Considering Starting An SEO Agency? Challenges & Solutions

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For many prospective entrepreneurs, starting an SEO agency seems to be the most natural choice. SEO is an industry that has seen almost exponential growth, which has in turn led to more and more people – either as part of their standard job, or when working on their own website or blog – learning how to make the most of SEO and drive incredible results. With that prior experience, and a marketplace that seems destined for bright things, starting an SEO agency can seem like a no brainer.

The truth is that the assessment above is likely to be accurate. However, if you are amongst the number of prospective entrepreneurs who have thought starting an SEO agency might be the perfect choice for your business aspirations, it’s important to take a rounded view of the idea. While starting an SEO agency has undeniable upsides, it also has its challenges – some of which can be significant. Below, we’ve outlined a few of the most common issues you may experience, along with a few ideas as to how they may be resolved…

Problem #1: Experienced competition

SEO is still a relatively young industry, but it’s far from a new industry – the most experienced agencies have been in existence for 10 or even 15 years in some cases. If you are launching a new SEO agency, this inevitably means that you’ll be fighting for your place – and most importantly, for clients – alongside genuine giants of the SEO world.

Even more worryingly, the major SEO agencies will already have built strong relationships with valuable national (or even international) clients that you would ideally want to attract to your agency. Given that your more-established competitors already have a strong reputation in the field, and have worked with, and are delivering results for, major clients for many years, it incredibly difficult to persuade those clients to move to your agency. As a result, you may feel that you are struggling to find the volume of business you need in order to generate sustainable profits.

Solution: Focus on appealing to those new to SEO

A time may come when you can focus on capturing major, established clients, but in the initial phase of your business, it may be best to market predominantly to companies who are not currently particularly dedicated to SEO. Start by focusing on companies in your local area, then checking to see how their online presence is doing – if they appear to be lacking, you can cold-pitch, extol the virtues of SEO, and hope to be hired. Working with smaller companies may not be as profitable as landing a major client, but it gives you a chance to build your reputation to a point where high-value, national, or international clients may come to you rather than the other way around.

Problem #2: Constantly-changing working practices

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SEO is in a constant state of flux; what constitutes good practice today can, with a simple change of Google’s algorithm, be rendered useless tomorrow. There was once a time when stuffing keywords into a footer bar would be sufficient to rise through the rankings; in 2019, such a move would be completely fruitless – and there are countless other examples of the same effect.

If you start an SEO agency, you have a responsibility to your clients when it comes to keeping on top of the latest news, changes, and developments within the industry – which is often far easier said than done. After all, you’ll spend much of your time actually focusing on your business, so keeping track of a world as changeable as SEO will place a huge demand on your day; or worse still, there’s a risk that missing a big development could greatly impact your work, and thus impede your ability to deliver results for your clients.

Solution: Use every tool at your disposal to stay up to date

Thankfully, there are a variety of tools available that can help ensure you keep up to date with the latest changes in the world of SEO without placing a huge time burden on your day. One option is to try a dedicated SEO news Alexa skill; if this sounds like a choice that might suit you, you can learn more about Agency skill here if you wish. Alternatively – or in addition – you could limit how you access SEO news. Rather than visiting a number of SEO blogs, or following discussions on social media, you could simply sign up for a dedicated SEO newsletter; newsletters focus on the most important information and present it in an easily-digestible form, so you can be sure you won’t miss anything crucial without the need to constantly check industry blogs for updates.

Problem #3: Competition in more ways than one

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Let’s say that rather than starting an SEO agency, you were to open a garden center. Obviously, you’d want your garden center to rank well on search engines, so you’d employ a few tried and tested SEO practices in order to do so. Given that you’d most likely be competing against other garden center owners – many of whom may have little to no SEO experience – you’d likely find that you could rise through the rankings and enjoy an influx of business as a result.

However, if you open an SEO agency, you’re competing against SEO professionals for ranking positions. SEO pros know the ins and outs of ranking well; they’ll know all the keywords to target; all the tricks of the trade that you know – and as a result, you may find that you struggle to achieve ranking positions that are genuinely capable of drawing traffic to your business.

Solution: Use PPC, and experiment with non-digital marketing

Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to the above issue; it’s a quirk of the industry, and SEO agencies will be more able to compete ferociously against one another. The most obvious solution is to use PPC campaigns and increase your bid amounts to a point that you see results; a somewhat inelegant – not to mention expensive – solution, but it should provide a good startpoint that you can then build on as your business grows and appearing in organic search results becomes more viable. Alternatively, you could also consider non-digital marketing options – flyers and direct mail, for example, still have a role to play in the modern business world, and could help you to capture attention from companies who are not actively seeking a new SEO agency, but could be tempted if they receive an attractive mailshot.

Problem #4: Misleading competition

The growth of SEO has led to more and more people becoming interested in SEO, and understanding that there is money to be made by selling SEO services. While the vast majority of people who choose to start their own agency or provide freelance SEO assistance are legitimate, with a genuine desire to help their clients, a small minority will – inevitably – be less concerned about helping their clients, and more concerned about cashing in on a booming sector.

While you don’t need to worry too much about this type of competition in some regards – anyone working in SEO without an ability to deliver results is unlikely to retain their clients – you do need to worry about the way that these companies market their services. There are countless “SEO agencies” or “SEO consultants” online, all of whom will promise the earth, including #1 Google Rank in less than a month, in order to try to attract clients. As a legitimate SEO agency, you’ll know you can’t promise such fantastical results, but that doesn’t mean that your prospective clients will understand that – and they may overlook your business in favor of agencies that do promise outstanding results instead.

Solution: Address the issue directly

The only way to deal with this issue is to be direct, both in your advertising and, particularly, on your own website content. You can simply state that you know some companies may promise incredible results, but that such results are unrealistic; explain that SEO takes time; that no genuine SEO expert would ever guarantee a #1 ranking position on Google; even include a few reasons why this may be the case. You can then move onto explaining what you can do, highlighting your credentials and experience, and outlining that you will do all you can to achieve realistic results for your clients. Admittedly, some prospective clients may still decide to go with the clients that are promising the earth, but most will appreciate your honesty and be keen to find out more.

In conclusion

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If you have experience with SEO and want to open your own agency, then the size of the market and the high demand for skilled SEO experts will likely help to ensure that this choice proves to be a positive one – though there may be the occasional hiccup along the way. However, by following the solutions above, you should be able to take the major challenges you will face in your stride, and be able to ensure your business is able to thrive long into the future.

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