How to build a $10 million SEO agency


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Jon and Zach Ball in 2011

What does it take to build a $10 million agency? Let’s break it down. A $10 million agency generates an average of  $833,000 monthly revenue.

Page One Power does link building and content. Its average client is $7,500/month. That means we need 111 clients to clear $833,000 monthly. Because this is the SEO industry, we lose about 5% of our business every month from clients changing their goals or just wanting something else, so they move on.

That means we need to sell seven new deals a month to keep the business we have. We close 40% of our qualified leads. So, we need about 20 quality leads a month to close seven deals.

Knowing the numbers helps you develop your plan. We have measurable goals for lead generation to help manage our business.

We’ve been in business for 13 years. We’ve learned a lot since 2010. We have a long client list, so we’re very busy. We’re almost always at maximum capacity.

When you can get the clientele you want through marketing, great service and a great product, you can market, create demand and control the volume with pricing. Getting to this point was our business goal from the start.

It’s important to set a revenue goal and make a plan to get there. We’ve noticed that your business grows in the direction you focus on. If you focus on negative outcomes like fear of loss, crazy customers or employees leaving, you’ll head in that direction. You always grow what you focus on. Focus on growth, and you’ll grow.

It sounds simple, but it’s true.

Positioning

In SEO, the old adage applies: “The riches are in the niches.” In-house marketers, website operators, publishers and business owners encounter problems in their marketing, and they look for solutions for their problems. Often, the more precisely you can position your offering, the higher your percentage of finding and closing your prospective customer.

Doing general SEO, including local SEO, link building, PPC, video, social media and other services, is an option many choose. Narrowing your focus gives you many advantages, including more exact marketing, higher quality products and a staff that becomes experts.

All we do is link building. For 13 years, we’ve focused on that job. Our staff gets better at it every day. They’ve worked very hard to build an impressive system. Our single-minded focus is what has allowed us to become the industry leaders. We’ve never been distracted.

Luckily for us, SEO is a big industry. It’s big enough to take us to a point where we only take the clients we feel we can be successful with. We turn away more prospective clients than we accept. The better you get at what you do, the higher the quality you can produce, the better the clients who will work with you.

Marketing

Marketing is simple: Establish a clear message and send that message out in as many ways as possible. The first step is made much easier by clarifying the product you offer. The more exact your product, the more exact your message. Prospects that are tuned into your frequency will respond.

Imagine a radio signal. The clearer and more precise your message, the more effective you’ll be at finding people who tune into your frequency. Be the clearest message out there for people looking for you.

Your tagline should tell your prospects what you can do for them in the most succinct way possible. The biggest obstacle to sales is often confusion. Confusion about what you offer, confusion in presenting the offer, and confusion about your product. Clarify everything as often as possible.

Our tagline, “The Link Builders You’ve Been Looking For,” tells the prospect that we do link building, and we understand that finding a reliable, quality link-building solution is a journey many SEOs encounter. We’re the solution to that problem.

Go for broke

We outlined the problem of business attrition above. We need 20 qualified leads per month to keep our business. We need more leads if we want to continue to grow. Marketing is how you get those qualified leads. Try everything and market like crazy. There is never an end to marketing. You can slow your marketing when you want to shrink your business.

When we started Page One Power in 2010, we used almost half of our revenue for marketing. It didn’t make much financial sense when we were collecting $100k a month and spending $50k a month on marketing, but we grew rapidly through those years because of the marketing. Now, we market just as much, but we have the luxury of being extremely picky with the leads we pursue.

People

SEO is a service business. Your product is made by the people that you hire. Therefore, finding and training the right people to produce SEO is one of your biggest challenges. So, how do you find them? How do you keep them?

Finding people is a big job. We look everywhere. Locally, we use a talent agency to find qualified SEO people. Nationally, we use Indeed to find prospective employees. Be careful who you hire. If you make a mistake, it’s okay to fire quickly.

Keeping good people is one of the most important jobs you have. We don’t have a formula to keep people. We just have principles that are born of common sense.

People are people. People want fair pay, working hours that make sense, managers who treat them with respect and good benefits. The best people thrive when they can express their creativity. People succeed when they have some control and can create something.

Micromanagement, excessive rules, corporate policies, cutthroat salaries, mistrust, strife, infighting, greed and other perils can spoil your entire company. Replace these with trust, compassion, an attitude of cooperation, and generosity.

You also need to guard against anyone who brings negative energy into your company. Watch over your staff carefully and fire when necessary. 

Delegation

Delegating means letting go of control. Some people can’t do this. It’s too difficult. But if you want to grow your agency to $10 million, there are many responsibilities you’ll have to delegate. You’ll have to delegate and trust. Trust that someone can do something for you in their way, even at 70% effectiveness. Tell people what you want them to do. Not how to do it.

Not trusting your staff means you’ll have the worry and struggle of micromanagement. No one wants to work for a micromanager. That’s the fastest way to lose staff. You can’t afford to lose staff. You need quality people.

Working on the business

If you want to strategize, plan and execute a quality SEO campaign for your clients, there’s much work to do. Someone has to be capable enough to revise content, tighten up navigation, optimize the internal linking, suggest new content, and, of course, set up a sustained link-building program. You, as a business owner, will struggle to do all of this work if you are also trying to pay bills, work with prospective clients, hire, do marketing, etc.

In the beginning, Page One Power’s founders separated the work into two categories: working in the business and working on the business. We focus on working on the business. That’s the work you can do best. You know the business better than anyone.

Spend your time refining your website, making training materials, setting up useful health insurance plans, providing support to your staff and setting the direction of every department in your agency. Working on your business is the path to a highly successful agency.

There are, of course, many other principles to follow, but these are the core ideas behind our agency. The SEO industry is a robust, lively industry, and you can make great money if you can organize your business to capture your little slice of the pie.

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