Starting an SEO Business from Scratch: The 14-Point Checklist and FAQs
Entrepreneurship provides you with the required freedom while minimizing the mounting uncertainty in the job market. That is probably why there has been a surge in the number of people opting for entrepreneurship instead of taking up a full-time job. However, not many entrepreneurs can sustainably run an SEO or a digital marketing business. Just one lapse on your part, and you start losing clients.
Success Mantra: Use the right approach and maintain direct and clear communication with your clients to succeed as a digital agency and maintain profitability.
This article helps you with the step-by-step approach to launch your SEO agency and take your startup from zero to a digital powerhouse.
How to Start an SEO Business From Scratch?
So, you’ve finally decided to launch your digital agency; let me start by saying congratulations! You are among the daring few who take the plunge and create job opportunities for many others. The journey is indeed challenging in the beginning. However, as you move ahead and start learning things, your online business will gradually become more manageable and start sailing smoothly. We have created a checklist to help you successfully start and run your dream business.
The Ultimate Checklist for Your SEO Company
Since digital businesses operate in a dynamic ecosystem, you might always feel the hesitation to take the first step.
Here is the 14-point checklist you can use before launching your SEO business to avoid surprise outcomes. It will help you start, foster, and scale your SEO or digital marketing agency:-
- Manage Your Cash Flow
- Learn SEO and Business Management
- Complete the Legal Paperwork
- Setup Your Payment Methods
- Keep Your Invoice Templates Ready
- Build Your Buyer Personas or Customer Avatars
- Choose A Niche
- Decide on the Services Your Agency Will Offer
- Choose Your Payment Method
- Build a Professional Website
- Perform Local SEO of Your Website
- Start Offering Local SEO Services First
- Build Your Agency’s Brand
- Fix Your Logistics
1. Manage Your Cash Flow
It is not a good idea to instantly quit your job to start your agency. You shouldn’t quit your day job until you maintain the required cash flow that matches your regular income. Apart from the cash flow, you should also ensure that you have an adequate loyal client base to survive as a business. You will reach this stage when you become proficient in SEO services and successfully gain the trust of your clients.
2. Learn SEO and Business Management
Like any other business, you will need business acumen to run an SEO agency. You will also need some training and education. To save your money in experimentation, you can refer to many online resources and books on successfully running your agency business.
Here are some books you can refer to:
A. Starting an Online Business and Internet Marketing 2021
Guide to Setting up an E-Commerce Website, SEO, and Digital Marketing Strategies. By S. K. Holder
B. Change. Adapt. Rock.
The Ultimate Digital Marketing Book for Your Online Business
WildRock Public Relations and Marketing
C. The Seven Figure Agency Roadmap: How to Build a Million Dollar Digital Marketing Agency
You can also refer to Google support docs and online journals such as Moz, Quicksprout, DashClicks Blog, Neilpatel.com, Search Engine Watch, HubSpot, WordStream Blog, Search Engine Journal and Social Media Examiner.
How to Learn SEO?
SEO is not as complicated as some people try to make you believe. If you do things the right way and precisely in the same manner as Google wants it, you’ll soon see your efforts being paid off. Moreover, if you follow basic Google instructions, you can achieve 95% of the results with just 5% effort.
Refer to Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide if you want to learn the basic guidelines to rank for the chosen terms without any external help.
To master SEO, you need to learn the following things:
- Review and audit of your website content or structure
- On-page and off-page SEO
- Google Analytics (to identify UX signals)
- Keyword research
- Content development based on user intent
- Management of paid campaigns
- Link building
Pro Tip: Launching an SEO company can be challenging. To create a wildly profitable 7-figure marketing agency, you can join our Elite agency coaching program “DashElite.” As an Elite Program member, you get access to multiple white-label software programs such as DashClicks Platform, InstaReports Premium, and InstaSites Premium.
The Elite Agency Coaching Program “DashElite”
Apart from that, you’ll also get access to our courses and training programs such as Dash University, DashElite vault of training programs, downloadable files, recorded accountability calls, and much more.
DashElite Agency Coaching Program
DashDay Organized by DashClicks
3. Complete the Legal Paperwork
Hire a legal expert and learn all the legal implications and specific regulations related to starting a digital agency. Determining your business structure before launching your business will help you understand how you will be filing your taxes to the IRS. You have many options, such as a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Talk to a legal expert or a CPA before deciding the business structure of your agency. Also, create your SEO contracts.
It is a crucial step because it states various terms and conditions of the contract and makes them legally binding. Beyond the legal aspects, it also serves as an agreement that includes the expectations from both parties. It also details how you will run your campaigns, including granular details of the processes involved in the ownership of assets and how long the contract will last.
4. Setup Your Payment Methods
Today, various payment methods are available that you can use. For overseas transactions, you can choose automated clearing houses or SCH transfers. In this method, clients can electronically transfer money directly from their bank account to your business account based in the US. You can also allow your clients to pay through credit cards.
This method is quite popular because it involves little hassle. After all, the client needs to set up the payment-related details only once over a secure network, and you can complete the transfer in a minimum number of steps. Additionally, for online payments, you can also try different online payment services such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, Alipay, and PayPal. However, you should choose the payment method at your client’s convenience.
5. Keep Your Invoice Templates Ready
An invoice serves as proof of transactions with your clients. It streamlines your accounts and ensures that you get paid as per the terms mentioned in the contract. Your invoice should include a detailed description of the itemized charges for different services your agency offers. You should also add the due date and payment methods permissible. Moreover, attaching a number to each invoice makes tracking convenient.
6. Build Your Buyer Personas or Customer Avatars
Buyer persona mapping is a crucial step of digital marketing, where you create fictional but realistic profiles of your target customers. These profiles reflect the characteristics of your ideal customers, such as their demographics, income, lifestyle, motivations, goals, personality attributes, psychographics, and attitudes.
It helps you understand your clients, their pain points, goals and aspirations, and the objectives they want to achieve through digital marketing. We can divide buyer personas into two significant categories: demographics and psychographics.
Demographics have to do with physical attributes, such as location, age, gender, profession, financial status, etc. Psychographics refers to the behavior and psychology of an individual, so it deals with motivations, perceptions, preferences, brand affinities, attitude, buying patterns, etc.
Buyer personas are also known as customer avatars. Here’s an example:-
Customer avatars help you decide your positioning as an SEO agency. The most crucial utilization of buyer personas is its usage in crafting content for different stages in the sales funnel. So, a customer avatar can be extremely useful in nurturing and converting leads.
7. Choose A Niche
Not choosing your preferred niche is a crucial mistake most agencies commit. As per common logic, the wider your net is, the more fish you’re going to catch. However, it doesn’t work in a business where choosing your niche is essential.
Most of the agencies with loyal and growing customer bases are those that don’t position themselves as “full-service digital marketing or SEO agencies.“
If you position your agency that offers niche-based services, such as SEO agency for roofers, plumbers, or electricians, you’re likely to attract customers faster. You can’t sell your services to everyone, at least when it comes to positioning.
It’s also helpful in scaling as you can easily set up the processes and scale them up. An SEO agency for small agencies may sound more appealing to real estate businesses than a full-service SEO agency.
Here are a few tips for choosing your niche:-
- Choose an industry you have served earlier
- Learn industry jargon to connect with your audience
- Use social circles and referrals to attract new customers
- Do market research for better prospecting and lead generation
8. Decide on the Services Your Agency Will Offer
Do you want to focus your services around SEO, or would you like to expand your services and offer paid ads, web designing, and social media marketing as well?
Now, let’s discuss the pros and cons of choosing SEO as a core service.
Choosing SEO as your core service has many advantages. First of all, to succeed as an agency, you should go for the contracts with recurring monthly payments and consistent services, and SEO does just that. Your clients need constant optimization till their website starts ranking on the top with targeted keywords.
You might need web design services only once or twice, but SEO is a recurring service that you’ll need consistently for a long time. It also has more flexibility so that you can upsell your clients.
When you get your first few clients and successfully retain them for a few months, you can now think of expanding your services. Paid advertising, social media, email marketing, and web designing services can be your options, and you can offer these services to your existing and new clients. This way, you will generate new business while successfully maintaining your cash flow.
9. Choose Your Payment Method
Here are four methods SEO agencies use to charge for their services.
- Monthly retainer: The client pays a monthly fee in exchange for SEO services.
- Fixed-price: The client pays a fixed charge for specific SEO services in such contracts.
- Project-based: The client pays a set fee for the entire project. Usually, these are small projects like link-building, etc.
- Hourly: Many agencies and established freelancers charge hourly fees for their services. It’s more prevalent in SEO consultancy etc.
10. Build a Website
A website is an absolute must-have for newbie agencies. It doesn’t matter if they have built a highly professional website or just an essential website. To start with, you need to have a clutter-free website that provides all the relevant details about your services.
A professional and quick-loading mobile-optimized website is a must for conversions. It will help users enjoy a better user experience and help you rank higher on Google. A well-built website is also a must for user engagement and a lower bounce rate.
So, design a website according to your specific niche and add visual and text-based content to persuade and convert a visitor.
Pro Tip: Use Sites App by DashClicks to create a conversion-focused niche-based website. With this tool, you don’t need to know coding to develop a professional website. These template-based websites are specifically designed for different niches to convert maximum visitors and provide ample information about your services.
11. Perform Local SEO of Your Website
To make a lasting impression about your proficiency in SEO, try to rank your website for the keyword – “SEO agency or SEO business or service + your location.” This way, you’ll also generate qualified leads you can nurture and convert. However, you might have to negotiate initially, but as your reputation and confidence grow, you can smoothly sell and quote your rates.
A successful SEO campaign is valuable for a business as their very survival may depend on their visibility and search engine traffic. So, as soon as you start getting clients, you’ll have to hire a team, and then you’ll be able to charge accordingly.
How to Create a Business Profile on Google?
For that, you can first create a Google My Business account and optimize your Business Profile on it. You can follow these steps to create your GMB profile and add your location on Google.
- Create your business profile on Google by creating a Google My Business account
- Follow their instructions and verify ownership of the business
- Add accurate and up-to-date information about your business
- Add your logo, opening and closing time, products and services, and images of your business premises and products.
- Ask your customers to leave reviews on your business profile
- Respond to customer reviews with courtesy and sincerity to keep your profile engaging and active
- You can also publish posts on your Google My Business profile and update your audience about products, events, and special offers using the GMB dashboard
12. Start Offering Local SEO Services First
Before you launch an SEO business, start offering local SEO services first. It’s comparatively easier to achieve local SEO results than national or global SEO. Furthermore, you can offer it to virtually any business in town.
It will build trust and help in word-of-mouth publicity that you’ll badly need in the initial stages. It includes Google My Business setup and optimization, creating Facebook pages and local link building & listing, etc.
13. Build Your Agency’s Brand
It’s a bitter truth that you can’t grow your agency beyond a point unless you work hard on its branding. Your brand defines why your customer should choose you over others. It’s a significant differentiation factor that is a prerequisite for an agency to survive and thrive in the long run.
Choose your SEO business name and logo, so people can easily recognize your business. Creating other branding assets such as a business card, a professional website, lead magnets will also be helpful.
Your banding assets should be based on the following factors:
- Value proposition: What do you offer that others don’t?
- Audience: Who exactly is your audience?
- Personality: What emotion should your brand evoke, and how should they perceive it?
14. Fix Your Logistics
Save time spent on unnecessary things as your focus should be on delivering quality services, best results, and client satisfaction. You can hire an accountant for tax filing etc., use invoicing software, and get a multi-currency account to save your time.
It will be a great idea to leverage AI-based agency tools to save time and improve processes. For example, generating reports is a time-consuming and tedious task, and it eats up the precious time of your SEO managers.
Pro Tip: You can instantly generate professional SEO reports using AI-based tools such as InstaReports.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some FAQs startup owners will find useful:-
How Do I Offer SEO Services?
Here are the seven steps to market and sell your SEO services and attract more clients.
- Develop SEO packages with different USPs
- Work hard to build your brand and invest in it
- Prioritize your own website’s SEO
- Try to establish yourself as a thought leader
- Get as many client testimonials as you can, including video testimonials
- Leverage cold emailing
- Focus on lead nurturing through content marketing and phone
How Do You Become an SEO Freelancer?
Here are the ten steps to becoming an SEO freelancer.
- Learn SEO best practices
- Offer free services to your friends and relatives
- Make a portfolio of your previous work
- Get references, reviews, and testimonials
- Launch your website
- Optimize your website for popular keywords and promote it
- Leverage social media and YouTube
- Leverage the best SEO tools for better performance
- Use job boards, freelance sites, and cold calling for projects
- Hire white-label services for the services you’re less proficient in
How to Scale Your Business?
Once your processes are set up and you’re on track to perform and deliver results for your clients, it’s time to scale your business. The best way to scale your business is to leverage white-label digital marketing services. It allows you to expand your services and serve additional clients with the same team size and resources. What’s more, you stay profitable as an agency.
What Are the Risks of SEO?
It’s crucial to understand the risks associated with SEO as they can be disastrous.
- Making sweeping changes in a website
- Making small or large tweaks and testing those changes
- Receiving and providing backlinks
- Changing the URL Structure
- Poor or no doorway pages
- Buying expired or available domains
- Disavowing neutral and non-toxic backlinks
7 Steps To Launching Your Own Digital Marketing Agency
20 Most Common SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid in 2021 and Beyond
Starting an SEO business isn’t easy. It tests your willpower and persistence. There is no wonder the failure rate is so high. According to a study conducted in 2019, the failure rate of startups was a whopping 90%. If you’ve decided to launch your own SEO business, these stats shouldn’t deter you from taking the plunge. If you follow all the things in this checklist, you’re poised for success.
You can quickly move mental mountains, but if you need any further assistance ranging from coaching, software to completely white-label solutions, DashClicks can be your best partner. We have assisted thousands of SEO agencies worldwide to succeed in the changing digital landscape, and if you want to be the next, contact us today.