SEO Reseller Programs: A Starter Guide for Agencies
Picture this scenario: an existing client asks for SEO services. You agree because you don't want to lose the client (plus the extra cash is nice).
Of course, you don't have enough SEO expertise, but you figure it can't really be that hard.
Fast forward a few months and you're struggling to get backlinks and organic traffic. Your client is frustrated and your team is unhappy doing something they don't specialize in.
This is the tale of far too many agencies today – they either offer SEO services without actually knowing how it works, or they waste time learning SEO instead of focusing on their core competency.
Thankfully, there is a workaround to this problem: SEO resellers.
SEO resellers help you outsource the entire optimization process to trusted experts. This gives you more time to get new clients and deliver your best work.
A win-win for everyone if pulled off correctly.
In this short guide, I'll show you how SEO resellers work, why you should use them and how to find the right reseller.
Please note: this guide is meant for agency's who don't have SEO as a core competency, or already have a flourishing SEO division. It's meant as an alternative if you don't have the resources to do so.
What are SEO resellers?
An SEO reseller is simply an agency that specializes in SEO and white labels its services to other agencies (typically design, development and marketing agencies).
Think of it as a team of SEO experts with highly developed processes for delivering better search results across different verticals.
SEO resellers typically have extensive relationships with publishers, editors and writers to get high-quality backlinks at scale. More often than not, they also have a team of copywriters to help you craft content.
It's not unusual for top resellers to offer customers a simple dashboard for ordering links/content and tracking results. Some resellers also white label this dashboard so you can show your clients exactly how their campaign is performing.
In short, SEO resellers help you offer clients SEO services without actually hiring any in-house SEO experts.
The reseller takes care of all the search engine optimization, and you pocket the profits.
It's not always this simple though. SEO can be fickle so read on to learn the drawbacks of reselling.
Why outsource SEO?
There are many benefits to using SEO resellers, but fundamentally, there are three reasons you should use them:
1. SEO is costly
According to a study by Credo, the average SEO consultant charges $173 per hour. If you want to use a consultant on an on/off basis for link building, you'll have to cough up even higher at $194/hour.
Another survey by Moz confirms this – a majority of SEOs in the developed world charge upwards of $100/hour.
While it's true that you can hire SEO consultants off UpWork for under $25/hour, your results will most likely suffer. If you're going to outsource SEO, you will have to pay over $100/hour to get reasonable results.
But what if you want to bring in SEOs in-house?
The economics won't necessarily work in your favor here either. SEO consistently ranks among the most well-paying digital marketing specialties. According to a 2014 Moz survey, hiring a competent entry-level SEO will set you back by about $60,000.
That's if you can even find competent SEOs to hire. There is a massive talent shortage in the SEO space. Digital Marketing Institute ranked it as their most in-demand marketing specialty.
For most agencies, bringing in in-house SEOs or hiring freelancers and then training them isn't viable. There is a shortage of good SEO talent to spearhead an SEO division.
2. SEO is a critical service
As an agency owner, you already know that SEO is vital for marketing success, even in our social media obsessed world.
A survey of business leaders across multiple industries showed that 42% wanted to increase their SEO budgets.
SEO is particularly in-demand because it benefits businesses in both B2B and B2C niches. A survey by Ascend2 found that SEO ranked as the second most effective B2C marketing tactic (next only to content marketing).
Little wonder that SEO-related spending is poised to grow to $80Bn by 2020.
The data is clear: SEO is critical for marketing success and businesses are investing more and more in it. The demand for SEO services is poised to increase in the coming years as well.
3. SEO is becoming more and more complicated
The complexity graph of SEO follows the complexity graph of Google's algorithm. Back when Google still relied on anchor text and backlinks to determine rankings, you could do "SEO" by stuffing your page with keywords and buying some backlinks.
Today, Google's algorithm is one of the most complex pieces of code on the planet. Wired says that Google is 2 billion lines of code (and counting).
Thanks to the close integration of dozens of services into Google (Android, Gmail, Drive, Docs, Google Plus, etc.) this is only going to become more complicated in the future.
This is not even accounting for Google's ever-changing algorithm changes, rich snippets, and the growing impact of voice search too!
All this means that the SEO's job is harder than ever.
They'll have to keep track of Google's algorithm updates, find link building opportunities, develop relationships and churn out high-quality content consistently.
At the same time, sub-specialties in SEO – such as local search – keep getting harder thanks to higher competition. For instance, 62% of SEOs in a survey said that ranking in local search is getting "harder".
To sum it up: SEO is complicated and costly. Yet it is heavily in-demand and wildly lucrative. Unless you have personal experience with SEO and plan to make it your key competency, it can be tough to offer at scale.
SEO resellers make it possible for you to offer SEO services without making expensive hires to throwing away money on freelancers.
This means more profits for you and happier clients.
The benefits of using an SEO reseller
You now know the fundamental reasons to use SEO resellers – more money, less overheads – but there are plenty of benefits that go beyond this.
Let's look at a few of these below.
1. You can focus on your core-competency
If you're a design or development agency, you should focus on what you're good at.
SEO is complex. You shouldn't necessarily be wasting your time figuring out how to get backlinks. Instead, you should focus on the two things agencies need to do to be successful: a) get clients, and b) deliver stunning results to said clients.
By taking care of all SEO related work, resellers help you focus on your core expertise while giving clients what they want.
2. You get scalable results
There is a big difference between "results" and "scalable results".
Sure, you might hire a freelancer who gets you 10 quality links for a client. But when the same client wants 500 links, your freelancer might be completely out of depth.
SEO is highly process driven. SEO resellers have established processes to find link building opportunities, creating content and leveraging editorial relationships. Because of these processes, they can offer scalable results as and when you need them.
This scalability means that SEO resellers can contract and expand their offerings as required. Whether you want 10 links or 1,000, your SEO reseller should be able to accommodate you.
3. You can work with niche experts
What do you do when a client asks for SEO services in a niche you have no experience in (say E-commerce or local search)?
This is where an SEO reseller can help. Since resellers work with lots of customers, they usually have expertise across different niches. This means you can serve E-commerce clients as well as local search clients = more profits for you
4. You don't have to invest in new relationships
As an agency owner, you likely have some relationships with editors, webmasters and content creators in your target niche (say, lawyers).
Now suppose you get a client from a new vertical. To offer this client SEO services, you'll have to build new relationships with editors and content creators from scratch.
Repeat this across multiple vertical and you can see why most agencies stick to a single niche, locking up their growth potential.
SEO resellers, on the other hand, have relationships across niches. You can leverage these relationships to get better rankings for clients, regardless of their vertical.
5. You get "on-demand" services
Most quality SEO freelancers will demand a retainer. Hiring full-time SEOs doesn't make any sense until you have enough billable SEO hours.
SEO resellers, on the other hand, operate on an "on-demand" model. There are usually no subscription plans or contracts; you pay for what you need, when you need it.
Lower overhead costs and higher profits.
6. You don't have to buy SEO tools
According to a Moz survey of 412 marketers and agencies, roughly 70% of respondents spend upwards of $1,000 on SEO tools each year.
This is particularly significant when you consider that nearly 2/3rd of the respondents identified themselves as "sole founders" in their companies.
SEO tools are not cheap. For instance, an annual subscription to Ahrefs 'Advanced' plan for 3 users will set you back by nearly $4000. The 'Agency' plan is even more expensive at $9,990/year.
By using SEO resellers, you bypass these costs altogether.
What are the risks associated with SEO reseller services?
Of course, there are risks associated with SEO resellers. Since you don't have complete control over the optimization process, there is a chance you might get poorer results than what your clients are used to. An A-grade agency can't survive with C-grade SEO support services.
There are a few things you should look out for when using SEO reseller services:
1. They might resort to spam/black hat links
Despite widespread changes to Google's algorithm, SEO is still largely a link building game. SEO resellers, under pressure to deliver results, sometimes resort to spamming blackhat links.
You'll have to keep your ear close to the ground and vet your reseller thoroughly before offloading your SEO work. Some resellers will deliver what they promise, but the danger of a poor link slipping past always remains. It's up to you to find out who to go with.
If that happens, know your way around Google's "Disavow Tool" and flag any link that doesn't meet your quality criteria.
2. Your clients might see you as a middle-man
Most clients won't care if you tell them that you will be partnering with another agency to deliver SEO work.
Some, however, will wonder why they are even paying you in the first place (and not going straight to the reseller himself).
In such situations, be prepared to make a pitch about your own value additions. Clients should realize that you bring more than a few backlinks to the table.
3. You might get links from poor sites or poor content
Blackhat links are a strict no-go, but what about links from sites that are just a little shy of webspam?
Google might not care if the linking page doesn't have 100% impeccable grammar, but your clients might.
There is also the danger of future Google penalties. A new algorithm update might flag your currently innocuous looking link as "spam" (like what happened in Google Panda v1.0).
You'll have to vet your resellers and constantly monitor for poor quality content. Your reseller should agree to a fixed standard in terms of content and site quality.
One suggestion to vet a reseller is to signup for your own backlink checker tool. Ask for a list of some of their current clients, and check the recent backlinks those clients received. If there are a number of poor quality links, ask the reseller about them.
What services can SEO resellers help you with?
There is a mistaken belief that SEO resellers only offer link building services.
In truth, resellers usually operate like conventional SEO agencies. You can tap them for a whole range of SEO services, including but not limited to:
- On-page audit: The on-page SEO audit is usually the first step in a new campaign. SEO resellers usually have processes to conduct audits and can help you identify opportunities for quick wins.
- Keyword research: Instead of wrangling sense out of SEMRush data, let SEO resellers find lucrative keywords. Cross-reference these with your client's own expectations to create a winning keyword strategy.
- Link building: This is the bread and butter of SEO resellers. Resellers might use a number of tactics to build these backlinks, ranging from broken link outreach to guest posts.
- Local SEO: SEO resellers often help with the dull, manual aspect of local SEO – building citations, optimizing Google Places page, etc.
- Content creation: Some companies also have in-house copywriting talent or vetted freelancers to help you create content at scale. This usually won't be as good as content from a content marketing agency, but it will work well enough for SEO purposes.
How to select the right partner?
An SEO reseller will essentially act as the third arm of your agency. This is a relationship that goes beyond outsourcing; you'll be partnering with the reseller to handle a critical part of your client's business. Poor SEO doesn't just affect rankings; it can get a site delisted from Google.
When picking an SEO reseller, look out for these things:
1. Look for reviews/references from real people
90% of consumers say that online reviews influence their decision. When it comes to SEO resellers, however, I recommend avoiding online reviews.
The reason is simple enough: reviews for SEO companies are often fake. The NY attorney general's office even fined several SEO agencies in 2013 for posting fake client reviews.
Instead of resorting to online reviews, try to find real businesses who've used the service. You can usually find such people on Twitter.
When you do find someone, reach out to them over DM for their actual results from the service.
This insight will be far more accurate than reviews from bloggers (who are usually affiliates).
2. Years in business
SEO is a high-churn industry. Tactics and strategies change with each new addition to search engine algorithm.
A reseller that has stayed in business 5+ years at least has some processes in place to run SEO campaigns. It's not necessarily an indicator of quality, but it shows longevity and consistency – rare qualities in the SEO world.
Consider this when you're evaluating SEO reseller plans.
3. Number of clients/expertise in your target niche
The different flavors of SEO – local, E-commerce, B2B, etc. – can vary a lot in their implementation. You ideally want to work with resellers with prior experience in your niche.
Look for past or existing clients in the same industry as your most important clients.
4. Payment structure and cost
This is obviously a big one – how much do the services cost?
There is usually a "Goldilocks Zone" for SEO services that balance cost and quality. You want the cost to be low enough to make reselling profitable. You also don't want it to be so low that you'll have to double check every link.
At the same time, consider the kind of payment structure the reseller offers. Ask questions like:
- Is there a monthly subscription plan?
- Do you have to sign a contract?
- Can you order services separately? Does the reseller offer bundle deals?
5. Communication Quality
During the vetting process, how promptly were your questions answered? Was the support staff knowledgeable? Is there someone to take care of emergency situations?
Consider all these questions before picking a reseller.
6. Test drive the service
Before you pick a reseller, take its services out for a spin.
Buy some links to a non-money domain to see how the service performs.
This might be time-consuming since the links might not start coming in for weeks, but it is a crucial step. Don't pick a reseller until you've verified the quality of the links and linking pages.
How to track results from SEO resellers?
Once you've chosen an SEO reseller, how do you keep track of their work?
If your reseller offers you a custom dashboard, then great. But more often than not, you'll have to rely on traditional tools: good communication and tracking.
Here are three ways you can track results from SEO resellers:
1. Constant communication
Most resellers will happily offer you a weekly report on your campaign. Beyond this report, you also need to stay in constant touch regarding your current and future plans. If you plan to ramp up link building in the next few months, your reseller needs to know this.
Similarly, your reseller should keep you abreast of what's happening in his company and the SEO world at large. If there is a new algorithm change that's affecting search results, your reseller should warn you beforehand.
2. Monitor backlinks yourself
You want to keep a constant eye on the quality and kind of backlinks your reseller is creating for you. Look out for poor quality links or links that don't meet your service level agreement (say, you were promised DA 40+ links but keep seeing 20+ links only).
Try using a tool like AgencyAnalytics to make this process smoother.
3. Track rankings and organic traffic yourself
Better rankings are what all SEO eventually boils down to. The most well-executed SEO campaign would be a waste if it doesn't lead to better rankings.
Use your favorite rank tracker to track the progress of your clients' sites. You can also use this to keep a check on your reseller's activities. Do not rely solely on their analytics.
SEO Rank Tracker by AgencyAnalytics
What are some SEO reseller services?
These kind of services are a dime-a-dozen. Google away and you'll find hundreds of white label SEO reseller programs.
Please note: we do NOT endorse any of these agencies. Do your own research before using any of them for your clients to find the best reseller for you.
Some of the more established companies are:
- TheHoth - offers a complete bouquet of SEO services, ranging from regular blog content to high-quality editorial links.
- HigherVisibility - is one of the oldest programs around. Because of its agency background, it makes for a perfect (if expensive) ally.
- RankPay - offers pay-for-performance SEO. In other words, if you don't rank, you don't pay. They've been in business since 2009.
Over to you
SEO resellers can give agencies an extra source of profits. By offloading all SEO tasks, you get time to focus on your core competency while making more money for yourself and your clients.
Finding the right SEO reseller can be hard, so take time to vet every provider, read reviews from real people and test drive the service before picking a reseller.
If you've ever used an SEO reseller, let me know in the comments below. I'd love to hear your experiences!
Written by Joe Kindness
Joe is the CEO of AgencyAnalytics, but often spends his day programming, designing or executing marketing tasks. And like most Canadians, he can be found playing or watching hockey!