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How to Start an SEO Consulting Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start an SEO Consulting Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$2,600 - $6,000

Revenue potential

$72,000 - $360,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$64,800 - $144,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical for businesses that need to be found online, but most business owners do not have SEO skills nor the funds to hire a full-time SEO specialist. That’s why the SEO consulting industry has exploded in the last decade, growing by around 700%. If you are an SEO expert and tired of working for someone else, there’s money to be made with your own SEO consulting business.

But first, you’ll need to understand the business. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide details all you need to know to launch a lucrative SEO consulting business.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Excellent profit potential
  • Fast growing market
  • Help businesses succeed

Cons

  • Competitive industry
  • Expertise required

SEO consulting industry trends

Industry size and growth

SEO Consulting industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends

  • Google is set to add AI produced answers at the top of search engine rankings, so high quality SEO strategies are even more important.
  • Voice search is becoming more important in SEO strategies.

Challenges

  • Google continuously changes their algorithms, so SEO consultants have to stay informed.
  • SEO takes time to produce results, so business owners sometimes get frustrated with their SEO consultants.
SEO Consulting Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

SEO Consulting demand hotspots

What kind of people work in SEO consulting?

SEO Consulting industry demographics

How much does it cost to start an SEO consulting business?

Startup costs for an SEO consulting business range from $2,500 to $6,000. Costs include a computer and software.

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$500$300
Website$500 - $1,000$750
Computer$1,000 - $2,000$1,500
SEO software$300 - $700$500
Sales and marketing budget$500 - $1,000$750
Total$2,600 - $6,000$4,300

How much can you earn from an SEO consulting business?

Typically, you’ll be able to charge around $1,500 per month for ongoing SEO services. Your profit margin when you’re working by yourself should be about 90%. 

In your first year or two, you might land four clients, bringing in $72,000 in revenue. This would mean $64,800 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. 

As you gain traction, you might have 20 clients. At this stage, you might have an office and a team, reducing your margin to around 40%. With annual revenue of $360,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $144,000.

SEO Consulting Business earning forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for an SEO consulting business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Having expertise in the field
  • Breaking into a competitive market

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If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step by Step Business values real-life experience above all. Through our Entrepreneur Spotlight Series, we interview business leaders from diverse industries, providing readers with firsthand insights.

Dive into the world of SEO with our interview with Ronald Osborne.

For aspiring content marketing agency founders, this interview with Emily Amos offers key insights on SEO strategies and agency growth.

Read our interview with SEO guru Lark Begin to uncover essential strategies for building a thriving SEO business.

Discover Anne Moss’s valuable insights on the future of SEO and web publishing in our interview.

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting an SEO consulting business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research SEO consulting companies and agencies in to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of SEO consulting businesses that offer similar services. 
  • Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing an SEO consulting business that also does content marketing.

You might consider targeting a niche, such as SEO consulting for small retail businesses or local businesses.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your SEO services

You should offer a full suite of SEO services, including:

  1. Keyword Research: Identification of relevant search terms for a business or website.
  2. On-Page SEO: Optimization of website content, meta tags, headings, images, and URL structure for targeted keywords.
  3. Technical SEO: Ensuring website speed, mobile optimization, secure connections (HTTPS), structured data, and crawlability.
  4. Link Building: Acquiring high-quality, relevant backlinks to boost domain authority and rankings.
  5. Analytics and Reporting: Using tools like Google Analytics or Plausible to monitor website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates, then providing regular reports.
  6. Google Penalty Recovery Service: Identifying and fixing issues related to Google penalties, manual actions, or algorithm changes.
  7. SEO Audit: Comprehensive review of a website to identify SEO strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

Or you can focus on a specific segment (industry):

  1. Local SEO: Optimizing for location-specific searches, including Google Business and Yelp listing optimization.
  2. E-commerce SEO:Tailored strategies for online stores, including product and category page optimization.
  3. Publisher SEO: Optimizing a publisher website for search engines.
  4. Mobile SEO: Ensuring optimal experience and rankings for mobile users.
  5. International SEO: Strategies for targeting multiple countries or languages.
  6. Voice Search Optimization: Tailoring content and technical elements for voice search queries.

As your business grows, you could add other services such as web design or other digital marketing services. 

How much should you charge for SEO consulting?

When setting rates for SEO consulting as a company or agency, consider your expertise, service scope, and market rates. Typically, hourly rates can range from $75 to $200+ for a reputable agency.

Monthly retainers and project-based fees vary widely based on services and client size. It’s important to balance operational costs and competitive positioning, ensuring rates cover costs while providing value.

Once you know your costs, use our profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be business owners who you can connect with on LinkedIn or call on directly. 

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office.

SEO Consulting Business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm an SEO Company Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “SEO” or “search engine optimization”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “WebExpand Strategies” and “OmniOptimize Solutions” over “KeywordKingdom” or “LocalLift SEO Solutions”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create an SEO Company Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Summarize the objectives and strategies of your SEO company, emphasizing its potential for helping clients improve their online visibility.
  • Business Overview: Provide a concise description of your SEO company, including its mission, location, and the industries or clients you intend to serve.
  • Product and Services: Detail the range of SEO services you offer, such as on-page optimization, link building, content creation, and analytics tracking for clients’ websites.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the demand for SEO services in your target market, considering factors like competition, digital marketing trends, and the increasing importance of online presence.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify key competitors in the SEO industry, highlighting your company’s unique selling points, such as specialized expertise or a track record of delivering results.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your sales strategies and marketing efforts, including client acquisition tactics, pricing models, and methods for building your online presence.
  • Management Team: Introduce key team members with expertise in SEO, digital marketing, and business management, emphasizing their qualifications.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the daily operations of your SEO company, including workflow processes, client communication, and tools or software you’ll use for SEO analysis and reporting.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, expenses, and profitability estimates for your SEO company.
  • Appendix: Include case studies of successful SEO projects, client testimonials, sample reports, and any industry certifications or partnerships that validate your expertise.
what to include in a business plan

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to SEO consulting businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your SEO consulting business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Form Your LLC

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Venture capital investors take an ownership stake in exchange for funds, so keep in mind that you’d be sacrificing some control over your business. This is generally only available for businesses with high growth potential.
  • Angel investors: Reach out to your entire network in search of people interested in investing in early-stage startups in exchange for a stake. Established angel investors are always looking for good opportunities. 
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding an SEO consulting business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

types of business funding

Step 8: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting an SEO consulting business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your SEO consulting business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

Some of the common SEO tools that professionals and agencies use include:

  • Ahrefs – For backlink audit and keyword research.
  • Semrush – For keyword research, competitor analysis, and site audits.
  • BrightLocal – For local SEO.
  • Google Search Console – To monitor website performance in Google search and spot crawl issues.
  • Google Analytics – For tracking website traffic and user behavior.
  • Screaming Frog – For website crawls and technical SEO audits.
  • Moz – All in one tool with many advanced features.

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as accelo, or profi, to manage your scheduling, client data, and billing. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Schedule Consultation Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. 

Online Marketing

Here are some powerful digital marketing strategies for an SEO consulting businesses: 

  • Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:
    • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
    • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences. It’s a very good platform for creative businesses. 
    • TikTok: This social media platform has over 1 billion monthly active users and it is used primarily by a younger demographic.
    • LinkedIn: the most effective place for B2B marketers.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Start a blog – Start a blog and post regularly. Change up your content and share on multiple sites.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Payper-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
  • Do a webinar – Share your SEO expertise online with a video seminar.

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. 

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing is any form of marketing that uses offline media to reach an audience. Some options that might work for an SEO consulting business include:

  • Cold calling Close more sales with less stress.
  • Sponsor events – You can pay to be a sponsor at events that are relevant to your target market.
  • Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients. 
  • Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your SEO services helped them.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your SEO consulting business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your SEO consulting business could be:

  • Unlocking your online potential through strategic SEO tactics
  • Driving organic growth with data-driven SEO strategies
  • Boosting your online visibility and search engine rankings through expert SEO guidance
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running an SEO consulting business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in SEO consulting for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in SEO consulting. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for an SEO consulting business include:

  • SEO specialists – work with clients
  • Marketing lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General manager – scheduling, accounting

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run an SEO Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

The SEO consulting industry has seen unprecedented growth, and it’s set to grow even more. By starting your own SEO consulting business, you’ll be tapping into that market and providing valuable services to businesses in your community. You can grow your business over time by hiring a team, and someday become a huge player in the industry.

Now that you understand the business, you’re ready to put on your tech hat and get your successful SEO consulting business going!

SEO Consulting Business FAQs

Is an SEO consulting business profitable?

An SEO consulting business can be profitable when effectively managed. As businesses increasingly recognize the importance of online visibility and search engine rankings, there is a growing demand for SEO services. By offering valuable expertise and delivering tangible results to clients, an SEO consulting business can generate revenue through consulting fees or retainer-based contracts.

What happens during a typical day at an SEO consulting business?

A typical day at an SEO consulting business involves a range of activities, including:

  • Conducting keyword research and analysis to identify strategic opportunities.
  • Analyzing website performance and conducting SEO audits.
  • Developing and implementing SEO strategies, including on-page and off-page optimization.
  • Monitoring and analyzing website traffic, rankings, and user behavior.
  • Creating and optimizing content for search engines and user engagement.
  • Conducting competitor analysis and staying updated with industry trends.
  • Collaborating with clients to understand their goals, provide guidance, and report on progress.
  • Performing technical SEO tasks such as website optimization, URL structuring, and metadata optimization.
  • Keeping up with algorithm changes and adjusting strategies accordingly.
  • Conducting meetings, consultations, and presentations with clients.

The specific tasks and priorities may vary depending on client needs, project requirements, and the stage of the SEO engagement.

What is the growth potential of an SEO consulting business?

The growth potential of an SEO consulting business is significant due to several factors. Businesses of all sizes and industries recognize the importance of organic search visibility for attracting customers and staying competitive. As the digital landscape continues to evolve and more businesses shift their focus online, the demand for SEO services is expected to increase. By consistently delivering results, building a strong reputation, and staying ahead of industry trends, an SEO consulting business can capitalize on this growth potential.

What type of business is an SEO consulting business?

An SEO consulting business falls under the umbrella of digital marketing services. It is a specialized consultancy that provides expertise and guidance to clients seeking to improve their website’s visibility and search engine rankings. As a service-based business, the primary focus of an SEO consulting business is to analyze, optimize, and enhance various aspects of a client’s online presence to help them attract organic traffic, increase visibility, and achieve their marketing objectives.

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How to Start an SEO Consulting Business