During the months of August and September 2014, my company, linkbird, did an in-depth research about the current trends, strategies, challenges, and practices of the SEO industry. In this research we found out how agencies can optimize their positioning and business activities based on what their customers want and need.
In this post, I want to share with you the key takeaways we gathered by doing the study. I hope you can use them in your day to day. As a bonus, I’m also posting the infographic summing up the results of the study in a neat overview.
Agency and client landscape in the SEO services industry
- There are three types of agencies in the online marketing field: SEO specialists, agencies that combine SEO with complementary disciplines (such as content marketing and online PR), and full stack online marketing agencies.
- On the demand side you have marketers who rely heavily on SEO and spend a larger portion of their online marketing budget on SEO and marketers who only spend a fractional portion of their online marketing budget on SEO which are considered holistic marketers.
- The demand side can be further segmented based on the budget dedicated for outsourcing online marketing activities. Buyers and makers, where buyers tend to allocate a large portion of their budget for agency services while makers prefer to do most of SEO in-house.
The demand and supply in the online SEO industry
- There is a mismatch between what SEO agencies focus on and what clients want to focus on. Search engine marketing seems to be the most important service offered by agencies; however it is less important for (potential) clients.
- Since the service quality and trustworthiness are key considerations for clients, agencies should make use of references in their content marketing. Good examples of this are a testimonial or a blog post by a customer – the latter is preferred to the former as it speaks volumes of the agency’s service quality and trustworthiness.
- Companies which take a holistic approach to online marketing are not likely to employ agencies for their SEO activities. The reverse is also true, where companies which heavily rely on SEO are likely to outsource (part of) their SEO activities to an agency.
Challenges and concerns in the SEO services industry
- Agencies’ margins are decreasing as the same results require harder work over a longer period than before Google updated its algorithm. There is a need, now more than ever, to streamline activities, increase efficiency and maintain workflow.
- Clients are often concerned about transparency and results when hiring an agency. It behooves agencies to adopt methods of regular reporting that 1) increase transparency about activities undertaken by the agency for their client, and 2) provide interim report to manage clients’ expectations.
- Frequent algorithm updates by Google make it harder for agencies to maintain a consistent and qualitative workflow.
Goals for improvement in SEO services industry
- Agencies indicate a need to improve efficiency and know-how in order to remain competitive in the market of SEO. In addition to streamlining SEO practices, agencies aim to develop skills in content marketing.
- SEO is losing its standalone nature and is becoming co-dependent on content marketing and online PR, which in turn makes agencies that do not have capabilities in both disciplines less competitive.
- Marketers are less dependent on SEO alone and there is need of a holistic approach to marketing combining SEO, content marketing and online PR. However, even if content marketing is gaining great popularity in the online marketing industry, many marketers are still struggling with becoming proficient in it. There is a clear need for developing skills which enable synergies between SEO, content marketing and online PR.
All of the key takeaways are based on the data in the State of SEO Agencies 2014 – Market Research Report. You can download it through an email opt-in.
And as promised, here’s the infographic:
Source: Business to Community