SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the secret sauce to being seen and heard for many companies in the bustling online marketplace.
For startups in particular, it’s imperative to nail SEO right from the outset to allow compounding and scalable growth to really work its magic. But how do you find an SEO service that actually delivers?
In this article, I’ve compiled the top 5 best startup SEO agencies that are experts in helping startups and small businesses get noticed online.
5 Best SEO Companies for Startups – Overview
- Smash Digital – Best Overall SEO Agency
- Boostability – Most Awarded Agency
- Whitespark – Best Local SEO Agency
- WebFX – Best Affordable Plans
- Smartsites – Best Generalist SEO Services
To maximize your startup’s chances of success, you want to implement a bulletproof SEO strategy. For that, you need Smash Digital.
It’s the best full service SEO team. I know – I work with the guys every day.
Founded by Travis Jamison and a team of seasoned SEO professionals in 2010, this digital marketing agency takes pride in a proven track record of enhancing your startup’s online visibility and search engine rankings. Instead of a one-fits-all package, our approach is tailormade for your business.
Key services include:
- SEO Audit – Keyword research, content optimization, competitor analysis, and website structure improvement. Here we form a strategic action plan tailored to your startup’s unique needs.
- Link Building – The most important SEO factor that most agencies struggle with is arguably Smash Digital’s greatest strength. They build strong links that move the needle without reverting to spammy practices that don’t last. (I see it every day.)
- Fully Managed SEO – The whole shebang, including:
- In-depth analysis of your website and niche, and in-depth analysis of your competitors
- Technical analysis & Audit – Targeting important and meaningful keywords, page-level diagnostics, and boosting website speed
- Prospecting – Backlinking via white hat outreach
- Learning & Adapting – Closely monitoring competitors to learn from their mistakes and adopt a strategy based on gathered knowledge
- Scaling Up – Upon finalizing the analytical phase, we begin the link-building process.
As a startup founder, you’ll appreciate Smash Digital’s commitment to transparency and results. Starting at $2,500 per month (tk), their pricing varies depending on the specific work required, providing flexibility based on your startup’s budget and SEO goals.
Boostability is an established SEO agency that specializes in providing robust, white-label SEO services to small and mid-sized businesses, including startups.
White-label SEO services: Rebranded services from third parties sold as if they were the company’s own services.
Since its inception in 2009 by founder Jared Turner, this digital marketing agency has been assisting businesses in achieving their growth objectives faster by leveraging their unique, data-driven SEO strategies.
Key services include:
- Keyword research
- Content creation
- Backlinks from reputable sources
- Local optimization
Their award-winning digital marketing services platform, LaunchPad, guarantees smooth campaign execution and lets you track progress. They leverage data from 2.3 million keywords for strategic decisions and focus on generating organic leads.
As an SEO company, Boostability delivers impactful search engine results, especially for web-traffic-dependent businesses, via on-page recommendations and high-quality link building.
People report swift project initiation, transparency, and support. They appreciate the high-quality content, enhanced social media presence, exceptional customer service, and quick resolution of technical issues.
In short, Boostability is one of the top SEO agencies that excels in service delivery, has a proven success record, and prioritizes client satisfaction. While they won’t be able to 100% customize a package for your specific needs, their SEO expertise and dedication makes them one of the best SEO companies.
Whitespark specializes in local SEO, making it a pick for best seo agencies to increase local visibility and traffic. So startups with physical locations offering local services, listen up.
Established in 2005 by Darren Shaw, their key SEO services include:
- Local Citation Finder – Helps find and improve your business citations on the web, even compared to competitors.
- Local Rank Tracker – Monitors your rankings in specific cities or zip codes, including local finder, local pack, and SEO for Bing and Google.
- Reputation Builder – Manages reviews, guides satisfied customers to review sites, and intercepts negative reviews before posting.
- Link Prospector – Increases link opportunities for more shares and links.
- Citation Build & Cleanup Service – Finds and corrects bad citations that could harm your citation score.
- Review Checker – Tracks and compares your business reviews with competitors.
They also offer three free tools at sign up: Review Checker, Review Handout Generator, and Google Review Link Generator. I recommend asking for a consultation to create a customized SEO campaign to fit your needs and budget.
Whitespark’s services have proven beneficial for all business sizes. Focusing on listings and citations, Whitespark positions your startup favorably in local search and search engine results pages, providing a competitive edge and promoting business growth.
WebFX is a full-service digital marketing agency founded by Bill Craig all the way back in 1996. They’re renowned for SEO services, but also offering PPC, social media marketing, and web design services.
They stand out for their personalized SEO strategies, employing a six-step, tech-driven approach known as “R-O-C-K-E-T”: Research, Optimization, Content, Keywords, Earned media and links, and Testing.
WebFX’s SEO services are split into four main plans:
- The Bronze plan: Optimizes up to 100 keyphrases and 20 web pages for small businesses, costing $5,400 upfront with a $1,375 monthly fee.
- The Silver plan: Costs $7,750 upfront with a $2,500 monthly payment, offering expanded service.
- The Gold plan: Priced at $12,750 upfront with a $5,000 monthly fee, providing a higher level of service.
- The Diamond plan: Requires a $15,750 initial investment with an $8,000 monthly fee, offering the most comprehensive service.
These plans encompass features like:
- Technical website analysis
- Opportunity report
- Keyword research
- Title tags and meta descriptions
- Robots.txt optimization
- Competitor search rankings monitoring
WebFX is recognized for their transparent pricing, continuous monthly SEO strategy support, proprietary technology platform, and their MarketingCloudFX campaign tracking software. Their higher-tier plans can be quite expensive, which is not ideal for startups.
Customer reviews are mostly positive. WebFX is a strong contender for small businesses heavily reliant on organic search traffic.
WebFX offers robust, tailored, tech-aided SEO consulting for your digital marketing. Their clear pricing and tiered plans can cater to diverse needs and budgets, and their solid reputation underscores their capability to deliver results.
SmartSites is a top-rated digital marketing agency, founded by Michael and Alex Melen in 2011, that offers SEO services for a wide variety of industries.
Their clients often report a twofold increase in their organic site traffic within just six months of launching an SEO campaign. While they don’t specialize in startups, this is exactly the sort of performance a startup company needs.
Their selection of tailored services includes:
- SEO analysis
- Technical SEO audits
- Mobile SEO
- SEO copywriting
Pricing is custom-based, ensuring you only pay for what you need. You’ll also have a dedicated project and account manager and receive real-time marketing reports for effective campaign tracking.
SmartSites does digital marketing consulting across sectors like home services, hospitality, retail, B2B, industrial, and automotive. They’ve built a reputation for delivering results, timely follow-ups, and having a knowledgeable staff, reflected in their positive online customer reviews.
Forbes Advisor calls it one of the top SEO agencies for small businesses, SmartSites is an excellent choice for businesses looking for an internet marketing agency with a strong record in SEO strategies.
It’s worth noting that their pricing lacks transparency, and there’s occasional feedback about their SEO writers missing the mark – stuff that can turn into headaches later, so make sure to clarify before signing up.
Is SmartSites the best SEO agency for your SEO efforts?
You Don’t Need a Digital Marketing Agency: You Just Need SEO
When we talk about digital marketing services, we’re referring to a variety of different services, such as social media marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, content marketing etc. These are all necessary tools for achieving various business goals.
As a startup or small business owner though, your primary online marketing goal is growth and visibility. The best way to achieve that is with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
That’s why, instead of looking for just any digital marketing agency, you need to work with the best startup SEO agencies. If you have a SaaS business, don’t forget to check out our article on the best SEO agencies for SaaS businesses as well.
Here are some benefits you’ll get from a successful SEO strategy.
Visibility and Brand Awareness
As a startup, one of the major challenges you’ll face is brand recognition (or lack thereof). To build recognition and therefore trust, your brand needs to consistently show up in your target audience’s online searches.
This is exactly what SEO does.
While effective, successful SEO is a slow process, and that’s why it’s important to begin as soon as possible.
With limited time and budget, cost-effective marketing strategies are essential.
While SEO services require some investment upfront, the effects of a successful SEO strategy compound over time and demand minimal cost to maintain. This is contrary to paid advertising strategies for example, which require ongoing investment to keep producing results.
Do you want a 10000 visitors who don’t care about your product, or 1000 potential customers? SEO is not just about driving large amounts of traffic to your website – it’s about attracting the right kind of traffic. By targeting specific keywords related to your product or service, SEO helps ensure that the visitors to your site are most likely the ones who will end up as customers.
In the endlessly competitive online marketplace, your startup is likely to be overshadowed by established companies with larger marketing budgets. But, with effective and focused SEO strategy, you can compete on more equal footing, reaching potential customers who might otherwise have been unaware of your brand.
The best times to focus on SEO were 20 years ago, or NOW. -Confucius, 2255 B.C.
Search engine optimization is a long-term strategy. It takes time to see results, but once you do, they are usually longlasting. That’s why you want to lay that foundation today for massive traffic later.
Why Your Startup Needs to Outsource SEO
Okay okay, you get it, SEO is kind of a big deal. But is it really necessary to outsource?
Why not just save some money and hire your friend’s nephew, who allegedly said something about Facebook Ads that one time at the Thanksgiving dinner table?
Let me tell you why your startup needs to work with (high quality) SEO companies.
SEO is a complex field, with a multitude of factors influencing search rankings. SEO agencies have the knowledge and experience to navigate this minefield and implement effective strategies. They keep up with all the latest trends and changes in the algorithm, making sure your startup’s game plan stays fresh and SEO efforts competitive.
Time and Resource Management
I can’t stress this enough. As a startup, your team’s time and resources are precious, and should be focused on core aspects of your business. Digital marketing and SEO can be a huge strain on resources, so it’s best to let specialized SEO companies handle it.
SEO agencies provide regular reports and analytics, showing you the impact of their digital marketing work. This allows you to see the ROI on your SEO investment and helps inform future business decisions.
As your startup grows, your SEO needs will change. An SEO agency can scale its services to match your growth, ensuring consistent support through every stage of your business’s development.
What About White Hat SEO?
You may have heard of white hat, grey hat or black hat SEO. These terms refer to decreasing levels of abiding by rules and policies, white hat being the most ethical and black hat using methods that directly violate the search engine terms of service.
White Hat SEO is all about creating content for users, not search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to them. It is more likely to produce sustainable, long-term results.
The best SEO services know this, and thus have focused their SEO efforts to providing the most effective white hat strategies.
What are these strategies? What should you be looking out for when you want to find high quality SEO companies focused on white hat strategies?
Strategies Top SEO Companies Use To Boost Your Business
Here are a few strategies an SEO company will use to give your business a leg up:
- Comprehensive SEO Audit: The agency will begin by conducting a comprehensive audit of your website to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. This forms the basis of your SEO strategy.
- Keyword Research and Optimization: The SEO company will conduct in-depth keyword research to identify the terms your potential customers are using. They’ll then optimize your website’s content to align with these keywords, helping to increase your visibility in search results.
- Link Building: High-quality backlinks from reputable websites are a major factor in how search engines rank your site. The agency will work on building a strong link profile to boost your site’s authority and rankings.
- Technical SEO: This involves optimizing the backend of your website, including site structure, mobile optimization, and page speed. These factors can significantly impact your search rankings and user experience.
- Content Strategy: Content is a key driver of SEO. The SEO company will help develop a content strategy that attracts and engages your target audience, while also aligning with SEO best practices.
How Much Do SEO Services Cost?
Most SEO companies offer a range of premade service packages, and some offer custom plans tailored to the unique needs of each client.
The pricing model used by SEO agencies can also influence the cost. Some common pricing models include:
This is a popular pricing model where the client pays a set fee each month in exchange for a agreed-upon set of services. Monthly retainers can range anywhere from $500 to $5000 or more, depending on the scope of the services provided.
For specific, one-off projects, many agencies will provide a quote based on the project’s complexity and the amount of work involved. Project-based pricing can range from $1000 to $30,000 or more.
Hourly Consultation Rate
Some agencies charge an hourly rate for consultation services, which can vary widely but typically range from $50 to $200 per hour.
Remember, the cost of SEO services is often a reflection of the value and results you can expect to receive. While it can be tempting to choose the cheapest provider, it’s important to consider the potential return on investment (ROI) that more experienced and proven SEO companies can provide.
As with any significant business investment, it’s crucial to do your due diligence, ask the right questions, and compare proposals from different agencies before making a decision.
5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Startup SEO Agency
Keep in mind, the aim isn’t just to top the results in search engines, but also to draw in the right people and turn them into long-term customers. It’s important that your new SEO partner understands this too.
To ensure you make the right decision, here are five essential questions to include in your vetting process:
1. What is your experience working with startups?
Startups have unique challenges and opportunities in the world of SEO.
It’s vital that the marketing manager at your chosen digital marketing agency has a solid background in working with startups, understanding their specific needs, and successfully navigating their digital landscapes. Request to see examples of their previous work with startup clients and the outcomes they achieved.
2. What is your approach to startup SEO?
Every SEO agency does things a bit differently.
What works for big companies might not work for a new startup. It’s important to understand their perspective on startup SEO, including how they tailor their strategies to meet the unique needs and constraints of a startup environment.
3. What are your thoughts on the current state of SEO?
The world of SEO is constantly evolving, with changes in algorithms, strategies, and best practices. It’s important that your chosen digital marketing agency is up-to-date and has a firm grasp on the current trends and future trajectory of SEO.
4. What are your rates for startup SEO services?
As a startup, budgeting is crucial.
You need to understand the agency’s pricing structure and how it aligns with your budget. They should be able to provide a clear, detailed breakdown of their services and the associated costs.
5. Do you guarantee results?
Beware of any digital marketing agency that guarantees specific results.
SEO is complex and influenced by numerous factors, many of which are outside an agency’s control. Any agency offering guaranteed results is likely overpromising. Instead, look for an agency that sets realistic expectations and is transparent about the unpredictability of SEO outcomes.
7 Steps To Choose the Right Startup SEO Agency
Choosing the right SEO agency for your startup can seem like a daunting task.
However, by following a structured process, you can make the decision easier and more effective. Here’s a simple process to follow:
1. Define Your Needs
Before you start looking for an agency, it’s essential to clearly define what you need from them.
Do you need comprehensive SEO services, or are you looking for assistance in specific areas like content marketing or local SEO? Are you aiming to increase traffic, improve conversion rates, or both? Having a clear understanding of your needs will help you identify agencies that can deliver what you’re looking for.
2. Do Your Research
Once you know what you need, start researching potential agencies.
Look for agencies that specialize in startup SEO and have a proven track record in your industry. Check their online reviews and ratings, and examine their website and social media profiles to get a sense of their expertise and approach.
3. Get Referrals
Word of mouth is a powerful tool in the business world.
Ask your network for referrals. Other startup founders, business contacts, and even online startup communities can provide valuable insights and recommendations. Remember, though, that what worked for one business may not work for yours, so always consider referrals in the context of your specific needs.
4. Know Your Budget
Before reaching out to agencies, establish a budget for your SEO services. Having a budget range in mind can help you shortlist agencies that fit within your financial constraints. Remember, though, that like many things in life, with SEO services, you often get what you pay for.
5. Ask for Proposals
Once you’ve shortlisted a few potential agencies, ask them for proposals. A good proposal should include an initial assessment of your current SEO status, a description of the services they recommend, and a clear breakdown of costs.
6. Compare Proposals
With proposals in hand, compare them side by side. Look at the services offered, the proposed strategy, the pricing, and any additional benefits. Remember, the cheapest proposal is not necessarily the best. Consider the value each agency offers and how well they align with your needs and budget.
7. Make Your Decision
Finally, based on your analysis, make your decision. Choose the digital agency that offers the best balance of expertise, services, cost, and alignment with your needs. Remember, this is a significant decision that can greatly impact your startup’s online presence and growth, so take your time and choose wisely.
Now, let’s take a look at the 5 best SEO companies to choose from.
Now you know the best startup SEO agencies out there and how to hire them.
These agencies are truly top-tier, excelling at helping startups like yours stand out in a crowded digital marketplace.
Remember, strong SEO efforts are no longer optional. They’ve become an essential part of survival in today’s digital landscape. A well-planned SEO strategy can ensure your business reaches its target audience, increases its online visibility, and ultimately hits its growth goals.
So why wait? Start investing in your business’s future now by partnering with one of the best SEO agencies. The journey to enhance your startup’s online presence, attract more traffic, and grow your business begins with a single step.