An average SEO consultant handles anywhere between 5 to 10 clients at a time. While anything more than 8 clients could be a tight rope walk, it is not entirely unmanageable if you automate enough tasks to free up more time for doing real work.
When discussing SEO tools, most blog articles restrict themselves to online tools that help with keyword research, backlink analysis and rank tracking. There are dozens of tools that are available for these tasks. While there is no doubt you need tools for these core SEO needs, this alone does not help with automation.
In this article, we will take you through a bunch of online services that you could sign up to. Besides talking about the tools themselves, we will also see how many hours it saves and the cost factor involved. Would these tools pay for themselves through enhanced automation? Let us see –
The first step to launching your own SEO consultancy is finding clients you want to work with. Typically, lead generation in the short term happens through advertising, content marketing and agency partnerships while in the long term, it is through word of mouth references. Adwords is expensive with SEO related keywords often going as high as $10 per click in some geographies. Content marketing and partnerships take time to bear fruit and are a time sink. An alternative is to use a service like LeadJoint to prepare a ready list of potential websites that may need your service and calling them.
How much time does it take? A lot of agencies may not realize it but writing content on your company blog, attending meetups, talking to web design firms for collaboration opportunities does end up consuming quite a lot of time, and they are all mostly done with one primary objective – to get new leads and customers for your business. As an alternative, with a tool like LeadJoint, it should take not more than ten minutes to download the list and an hour or two every week calling or emailing prospects.
Time saved : 10 hours a month
The cost : $19 per month.
This is one area that all consultants inevitably spend money on. Not surprisingly, there is absolutely no dearth of choices on offer when it comes to SEO management tools. However, bootstrapped agencies often rely on free alternatives like SmallSEOTools or Backlinkwatch for their analysis. At the other end of the spectrum are services like Moz that cost as much as $99 per month for just starters. Free tools are time sinks while tools like Moz are not always affordable for small agencies with just a handful of clients. The trick is to choose tools that help you automate without making it entirely unaffordable. A service I would recommend here is RankWatch that offers quite comprehensive SEO management tools at one-third the price of Moz.
When we discuss the tentative time saved, you may have to compare what a tool like RankWatch does in comparison to the free alternative like BacklinkWatch or SmallSEOTools. Tracking keyword ranking, preparing reports, monitoring backlinks, competition analysis typically takes 60 to 90 minutes per client a month. With an average of seven clients per consultant, we are talking 10 hours a month. An automation tool on the other hand could bring this down to 1-2 hours a month. So benchmarking the benefits,
Time saved : 8 hours a month
The cost : $29 per month
One of the key areas of focus for any SEO company is to build high authority links for their clients. This involves creating high value content and trying to build referral links off it, soliciting media companies for PR, cold emailing prospective websites, customers and influencers. For an SEO company, link building is anywhere between 30%-70% of all their SEO tasks. As a result, fixing the inefficiencies would mean terrific productivity improvements overall. Given the large scope of link building automation, let us break into various small tasks and how automation can help here.
Link research & Digital PR : Coming up with new news-worthy things about your client can be time consuming. Instead, follow HARO and spend half an hour a day writing to relevant media queries. Over time, you can build a strong list of backlinks from this tool.
Time saved : 3 hours per month (approx)
The cost : Free
Cold Email : Depending on the kind of links you are building, you may be cold emailing quite a few people every month – be it a guest blog request, or reaching out to media companies and industry early adopters for reviews. There are two challenges here – first, identifying the email address of the recipients and second, sending and following up.
There are ways to use tools like Rapportive to identify the correct recipient email address, but it takes a hell lot of time. Even assuming that it only takes two minutes to dig out one email, you are likely spending 200 minutes (or over three hours) to identify 100 email addresses over the course of a month. Instead, use a tool like FindThatID that automates the email extraction process – and it costs just $2 per search. Assuming it takes you an hour to prepare a list of these hundred people, and there are seven clients you work with
Time saved : 14 hours per month
The cost : $14
The next step is to actually send these emails out. That by itself does not take too much time – you could, like thousands of others, simply BCC all the recipients for your email blast. That way, you are being efficient. But is that effective? Not really. It takes a lot of time to personalize every cold email and follow up with your email recipients. This process however could be automated and you could save 2-4 hours a month using tools like QuickMail. In terms of productivity gains for an SEO specialist with seven clients,
Time saved : 14 hours a month
The cost : $37
Content marketing is a big part of SEO these days since Google loves websites with lots of useful textual content, not to forget the possibly backlinks that such content bring. There are two parts to content marketing – producing content and marketing them.
Producing content : The time taken to break the writers’ block and identifying attractive new topics depends on person to person. A tool like BuzzSumo is great for finding the right topic to attack. Combine this with a free tool like HARO where you can get people to feed you with experience and opinion, you can cut short the time taken to write a well-researched article by at least half an hour. Assuming you write an article a week for your client, we are talking two hours a month, or at least 14 hours per consultant (with seven clients)
Time saved : 14 hours a month
The cost : $99 per month
Marketing Content : Marketing the content is done through submitting your article on social media and relevant news aggregator sites. There are not sufficiently helpful ways to automate the latter task. But with social media sharing, you can make use of tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to automate the sharing process. For a typical consultant with around seven clients, a paid plan that costs $8.99 per month on Hootsuite is ideal. And the time saved is typically 2-3 hours a month cumulatively.
Time saved : 3 hours per month
The cost : $8.99
Unless you are a large enough agency with a full-time accountant, the SEO consultant or the agency owner may often be in charge of handling invoices and payments. MS Excel is great, but is not efficient. A tool like Zoho is ideal when you have to deal with a small number of clients. The hours saved is not exactly quantifiable, but for the sake of this article, you can assume that it takes one hour a month to prepare invoices, follow up and manage tax stuff related to every client. So that’s a saving of seven hours per consultant.
Time saved : 7 hours per month
The cost : $15
Besides these, there are other tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console (previously GWT), Pingdom that almost everybody has in their armor. So, for the sake of this article, we will not account for these universally used tools for measuring productivity improvements.
So where does this leave us?
|Task||Tool||Time Saved||Cost Incurred|
So as you see, for around $222 a month, you save nearly 73 hours – that is nearly two additional weeks of man-hours – enough to handle at least another 4-5 clients.
Are you making good use of your time at your agency? Share the tools you use and how it has helped you with productivity in the comments below.