Understanding SEO: How it Works for Today’s Business Model

It is well-known that marketing is a useful method of promoting your business to garner the interest of prospective clients, partners or society in general. Marketing takes on many forms, from brochures to commercials to internet marketing strategies. If you own a business in New York, a friend or colleague may have suggested that you employ SEO (search engine optimization) to enhance your online marketing techniques. But what is SEO?

SEO is a form of internet marketing and the goal is simple: to increase the number of qualified leads to your website by placing your website organically higher in search engine ranks. What is the benefit of this? When potential consumers search for something online, they tend to believe that the websites that appear first on the search engines are the best, and often do not look past the top few.

If SEO is not something that has ever been on your radar, you may have not given any thought to the links that appear first when you Google   a specific term or inquiry. However, it is not random or magic that places these websites atop search engines: it is effective SEO strategy. SEO strategies are made up of both technical (link building) and creative (content building) elements aimed at improving rankings, driving more traffic to your site and turning qualified leads into closed deals.

Therefore, the goal of an SEO campaign is two-fold: to make your site both search-engine friendly and user-friendly.

In terms of making your site more friendly to the search engines, there are certain techniques that SEO companies in New York use to bring more visitors to your site and increase the attention surrounding your brand. Search engines are constantly evolving and improving their technology to crawl the web to find relevant results for their users. Every search engine wants its user to be able to easily find content the user is looking for; search engine algorithms essentially rank relevance of pages and determine where to put them. If your website ranks on the first page of Google, there is a greater probability of increased traffic than if you ranked lower. However, converting that traffic into business for your company depends on how user-friendly the site is, based on ease of use, access to information, aesthetic design, and readability. New York City SEO firms will know how to seamlessly intertwine the technical and creative elements of an SEO campaign to ensure that both search engines and users are attracted to your site.

You are probably still wondering what exactly those “technical” and “creative” aspects of SEO are and the work they entail. The main goal of SEO is to get a website to rank higher for certain terms or phrases typed into the search engine. For example, SEO companies in New York City want to rank at the top of search engines when New Yorkers type in phrases such as “ SEO NYC ” or “SEO company near me,” and so on. Keyword research is therefore one of the most important and high return activities in the field of SEO. It is imperative that a website ranks for the right (and most relevant) keywords; this will attract not only visitors, but the right type of visitors to convert leads. Some keywords are much more competitive than others, meaning that much more people search that term, making it more difficult to rank for those terms.

There are tools that SEO experts use, such as Moz Keyword Explorer , to determine the competitiveness of certain keywords and even for suggested additional keywords. However, just because it is more competitive in terms of keyword research tools, does not mean it will be more valuable to your website. You need to decide what keywords are most relevant to your site’s content; if searchers will find what they are looking for on your site when they type that particular phrase in; and if those visitors will convert into sold products or services based on targeting of those keywords.

Another technical aspect of SEO, one of the traditional cornerstones of successful SEO campaigns run by professional SEO companies, is link-building. And while most people know in theory that links help rankings, they do not understand what that truly means. Links are essentially a walkway between various websites. Search engines view links as a way to determine the importance or popularity of a website. If your website has high authority links pointing to it, Google and other search engines will begin to trust your site, see more relevance in it and move it up the ranks. Link building is an art, and it also happens to be the most complex and expensive part of running a successful SEO campaign.

Before investing in link building, it is important to come up with strategies and engage in research to determine if a particular link would be beneficial to your site. One way to determine the importance and relevance of a link is to see what phrases the page links for; if the keywords are the same it would help significantly to purchase this link. In addition, a top SEO company will review your top competitors’ backlink profile to discover what links are helping the competitor achieve its ranking and purchase those same links for you. There are many different types of links that you can get to point to your site and it usually best practice to build a varied link profile. There are editorial links, which are given naturally by sites that want to link to your content; to obtain these links you need worthy content (which is one of the creative aspects of SEO that will be discussed below). There are also outreach links; these are created by submitting sites to directories, paying for listings or contacting bloggers for links. Examples of these include submitting an article to Forbes   and convincing the editors your content is worthy of being published and offering a scholarship program through your company for college students.

The more creative aspect of SEO stems from your website itself. It is a common to see that the websites that rank the best are the ones that are easy to use; provide information upfront relevant to the search; are professionally designed and aesthetically pleasing; and provide credible, relevant content. While “keyword stuffing,” or flooding your website with your keywords repeatedly, used to help improve rankings, this no longer works. Instead, it is crucial to write grammatically correct, useful content with words and phrases used by those searching for your product or service. Content must be original, put in an easy to read format with headings and offer some value to the reader. It is also critical to use examples and imagines, as these items keep the reader on the page longer, which can improve ranks and lead to successfully finding another customer. The content must also be linkable: if people cannot link to your content, the search engine will likely not rank it, meaning you can have fantastic content that no one will ever get to read. In terms of the website itself, it is also crucial to have relevant title tags and URLS to drive traffic to your site.

Many people fear SEO as something that is not measurable. Any business owner of course wants to know what their return on investment (“ROI”) is and SEO, an ongoing marketing tactic, can sometimes be difficult to measure. Some business owners even believe that the wait, which could be upwards of a year, is not worth the expense. However, SEO is measurable and you can quickly see the work of a top New York City SEO firm. Your rankings, referrals, links, conversion rates and content creation is all tracked by SEO experts to determine how you have improved from one day, week, or month to the next. This investment over time is certainly worth it if at the end of your term your website went from being nowhere on Google to the first page; there is no doubt that this will increase your traffic and business.

SEO may be frightening to those new to the arena of online marketing. Unlike a brochure, in which you can touch and see a finished product, SEO is an ongoing strategy, that you cannot conceptually “see” for sometimes three months, six months or a year. Despite this, it is definitely worth the wait. Today, most people take to Google if they want to know the best restaurant in the Hamptons, the best furniture store in Midtown Manhattan or the best barber in Brooklyn. If you are attempting to promote your business online and have a professionally made website, it does no good if it cannot be found. The strategies employed by SEO companies can take your website and place it right in the eyes of your online target market, leading to more traffic on your website and more profit to your business. Although the results are not as instant as having a brochure printed, over time you will no doubt see improvements to your business through the addition of a successful SEO campaign, including keyword planning, link building, site changes and content creation.

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How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

Images by SEOMonitor. Used with permission.

There are about 36,000 digital marketing agencies worldwide, based on our research on platforms like UpCity, Clutch, and our trials and users.

Out of them, about 60% have SEO services integrated into their main activities. New agencies keep on appearing, even in the current challenging context – around 200 were created so far in 2020.

With this in mind, our team at SEOmonitor designed a strategic experiment in three parts, starting from the question – How would you build an SEO agency in 2020?

In the first part , we’ve explored trends, based on search data, and Gartner’s Hype Cycle to understand what’s transient and what’s here to stay, and whether it’s been accelerated by the pandemic.

In this second part, we’re looking at the status quo of SEO agencies and their current business models, introducing another strategic lens to guide our research: Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas or BMC.

A New Lens: The Business Model Canvas

In Osterwalder’s words, BMC is a strategic tool that helps you paint out an existing business model and make it tangible for all the agency’s stakeholders.

The right part is all about capturing your business value with an in-depth look at customer segments and relationships, value proposition, channels, and revenue streams. The left part includes means to deliver that value with key activities and partners, cost structures, and resources.

We’re challenging this meta-analysis of SEO agency business models with the BMC, as it offers an opportunity to understand specific jobs to be done while asking focused questions. It’s an exercise that can lead to business optimization in novel ways.

Plus, there is a particularity here: the agency business model has a universal core in terms of functioning and monthly recurring revenue. However, different aspects vary based on the agency’s focus. Just like a bundle: various properties and functions (teams, services, industries), a universal job to be done (helping clients achieve their digital marketing goals).

The Current Agency Business Model

Who are the customers.

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

SEO agencies practice different customer segmentation approaches, so they can showcase either range or sharp focus.

Therefore, some agencies cater solely to one local or regional vertical, one market, or even act as resellers, having other types of agencies as part of their customer segmentation. Others embrace the full market.

Let’s see:

By geography, we identified the following segments:

  • Local businesses that are in the proximity of the SEO agency
  • Regional businesses
  • International brands

By vertical (industry):

  • Agencies focused on a single vertical regionally (e.g. auto dealerships or lawyers).
  • Agencies focused on a single vertical internationally (e.g., SEO for global SaaS companies).
  • Multiple targeted verticals and only those (e.g., ecommerce, travel, fashion, real estate).
  • Online only (focusing on companies that derive most of their revenue from online transactions).
  • White label services only targeted at digital marketing agencies or brands.
  • Small and medium businesses.
  • Enterprises.
  • Consumer brands present in Fortune 500.

“We’re challenging this meta-analysis of SEO agency business models with the BMC, as it offers an opportunity to understand specific jobs to be done while asking focused questions. It’s an exercise that can lead to business optimization in novel ways.”

Why do customers buy the agency’s services.

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

In terms of positioning, there are specific patterns to take into account based on customer segmentation and more:

  • How well does the agency address the customer segment needs?
  • What is the distinction in terms of price, services, methods, etc.?
  • What is the brand angle?

If we think about vertical-focused agencies, then the distinction is upfront: deep expertise in an industry makes them the appropriate choice for those client segments.

If we look at the expertise angle, there are other ways to showcase it – know-how of a technology vendor like Magento or Shopify or by unique proprietary software and algorithms which underline deep tech, data knowledge (e.g., Upswing’s COVID-19 Data Trends or TitanBOT from Titan Growth).

If the approach is the angle, then there is always the full-service digital positioning which implies executing complex projects from start to finish: strategy, creation, social, design, and so on.

Or a mix of services and price: bundles of SEO services sold at a monthly fixed price just like a regular subscription, which gives the client a sense of control.

There’s also the delivery angle which is less used: explaining a manifesto or methodology. It’s more than a differentiator; it’s an explanation of a way of thinking about the SEO agency’s role. Re:signal does this by having a dedicated page for their Think – Plan – Do – Measure method.

How Are the Value Propositions Promoted, Sold & Delivered?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

Here’s a building block that is currently under a lot of pressure, as channels are shifting after the pandemic.

Yet, the following conventions in the industry continue to dominate the way agencies reach their clients:

Events & Business Networking

Conferences and industry events were the norm for promotion and meeting potential clients, strengthening relationships, and studying the competition. In time, some agencies took ownership of the process, so they started organizing industry events.

In contrast, others co-hosted such activities with other important stakeholders (brands or publishers). In current times, shifts to online, virtual summits are more likely.

In the lines of practice what you preach, why not showcase your quality work by doing it for you as well? Think about a regional agency targeting keywords like “SEO Chicago” or “SEO Ontario” and presenting the results as proof.

Referrals & Recommendations

Word of mouth remains one of the most powerful channels, mainly if you target a particular vertical. Or if you want to enter a new market segment.

Media Coverage

Not as widely used, but some agencies generate reports and studies that get covered in national media or industry publications.

Free Data-Exploration Tools

Another not-so-frequent channel that acts as a differentiator is using proprietary tools to help potential clients, and present expertise and results.

For instance, Upswing’s Visibility Report is a free tool for brands to evaluate their online visibility based on search performance.

Pay-Per-Lead Aggregators

Digital agency aggregators like Clutch or Upcity, professional associations, and even chambers of commerce can function in terms of acquisition, being specialized and targeted.

Educational Content

Whether general marketing advice on their blog or guest posting, whether podcasts or webinars, agencies have a lot of know-how they use to build trust in their particular offering.

A compelling case is when agency leaders create educational videos or, even further, associate with academia and create digital studies.

How Does the Agency Interact With the Customer Through Their Journey (Acquisition, Operations, Retention)?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

Apart from the channels focusing on acquisition and brand development, this question involves client management and retention: how the client relationship looks and what’s particular for an agency.

One crucial aspect from this point of view is having personal account managers and being able to continually check the status of your campaign with a singular point of contact. This is one of the things that makes or breaks contracts.

The other one is reporting : it’s not enough to perform, you need to present results and be transparent about issues. That’s why an interesting pattern in analyzing SEO agencies is looking at the ones that access self-serve reporting platforms to allow full transparency and a semi-automation of the process. It’s a novel way of doing the monthly report, which dictates more trust in the relationship and tools as well.

How Does the Agency Earn Revenue From the Value Proposition?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

There’s no one answer to this question, but it’s essential to keep in mind that most agencies function based on monthly recurring revenue or MRR, which usually involves:

  • Monthly fees for SEO campaigns.
  • Monthly fees for content development.
  • Fixed monthly bundles of SEO services.

Depending on their range of services, they complement it with multiple streams that can imply:

  • One-time technical audits.
  • One-time advisory projects.
  • One-time reporting setup projects.
  • Digital marketing training sessions.
  • Affiliate fees from software tools or hosting (HubSpot, GoDaddy, Wix, Yext).

Some of these services are widespread, while others may have surfaced in the last couple of years. For instance, offering training and/or consultancy services is on the rise, going even further to business consulting during the pandemic – advising on new sales channels, new market segments to address, adapting to remote work, finding new target audiences for clients, etc.

Furthermore, some agencies become resellers for tools like HubSpot, which provides a significant portion of the income.

What Uniquely Strategic Things Does the Agency Implement to Deliver Its Proposition?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

In terms of activities that secure market positioning, agencies design their services in correlation with their customer segments and their value proposition. After all, SEO means many things nowadays.

Some agencies choose to offer strictly SEO-related services, while others go the full-service route, to capitalize on the various needs a digital marketing project has:

  • Outreach and link building.
  • Website design and implementation.
  • Local business presence management.
  • Content writing.
  • Paid search campaigns.
  • PR with a link building focus.
  • Conversion rate optimization or CRO.

These are the primary services identified, but there are a lot of in-between cases, depending on the agency’s strategic choices. For instance:

  • Koozai offers integrated digital marketing services, including audit, and training, while pinpointing their AI-led technology.
  • Straight North presents itself as an internet marketing agency, having a full-fledged suite of services in SEO (local, national, B2B, enterprise, etc.), but also PPC, display advertising, email marketing, and web design, and so on.

What Key Resources Does an Agency Require to Fulfill Its Value Proposition?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

The leading resource a business has is human capital.

For agencies, that means an in-house team with specialized roles and, for some, an extended, outsourced team comprised of freelance collaborators – usually, for more content development, graphic design, etc.

Based on their value proposition and size, there can also be data analytics departments involved, web development teams, etc.

Then, there is the digital infrastructure required to execute the agency’s key activities properly. This is a necessary resource, just as familiar as the first one, including both tangible and intangible assets.

Yet, if we go further down the line, something specific for agencies that can create a unique market advantage is the proprietary methodology involved in the way they do their job.

What Can the Company Not Do So It Can Focus on Its Key Activities?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

When choosing services, there’s also a lot you have to say no to. As an SEO agency, you can focus on your core mission or, as seen before, explore other complementary services in-house.

But, no matter the case, the key activities need to be balanced with key partnerships.

In our research, we identified the following types of strategic collaborations that agencies choose to enhance their projects:

  • Media companies for link building.
  • Rank tracking platforms.
  • CRM platforms.
  • Web hosting platforms.
  • Complementary agencies.

In the case of Impression , that means opting for a plethora of SEO software providers, while in the case of Found , it means enhancing their CRO services with key partners such as Monetate and Optimizely, for their data analytics efforts.

What Are the Agency’s Major Cost Drivers?

How Would an SEO Agency Be Built Today: Current Business Model(s)

Looking at cost drivers and how they link with revenue is a strategic exercise in itself, as it highlights what elements clients are willing to pay for, where to optimize costs, or what new services can appear.

From the agencies we researched, we evaluated the following points as the main costs:

  • Office spaces : Although this is a cost challenged by remote work and a new way of doing creative business, for agencies that target brands and proximity, it is still a substantial cost.
  • Payroll : The team which includes account management, SEO specialists, content management, outreach and PR, to name the usual departments, represents another crucial cost. This can be expanded to developers, a business development team etc., depending on the size and scope of the agency.
  • Software : Software fees for research, ranking, reporting etc., software development costs, specific tools subscriptions etc. The tools of the trade are crucial for quality work, so they represent an expense and an opportunity for cost-efficiency.
  • Outsourcing : Freelancers for content development, graphic design, or other complementary services are another relevant cost line.

To complete those, of course, you need to take into account the agency’s profile, as there may be other relevant costs to add (subcontracted project teams, sales/marketing/PR budgets, etc.).

After deep-diving into BMC, it’s probably time to challenge your agency. You can explore further questions and examples, and build your version here , in an interactive piece, that will closely guide you.

What’s next?

The reality is that SEO agencies have versatile profiles which support them in a particular market, but can become limits for other types of development. With each choice made to include or exclude a service / client / niche, this means new gaps to fill.

Think in terms of new customer segments generated by accelerated digital adoption, new channels like Zoom, Slack or virtual pubs to connect and promote, new resources like automation tools for efficient business processes, etc.

We’re ending this series with an overview of How would you build an SEO agency in 2020? based on input from various agencies. We’ll collect it as part of a strategic workshop for SEO business leaders and we’ll challenge the opportunities and risks the current market poses. Be the first to find out when the final piece will be live.

At SEOmonitor, we’re committed to helping SEO agencies navigate uncertainty, so we adapt our solutions to the current context. Search Trends , the Client Health Tracker or the Reporting board are just a part of our specialized tools and resources.

We’ll get through this together!

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seo business model

SEO Business: How to Start and Become Successful in 2023

By: Dileep Thekkethil | Updated On: October 30, 2023

Table of Contents

Are you planning to start an SEO Business? It’s possible that you are confused about how to generate quick ROI through SEO services. If you are going through this dilemma, you have landed on the right place!

This guide is going to take you through a success journey that can earn your business the tag – Best SEO Agency.

Before we deep dive, listen to what Bin Cochran, owner of Richmans Sport, Marketing Director at Marketwake said during our SEO On-Air podcast episode about starting an SEO business and scaling it to the next level.

If you’ve started a new Search Engine Optimization business, you might be thinking of hiring SEO experts. But the average cost of an SEO expert ranges anywhere from $100-$180 per hour. Spending so much on resources will eat up your returns, especially if you are just starting out. 

Why don’t you outsource your SEO projects ? It’s definitely an option, but choosing the right White Label SEO service provider is critical for success.

This guide will help you navigate through these difficult circumstances that almost all SEO agencies face in the initial days. You are not alone in this. We will provide you with valuable tips to save precious dollars.

This guide is aimed at putting your SEO business on the winning path at the minimum time. Once you are done reading this post, you will be ready to sell SEO services like hotcakes.

We will also give you a glimpse of the do’s and don’ts while interacting with clients and a sneak peek at closing SEO deals.

Our objective is to enable you to build a fantastic B2C relationship with your clients and transform you into a magnet that attracts clients naturally through inbound marketing tactics .

By the way, this blog post is not an all-encompassing e-guide of SEO knowledge. Still, we will touch upon a few SEO factors that you can’t skip on the road to becoming the best SEO company .

What are the common misunderstandings among SEO companies?

First of all, you don’t have to master all terms in the SEO glossary to run a successful SEO Business.

If you are running an SEO agency or want to start a new search engine optimization company, all you need is a team of talented people and trustworthy partners. 

If you think a one-man-show is going to bring the sales and revenue, the results could be disappointing.

This guide has been written under the assumption that you already have a strong team offering SEO services to clients. If not that, you might have connected with a White Label SEO service provider who can fulfill the client requirements on your behalf.

Misunderstanding #1: You Don’t Need SEO Gurus to Earn the Title Best SEO Company

SEO business owners assume that they have to know every aspect of SEO before selling it. This is a common misconception, as it is not an inevitable requirement. 

On the contrary, you just need to know a few core SEO business ideas. This will enable you to explain the basics of SEO to your clients without any hiccups.

Always remember this, clients are seeking your SEO services because they are not experts in doing it. Your role is to show them the results and not teach them about SEO or give them in-depth information about how you are going to achieve it. A well-laid-out roadmap is all that you need.

Misunderstanding #2: You Don’t Need 100% In-House SEO Team to Become the Best SEO Company

Are you running a new SEO agency? Did you get a challenging SEO project that needs more effort and workforce?

Don’t go on a hiring spree! You may end up spending thousands of dollars every month. Moreover, there is a possibility that the new employees might turn idle assets after the completion of the project.

In such cases, the alternative to render SEO services to your clients is by choosing one of the best White Label SEO service providers in the industry.

Who is a White Label SEO Service Provider?

A White Label SEO service provider is an SEO agency that fulfills the requirements of other SEO companies. They provide unbranded reports so that you can present the same to your clients with your custom branding. 

The success of any newly established SEO company lies in the effectiveness of the search engine optimization services you provide to the clients.

Always try to partner with a successful White Label SEO service provider . Additionally, include leverageable solutions so that you do not have to worry about your in-house strengths. This enables you to accept SEO projects from clients regularly without the fear of missing deadlines.

White Label SEO providers enable you to offer 360-degree SEO solutions to clients without going through the hassles of hiring in-house SEO practitioners.

Have more queries about running SEO projects simultaneously? Get an expert opinion from Stan before your confusion gets confounded.

Now that we’re aware of the two common misunderstandings among SEO agencies and companies let’s take a look at the SEO knowledge required to sell your products and services like a pro.

Who are the Recurring Clients of Best SEO Companies?

The ideal client for any SEO company would be someone who understands the concept of SEO.

You may come across businesses seeking immediate results, and they may not be willing to execute the SEO strategies long term. 

It could be difficult for you to convince them why SEO efforts take time as they are totally alien to the whole idea of SEO and how it works. 

These people come in terms only when they are conned by imposter agencies that promise quick and easy results for a bigger investment.

Your ideal customer is somebody with basic SEO knowledge who understands that the effort you put in is long-term and the end result, though may get delayed, will last longer. 

Psychology of Choosing an SEO Company

Clients select SEO agencies according to the SEO packages that are offered.

Only top-tier companies/people who have heard about your SEO business via offline or online sources will choose services that are priced premium.

If you are just starting an SEO business, make sure that your SEO packages are also not priced cheap.

If your SEO services fall under $50, you may end up getting a lot of inquiries and customers. Still, the quality of the clients will vary.

As we mentioned earlier, you might have to spend time making them understand how the whole SEO process works.

Additionally, you will also face ROI issues as some of these clients may take more of your effort and time despite their negligible investment.

If you are aiming at quality customers, the ideal price for each package should be made affordable, rather than keeping it cheap or overpriced.

That is precisely why we at Stan Ventures have made our packages affordable. We offer packages that are 50% less than some of our peers in the US.

Stan balances quality and pricing by merging the expertise of our technical SEO specialists in India and the experience of our US-based content producers.

This USP of Stan enables us to deliver top-notch SEO services as per US standards at affordable prices without compromising on quality.

This is also the reason why more SEO agencies are becoming our long-term partners for SEO fulfillment.

Why do Well-Performing SEO Businesses Offer SEO Services to Niche Industries?

There are thousands of SEO companies scattered across the US. What makes you unique so the clients to reach out to you for their SEO requirements?

Rather than shooting without a target, try to segment your services to a few specific industries. This will filter your company from the crowd and give you a unique identity.

This is something that Cris Dryer, the founder of Rankings.io said to us during one of our SEO On-Air podcast episodes.

Once you identify yourselves as the best SEO provider for a high-yielding industry, like ecommerce, healthcare, or real estate, you can add more value to the services and scale them.

This will also give you the added advantage of understanding these industries like no other. This is a secret sauce the most successful agencies used when they started the SEO business.

Being an authoritative figure within the niche will aid in troubleshooting common SEO issues faced by clients and cater to their specific needs without much research and calculations.

If you are not into serving a niche audience, find clients who are currently seeking a change from their existing SEO service provider.

It’ll be a piece of cake if you do a thorough check of your competitor reviews on Google, Facebook, and other channels.

Here is the list of different types of clients who seek optimization services from SEO agencies

1. Clients with Local SEO Needs

Since Google is offering local search results , more companies are coming up with Local SEO requirements. In our experience, a majority of these clients have a physical business with tangible products or services to offer.

As an SEO executor, you need to make their business appear at the top of Google for keywords that are related to their business and locality.

The best way to fulfill their requirements is by ranking in Google My Business, which is relatively easy to set up.

Even if the client asks only for local listings on Google, try to convince them how making relevant changes on their website can result in top rankings on SERP. Also, make them aware of the benefits of submitting their business details to local business directories.

Importantly, it would help if you strived to get local reviews through both Google and other websites such as Glassdoor, Yelp, and Facebook.

2. E-commerce Clients

Entrepreneurs who have tangible products to offer are now joining a long line of people who seek an online presence. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is; they want people to access it online and, of course, buy them without going to their brick and mortar stores.

This is an excellent opportunity for SEO companies like yours. Since the competition in the e-commerce industry is high, business owners need your help in increasing sales.

E-commerce clients are considered to be the best targets in the current search industry scenario. Bringing the product pages of such clients on Google’s first page can lead to increased ROI and long-term client relationships.

If you are approaching an e-commerce client, there are a hand full of SEO services that you can offer them.

3. Publications

With the proliferation of the internet, major print publications have made a transition to the web, since they found it as monetizable as regular papers.

These publishers earn revenue from the internet through their ad campaigns – both exclusive ad inventories and Google AdSense. Moreover, some publishers also offer paid services through subscription.

Since publications have content pushed online every day, they tend to seek the help of professional SEO companies .

A publication that does a good job producing unique, high-quality content may be ranking well on Google. However, they will approach you for technical SEO help or recommendations regarding improving their ad revenue or subscribers.

4. Small Business SEO

Many companies offer services online. Stan is one such company; we provide SEO services to clients using our web platform.

These companies require quality content and landing pages that can lure customers into signing up. They seek professional SEO assistance to create the best content strategy, manage blog content, and build links through outreach programs.

In addition to this, some companies sell software online. They also fall under the category of potential customers since they require an SEO expert to increase the number of downloads, subscribers, and signed-up users.

5. Other Businesses

With the rapid growth of the Internet, businesses across the world now want to extend their presence online. As a result, SEO agencies often come in handy for business owners who wish to rank in their specific niche.

If you are an SEO company already targeting the businesses mentioned above, you should have a separate strategy for each industry and individual brands.

This is because clients have different expectations, and your SEO agency should be able to offer them a customized solution for better ROI .

Check out our industry pages to know more about industries that are proactively seeking the help of SEO agencies.

How Top SEO Companies Win & Retain Clients Through Inbound Marketing?

A majority of clients who reach out to SEO agencies assume that an excellent website alone can bring in traffic and sales.

On realizing the truth that their website is just a keyless door without SEO, they seek help from SEO professionals.

Clients require assistance from SEO experts in troubleshooting issues related to lead generation through the website. 

This is usually the pain point where your SEO agency will meet the client, and naturally, it is worrisome.

Some of the common questions that they want you to answer are:

1) How can you help them generate more leads through proper implementation of SEO?

2) How can your SEO efforts make their target users contact them often?

3) How to convince users to signup/register, or just fill-up forms?

But the most critical answer that they want is to the question: How will your SEO services bring in more customers and sales?

Your first sales pitch to any potential customer should be answers to the questions mentioned above. Once you understand the client’s requirements, your response should be framed as a solution to their queries.

As an SEO agency, you already know that the proper implementation of White Hat SEO strategies can boost traffic and sales . Even though this requires expertise, you can explain the process to clients without bombarding them with SEO jargon.

Simply put, the whole pitch should be about your efforts to bring the client website on Google’s first page for selected keywords.

SEO resellers and agencies are everywhere. So how can you make prospective clients choose your SEO products and services instead of your competitors’?

If you are starting an SEO business, here are 10 ways to find new clients and grow your business.

1. Free Site Audit

When you start an SEO business , provide your visitors with an option to do a free site audit of their website. If you don’t want to lose users after the examination, make sure you collect their details before giving out the result.

Such details, collected over time, can be used as a resource for contacting potential clients. Once the audit is complete, release details of changes required on the site. Do not forget to appreciate all the things that they have optimized on their website.

If you think the user is a good prospect, try contacting them and build confidence in your product.

This will also help you identify sites that have been impacted by Google’s penalty for implementing black hat SEO techniques.

These sites will need lots of time and effort to regain traffic. On the other hand, websites that have duplicate content issues, over-optimization of keywords, etc., can be fixed with less effort.

Understanding the weakness of the client will help you assess the project’s longevity and cost.

If you feel that the issues with the site cannot be rectified despite all your SEO efforts, it is better to back out of the project.

It’s highly advised to buy an API from a third-party company to integrate on your website. Here are some of the most commonly issued APIs for site audit:

  • SEOProfiler
  • SeoSiteCheckup
  • Website Grader

2. Offer Free Trial

If the visitor is interested in your products and services, try giving them a short trial, where they can use the essential features.

Please make sure they get enough data during the trial period. You can ask your potential clients to even sign up for a paid package to get an in-depth analytical report.

If you are about to start an SEO business , try offering the first few clients a free add-on package. This will bring more value to your SEO services.

3. Promise with Care

Don’t follow the conventional SEO practice of over-promising. This practice can lead to clients considering you spammy and never returning to you.

Therefore, ensure that you under-promise and over-deliver. The SEO industry is highly volatile, so promising first position on Google within days is not a readily achievable target considering the complexity of the current search algorithms .

4. Write Compelling Blog Posts

Make sure you have a well-maintained blog for the site. It can highly benefit you in achieving traffic from the target audience.

Grow your blog by posting articles based on the services that you offer. This way, you can get a link to the service pages of your website and then direct users to buy one of your packages.

Keep in mind to share the same on social media channels. If your blog post is unique, it will most likely go viral. Using social media campaigns can result in more like-minded people visiting your site and becoming your customers.

5. Have a Nose For Opportunities

Always have a team for checking SEO issues faced by your prospective clients. Do a regular site audit and see where they are falling behind.

Let them know the SEO issues that are currently hampering their ranking within the search engine , and offer them a solution through your agency. This is a job that has to be done smartly, as clients may feel that you are an opportunist.

6. Publish First & Gain Authority

One of the successful tactics for building the authenticity of your SEO agency is by publishing the latest updates in the search industry through your blog.

This will give the users a signal that you are a serious contender. Once your blog gets established as a resource for authentic information, more people are likely to subscribe to it and visit it. Always keep in mind that some of these visitors are your future customers. So make sure you have enough CTAs for your blog posts.

7. White Label SEO

As we discussed earlier, many companies are looking for White Label SEO solutions. Offer them your resources for completing SEO projects and provide them with a completely customizable report.

8. Case Studies and Success Stories

When you start an SEO business, many clients will come to you with a skeptical mind. It is your responsibility to make them feel confident about the services that you offer. Case studies and Success Stories are the best way to instill confidence in them.

Tell them how your agency met the expectations of clients. If you are offering it in the form of PDF, make use of the analytical data and charts. This is a very successful formula for winning customers.

9. Testimonials

Testimonials have remained effective confidence boosters for clients since times immemorial. This trend continues unchanged, but the difference is in the medium.

Earlier, most testimonials were in the form of written text, but now, text-based testimonials are, at times, considered fake.

The way out of such a situation is by having a video testimonial. This will increase the credibility, and your visitors will feel assured. Try to have an influential company CEO to speak for your service to gain more advantage.

10. Weekly Newsletters

Do you already have an excellent database of people who have either opted for your SEO service or prefer to download the free pdf via registration?

These are people who are interested in the SEO products that you offer, which makes them highly probable clients. Therefore, send them a weekly or a monthly newsletter, giving a sneak peek into what has happened in the world of SEO.

Also, include details of the discounts and benefits offered by your company from time to time. This will keep their interest in your SEO agency.

Please make sure you don’t spam the subscribers with unnecessary emails, as they might mark you as spam and never return.

Going out in the search industry and finding clients is a daunting task. Stan, as an Indo-American SEO agency, knows that such an exercise is like finding a needle in a haystack.

However, clients are our bread and butter, so quality effort should be put in to attract and, most importantly, retain them.

If you want to know more, read our blog on how to win and retain clients for SEO agencies.

How do Best SEO Companies Convert Visitors into Clients?

Now that you’re aware of the techniques needed to drive people to your SEO agency website, let’s see how you can convert these prospective buyers into customers.

After implementing the various techniques to attract prospective customers, the next step is reaching out to them with your sales pitch. There are many ways to contact customers. Here are a few tried and tested ones.

The best way to connect with your future customers is through face-to-face interaction. However, many times, this is not a practical approach. So, the second-best alternative is to reach out to them via phone calls.

Calling a client doesn’t mean that you have to start the conversation like a typical sales pitch. Instead of pulling out the catalog of packages and pricing, provide the client with insightful information.

Tell them about their current SEO status and also detail a few things that they are doing right. Pointing out mistakes will create a negative impression, and since this is your first ever interaction with the client, you don’t want to mess it up.

Here are a few tips that you can use while talking to your clients:

Begin asking them questions about their business, market, and the target audience they want to focus on.

Understanding the business and the requirement of the client is essential before launching your pitch. This is one way of getting to know what they lack, their target audience, what packages they need, and, most importantly, their competitors.

Ideal questions should be:

Can you brief me about your business?

The answers to this question will provide you with the essential details about the focus of the client. It will also help shed more light on the troubles faced and the terms used in their specific search market, which will come in handy at the time of keyword research .

Have you sought the help of other SEO companies?

This is an essential question where clients specify their expectations. Here, you can gauge their SEO knowledge, which will be crucial for all future communication. Also, you can scrutinize whether their previous SEO support indulged in spammy stuff.

What is your current conversion rate?

If your client is focused on selling products online or signing up for services, it’s necessary to ask this question. This will provide you with details about their expectations and how to scale their ROI.

What are the keywords you are targeting?

If your client has SEO knowledge, they might have already found the keywords that their competitors are ranking for. This is highly beneficial as you can create a list of keywords before researching other tools.

Where do you think you are lacking?

Some clients might be producing excellent SEO content but struggling with backlinks or vice versa. Get to know from them what search engine optimization business plan they look forward to achieving by partnering with you.

Over Emails

The second best means to contact a prospective client when you want to start an SEO business is by sending a personalized email. If you find a customer leaving your website without completing payment, this usually is because of a lack of trust.

In such cases, an email written with well-thought-out content can bring trust in your buyer, and he may convert as a customer. Here are a few elements that should be present in a business email of an SEO agency:

Your target audience is already receiving tons of business emails, so why should they read your pitch? Unless the first few words of the email catch the attention, your email will also end up in the list of unread ones.

To make a client read your email, you should have a high attention-seeking subject line. Since we are offering them an SEO service, the subject should speak more about the solution to their problem.

Once the prospective client decides to open your email, the first few words should address their problem and introduce your solution.

Always include the USPs of your SEO services and tell them how your services are a standout among the SEO crowd.

Nowadays, most emails are read on smartphones, which means the first few words of the sentence should be crisp and offer some value to the client.

It doesn’t matter if you address the client by name; all that matters is convincing them about the benefits that they get. So, make sure your first sentence speaks about how the SEO solution can assist them in achieving success. 

Consider that one of your signed-up users visited the store and selected a package. He/she left the page without completing the payment.

This scenario is quite common within the funnels of SEO agencies. The best way to do re-marketing is by sending them an email listing the benefits of your service and, if possible, offering them a discount. This way, you can reconnect with a broken lead and turn them into customers.

Final Thoughts

If you want to start an SEO business , the points mentioned above are some of the secrets most successful SEO agencies hesitate to reveal. Now, you are left with one thing: Implementing it.

In the beginning, it may seem like a herculean task; but remember, if you execute it right, you’ll start earning big-figure returns within no time.

I know it sounds like a sky-high promise, but it’s achievable.

Shoot your queries out, and if you have any, I will respond to you as quickly as possible with detailed answers. I hope this was helpful to you.

Keep visiting the Stan Ventures blog , as I will be updating this post with new secrets on successful SEO agencies.

seo business model

Dileep Thekkethil

Dileep Thekkethil, a Mass Communication and Journalism Postgraduate, was formerly with a US-based online magazine. With over 12 years of expertise, Dileep has carved a name for himself as a trailblazer in the SEO industry. As an acclaimed author and relentless learner, he has transformed countless websites with tailored digital marketing strategies, thanks to his profound insights and innovative approach. Dileep's passion for staying ahead of the curve is evident in his contributions to Stan Ventures and the 100+ publications that feature his groundbreaking articles on SEO and digital marketing. His dedication to knowledge-sharing has earned him widespread recognition as a go-to expert in the field. For cutting-edge SEO solutions or to delve into the mind of a true digital marketing virtuoso, connect with Dileep through the links provided below.

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March 6, 2018 at 9:40 am

All the information is very helpful which can help us to increase our knowledge. Another big interesting article, this blog is very useful for the website developer and learner.I also get much knowledge from this blog.thank you keep sharing.


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Your site is very cool. I’m flattered by the details you have provided on this site. It shows how nicely you savvy this subject. Bookmarked this site, will keep coming back for articles. You, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched everywhere and just couldn’t come across. What an ideal site it is.

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Totally with you on the advice of what to avoid in SEO companies, especially about those who guarantee number 1 rankings, it is effectively impossible to do this. Not the least because Google is effectively a third party and they regularly change their algorithm!

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Thanks for dropping the comment. Please keep reading more of our articles.

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Also, make sure that your seo company ranks on the first page of Google for “SEO Company + Your City”..(ex. SEO Company New York City). If you can show potential clients that your company is on the first page for your target keywords, that’s proof that you can provide the same results for them.

You are right if the requirement is for Local SEO. For International SEO I think you should use a few other techniques to shortlist. What do you say?

That itself will answer a 1000 questions for sure. Thanks for the comment. Keep reading our articles.

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I have been planning to open a local SEO company, and this article was worth reading every bit. Thanks for your precious time writing this article and helping people like us to prepare everything in hand before going for a bigger step. Thanks & Regards.

Hi Jay, Thanks for the comment and all the best for your venture.

Yes. All that an Agency can do is to follow the best practices and wait and watch. It take a minimum of three months for a new website to get quality traction from Google. Thank you for post the comment. Please keep reading our articles.

Thank you Srivastava. We are happy to here that. All the best for your local SEO company. Keep reading our articles.

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Thank you, Dileep, for this resource. I am now well-equipped to open an SEO company. Let me see how it goes, shall be back soon.

All the best.

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Another great Article Dileep! A lot of money and opportunity in starting an SEO company in 2020. Well worth investing the time in learning about different strategies and running your own agency. Easy to offer reselling services too. So many business these days looking for SEO services, with a lot of money to invest. As Google often changes their Algorithm, learning and implementing new strategies is definitely important. Keep the content coming Dileep!

Hi Chris, Great to hear that. I totally agree with you. SEO agencies should be like kites that changes direction with the wind.

Thank you Chris. Yes. More content is on the way. Please come visiting us.

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This post is so informative. It serves as a complete solution to all the SEO start ups or companies who are punching their way. This is really helpful content and must be shared across. You have mentioned quite interesting points. This is exactly the content I was looking for. Keep sharing. Very nice work.

Thank you Kavita. We will keep doing good work for the SEO community.

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Thanks Dileep for this post, as a Founder owner of one of the SEO agency in USA, i will totally agree with you on majority of points you have noted. Keep it up and keep updating with topics related to this.

Thanks Victoria.

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In this article we come to know about the secret of the best seo companies.We come to know that how it helps during selection. So, anyone searching for same topic may find their shelter over here. Thanks for this wonderful content.

[…] The consumer and business trends that we provoked the lens from in the first part of this trilogy, today you need to approach the relevant people to build an SEO agency. […]

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Hello Mr. Dileep, This article gives you an amazing concept and a few secrets of the best SEO companies. Whether you are searching for a top SEO company in India or anywhere around the world. Before opting-in SEO services you should consider the above-mentioned points. Very well concept detailed features about each point. Thank you for sharing great content. Cheers.

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For search engines to recommend your business in top search results, it needs to be relevant, trustworthy, and demonstrate authority in your industry. It’s no longer about doing one thing right; it’s about doing everything right- and truly owning the strategy, execution, testing, analysis, and course corrections needed to keep your website moving in the right direction-up.

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I love where you mention the best ways to get visitors into clients. People who are new to SEO underestimate the power of a good phone call. Calling people and pointing out what they’re doing wrong + telling them how you can fix it is such a great way to get clients. This blog is perfect for anyone new to SEO.

Thank you Carlos

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 Nice Blog.Clearly Detailed everything about Seo Services. People who have no idea on how to choose seo services must read this blog. Very informative and thanks for sharing

Thank you Prashanth

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Thanks for this wonderful guide, I am pretty impressed with your guide and sharing it to my community.

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Thank you for the amazing article in the blog about the secrets of the best SEO companies.

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I have started an SEO service company in Iran and your article was very useful to me Thank you for your good site

Great to hear that.

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Great job on this comprehensive guide on how to start an SEO business in 2023! Dileep has done an excellent job of providing valuable insights and practical tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in the ever-evolving field of search engine optimization.

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Starting an SEO Business: The Ultimate Checklist for Your SEO Company

Itamar Gero | 24 mins read

It often starts with the idea of being your own boss. Then that idea breeds another one – achieving success.

No matter what brought you on the path of starting an SEO business, it boils down to these two questions: What is an SEO business and are you willing to give it your 100%?

The last thing you want to happen is to start an SEO business and end up with a half-baked venture and a string of unhappy clients. . . .

So what does an SEO company do? Simply put, SEO (acronym for Search Engine Optimization) is the process of making your website more visible in search engines. A company that specializes in digital marketing and SEO focuses on strategic processes to elevate your businesses online ranking. If a company is wanting to grow, compete with others in the same niche, needing more sales, and reach a wider audience, then SEO is a necessity.

We all know that Google is the king of search engines, but did you also realize how important it can be for your business? SEO expertly implemented will increase web pages rankings in order to make them pop up more when someone enters industry related “keywords” into their browser. From on and off page optimization, social media, content creation, pay per click ads, reputation management, speed, etc. . . these combined elements impact the grade of a page to influence ranking. A trustworthy SEO company can be the solution for increased visibility and better traffic numbers which leads directly towards more leads/sales as well!

Most people have started a growing business because they have utilized their skills to sell their product or service. SEO does not come naturally and most people have  little to no experience with the topic and strategy. They hire SEO experts so they can focus on what they’re good at, and trust external companies to grow their business online. In this article, we briefly review how to start a successful SEO business so that your paying clients are ecstatic and satisfied with the results for their business. 

How To Start an SEO Business

That’s why we made this checklist – to provide you and other agency aspirants with step-by-step guide on starting, running, and scaling an SEO business.

Whether you’re an SEO consultant or a digital marketing professional aiming to have your own SEO agency , this checklist will instill the essentials to help you go from startup to powerhouse.

1. Everything You Need to Start an SEO Business

The beginning is often the hardest, as they say. But, the sooner you understand the basics of how to start an SEO business, the smooth-sailing the next steps will be for your agency. The first thing you need to do is lay down the requirements for starting your SEO agency.

Are You Ready to Run Your Own Agency?

Start your dream agency

If you  answered yes, there’s nothing that will stop you from continuing reading until the very end of this guide. But, if your answer is no, that’s okay. We’ll help you get there.

In reality, no one is ever ready to start and run an SEO company. Apart from the ever-changing SEO industry, you have operations to think about. Everything is a learning process.

Before you dive into making your SEO business plan, make sure you tick off the following:

Prepare to Quit Your Job

Let’s get one thing straight first – starting an agency isn’t an excuse to abandon work. If anything, you need to dedicate extra effort and time to get started on your SEO company.

But, when do you quit your job and focus your attention solely on your SEO business?

It’s when you have enough cash flow that matches what you’re currently making at your day job. It’s when you have enough loyal clients to maintain business continuity. It’s when people are asking about your SEO instead of you asking them to hire you.

If you think you’ve met the criteria above, then maybe it’s time to quit your job.

Possess Business Acumen

An SEO agency is like any other business. If you have zero business acumen, you’re likely to have a hard time keeping your agency above water.

Many business owners squander thousands of dollars just because they lack the sense of doing what’s best for their business. There are many resources online and amazing books you can read that can provide you with insights on setting up a successful SEO business. So, here’s your assignment—be sure to grab a copy of the following titles:

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
  • Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Learn the Basics of Digital Marketing

Neil Patel didn’t start out as an SEO guru. In fact, he had to learn SEO and experience a few hiccups along the way.

That’s the thing when you start an SEO business. . . people like Neil Patel didn’t establish their authority by sheer luck. It’s a matter of educating yourself about the industry.

Ask yourself this: Would you trust an agency that doesn’t have an ounce of SEO knowledge?

Not likely, right?

A wealth of information about SEO and digital marketing is out there, so you’ll have no excuse to skimp on the learning aspect. You can start with some of the downloadable materials we have on the Resource Center that you can access when you sign up. We also encourage you to check on Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, Moz, and Google’s Webmasters Help Community for up-to-date information on everything digital.

Legal Matters to Handle

As with any business, starting a search engine engine optimization business comes with legal implications. every decision is guided by specific regulations, and knowing these from the get-go can save you from headaches later on., determine your business structure.

Before you even come up with a name for your agency, you need to decide on your business structure. Your decision will depend on which provides the best structure when filing your taxes to the IRS. Do you want to operate as a sole proprietorship or as an LLC?

As a Single Proprietorship

Registering your SEO agency as a sole proprietorship means you’ll be running your business with a single owner. This is often the case for many startup agency owners who operate their businesses as freelancers. The flexibility and simple setup make this structure an attractive option for many SEO consultants aspiring to own their own agency, but it may come with a few risks.

As a single proprietorship, the agency may be liable for damages in case problems arise. Single proprietorship also doesn’t require filing business taxes separate from personal taxes. This makes it hard to determine the value of the business when it’s tied to personal assets.

As a Limited Liability Company (LLC)

As opposed to a single proprietorship, registering as an LLC means you can have more than one owner (member) to run the business. Operating as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) poses fewer risks for startup agencies—one of these is having business taxes separate from personal assets. Using this business structure for your agency also provides you with legal protection.

With limited liability, you can protect your personal assets from business debts and obligations. An LLC is also more favorable if you’re planning to reach out to suppliers or lenders.

NOTE: Talk to a lawyer or a CPA before deciding on the business structure for your SEO agency.

Create Your SEO Contracts

A contract may sound intimidating to clients, but trust us when we say you need one. It’s the only piece of document that binds your agency with your clients. However, an SEO contract goes beyond legalities. Think of it as an agreement on what needs to be done and what is to be expected from both parties.

An SEO contract allows you to go into the granular details of how your agency will handle campaigns – from the roles and processes to ownership of assets and the length of the agreement.

Set Up Your Payment Methods

Most agencies rely on the easy way to receive payment – PayPal. But, other payment methods are worth exploring if you want to make the most of every cent that goes to your business.

  • Automated Clearing House (ACH) Transfers : Clients send an electronic money transfer from their bank account to a US-based business bank account. This can either be credit or debit transactions.
  • Credit Card Payment : One of the most common payment methods practiced by businesses globally. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are often the common card networks used. Many businesses prefer this method because clients only need to enter their credentials over a secure network to complete their transactions, we recommend Stripe.com.
  • Online Payments : PayPal falls into this category. Other similar services are Alipay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.

When deciding the payment method, think of what works best for your clients. Keep the experience smooth by ensuring each transaction is secure.

Prepare Your Invoice Templates

An invoice is proof of a transaction between a client and your search engine optimization business. This helps you organize and track accounts, so you know your agency gets paid within the payment terms. Each invoice should have its corresponding number for convenient tracking.

A standard SEO invoice includes the itemized charges with clear descriptions for each service rendered by your agency. The due date and payment methods should also be clearly stated in the invoice.

Your Agency’s Brand Matters

Your brand is one of the things you need to develop – not just at the start, but also as you grow your agency.

Building your agency’s brand is all about identifying what makes your clients choose you above other SEO companies. It’s what differentiates you from the rest.

Choose Your Search Engine Optimization Business Name and Logo

Your name and logo are the most recognizable aspect of your brand. Both go into all of your assets – website, business cards, online ads, lead magnets, and other digital resources.

When choosing your agency’s name and logo, think of the following:

  • Value proposition : What are your main differentiators?
  • Audience : Who is your clientele?
  • Personality : What emotion do you want to evoke from your audience? How do you want them to perceive your brand?

Identify Your Target Buyer Personas

Your target buyer personas represent the ideal clients you want to attract and convert for your agency. Defining your buyer personas make it easier to understand your clients, their business, pain points, goals, and the digital marketing solutions they need.

Identifying buyer personas come in two parts: their demographics and psychographics.

The first part pertains to their physical characteristics, such as age, gender, location, and employment status. The second part refers to behaviors that influence their buying decision, such as motivations, goals, and brand affinities.

Buyer personas serve as a guide on how you’re going to position your SEO marketing business. These are highly useful when you’re crafting content that aims to nurture and convert prospects.

Choose Your Niche

This is where many startup agencies fall short.

It can be tempting to cast a wide net and take the “sell to everyone” approach when identifying the niche you want to service. However, knowing which niche to serve can make a big difference in how your agency scales. Do you want to offer SEO for small businesses or realtors ? Are you into more competitive niches?

When choosing a niche for your SEO startup, consider the following:

  • Go with an industry you’re familiar with. The more you’re well-versed with the industry lingo, the easier it will be to connect with prospects.
  • Start with your social circles. Leverage the power of referrals.
  • Do market research. This makes it easier to do prospecting and qualify leads later on.

Decide on Your Service Offerings

Are you focused solely on SEO? Do you want to expand to PPC, Social Media, or Web Design? Planning to cater to businesses in your area and offer local SEO for businesses ?

Making SEO your main product offering provides your business with recurring monthly revenue. The reason behind this is SEO doesn’t stop in the first month. Clients need consistent optimization until they can see a positive ranking movement. Compared to web design that’s often packaged into one-off products, SEO as a service provides you with more flexibility to upsell clients.

Once you’ve already gotten your first few SEO clients and managed to get them to stay with your agency, it’s time to expand to other digital marketing services. For now, you should stick to one solution.

Build Your Website

A website can make the difference between getting prospects and losing them to the competition. At this point, it doesn’t matter if the website isn’t as stunning as most established digital marketing businesses (you can get to that later on). What matters is you have one.

For now, you’ll need:

  • Domain and hosting : Choose a domain name that resonates with your agency’s brand and have it hosted on a web hosting site. GoDaddy, Bluename, and WPEngine are some of the domain and hosting sites we recommend.
  • Platform : Start with WordPress. It’s reliable, easy to use, and, best of all, FREE. Plus, there are tons of WordPress themes for Search Engine Optimization businesses , so it’s easy to get started.
  • Design : Not a designer? That’s fine. You’ll find tons of web design templates that take away the heavy lifting when it comes to design building. But, if you have the budget, you can outsource website design (or have our team build it for you).

Checklist: Things You Need to Accomplish

Have you done the following?

  • Brush up on your business acumen
  • Learn the basics of digital marketing
  • Decide on your search engine optimization business structure
  • Create an SEO contract template
  • Set up a payment method
  • Prepare an invoice template
  • Choose an agency name and logo
  • Identify your target buyer persona
  • Choose your niche
  • Decide on which SEO services to offer
  • Acquire a domain and hosting for your website

2. Work on Your SEO Methodology

Work on your SEO methodology

SEO companies are doing the same thing. Yes and no.

While on-page optimization, link building , and content marketing are the common strategies for ranking websites, each SEO agency has a different approach for its clients. All these depend on their SEO methodology – one that you need to define for your agency.

Let’s dive into how you can build the foundation for your search engine optimization business strategy and establish your expertise.

Develop Your Core SEO Methodology

It’s not about doing what Google says; it’s doing as Google ranks. Your SEO methodology is a culmination of expertise and strategies that ultimately provide value to businesses and their target customers.

In-house or Outsource?

Becoming an SEO consultant then transitioning into a full-time digital marketing agency means establishing your expertise. This doesn’t mean you have to master everything on your own.

There are two tracks to establishing expertise: build your in-house team of experts or outsource the work to experts.

Learn About Project Management

SEO is a never-ending project. Unlike web design that’s often a one-off project, you need to be continuously optimizing a client’s website to make it rank . This calls for learning project management so you can manage expectations, tasks, and – when you become a larger SEO business – manage your team.

Project management in SEO is usually two-pronged: Planning and Fulfillment.

Planning involves research, evaluation, and strategy. This builds the framework of your SEO campaigns, so you have a clear direction of what and when to do things. Keyword research, competitive analysis, website audit, and content quality evaluation often fall under the planning phase. After planning comes execution, and this is what fulfillment covers.

Fulfillment, however, goes beyond delivering what you promised to clients. It’s a matter of implementing a consistent, scalable process to get things done. Do you want to go about the SEO project in an agile way, or are you more of a kanban type of person? Fulfillment can go smoothly if you have a defined sequence—the result being an increase in the number of happy clients and more revenue for your SEO business.

As you learn about project management, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the following project management tools for SEO agencies :

Avoid using multiple platforms—choose one that fits into your current process and team setup. If you have a small team to manage your SEO business, it’s best to try the free project management tools and see how it goes.

Use SEO Tools

Every SEO starts out with the basic knowledge of Google Search Console or Google Analytics. Both SEO tools can provide reliable reporting metrics that come from Google search results.

But, are these tools enough? Not in the slightest. If you’re looking to establish a solid SEO methodology, you need an arsenal of SEO tools.

Many SEO tools and marketing tools for small businesses are designed to accomplish other tasks, such as keyword research, link building prospecting, and competitor analysis. You’ll find a combination of free and paid tools online—we recommend starting with the free ones, so you can get a feel of how the tool works first.

Be sure to check out the following tools:

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Data Studio
  • ScreamingFrog

Pro-tip : Create a manual for SEO software and tools, then cascade to your team. This can become a part of your standard processes to eliminate dependency on individual talents.

Before you move forward, be sure you’ve done the following:

  • Develop your SEO methodology
  • Determine whether to hire in-house experts or to outsource
  • Learn project management skills
  • Familiarize yourself with project management tools
  • Determine which SEO tools to use
  • Create a manual on using SEO tools and cascade to your team

3. Market Your SEO Agency

Market your SEO agency

Marketing SEO services and your agency is about positioning yourself as the provider of choice for businesses looking to increase their digital presence. This means one thing—practice what you preach.

Think of it this way: will businesses trust your agency if they can’t even find you on Google? Highly unlikely.

An established online presence tells a lot about how your agency does SEO. Your newly-built website may take a few months to rank, but this doesn’t mean you need to rely on SEO alone. That’s what you’ll be learning in this chapter.

This section covers the best practices on marketing your SEO company and ramping up your online presence to ultimately get more SEO leads .

Inbound Practices

Inbound practices lay the foundation for your agency’s online presence. Think of it as passively getting eyes on your brand. This involves different strategies to attract leads to your agency – SEO, social media, content marketing , and paid ads.

SEO is the most cost-effective way of building your online presence, but only if you do it right. The key is to optimize your website as you do with clients.

On-page improvements

Do a quick SEO audit of your website and see what you need to improve. Do the pages target the interests of your buyer personas at their stage of the buyer’s journey? Is the website loading at optimal speed? Does the site navigation support user experience? Think of your agency’s website as needing its own SEO hygiene to rank better in search results.

Off-page initiatives

Link building strategies can go hand in hand with your on-page improvements. As your agency’s website is slowly getting organic traffic through on-page optimization, building links can provide you with referral traffic to boost authority to top pages.

Relevant Listings

Set up and claim your Google My Business listing to build your agency’s presence on local search results. You can also add your SEO business on Yelp and other relevant business listings to get more online real estate. However, make sure your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are consistent and accurate across these listing sites.

Another boost to your SEO performance is having reviews on top review sites and on your actual website. Be proactive in asking your clients to review your SEO company, but do this without being too forceful. Each review should come from people you have a professional relationship with to attest to your agency’s reliability, work ethic, and integrity.

  • Social Media

If you don’t have a social media page, it’s time to create one. Businesses spend six hours on social media per week, with Facebook being the most popular platform they use to stay active. Using social media for your inbound efforts requires more than publishing posts on Facebook, though. You need to:

  • Customize your message according to your audience and the platform.
  • Be a member of social media groups to get insights on what your audience is talking about. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit Groups are great places to learn about updates and topics that your audience is interested in.
  • Be human. Don’t be a robot and post just for the sake of engagement. Instagram and Twitter are great platforms to show the human side of your agency.
  • Content Marketing

Content is (and will always be) king. But, it’s not simply about publishing a blog post and hoping prospects will stumble upon it. A solid content marketing strategy is all about presenting the right content to the right audience at the right time.

Optimize your website content around the intent of your buyer personas. Dive into Google Search Console and look at the queries your website is getting. Choose terms with high search volume and build topics for your content around these. Remember that your content should always be evolving. Update and optimize to align the content with the interests of your audience.

Using paid ads is ideal for a highly targeted audience. Paid ads can supplement your SEO efforts, as this puts your agency in front of people who have the highest intent of working with an SEO company. You can go about this in two ways:

  • Google Ads : This involves text, image, and video ads that appear on Google Display Network or Search Marketing Platforms.
  • Remarketing Ads : Ideal for users who have already visited your site, remarketing ads help reinforce your value proposition to your audience.

With paid ads, you can stay on top of your prospects’ minds and be there when they’re ready to hire an SEO expert . Note : When doing inbound, always think of your buyer personas. Everything needs to relate to them at their stage in the buyer’s journey.

Outbound Practices

Outbound practices are strategies that you use to find prospects instead of them finding you. It’s your job to initiate contact with prospects and make your agency brand stick until they’re ready to get your complete SEO services . An effective outbound campaign involves a combination of strategies—this includes inbound practices.

Attend Trade Shows and Conferences

It may be the oldest rule in the book of marketing, but attending industry events can help your agency be more visible to businesses looking for SEO services. This provides you with the opportunity to connect with prospects.

Start with events that are happening within your area. If you know someone in the industry, ask them to introduce you to potential prospects—think of them as your handshake.

Leverage testimonials from a previous client. But, if you don’t have any testimonials to present, that’s fine, too. You can offer them something free and valuable (a lead magnet) in exchange for their contact details. A quick SEO audit is a good example.

Send Cold Emails

This ties with your inbound practices and trade show appearances. when a prospect provides their contact details (whether via a contact form on your site or a lead magnet you sent during your interaction at a trade show), you can pipe them into your email list. while there’s no definite formula to sending a cold email to a potential client , stick to the best practices to evoke the best response from prospects:.

  • Use a business domain on your email instead of a generic email address.
  • Refine your email list—segment your list according to the message of your email.
  • Include a compelling subject line and personalize your email message.
  • Schedule follow-up emails to get a response—two follow emails can be a good start.

Both your inbound and outbound efforts should point to how your SEO agency can provide value to businesses.

Pro-tip : Use a lead generation tool to find prospects easier and faster for your audience.

Here are the things you need to do before going to the next step of starting your SEO marketing business:

  • Do a quick audit and optimize your website
  • Start building quality links for your agency website
  • Set up and claim your listings on relevant business listings websites (Google My Business, Yelp, etc.)
  • Get reviews from your first client
  • Optimize your social media profiles
  • Join social media groups
  • Write and optimize content for your buyer personas
  • Launch paid ads campaigns to promote your SEO business
  • Attend trade shows and conferences in your area
  • Prepare a lead magnet to offer to prospects attending the same event as you
  • Prepare and refine your email list for cold emailing

4. Sell SEO Services

seo business model

Even if you’re an experienced SEO specialist, having the cadence to sell SEO services can make a big difference between a successful agency and one that’s barely making the cut. Everything boils down to defining your SEO sales process.E

Learn how to sell SEO to businesses and provide your agency with a repeatable process and tactics that lead to more revenue.

Establish Your SEO Pricing Structure

One of the things prospects will ask from you is how much your SEO costs. You’ll find different answers to this question, and it may get confusing if you’re not familiar with the value of SEO.

How do you justify the cost of your SEO to clients? Start by defining your SEO pricing structure.

SEO companies use three types of pricing structures for their services:

  • Hourly: Agencies often apply this pricing structure for minor SEO tasks, such as keyword research and website audits.
  • Fixed : This can be ideal for projects that include a combination of SEO work – from on-page optimization to SEO consulting services. Those who expand to other services consider a fixed pricing structure, such as when pricing their website design services .
  • Retainer : Established agencies often put their clients on a monthly retainer pricing model that fits their budget and digital marketing needs.

As you start your SEO agency, it’s best to choose a fixed and hourly pricing structure before moving to retainer fees. Before you do that, research. Know the level of competition for the industry you’re planning to serve. Your pricing should also match the capability of your agency to deliver. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by asking a steep price for your SEO services and overpromising—then make the mistake of under delivering.

Find Your Clients

You’ve done your research, figured out processes for SEO strategy, taken care of the legalities and more. The next step is figuring out how to get your first SEO client? Typically, the first clients are likely the following: referrals, prospects you’ve met at industry events, people within your personal and professional network, and people you’ve met on social networks (LinkedIn or Facebook groups).

Finding clients coincides with your inbound and outbound initiatives that we’ve discussed in the previous steps. The more visible your agency is, the more opportunities you have of connecting to businesses that need SEO services.

Here are a few things you can do to make it easier to find clients (or them to find you):

  • Download the SEO Audit Widget . Every time a prospect enters their details on the audit widget form on your website, they get a free SEO audit . In turn, you get their email.
  • Ask for referrals . A good word or two about your SEO company can spur prospects into getting your service.
  • Cold call with conviction . Prepare a script, pick up the phone, and start calling businesses in your local directory.
  • Offer free site audits. Give advice on how they can grow their organic search traffic. On any of your social media or websites, this can be a freebie in order to start communication with a potential client. Potential clients have a greater risk of turning into paying clients.
  • Specialize in a  specific niche, like legal services or real estate. This will help you identify what types of content should be created so that it fits right alongside other sites focused around these topics (and not vice versa). It solidifies your expertise and validates your position within the same industries. Helping one client 
  • Partner with design agencies if possible. This can produce compelling logos/icons while also creating marketing materials such as newsletters which could include promo codes listeners could use when booking appointments through various channels mentioned above.
  • Speak at marketing conferences . Being on stage continues to build your credibility. Providing education for certain topics and niches in front of an audience will help grow your company name. References can also stem from these conferences.
  • Publishing “pillar content” on the internet. Sharing it with friends via social media platforms such as Linkedin or Pinterest.
  • Creating monthly packages targeted toward specific needs.
  • Reaching out to individual businesses through email campaigns.

While not all of them will always work, these have been known to help accelerate the process of finding retainer clients.

Note : Take the time to get to know your clients before you reach out. This will help you match your sales approach to the type of client you’re facing.

Qualify Your Leads

A common mistake startup SEO agencies – even some of the established ones – make is selling SEO to everyone.

Why? Two reasons: 1) It’s a waste of time; 2) Not all prospects are right for your SEO company.

This is where qualifying leads come in.

Qualifying your leads allows you to focus on the right prospects based on four factors: Budget, Need, Authority, and Timeframe (BANT).

These factors entail whether your prospect can afford your services, has a definite need for your expertise, has the power to make decisions, and is ready to buy from you.

Develop a Set of Probing Questions

Probing questions allow you to determine the needs of your prospects and whether they’re right for your agency. Some of the questions to ask SEO clients are:

  • Did you work with an SEO company before?
  • How satisfied are you with your current SEO agency?
  • What are your main challenges? How did you resolve these?
  • Do you have a marketing budget?
  • How do you measure SEO success?

Pro-tip : Use this client questionnaire template as a guide when developing your questions.

Know When to Say No

As much as you want to take on all prospects and their requests, you have to face the reality that you can’t do everything—even more so if you’re running a small SEO business. This is where you draw the line.

Set high standards at the beginning and stick to them. It may seem a bit absurd to say no to SEO clients (because why would you turn away business, right?), but this allows you to prioritize leads who are more likely to convert.

The entire qualifying phase revolves around this. If you deem a prospect not fit or may not need your services now, you can put them into a nurturing campaign until they’re ready to become your clients.

Pitch to Your SEO Prospects

A strong pitch is a combination of a great amount of prep, an SEO proposal that sells itself, and a good rapport with your prospect.

Do Your Prep

Think of this as doing your homework—or what we call Step 0 .

Your prep allows you to develop a pitch around your client, not around your SEO agency.

What are their business and industry? What are their common pain points? What solutions do they need?

Everything you need to learn about the client to help them find the right solution and position yourself as the agency of their choice happens in prep.

Create a Proposal That Sells Itself

Your SEO business proposal is your agency’s value proposition in print. It includes information about your client, the details of your SEO methodology, your proposed SEO solution, and the timeline and deliverables.

It’s best to have a template for your SEO business proposal, so you can simply plug in the information. This saves you time on building an SEO proposal from scratch.

Supplement your SEO proposal with marketing materials to reinforce the value of your SEO service. Send them a pitch deck, a comprehensive competitor analysis, case studies, or even white papers. This helps in demonstrating the impact of your SEO service on their business.

Build Rapport

A strong rapport with prospects allows you to have a stronger influence on their buying decision. Not only does this show effort in building a good relationship, but it also helps you establish trust. As you get the hang of running your startup SEO agency, you should also dedicate time to learning a few rapport-building techniques:

  • Common ground
  • Cheerleading

Close Your SEO Prospects

You’ve pitched and talked to clients. Now, it’s time to close.

There’s one rule we always reinforce when it comes to closing: Once you’ve said your closing pitch, STOP TALKING. The first one to speak loses.

That said, make sure that you’re closing line is strong because this sets the tone on whether a client will accept or reject you. Learning sales closing techniques can help you determine what’s the best to say as you end your pitch:

  • Sell the benefit of your service.
  • Close by scheduling your next conversation (assumptive close).
  • End with a question that offers them a limited choice (assertive close).

IMPORTANT : In any pitch, there will be objections on price, the value of the service, or even SEO horror stories. Learn how to overcome these objections so you can solidify your pitch.

Retain Your Clients

Closing a prospect doesn’t mean you stop trying to win their business. You need to provide value and build desire consistently and continuously to make them stay with your SEO agency.

The moment you stop building their desire to work with you is the moment you lose clients. This can affect your SEO business because of lost credibility and relationships. Client retention lays the groundwork for your startup agency to scale. It drives repeat business and predictable revenue, so you can eventually attain a seven-digit earning SEO agency.

Before moving to the final steps, make sure you’ve ticked off the following:

  • Establish your SEO pricing structure
  • Download the SEO audit widget
  • Ask for referrals
  • Qualify your leads
  • Develop a set of probing questions
  • Say no to clients who are not the right fit for your agency
  • Do your prep before pitching
  • Create an SEO proposal and other marketing materials for your pitch
  • Learn rapport building techniques
  • Learn closing techniques
  • Write down the different ways to keep clients

5. Maintain Business Continuity and Operations

Maintain SEO business continuity

One of the challenges of most SEO startup agencies is not having the cadence to run their operations. The lack of predictable processes, in turn, affects their bottom line. This doesn’t have to happen to you.

By following the practices we’ve outlined, your newly established SEO agency can have the process to maintain business continuity and run operations smoothly.

Align Sales with Fulfillment

While it’s tempting to get as many clients on board with your agency, it’s important to think of your operational capabilities. Remember that you’re operating as a startup—that means your resources and manpower are limited to what’s available to you. This calls for alignment between sales and operations.

Your SEO business plan should include the following steps:

  • Evaluate if sales goals are aligned with your operations.
  • Set a baseline and performance measurements across intersecting areas.
  • Identify the gaps to develop a more collaborative approach.
  • Map out a process with clear timelines and deliverables.

Keeping your sales aligned with fulfillment will help you deliver what clients need and ensure consistent performance.

Avoid the Talent Trap

Most SEO companies that are new often have a limited number of heads in their team—a team of two or five at most. Given the lack of hands to take care of the work, there are often cases of work falling into the responsibilities of a select few in the team. That’s a talent trap in the making.

You need to acknowledge that every talent in your team has limitations. What happens if the talent handling the very campaigns you have suddenly gets sick or leaves? Who will take care of the work? Instead of relying on a single rockstar to bring you success, develop a succession plan. This should include standards for experience, products, and customer expectations.

Build Processes

This ties with avoiding the talent trap. Your agency should be process-driven.

Developing processes helps you avoid being too dependent on talent and provides you with defined steps that your team can follow on autopilot.

Think of the Pareto principle – focus on doing 20% of the effort that drives 80% of results for your clients and agency. This makes it easier to prioritize tasks and your whirlwinds (tasks that take too much time to accomplish but have minimal impact, such as admin work).

Develop processes and provide documentation, such as:

  • Checklists for repetitive tasks
  • Operations manual
  • Sales manual
  • Customer service manual

Pro-tip: Create these processes and support with training to establish a cadence of responsibility for your team.

Prepare to Scale

At the end of the day, every startup SEO agency wants to reach that high revenue mark.

This points to the question, “How do you scale your SEO agency?”

One simple answer—don’t be the hero.

What we mean by this is to delegate tasks to people in your team. Most agency owners (especially those who are new owners) tend to roll up their sleeves and take on the work themselves. As honorable as that may seem, it’s counterproductive. To scale your agency, you need to work ON it, not in it.

Outsource the Work

If you or anyone on your team can’t do the work, outsource it. We’ve covered outsourcing a bit in the previous section, but we’re going to dive deeper into how this can affect your operations.

Outsourcing your SEO provides you with more time to focus on your agency’s growth instead of the minute tasks. Moreover, it helps you tap into a larger pool of talent to get deliverables done while establishing your expertise. You can outsource SEO to freelancers. This may be the ideal option if you have small SEO projects or tasks that require a minimum number of hours to accomplish.

However, if you’re looking for a long-term partnership to deliver bulk SEO work, outsource to an SEO provider . This provides you with a larger team that will take care of your projects.

Pro-tip: Look for case studies provided by the outsource professional that showcases their ability to deliver results consistently.

Just a bit more and you’re all set! Be sure to accomplish these for your SEO business:

  • Set a baseline and performance measurements to align sales and fulfillment
  • Create a succession plan to avoid the talent trap
  • Develop processes and provide documentation for internal use
  • Delegate tasks – don’t be the hero
  • Find an outsource provider to ease fulfillment from your in-house team

6. Conclusion

Starting an SEO company will test your capabilities and will.

Many would-be SEO company owners tend to give up halfway—don’t let that be you.

If you manage to do all the things in this checklist, that’s already a big win. But if you need another set of hands to establish your SEO agency, we’re here for you.

While the steps to starting your SEO business may feel like an uphill battle, the result of all the work can be worth the effort. All the learnings that come with the changing digital landscape, as well as the businesses you can help along the way, make your work as an SEO agency more than fulfilling!

Subscribe to our newsletter for more practical SEO tips.

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Itamar Gero

More from itamar, google maps seo – what is it and how does it rank your businesses higher, technical seo 101, comparing seo vs. sem: differences, benefits, and more, wordpress seo: a comprehensive guide to set you up for success, seo faq: 50 seo questions and answers all in one place, multi-location seo strategies for businesses with more than one location.


Looking to outsource digital services?

How to Create an SEO Strategy for 2023 [Template Included]

Drew Fortin

Published: September 28, 2023

Here's a cliche among digital marketers: search engine optimization (SEO) isn't what it used to be.

seo strategy; marketers working together to create an seo strategy for their business

Here's a true statement you don't hear as often: your SEO strategy shouldn't focus on keywords.

These days, most businesses understand the basic concepts of SEO and why it's important.

→ Download Now: SEO Starter Pack [Free Kit]

However, when it comes to developing and executing a sound SEO strategy for your business, just creating content for the keywords your customers are searching for is both arduous and, well, wrong .

In this post, we’ll explain what an SEO strategy is, and how you create your own to help you meet your content marketing goals.

Know exactly what you need? Jump to one of the following sections:

  • What is an SEO Strategy?

SEO Content Strategy

Best seo examples, seo process, seo monthly plan, what is an seo strategy.

An SEO strategy is the process of organizing a website’s content by topic to improve the likelihood of appearing in search results. Essentially, it is the process you follow in order to maximize the opportunity to gain organic traffic from search engines.

Having an SEO strategy is important because it helps you stay on track when creating content. Instead of just creating what you think people are looking for, your strategy will ensure that you’re creating content that people are searching for.

For content marketing, an SEO strategy is a critical piece of the puzzle because it is how your content will come to be seen in the first place, especially in search engine result pages (SERPs). If your content is scattered and unorganized, search engine bots will have a harder time indexing your site, identifying your area of authority, and ranking your site pages.

Mobile SEO Strategy

Mobile SEO is an important factor to keep in mind when creating your overall strategy. Mobile optimization involves ensuring your site and site content is available and accessible to visitors on mobile devices, so they can have the same experience and receive the same value as desktop browsers.

Mobile optimization is incredibly important, as Google practices mobile-first indexing . This means instead of crawling a desktop site, the algorithm will use the mobile version of your site when indexing and ranking pages for SERPs. In addition, 61% of Google search queries in the U.S. occur on mobile devices. So, all things considered, your SEO strategy would be ineffective without prioritizing mobile optimization.

While it’s not an entirely separate process, there are distinct considerations for mobile SEO like monitoring page speed , responsive site design , local SEO , and creating content that is high-quality , regardless of device it’s viewed on.

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seo business model

Complete SEO Starter Pack

An introductory kit to optimize your website for search.

  • Increase your organic traffic.
  • Plan your keyword strategy.
  • Debunk SEO myths.
  • Build a blog strategy.

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

What is an SEO?

Search engine optimizers (SEOs) are people who optimize websites to help them rank higher on SERPs and gain more organic traffic . In essence, an SEO is a highly specialized content strategist that helps a business discover opportunities to answer questions people have about their respective industries.

There are three types of SEO that an SEO strategist can focus on:

  • On-page SEO : This SEO focuses on the content that's actually on site pages, and how to optimize it to boost the website's ranking for specific keywords.
  • Off-page SEO: This SEO focuses on links directed to the website from elsewhere on the internet. The number of backlinks a site has from reputable sources helps you build trust with search algorithms.
  • Technical SEO : This SEO focuses on a website's backend architecture, like site code. Google cares just as much about technical set-up as it does content, so this position is important for rankings.

Bear in mind that every business has different objectives, so it is an SEO’s job to examine their industry, determine what their audiences care about, and develop a strategy that gives them what they’re looking for.

Below we’ll go over some steps you can take to ensure your SEO strategy sets you up for success.

SEO Strategy for Beginners

I’ve been an SEO for the greater part of the past decade, and I can tell you: Our industry has never, ever seen anything like this before.

The search landscape is no longer the same in 2023. With the advent of search AI and AI-generated content , we need to implement new approaches to keep our sites ahead of unprecedented competitive challenges.

The good news is that the basics of SEO remain the same. Focus on the user first, always. Focus on helping them, always, and not just gaming the algorithm. Your goal isn’t just to rank highly — it’s to get the right content in front of the right people.

I’m going to walk you through a basic SEO strategy I would use if I were starting a site in 2023 for the first time. Later down below, I’ll cover a more sophisticated SEO content strategy that has generated millions of organic traffic visits for the HubSpot blog.

seo strategy: hubspot blog traffic visits

Let’s get started.

1. Search For Your Company’s Head Term on Google

If I were trying to start an SEO strategy in 2023, my first step would be to look for my company’s head term on Google.

“Head term” refers to the general word or phrase you’d use to describe your product or service, or even the topic you’d like to write about. If I were trying to launch HubSpot for the first time, I would look up “marketing software,” our product’s head term.

seo strategy: search for head term

And if I were trying to start a blog about publishing, then I’d look up “publishing blog.”

Head terms are usually high-volume, meaning that many people search for the terms on a monthly basis. That makes them more difficult to rank for.

What we’re trying to do with this step is not find keywords, but rather build our awareness of the search landscape. Take note of everything you see, including the terms suggested after you type in your head term.

We don’t need to use any fancy tools yet, though you’re welcome to if you’re familiar with SEO tools . With Semrush, for instance, you can look at the exact number of searches a term receives, and an estimation for how difficult it’d be to rank on the first page.

seo strategy: semrush keyword overview

But I’d caution against using tools just yet. It’s really important to live directly in the SERPs as you create an SEO strategy because Google comes up with new SERP features every day.

I’m not just talking about AI-generated results. Featured snippets, local packs, image packs, knowledge packs, and “People Also Ask” boxes can be valuable sources of information that can help you optimize your website later.

seo strategy: featured snippet in the SERPs

2. Look at Google’s Suggested Searches and Filters

The most important step after looking up your head term is to look at Google’s generated filters, highlighted below.

seo strategy: look at suggested filters

Don’t look at the standard filters, such as “Images, “Shopping,” “Maps,” and so on. You’re looking for the unique filters that Google generated for your head term.

These filters are invaluable for answering several questions:

  • What are people looking for that's related to your head term?
  • What would they find most useful?
  • Does your service or product match what people are looking for?
  • Can you offer a product page or article that people would find useful?

If I were building a product page for Marketing Hub , I would be able to answer these questions favorably. Marketing Hub is free, small businesses can use it, and it’s useful for digital marketing.

That means I could probably address a person’s goal when they’re looking for this term. This is good strategic information to have. I wouldn’t execute on it just yet, because I haven’t looked at how difficult it is to rank for this term.

Remember: Head terms are more difficult to rank for, so you’ll want to aim for longer keywords (also called “ long-tail keywords ”) in your actual SEO strategy. You can begin getting ideas on long-tail terms by clicking on the filters below your head term.

seo strategy: applied filters for long-tail searches

Now, for my publishing blog, I see that I could focus on the publishing industry or self-publishing, as seen by the filters below.

seo strategy: suggested filters for publishing blog

That’s good news — but later down below, I see that Google has included a “What to read” search feature.

seo strategy: what to read SERP feature

That tells me that a blog could be a good fit for this term, but that people are also looking for books on publishing. I would then revise my initial head term, or revise my blog strategy to slant toward thought leadership.

3. Examine the SERPs

Once you’ve found a good head term and perused the filters, take a look at the SERPs. I’d recommend going several filters deep so you can get an approximation of a long-tail keyword.

We’re looking for several pieces of information here:

  • How many people are trying to rank for this term?
  • What kinds of publishers and companies are ranking? Well-known publishers like New York Times or Nerdwallet, or niche publishers and companies?
  • What is located “above the fold” (the area in the upper part of the page, before the user scrolls)?
  • What SERP features is Google including?
  • What kinds of pages and articles are ranking?

For “marketing software for small business,” a relatively long-tail keyword, I saw that Google delivered 850M+ results.

seo strategy: number of results

Yikes. That’s a lot of competition.

But the truth is, Google has excellent crawlers. It will find just about any website related to a term and rank it in a bid to answer a searcher’s query. Don’t be discouraged by large search results.

What you should pay close attention to is what’s happening in the results themselves. For instance, “marketing software for small business” has multiple SERP features:

  • Sponsored ads
  • “From sources across the web” product panels
  • A “People Also Ask” box

seo strategy: SERP features in marketing software

Yikes again. All of these conspire to give us fewer chances for ranking for this keyword, because the SERP features push us down and we’re already competing against publishers like G2.

Even if we managed to rank on the first page, our click-through-rates will probably be lower because this is such a competitive term. Click-through rate refers to the number of people who see your search result compared to the number of people who actually click on it.

I would do two things here:

  • Search for an even longer long-tail keyword to try rank for
  • Or: Continue examining the SERPs for opportunities related to the same search intent, like related searches and FAQs

seo strategy: related searches in the SERPs

Search intent refers to what the user wants to do when they input a keyword in Google.

If I search, “how to bake kale chips,” then my intent is not only to bake kale chips but to stay “healthy.” Google, as smart as it is, would deliver both recipes and related questions about kale chips’ “health value.”

The SERP features for “marketing software for small business” are all supposed to serve a single intent: A searcher who wants to market their small business using software.

Therefore, every SERP feature you see is an additional opportunity to serve content to the very same searcher.

The “People also ask” box is a gold mine for finding related questions that the same user probably has, giving us an opportunity to answer those questions.

seo strategy: people also ask box

With SEO, what matters most is not just that your page ranks — but that the right user finds you and ends up becoming a customer (or signing up for your newsletter, subscribing to your YouTube channel, etc).

If I were creating an SEO strategy for Marketing Hub in today’s search landscape, the “People also ask” box is probably where I’d start for keyword and content ideas, and not the head term itself.

The questions, after all, serve the same user and are much less competitive.

You could also use a tool such as Answer the Public to find questions and related terms.

seo strategy: answer the public

Of course, don’t forget a classic: Looking at suggested searches at the bottom of the SERPs. These will not only give you alternative terms you could try to rank for, but additional long-tails and even hints about your top competition.

seo strategy: suggested searches at the bottom of the page

4. Analyze Your Competition

When you find a keyword you’re happy with, it’s time to start looking at your competition.

I would say that with SEO, it’s less about what we do and more about what they do, then beating them. The thing is, though, that how we beat competitors has changed. It’s no longer about who has the longest blog post or the most backlinks (although these are still important).

The Google search algorithm has gotten more complicated than ever. It’s important to take into account a wide variety of factors like website age, authority, user experience, and even website structure.

Looking at these elements can help you decide what you should put on your website and learn what Google is currently favoring.

When trying to rank for the term “publishing blog,” I found three top competitors: Selfpublishing.com, thatpublishingblog.wordpress.com, and janefriedman.com.

seo strategy: publishing blog SERPs

I would look at several things when trying to beat these competitors.

  • What kind of content do they publish?
  • What kinds of categories do they address?
  • What’s the publishers’ or owners’ personal and professional history? Jane Friedman, for instance, is a known industry veteran.

The first question in particular is essential for mapping out my SEO content strategy.

For instance, selfpublishing.com has the following categories:

seo strategy: competitor categories

If you’d asked me years ago how I would approach beating this publisher, I would say that I would copy all of their categories and add three more just for kicks.

But Google is no longer the same. It values authority and expertise. It wants to know that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re not just gaming the system.

Therefore, based on my personal expertise, which is in children’s fiction, I’d probably choose two to three categories where I feel I could create a wealth of content: Writing, Children’s Fiction, and Publishing.

If I were trying to rank for “marketing software for small business,” I would ask:

  • What kinds of articles or pages are ranking?
  • Because this is such a competitive term, what kind of authority or history do I need to rank?
  • Could I create something similar?

seo strategy: marketing software for small business SERPs

Look at your competitors’ pages, and keep their qualitative attributes, such as their history in the industry, in mind. But don’t be discouraged by long-time industry players.

When I was an SEO at a transportation startup , we were competing against transportation companies that had been in the industry for 30+ years.

But with a strong content SEO and backlink building strategy, we managed to get one of our transportation partners to the top of the SERPs.

seo strategy: results known

Once you’ve scanned your competitors, it’s time to dive into a simple three-pronged strategy:

Authority, content, and backlinks.

5. Generate Online Authority

If content is queen and backlinking is king, authority is the kingdom.

Authority, in fact, is everything.

SEO these days isn’t just about writing SEO-optimized content and hoping the algorithm will discover you.

Once upon a time, you used to be able to include the keyword in the title, headings, and text, and rank well.

Now, there are a wide variety of content quality factors that Google takes into account, such as:

  • Trustworthiness

Collectively, these are called E-E-A-T , and they’re part of Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines . Google wants to know that you’re qualified to deliver information to searchers. And if you’re selling a product, it wants to know that you’re legitimate.

Let’s go back to the publishing blog example. Jane Friedman, who ranks #3 for the term “publishing blog,” is a well-documented industry veteran. Her site ranks for 30K+ keywords and she has more than two-hundred-thousand backlinks.

seo strategy: Jane Friedman stats

Her blog post, “ How to Find a Literary Agent ,” ranks #1 for the highly competitive head term “literary agent,” above top publishers such as Reedsy and even Wikipedia .

seo strategy: Jane friedman blog post

Because Friedman has plenty of E-E-A-T — she’s an expert with experience, and therefore she’s authoritative and trustworthy.

There are several ways to build your authority when creating an SEO strategy for a new site or company:

  • Include your credentials across several sources in the web: LinkedIn, Facebook, your personal website, etc
  • Interview experts and include their insights in your pages and blog posts
  • Hire freelance writers who specialize in your niche, and use their name, content, and insights on your website
  • Publish guest blog posts in authoritative blogs and websites to slowly build a digital footprint

The Google algorithm is smart. It can cross-reference hundreds of thousands of sources to determine whether you’re an authority in the field.

And to make it a bit easier for the algorithm: You should also make your authority clear, as Jane Friedman does below in her biography.

seo strategy: about Jane Friedman

If I were launching Marketing Hub for the first time, I would:

  • Cite my six to seven years of marketing experience in the “About” page
  • Publish guest blog posts on marketing blogs and websites
  • Start another media outlet, such as a podcast or blog, to publish my marketing opinions and insights
  • Publish an ebook with my marketing expertise
  • Hire software developers who’ve created proven products before — and publicize that Marketing Hub was made by the developers who made X

As you foster authority, you should concurrently create content on your website, which I cover next.

6. Create Search Engine Optimized Content

This step is probably what you thought of when I first started talking about an SEO strategy.

Remember all that research we did at the beginning? It finally comes into play, because it’s time to create content that’s optimized for those long-tail keywords.

seo strategy: marketing software keyword in Ahrefs

I recommend using a tool to help you find potential keywords, such as Ahrefs or Semrush.

Here’s a guide on keyword research to help you out .

I follow one simple rule when creating content I want to rank: Write for humans first, search engines second.

I like to think of it this way. I’m writing an article or page to help a person, but also to hold the algorithm’s hand a little bit. Google is smart, but not so smart to rank your page unless you give it a few hints.

Therefore, I like to stick to the basics.

Include the Keyword in the Page Title, H1, Text, Meta Description, and URL

You generally want to include the keyword a few times on and off your page to give Google a hand.

As an example, our product marketing team optimized Marketing Hub’s page to a T.

seo strategy: title in search result

They include the keyword in the page title (which is the text that appears in search results, pictured above), the H1, and the very first line of text at the top of the page.

seo strategy: on-page optimization example

And it works: We rank #3 for the highly competitive term “marketing software.”

seo strategy: marketing hub page ranking

You’ll also want to include your keyword in the meta description and the URL.

Be helpful with your content. Ask yourself: When a person lands on this page, what would they be looking for?

You can answer this question by examining the SERPs and your competition. You can also think through your reader’s thought process and their search intent.

For Marketing Hub, we included commonly asked questions, even those related to one of our competitors.

seo strategy: FAQ in marketing hub

And Jane Friedman includes information on what to expect from a good literary agent.

seo strategy: section in Jane Friedman's blog post

Notice that this content is not necessarily beautifully formatted, nor does it target a specific keyword. It’s supposed to help the reader first and foremost — and by helping the reader, you help yourself.

After all, Google only wants to rank content that genuinely helps someone do or learn something.

Include Alt Text and Compress Images

Image alt text still remains one of the most underrated ways to optimize your page.

Not only does it improve web accessibility, but it gives you a chance to rank in Google’s image pack and image results. That ultimately means more traffic to your website.

And if you don’t believe me: Here’s a traffic snapshot from HubSpot’s image pack rankings (look under the column titled "Traffic").

seo strategy: hubspot image pack rankings

Just from our position for “resignation letter example,” we’ve received more than 6K organic visits .

Not surprisingly, the image that ranks has the alt text “gracious resignation letter sample.”

seo strategy: image alt text

In addition to describing what the image contains, you should include your keyword in the alt text to give you a better chance for ranking.

Lastly, don’t forget to compress your images so that your page loads more quickly .

Build Internal Links

After creating content, internal linking is paramount.

It creates a network for Google to follow. Remember, the Google algorithm is smart, but it still needs a hand here and there. How will it know certain pages are topically related unless you tell it?

seo strategy: internal linking in marketing hub's product page

So by internally linking from one page to another, you’re giving the algorithm a pattern to follow.

At the HubSpot blog, we call this the pillar-cluster model , which helped us overcome a year-long traffic plateau.

seo strategy: pillar cluster interlinking

By internally linking, you’re telling the algorithm that a number of your pages are interrelated. You’re also signaling that you cover specific topics at length, and that you’re therefore an authoritative resource.

And authority is everything.

7. Build Backlinks

Content is still queen — but she has to be accompanied by her king: Backlinks.

You could have the most beautiful, SEO-optimized website, but Google won’t rank it unless you receive “votes” from other sites.

We cover backlinks again for your SEO content strategy below, but I can’t underemphasize how important they are, so I’m going to repeat it again.

Backlinks are the most quantitative way to build authority in your industry. The more backlinks you have, the more authoritative you seem to the Google algorithm.

seo strategy: hubspot backlinks

Why? Because a site wouldn’t link to you unless you were a legitimate, trustworthy source of information.

Here's a selection of my favorite backlink strategies :

  • Publish guest blog posts on other publishers’ websites and link back to your site
  • Write helpful content that other sites will want to link to
  • Publish original research that other publishers will want to link to
  • Partner with companies on co-marketing campaigns
  • Join industry membership organizations with public profiles
  • Sponsor events and conferences

Next up, I’m going to dive a little more deeply into the SEO content strategy that’s driven millions of visits for the HubSpot blog.

  • Make a list of topics.
  • Make a list of long-tail keywords based on these topics.
  • Build pages for each topic.
  • Set up a blog.
  • Create a consistent blogging schedule.
  • Create a link-building plan.
  • Compress media files before uploading them to your site.
  • Stay up-to-date on SEO news and best practices.
  • Measure and track your content's success.

1. Make a list of topics.

To get your SEO content strategy off the ground, make a list of topics you’d like your content to address.

To start, compile a list of about 10 words and terms associated with your product or service. Use an SEO tool ( Google's Keyword Tool , SE Ranking , Ahrefs , SEMRush or GrowthBar just to name a few) to research these words, identify their search volume, and come up with variations that make sense for your business.

By doing this, you are associating these topics with popular head terms (or short-tail keywords, if you'd prefer), but you’re not dedicating individual blog posts to these keywords. Let’s go over an example of this process using the image below.

google adwords keyword tool screenshot resized 600

Let’s say a swimming pool business is trying to rank for “fiberglass pools,” which receives 110,000 searches per month. This short-tail keyword can represent the overarching topic for creating their content, but the business will also need to identify a series of related keywords to include in their content. For example, they could opt to use the “fiberglass pool prices,” or “fiberglass pool cost,” to achieve additional rankings for the overall keyword of fiberglass pools.

Using search volume and competition as your measurement, you can create a list of 10-15 short-tail keywords that are relevant to your business and are being searched for by your target audiences. Then, rank this list based on monthly search volume.

Each of the keywords that you’ve identified are called pillars, and they serve as the primary support for a larger cluster of long-tail keywords, which we’ll discuss below.

2. Make a list of long-tail keywords based on these topics.

During this step you’ll begin optimizing your pages for specific keywords. For each pillar you've identified, use your keyword tool to identify five to 10 long-tail keywords that dig deeper into the original topic keyword.

For example, we regularly create content about SEO, but it's difficult to rank well on Google for such a popular topic with this acronym alone. We also risk competing with our own content by creating multiple pages that are all targeting the exact same keyword — and potentially the same SERPs.

Therefore, we also create content on conducting keyword research, optimizing images for search engines, creating an SEO strategy (which you're reading right now), and other subtopics within the SEO umbrella.

This helps businesses attract people who have varying interests and concerns — and ultimately create more entry points for people interested in what you have to offer.

Use your long-tail keywords to create blog posts or web pages that explain the specific topics within the pillars you’ve selected. Together, all of your long-tail keywords create a cluster around a pillar topic. Search engine algorithms depend on the relationships between clusters to connect users with the information they're looking for.

Here's a short video on this concept:

Think of it this way: the more specific your content, the more specific the needs of your audience can be, and the more likely you'll convert this traffic into leads . This is how Google finds value in the websites it crawls — the pages that dig into the inner workings of a general topic are seen as the best answer to a person's query, and will rank higher.

3. Build pages for each topic.

When it comes to websites and ranking in search engines, trying to get one page to rank for a handful of keywords can be next to impossible. But, here's where the rubber meets the road.

Use the pillar topics you came up with to create a page or post that gives a high-level overview of the topic using the long-tail keywords you came up with for each cluster in step two. These pillar pages can essentially be a table of contents, where you’re giving a description of the main topic, and briefing readers on subtopics you’ll elaborate on in other posts.

Ultimately, the number of topics for which you create pillar pages should coincide with your business needs, like the number of products and offerings you have. This will make it much easier for your prospects and customers to find you in search engines no matter what keywords they use.

4. Set up a blog.

Blogging can be an incredible way to rank for keywords and engage your website's users. After all, every blog post is a new web page and an additional opportunity to rank in SERPs. If your business does not already have a blog, consider creating one.

As you write each blog post and expand on your clusters, you should do three things:

  • Don't include your long-tail keyword more than three or four times throughout the page as Google doesn't consider exact keyword matches as often as it used to. In fact, too many instances of your keyword can be a red flag to search engines that you're keyword stuffing to gain rankings, and they’ll penalize you for this.
  • Second, always link out to the pillar page you created for your topics. You can do this in the form of tags in your content management system (CMS), or as basic anchor text in the body of the article.
  • Once you publish each blog post, link to it within the parent pillar page that supports the subtopic. By connecting both the pillar and the cluster in this way, you're telling Google that there's a relationship between the long-tail keyword and the overarching topic you're trying to rank for.

5. Create a consistent blogging schedule.

Every blog post or web page you create doesn’t necessarily need to belong to a topic cluster. There's also value in writing about tangential topics your customers care about to build authority with the Google algorithms.

With that in mind, make it a point to blog at least once a week. Remember, you are blogging primarily for your audience, not search engines, so study your target market and write about things that they are interested in.

It may be helpful to create a content strategy to remain consistent and focused on your goals.

6. Create a link-building plan.

The topic cluster model is your way forward in SEO, but it's not the only way to get your website content to rank higher once it's been created.

While our first five steps were dedicated to on-page SEO, link-building is the primary objective of off-page SEO. Link-building is the process of attracting inbound links (also called backlinks) to your website from other sources on the internet. As a general rule, sites with more authority that link back to your content have a more significant impact on your rankings.

Dedicate some time to brainstorming all the various ways you can attract inbound links . Maybe you’ll start by sharing links with local businesses in exchange for links to their own sites, or you’ll write a few blog posts and share them on different social media platforms. You can also approach other blogs for guest blogging opportunities through which you can link back to your website.

7. Compress media files before uploading them to your site.

This is a small but important step in the SEO process, especially for mobile optimization.

As your blog or website grows, you'll undoubtedly have more images, videos, and related media to support your content. These visual assets help retain your visitors' attention, but it's easy to forget that these files can be very large. Since page speed is a crucial ranking factor, it’s important to monitor the size of the media files you upload to your site.

The bigger the file size, the more difficult it is for an internet browser to render your website. It’s also harder for mobile browsers to load these images, as the bandwidth on their devices is significantly smaller. So, the smaller the file size, the faster your website will load. But, how do you compress images and still retain quality?

It’s worth considering the use of a compression tool to reduce file sizes before uploading images, videos, and gifs. Sites like TinyPNG compress images in bulk, while Google's Squoosh can shrink image files to microscopic sizes. However you choose to compress your media, keeping files in the kilobytes (KB) range is a good rule of thumb.

8. Stay up-to-date on SEO news and best practices.

Just like marketing, the search engine landscape is ever-evolving. Staying on top of current trends and best practices is an important strategy, and there are multiple online resources that can help you do so. Here are a few resources to check out:

  • Search Engine Roundtable
  • Search Engine Land
  • Diggity Marketing

9. Measure and track your content's success.

SEO can take a lot of time and effort, and, because of this, you’ll want to know if your strategy works. It’s important to track your metrics to understand the success of your overall process, and identify possible areas for improvement.

You can monitor organic traffic using your preferred web analytics tool or create your own dashboard using Excel or Google Sheets . Also, tracking indexed pages, conversions , ROI , and your rankings on SERPs can help you recognize your success as well as identify areas of opportunity.

An SEO report is an overview of the SEO efforts you’ve enacted over a specific period of time. It essentially shows how successful you’ve been, as well as any areas that need improvement. Having a consolidated report also helps you present the data to relevant stakeholders to display why your SEO activities are important, and how they drive growth for your business.

Your SEO report can contain metrics like organic traffic results, the SEO health of your website, inbound link generation, and also address any areas where growth has declined that need to be addressed for future improvement.

The image below is an example of an SEO report from Ahrefs, where it has given an overview of the link building progress of the SEO efforts.

seo report example

Image Source

In order to fuel your SEO report, you’ll actually need to have completed some SEO activities, and below we’ll give some high-quality examples of successful SEO.

As mentioned above, there are a variety of different things you can do for your business to enact your SEO strategy. Below we’ll go over some examples of what this looks like in practice that you can use as inspiration for your own processes.

There are a variety of different things you can include in your SEO strategy, like:

1. Writing compelling meta descriptions.

A meta description is the snippet of text below a title and link in search results. The description, well, describes the content of the page to the person conducting the queries so they know what to expect.

The image below is the result of a search query for market research.

seo example: seo meta description

This is a high-quality meta description because it lets Google know exactly what the page contains, helping your content surface in the correct search results and helping audiences understand exactly what they’re about to click on.

2. Getting content backlinks and inbound links.

A backlink , also called an inbound link, is when another website links back to your website or blog content. It’s usually placed as a hyperlink on a string of text that relates to your content and, when clicked, they’re taken to your site.

Backlinks are an effective SEO tool because they show search engines that your content is authoritative and relevant, helping you rank higher in SERPs. The image below is an example of a blog post from Kicksta that has a backlink to a HubSpot Blog post.

best seo examples: SEO backlink

3. Optimizing your site pages for page speed.

Page speed is how quickly the content on your website loads when someone visits a specific page on your website. Google began taking page speed into account for SERP rankings in 2018, making it a critical area of focus when you enact your strategy.

4. Local SEO

Local SEO is improving search engine visibility for your business’s location. An effective local SEO strategy will surface your content in search queries from customers in your local area, letting them know your business is there to meet their needs.

The image below is a SERP result for “best restaurants Brooklyn.” The three businesses that appear in results have an optimized Google My Business profile that contains information that helps it surface in results for Brooklyn-area restaurants.

best seo example: local seo serp result

Once you’ve created your SEO strategy, you should also build a process to continue optimizing for new keywords and evolving search intent. Here are a few steps you can take.

1. Historically optimize your content.

Devote some time each month to updating old blog posts with new and up-to-date information to continue ranking in SERPs. You can also use this time to add any SEO best-practices that weren’t initially addressed, like missing image alt text.

2. Look out for changing keywords and new search intent.

After a few months, track how your blog posts are ranking, and which keywords they're ranking for. This can help you adjust subheadings and copy to leverage new search intent that your audience may be interested in.

3. Add more editorial value to your old content.

Sometimes, you'll find that a post is completely out of date. In this scenario, you should go beyond the average historical SEO update and give it a full refresh. You can do this by updating out of date information and statistics, incorporating new sections for added depth, and adding quotes or original data to give the post more referral traffic.

4. Create a monthly content plan.

To keep up with your SEO strategy, it can be helpful to create and refine a monthly content plan. You can place it into a spreadsheet, and your teams can track accordingly. The list below is an example of a content monthly content plan that takes the above steps into account.

  • Devote time to keyword research related to your industry.
  • List blog post ideas that leverage opportunistic keywords.
  • Identify blog posts that can be updated or refreshed.
  • Identify other SEO opportunities, such as holidays.
  • List content ideas in a Search Insights Report.
  • Assign content to your team.
  • Track progress at the end of each month.

With a monthly SEO plan like the one above, plus a tracking document like a search insights report , you can build out and execute on an efficient SEO strategy. You can also identify and leverage low-hanging-fruit topics to discuss related to your industry.

Create A Strategy That Supports Your Business Goals

Ranking in search pages can be difficult. While it may seem enticing to create content that is centered around high-traffic keywords, that strategy may not help you meet your business goals.

Instead, opt to create an SEO strategy that helps you address your individual business needs, like increasing customer acquisition, for greater marketing success.

Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in April 2019 but was updated in February 2022 for consistency and freshness.


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9 Marketing Agency Business Models for 2023

Choosing the right digital marketing agency business model can be crucial to your agency's growth. In this blog post, we’ll explore different business models for marketing agencies. We’ll also look at key criteria for success and tips to adapt your agency’s business model for maximum growth. 

What you will learn

  • The different types of agency business models
  • How to pick the right business model for your marketing agency
  • How to improve income from your business model

What is a marketing agency business model? 

A business model for a marketing agency is the blueprint of a digital marketing agency's operations. A marketing agency business model defines how the agency generates income, interacts with its clients and delivers its services.

For instance, a performance-based agency might focus on delivering measurable results such as improved search engine rankings or increased social media engagement.

They would structure their pricing around the achievement of these specific goals, thereby tying their success directly to their clients' success.

This model incentivizes the agency to consistently deliver high-quality work, as their revenue is directly impacted by the results they achieve.

A well-crafted business model guides the agency's strategies, services, revenue, and costs. 

The model acts as a compass, driving operational efficiency, market relevance, and profitability. It empowers the agency to streamline processes, allocate resources wisely, and optimize performance.

9 types of business models for marketing agencies

The foundation of any successful digital marketing agency lies in its business model. This includes selecting the right pricing structure to help maximize profits. 

Let’s take a closer look at these models to determine which one suits your agency best.

1. Retainer model

The retainer-based model is simple: clients pay upfront for a set of services or time. Here's the scoop: a digital marketing agency and client lock arms, agreeing on a fixed, recurring fee. In return, the agency delivers a specific set of services over an agreed period – usually every month.

How the retainer model works

The agency and client seal the deal through a contract that spells out the service scope, monthly fee, and duration. 

Services can cover a range of digital marketing activities. Think of social media management, content creation, SEO optimization, email marketing, or PPC campaigns. 

With the agreement in place, the agency consistently delivers the services. In the meantime, the client pays the fixed monthly fee, no matter the hours or effort.

Advantages of the Retainer Model

  • Predictable income : The retainer model offers a steady income stream, helping digital agencies plan and allocate resources better. 
  • Long-term relationships : Retainers nurture strong client partnerships. This enables deep insights into business objectives and audiences. It fosters trust, loyalty, repeat business, and referrals.

Challenges of the retainer model

  • Continuous service delivery : Agencies shoulder the responsibility of consistent service delivery. It requires dedication and ingenuity to meet monthly expectations.
  • Incentives for excellence: The absence of direct incentives to exceed expectations can be mitigated by adapting to changing client needs and market trends to showcase value.

Practical application

The retainer model fits perfectly for social media, link building, and content creation. For example, it shines in social media management, handling posts, engaging audiences, and analyzing performance.

2. Project-based model

The project-based model can be used where digital agencies offer specialized services. 

This could be:

  • website design
  • content creation
  • campaign development 

In exchange, the agency is paid a set fee.

How the project-based model works

Digital marketing agencies and clients team up to define project scope, objectives, and deliverables. 

A fixed fee is agreed upon for the entire project. This ensures clear expectations on both sides. 

This model shines when projects stick to well-defined parameters and don’t undergo significant changes. 

The agency follows project milestones and timelines, receiving payment upon successful completion.

Advantages and challenges

Everybody's on the same page with the project-based model. It offers cost clarity, ensuring reliable outcomes for both agency and client. 

With well-scoped projects, everything's clear, and it's smooth sailing. 

But, like a ship caught in the doldrums, waiting for payment can leave an agency’s cash flow adrift, seeking the winds of financial progress.

Real-life application

Web design projects are a good example of the project-based model's application. An agency is hired for website creation at an agreed fee. 

This model is also suited for one-off activities like brochure design or product launch campaigns, each quoted individually. 

Like a personalized navigation tool, it empowers clients to chart their course through a sea of options, selecting services that steer directly toward their unique needs.

3. Performance-based model

The power of the performance-based model is that it rewards digital agencies based on real results. Unlike fixed fee pricing models, it ties agency success to client success.

How the performance-based model works

In a performance-based setup, the agency and client work together, setting clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that define success. 

If goals are met, agencies earn a percentage of the value created. This model pushes digital marketing agencies to make things happen, for real.

The performance-based model produces client-centric wins. 

Agencies that are confident in their results and willing to share risk enjoy this model. But, it's not foolproof – external factors like market shifts can play a role. 

From the client's viewpoint, this model is great! They pay when results roll in, fostering trust and long-lasting partnerships.

Digital marketing agencies, especially in SEO, PPC advertising, affiliate marketing, and lead generation, love the performance-based model. 

An SEO agency might score big when search rankings soar. For a PPC agency, it's all about conversions from paid ads. It's real results, real rewards!

4. Commission-based model

The commission-based model is a star in the classic world of advertising. Agencies earn a slice of the pie – a percentage of media purchases. It's a hit for big campaigns and hefty media buys.

How the commission-based model works

Agencies team up with clients to plan. It's like a collaborative theater production, with agencies and clients crafting the perfect scenes for media splashes across TV, radio, print, and online platforms.

Agency earnings come from a cut of total media costs. Think of it as a reward for super-smart planning and execution.

The commission-based model is like a steady river of income, especially with big budgets. Agencies earn well for their advertising wizardry.

The promise of big bucks attracts agencies. But, predicting income can be a puzzle.

This model, with its transaction-dependent nature, is not every agency's cup of tea. It works better for certain industries and budgets.

Traditional ad agencies shine here. Picture crafting a national campaign on TV, radio, and print. Agencies earn a cut for every media spot they secure. It's classic advertising, plus a dash of commission magic!

5. Flat fee model

The flat fee model is simple: the client pays a set price for a job, no matter how much time it takes. Unlike ongoing retainers, this model is for single, crystal-clear projects.

How the flat fee model works

In the flat fee model, agencies decide on a fixed price for their work, no matter how long it takes. 

Everyone knows the cost upfront – no surprises. Unlike retainers, which are ongoing, the flat fee model is only for single projects.

Advantages and Considerations

The flat fee model gives clients a clear cost from the start, which is great for clear-cut projects with defined scopes. But, there are risks; if a project drags on, agencies might do more work without the extra pay.

Real-life Application

Digital marketing wizards use the flat fee model for stuff like creating a brand package, building websites, or special campaigns. It's top-notch when tasks have a clear goal and an endpoint, making things neat and tidy for clients. 

6. Bonus model

The bonus model is all about boosting performance. It steps in to applaud agency triumphs, promoting teamwork and shared success.

How the bonus system functions

In this model, agency pay is linked to significant savings or increased income for the client. A set bonus, often a percentage of achieved results, is given for hitting specific goals. 

Think of it as a performance award.

It's a favorite among paid advertising agencies, where campaign impact on revenue is easily measured.

Advantages and considerations

This model sparks outstanding work. Agencies aim high, dancing in sync with the client's success. Bonuses come from major savings or revenue leaps, forging collaboration.

Potential challenges and risks

Although it’s motivating, the bonus model has its challenges. Disagreements might pop up over criteria or measuring success, straining relations. 

There's risk, too; if expected outcomes aren't met, agencies could face financial hits.

Paid advertising agencies often adopt the bonus model. For instance, if they manage a pay-per-click campaign, a bonus based on increased sales could be tied to their efforts. 

It's like an accelerator, pushing constant tweaks for the biggest bang.

7. Fee & bonus model

The fee and bonus model joins two agency strategies in perfect harmony. Here, we've got a fixed fee for services plus a bonus opportunity tied to awesome results.

How the fee & bonus model works

In this setup, the agency and client agree on a fixed fee for services. But there’s more. If the agency exceeds the targets and over-delivers, they earn a bonus on top of the standard fee. 

This model creates a balance between a dependable fee and the drive of performance-based bonuses.

Advantages and context

The fee and bonus model is a win-win. It's the perfect blend of steady fees and bonus drive, giving a bit of both worlds. 

It's a hit in advertising, paid social, and lead generation agencies, where outcomes can be tracked and linked to agency efforts.

Visualizing the model

Imagine an SEO agency handling website optimization for a monthly fee. They set a target to spike site traffic by 30% in six months. Smash it with a 40% rise and boom – a 15% bonus tags along! 

Suddenly, they're on fire, chasing not just results but bonus rewards too! 

8. Hourly rate model

The hourly rate model is at the heart of marketing agency tactics. This model involves charging clients based on an hourly fee. It reflects the actual time spent on their projects.

How the hourly rate model works

With this model, the agency and client agree on an hourly rate. As the agency gets busy, they log time spent on tasks and invoice the client. 

This model is flexible and transparent. And it’s fair for both sides.

The hourly rate model has its perks. Clients pay for the exact effort they get. Agencies get paid fairly for every minute, making things crystal clear.

Potential challenges

While this model is flexible, it does have some challenges. Guessing total project costs upfront can be tricky, as it relies on actual time spent. 

And disagreements might pop up about how time is used or if some tasks are even needed.

Consulting firms, PR agencies, and others where work varies and project scopes are unpredictable are a good fit for the hourly rate model. 

For example, a PR agency could charge hourly for media outreach, with the client paying for time spent pitching and landing media spots.

9. Hybrid model

The hybrid model is like a jack-of-all-trades in digital marketing strategies. It mixes and matches bits from different pricing methods, crafting a flexible, tailor-made payment dance.

How the hybrid model works

Within the hybrid model, agencies create a special price plan, borrowing features from various business models. This could mean integrating retainer-based, project-based, or performance-based elements to suit a client's unique needs. 

The result? A flexible, adaptable payment framework. It's like making your perfect smoothie!

The hybrid model grows as projects do – it’s great for complexity. It also knits agency-client interests, sparking teamwork and shared goals.

While flexible, the hybrid model needs coordinated effort. Juggling multiple pricing structures and meshing various elements can be complicated. 

Clear communication prevents mix-ups and hiccups.

The hybrid model is useful for agencies that offer many types of services. Take a digital marketing agency offering ongoing social media management (retainer-based) and one-off campaigns (project-based). 

They could put together a hybrid model with retainer stability with campaign-driven bonuses, keeping everybody happy.

Which business model is most profitable for marketing agencies? 

The retainer model is often the most profitable for digital marketing agencies. It provides a steady and predictable income stream and fosters a long term relationship with the client. But to make this pricing model profitable, agencies must consistently deliver value to their clients. 

While the retainer model can be highly profitable, it's not the best fit for every agency or every client. 

Finding the right fit ensures a mutually beneficial and prosperous partnership.

Choosing the right business model is a strategic move. It should take into account many factors unique to each digital marketing agency.

These factors include:

Agency size: Your scale of operations influences the type of business model you should adopt. A small boutique agency might focus on a niche service. A larger agency might diversify its offerings.

Target Market: Consider the demographics, industry sectors, and geographic scope of your agency's target market. These factors play a pivotal role in determining the ideal business model. For instance, a local agency might adopt a different model than one catering to international clients.

Services Offered: The range of services you offer influences your agency structure. You may, for example, offer content creation, social media management, SEO, or full-scale integrated campaigns. It also impacts operations and how you generate revenue.

Operational Efficiency: Some business models focus on operational efficiency. They standardize processes and leverage technology. Other business models emphasize customization and personalization.

Practical examples of business models to choose from include the following:

  • Retainer model
  • Project-based model
  • Performance-based model
  • Commission-based model, and more.

How to adjust your business model for success

Most agencies will agree that adapting your business model is vital for achieving sustained success in a dynamic industry.

Here's a roadmap to guide your adjustments.

Work on your unique value proposition

Identify what sets your agency apart—whether it's niche expertise, rapid results, or exceptional customer service. Crafting a distinct value proposition sharpens your competitive edge.

Adjust billing methods

Revise your billing strategy if it falls short in covering expenses. While introducing new billing methods to existing clients might be challenging, new clients can easily embrace them.

Ensure scalability

To ensure your agency remains scalable and responsive:

Invest in technology

  • Track market trends
  • Expand service offerings to grow as demand increases

Maintain profitability

Optimize operations and ensure consistent profitability:

  • Understand costs
  • Employ smart pricing strategies
  • Diversify revenue streams

Automate processes

Streamline operations by automating tasks such as client communication, invoicing, and project management. This will free up time for revenue-generating activities.

Adjust your offer

Upsell to existing clients by delivering extra value, products, or services. Expanding your offerings, creating new service packages, or introducing premium services can bolster client relationships.

Leverage cutting-edge technologies to enhance services and deliver heightened value to clients. Embrace new software, digital marketing strategies, and data analytics for informed decision-making.

Key takeaways

  • A digital marketing agency's business model is the strategic framework that shapes its identity, services, and financial prosperity. Digital marketing agencies can ensure sustainable success by understanding and selecting the right business model.
  • The choice of a business model is influenced by several factors like agency size, target market, services offered, and operational strategies.
  • The retainer model is a widely-used and profitable marketing agency business model. It provides a stable source of revenue and fosters long-term client relationships.
  • Other models for digital marketing agencies include project-based, performance-based, commission-based, and flat fee structures. Still more options are the bonus model, hourly rate model, and hybrid model.  
  • Agency owners may need to adapt their own business model for sustained success in a dynamic industry. To guide your adjustments, follow a roadmap: refine your unique value proposition and tweak billing methods for coverage.
  • Ensure scalability through technology and maintain profitability with a smart pricing model. Automate processes for efficiency, upsell by adding value and leverage technology for enhanced services and data-driven decisions.

Selecting the right marketing agency business model is essential for maximizing profits. And for achieving your objectives. 

Understand the advantages and drawbacks of different models. Hone your unique value proposition and adapt your approach to suit your agency’s needs. By doing this, you can build a successful and profitable digital marketing agency business model. 

Embrace the challenges, learn from successful case studies, and unlock your agency’s full potential.

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seo business model

SEO Business Plan Template

Written by Dave Lavinsky

seo business plan

SEO Business Plan

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their SEO companies.

If you’re unfamiliar with creating an SEO business plan, you may think creating one will be a time-consuming and frustrating process. For most entrepreneurs it is, but for you, it won’t be since we’re here to help. We have the experience, resources, and knowledge to help you create a great business plan.

In this article, you will learn some background information on why business planning is important. Then, you will learn how to write a SEO firm business plan step-by-step so you can create your plan today.

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan provides a snapshot of your SEO business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategies for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.

Why You Need a Business Plan

If you’re looking to start a search engine optimization business or grow your existing SEO company, you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your SEO business to improve your chances of success. Your SEO business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.

Sources of Funding for SEO Companies

With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a SEO business are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans, and angel investors. When it comes to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to ensure that your financials are reasonable, but they will also want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business. Personal savings and bank loans are the most common funding paths for SEO companies.

    Finish Your Business Plan Today!

How to write a business plan for an seo company.

If you want to start a SEO firm or expand your current one, you need a business plan. The business plan template below details the necessary information for how to write each essential component of your SEO business plan.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.

The goal of your executive summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the kind of SEO firm you are running and the status. For example, are you a startup, do you have a company that you would like to grow, or are you operating various types of SEO companies?

Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan.

  • Give a brief overview of the SEO industry.
  • Discuss the type of search engine optimization company you are operating.
  • Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers.
  • Provide a snapshot of your SEO marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team.
  • Offer an overview of your financial plan.

Company Overview

In your company overview, you will detail the type of SEO business you are operating.

For example, you might specialize in one of the following types of search engine optimization companies:

  • Content creation: This type of SEO business is focused on the creation of textual content across all platforms, including link-building, profile creation and blog posts.
  • Marketing: SEO companies that provide marketing services including targeting consumers, sales strategies, increasing organic traffic, optimizing web pages and competitor analysis.
  • Brand management: Keyword rankings and research, product videos, press releases, and other social media posts are included in this type of SEO company.
  • SEO consultant: An SEO consultant crafts customized, specific SEO plans for business growth and development as contracted. The client may pay for monthly services or service may include a start-up consultancy package only.

In addition to explaining the type of SEO company you will operate, the company overview needs to provide background on the business and outline your business goals.

Include answers to questions such as:

  • When and why did you start the business?
  • What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include the number of high SEO rankings, the number of marketing targets reached as a SEO consultant, total number of social media followers , etc.
  • Your legal business Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.

Industry Analysis

In your industry or market analysis, you need to provide an overview of the SEO industry.

While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.

First, researching the SEO industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.

Secondly, market research can improve your marketing strategy, particularly if your analysis identifies market trends.

The third reason is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.

The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your SEO consultant business plan:

  • How big is the SEO industry (in dollars)?
  • Is the market declining or increasing?
  • Who are the key competitors in the market?
  • What are the top SEO strategies in the current market?
  • What trends are affecting the industry?
  • What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
  • The latest in search engine rankings and link building
  • What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential target market? You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.

Customer Analysis

The customer analysis section of your SEO consultant business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.

The following are examples of customer segments: small businesses, technology companies and retailers.

As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of SEO business you operate. Clearly, retailers would respond to a different seo strategy than technology companies, for example.

Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the company size, revenues, locations, and sector.

Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can recognize and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers. Understanding your customer will help you implement an effective SEO strategy.

Finish Your SEO Company Business Plan in 1 Day!

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With Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template you can finish your plan in just 8 hours or less!

Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.

Direct competitors are other SEO businesses.

Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t directly competing with your product or service. Traditional advertising agencies, for example, would be in the indirect competitor category. You need to mention direct competition, as well.

For each direct competitor, provide an overview of their business and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as

  • What types of customers do they serve?
  • What type of SEO business are they?
  • What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
  • What are they good at?
  • What are their weaknesses?

With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to ask your competitors’ customers what they like most and least about them.

The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:

  • Will you provide keyword research in addition to keyword rankings?
  • Will you offer guest posts and press releases that your competition doesn’t?
  • Will you provide superior infographics?
  • Will you offer better pricing?
  • Will you offer technical SEO?
  • Will you offer on page SEO and/or off page SEO?

Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.

SEO Marketing Plan

An SEO marketing plan should include the following:

Product : In the product section, you should reiterate the type of SEO firm that you documented in your company overview. Then, detail the specific SEO strategies and services you will be offering. For example, will you provide an SEO competitor analysis, keyword research, technical SEO, link building and/or Google Analytics?

Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your plan, you are presenting the services you offer and their prices.

Promotions : The final part of your SEO marketing plan is where you will document how you will drive potential customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:

  • Reach out to start-up corporations
  • Create original content and blog posts for clients
  • Engage in email marketing
  • Advertise on social media platforms
  • Optimizing web pages
  • Improve the SEO (search engine optimization) on your website for targeted keywords

Operations Plan

While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.

Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your SEO business, including communication with clients, reaching potential clients, invoicing, working with team members, etc.

Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to reach your highest social media ranking or, when you hope to reach $X in revenue. It could also be when you expect to expand your SEO consultant business to a new city.

Management Team

To demonstrate your SEO business’ potential to succeed, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.

Ideally, you and/or your team members have direct experience in managing SEO businesses. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.

If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act as mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in managing an SEO business or successfully working as a SEO consultant.

Financial Plan

Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statements.

Income Statement

An income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenue and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.

In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you see 15% revenue growth next year, and/or offer key research SEO findings on a monthly basis? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.

Balance Sheets

Balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. While balance sheets can include much information, try to simplify them to the key items you need to know about. For instance, if you spend $50,000 on building out your business, this will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a lender writes you a check for $50,000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.

Cash Flow Statement

Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and ensure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt.

When creating your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a SEO business:

  • Cost of computer equipment, software and accessories
  • Payroll or salaries paid to staff
  • Business insurance
  • Other start-up expenses (if you’re a new business) like legal expenses, permits, and office equipment

Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your SEO consultant location lease or a list of clients you have on yearly contracts.

Writing a business plan for your SEO company is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert and know everything you need about starting an SEO company or becoming an SEO consultant. You will understand the SEO industry, your competition, and your customers. You will develop a marketing strategy and will understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful SEO company.

SEO Business Plan FAQs

What is the easiest way to complete my seo company business plan.

Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily write your SEO company business plan.

How Do You Start a SEO Company Business?

Starting a SEO Company business is easy with these 14 steps:

  • Choose the Name for Your SEO Company Business
  • Create Your SEO Company Business Plan
  • Choose the Legal Structure for Your SEO Company Business
  • Secure Startup Funding for Your SEO Company Business (If Needed)
  • Secure a Location for Your Business
  • Register Your SEO Company Business with the IRS
  • Open a Business Bank Account
  • Get a Business Credit Card
  • Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
  • Get Business Insurance for Your SEO Company Business
  • Buy or Lease the Right SEO Company Business Equipment
  • Develop Your SEO Company Business Marketing Materials
  • Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your SEO Company Business
  • Open for Business

Where Can I Download a Free Business Plan Template PDF?

Click here to download the pdf version of our basic business plan template.

Our free business plan template pdf allows you to see the key sections to complete in your plan and the key questions that each must answer. The business plan pdf will definitely get you started in the right direction.

We do offer a premium version of our business plan template. Click here to learn more about it. The premium version includes numerous features allowing you to quickly and easily create a professional business plan. Its most touted feature is its financial projections template which allows you to simply enter your estimated sales and growth rates, and it automatically calculates your complete five-year financial projections including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Here’s the link to our Ultimate Business Plan Template.

Finish Your SEO Business Plan in 1 Day!

Don’t you wish there was a faster, easier way to finish your SEO Company business plan?

OR, Let Us Develop Your Plan For You

Since 1999, Growthink has developed business plans for thousands of companies who have gone on to achieve tremendous success.   Click here to see how a Growthink business plan consultant can create your business plan for you.

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Social Media Marketing Business Plan

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Pathfinder SEO

How to Start an SEO Business

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Lindsay Halsey

Starting a new business of any kind is an exciting — and scary — endeavor. Fortunately, starting an SEO agency requires little overhead or capital which makes it relatively easy to get off the ground.

Whether you want to start an SEO agency or add SEO as a service to your existing web design or digital marketing business, our 5 step process will help you start an SEO-based business that thrives.

But first, we are going to answer a couple of the most common questions people ask when learning how to start an SEO-based business.

Why Start an SEO Business?

Offering SEO services is a meaningful way to help people grow their own businesses. After all, most businesses rely on getting found on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It’s satisfying to help them improve their visibility in the search results, grow their website traffic, and generate more sales/leads. All of which helps them feed their families and live better lives.

SEO businesses don’t operate in a back-office environment. As an SEO services provider, you’ll actively collaborate with your customers so that they understand the importance of integrating SEO into their daily operations and processes. And because SEO overlaps with so many other aspects of marketing, good SEO agencies steer the ship for their clients’ marketing on many levels.

Are SEO Businesses Profitable?

Yes! SEO businesses are profitable. The search engines are ever-evolving. So too are your customers’ businesses. Thus, delivering SEO services is an ongoing endeavor that includes a monthly retainer-based offering. You’ll quickly discover that one of the best parts of starting an SEO company is recurring revenue that comes from monthly services.

The consistency of this recurring revenue stream makes it easy to scale. You can hire new team members or outsource aspects of the delivery of the service as your business grows. And you can rely on the monthly recurring revenue to cover your expenses.

Now, let’s look at how to start your SEO business.

How to Start an SEO Business in 5 Effective Steps

Let's break down starting an SEO-based business into actionable steps.

1. Create Your Packaging

The first step is designing your SEO services offer. How will you group your offering in an insightful way that makes your services easy to sell and consistently deliver? This is packaging.

The most common models for delivering SEO services include:

  • Recurring (Monthly)

At Pathfinder SEO, our approach blends one-time services with monthly services, and it includes the following three offerings:

SEO Assessment

This is your on-ramp

This is your accelerator

Monthly SEO

This is for maintenance & evolution

In addition to defining the structure for your packages, you’ll also want to outline what’s included in each offering. This creates your scope of services for each offering.

Learn more about packaging SEO services .

2. Define Your Pricing

Now that you have your packaging outlined, it’s time to price your services. The goal is profitable pricing that maintains a high value to your customers.

SEO services can be priced in many different ways — hourly, project-based, monthly, value-based, keyword-based, or performance-based. Each of these pricing strategies comes with advantages and disadvantages.

After ten years of running an SEO agency , our preferred method includes starting project-based and monthly pricing.

In the packaging model outlined in step 1, we utilize a pricing strategy as follows:

  • SEO Assessment: Project-based.
  • SEO Set-Up: Project-based.
  • Monthly SEO: Monthly retainer.

For the project-based pricing, we simply estimate the number of hours we’ll invest in delivering each item in the scope of services. Add this all up, and multiply it by an hourly rate for the project-based price total.

For the monthly retainer pricing, we create a three-tiered offering that corresponds to the monthly effort. For example, 5, 10, and 20 hours/month of service. We then multiply the hours by our hourly rate and have prices for each package.

You can learn more about pricing SEO services here .

3. Dial in Your Marketing

Packaging and pricing complete, it’s time to present your offering to prospective customers via great marketing. Copywriting in this stage is crucial. After all, one of the most important parts of being an online business is having an online presence.

The best way to create an online presence is to create a website for your agency. If you already have a website for your other marketing services, then now is the time to add an SEO services page to the mix.

Learn more about what to include in your SEO services page on your website.

Then, start generating ideas about how you’ll market your services to find your first customer. One immediate action item is creating a Google Maps listing categorized as a Marketing Service. Then, ask a few friends to leave a review to help generate some social proof. They may not be able to reference the results from a specific project, but they can speak to your professionalism and any value they see in your service(s).


Grow your customer’s business while growing your recurring revenue. Learn how in “Getting Started with SEO Services”.

4. Prepare for Your First Lead

Before you know it, you’ll land your first lead. It’s exciting! It is also nerve-wracking as now you need to go sell the service.

The SEO industry is crowded, and this can make selling your service even more worrisome. How will you differentiate yourself from your competition?

The answer is not based on price or false promises like ranking guarantees.

Instead, you can differentiate your services in the sales process using these three techniques:

  • Sell the end destination
  • Avoid industry jargon
  • Make it a simple decision

Learn more about these sales techniques .

Then, it’s time to create a sales process that you can consistently follow to make selling SEO a repeatable process.

Two templates will help you save time in the sales process:

  • SEO Proposal
  • SEO Discovery Call Agenda

The good news is that our library of free content is here to support you along the way. Learn what to include in your SEO proposals and get access to a sample agenda for your first sales call .

5. Deliver Your First Project

Congratulations! You’ve now created the infrastructure to land your first SEO services client. Now it’s time to deliver the service.

If you are new to SEO, some learning is required to master necessary skills such as keyword research, writing title tags and meta descriptions, crafting a content strategy, etc.

The good news is that SEO is a very learnable craft. At Pathfinder SEO, we’re here to support you. Subscribers to our platform have access to step-by-step tutorials for delivering SEO services.

Subscriptions include group coaching, office hours, and workshops, so you don't have to go it alone.

Additional Considerations as You Start Your SEO Agency

Of course, there are a few additional steps to consider when starting a new business, such as an SEO agency.

Before you get to the fun stuff, talking to a lawyer and an accountant is essential. They can help you determine what protection your business needs. Should you be an LLC, an S-Corp, or a Partnership? Get professional advice on insurance, banking, and taxes from the beginning. Starting with your books in shape is much easier than unscrambling things later.

Take a Guided Approach to Offering SEO Services

Starting an SEO business is a rewarding experience, both personally and financially. While starting any new venture is always a little scary, following the proper steps and planning will get you going in the right direction.

And we are here to help! We took our 10+ years of experience delivering SEO services and turned it into a platform for people just like you.

We accelerate you through every step of the process — packaging, pricing, marketing, selling, and most importantly, delivering the service. We call it guided SEO, your SEO business-in-a-box solution.

Schedule a demo to learn more.

Schedule a Demo

See Pathfinder SEO in action and get your questions answered by our SEO coaches.

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How to Customize SEO for Your Unique Business Model

November 2, 2023 | Posted by admin in Marketing

Are you curious about how to make your website and SEO strategy stand out from the competition? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we‘ll explore strategies on how to customize SEO for your unique business model in order to foster growth and success. From analyzing keywords applicable specifically to your industry, creating content tailored towards what is important for customers within that same space, and optimizing metadata so users can quickly find what they are looking for it’s all here! Stick around with us and learn techniques used by top brands that enable them to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to crafting an effective SEO plan.

seo business model

Identify Your Business Model

Every business is unique in its own way, from the products or services offered to the audience being targeted. Understanding what makes your business stand out is crucial in developing a successful business model. By identifying these key factors, business owners can determine the most effective marketing strategies, including search engine optimization (SEO) needs. SEO is essential in today’s digital market, as it revolves around making your website visible to potential customers. By understanding your business model and how it impacts SEO, you can better target your audience and increase your online presence. So take the time to truly identify what sets your business apart from others and watch your SEO success soar.

How to Customize SEO for Your Specific Business 

The approach to SEO varies considerably across different professions and industries due to their unique needs and target audiences.  As such, it is crucial to customize your SEO strategy based on the specific nature of your business. Let’s take a look at some examples. Firstly, if you’re a designer, your SEO strategy should closely reflect the creative aspects of your profession. Aiming to rank for terms related to design concepts, industry innovations, or the latest design tools could prove beneficial. For HVAC contractors, the focus might be more on local SEO, considering that your customer base is likely within a particular geographic area. Investing time and resources in local SEO for HVAC contractors can significantly enhance online visibility, leading to an increase in leads and conversions from customers within your service area. Another example is how music teachers might target terms related to music education, specific instruments, or music theory. Regardless of your profession, it’s crucial to adjust your SEO strategy to mirror the unique needs of your business and the customers you’re trying to reach.

Research Your Target Audience

When it comes to communicating with your audience, one size definitely does not fit all. Understanding who you are talking to is crucial to creating content that resonates with them. This is why researching your target audience is so important. Knowing their likes, dislikes, habits, and motivations will allow you to tailor your messaging in a way that they find engaging and relevant. It will also help you avoid making assumptions that could lead to your message falling flat or even worse, offending your audience. By taking the time to research and really get to know your target audience, you are setting yourself up for success when it comes to effective communication.

seo business model

Optimize for Mobile 

With more than half the population accessing the internet from their phones, it’s essential that your website is optimized for mobile. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, users expect a seamless experience across all devices. Nobody wants to struggle with a clunky website that doesn’t fit on their screen or requires endless zooming in and out. By ensuring that your website is user-friendly on all devices, you’re improving the user experience, which can lead to increased engagement and conversions. Make it easy for your customers to access your website from anywhere, at any time, and watch your business thrive.

Focus on Long-Tail Keywords

One way to stay ahead is by focusing on long-tail keywords that are more targeted to your specific business model. Unlike general keywords that can be highly competitive, long-tail keywords are more niche and specific to your industry. By including these keywords in your website content, you’ll be able to attract more relevant traffic to your site. Ultimately, this leads to higher conversion rates and a better return on investment. So instead of going after broad, generic keywords, consider using long-tail keywords to improve your online presence and drive more qualified traffic to your site.

Plan Content Strategies

Creating a content strategy that truly resonates with your audience can be a game-changer for any business. With so much content available on the web, it’s essential to create content that your audience finds valuable and relevant. You want to provide content that not only informs but also engages your audience. To do this, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of your target audience and their interests. By identifying the topics and formats that resonate with your audience, you can create a content strategy that delivers the right message at the right time. The goal is to provide content that your audience wants to consume and share, building a loyal following for your brand. A well-crafted content strategy can lead to increased brand awareness, improved engagement, and ultimately more conversions.

Run Analyses Regularly 

Keeping track of your SEO efforts is crucial in determining the success of your online presence. To ensure that you are getting the desired results, it is important to run regular analyses and adjust accordingly. This helps to maximize effectiveness and helps you to stay ahead of the competition. With the constantly changing algorithms of search engines, regularly tracking your SEO efforts can help you to identify areas that need improvement, and also areas that are working well. By doing this, you can create a roadmap to help you achieve your goals. It’s important to note that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, and requires dedication and regular check-ins to reach the desired results.

Optimizing your SEO strategy to match your unique business model is a comprehensive process that necessitates a deep understanding of your industry, target audience, and business objectives. From identifying your specific business model, and researching your target audience, to using long-tail keywords and creating engaging content, each step plays a crucial role in shaping an SEO strategy that stands out in the digital landscape. Also, remember that a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional but a necessity in this era of on-the-go internet users. Lastly, regular analyses of your SEO efforts will ensure you stay on track and keep improving over time. By integrating these aspects into your SEO strategy, you’re setting a strong foundation for online success. Remember, effective SEO is a long-term commitment that can significantly foster your online visibility, leading to potential growth and success.

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