An SEO agency can be a very lucrative business idea. You can earn money and do most of your processes online. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Digital marketing is a dynamic field with fierce competition, and a starting SEO agency will find it difficult to compete, grow, and sustain the business. Here are some of the most common problems in starting an SEO agency and how to fix them.
Table of contents
- Building credibility
- Facing intense competition
- Attracting top talent
- Experiencing budget constraints
- Scaling SEO operations
- Retaining SEO clients
- Making a compelling brand
1. Building credibility
There are so many well-known SEO agencies out there that have established themselves as leaders in the field. They even have big-ticket clients, further boosting their authority and credibility. As a starting SEO agency, you don’t have the luxury of authority and credibility and the perks that come with them. This can be a big hurdle to the success of your SEO agency because you may find it difficult to get and retain SEO clients.
- Offer free webinars and workshops. Businesses and other SEO professionals are always looking to know more about SEO, as they try to keep up with best practices, industry trends, and the latest technologies to grow their business, attract more clients, and beat the competition. You can offer free webinars and workshops to position your SEO agency as an industry expert. This also gives you brand exposure, killing two birds with one stone.
- Collect testimonials from clients. You have to start somewhere. Even the biggest SEO agencies started with just a handful of small clients. Don’t be afraid to start small. Do your best with your clients, and once they are satisfied, get testimonials from them and collect them for social proof. You can showcase the testimonials on your website, business profiles, social media posts, and marketing materials.
- Share past successes. Highlight your expertise and achievements by sharing success stories from clients and projects you have handled. Write case studies to build your credibility and attract more clients. When writing, make sure to form a narrative, like you are a storyteller. Emphasize the SEO problems, your insights, the solutions you have implemented, and the results. Add numbers to your case studies to make them more tangible. You can also build an SEO portfolio to showcase the wide range of SEO products and services you offer clients.
2. Facing intense competition
Digital marketing is a very saturated market with many established players. As a budding SEO agency, you have to navigate through intense competition while you are also building your credibility. This is one of the most common problems in starting an SEO agency. While building credibility is an entirely different beast on itself, you can navigate through intense competition through differentiation.
- Specialize in a niche. Instead of trying to cater to everyone, specialize in a niche and cater to a particular client base. Look at Marketer’s Center, for instance. We specialize in local SEO, so our main services include citation building and clean-up, link building, and Google Business Profile management. Niching down helps you stand out in a crowded market, and you are more likely to be seen by businesses looking for the specific SEO products and services you are offering.
- Practice competitive pricing strategies. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lowering the prices of your SEO products and services. That is actually another problem in starting an SEO agency – thinking that racing to the bottom when it comes to pricing is a good strategy. Businesses are actually willing to pay more than you think as long as they can see the value of their investment. To make your pricing competitive, offer packages that include a variety of related SEO products and services and add tiers to your offerings. Competitive pricing can also open you up to cross-selling.
- Invest in marketing. Establish a strong online presence to get an audience, build authority, and let search engines see you. This is already what you do for your SEO clients. Now do it for your own agency. Optimize your website for SEO, utilize social media, and run ads – there are so many marketing executions you can make and you already have experience with them.
3. Attracting top talent
SEO knowledge is very accessible. You can learn SEO online for free, and there are paid courses too with certifications. But this doesn’t mean all SEO professionals are the same. The industry can be highly technical, so some professionals are just better than others. Because you are a new SEO agency, attracting top talent can be a problem. You don’t have a credible brand and you have limited resources to attract the best of the best.
- Nurture talent in-house. If you can’t attract top talent, simply nurture in-house. You can offer internship programs to spot and nurture talent very early on. Some interns may join your SEO agency after gaining knowledge and experience. If you want real professionals over interns, you can invest in continuous education. This can be paid for, such as by attending workshops. But this can be free too, such as by talking to each other and learning from one another.
- Cultivate a positive work culture. Talented SEO professionals are looking for a productive work environment where they can grow and earn a lot of money. Since you can’t really fulfill the money part because of budget constraints, you can focus on the productive work environment. Attract top talent by cultivating a positive work culture where creativity, collaboration, and respect are a priority.
- Attend networking events. Be active in the SEO community. Attend industry events and take advantage of networking opportunities. SEO elevator pitches are not just for clients, you know. They can also be for potential hires. But you don’t always have to make a sales pitch. By getting connections and building relationships, you can organically make your new SEO agency an attractive destination for top digital marketers.
4. Experiencing budget constraints
Experiencing budget constraints is a common challenge for a new business. But it can be a particular problem for an SEO agency because of the variety of expenditures you need to fulfill just to run the company. You need a budget for talent, tools, and even ongoing training and marketing. With strategic planning and cost-effective decision-making, you can navigate through this problem.
- Prioritize essential SEO tools. You can’t just cut corners in all aspects just to save money. Some are simply essential in running an SEO agency. Look at SEO tools, for example. They are necessary for all the steps of your SEO process, from auditing SEO clients to delivering reports to showcase progress and results. Focus your budget on the most critical SEO tools that accommodate all your SEO needs. As your agency and revenue grow, you can invest in additional tools.
- Consider flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements can reduce your operation costs without affecting the quality of your SEO products and services. Remote work and work-from-home setups are very popular right now, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. They can reduce the costs of maintaining a physical office. You can also try hiring freelancers and contractors for specific projects and tasks. This is especially great if you want access to specific skills and don’t need a long-term commitment.
- Take advantage of free and low-cost resources. Paid SEO tools are great, but this doesn’t mean that free tools can’t get the job done. In fact, some free tools can go toe-to-toe with paid ones. Look at Google Analytics, for example. It can provide data points and reporting solutions just as complex and powerful as paid ones. When learning more about SEO and upskilling, there are also many free and low-cost resources out there, so you don’t always have to pay a premium for SEO knowledge.
5. Scaling SEO operations
As your new SEO agency grows, you will get more clients, manage more client demands, execute more SEO campaigns and executions, and deal with more complex SEO challenges. All these things combined can make it difficult to scale your SEO agency and operations. Taking their agency to the next level is a common problem in SEO startups. Minimize hurdles by following these tips.
- Invest in scalable tools. Your SEO and project management tools will carry your SEO agency to new heights. Make sure to use ones that can accommodate an increased workload. Many SEO tools out there like Ahrefs and Semrush can accommodate all your SEO needs at scale. There are also project management tools like Asana and Trello that can make your processes smoother. Smooth SEO operations will affect not just your output, but also your client relations. Make sure not to ignore this trait.
- Embrace AI and automation. AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney can boost your productivity by helping with content creation and strategy. Automation solutions are also great for repetitive tasks. Thankfully, many SEO tools have automation capabilities, like how some SEO reporting solutions can automatically make and send reports for you in a fixed schedule. AI and automation can lighten your workload, making scaling your SEO operations more feasible. They can also help in cost-cutting, especially when you have serious budget constraints.
- Hire digital marketing professionals strategically. Identify the roles that are critical to your SEO agency’s success. You may need to hire specialists who can get SEO tasks done faster than generalist SEO professionals. For example, you may want to hire SEO professionals who specialize in analytics and technical SEO. You may also hire campaign specialists for ads, email marketing, and more. Specialists don’t just make your turnaround faster. They may also improve the quality of your output.
6. Retaining SEO clients
There are many reasons why SEO clients leave. They can leave because of factors outside of your control, such as changing business priorities. But they can also leave because of factors well within your control, such as not fulfilling their expectations and not catering to their needs and wants. When clients are not happy and satisfied, they may simply switch SEO agencies to get better offerings and results.
- Control their expectations. You fail to fulfill SEO client expectations because you have failed to control their expectations right from the beginning. When talking to potential clients or onboarding current ones, make sure to put their feet on the ground, as some clients just have unrealistic expectations. For example, some may think that hiring an SEO agency will immediately put their website on the first page of SERPs. And if you fail to deliver, you will look bad, and they will look elsewhere to get the unrealistic results they want.
- Tailor your SEO products and services to their specific needs and objectives. Some SEO clients have very specific business needs and objectives. For example, if the client is an e-commerce company, they may need more help in boosting their online presence, optimizing their product listings, and increasing conversions. Their needs and objectives are totally different from, say, a local coffee shop just starting with a basic website and a Facebook page.
- Keep them in the loop. SEO clients want to be involved in their company’s SEO journey. The level of involvement may differ from client to client, but generally, all clients want regular updates and reports to see progress. After all, they are paying money and treating your SEO agency as an investment. They want to see numbers and insights, so make sure to send them updates and reports regularly.
7. Making a compelling brand
SEO products, services, and results are great things to have in an SEO agency. But don’t ignore branding. It’s a vital aspect of any company, not just SEO agencies. Your branding will set the tone for your SEO agency’s identity and reputation. It can also affect how you are perceived by your potential SEO clients and audience. A strong brand can also solve some of your biggest problems, such as building credibility, facing intense competition, and attracting top talent.
- Maintain consistency in your branding elements. Your logo, color palette, typography, and voice are some of the biggest elements of your branding. Make sure they are consistent in all your online channels, such as your website, business profiles, and social media profiles. Consistency can help with brand awareness and recognition. Also, make sure to align your branding with your target audience, or else there will be a disconnect that can harm your SEO agency’s business.
- Define your unique value proposition. What sets you apart from other SEO agencies? That is your unique value proposition. It could be anything, like your unique approach to certain SEO challenges, specialized expertise in very specific SEO problems, and even commitment to certain values.
- Develop high-quality content. Share your SEO agency’s unique perspective and insights. High-quality content can start and improve audience engagement, help in lead generation, and boost your branding and credibility. Content can come in many forms, but the usual ones are blog posts and social media posts.
Starting an SEO agency comes with challenges
Starting an SEO agency is a journey riddled with challenges, from external ones like the lack of credibility and the tightness of the competition to internal ones like budget issues and client attrition. But there are ways to overcome them.
With cost-effective decision-making and strategic planning, you can overcome these challenges, or at least minimize their effects. And before you know it, you are paving the way to the success of your digital marketing business.