Ultimate List of SEO Agency Resources 2016
A list of 40 different articles, videos, podcasts, and software, hand-picked for the modern SEO and digital agency. Know of another resource that deserves to be included in this list? Make sure you tell us about it in the comments below!
The Agency Business
Thursday Bram – Evanto Tuts – January 15th, 2013
This thoughtful and comprehensive 7-part series examines the process that many digital agencies follow as they evolve from freelancer to agency.
Part 1: How to Structure a Creative Agency:
Growing an organization from one person, solely responsible for all work and decision-making, into a team that shares these responsibilities across different roles, is no easy feat. This article covers some of the key decisions you’ll need to make in order to ease the transition, including:
- Deciding who will have decision-making power
- Weighing different structural options (do you divide work by project, or break out different types of work to different people?)
- Internal communication processes and the importance of documentation
- External communication processes and determining the level of access clients will have to your team
- How you should be checking in on your structure as you grow
Part 2: How to Find Enough Work to Keep an Entire Agency Busy:
Once you have employees, they’ll need work to do. Make sure you’re busy enough to justify growing.
- Identify the type of work you want to take on
- Establish your value proposition
- Figure out where to find clients
- Decide who makes decisions around your own business’ marketing
Part 3: How to Decide Who to Send Your Agency’s Work to:
As you grow, you may employ freelancers to ease the workload – just make sure you’re hiring the right people.
- Remember that you don’t have to be friends with your freelancers
- Use portfolios to filter through candidates
- Interview freelancers at least once
- Check references
- Do a trial project first
- Make sure you use a comprehensive creative brief
Part 4: How to Manage an Entire Agency and Still Get Work Done:
Time management is key, especially when you have to decide between billable work and management responsibilities.
- Use a project management tool
- Standardize your division of labor
- Document everything and build your own training material
- Ensure open communication with your team (especially important when managing virtual employees/teams in different time zones!)
Part 5: The Difference Between Marketing Yourself Solo and Marketing an Agency:
Building an agency means building a brand that is separate from your personal brand.
- Take your name off the door – build the company name, not your own
- Allow your clients to meet your team
- Leverage your team (including freelancers) in marketing your firm so everyone wins
- Consider making a sales or marketing hire
Part 6: How to Decide Your Own Role in Your Creative Agency:
Where do you want to fit in your company? Are you the executive who keeps everyone moving in the same direction, or the creative genius? Few people naturally fit both roles.
- Decide between a creative vs administrative focus
- Break down the creative work – what areas will you focus on?
- Break down the administrative work – what areas will you focus on?
- Are you going to be responsible for sales, or are you going to hire a sales/business development person?
Part 7: How to Keep Your Creative Agency Growing in the Long Run:
Building a company isn’t a short term endeavor. What do you want your agency to grow into?
- Focus on your core market, and expand outside your niche slowly and deliberately
- Never stop learning
- Find a mentor and never be too proud to ask for advice
- Build your own expertise
- Leave room for creativity
Ian Lurie – Portent – February 23, 2011
The founder and CEO of Portent (one of the more well-known SEO agencies on the West Coast) offers 25 key tips for building a successful agency, based on his own experiences (and screw-ups). A few excerpts:
- “Delegate for efficiency, not for speed. It’s easy to hold onto tasks and projects because you know you can do it faster. While you can do it faster, you’re hurting your company’s efficiency. Your time is far too expensive. If you can successfully delegate and teach others on your team to perform the task instead, you’ve just invested in future efficiency.”
- “Don’t be the ‘cool’ parent. It’s really hard to be a boss. Sometimes you’re going to have to fire people, or criticize their work, or make an unpopular decisions. Then people look at you like you’re an asshole. Grow a spine.”
- “Encourage your team to argue with you. If someone disagrees with you, let them have their say. Don’t ever stifle folks. They’ll provide perspective you could otherwise lose. Of course make sure they know it’s your prerogative to disregard their advice. That’s life.”
Janet Driscoll Miller – Search Engine Land – February 18, 2016
SEO agencies are all about metrics – but are you paying attention to your own? This article outlines key indicators that will help you run an effective (and profitable) agency, including:
- Client profitability
- Team utilization
Neil Patel – Search Engine Journal – March 3, 2016
Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics details five simple tactics for growing your agency and building its brand on a national stage:
- Aggressive content marketing (opinion articles, guest posting, and guides)
- Getting referrals
- Conference attendance & speaking
- Forming partnerships with other digital agencies
- Targeting the right keywords
Sales & Marketing
Robert Williams – Medium – March 11, 2016
David Ogilvy went from tobacco farmer to owner of an ad agency billing over $450-million (in todays dollars) in 15 years. Take notes from one of the titans of the agency world on how to build your own agency’s business. A few excerpts:
- “Getting new clients is a solo performance. The person who decides to hire you is almost always the top decision maker at the company. David believed, “Chairmen should be harangued by chairmen.” Additionally, he felt having too many people on sales calls caused confusion. That’s why singularity is an important ingredient in winning accounts.”
- “Beware of clients who have no budget but a great idea. Even though they might become huge if everything goes well, it’s more likely that things won’t go well. Servicing these companies will be expensive for you and very few of them will ever make it worth your while.”
- “Fire clients at least 5 times more often than you get fired. Always do it for the same reason: if their behavior erodes the morale of the people working on their account. Do not allow this from any client.”
- Agency size and revenue
- Number of employees
- Billable vs non-billable work
- Common tools and software
- Minimum contract term and average billing amounts per client
- Sources of new clients
Jason Swenk – Smart Agency Master Class – March 23, 2016
Most agencies work on a time-and-materials basis – but could performance-based pricing work for you? Jason discusses the benefits of performance-based pricing, and how to maximize agency revenue with this pricing model.
Jason Swenk – #AskSwenk – March 2, 2016
Another insightful exploration of different pricing models from Jason Swenk, this one focusing on flat rate vs sliding scale pricing, along with discussion around agency saturation and issues with partners.
Liam Curley – YouMoz – December 17th, 2015
An interesting story of how one agency grew their modern digital agency with old-fashioned PR tactics.
Lia Boangiu – Search Engine People – January 14th, 2016
This is written from the client’s point of view, and is a great way to better understand their perspective. See what prospective clients look for, and how you might improve your own marketing to better cater to these needs and concerns.
Building and Managing Your Team
Remington Begg / Andrew Dymski – Inbound Agency Journey – April 11th, 2016
Interview with the Founder of Impulse Creative, Remington Begg (that’s such a cool name!). Learn about the value of data and processes, as well as how to hire and protect your talent.
Doug Davidhoff / Andrew Dymski – Inbound Agency Journey – January 1st, 2016
Interview with Doug Davidoff, Founder of Imagine Business Development. Doug discusses how he doubled the size of his team in 2015, and how he’s continuing to build his team now – in large part by stepping back and allowing them to make hiring decisions based on their needs.
Ben & Mat Newton – Web Design Agency Podcast – October 1, 2015
One of the hardest things in management is having to make the difficult decision to let someone go. Marcus Blankenship, a management coach, discusses how to fire someone in the fairest way.
Jason Swenk – #AskSwenk – January 21, 2016
Benjamin Speigel – Marketing Land – October 8, 2015
Homogeneous teams breed homogenous ideas. Building a diverse team will bring better ideas and prevent groupthink. Consider how many terrible marketing campaigns you’ve seen – each existed because at some point a group of people agreed that was a good idea. Diverse teams reduce the likelihood of everyone seeing a problem the same way.
Bourn Creative – Jennifer Bourn – January 19, 2015
A comprehensive outline of how to implement an effective onboarding process. This post is comprised of the slides and notes from a presentation given at the East Bay WordPress Meetup, and covers:
- What client onboarding is and why it’s important
- How to add value for clients before the project even begins
- The importance of setting clear expectations
- Common mistakes to avoid (like scope creep)
- How to make the process your own
Patrick Stox – Search Engine Land – August 6, 2015
The following is a list of useful information, account access, and digital assets to obtain, in order to help a new client’s transition to your agency go as smoothly as possible:
- Website & Analytics Access:
- Former agency contact information
- Website CMS/Server Info
- DNS Control
- Google Search Console/Bing Webmaster Tools
- Google Tag Manager
- Google My Business
- Google Adwords
- Site & Campaign History Information
- Any tools or services used
- History of site development
- Logos, images, assets
- Advertising channels in use
- History of campaign activity
Jason Blumer – The Businessology Show – January 15, 2016
Hubspot Blog – Eric Pratt – January 7, 2015
Onboarding is essential for kicking off a successful project on the right foot. Hubspot offers this simple 6-step plan to get you started:
- Assess the client’s campaign and assets
- Build your marketing plan and campaign goals
- Assign your best team for the job
- Hold an internal client orientation meeting
- Plan for a great kickoff call
- Do a 30-day checkup call
Client Relationship Management
Ashley Zeckman – TopRank Marketing Blog – April 20th, 2016
Thoughtful answers to these five questions that will help you build great client relationships!
- Why should a brand pursue or have an interest in an agency relationship?
- What are some examples of what makes a good relationship between a client and their agency?
- What are some key things that cause issues between clients and agencies?
- What have you found to be the best formula for client and agency communications?
- What is the one thing that could improve a client and agency relationship?
Taylor Lee Jones – Medium.com – June 20th, 2014
Taylor Lee Jones explains how the language we use when talking about clients can affect how we treat them – in effect dehumanizing them. Your clients are people – treat them that way!
Jerome Iveson – Hubspot Blog – February 18, 2016
You understand that your clients can get swamped too – but it’s hard (even impossible at times) to do your job without their input and feedback. This article offers a few ways to keep things moving along, even when your clients are especially busy!
Firing Bad Clients
Running an agency is hard – the margins are small and acquiring new clients can be difficult. Because of this, many agencies end up holding onto clients with whom they’ve a bad relationship for far too long. Here are a few posts from experienced consultants on the value of ending toxic client relationships.
Search Engine Land – Janet Driscoll Miller – January 21st, 2016
Some simple best practices on when and how to terminate a toxic client relationship:
- Make sure you’re contractually able to end bad client relationships
- Consider ending a client relationship when:
- it’s in the best interest of the client
- it’s not a good fit personality-wise between your team and theirs
- the relationship is not profitable for you
- the client is doing something ethically or legally questionable
- Only terminate contacts as a last resort
Ian Lurie – Portent Interactive – August 13, 2015
Clients hire you for your advice and expertise – if they start ignoring that advice, it’s time to walk away. In this post, Ian Lurie provides some entertaining examples of what you might hear from these kinds of clients.
A few of our favorites:
“I want to pay you by the link.” Excellent! I’m going to charge $5/link. Then, I’m going to go to Fiverr.com and buy 10,000 links for $5. That model works. For me, anyway.
“We’ll have to agree to disagree.” Boom. Ian’s head explodes. I don’t “agree to disagree” with my surgeon about my hernia because, hopefully, he knows more than I do about my organ sacks. Why the fucklebucket would anyone pay me to “agree to disagree” about my ‘valuable’ knowledge? I’ll save them the trouble.
“I’d like to buy ala carte.” I’d like to buy my meds one pill at a time. Thanks to statements like this, I need a bottle a day.
Planning & Project Management
Ed Burgoyne – Slideshare – December 5, 2013
Michael Cunningham – Hubspot Blog – June 30, 2015
Michael Cunningham discusses the following processes to increase productivity:
- Information Gathering
- Review & Approval Process
- Automated Development
- Data Management
- Client Management
Deuce Themes – July 28, 2015
An interesting opinion piece on the importance of project management, along with strategies for developing project management in your agency.
Outsourcing & Freelancers
John Boitnott – Inc. – June 10, 2015
Hiring freelancers can be a great way to take on new work in the short-to-medium term without adding the overhead of full-time employees, but it also opens you up for risk – particularly in ensuring quality of work. This article provides a good introduction to key aspects of this business model.
Amy Gallo – Harvard Business Review – August 17, 2015
Managing freelance talent can be very different than internal employees. This article from the Harvard Business Review offers these 7 tips for effectively managing outsourced workers:
- Understand what they want
- Set expectations
- Build the relationship
- Make them feel part of the team
- Don’t micromanage
- Give feedback
- Pay them well
Beth Snyder Bulik – Adage – July 6, 2015
Another “best practices” article, but one that’s more geared towards the agency environment.
Stella Garber – Trello Blog – 13th May, 2015
One of the biggest challenges for many agencies starting to employ freelancers is the adjustment to working with a remote team. This article outlines some great ways of dealing with that challenge.
Rob Rawson, co-founder of a company with over 50 full time global team members working virtually, shares his strategies on the best ways to keep remote teams coherent, productive and motivated.
Tools & Software
Note: None of the following are paid product endorsements – just tools we’ve found useful over the years and wanted to share!
33) Accelo.com – Professional Service Automation
Many agencies use a patchwork of different project management and billing tools. Accelo offers a CRM, a ticketing system, time tracking, budgeting, invoicing, and workflow management all in one platform.
It’s a solution designed specifically for professional services companies. I tried it out myself a few years ago when it was still AffinityLive. While implementation and training is a complex process (you’re replacing a lot of systems), the advantages of complete integration are pretty awesome once you get there.
34) Slack.com – Communication
You’ll probably find Slack on most lists of tools/resources like this one, but for good reason. Here at SERPs we use Slack for most internal communication, and also as an external communication channel for some of our higher-touch customers. It definitely helps cut down on email, and tech-savvy users can take advantage of its extensive offering of integrations, which allow you to interact with all sides of your business through one application! We’re a fan!
35) Harvest – Time Tracking and Invoicing
A complex all-in-one solution like Accelo isn’t for everyone – especially if you’re small or particularly attached to any of your existing systems.
Harvest is designed specifically for time tracking and invoicing. It was the time tracking app I used at my first agency, and of all the different time tracking and project management apps I’ve used since (which is quite a few), it remains my favorite by far. Harvest has an intuitive UI, easy-to-use mobile and desktop apps, and great reporting features. A perfect fit for small to medium-sized agencies.
36) Time Doctor
Time tracking software that provides in-depth analytics into where you spend your workday. Includes some interesting features to help minimize distractions and track activity (like automatic screenshot grabbing).
37) DownForEveryOneOrJustMe.com – Technical Diagnostics
I love a tool that does one thing well. Type in a domain, and (as its name implies) downforeveryoneorjustme.com will tell you whether the site is down for everyone, or just you. You can then share a link to these results with others. I’ve found it especially handy for times when a client’s own IT issues are preventing them from accessing their site – just send them the link to demonstrate that their site is up for everyone else!
38) Kinsta.com – Managed WP Hosting
Sick of managing WordPress hosting for your clients? While there are many managed hosting platforms available for WordPress, Kinsta is one of the fastest I’ve seen. Powered by the Google Cloud Platform, they’ll even handle migrations!
Analytics & Client Reporting
39) Agency Analytics – All-in-one Analytics Dashboard
Agency Analytics is an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies that includes the following:
- Rank Tracker
- Backlink Monitor
- SEO Audit Tool
- Social Analytics
- Web & PPC Analytics
- User Dashboard
- Automated Reporting
- White Label
40) SERPs.com (that’s us!)
While we don’t want to toot our own horn too much, we have tons of happy agency clients who rely on our software for rank tracking. All of our plans offer unlimited client and user accounts, along with unlimited campaigns, making SERPs a perfect fit for agencies of any size. Our customers especially love:
- Unlimited user/client accounts with custom permissions
- Unlimited domains
- Per-keyword pricing options that allow them to scale affordably, without paying a premium for a bunch of features they don’t need.
- Rankings data for any specified location and device.
- Plans starting at 2000 keywords, with all data updated daily.
- Rank tracking
- Search visibility
- Track up 3 competitors
- Track link data
- Weekly crawl error reports
- Keyword difficulty tool
- Create customized reports from multiple data sources
- Supports Google Analytics, Search Console and Facebook Page Insights
- Report Templates
- Widget-based report builder
Thanks for reading our list! Let us know what you think, and if you have any other resources that you’d like us to add! (We’re fine with self-promotion – as long as it’s good content!)