It’s a good time to be in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry.
There are more than 63,000 searches per second on an average day, and most consumers and business owners rely heavily on Google when researching new products and services.
Moreover, the SEO industry is certainly large enough to have enough to cheese to go around.
Most businesses have adapted by putting at least a little time and effort into their search ranking strategy. Unfortunately, SEO is too time-intensive and technically complex for non-experts to pursue on their own time.
That’s where good SEO agencies come in. Marketing agencies provide critically in-demand SEO services to the millions of business owners who need them—and profit from their efforts.
If you’ve been in the SEO industry for a while, you likely have some idea of what it takes to start a successful SEO agency. But even if you’re new, launching an SEO company is well within your grasp.
In this guide, we’ll go over the high-level steps for starting an SEO company of your own, including how to choose a direction for your business, how to provide high-quality services for your clients, and of course, how to scale long-term.
By the end, you’ll be ready to write up a business plan of your own and start assembling the resources you need to be successful.
The Blueprint for Starting an SEO Agency
We’ll start by going over the high-level steps you’ll need to take when building an SEO agency from scratch, then delve into each of these topics to explore them in depth. This way, you’ll be able to examine each phase of the process in context.
- Choose a niche. Starting a generic “SEO agency” is a bad idea, in part because competition is stiff. You’ll be far more likely to attract clients and carve a space for yourself if you choose a specific niche.
- Decide which services you want to offer. Some SEO agencies specialize in one area, like onsite SEO or offsite SEO. Others attempt to offer not just SEO services, but other online marketing services as well, like PPC advertising campaigns or social media management.
- Develop your own online presence. If your website looks shoddy or if you aren’t ranking for any keywords of your own, you’ll have a hard time getting people to take you seriously. Before you find clients, you’ll need to flesh out your online presence.
- Perfect your offerings. How are you going to offer an SEO service? Will you use employees and freelancers? Or will you build a relationship with an existing SEO agency so you can scale consistently and provide quality services to your clients?
- Start a portfolio. You’ll need some way to prove your capabilities to new clients, which often means gathering evidence of past work, collecting testimonials, and building a portfolio. But landing those initial clients can be tricky you start an SEO business.
- Attract prospects. With a combination of inbound and outbound marketing strategies, you’ll start attracting new prospects to your SEO agency.
- Close deals. You’ll need to prove your value to new prospects, getting them to sign a contract so you can onboard them as clients.
- Retain your clients. Client retention is even more important than acquisition for agencies. It will help you improve your reputation—plus, retention is cheaper than acquisition, so your profitability will soar.
- Grow. Every SEO agency dreams of bigger and better prominence. We’ll teach you how to expand once you have a solid foundation.
With that outline in mind, let’s get down to brass tacks.
How to Choose a Niche as an SEO Company
To start an SEO business, you’re going to need to choose a niche—some target or direction that differentiates you from your competitors.
This is important for a few reasons, most of which stem from the fact that there are tons of SEO agencies out there—at least 30,000 as listed by Clutch, and tens or even hundreds of thousands of unlisted or mom-and-pop operations. Why would a company choose you over these other competitors, who have been working for years to decades to build their reputation and online presence?
It’s intimidating, to be sure, but choosing a niche helps you in two major ways. First, you’ll eliminate some of your competition immediately. If, say, 33 percent of SEO agencies focus on small businesses, 33 percent focus on mid-sized businesses, and 33 percent focus on large companies, choosing one battleground here would instantly remove 66 percent of your competition.
Obviously, things aren’t this simple, and many agencies target a broad range of customers. But that’s where the second benefit comes into play: many businesses want to work with a specialist rather than a generalist. If you specialize in SEO for law firms, almost any law firm would prefer you to a contemporary who doesn’t have an area of specialty. Your in-depth SEO knowledge instantly makes you more relevant and more appealing.
Note that these advantages operate at a high level and in the context of your ground-level marketing tactics; for example, you’ll find it much easier to reach rank one for highly specialized, niche keyword phrases.
So how do you choose a niche? You’ll want to consider three main factors, which you can research or simply brainstorm:
- Personal experience and interest. If you had a career in a specific industry, then transitioned into the SEO business, you might be able to bring your personal experience to your SEO business; for example, if you used to be a healthcare professional, you could focus on SEO for the healthcare field. You can also gravitate toward areas of personal interest.
- Current competition. How many search agencies are currently targeting this field? Generally speaking, the less competition you face, the better—all other factors being equal.
- Demand. Some industries have a higher need for hiring a successful SEO business than others, so make sure you take demand into account. Old-school manufacturers who have legacy client bases will likely be less interested in an SEO business than emerging SaaS companies, for example.
You’ll need to find a balance between these factors, and choose one or more niches in these categories.
One of the most common niche choices is based on industry. You can focus on a broad category, like “finance,” or something more specific, like “local credit unions.” There’s a wide variety of industries to choose from, and don’t feel limited to select only one. There are SEO companies that have reached multi-millions in sales in the following industries, just by focusing:
Some want to be a generalist, rather than specializing. Here’s some healthy advice that flies in the face of that wisdom:
Focus creates wealth, diversification preserves it.
When choosing your segment, understanding and calculating the Total Addressable Market (TAM) will be helpful to understand if the niche is large enough to target.
You can also target clients based on their size. Large corporations tend to have bigger budgets, but they may also be more demanding, and can be harder to land. Small businesses often want more personalized relationships, and can be more flexible, but they may also have smaller budgets and more restrictions. Smaller companies also may need more local SEO expertise, as opposed to a national focus.
New SEO agencies often start by looking for clients in their geographic proximity; there are definitely fewer competitors in your city of residence than there are nationwide. You can always expand to focus on a wider area later in your development. While we no longer focus on Seattle, we started here and still have a number of local clients.
Some SEO agencies target new clients based on their needs; for example, you might specialize in catering to new entrepreneurs who have never heard of SEO before. Conversely, you might target other SEO agencies, offering your superior experience and more bountiful resources to help them grow their own practices.
As you can see, there’s a lot of flexibility here. Try not to overthink it; if you aren’t satisfied with your target niche, you can always pivot to something else in the future.
Choosing Your Services as an SEO Agency
Next, you’ll need to think about what kinds of services you’re going to offer.
Yes, obviously you’ll want to provide SEO services. But as you know, an SEO business has many constituent parts and SEO services, and you may offer some or all of them. You may also offer peripheral services, tangentially related to SEO, or otherwise enhancing your clients’ SEO performance.
There’s an important tie-in to choosing a niche here; if you select one SEO service as a field of specialty, that can come to define you as an agency. For example, you could specialize in writing onsite content, forgoing other services (at least temporarily) to minimize competition and develop a strong reputation.
However, most SEO agencies benefit from offering multiple different services, especially together as a package.
These are some of the most commonly considered:
- SEO audits and analyses. The first step in most SEO campaigns is conducting an audit and/or analysis. Depending on your clientele, that will likely mean looking at the technical structure of the site (and recommending improvements), analyzing their backlink profile, and looking at the performance of their historical content. Occasionally, clients will pay for this service then try to execute your recommendations on their own. More often, the quality of your analysis will convince them they need your help in other areas. Because of this, some SEO agencies offer an initial audit for free.
- Keyword and competitive research. Keyword selection is one of the most important elements of any SEO strategy; if you choose high-volume, low-competition words relevant to your clients’ industries, you’ll have a much higher chance of success. That said, keyword research (using Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Moz and Ahrefs) takes a lot of time and effort, especially if you’re working exhaustively and from scratch. You may consider offering it as a separate line item.
- Technical onsite SEO. Technical SEO is all about making onsite changes to ensure a website is crawled and indexed properly—and making sure it follows Google’s best practices for site structure. It’s generally a one-time collection of fixes, like optimizing for mobile devices, cleaning up sloppy code, and improving the navigation. Consider treating it as a prerequisite for an ongoing campaign, or offering it as an optional additional service.
- Ongoing onsite content. High-quality onsite content provides you with opportunities to optimize a site for specific keywords, boost the authority of the site, and establish assets you can link to later. Every site needs strong onsite content regularly for SEO—the question is, do you want to be the one to provide it, and do you want to charge for it per item, or as part of a weekly/monthly fee?
- Offsite content and link building. You should also think about link building. Links are the only reliable way to increase your domain authority and page authority, which will support your rankings in search engines. The best way to build links is with offsite content on high-authority external sources. This is an issue for many SEO agencies, since a successful link building campaign relies on good relationships with external publishers, and that takes time to establish. Fortunately, there are alternative options here, like outsourcing to a link building agency—which we’ll get into shortly.
- Ongoing analysis and support. Most SEO agencies provide ongoing analyses and support to all their clients, no matter what. However, you may offer different tiers of support; for example, will you produce comprehensive reports on a weekly basis or monthly basis? How often will you hold client meetings? What steps will you take if the client isn’t seeing the results they want?
- Social media marketing and other services. If you want to be a comprehensive marketing agency, you might offer other services like social media marketing, PPC advertising, and even website design. However, you should be confident in your ability to offer these services competently; don’t just throw them in because you can. You also shouldn’t stretch yourself too thin when you just start an SEO business, so consider starting with a specialty and expanding from there.
You’ll also need to figure out a way to assemble these into comprehensible packages, and set reasonable SEO pricing, keeping in mind that making your SEO services cheap is ill-advised.
Most SEO agencies attempt to get clients on a retainer; SEO is a long-term strategy, so it’s much easier to prove your worth and get results over a period of many months. Plus, the consistent revenue makes it easier to manage your business. Consider offering a “bronze,” “silver,” and “gold” package, or a similar assortment of increasingly effective/expensive packages. For example, your bronze package might include 1 new onsite post per week, 1 new high-quality link per week, and a handful of other supportive services, while your gold package includes 3 new onsite posts per week, 3 new links per week, and even more peripheral services.
Alternatively, you could offer your SEO products and services in an a-la-carte format. You could charge a fixed rate per link, per post, or per hour of work; just make sure your clients understand the importance of consistency and long-term effort for SEO.
Developing an Online Presence for Your SEO Company
At this point, you have deep SEO knowledge in the niche you’re targeting and what kind of SEO services you’re going to offer, but how are people going to find you? And how can you demonstrate your knowledge of online marketing immediately?
There are arguably some types of businesses that can skate by without a comprehensive web presence, even in 2020. An SEO agency isn’t one of them.
When you start an SEO business, you need a well-designed, modern website that’s packed with information and easy to navigate. You need lots of content about SEO, on individual pages and in the form of blog posts, videos, and other types of content. The more you have here, the better; if you have one blog post published and it’s from last week, most of your visitors will be reluctant to contact you, instead favoring one of your more experienced competitors.
By extension, your website should be optimized for SEO. If your prospects are navigating your website and they notice missing page titles, an unfavorable URL structure, or content that doesn’t follow best practices, they’re going to leave—and you’ll never get a chance to close them.
You don’t have to be at rank one for head keywords like “SEO agency.” At this point, it’s nearly impossible to enter that space; not only is it competitive, but you can guarantee the best SEO agencies in the world are the ones you’d be competing with. However, you should be visible in rankings for your target niche; even a handful of page-one appearances should be enough to persuade your demographics that you know what you’re talking about.
If you’re new to the SEO business and you aren’t sure how to rank, you’ll want to do some research and experimenting before you start an SEO business. We won’t get into the details here, since this is more about starting an SEO business than engaging in SEO itself, but make sure to check out our blog if you need more information.
It’s also a good idea to flesh out your social media profiles, even if you don’t plan on offering social media services. It’s a useful tool for promoting your content and achieving visibility, and you should make yourself available to as many communication channels as possible.
Depending on how you want to acquire clients, you may need to invest more time and effort into your online web presence; inbound marketing, the process of generating leads by attracting people to your site naturally, requires heavy investment into content, links, and multiple forms of traffic generation.
Perfecting Your SEO Agency Offerings
Your next goal should be perfecting your service offerings. Assuming you’re able to find and recruit clients to your agency, they’re only going to stick around if you’re able to give them results. If your work is sloppy, or if you aren’t able to keep up with the volume they need, they’re going to find other SEO companies they deem more trustworthy.
There are three factors to consider here:
- Quality. How good is the content you write? How valuable are the links you build? Are you able to execute work that’s objectively better than your contemporaries?
- Consistency. Is your work predictable and reliable, or do clients have to constantly double check your work, and audit your results? Are all your clients going to be equally satisfied with their results, or do you feel like random chance will favor some clients over others?
- Scalability. Can you offer an increasing number of assets (content, links, etc.) to your clients, and continue adding new clients without compromising the quality of your work or the capacity of your staff? Clients need to know they can count on you for the long term.
There are a few ways you can improve the quality, consistency, and scalability of your service offerings.
If you’re working as a solo SEO consultant, or as a freelancer, you may be able to do most of the work on your own. In this case, experience is your best friend; the more you engage directly in the SEO business, the better you’ll get at it, in every dimension.
However, working alone isn’t scalable at all. You may be able to produce good work consistently, but there’s an upper limit to what you can handle. Sooner or later, you’ll need another option.
Most digital marketing agencies try to hire experienced, competent people to serve their clients. There are three primary options: full-time employees, part-time employees, and contractors.
In-house staff members like full-time and part-time employees are advantageous because they’re directly under your control; you’ll be able to train, coach, and supervise them as they hone their SEO skills. However, they also tend to be expensive, and if you’re just starting out, you may not have the budget to bring on an entire team. This also isn’t a scalable approach; while you can always hire employees, you can’t hire them quickly, and as your team expands, your consistency may suffer.
Contractors, by contrast, are much more flexible and scalable, and they tend to be cheaper too. However, there’s less of a guarantee of quality, and if you’re using lots of different contractors, your work will almost inevitably suffer from inconsistency.
The best option for most new SEO agencies is partnering with other firms and outsourcing the work. Some SEO agencies specialize in a given area, like producing content or building links, and offer white-label SEO services to other agencies.
For example, you could partner with a link building agency like SEO.co. In this scenario, you’d pay for offsite content and links for your clients. SEO.co would take responsibility for building them, leveraging their existing network of publishers so you don’t have to build one from scratch. This allows you to provide your clients with the services of a highly experienced agency without needing those years of experience yourself. It’s also less expensive than hiring a team of full-time employees, on average, and you’ll get a guarantee of results.
The quality and consistency of the work will depend on the agency you hire. If you do your due diligence, you should be able to find a reliable and reputable partner. And as long as you partner with an agency of reasonable size, you can count on practically unlimited scalability; you can purchase as few or as many services as you need.
Building a Portfolio as an SEO Agency
With a plan to offer high-quality services, you’ll be ready to start attracting clients—but wait—how are you going to prove that you can offer results? How can you prove your worth when you’ve only recently started?
Without a reputation, without case studies, and without testimonials, you’re going to have a hard time convincing new prospects that you know what you’re talking about. Nobody wants to be an experimental guinea pig when their company’s online visibility and reputation are on the line.
Accordingly, you’ll need to build a portfolio, or at least get some client work under your belt, before you start meeting with prospective clients. Ideally, you’ll gather some objective evidence of the results of your work; for example, you might compare a website’s monthly organic traffic before and after you began work on it. You may also consider assembling these data in a formal case study, or gathering testimonials from your satisfied clients.
It may seem silly to suggest that you need to find clients before you find clients, but there are a few options available to you:
- Do some work for free. While certainly not ideal, you could offer your services for free to a new client (or two). Business owners will be unlikely to turn down free content, free links, and free support, and if you do a good job, they may be inclined to pay for your services in the future. Alternatively, you could offer a steep discount.
- Build and support your own site. If you get results for your own site, that may be ample evidence to show you know what you’re doing. The only problem with this is the level of competition faced by SEO agencies; it may take several months before you start to see results, especially if you’re in a heavily contested niche.
- Create a niche site of your own. If you can’t find or don’t want to look for experimental, free clients, and you don’t want to count on getting results for your own site, you can consider starting new, niche sites from scratch and supporting them with your new SEO business. This is one of the most advantageous options because you can choose a super-specific niche, meaning you won’t have much competition (and can reach rank one quickly). You’ll also have total control over the strategy. And as an added bonus, if the site functions as an eCommerce platform or a business in its own right, it can serve as a second line of revenue.
Feature the results on your main site (assuming you have permission), and be prepared to present them to your prospects.
Attract Your First SEO Clients
With a few successes to show off, you can start looking for prospects for your search engine optimization business.
Like with most B2B companies, the best approach to follow is to generate lots of relevant (i.e., potentially interested) prospects, then close the deals after you start the conversation.
We’ll explore how to close deals in the next section, but here, we’ll dig into the best methods to use when generating initial prospects.
Most internet marketing and advertising strategies can be categorized as inbound or outbound. With inbound marketing, your efforts will be spent making your site (or a landing page) more attractive to people, naturally bringing them in. Inbound marketing may take a while to develop, but at its peak, it should cultivate leads automatically and constantly.
There are many individual strategies you can use together in your inbound approach, which you’re probably already familiar with: SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, and so on. The idea is to accumulate lots of inbound visitors who either have a problem that you can solve or are interested in the services you provide.
There are three keys to success here:
- Funneling by relevance. It doesn’t matter how many prospects you generate if none of them are genuinely interested in your services, or if they aren’t relevant to your brand. That’s why your inbound strategy should do the job of sorting out prospects by relevance on your behalf. Choose keyword targets your prospects will likely search, and choose topics appropriate to your niche. For example, the types of people reading an article like “How to Rank Higher in Search Engines as a [type of business]” will likely be interested in working with an agency.
- Achieving conversion. Assuming you get ample traffic to your site, and those visitors fall into your target demographics, you’ll need some way to persuade them to convert. Calls-to-action (CTAs) periodically throughout your site and throughout your content will help enormously—especially if you tinker with them to see what kinds of design choices and phrasing works best. You can also consider building out specific targeted landing pages, designed to get people to convert. Make sure it’s worth their while; for example, you can provide a piece of free, premium content in exchange for their contact information.
- Long-term scaling. As long as you can keep the prospect quality high, it’s advantageous to scale your strategy to attract more total visitors. This is a long-term plan, and not something that will help you score your first clients.
Outbound marketing, by contrast, requires you to go out of your way to try and appeal to new clients. Again, there are several tactics to try here, including pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, cold emails, cold calls, and email marketing.
Outbound marketing tends to have a lower ROI than inbound marketing over the long term, but it gets immediate results. Outbound and inbound strategies work best in concert with one another.
Just make sure you follow these principles:
- Prioritize prospect quality. You might be tempted to buy an email list or round up as much prospect information as possible, but it’s much better to focus on people who fit squarely in your demographic profile.
- Experiment, measure, and adapt. Strategies like PPC advertising can be somewhat unpredictable, so it’s important to experiment with different approaches, measure your results, and adjust when you learn more about your demographics.
- Watch your spend. Outbound marketing is more cost-intensive at the beginning of a campaign, so keep a close eye on your budget. Don’t be afraid to cut your losses if it looks like you’re spending a lot with minimal results.
One of the best long-term sources of clients to your search engine optimization business is referrals.
If you provide your clients with exceptional results and personal service, they may spread the word about your capabilities, giving you a warm introduction to new prospects with no effort on your part. You can also create a referral program, like giving clients a discount on their monthly fee for each new client they help add to your portfolio.
However you get your prospects, it’s on you and your sales team to close deals and convert those prospects to clients. General sales best practices, like responding to leads as quickly as possible, will apply here.
When you get to know a prospect a little better, you’ll send a proposal. There are several strategies and best practices that can improve your success rate from here:
- Personalize the proposal. It’s perfectly reasonable to have a template for your SEO proposal; nobody expects you to write several pages from scratch every time someone new reaches out to your business. However, it’s important to personalize the proposal. Understand your prospect’s values and position, and tweak your offer accordingly.
- Design and proofread it. Your proposal should look professional and polished. When finished, make sure to spend time proofreading it; the last thing you want is a prospect questioning your attention to detail when they find a glaring spelling mistake in the third paragraph.
- Keep it concise. It’s okay to have a long proposal, so long as the information you include is valuable. Like with any content you write, your proposal should be concise.
- Cite evidence. Don’t just tell clients you’ll increase their organic traffic. Show them how you’ve done it in the past. Cite statistics and your past work, and try to prove all your claims.
- Outline your objectives and process. Be upfront about how you work. Explain to your prospect what your core objectives are, and the phases of the process you’ll follow (such as: discovery, keyword research, technical onsite optimization, etc.).
- Set expectations. This is also a good opportunity to set honest expectations about your work. Make sure your prospect understands that SEO is a long-term strategy, and not the kind of approach that can get you results in a week. If you plan to meet with your clients weekly, state that. The more thorough and proactive you are, the better.
- Introduce an account manager. New clients often feel better when they know who they’re going to work with. In the proposal, and when sending the proposal, introduce their designated account manager—along with some information about their past experience with SEO.
- Add a guarantee. It’s hard to guarantee things like rank-one positions or a certain number of monthly visitors, but some kind of money-back guarantee can assuage most client concerns. Include it at the end.
- Imply urgency. It also helps to include some phrasing to imply urgency; for example, you could state that this quoted price is only good for two weeks.
Whether you’re just starting a conversation with a prospect or you’re in the final stages of closing the deal, it’s important to follow up consistently. Too many salespeople abandon potential deals prematurely; as much as 80 percent of prospects will say “no” or ignore a message up to four times before eventually saying “yes.”
Retain Your Clients
The past few sections have focused on attracting new SEO clients, but it’s even more important to retain your clients. Client retention is less expensive than client acquisition, and more valuable, since you’ll keep generating revenue each month, plus increase your chances of getting more referrals.
In my experience, SEO agency client retention is best considered in three main areas: communication, reporting, and results.
Communication is the most important element to any client retention strategy, because if executed properly, it can mitigate or eliminate most other problems.
There’s nothing especially complicated to consider here. You need to listen to your clients; understand their goals and perspectives. If they have questions, answer them. If they have concerns, address them.
You also need to proactively talk with your clients about your performance; meet with them regularly to go over your progress. Explain what it is you’re doing and why. If you encounter any issues, address them proactively and honestly.
Active listening, transparency, and honesty are vital to any successful client relationship. Also, make sure it’s easy to get in contact with an account representative; nobody wants to be put on hold or wait three days for a response.
Reporting is, in some ways, a form of communication, but it’s worth considering as a separate element. Reporting is how you’ll convey your worth to your clients, and it can make or break a relationship regardless of your overall performance. For example, if you’re getting amazing results, but you fail to educate the client on why those results are amazing, they may not be able to understand the value of the campaign. Conversely, if you’re seeing lackluster results, but you don’t explain why or commit to closing the gap, even loyal clients will consider leaving.
Make sure your reports are detailed, but also intuitive; visuals and short explanations can make complex SEO data much easier to understand. Also make sure your clients do actually understand what the data mean for the campaign.
Of course, your actual results matter too. If the links you build are getting removed, you aren’t generating much domain authority, and your organic traffic increases are negligible, your client won’t want to continue paying.
Of course, there are a couple of issues you’ll need to resolve here:
- Long-term development. SEO takes a long time to develop. Chances are, even if you’re doing everything right, your client won’t see impressive results in your first few months of work. You’ll need to communicate this.
- Unpredictable variables. Even good campaigns go through rough patches. Sooner or later, you’ll need to confront unimpressive results with your client. The best way to do this is to get to the bottom of what’s holding you back, explain what’s going on to your client, and figure out a way to make up for this in the future.
If your results aren’t where they should be, you’ll need to experiment with different approaches. Sometimes, that means partnering with a different service provider. Other times, it means targeting new keywords or offsite publishers. No matter what, if you want to make an improvement, you have to change something.
Growing Your SEO Company
By this point in the guide, your SEO agency should have a smattering of initial clients. You’ll have a portfolio of work to reference, and a solid process you can use to earn your clients better results.
From here, much of your effort will be spent growing the agency—expanding your service offerings, increasing your capacity, and of course, adding new clients to your portfolio. The straightforward approach here is to invest more heavily in your inbound, outbound, and referral marketing campaigns, increasing the number of prospects you generate.
If you’re targeting a specific niche, you can also add new niches to your repertoire, or become more general in your demographic targeting. These steps will increase your potential client pool, while also introducing you to some new competitors.
The biggest limiting factor in your development will be your capacity; you may be able to attract new clients, but can you serve them in equal measure? Hiring more employees may help you, but you may find it preferable to outsource your work to an SEO agency that can scale with you.
There’s no limit to how far you can grow, provided you have the right fundamentals and a good expansion strategy in place.
Bonus Tips for SEO Entrepreneurs
As a way of concluding this article, we have a handful of “bonus” tips that don’t quite fit with the step-by-step approach of the preceding sections:
- Optimize for the long term. You’ll inevitably need to make some short-term decisions while building your SEO agency, making cuts or picking a direction based on budgetary limitations or inaccessible resources. But if given the option, choose long-term strategies over short-term ones. If you want your agency to thrive and grow, you need to think in terms of years, not days.
- Avoid complacency. When you have a prospect generation strategy or an SEO approach for your clients that does a decent job, you’ll be tempted to keep the status quo; the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” applies here. But this is an example of complacency. Successful SEO agency owners aren’t satisfied with something “good.” Instead, they’ll take a risk and experiment to try and do something “great.” Keep challenging yourself, and keep learning. There’s always something you can improve upon.
- Choose your clients carefully. Young SEO agencies often make the mistake of taking on any and all clients they can find. While your first couple of clients are important for testimonial generation purposes, you also need to understand that some clients are simply more valuable than others—and some clients simply aren’t worth dealing with. Don’t be afraid to fire a problematic client, and avoid types of clients who don’t result in a profit for your agency.
- Follow the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle is an informal rule that 80 percent of the effects in a given system come from 20 percent of the inputs. In an SEO agency, 80 percent of your revenue will come from 20 percent of your client base. About 80 percent of your prospects will come from 20 percent of your outreach strategies. Use this to emphasize the clients, marketing strategies, employees, and other resources most likely to help you grow—and don’t be afraid to cut the underperformers.
- Write your contracts carefully. You’ll need to put together a contract for your SEO clients to sign, outlining your services, payment policies, and other legal requirements. Don’t yank a free template from a website you stumbled upon, or try to write it entirely yourself. Work with a lawyer and be meticulous; contract law can be tricky, and you don’t want to be caught in a bad situation later.
- Know when to bend or break the rules. There are a lot of best practices outlined in this guide, and you’ll likely encounter a lot of mentors, agency owning peers, and SEO experts with words of wisdom for you. For the most part, these are good pieces of advice to follow, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to follow your instincts at times. If you want to make this SEO agency your own, and differentiate your brand from those of your competitors, you’ll need to be comfortable with bending some of the rules (and breaking others).
Finding a Link Building Partner Who Can Scale With You
If you’re interested in starting an SEO company, or if you’re looking to grow the operation you’ve already got, one of the best things you can do is find a partner who can support you and scale alongside you.
At SEO.co, we specialize in supporting SEO agencies looking to sell SEO services with high-quality link building, guest posting, onsite content, and just about everything else you and your clients need to succeed. Whether you’re just starting out, are in the process of growing, or are currently at scale and in need of higher-tier services, we have the experts who can help.
If you’re interested in getting started with a service package, or if you’re just looking for more information, contact us for a free consultation today!
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