SEO agencies are difficult to start and even harder to manage in the long term. You’ll have a ton of competition to fend with, as SEO is still enjoying peak popularity, and your success will depend almost entirely on your ability to retain your most valuable clients. If you can’t maintain their interest or prove your worth to them consistently, they’ll leave you for the next available opportunity—and you’ll lose a significant chunk of your incoming revenue.
Thankfully, with a bit of proactive work and a commitment to ongoing improvement, you can protect yourself against making the egregious errors that lead to client departures. I’ve seen SEO from a number of perspectives in my career—as an employee of an agency, a freelancer, someone seeking SEO services from a third party, and someone using SEO to support his own business. Because of that experience, I can tell you about some of the biggest mistakes I see SEO agencies making.
Top Mistakes for SEO Agencies
- Serving too broad a niche. Like I said, the world of SEO is hyper-competitive. If you want to stand out, you’re not going to do it by trying to be the right SEO agency for every business on the planet. Instead, you’re going to have to trade some of your audience size for messaging relevance; you can do this by selecting a more specific niche. Your potential audience will shrink, but you’ll differentiate yourself and become more appealing to those who remain.
- Setting inappropriate prices. Pricing is one of the trickiest parts of starting an SEO agency, and most agencies end up getting it wrong. If you charge too little for your services in the hopes of remaining competitive, you’ll limit your profitability, limit your resource options, and probably end up scaring some customers away. On the other hand, if you charge too much, you’ll end up alienating an otherwise interested audience.
- Making promises. Don’t make any promises as an agency. You can commit to doing a certain amount of work for a certain amount of pay, but never guarantee specific results over a specific time period. Search rankings are too volatile and dependent on too many variables for your promises to be reliably fulfilled—and all it takes is one broken promise to shatter your credibility.
- Making excuses. If you miss the mark with results, don’t make excuses. You can explain extenuating circumstances that might have contributed to the loss, but you should be focusing more on the future than on the past. Instead of spending your time explaining why something happened, spend your time figuring out a way to make up for the loss.
- Trying to use the same package for multiple clients. Every business is different, and will need a different approach to rank effectively. If you blindly use the same strategy for every client, you’ll end up limiting each one’s potential. Instead, customize your services for every brand that crosses your path.
- Not practicing what you preach. Too many SEO agencies make recommendations for their clients that they don’t follow themselves. Use the tactics you’re recommending for your clients, and not only will you benefit from increased visibility, you’ll have more credibility—because your clients will see what those tactics have already done for you.
- Outsourcing everything. It’s a good idea to have a handful of freelancers, contractors, and other agencies working with you, either complementing your services or providing them directly. But if you rely too much on outsourcing, you’ll lose some degree of control over your business. Make sure you have at least a handful of reliable, dedicated people in-house to keep everything in order—and plenty of backups in your network should one of your partners flake.
- Over-specializing. Specialization is good, for the same reason that choosing a specific target niche is good; you’ll limit your audience but increase your overall relevance. However, if you over-specialize, you could work yourself into a corner. SEO involves many different areas, and if you only have experience in one, you’ll have trouble diagnosing and addressing complementary problems when they arise.
- Worrying too much about acquisition. Most SEO agencies spend their marketing and sales efforts chasing after new leads and potential new clients. While this can be a valuable way to build your revenue streams, it’s more important to focus on client retention. Keeping your current customer base is far more valuable than adding one more to the pool, so make your first priority keeping your existing customers happy.
- Failing to adapt with the times. SEO changes frequently, so you can’t rely on the same tactics and methods forever. Your agency needs to learn new strategies and adapt with the times if it’s going to remain competitive.
If you’re an SEO agency that needs some help putting together the right packages, fulfilling your customers’ needs, or remaining competitive in an increasingly fierce market, reach out to me. Even if I can’t help you directly with your specific problem, I probably know someone who can.