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How to Pace Monthly SEO Services

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

Do you ever end up doing “free” work for your SEO clients? Or, on the flip side, do you find yourself completing fewer SEO tasks than you should for a client during a given month?

If you want your SEO services to be profitable and highly valuable for your clients, learning how to pace monthly SEO services is a critical skill. One that will help you stay in the sweet spot of providing great value to your clients without overdelivering at the expense of your business.

To get the pacing of your SEO services just right, you first need to figure out how much of your time you can give to each client every month. Then, you need to split each client’s allocated time into admin tasks and SEO action items.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to prioritize your SEO action items so that you can knock out the most important tasks each month within the allocated time. The final result of working all this out will be monthly work plans for your SEO clients, paced out task by task.

Let’s talk about how to get to that end result, step by step.

1. Start With Your Hourly Rate

To get started, determine what you want to charge clients for your time. In general, SEO professionals charge $50–$150/hr. 

If offering SEO services is new to you, we recommend you stick to the lower end of that range. 

For example, if you’re billing $150/hr, you should be able to quickly and effectively complete a large array of SEO tasks. If you’re new to SEO, it may take two to three times as long to learn how to complete the tasks, and then get them done. By charging less when getting started, you can subsidize your SEO education and still deliver great value to your clients.  

Let’s pretend you’re charging $100/hr as we move on to the next step.

2. Convert Your Client's Monthly Budget to Hours

Once you’ve determined your hourly rate, you need to look at what your SEO clients are paying each month. If you have no idea how to charge clients for SEO services, here’s a crash course in packaging SEO services.

When it comes to SEO budget, clients typically think in terms of their monthly expenses. As an SEO pro who wants to pace your work, you’ll need to think in terms of hours.

To convert a client’s SEO budget from dollars into hours, take the amount your client has agreed to pay each month ($1000 for example), divide it by your hourly rate ($100), and you’ll get your client’s monthly budget in hours (10 hrs).

Client’s budget in dollars / your hourly rate = client’s monthly budget in hours

$1000/$100 = 10

This number is key when you want to properly pace your SEO services.  

Next, you’ll need to know how much admin time you’ll need for each client every month.

3. Budgeting for Admin Time

Offering monthly SEO services requires ongoing project management, client communication, and monthly reporting. We lump these together into admin time, which includes tasks like:

  • Data collection for monthly reports.
  • Monthly report compilation and delivery.
  • Project management.
  • Client emails.
  • Monthly update calls.
  • Etc.

Admin time can vary widely depending on the client. Some clients will need multiple calls every month, some need lots of hand-holding, and some need (or want) very little interaction.

You’ll need to know how much time these admin tasks take for each client every month. If you have no idea, start to time yourself for each admin task. Do this for a few months and then average your times. This will give you the average amount of admin time a particular client requires.

For our purposes today, let’s say that our example client requires 1.5 hours of admin time each month.

4. Budgeting Time for SEO Action Items

SEO action items are the SEO tasks necessary to help your clients get more traffic, more conversions, and more sales. These typically include a mix of ongoing maintenance tasks (fixing 404 errors) as well as strategic SEO tasks (creating new keyword-targeted content).

To budget your time for SEO action items, use the following equation:

Client’s monthly budget in hours - admin time budget = action item time budget

10 hrs - 1.5 hrs = 8.5 hrs

This means that for this example client, you should be investing 8.5 hours of work into SEO action items each month.

Now that you know how to split up your time for a client each month, it’s time to prioritize your tasks.

Next Watch this Webinar: How to Pace Monthly SEO Services

Learn how to deliver high-value and profitable monthly SEO services.

5. Prioritizing Monthly Admin Tasks & Action Items

Create a master list of all the SEO action items you’ll need to complete to improve a client’s SEO. This list will be long.

Prioritize tasks to the best of your ability based on what’s most essential for your client’s SEO success. If you don’t know which tasks will have the greatest impact, Pathfinder's SEO Checklist might help. A little bit of SEO coaching could, too.

Next, take your prioritized master task list and assign each action item an estimated completion time. And, give each of your repeatable monthly admin tasks an estimated time.

Based on your client’s monthly budget of hours (as calculated above), break your master task list into monthly work plans. We recommend creating three to six months’ worth of plans when starting to work with a client. This will give you both a good idea of the work you’ll be doing for them.

Here’s what a work plan might look like:

Admin Tasks
Action Items

Month 1 Work Plan

  • Project Management (.5)
  • Reporting (.5)
  • Client Communications (.5 hrs)
  • Keyword Research (4 hrs)
  • Site Structure Planning (1.5)
  • Competitor Analysis (3)
  • Total (10)

Month 2 Work Plan

  • Project Management (.5)
  • Reporting (.5)
  • Client Communications (.5 hrs)
  • Draft Title Tags & Meta Descriptions (3)
  • Implement Title Tage & Meta Descriptions (1)
  • Backlink Audit (4.5)
  • Total (10)

In each month, we’ve set aside time for 1.5 hours of admin tasks and 8.5 hours of action items. Admin tasks will usually remain the same each month, and action items get prioritized in order of importance.

And there you have it, monthly work plans for what your SEO services will include, paced out by individual tasks.

You can find more in-depth instructions on how to prioritize your time and tasks to ensure you’re creating the greatest possible impact for your clients.

6. Other Useful Tips for Pacing Monthly SEO Services

Be Flexible
When it comes to pacing your client's work, remember that flexibility is key. There may be some months when a client needs extra help. In other months, you may not be able to complete the work you intended. Don’t be afraid to invest a couple of extra hours one month and go light the next, or vice versa. Just be careful never to fall too far behind.

Keeping Track
Tracking your time is helpful if you want to make sure you’re delivering the value your client is paying for, especially if you’re working with a team. It’s also very helpful to record your work plans in whatever project management software you might be using and track your progress each month.

Focus on the Work, Not the Time
We recommend you share your first few months of work plans with your clients but remove the time estimates. Instead, just focus on what you are getting done each month. And, make sure you’re communicating with your clients often (a least once a month, if not more) when it comes to progress on the tasks in your work plans.

The Takeaway

This is just one way to think about prioritizing and pacing your SEO tasks and is likely going to be the handiest if you are just getting started with SEO services. After a few months of providing clients with SEO services, you’ll get a feel for the pacing and this will all become second nature.

What’s really important is that your clients feel like they are getting the value they deserve and that the work you are doing is moving them closer to their business goals. And, that you aren’t providing all that at the expense of your agency.

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Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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