I owned an SEO agency many years ago that was eventually acquired and I had no intention of starting an seo agency again. For those who have been following me for some time will know that SERPLogic started off as a marketing blog.

The topics I wanted to discuss and the information I wanted to get out there wasn’t something most blogs would welcome with open arms, because it was controversial. Back in the day nobody wanted to talk about how the big brands were buying links — there were large scale efforts going on.

And some of the SEO gurus that were dead set on preaching “Content is King,” were the same ones selling the links to these huge operations. I had enough of the nonsense within the SEO industry so I wanted to voice my opinion, so I started my own blog.

This “real” approach ended up causing a few blog posts in the early days to go viral. This resulted in a large newsletter list and an audience that not only loved reading the posts, but also an audience that constantly asked me to help them build links and help them with various search engine optimization projects.

After thinking about it for a while I decided to pivot and SERPLogic became a full-blown agency with a dozen products now. This was many years ago and it’s since grown into a seven-figure SEO agency. A lot of its success was due to constantly staying on a course that aligned with the goal from the beginning – provide the gasoline (links) to help businesses and other agencies run successful SEO campaigns.

The industry is constantly changing and I’m sure some people reading this have tossed the idea of starting an SEO agency is 2020 around. Maybe that person is you, but you have questions or you aren’t sure what the best strategy would be given the current state of the industry.

What I can tell you is this – there will always be a demand (and an increasing one at that) from businesses that need help with their online marketing. Attracting buyers and customers online is something that is only going to become more important as technology completely takes over our life.

I thought it would be helpful to get an opinion from someone that has started multiple agencies in the past – so here is what I would do if I was starting an SEO agency in 2020.


Start a Hyper Niche-Focused Agency

I think one of the biggest mistakes new SEO agencies make these days is trying to please every client that comes their way. If someone wants SEO and they have the money, they take them on. SEO has become so far advanced that you need entirely different strategies for every business type.

Some of the more successful newer agencies are very niche focused. For example, they only do SEO for lawyers or they only do SEO for Shopify e-commerce stores. Being focused like this allows you to run very targeted marketing campaigns, but also become niche specialists, eventually delivering outstanding results that help you attract and sign new clients much easier than one could being a general service provider.

My agency has a strong reputation we built over time and we have it built out in a way that enables us to service any niche, etc. But, for those starting now I would highly suggest servicing one specific niche.


Take on a Dozen Clients at Life-Time 50% Retainers

One of the hardest parts when just starting out is getting your first few clients. I would suggest offering your first dozen clients a monthly retainer at 50% off. This will help you several ways.

First, it will help you get clients on the books faster and get revenue coming into your business. You might be able to sign 10 clients at half-off before you sign one client at a full price retainer. This gets your team working, clients on the books, and it creates monthly recurring revenue for your business.

You might not profit a lot, but that revenue should be enough to support your operations and allow you to market. Plus you now have access to client testimonials and reviews. After a month of service (and results) ask them to provide a review and write a testimonial.

If you are delivering great results they are going to be more than happy to do it because they are going to want to make sure you continue to honor the 50% off discount.



Build a 100% Remote Team

If you are considering building an SEO agency in 2020, and you are contemplating opening a physical office – stop immediately. There is no need. Here is why I would only suggest going the remote team route:


  • This greatly reduces the amount of money you need to get started and launch the new agency. There are no large payments (first, last and security) and no long term commercial leases to sign. Also, what if you grow quickly and need a bigger office? Remote allows unrestricted scalability.


  • You can hire the best team — link builders, content writers, social media specialists, etc. — based on their skill and not location. If you have a physical location you can only hire those that have the ability to commute. This limits the talent quality.


  • You can operate the agency from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. Years ago a business would frown at a virtual office or a co-working office address, but not now. Remote teams and companies are the norm for all industries, not just SEO.


Systemize Everything from Day One

There are more tools and software available now than there ever has been, especially those designed specifically for SEO and agency clients. I would suggest taking advantage of every tools and program that is available and can help you systemize your entire business.

If you take my suggestion and build a remote team, then be sure to use a team communication tool like Slack and a project collaboration tool like SPP to keep everyone on the same page when starting an seo agency. This also keep all communication in one place. When you start mixing emails, Skype messages, WhatsApp, etc. — it can be difficult to piece it all together.

You also want to have a nice seamless reporting tool in place that will keep your clients up to date on everything. Also, make sure you have a customer support ticket system that will keep you organized. The last thing you want to do is drop the ball when it comes to client communication.


Develop In-Depth Case Studies (with Constant Updates)

Remember how I mentioned that onboarding your first dozen clients at a discounted rate when starting an seo agency was a great way to get paying clients on the books and also start a stream of recurring revenue? Well it also gives you a handful of prime clients to use as case studies.

Make sure that anyone that takes you up on the discounted rate allows you to use them in your case studies. You don’t have to disclose their business name, website or any revealing or identifying information, but you do want to make sure you can use data like traffic increase, revenue increase and anything else related to the campaign.

You can then create nice in-depth case studies that reside on your website and that you can constantly add to. Over time this builds very appealing and impressive examples that will do a great job at pre-selling potential clients. Put in the effort to create very nice case studies that are constantly updated and it will help your conversion rates significantly.


Integrate All Client Analytics and Data into Reporting

Back in the day an SEO agency would only send the client a keyword tracking report. This would show them what the position of each keyword moved to, and that was it. But now there is so much more to SEO than just keyword rankings.

I would suggest setting up the most robust tracking and reporting that you can. For example, if you are specializing in e-commerce SEO, I would make sure that you have full access to their Google Analytics and you are able to set up goals, and also access to their back-end.

This will allow you to show them the true value of SEO, beyond just organic rankings. When you are able to say, “We drove this much organic traffic and that contributed to $XXXXXX in revenue, which is a XXX% ROI return on your SEO,” you will have a much higher value to that client.



Have a Revenue > Rankings Mentality

Continuing on the point above, when I started my first SEO agency it was all about rankings. A client only wanted to see their target keywords and what they did in terms of movement over the past month. If they saw an increase of even just one position across a few keywords they were happy.

They had no idea whether or not those increases even contributed to sales and revenue, but that was the mentality back then. Now, I would suggest you look at the SERP results, but focus more on the actual sales and revenue that the SEO campaign is directly responsible for.

When you approach it this way you quickly find the areas to scale that will results in revenue spikes. Sure, keyword rankings are great, but only if you can prove how much revenue they are each responsible for.


Build an Email Marketing Division

One of the best online marketing strategies in terms of cost to value returned is email marketing, and it’s been this way for a long time. This is especially true for e-commerce businesses.

The amount of revenue that an e-commerce store can generate just by leveraging its current database of emails is incredible and for the most part it’s untapped by most businesses. So, if I was just starting out with a new agency I would create an email marketing division and offer an add-on service and I would market it as a free service that doesn’t cost the business any upfront money.

Instead, I would charge a percentage of the extra revenue generated each month from email marketing. A small team that creates very specific offers and has the ability to analyze email data and segment correctly, could easily add an additional revenue stream to the agency.

It would be hard to find a business (especially one that is already hiring you for SEO) that would turn away a service that will make them more money, with no upfront cost. This performance based approach could really add to your bottom line.


Build a Re-Marketing Division

This is taking the same concept above, and just creating a re-marketing team. Again, you can set it up as a “no upfront cost” service, which will result in more clients adding it onto your retainer, and also one that could earn your agency a significant amount of additional revenue each month.

If you have a client interested in running Facebook ads or Google ads you can add that as an optional service, and what I would do to set yourself apart from others’ is to offer performance management.

They have to cover the ad spend of course (they pay directly — you just have access to the account for management purposes) and they pay a percentage of revenue. In the long run you can make much more money and the client loves that arrangement.

And, with a remote team setup you can hire media buyers and pay them based on performance also. In the end everyone wins and it just contributes to more bottom line agency revenue.


Offer a Hands-Off Content Publication Service

Years of building links has taught me one thing, and that is that most businesses don’t know what quality content is. Most will just purchase content online and it’s poorly written or doesn’t have a clear conversion goal.

There is a huge opportunity to offer content, from topic research to the writing and actual posting and publishing on their site. If you offer a hands-off option that handles everything for them you will find many will jump on it.

This is another add-on that is an easy sell based on the fact that every website needs to publish content on a consistent basis. You can also hire very niche-specific writers and pay on a per-article basis.

There is no risk on your end, and an upside of increased monthly recurring revenue for your SEO agency.




There are so many ways to build an SEO agency in 2020, and when it comes down to it you need to determine how you can provide value and results to your clients. After all, that is what will get you repeat business as well as referrals.

There is nothing more powerful than word of mouth marketing in the SEO industry. A quick Google search will kick back endless results and options, and every agency that is marketing says the same thing — they are the best and can get you ranks.

The truth is that very few can actually deliver on those claims. If you want to build a successful SEO agency in 2020 consider the suggestions I laid out above, but also be certain that you have the team, process and know-how to deliver results and fulfill the needs of your clients.

Do you have any questions about starting an SEO agency? If so drop them below in the comments and I will do my best to try to answer them for you and help you out.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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