Local vs National SEO Agencies: Comparison of Revenue, Client Bases, and More

Local vs National SEO Agencies: Comparison of Revenue, Client Bases, and More
Key Takeaways
  • On average, national SEO agencies make $1.5m more per year than local SEO agencies.
  • Over 50% of local SEO agencies are paid less than $1,000 per client per month.
  • 24% of SEO staff in national agencies personally manage over 31 clients.
  • Onsite SEO is the most requested SEO service for both local and national agencies.

At the tail end of 2017, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 US-based local SEO professionals from all walks of life, and the results of the Local Search Industry Survey paint an interesting picture of an industry optimistic about the future but not particularly proactive about getting new clients or hiring more staff.

We’ve already sliced and diced the data to show how in-house local SEOs and local SEO freelancers compare and contrast, learning, for example, that agency employees typically earn over $17,000 more per year than their freelance counterparts.

But what about local (regional) and national agencies? Do agencies with multiple branches and nationwide clients have a drastically different experience to those focusing on their local area? Let’s take a look at the data and find out:

Revenue for Local and National SEO Agencies

What was your company's revenue in the last 12 months?

  • Average annual revenue for national SEO agencies: $2,353,611
  • Average annual revenue for local SEO agencies: $944,776

When it comes to money, it’s clear that national agencies bring the big bucks, with only 20% of them making less than a quarter of a million dollars per year. Having said that, you’ll notice that a surprising proportion of SEOs in agencies didn’t know what their agencies’ revenues were (26%) so this could bring the actual figure up or down.

What we can definitely say is that, across the board, local agencies tend to make less money. Of course, they’re far more likely to have a smaller, niche set of clients in a specific industry than national agencies, and these kinds of businesses tend to have smaller pockets, so this isn’t too much of a surprise.

Client Pay Per Month for Local and National SEO Agencies

What does an average client pay you each month?

Sticking with finances, we compared how much local and national SEO agencies said their clients paid them each month. Although the amounts are reasonably similar for both local and national agencies, the big difference can be seen in the $250-499 and $2,000-3,499 brackets.

Over 50% of local agencies are paid less than $1,000 per month per client, while 61% of national agencies are paid more than $1,000 per client per month.

Here it’s clear that, compared to national agencies at least, clients pay less to local agencies. However, the fact that a quarter of local agencies bring in $1,000-1,999 suggests that perhaps the rest are missing an opportunity to pitch their services at a higher rate.

How Many Clients do Local and National SEO Agencies Serve?

How many clients do you personally manage?

One of the surprising things to take away from this is the percentage of national agency SEO staff that personally only manages 2-10 clients each (46%). At the other end, nearly a quarter of national SEO staff personally manage an eyewatering 31+ clients each. Of course, the agency’s focus and type of SEO role will affect this, but this shows that experiences across national agencies are certainly not equal.

It’s impressive to see so many local agency SEO staff dealing with over 10 clients each (nearly half, at 46%), especially as local agencies tend to have a more niche focus. This could well be down to these clients not requiring large, complex campaigns (more likely for national agencies), leading to local SEO staff being able to manage more clients as the requirements per client are fewer.

Project and Retainer Split in Local and National SEO Agencies

What proportion of your work is comprised of projects and retainers?

It’s interesting to see such disparity between projects and retainers here. The lack of a consistent trend in neither local or national SEO agency categories suggests that whether you work for clients on a project or retainer basis is just down to the way your business likes to work.

However, given that local SEO isn’t a ‘one project and you’re done’ kind of practice, instead requiring regular monitoring of rankings and traffic, continual optimization, and process improvements, it’s quite a surprise to see so many local-focused agencies relying on project work.

Again, this could just be down to preference, as some agencies prefer to ‘keep things interesting’ by working with new clients each time, but there is a question around whether project work is really providing the ongoing service that local businesses require.

Most In-Demand SEO Services for Local and National SEO Agencies

Which services are most in demand from your clients?

(Respondents were asked to pick their top three from the list)

Just as when we sliced our survey data to look at freelancers and agencies, we’ve found the following tasks to be the most in demand for local and national agencies (though in different orders for each):

  • Onsite SEO
  • Website design / development
  • PPC
  • GMB optimization
  • Content creation / optimization

As we can see, there are similarities across the board, but what’s really interesting is how much more requested paid social media is with local agencies than national agencies. This could mean that the bigger clients with the national agencies are a little more risk-averse, preferring to delve into their coffers for ‘tried-and-true’ PPC versus the more creative, more targeted, but potentially more risky, requirements of paid social.

The high percentage of local agency respondents who said that website design is a client priority (55%) is indicative of the nature of local agencies to often work with newly opened businesses who require full setup of an online presence, as opposed to large, nationwide businesses with their own separate web design teams.

What Do You Think?

You’ve seen the breakdown of local vs national SEO agencies. Is there anything in this data you think we’re missing? Or do you have a similar or completely different agency experience to what’s described above? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

And if you haven’t checked out the full Local Search Industry Survey results yet, now’s the perfect time to do so!

Jamie Pitman
About the author
Jamie heads up BrightLocal's content team, ensuring we produce insightful articles, research and resources that enable businesses and SEOs to get even better results in local search.

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