Working at an SEO Agency and the Planning, Execution and Life-Cycle of a Client’s SEO Campaign
The following is a guest post from Ryan, who works at a leading SEO agency in the US and explains the inner workings of an agency as well as dealing with a client’s SEO campaign.
Hello AffiliateFYI reader’s, my name is Ryan and I work at a leading SEO agency in the USA. In my post today I will talk about working with a team of SEO’s, the typical life cycle of a client and the plusses and minuses compared to working on your own projects. Although I can’t disclose any of my clients, I primarily work with large brands that most of you have heard of. In my free time I have been working on my site NFL Betting Lines Guide
The SEO Agency Setup
The great thing about working in house at an SEO agency is the brain trust of smart people you get to learn from. Having worked for myself at one point I found it frustrating at times trying to do almost everything myself. At an agency, you can develop the skills you’re best at and lean on others in areas you struggle in. I consider myself primarily a link builder and marketer. Although I can build sites and I am decent with architecture, I am out of my league compared to some of my colleagues who have had to deal with major issues on e-commerce sites with 100k plus pages. I don’t know what all agencies are like but at mine we have developed a culture where we are constantly sharing ideas and new information. People take the ball and run with it to help develop the most advanced and efficient ways of solving SEO tasks and problems. Then once they’ve tested and worked out the kinks they share and teach the rest of the team.
Although there are special packages available, a majority of clients start with a standard one year SEO contract. I can’t discuss pricing but it is variable depending on the size and needs of a client. Once the agreement is set in place all the work and preparation begins
The first three months of a contract are by far the most intensive from a work perspective. In that time we really have to get all of our ducks in a row to pave the way for on-going success. Additionally, there will be a lot of time spent speaking and getting comfortable with the point of contact person and understanding the overall goals and objectives of the clients.
During this time we generally focus on the following.
- Overall analysis of their rankings and any previous SEO efforts.
- Competitive analysis to understand who we are going up against and what it will take to beat them.
- Thorough audit of the site’s architecture to identify and resolve any major issues. We’ve seen everything when it comes to architecture issues. From hundreds of pages of duplicate content to thousand of 404 pages to a 302 redirect on the homepage of a major site.
- Keyword research
- Update of all major pages following the keyword research. At this time we implement improved Title, H1 and meta tags as well as updates to on page keyword use and internal linking.
The goal here is to get the site in prime condition to improve rankings, traffic and conversions. We can’t start on the marketing end until we’ve done a tune up and gotten the site in the best possible shape internally.
Once we have a site in prime condition it’s time to move the focus towards content creation, general marketing and link building. We’ll start to plan out and brainstorm our initial ideas and objectives during the competitive analysis phase but won’t really get anything underway until a few months into the project.
We still do a small amount of directory linking but outside of that, all the old easy SEO plays from a few years back are out the window. We looked at Panda and Penguin as inevitable and have been pursuing SEO strategies well in advance of their implementation that would keep our clients safe from major algorithm updates.
We try to look at SEO as another piece of the marketing puzzle and therefore generally try to have at least a six month plan for all the different content and link building initiatives we are working on. Having a timeline for different strategies makes it easier to get client buy-in and approval.
Every client is different and each one needs to have plans that fit their industries, budget and internal rules. Some clients generate so much content that our primary job is to optimize it and help guide the right eyes to it. Others will have small, fairly static sites and have businesses that don’t generate a lot of natural interest and attention. It’s our job to work within those parameters and find a way to deliver success.
Often times the marketing side of our work can be the most difficult to get client approval from. If they have 50 dead pages on their site it’s easy to communicate why that’s a problem. On the other hand, getting a client to commit X or Y amount of resources for something they have never tried before feels risky. It’s our job to sell a client using proof and experience on what kind of outcomes we believe can be achieved from our major initiatives.
Client Reporting and Communication
A large portion of our job is actually to effectively communicate what’s happening to the client. They want to know what’s going on with their site and their brand. They trust us with key areas of their business and that trust has to be earned. Keeping an open and honest line of communication can often be as important to the relationship as any other success metric.
The first thing we do every morning is check rankings and traffic. If anything has moved in either a positive or negative direction then we contact the client and provide an analysis of it. We also check Google alerts and if any major media mentions have occurred we make sure they are aware of it.
On top of our daily reporting we do more thorough monthly, quarterly and year end reports. All clients have goals, objectives and KPI’s. We try whenever possible to communicate from a revenue perspective. We love to see increased rankings but unless we are making the client money an additional 100 keywords on page 1 is useless. Speaking in terms of success (or failure) in financial terms is also something that is much easier to digest for high level executives.
After Year One
When a client gets to the end of their contract then based on their needs they may renew for another year. It’s not uncommon to have clients who will stay with us for several years. SEO is no longer something you do for a few months, achieve your rankings and then move on. In competitive industries, I can’t imagine many companies will give up having an SEO agency or permanent in house SEO staff.
After the first year we hope to have sorted out all the major issues and made significant traffic, rankings and conversions increases. If everything goes according to plan then the client may have more of a scaled back second year campaign. We will always be looking to identify areas of improvement on site but at this point it becomes much more of a marketing and link building project.
As I said in the intro, my favorite part about working at an agency is the people and everything you can learn from them. There is a definite team quality that helps us feel like we are all in it together. Even if long term you want to run your own sites or start your own business, I think working at an agency can be an invaluable experience.
Before I started, I was below average at SEO and slightly above average at PPC. Working at an agency has given me the time and tools to develop into a confident SEO professional and I have achieved success for clients in majorly competitive industries. We also have the freedom of a large budget and any new tools, software or freelance help is easy to get as long as you present your case well. There is also a lot to be said for the ability to execute high cost marketing initiatives and try out new things that you wouldn’t be able to afford on your own sites (or at least that I wouldn’t be able to afford).
Depending on the industry of a client, getting approval for nearly anything can be a major headache. Think of anything heavily regulated (finance, investing, banking, pharma, etc.). Legal approval time for simple requests can take several weeks or more and lots of ideas will get shot down because of industry restrictions. Even if a client doesn’t have those issues, you can still face having your best strategies turned away simply because they don’t feel like doing it. The most difficult part about all those scenarios is that a client still expects success even if they can end up tying one hand behind your back.
Another thing that can be tough to come to grips with is the revenue side. I think something that attracts most affiliates to their line of work is the potential to continually increase your income. When you’re at an agency though, you can double a client’s revenue and not personally see another dime. Of course there are rewards for good work but it’s less tangible then the benefit you can get when it’s your own site.
I also think there is a lot to be said for just getting on with it. One of the things I like about running a site or two on the side is that I can take action immediately because I know what I am doing. I definitely respect that affiliates and small business owners have that freedom. If you’re one of those people then try to be grateful for your ability not to get caught up in red tape and bureaucracy.
I hope I was able to give you a good portrait of what the SEO agency experience can be like. If anyone has any questions, I will try to stop by the comments section and give you as legit of a response as I can.