Regardless of whether you are dreaming about running a huge agency with branches and employees all over the world, or you want to remain a modest operation with less stress, steady income and a small team, the initial phases of your growth are bound to be similar.
While you don’t need to make a major financial investment in order to get started in this industry, you will have to put in quite a bit of time and be prepared to deal with nerve-racking situations on a daily basis. If you are prepared to make that kind of a commitment, here are some of the basic things you will need if you want to start your own SEO agency.
Before you get to actually outreach potential customers and try to negotiate a contract, you need to have a plan of action for every eventuality, so that your responses to anything that might crop up while the deal is being made and after, are prompt and well-informed. You don’t want to leave a potential customer waiting for you to retrieve information that you should have available or fix and issue which could have been easily predicted and prevented.
This includes everything from your pricing model to having prepared onboarding email templates. You can, should the client insist, leave some of your practices open for discussion, but you shouldn’t be defining them for the first time as you go along. Come to the table prepared or risk to have your reputation compromised even before you’ve actually started building it.
In other words, a website. A user and mobile-friendly website, which ranks well for the relevant phrases, holds informative, well-written content and doesn’t make any unrealistic promises. While there are numerous other digital or traditional marketing strategies that you can and should use to promote your services, there is no better way to display your competence than by snagging potential customers through organic search and greeting them with an impeccably optimized website.
Naturally, for the very same reason, the competition for the most commonly popular keywords is insane, which is why you will often need to find a subset of keywords that fit your business well enough, but are still easier to rank for. Some go for the local angle, despite the fact that whether your office is located close to the customer’s business doesn’t really play that big of a role in SEO; others promote their services to businesses of particular types or niches, and so on. When trying to formulate an approach to this issue, just take care not to disqualify yourself from working with some clients by focusing your targeting on others.
If you think that attracting clients was the tricky part, you probably won’t be thrilled to learn that keeping them happy is an infinitely greater challenge. Likewise, even though retaining clients is usually much cheaper than getting new ones, you also need to know when it’s in your best interest to cut the relationship with some of them short.
Remember those promises we mentioned? That’s where your client relationship starts, and it should from that point onward be approached with absolute honesty and transparency. This goes for everything from forecasting and predictions, like estimating the time needed to reach page one for certain keywords; as well as reporting and campaign efficiency analysis, like showing improvements in the client’s local visibility.
It is perfectly natural that some of your clients will be more demanding than others. Some will, despite what you’ve told them, expect immediate results; some will try to micromanage you and some will try to underpay you for your services. Based on how far along you are in your development, you will tolerate these quirks with more or less patience. A particularly difficult client can easily become more of a burden than a benefit, and you need to be able to recognize this as soon as it happens.
You may want to stay a one-man operation forever, but if you hope to provide comprehensive services you’ll need to be able to fill the roles of the SEO, graphic and web designer, content and copywriter, link builder, client manager, sales representative… While you can get around needing to employ additional people for a while with the help of tools that can automate some of the workload or by outsourcing some of the more complex tasks to proven web design and development agencies, at one point you may need some people at your side.
Since you’ll, for the start, probably be looking for them in your closest vicinity, try finding those who you’ve always known to have been inquisitive, communicative, tech-savvy and reliable. While there are plenty of particular skills that your employees need to have, anyone hoping to make it in SEO primarily needs to be willing and capable to keep continuously learning and adapting to frequent changes in the industry. This means that those who immediately turn to you at any sign of trouble instead of at least trying to handle the issue themselves will, in the long run, probably be more trouble than they’re wor
There you have it, with a little preparation so as not to get caught off-guard; a beautiful, well-ranked and fast website; some balancing of customer demands with your current capabilities, and a loyal, versatile team, there is nothing stopping you from making it big in this industry. However, as one final word of advice, remember that just because you find out that you can grow, doesn’t mean you absolutely have to do so as well. Weigh your options carefully and don’t get steamrolled into developing beyond the size you can comfortably handle, or you may lose everything.