Do you want to start an SEO agency from scratch? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting an SEO business with NO money and no experience plus a sample SEO agency business plan template.
What is an SEO Business?
A Search Engine Optimization (SEO) business is one where a client’s website is helped to rank very high due to paid and organic online searches. The way a website attains its ranking is usually different which is why an SEO company worth its salt must seek new avenues each time to enable a website attain visibility in line with the goals and objectives of its owners.
If you have always loved internet marketing and consider yourself an expert as regards SEO – such as identifying vital keywords, can write quality content, can write quality meta tags and possess other vital programming and networking skills; then it is high time you think of starting off your own SEO company in order to offer your services to your clients and therefore help them achieve their goals and objectives.
Just like any other business, it is important that you conduct a vital market research on the business you intend going into, this will enable you to not only understand the business and industry thoroughly, it will also help you to decide how well you can create an identity for your business and how you can position it in order to have an edge over your competitors in the same industry. Once you are able to understand the market, and know who your target market will be; you can then list the services that you intend to provide and set your prices accordingly.
Creating a business plan is a must for any serious entrepreneur and this is because a business plan shows the outline of the business and where the business is headed within a set period of time usually between three to five years. Finally, marketing and promoting your SEO business is very important and necessary if you want your business to not only survive but to generate the needed revenue that will enable it grow and expand.
As an SEO expert, using SEO to promote your business will not only get you the clients you want, it will also show them that you understand the business you are into and can confidently help them achieve their goals and objectives. This is not however to say that you should rely only on online promotion means as there are other physical means by which you can promote your business to get the attention of your intended clients.
17 Steps to Starting an SEO Business
1. Understand the Industry
Even though the SEO industry has been ruled over by written content, video content has slowly began to take over the industry as brands and B2C businesses now prefer video to written content, especially as there are now video apps such as Snapchat, Vine, Periscope and other video apps, making this become a possibility. This does not however mean that written content has been totally abandoned as it is still considered a baseline for passing certain information across to the intended consumers.
More SEO companies are moving towards mobile optimization which is seen as becoming more important than desktop mobilization. This is because mobile users have greatly increased in number and there have been more searches via mobile than there have been via the desktop. It is expected that mobile traffic will continue to increase with desktop falling totally into oblivion in the next 5 years.
SEO companies will be able to use deep links in apps especially as Google has been indexing apps for a very long time. This is because apps are seen as the next thing to take over from websites in the near future in terms of functionality and popularity. Optimizing apps will therefore allow businesses to grow and gain importance, which is why businesses are out to start building apps for themselves.
According to a survey conducted by BrightLocal on the SEO industry, it was found that the average SEO Company generated revenue of above $363,000 in 2015. Also, close to one quarter of SEO companies were able to generate more than $1 million. This is as there were less SEO freelancers, even though this was seen as causing the industry to grow considerably.
The low entry barriers for this industry have seen most operators entering the industry with the lowest qualifications, which has made the industry to have varied set of skilled individuals. Most SEO companies meet their clients via personal referrals, through their works, rankings by Google, social media, via conferences and via paid ads.
The reason why companies hire SEO companies is so as to be able to improve and maintain their rankings by Google, have quality links built for them or have organic traffic created for them.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of an SEO company include small businesses, corporate organizations, nonprofit organizations, celebrities, politicians and government agencies, as using SEOs help them to increase awareness for their brand.
This is not however to say that SEO companies are only limited to helping the above named set of clients as their clientele could be widened to include even media organizations, film production companies and so many other forms of companies who intend to create the right awareness for their services.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
A Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company helps businesses, corporate organizations and others who need it with expert advice on how to navigate the internet via their website, user functionality, web display, internet campaigns and social media development and integration in order to help them attain their goals and objectives.
The SEO field is one that is small that operators in this field often find it hard to choose a niche for themselves preferring instead to offer all the services in this market to their clients. Therefore, some of the major niche areas that are available to any SEO operator in the industry include;
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Conversion Optimization
- Pay-per-click Management (PPC)
- Social Media Marketing
The Level of Competition in the Industry
The level of competition prevalent in the SEO field isn’t one that is dependent on location even though the business is one that is constantly evolving. Most of the work that is usually done for a client is mostly over the internet and can be done from any part of the world, making competition in this field to be on a global scale.
Due to the fact that almost anyone can become an SEO consultant, it has led to the high level of competition experienced in the industry especially as there is a low barrier for entry. However, what makes clients choose an SEO company to work with is usually due to the company’s profile which includes how well it has performed and what kind of clients the company has handled. This therefore means that if you have a high success rate, you will be able to get the clients you need regardless of your location in the world.
SEO companies are cropping up every now and then not only in the united states of America but all over the world as well due to the fact that it is an internet based task, which therefore means that if you intend to run a successful and prominent SEO company, you will not only be competing with clients in the United States of America but also outside it as well.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
In every industry, there are brands that are well known and these brands have one or a lot of things going on for them that have aided in their popularity and the SEO industry is no different. Even though the entry barrier for new operators into the industry is quite low, several SEO companies have been able to stand out due to either their marketing tactics, their length of time in the industry and or their successful portfolio.
Therefore, some of the well-known SEO companies not only in the United States of America but also globally include;
Brands have started placing a great value on optimizing their digital content based on the intent rather than for specific keywords. Most SEOs have started using structured data markup so as to help their clients achieve the intended visibility they need for their business.
According to Stone Temple Consulting survey, adding structured data markup to a website can help to increase the chances of being visible to intending traffic and increasing revenue for their clients. The increase in mobile use has reshaped the SEO industry over the past years and this is because searches via mobile is increasing at a rapid rate and will not slow down anytime soon.
The distribution of traffic has been shifting from desktop to mobile and Google has reported that searches from mobile has passed that of desktop on its search engines.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
With the SEO industry, there are no franchises in existence for any entrepreneur looking to start their business and so starting from the scratch is the only option for now. Therefore, if you do not have the passion and commitment necessary for this business, it is best not to waste your energy, time and resources especially as this is a business that will require you to be proactive.
Starting a business from the scratch is not usually an easy feat due to the fact that there are several deciding factors such as location, Business Name, financing, and marketing strategies that would need to be put into consideration if it is the intention for the business to achieve its full potentials.
This is why it is important that an entrepreneur before starting out researches about the business and the industry first creates a business plan that would allow for an easy guide on how the business will be run. One sure way of knowing a business intimately and being able to predict the trends in order to remain proactive is to start the business from the scratch.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Any entrepreneur starting a business should be ready to face certain threats and challenges that would likely arise during the course of running the business. For an entrepreneur to be taken unawares by threats and challenges shows that he or she was not prepared for the business and also that the business might not be in existence for so long especially if it is treated with levity. Therefore, challenges and threats should not be regarded as something to dread but as part of running a business.
Some of the threats and challenges that you are likely to face in the course of starting or running your SEO company include; having to deal with intense competition from already existing SEO companies or from new entrants into the industry, changing technological trends and innovations as well as social climate change from the end-users that might force you to seek alternative means of promoting your clients.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
There are several factors that should be considered when choosing a legal entity for your SEO business and they are; flexibility of the legal entity, liability, ease of set up, ownership and control as well as taxation. Because most of these factors can become very complex, it is usually necessary to seek the services of an attorney or an accountant who has experience as regards this industry to help you decide which legal entity would best suit your SEO business.
Even though there are basically five major legal entities that are available to any SEO entrepreneur looking to start their business in the United States, they each have their pros and cons. However, with the help of an attorney or an accountant, these legal entities can be chosen to meet the needs of the entrepreneur intending to start the business. Some of the basic legal entities in existence include; sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S corporation and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
The similarities in these three kinds of legal entities are that the businesses are regarded as separate entities from their owners or shareholders. However, while a corporation can be more difficult to set up as it involves too many formalities; it isn’t so with an LLC.
The LLC and S Corporation also have taxation benefit over the corporation as owners are taxed on their personal income returns as against that of a corporation where owners are taxed twice. In the end, choosing the right legal entity would depend a lot on what the entrepreneur wants from his company and the state where the business will be operating from.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
In starting any business, it is necessary to look for a suitable name to call the business and this is because choosing a suitable name will have an impact on how your business will grow and bring in the intended clients that you want. A business name must have some necessary factors such as being unique, catchy, indicative of the industry you are in and easily memorable for clients.
If you are therefore considering names for your SEO company, here are some that you should look into;
- Analytics and Links Inc
- SEO Genius LLC
- Web Management and More
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
Having insurance policies are a necessity when running your business – whatever kind – in the United States of America and this is because these insurance policies help protect the owner of the business from personally spending from his or her pocket should any incident occur during the process of running the business, either to the client, employee or property.
Due to how important having insurance policies are, it is best that you get in touch with an insurance agent or broker so as to help you know what insurance policies are best for your business and how much you might need to budget so as to purchase these insurance policies for your SEO company.
Therefore, some of the basic insurance policies that you would need to consider purchasing in order to start your own SEO Company in the United States of America include;
- General Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation Insurance
- Cyber Liability Insurance
- Errors and Omission Insurance
- Liability Insurance
- Business Owner’s Policy Group Insurance
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance
- Payment Protection Insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Part of what you will be offering your clients as an SEO company is quality content that has keyword that is popular and can be linked in order to enable your clients get the awareness they desire. Even though the SEO business is considered one that is service oriented in nature, it is usually tricky to get copyright or IPP protection on some of the materials used especially as a client might have more rights over the material than the SEO company themselves.
There are however other areas where you might be able to apply for an IPP easily in the course of starting your SEO company and they are logo, slogan, media concepts as well as production materials. You will need to get an attorney to help you file for an IPP with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
The SEO industry might not be one where there is any need for professional certification of any sorts; however, this is a very huge industry where entrepreneurs who intend to make it must learn search engine optimization skills which might take a few years before they can become proficient in the field.
While some of the skills can easily be learnt, others might take quite a while as you would need to be able to identify and analyze keywords as an SEO consultant, and know how to write or identify those that can write quality articles that will contain the needed keywords to help promote your clients. You would also need to be proficient in Google analytics and other website analytics programs.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
In any business that you will be running in the United States of America, you will need to obtain documentation that would make your business legal. This is considered very serious in the United States of America because it helps differentiate your business from other scams that exists in the country, thereby making it easy for the concerned authorities to be able to identify your business.
If you do not make the necessary findings about the business, you might run into problems with the law and either be financially penalized or be banned from running the business altogether. If you aren’t sure of what legal documentations you would need, it is best to get in touch with a lawyer that has experience in your industry.
Therefore, some of the basic legal documents that you would require in order to run your SEO Company legally in the United States of America are;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Insurance Policy
- Contract Documents
- Non-Disclosure Agreement
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Employment Agreement
- Federal Tax Identification Number
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
If you intend starting your SEO business, you might find that you would not need to spend as much as someone who is starting some other business that is highly technical in nature. However, even though this might be a simple enough business to start up, not all entrepreneurs have all the necessary financing needed especially as the business will have to be run on the initial capital for a while till it is able to generate the revenue that will grow and sustain it.
If you do not have all the funds at hand to start this business, then it is best that you have a comprehensive business plan at hand and also the right legal entity as this would help you approach the right investors to help with funding your business.
Below therefore are some of the financing options that you can explore when looking to start your SEO company;
- Generating part of your start-up capital from your personal savings
- Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends
- Getting start-up capital from your business partner
- Approaching a commercial bank for a loan
- Raising money from private investors
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Most SEO consultants who start this business are usually a one-man show which is usually run from the home. This helps the entrepreneur to save up on overhead and running expenses which they would have had to deal with when leasing or renting a commercial facility. Before, you however decide to run your business from home, you must make sure that your competitors are also running theirs from home, if not you might have a hard time attracting clients to your business.
Creating a business plan for your SEO company will allow you to know if you will be needing a location for your business and if you do, how much in your overall budget will be set aside to accommodate where you will locate for your business.
If working from home will favour you, then you will need to create a space in your home where you will have the least distractions, but if working from a rented facility will be more helpful for your business, then ensure that your SEO company is located in the hub of your target market.
In choosing a commercially rented facility, a real estate agent will be very helpful as he or she will ensure that you get the right location within your specified budget that will be suitable for your business. You might need to pay for rent for more than three years especially if the location is a suitable one, so that you will get that out of the way.
The location you would need to choose for your business should be one that is visible, easily accessible to not just your clients but your employees as well and also conspicuous enough. This will enable clients who want to physically locate you to do so with convenience.
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
Businesses and corporate organizations have constantly seen the need to ensure that they get as much visibility as they want by drawing more traffic to their website and social media platforms, and because getting the right algorithms that will draw the right crowd is difficult, they usually hire the services of an SEO company.
Because the SEO company is that which can be run from virtually anywhere as long as there is traffic, most SEO companies starting out usually prefer to run their operations from home and then out-source some parts of their operations such as writing and accounting to third parties. To however do this, you must be able to rely on a pool of quality writers so that you will be able to attain your desired goals and objectives.
There are basically no major equipment needed to run an SEO company as most of what you need is a computer, SEO software, phone and internet. Therefore, if you are concerned about spending too much on equipment, you needn’t be except you intend starting off your company on either a medium or large scale, where you will need to employ staff to help out.
Building the right business structure is very important especially if you want your company to attain all its goals and objectives. Therefore, the number of employees you will need in order to successfully run your SEO company are; Chief Executive Officer (owner), admin and human resources manager, content writers, business development and marketing executive, SEO consultants, customer service executive and an accountant.
From the above breakdown, you will require at least 9 key staff in order to run your SEO Company efficiently and successfully.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
There are basically no unique service delivery processes involved in starting or running an SEO company. First off, you need to be able to acquire the basic knowledge and expertise regarding the business especially if you intend to build a business that is sustainable.
The core task that an SEO company has to deal with is helping clients to increase organic traffic to their website or platform, which will in turn help to increase their sales. Since most companies depend on the revenue they generate to be able to survive and sustain them, getting an SEO company to help deliver on this is considered helpful.
Also, what helps to drive this organic traffic to the client lies basically in what the content is about. Therefore, a huge part of what an SEO company does is to provide quality content as they can use it to create links, get out keywords and analyses that will help the company attain its goals and objectives.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Before one can create the right marketing strategies for any business, it is necessary that a market research be conducted first about the business so that the industry will be well understood before an entrepreneur can attempt to package its business in such a way as to attract the right customers.
Once a thorough market survey has been done as regards the business, creating the right marketing strategies is therefore very easy as the insight and information gained from the survey will help the business to attract the attention of its target customers. A business that has the right marketing strategies would therefore be able to penetrate the target market and compete favorably against its competitors.
It should however be noted that that clients would prefer to patronize your SEO business if they notice that you have an excellent profile and have achieved a certain level of success. This is because no company will prefer to use an SEO company that has no track record, so to be able to attract the clients you need, it is necessary to start out with small businesses first.
Below therefore are some of the marketing ideas and strategies you can use for your SEO company;
- Ensure that you introduce your business formally to your intended clients by sending out brochures including your services, your clients, contact information and rates
- Use your website to market your services
- Use physical marketing via your marketing executives to get to your target market
- Ask that your satisfied clients refer you to others
- Ensure that your SEO company is listed in online directories
- Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google Plus and Linkedin to promote your SEO company
17. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
It is only fitting that as an SEO company, you seek to boost publicity for your business as this will assure your clients that you understand the services which you intend to offer them. Every business, no matter what industry it is in, requires publicity and an SEO business is one of such where publicity is highly needed. Publicity not only helps create the right awareness for the business, it also helps to bring in traffic that will convert to revenue for a business.
The internet is a fast paced one and very vast and the digital industry where the SEO falls into is one that can easily get lost in the vast internet if nothing is done to carefully promote the business to the right set of clients. Part of being an SEO company is to know what works and what would not work when promoting your business to your target market.
It is necessary that you create the right budget you would need to promote your SEO business effectively. This means that while there might be an array of promotional tools available, not all would be able to achieve your intended goals and objectives.
All the promotional tools that you intend to use in promoting your clients should first be used by you in promoting your business; this will allow you fine tune the strategies till you develop a model that will meet all your set goals and objectives.
Therefore, some of the platforms that you can leverage on to promote and advertise your SEO company include;
- Ensuring that you use your social media platforms such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Snapchat and Linkedin to promote your SEO company
- Ensure that you distribute handbills and business cards in various strategic locations where your target market is
- Create quality contents for your website in order to promote your work
- Go to popular forums and blogs and educate others on the importance of SEOs
- Place adverts in online platforms that are popular and will likely be seen by your target market
- Ensure that you create contents that are viral in nature