SEO Consultants: How Many Clients Do You Manage Simultaneously?

April 23, 2009

Two Jobs in One?

I’ve recently been interviewing a number of candidates in a search to find someone to add to our team at Ephricon as an SEO Account Manager.  This person will do two main things:

1) Work with clients:  Communicate with them… develop strategy, desired outcomes, action plans, etc.   Report to clients on results, etc.

2) Do the actual work:  Aside from communicating and planning, they’ll actually do most of the SEO work for these accounts – link building, on-site optimization, etc.  In some cases this may even extend to moderate copywriting and actually publishing new webpages, in other cases the clients and/or third parties handle that.

So anyhow, I like to have one person do this job.  Other SEO agencies break this into two roles – with the first person being someone who essentially spends their day on the phone communicating with clients, writing reports, managing relationships, etc. and the second person actually doing the nuts and bolts like writing title tags, making copy tweaks, building links, etc.  I don’t like to break it down like that, b/c I think too much gets lost there.  I feel the guy doing the work is too far removed from the client and it creates unnecessary layers of communication, etc.  The tradeoff is that its harder to find one person who excels in both of the two above areas than it is to find two separate people.  Some might argue you’ll almost always have to compromise slightly in one area on the other if you opt for one person.

What is the Right Number?

So in the process of having phone calls, emails and interviews for our new job opening, I’ve talked with a number of people who currently serve similar job functions.  Some just “do the work”, so just “manage the clients” and some do “both”.   I’ve gotten a couple of people that have done SEO for a total of 1, 2 or 3 sites in their entire careers… maybe as they were an in-house SEO person, etc.  And then I spoke with one girl who currently manages 100 ongoing accounts, and two other guys that manage about 50 each.  Those sound like really high numbers to me.

At Ephricon, I’m looking to have each person manage roughly 8 to 12 clients at most… and probaly more like 5 to 7 to start.  If you do the math on managing 100 clients each month, you maybe have only 1-2 hours each month per client.  If the client calls and wants to chat for 30 minutes you are left with no time to actually do any work!!!  That being said, our client load of 8 to 12 (ish) probably is too high for some firms where the scope of their engagement is more comprehensive than ours, and its probably too low for other firms.  If you are charging $250 per month per client than you really can’t afford to anything more than a couple of hours of basic SEO for that client each month, so you’d better have a large number of clients.

If I had 100 clients to personally manage I wouldn’t be able to swing it.  I wouldn’t even remember half of their names, and I’d easily spend 8-10 hours per day on the phone alone.  I’m too verbose.  I’d never get any “actual work” done.  That’s why we landed on 8 to 12.  For me its enough clients that you have some diversity,  yet few enough that you can remember their names and dedicate a nice chunk of time to each of them every week.  Plus you can list them all on one sheet of paper or one dry-erase board 🙂  As such, we’ve tailored our service-product offering to fit a certain level of scope and price point to fit this, and then we target prospective clients that are looking for our level of scope.  If you need 40 hours per week of SEO consulting than we can’t help you – I’d suggest that you’d be better off hiring someone in-house or hiring another firm that does that level of scope.  Each person there probably only works on 1-3 accounts (hopefully).  That said, if you only need 2 hours per month of effort we can’t do that either – you should probably go with one of these firms where they each handle 100 clients.  Success in that environment seems to require established processes, checklists and automation.  If you are somewhere in the middle, than we may be a fit 🙂

So clearly my opinion is that 5, 10 or 15 clients is probably an okay number of clients/projects for a full-time SEO person to manage at one time.  100 sounds way too high to me.  1 or 2 sounds too boring to me.   But I’m totally biased.  Obviously this is all relative to scope and level of involvement.  For instance, at Ephricon we not only make recommendations but for about 75% of our clients we actually make the changes ourselves – FTP to the site, re-code what needs to be re-coded, post new content, etc.  If we got away from that and just made the recommendations and then passed them on to someone else to implement we could probably handle 20 or 25 clients each.

Your Thoughts Please!

So a few questions for everyone:

  1. Do you “manage the accounts”, “do the actual SEO” or “both”?
  2. What’s best?  Should one person do everything, or should their be a project manager and a separate production team?
  3. How many different SEO clients and/or different projects do you manage at one time?
  4. What other criteria or considerations matter here?

9 Responses to “SEO Consultants: How Many Clients Do You Manage Simultaneously?”

  1. Morinsight Says:

    15-20 sounds right.

  2. I´ve spent almost 12 Hours straight looking for the same information. I figured that anything just reorganizing code, programming and analytics for a “static” site (ie. law firm, with little traffic) would take a couple of hours a week.
    The problem starts when you have clients with active campaigns going on, makes it almost hard to put a time base on it.

  3. Paul Rushing Says:

    I play a hands on role, communicate with the clients and delegate tasks for staff to facilitate. This is for the automotive vertical. Where the core is local (geo) traffic.

    I currently work on 15 properties but could scale to 3 x that in the auto dealer niche. Sites looking to develop national traffic for highly competitive keywords I would have to scale down.

    It’s kinda like the question “How long is apiece of string?” It depends…

  4. […] 11, 2009 Had a couple of calls with Paul Rushing from ISM in Training.  Paul commented on a recent post about managing clients, and we decided to pick up the phone to compare thoughts, notes, etc.  In general, Paul is a great […]

  5. For now I handle 5 clients, i hope to get more in the next months, i’m still in the adjustment period.

  6. Vpromoter Says:

    I manage most of the job myself. About the dividing the job, it depends on the task. For example a copyrighter can write me a 2000 word article for $10, and a software can multiply this text into hundreds of different copies. Fast? Yes. Easy? Yes.
    So the answer is pretty much – if you can do it cheaper or faster – go ahead jaywalking 🙂

  7. michelle Says:

    im handling 2 main clients, under the other client are 5 websites to managed. I consume about 2 hours per site.
    by the way, im interested in exchanging links with your site. drop me a mail at

  8. joe Says:

    I have been managing about 7-10 seo clients for over 5 months now and i have to say, sometimes i just want to jump off from the building i work. It’s very hard to find the time to please every client. The worst part is some of my clients need feedback – report – update every week. I don’t think i can take this anymore.

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