The challenge of growing an SEO agency as the business becomes more sophisticated translates into staying on top of two major components — the client acquisition process and the client retention process.
The acquisition process is usually tricky to scale because you need to have your best consultants doing the SEO proposals followed by the pitch, and they have limited time in a day. So you can decide to focus on your client retention and improve that to unlock your agency growth.
If we consider the type of growth that happens for a subscription-based business model, improving client retention can also mean lower costs of re-acquisition and maintenance. Plus, your agency can overcome the plateau effect, which is bound to happen as the business develops.
Improving the retention rate means efficiency over time. Both in terms of resources invested and revenue per month, along with a higher cash flow predictability, as higher retention (compound revenue) can outgrow a higher acquisition rate. Think about your customer acquisition cost versus the lifetime value of that client — research shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% is bound to increase profits by a scale of 25% to 95%.
But, you probably know the already old business adage: you can’t control what you don’t measure. It’s like driving a car with a broken speedometer. You have no idea how fast you’re going as you enter a speed limit section.
So, the first order of business to tackle: measuring churn rates and retention. What’s behind the churn rate is a whole ecosystem that you need to keep track of, ideally in one place: client profile, SEO performance trend, client engagement, communications, goals or transactions, etc.
Here’s where an operational dashboard makes the difference between growth and crisis. Having accurate real-time metrics for immediate action will keep you in control:
How to develop your SEO agency operational dashboard
To scale your SEO agency with speed and efficiency, you should consider the daily tasks that need fast reactions and real-time data and what historical trends you need to be aware of to make data-driven decisions.
Another thing to keep in mind: not every metric is actionable or critical. And not every metric is essential if it distracts you from your business strategy in the first place.
The challenge is to calibrate the delicate balance between objectives, metrics, and results, translating into managing resources, processes, and profit margins within set growth limits.
You can start with the fundamentals:
Your SEO agency business model
Think about the types of contracts you sign, the lifetime value of those accounts, and how you keep track of them now. It’s a good start for understanding the forces that impact your churn rate and your current portfolio trends.
You may define the following parameters to include for each client subscription and get an even deeper understanding of your agency landscape: contract type, start date, end date, monthly recurring revenue (MRR), client profile, and even account manager.
You can also include the average revenue per account (ARPA) metric to have a clear picture of where you’re standing regarding business revenue, as it highlights your growth trends.
Make sure you don’t include one-time clients and special projects when calculating MRR, or you’ll lose revenue accuracy. Keep track of them in a separate line.
In the end, you can also correlate these parameters with new business metrics like new qualified leads or new monthly clients, for instance, to further optimize your overall strategy.
The current visibility of your clients
Another key indicator to closely watch that underlines the state of your SEO campaigns and your performance as an SEO agency is the Visibility metric. Calculated as an impression share that takes into account the ranks of your keywords and their monthly search volumes, it offers you a real-time check on the state of a campaign or overall portfolio.
To have a complete picture, you should measure visibility trends (daily, weekly and monthly). You’ll be able to show how your SEO performance directly impacts business results and know when something is wrong before you get that client email.
You’ll also get to compare visibility scores with the health of an account, the allocated resources and the type of client to gain a deeper understanding of your current portfolio. And how you can further grow it.
The health of your accounts
After looking at the visibility score, you can consider every account’s status in your current portfolio. You can define that as the health of accounts and assign it as a percentage or score.
It may be the goal set at the beginning of your SEO campaign versus its current status, or it may be a client engagement or client feedback score.
Whatever makes sense for your SEO agency to define as client health, it is an efficient way to spot what accounts are on track, what accounts are in danger of getting behind, and quickly address those already behind that need fast action.
A color-coded system might be helpful in that regard. You can also set alerts when a certain percentage or score needs immediate attention.
No more satisfied clients on paper only!
Budgets and allocated resources per client
Where is your focus in a given timeframe? Being able to pinpoint where you allocate more resources in a month or if you went past a client’s negotiated budget can support you in optimizing internal processes.
That’s why an overview of budgets and human resources allocated per campaign, together with the campaign’s daily or weekly health status, can help you better prioritize and manage your clients.
You will be able to compare resources with client type, current status, and even historical status (weekly, monthly, or quarterly). This comparison will give you an accurate overview of where and how you spend your resources and what needs to be changed or further defined to lower the churn rate.
After all the groundwork is done, you’ll have a good foundation for your KPIs dashboard that you can test and iterate, so it’s genuinely actionable and answers your business questions.
The state of your monthly reports
In a nutshell, reporting influences retention heavily.
To know the reports’ status for each client in your portfolio is a hidden growth opportunity. It’s your time to take the client’s “pulse,” talk to them in their language and further develop your collaboration.
So having a real-time overview of your client portfolio and when reports are due in your operational dashboard is another critical aspect. Don’t forget to match clients, reports, and account managers for better accuracy and set notifications in advance.
The communication value of your monthly reporting is not only in how you present your SEO results but in delivering the report on time.
Making dashboards actionable and adopting them across the agency
Now that you’ve developed the operational dashboard with all the relevant KPIs, which your whole team has access to, you need to make sure they use it.
- The operational dashboard should cater to every SEO agency role
Your operational dashboard can help your account management with their daily status check and prioritization.
For instance, if a batch of clients appears to be reaching the end of their contract period, your Customer Success team will know it’s time to set new meetings and start creating SEO proposals for extending the collaboration and keeping the retentions steady.
Or, maybe, you have a big account with health issues, and your technical SEO team can immediately investigate.
Each role in your SEO agency should use this internal dashboard to do their job with more efficiency.
- The operational dashboard should improve your SEO agency’s processes.
To make the internal dashboard usable, you should also think about timing and metrics.
When does each role need it?
Is it daily for technical issues? Is it monthly for client reporting or, maybe, to check the MRR and ARPA status? Do you need to see the weekly clients’ health and the status of your CS team?
Think about how you get this kind of data now. Maybe you have known unknowns in your current tools, and you keep postponing a dashboard optimization. Or perhaps you have various excel files with tens of tabs each.
Your operational dashboard should help you understand where’s room to grow, your current bottlenecks, and the trends in aspects like new clients, churned clients, MRR on track or behind, visibility trends, client engagement, and so on.
It may seem like another thing to add to your workload, but if it’s a simple and easy to comprehend dashboard, you will gain valuable time for quick actions and decisions.
Plus, all your team will have the same version of the truth to check and return to regularly. You’ll be in control of your business processes while the “car drives itself” under your careful watch.
We know deciding on what to include and what to leave out of an operational dashboard is a struggle. That’s why we consulted with SEO agencies and designed a dashboard solution that fits your needs as part of our robust SEO platform.
Join us, and hundreds of SEO agencies clients, in the journey of bringing more transparency to the SEO industry.