What US agencies sell and what users look for?

Recently, I conducted a research concerning the most popular digital agency services. One of the aspects that I investigated in my study was the most popular services that digital agencies are selling. In the graphic below you can see the distribution of the most common ones that are sold by US agencies:

The research that I conducted was based on a survey that was distributed among digital marketing agencies’ and freelancers’, so the final results tell their side of the story, which means that the services these agencies offer might be the same ones potential consumers are interested in, but there is still a chance they’re not. That’s why my top question was: Is this data one-sided?I realized that what I really wanted to do is show the entire picture not only based on the digital agency side, but also using data on potential clients’ interests. And that’s exactly what I did!

As you’ve already noticed, crunching numbers is my true passion, and that’s why I decided to find. When you’re on a shoestring budget, however, creative approaches to solving problems automatically come to mind, and that’s why I decided to dig deeper by conducting simple keyword research. Right now you’re probably thinking: What the hell is she talking about? Well, just let me explain! I think users’ search behavior is the best indicator of what they’re really interested in. Think about it: if you’re searching for something, then you have a real need. So, it’s fair to say that market demand can be investigated via search queries.

Each user’s search query is an informational and/or commercial signal for us digital marketers!

I analyzed more than 112,800 search queries concerning SEO, PPC, content marketing and the SMM niche in Google US. Here’s a link to infographic that visualize the described below survey results.

I went through all relevant keywords and classified them into two groups: general (informational) queries and agency-related (commercial) queries. The latter type includes all queries that contain the following words: “fees,” “costs,” “prices,” “consultant,” “service,” “company,” or “agency. By dividing all queries into those two tiers, I was able to determine not only what users are looking for, but also what they’re likely to buy.

Here’s the top insights I gained through my research:

SEO is still the is the most searched by users service and the one that is most likely to lead to conversions.

The sum of the search volumes of all SEO-related keywords is 930,000 for Google US, and a large number of those keywords (18 percent) are agency related.

Selling PPC services is awfully tough. And it’s the most competitive market.

PPC-related keywords generate10 times fewer searchers than search queries in the SEO niche (the sum of the search volumes of PPC-related keywords is 83,000), plus agencies have to compete with PPC management tools for clients. The good news here is that PPC-related queries, compared to other niches, are more likely to lead to conversions, because almost 10 percent of all search queries are agency related.

Content marketing is a big deal – this niche is becoming a hot topic within digital marketing professional circles.

I must admit, users are less interested in content marketing and they’re much less willing to pay for this service: the sum of content-marketing-related keywords’ search volumes is 553,000, but only 4 percent of searchers have a commercial intention.

Social-media-marketing-related queries are extremely popular among users – the sum of the search volumes of these queries is almost 680,000.

Yet, only 4 percent of searchers are likely to buy SMM services.

So, if you are a freelancer or a member of an agency selling SEO, PPC, content marketing or SMM services, these findings will help you adjust your business strategy to current market demand. But the main lesson that I learned from this survey, which will also be relevant for my digital marketing colleagues, is the following:

Topics with high search volumes do not equal to high-converting niches. You should always further investigate any apparent correlations.

So, you must bear in mind that popularity can be deceptive

In my research, I also analyzed the most often searched and the most expensive keywords for the SEO, PPC, SMM and content marketing niches, as well as the top-ranking PPC and SEO companies in Google US. The results were surprising, but understanding them is crucial for building effective strategies for your digital marketing business. You can find more details about this topic in my recent post on Moz blog!

  • Gio Ferrigno

    How could we get/find/buy a more complete version (spreadsheet/whatever) of the information used in your infographic? In other words, I am looking for more than just the “Top 5”. I figured you must have the top 112,000 terms, etc. in some spreadsheet where you were able to “sort columns” or create pivot tables, etc… I’d love to glance at, say the top 50 or 100, terms/searches, etc.