages, and publish advertorials.

    The difference is the degree of precision required in your strategy. With a traditional SEO campaign, you’re usually doing these activities with several keywords in mind simultaneously, while juggling multiple goals (like generating traffic, increasing brand visibility, etc.). With an SEO sprint, you’re going to focus on keyword research for one keyword, with the clear objective of getting the highest possible ranking for that keyword in the timeframe you allot. Because you’re working under such tight parameters, quality is more important here than anywhere else in SEO.

    Keep in mind that you should also optimize the “main” page of your sprint service for click-throughs and user behavior. Capturing attention with a controversial headline, incentivizing clicks with a special offer, and tweaking the layout of your pages to encourage more conversions can all increase the value of your SEO sprint strategy.

    • Measurement and reflection. At the end of your sprint, you’ll measure your results, including your final ranking, organic traffic generated, conversions generated, and overall return on investment (ROI) for your SEO. As usual, you can show these data to your clients to prove your value as an SEO agency and incentivize them to work with you again.

    This is also an opportunity for analysis and reflection on your end. Did you achieve your goals? Which elements of your SEO sprint were most (and least) effective? What can you learn from this? And how are you going to approach SEO sprints differently in the future? Every positive change moves your sprint capabilities forward.

    Productize Your SEO Services With SEO Sprints

    Are you ready to develop a newer, better, more strategic SEO product for your best clients?

    Do you want to see faster, more impressive results with every paid order?

    SEO sprints could be the answer. But they’re hard to orchestrate and plan alone. That’s where SEO.co comes into play; with white label services, flexible plans, and expert SEO consultants on standby, we’ve got everything you need to get started and perfect the art of SEO sprints. Contact us for more information today!

    Chief Marketing Officer at SEO Company
    In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. As a technical SEO strategist, Sam leads all paid and organic operations teams for client SEO services, link building services and white label SEO partnerships. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
    Samuel Edwards