SEO Agency Resource Management and Staffing

  • Felix Rose-Collins
  • 15 min read
SEO Agency Resource Management and Staffing

Table of Contents

Intro

You need to make sure that you hire the proper employees so that your SEO agency can grow properly. Resources and staffing are two of the most important parts of growing your SEO agency from a startup to a company that’s raking in millions of dollars.

Your organization can’t grow without the help of a proper staff, and this is why your staff is one of the most important resources available to you. Your agency’s image will either be built up or taken down by the people that you decide to hire.

You have to make the right decisions when hiring the people that you’re going to employ for the foreseeable future because your agency’s future will be in their hands. Making a bad hire can disastrously impact your organization’s performance. This means that you’ll have to focus on a wide range of aspects and factors.

You also need to make sure that you’re abreast of the latest trends in your industry, ensuring that you’re hiring the right people to adjust to them. Hiring people with a lot of skill but outdated ideas will never work out for you in the long run. Make sure that your hires have the freshest ideas possible.

Nobody ever said that staffing was easy. You have to find people, you have to train them, you have to make sure they’re always doing the right thing for your business. You essentially need to take raw ingredients (the workers) and refine them into the materials you need for success (competent employees).

Over the course of this guide, we’re going to address some of the most important facets of hiring and creating the right team for your SEO agency. We’ll also go over some structural details that you’ll need to consider when you start growing your business.

Along with covering this structured growth plan for your SEO agency, we’ll address the nitty-gritty details that you’ll need to account for so that you can hire the right people.

What Kind of Jobs Are Needed in an SEO Agency?

Before you even start hiring, you’ll need to consider the hierarchy that you’d like to create in your SEO business. Keep in mind that there is no single hierarchy that works best for every agency because each business has its own needs.

The highest level of your hierarchy will be filled by C-level positions (CEO, COO, CFO, etc.). After that, you’ll have to staff the middle-management level of your business. Finally, you’ll have to fill out the rungs of the lower-level management level. All of these positions are crucial, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or uninformed.

The executive level is where you’ll find the shiniest positions. This is where you have your CEOs who formulate the plan for the employees beneath them. After them, you’ll find middle-management, who specializes in turning upper management’s dreams into realities.

Finally, the execution level consists of the workers who actually do the legwork to put these plans into motion. Keep in mind that an SEO agency cannot work with any of these pieces missing, almost like a Jenga tower.

SEO Agency Execution Level

Due to the necessity of accomplishing a wide range of tasks, the execution level of an SEO agency is usually the one that has the most workers. This is because it has the widest range of jobs that need doing, and most people will tell you that this is the most crucial part of an agency.

Service Delivery

Your service delivery staff are the ones who are charged with coming through and delivering on the services that are contracted out to you. This is typically a role held by SEO strategists, who are the ones that have the deepest knowledge of SEO’s inner workings.

Keep in mind that a growing SEO agency will need a strategist who knows more than just SEO. For example, more advanced strategists need to be able to work in tactical SEO, content marketing, link building, and more.

Project Management and Account Management

Project managers and account managers are tasked with ensuring that communication is facilitated between different branches of a business. These workers are required to make sure that tasks are accomplished on time and that clients are satisfied.

Some of the common responsibilities of these workers include making sure that tasks are scheduled, clients are satisfied, and writing emails to people within and without the organization.

These workers need to be responsible, reasonable, and able to multitask. They will also need to be able to react to changing conditions as well as able to communicate smoothly. Project managers are the oil in the well-oiled machine that is your SEO firm.

Sales

Sales agents are the ones who are tasked with ensuring that you can acquire new clients. They are responsible for ensuring that your business grows by building trust with clients and making sure that they are willing to work with you.

The sales division of your SEO agency will use a variety of strategies to get you these clients. Their tasks include formulating proposals, reaching out to clients, developing pipelines, and accomplishing tasks to bring in new leads and clients.

Sales is an oft-understated part of any successful SEO business.

Marketing

Marketing is another key department that will ensure that your SEO business grows dramatically, and they will do this by generating demand, building your brand, and ensuring that you have the widest possible reach.

Most agencies start off by doing it themselves, but they will eventually have to hire a dedicated marketing manager. This is because strategies start to get more complex, including social media marketing, website marketing, content marketing, ad marketing, and more.

Keep in mind that sales and marketing are based on each other. This means that you’ll need sales associates and marketing managers to work closely with each other, so they’ll need good chemistry. This will all contribute to improving your sales.

Finance

Don’t forget about finance when you’re organizing this level of your SEO agency. All transactions should be logged and kept track of for later use. If your agency doesn’t record every transaction that occurs, then you won’t have a good idea of your money in and your money out.

The main task of the finance arm of your SEO firm is to track every transaction that happens, every day. They will also have to keep books, forecast your finances, and ensure that your budget is kept in line.

Smaller agencies don’t need an independent finance arm, but as they grow, they will have more and more transactions to track. This means that the finance arm of your business will need to grow at the same time.

Organization of an SEO Agency

When assembling an SEO agency, you’ll always need to have a plan of how you intend it to grow. In most cases, your executive positions will be filled out by a CEO (Chief Executive Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), and CFO (Chief Financial Officer). Keep in mind that these three positions all have different responsibilities, and some agencies may even combine some of these positions.

Your mid-level management positions will be filled in by a Director of Links, Director of SEO, and a Director of Content. As you can see from how they are titled, it’s pretty easy to tell the jobs that they are entrusted with.

The next level of managers include the Senior Content Strategist, Senior SEO Strategist, and a Senior Links Strategist. All of these positions also have a non-senior equivalent who works beneath them. Finally, the lowest level will consist of analysts applying to each of the departments.

You may or may not have all of these positions based on the kind of SEO agency that you’re trying to assemble. While these positions may apply to a typical SEO agency, every company has different needs. Do what you need to do to focus on the growth of your business and turbocharge it.

For example, some agencies feature a support department that will deal with customer service issues. Many of these companies rely on offshore workers because it’s more affordable to retain them while they still accomplish a good enough job for your customers.

Structuring an SEO Agency

Startups that are just getting into the SEO business may not necessarily be able to afford hiring people to handle every different area that we’ve mentioned so far. The vast majority of these things will need to be done by you, so you’ll need the requisite expertise in each of these areas.

Some startups have a few starting employees, often friends of the person beginning the business. Choose them wisely because they’re the only bit of help you’ll get until the business is well underway. This is because you typically won’t have the funds to hire other people.

While your agency grows, you’ll need to determine the departments that you want to start. This is because it will get more and more challenging to handle everything yourself. This means that you’ll need to hire people to handle management, execution, marketing, sales, finance, and more.

This is the point where you’ll have to start worrying about how much you’re going to pay people. You need to start by coming up with monthly payment strategies or potentially annual packages. However, monthly payment is often preferable because it’s easier to manage and you can more easily handle raises and penalties.

When Should You Begin Hiring?

So when should you start hiring people? You’ll need to do so when you feel like the workload is too much for you to handle. Hiring people before this is simply a waste of resources and will affect the profitability of your business.

Keep in mind that hiring people is an investment, so if you don’t feel like you’re ready to invest in your company, it’s probably not the right time to make a hire.

Who Should You Hire First?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question because each and every SEO agency is entirely different. You’ll have to look at the area that you’re putting the most work into and where you can use the most help.

If you’re not good at a particular task, then you’ll want to hire someone to deal with that ASAP so that you can maintain good service quality.

It’s often a good idea to hire managers first because they tend to be more experienced and they can mentor future workers to ensure that they end up doing a good job.

By starting to split up responsibilities, you can ensure that you can focus on the areas that need your focus.

Initial Pay Rates

Deciding on your initial pay rates is something that you’ll need to do before you start hiring people. Obviously, a startup won’t be able to pay as much as larger companies, but always account for the skill and experience of your hires.

It’s often worth paying a bit more to secure someone with experience who can uplift your business because they’ll give you a better return on your investment. Like many other parts of building an SEO agency, deciding on your employees’ pay is something that needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Where Should You Get Your Workers From?

Opting for offshore workers is growing more and more popular, but this isn’t always the best idea. You want to make sure that you have the best-trained employees working in your upper management positions because a lack of skill on their part will affect the whole organization.

Once again, this means that it’s more important to pay your more important employees what they’re worth. While this costs you more in the short term, it will accomplish more for your business in the long run. Of course, if someone is tasked with communication, they should always be a native speaker in the language that your business works in.

What Skills Should Your Workers Possess?

Figuring out the skills that are required by your workers is another thing that will rely on the workplace culture that you’re trying to create. For example, some agencies try to create a fun environment for their workers while others focus on creating a strictly work-focused environment.

You’ll want to make sure that the people you’re working with share the same values as you because that will ensure that they fit in well with your workplace culture. You’ll also have to consider the experience and know-how of the people that you’re hiring.

Channels to Find Workers

There are countless channels that you can use to find employees, and the internet has helped make this a lot easier. For example, you can look for people on LinkedIn as well as sites like Upwork. You can also hire people at in-person networking events.

Hourly Billing

You’ll also have to account for how you price your services because this will determine how much you get paid. Your agency will be hugely impacted by the pricing model that you decide to adopt. For example, it will impact your profits, salary, expenditures, and more.

Picking out the right pricing model is often extremely difficult and it will depend on how your business is laid out and how it profits. While some businesses focus on charging monthly, some advocate for charging hourly instead.

The hourly billing method ensures that you’ll always be able to pay out your employees because you are most likely paying them hourly. This also makes it easier for you to determine your agency’s pricing so that it’s in line with what you’re paying people. It also fits with the way that SEO agencies work.

It’s a lot harder to determine whether the work you’re doing is worth what you’re getting paid when you charge for your services by the month. This will also make it easier for you to account for the resources that you’re expending.

Hourly pay will also ensure that you get internal profits and that you fully take advantage of the rate. If you get paid, you’re essentially getting paid for all of the work that you put into a project.

A flat rate often results in you providing your clients with additional services essentially free of charge if you want to do a good job. By charging hourly, you can make sure that you can do what your client needs while you’re still getting paid.

Advantages of Hourly Billing

As you may have guessed, there are plenty of advantages to billing hourly for your services. For example, this kind of billing ensures that you’re getting paid for your services and the client knows exactly what they’re paying for.

Keep in mind that clients are paying for your performance as well as your time with an hourly model. However, this may also make it harder for your clients to figure out whether or not your services are worth paying for because of how subjective it may be.

However, hourly billing is incredibly simple and it ensures that there’s no confusion between you and the client when it comes to how much money you’re owed for the job. You’ll just need to determine how much time it will take you to complete a project more precisely.

You’ll also have to keep track of the results that you’re accomplishing as you complete a project. Hourly payment often ensures that results will be quicker. Start by considering how many hours you’ll work over the course of a month so that you can come up with a reasonable hourly billing estimate.

When you get started on a project, you’ll want to make sure that your client understands what they need to expect from you. Come up with a plan and ensure that it’s followed to the letter. This will make you more appealing to future clients.

How to Scale an SEO Agency

To scale your agency, adopting hourly billing will help you grow. You’ll be able to better calculate how much money you’ll end up spending on new hires as well as other things. You can use a few KPIs to determine how much you’ll bill hourly.

Revenue per Seat

It can be difficult to keep track of how much money each of your staff is generating in a larger organization. Using hourly pricing, it becomes a lot easier to determine this, however. This is because you can see how much money your workers are making for every hour they work.

This will allow you to determine how well your staff is performing. This is because this indicator will show you which of your staff is putting in work and which of them is not performing properly. Determining how much an employee is worth to your business has never been easier.

Utilization Rate

This next KPI will allow you to figure out how often each of your workers is available to work at any given time. This rate can be calculated by dividing the number of hours you’ve billed by the number of hours available.

This will allow you to decide whether you need to hire more people so that your organization can work more smoothly. Using this metric, you can see whether your players are overworked.

If you find out that your workers are indeed overworked, you’ll have to make some new hires to ensure that they don’t end up burning out. On the other hand, if your employees aren’t being worked hard enough, they aren’t being used fully enough.

Pipeline Needs

This KPI is calculated by considering the utilization rate of the employees that you’ve deemed as overworked. This will allow you to more easily find employees to split up their workload. This will also allow you to more easily calculate how many people you’ll need to even out the workload.

Calculating an Hourly Rate

If you’re looking to figure out your hourly rate manually, you’ll have to go over the parameters that you’re using to figure it out. Start by considering your expenses, which include the tools you use, your rent, and other monthly expenses.

You can then start considering your total billable hours. Start by accounting for your sick days, vacation days, holidays, weekends, and hours each day. Most businesses consider their daily working hours to be about six hours per day. Others will bump this up to eight hours each day.

You’ll also have to consider expenses like the taxes that you pay as well as your margins. You can also account for your profits in the margin. You can then figure out your hourly rate based on how much you’d like to make and how much you’re spending.

If you find that your billable rate isn’t enough for your business to be profitable, you can always adjust it upwards. You can also determine this based on your historical performance as well as your experience, since people pay for experienced workers.

Utilization and Profitability Forecast

Using this information, you can figure out how much money you’ll make in the future. To figure this out, you’ll need to account for the number of clients you deal with monthly as well as how much they pay you and how much you spend each month.

You can then start to calculate your gross profit. If your monthly payment from clients amounts to $20,000 and your payroll is $23,000 while your additional expenses amount to $2000, the gross profit will come out negative at -$5000. This is a loss. You can then turn this loss into a percentage to determine your gross margin.

To make this positive, you’ll need to increase the number of clients that you’re working with or the amount of money that these clients are paying you.

Be sure to detail the amount of money that you spend each month to ensure that all of the data is accessible in the same spot. This will make it easier to come up with your utilization rates as well as knowing that your team members are cooperating properly.

Making a Forecasting Template

This will allow you to figure out how to create a forecasting template so that you can more easily track the info we covered up above. We’d argue that there are three key metrics that you’ll need to account for: your billable hourly rate, your utilization rate, and your profitability.

Start by creating a sheet that features four tabs: roles, clients, expenses, and team.

As you’d expect, the clients tab should include info about your clients and how long you’ll be working on their project. Also, mention how much you’re getting paid by them.

The roles tab should mention your team’s job titles, roles, and salaries. You can then input the actual team members in the teams tab. This tab can even include future workers as well as the date on which they may start.

You should also include expenses and dates for those expenses. You may also wish to create a tab on the spreadsheet that addresses the plans you have for projects that are underway so that they’re easier to keep track of.

Using all of this info, you can determine the utilization rate. You can even color-code your utilization rates on a scale going from red to green, with red being bad and green being good. If this leads you to determine that an employee is underperforming, then you know that it’s time to look for a replacement.

Tracking Hours

You’ll also have to implement a way to keep track of the number of hours that every employee is working. This will ensure that you know which employees are working harder and which of them aren’t pulling their own weight. There are several tools that you can use to track working time.

For example, the Clockify tool can let you track how long a project is going on for and how long people are working on that project. While this tool automates much of the process, you can also keep track of time manually using Google Sheets. This will allow you to monitor your employees’ performance with ease.

Using Hours to Rebuild Project Plans

You can do this by creating a sheet that tracks the tasks you have to accomplish and the amount of time that it will take to get those tasks done. This makes it easier to figure out how much money you’re expending hourly and it will also allow you to track the tasks that need to be done.

This will allow you to track utilization rates so that you can keep track of employee performance. Different projects and their plans will need to be tracked so that you can determine the expenses and the amount of time that are spent on each project. All of this info will allow you to ensure that a project progresses as smoothly as possible.

Creating Sales Projections With Hourly Data

Using your hourly data will allow you to create projections for sales. By going through this data, you’ll be able to estimate how long it will take to accomplish a project. You can also determine which tasks need to be accomplished so that other projects can get done on time.

This will make it easier to account for future projects that require you to accomplish the same kind of work. It will also let you pitch your services to future clients with greater ease. This means that your clients will have a better idea of the things that you will accomplish for them.

What to Tell Your Clients

When you bill your clients, the great thing is that you don’t even need to tell them that you’re using an hourly billing schedule. If you calculate your hours up front, you can then bill your clients monthly by using the info that you determined in advance. The downside is that your calculations will have to be extremely accurate.

However, the upside to this is that you will be able to get paid for the work that you’re actually doing without your client thinking that you’re charging more than the competition because of hourly billing.

On the other hand, if your client requests the data for how long you worked, be sure to keep that ready for them so that they can be sure that you’ve done your job.

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