Profitable SEO agency models 2024

Profitable SEO Agency Models

Hey, SEO agencies!

Can I share an interesting statistical report related to your SEO business?

The total number of SEO agencies and consultants will be 184,705 in the US by the end of 2023.

The count is unimaginable. Right?

Certainly, it would be very difficult to sustain a business out here, in this market. Fair competition against the other premier SEO firms can be achieved whereby you will need to engage an effective SEO agency software and also an applicable SEO company model.

It is not imperative if you do not know this knowledge; we are here to help you.

However, when it comes to starting an SEO agency and choosing a suitable SEO agency model for 2024, there are a lot of aspects that you have to consider.

We can give a very detailed analysis of each of these factors and also define which SEO agency model will help you build your SEO firm.

1. Retainer model

The retainer model is an arrangement between businesses and their clients whereby the clients agree to pay a monthly recurring fee to the service provider for providing a pre-determined set of services for that month. 

This model builds a consistent and reliable financial structure between the agency and the client.


  • Stability: this fixed monthly income ensures stability in the financial aspect of the agency.
  • Long-term relationships: the clients become ready to contract long-term partnerships thus building trust and cooperation.
  • Efficient resource management: the agency will have the ability to plan and budget according to the scope of work that is already known.


  • Less flexibility: the retainer model might be less flexible to changes in customer requirements or sudden changes in project specifications.
  • Limits revenue potential: the fixed fee structure is reasonably stable, but it can prevent the agency from taking advantage of highly successful campaigns or projects whose proceeds would be dependent on the results obtained.

2. Project-based model

The ‘project model’ is a billing and costing way, which is used by the service industry; such as digital marketing agencies. Under this model, clients make upfront, one-time payments for specific projects involving predetermined deliverables.

Scope of work, objectives, and results are clearly defined which gives a clear understanding of what is being done and what outcomes to expect.

Ultimately, the project-based model is about diversity and being open to different projects and perhaps better fees, but it requires a steady flow of projects and being able to precisely the scope and price to make a profit.


  • Higher potential earnings per project: the fee payable to the agency may increase as much as high for every project that serves as a highly complicated product deliverable.
  • Suitable for short-term engagements: this model is a good fit for short projects or engagements with definitive goals and deadlines.
  • Facilitates flexibility: even clients and agencies have the advantage of flexibility regarding the project scope such that deviations are possible due to changing needs.


  • Unpredictable income: the income that is in between the project-based model is less predictable than the recurring model like retainers.
  • Requires accurate project scoping and pricing: for the sake of avoiding financial dilemmas, correct scoping and pricing are essential.
  • Less client engagement: on the other hand, when contrasted with models with reciprocal relationships, project-based models may have limited consistent customer engagement.

3. Performance-based model

It is a unique form of billing and pricing model used by service providers, especially, in the digital marketing industry. In this model, clients pay for services on what they achieve that is tied to specific KPIs.

These KPIs may capture metrics such as advanced search ranking, a hike in website traffic, or improved conversion. The company will only make payments based on the success that the agency can demonstrate.


  • Strong incentive for agency performance: the model creates a powerful incentive for the agency to deliver results in the form of tangible and visible outcomes because its compensation is tied to the performance of the campaign.
  • Fosters client trust and alignment: the performance-based model is appreciated by the clients since it offers transparency and accountability.
  • Potential for high earnings: in campaigns where objectives are attained or surpassed, the agency attains higher earnings to make it more profitable.


  • Requires accurate KPI setting and tracking: KPIs play an important role in the success of the model; they should be defined precisely and measurable.
  • May create challenges with client expectations: it is also important to manage client expectations well because risk is implicit in the event the desired results do not materialize.
  • Not suitable for all projects: however, the performance-based model may not apply to every project, especially in cases where the results are quite hard to quantify or where success depends on variables beyond the agency’s control.

4. Hybrid model

The hybrid model is a flexible billing arrangement, which comprises aspects from several billing models and introduces a specialized approach towards client engagements that are typical of service-oriented industries, such as digital marketing.

This model combines elements that are typical of various modes of billing, frequently including retainer fees for continuing services and results-based bonuses tied in with the realization of set targets. These elements, when fused, form the hybrid model which seeks to provide a balanced and flexible mode of client relationships.


  • Flexibility and diverse client needs: by combining retainer fees and performance-driven incentives, the hybrid model can meet the different needs of clientele.
  • Balances predictability with higher earnings: it is a hybrid of reliable retainer income and a possible bump in salaries brought by incentive-based bonuses.


  • Requires careful design and communication: for establishing an effective hybrid model, it is important to pay great attention and to make all communication as clear as possible for both the agency and the client.
  • Complexity in pricing and contract structures: the hybrid model of managing would introduce complexity to the pricing structure and contracts that should be very carefully taken care of to avoid any hype and confusion.

5. Value-based pricing

In this pricing strategy, clients are not charged with merely the time or effort that was invested but based on the value assigned to the deliverables. In this aspect, the focus is placed on the special value the agency brings to the client.

Value-based pricing moves the emphasis from time to value, opening the doors for agencies to be paid for the outcomes that they produce. But sound implementation will depend on good communication, the provision of remarkable values, a clear value proposition, and more.


  • Higher potential earnings: provides room for an opportunity for more income because payment is based on value and not several working hours.
  • Reflects unique value: fits the agency’s value proposition, allowing clients to be rewarded for outcomes and results
  • Aligns client and agency goals: brings focus on achieving desirable results, strengthening the agency-client relationship.


  • Requires strong communication and demonstration of value: an important component of successful deal management is the effective communication of value proposition, as well as showing the ability to deliver tangible results.
  • Subjective and open to negotiation: the assessment of perceived value may be done subjectively also leading negotiations and debate between parties in regards to the best price for deliverables.

6. Tiered pricing

This pricing approach offers various sets of services at varying service rates driven by the nature of services and deliverables. The tiers were formulated to ensure that every tier provided a unique set of features that enabled clients to select a package that was compatible with their needs and budget.


  • Caters to diverse client budgets and needs: offers variation in tiers, which grants the ability to accommodate a diverse range of client budgets and specifications.
  • Simplifies pricing options for clients: simplifies decision-making for its clients because it offers only unambiguous choices with price tags.
  • Increases accessibility: improves accessibility through multiple entry points that are priced at different levels thereby providing services to more people.


  • Potential for confusion if tiers are not well-defined: it is crucial to have clear definitions of each tier to reduce confusion and ensure the clients understand the value that is built up in each pricing level.
  • Risk of undervaluing services at lower tiers: however, the low-tier services may be undervalued by this, leading to issues of sustaining profitability.
  • Requires careful packaging and presentation of packages: however, designing, and delivering tier packages is a very delicate process requiring an in-depth consideration of each tier and the expected customer’s reaction.

7. Outcome-based pricing

Similar in nature to performance-based, this pricing model focuses on specified business-oriented outcomes, including sales and leads. Clients are charged based on the achieved results to highlight the direct correlation between an agency’s efforts and measurable impact on business


  • Strong alignment with client goals: it is in close pursuit of the client’s objectives, whereby the agency’s success is directly related to the achieving of the client’s business objectives.
  • Demonstrates ROI for clients: shows a direct ROI demonstration to clients who pay for the actual results of their business.
  • Potential for high earnings based on success: provides the opportunity for big pay if the agency can fulfill the agreed-upon results.


  • Requires deep understanding of client business and objectives: the effective implementation of outcome-based pricing requires detailed knowledge of the client’s business, goals, and drivers of the outcomes they desire.
  • Potential for conflict if outcomes are not clearly defined or influenced by external factors: inconsistency in outcome definition or external factors beyond the agency’s control may also result in overwhelming payment disputes.
  • High risk for an agency if outcomes are not achieved: if the specified results are not achieved, then there are risks of financial hardship for the agency and loss of its clientele base.

8. White-label services

This business model consists of an agency or a business that collaborates with other companies so that they can provide services that are connected to SEO under the brand name of the partner. The agency offers services, and the partner passes the role for what he has done under his brand.


  • Access to new client bases: allows the agency to penetrate new client bases and markets through the partner’s existing network.
  • Expands reach and revenue potential: allows spreading the agency’s reach and revenue opportunity by capitalizing on the partner’s brand and connection.
  • Requires less marketing and sales effort: requires small efforts in terms of marketing and sales strategies as the partner brings customers.


  • Less control over the brand image and service delivery: however, the agency has only limited control over how its services are covered and delivered as the partner brand is the only content that matters.
  • Lower profit margins compared to direct client work: agencies may take lower profit margins relative to direct client work since the partner payment is received.
  • Reliance on the partner for client satisfaction and retention: the success of the partnership depends on the ability of the partner to entice and retain customers, which could also affect the reputation of the agency.

9. Freemium model

The freemium model is based on offering the initial level of the service for free, in turn, gives an impetus to the users to pay for the premium features or services. This business model seeks to intrigue a wide range of customers who would pay for additional premium features.


  • Attracts leads and showcases expertise: the free package acts as a lead magnet, which caters to users who eventually upgrade to premiums. It also serves to highlight the business’s capacity and skills.
  • Generates brand awareness: the free tier leads to more users getting involved in the service and hence higher brand awareness across wider markets.
  • Converts free users to paying clients: the unpaid version allows beneficiaries to enjoy the value of the service without payment and are more likely to become paying clients.


  • Requires significant investment in free service development: quality free services require a lot of input in terms of resources and infrastructure.
  • Risk of users not upgrading to paid options: the possibility that many users will prefer to stick to using the free service is also a threat as it might reduce the potential of generating revenue.
  • Challenges in balancing value offerings for free and paid tiers: it is quite difficult to achieve balance in the value provided in the free tier and the paid tier, which is crucial for the success of the model.

10. Niche-specific model

Niche-specific SEO integrated with a strong and feature-rich SEO agency CRM; in this unique case, has turned out to be a strategic solution targeted at a wide range of diverse market sectors.

Through the emphasis on certain markets and implementation of various CRM features, SEO agencies can apply targeted strategies to improve the online presence, client management, and unique needs of businesses from these segments.


  • Dental SEO: dental practice online presence optimization, CRM used for patient interaction management.
  • Medical SEO: increasing the online presence of healthcare facilities while at the same time improving the means of patient engagement through CRM.
  • Pharmaceutical SEO: tactically locate pharmaceutical firms and the use of CRM for customer communication.
  • Veterinary SEO: developing strategies for veterinary clinics, integrating CRM for online appointment scheduling, and making client communication easier.
  • Law firm SEO: online presence increases and customer relationship management through adoption of CRM integration by law firms.
  • Personal injury lawyer SEO: emphasizing positive keywords about your company and use CQM to support interaction with clients.
  • Immigration lawyer SEO: client management through the deployment of CRM systems in order to retain immigrants and the control of online visibility to the needs of immigrant firms.


  • Fashion e-commerce SEO: enhancing the online presence and search engine optimization, as well as managing customer relationships via CRM.
  • Grocery e-commerce SEO: Strategizing e-groceries businesses with CRM-centered handling of orders and customers.
  • B2b e-commerce SEO: offer visibility to b2b e-commerce companies and integrate client relationship through a CRM system.

Real estate

  • Real estate agent SEO: CRM for real estate client management helps to create the digital presence of real estate professionals.
  • Property management SEO: streamlining advertisements that represent property management companies and centralizing relations management with property managers using a CRM.
  • Vacation rental SEO: visibility of vacation rental assets, booking management, and communication via CRM.

Financial services

  • Wealth management SEO: increases online awareness for clients, online performance of high-net-worth relationships and CRM
  • Mortgage broker SEO: maximizing the potential of digital strategies such as CRM for mortgage brokers in communicating with customer
  • Financial advisor SEO: It allows making the online appearance of financial advisors and managing client interactions with the CRM.


  • University SEO: Use CRM to raise the online visibility of the university nexus, student communication, and inquiries.
  • Online course platform SEO: positioning of online course platforms, using CRM for enrollment and student engagement.
  • Language learning app SEO: application optimization for language learning and CRM for user management

Specialized SEO services

  • Local SEO: The development of the businesses that yield superior results on local world rankings, which increases the visibility in local market.
  • Technical SEO: Resolving website technical issues and crawl accessibility for search engine performance.
  • Link building: Creating quality backlinks to improve the website’s reputation and authority levels.
  • Content marketing: Producing content for SEO which not only attracts but also excites users, which leads audiences to interact.
  • E-commerce SEO: Personalizing e-commerce stores to enhance product display, conversion rates, and other areas.
  • International SEO: The localizing of campaigns in different languages or by different geographic regions for a more expansive global touch and impact.
  • Voice search optimization: The technique of redesigning content and websites to concentrate on direct addressing of speaking or search queries, to enhance the understanding and response.

11. Subscription-based SEO services

Selecting monthly or annual, a client will get a constant support for their project, being in fact the guarantee of continued cash money income.


  • Predictable revenue: this in turn allows the establishment of a stable platform upon which financial forecasts can be accurately projected.
  • Customer retention: There is brand loyalty among the subscribers which is reflected by their high retention rates.
  • Steady cash flow: Monthly and annual payments generate sustainable and continuous flow of cash which is likely to bring in stability and result in more growth.


  • Customer churn: Moreover, if a subscriber is dissatisfied, he/she can choose to cancel, which may lead to churn if satisfaction levels drop and measures to retain him/her may also be necessary.
  • Higher initial effort: It is a costly activity to acquire subscribers and convert them and it requires an upfront stage of marketing.
  • Customer support costs: This goes against the profitability of a company as the continuing services given to subscribers incur great costs.


Various SEO agency models cater to specific situations. This method ranges from niche SEO for a particular business such as local SEO to the latest hi – tec, which is subscription-based SEO. The model of predictability and loyalty is the subscription model.

Ultimately, the versatility of agile SEO approaches is necessary to change with the tide. This landscape calls for a weary balance of innovation, client satisfaction, and a selectively apathetic approach to the models that guarantee both survival and prospers in the wobbly domain of digital marketing.

Arun Andiselvam

As a serial entrepreneur, I have successfully established five brands over the past 12 years. After creating a successful rank tracker for SEO agencies, I am currently dedicated to developing the world's first SEO Project Management software.