Did you know that search is the leading driver of traffic to websites (300% more so than social media)? As such, companies are recognizing the importance of keyword optimization and a well-ranked website for their businesses lead generation and ROI.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, gives businesses and individuals alike the ability to control their destiny in search rankings—so long as the rules established by heavies like Google and Bing are followed and websites are maintained accordingly. It’s no surprise, then, that SEO experts are in top demand.

As an SEO professional, though, how do you decide which business model to follow?

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With the vast size of the internet, the ever-changing search algorithms used to rank sites, and the growing number of professionals in the field, it’s a very important question to consider. You know the beginning of any good optimization begins with amending the structure and content of the website so it will play well with the search engines.

But then, there is the ongoing maintenance websites require in order to keep up with changing rules and trends, not to mention additional marketing tactics needed to support an SEO-friendly website. Do you take it all on or do you specialize? Do you work for others or for yourself? There’s a lot to consider here, whether you’re just starting out in the SEO game or looking to make a change.

The first important step is in recognizing what kind of person you are and what you want out of your career. Understanding that will put you on the right track to finding the type of SEO business model that fits you best. 

1. In-House SEO

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional seeking a stable, full-time position with one company. Your focus would be on managing and maintaining their SEO. Consider:

Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional looking for variety in work, freedom to control their own schedule, and the ability to grow in their career. Consider:

2. Agency SEO

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional not interested in going into business on their own, but who still wants a mix of clients and work to play around with. Consider:

Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional not interested in long hours, high stress, and dealing with finicky client tastes. Consider:

3. SEO Consultant

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional who wants a lot of variety in their work, but values their independence. Consider:

Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional who doesn’t want to maintain their own business, who wants as little responsibility as possible, and who expects to have a lot of success right away. Consider:

The rest of these business models below do tend to fall in line with independent consultancy, although they each focus on a specific niche which is why they’re laid out independently here for consideration:

4. Rental SEO

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional who likes the idea of flipping websites—not much different from flipping houses, where one would buy a home at a low price and sell high; or would buy a home in need of work, invest the time and money to fix it up, and then sell for a profit. Consider:

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Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional not willing to take the time (or who can’t afford to) build a website and, in turn, sell it. Consider:

5. Affiliate/Display SEO

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional who likes the rental SEO model, but doesn’t want to have to sell their website to anyone. Consider:

Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional who wants to build websites, but doesn’t want to take the time to create genuine and unique content for each. Consider:

6. SEO to SEO

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional who has a wealth of knowledge and the time to give back to the SEO community. Consider:

Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional who is not well-established in their career. Consider:

7. SEO Software

Who is this for?

For the SEO professional who enjoys web development and wants to give businesses the power of automation. Consider:

Who is this not for?

For the SEO professional who doesn’t have the time (or doesn’t want to invest it) in developing their own product. Consider:

For the SEO professional who wants to try a little bit of everything, there’s nothing that says you need to stick to just one business model. Consider mixing and matching the different types of models based on what you want, where you’re at in terms of professional growth, and what you need in order to fill in the gaps.

Once you’ve made up your mind on which model is right for you, there are a number of factors you should consider to help you determine how to run your business. For instance:

  1. Do you need more experience or education before striking out on your own?
  2. Do you have plans to continue your education and research to stay up on current trends and keep your business adaptable?
  3. Do you want to focus on the surface level of SEO or on the more strategic side that delves further into market research?
  4. Do you want to be an established partner of the SEO professional community or do you want to remain the lone wolf?
  5. Is your own website SEO-optimized and top-ranked?
  6. What is your business philosophy—more white hat than black hat? Maybe a little bit of both (gray hat)?
  7. What are your weak spots? Are you going to offer them in your portfolio of services or seek assistance from other SEOs to supplement your offerings?
  8. Where will you find your first client? Are you willing to work with a start-up company to gain some experience while allowing you to contribute to a business that could hugely profit from your assistance? Or will you focus only on the big dogs?
  9. Have you established a set of realistic and achievable goals for your business with specific timelines?

Conclusion

Remember, the key in any business is to develop a clearly defined niche—one that will help you gain easy access to a particular segment of the market or put you in high demand with businesses that need your special skill set. When it comes to SEO, it pays to specialize once you’ve made the decision to strike out on your own.

Since it’s your job to enable businesses to tap into the 75% of users who only view the first page of search results, you need to make sure you’ve got your skills nailed down properly so you can help those in your niche make a huge splash.

 

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