HOW TO BUILD AN SEO AGENCY

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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Given that most SEO professionals charge $500-$1,000 per month, five conversions are worth between $2,500-$5,000 per month. If we assume that clients stick around for an average of 6 months, those five conversions are worth $15,000-$30,000.

How do I know? I found my first ever SEO client on People Per Hour.

While practicing and honing your SEO skills on your own website, you’ll start to get an idea of what you enjoy the most.

Cold calls or emails.

In 2012, I started a fitness blog. It was nothing special, but it was getting upwards of 50,000 organic visitors per month after just ten months.

Now that you’ve learned the basics and honed your skills in one area, you should be ready to start offering services to clients. But how do you find these people?

This might seem like an obvious point to make, and I know it’s not unique to SEO businesses, but I would urge you to get an accountant early on.

(Fun fact: My outreach for this piece led to my first interaction with Ahrefs’ CMO, Tim Soulo, who asked if I fancied writing for the Ahrefs Blog. I said yes, and the rest is history.)

But why is this important for starting an SEO business?

Guest posting is another tactic I successfully used to attract clients, as you can see from this email:

If you’re looking for a paid app , try Xero. This is an accounting app, but it handles invoicing too. It also integrates with most business accounts and payment gateways. Xero has been my app of choice for a few years.

4. Get clients.

If you’re planning to give this tactic a shot, my best advice is this: only write guest posts for industry websites that get traffic. Remember, we’re not using guest posting as a link building tactic; we’re using it as a marketing tactic.

Here’s what I did in a nutshell:

Because I’m introverted, inbound marketing was the primary method I decided to use to attract clients. So, in 2016, I started a website called The SEO Project to begin putting myself on the map.

It’s impossible to scale your business without bringing other people on board because you only have so many hours in the day.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a practical guide to starting a lifestyle SEO business from someone who’s walked the walk, this is the guide for you.

2. Make your own website.

If you don’t, you’ll spend countless hours every year filing tax returns—at least if you’re in the UK/US/Canada. This isn’t good for two reasons:

How do you get experience? Create your own website and use it as a testing ground for your SEO skills.

The easiest way to find such websites is with Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, a searchable database of content from over seven billion websites.

Here’s how to use it to find guest posting opportunities:

In this case, the client found me through a guest post on the Ahrefs Blog. I went on to work with him for a few months, earning $5,375 in revenue in the process.

If you’re not sure where to start, read our guide to keyword research or watch this video:

Sales is about encouraging your customers to refer you to other potential customers.

But don’t be discouraged if you have never sold anything before.

I don’t care how good of an SEO you are if you can’t sell or find someone who can sell to work with you, you won’t have a successful agency.

You Don’t Get to Do as Much SEO.

I guess I’m a slow learner because it took me three years before I reached a million dollars in sales annually.

But if you can’t get clients to give you money to do the work, you will not succeed, period.

Being a leader is understanding that hiring people that are smarter and better than you is the best way to grow.

Running an agency is a bit like manning a three-ring circus.

It’s a given that to have long-term success as an agency, you must do great work.

If you keep your agency small, you have more opportunities to actually do the work.

It’s easy to create your agency’s offerings.

It’s Not About How Good You Are.

If your passion is actually working on sites and doing the work, owning an agency may not be the most satisfying career choice.

I love working on a site’s SEO.

If you can’t get your clients to trust you, you have no business owning an agency.

You can hire someone to be better at SEO.

This week’s Ask an SEO question comes from Ibrahim in Ibadan. He asks:

An Agency Is Only as Good as Its People.

There is little room for ego when it comes to running an agency.

In those 13 years, I’ve been both poor and rich – in some cases at the same time.

But once you have a certain number of employees, your attention will be pulled in other ways, no matter how hard you try to keep focused on the work.

I could be God’s gift to search engine optimization (spoiler: I’m not), but if the people who actually make up my agency aren’t any good, my agency won’t be any good.

Between finance, personnel, sales, account management, infrastructure, IT and so many other things, finding the time to analyze a site is difficult.

I’ve learned a lot about owning an agency in 13 years, but I still have a lot to learn.

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