HUGE UPDATE (JAN 23, 2023) The $122Bn SEO Industry: 30 success stories (with revenue numbers) πŸŽ‰
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The $122Bn SEO Industry: 31 Success Stories (with Revenue Numbers)
for 2023

Written by Glen Allsopp | +452 this month
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LAST UPDATED
February 3, 2023

This article has received 226 edits. The last edit was made on February 3rd, 2023

– Added WordAgents to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Updated BrightEdge numbers based on private discussions, though will likely remove them from the list
– Added Front Page SEO to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added SEO SaaS Demandwell to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added Thrive Agency to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added SEO agency Indexsy to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Removed Statuslabs from the list as I’m unable to get updated revenue numbers
– Removed Linkdex from the list as they were acquired and I don’t think we’ll get updated numbers
– Added SEO agency HeliumSEO to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Due to outdated revenue numbers for Nightwatch (previously $40,000 per month) we’ve removed them from this list
– Added SocialSEO to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added WriterZen to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Updated revenue numbers for Serpstat from $840,000 to $2.6M πŸ’°
– Added SEO & digital marketing agency Ignite Visibility to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added proxy service and SERP scraper Oxylabs to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added AI-powered SEO software, WordLift, so the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added UK-based digital marketing agency Impression on the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Massively updated my statements on Ahrefs and the revenue they’re generating πŸ’°
– Added ecommerce SEO agency InboundPursuit to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added Dutch full-service marketing agency MvH media to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Added SEO Butler to the list for the first time πŸŽ‰
– Shared more details about Moz’s acquisition and comments about the brand given to shareholders
– Updated revenue figures for Go Local Interactive from $12.1M to $24.2M πŸ’°
– Updated BrightEdge revenue numbers from $50M to $22.6M. I should note that there are varying reports here. πŸ’°
– Added a new success story, Centori, to the list πŸŽ‰
– Updated revenue numbers for RankScience πŸ’°
– Updated revenue numbers for SEO agency, Growth Machine πŸ’°
– Removed NinjaOutreach (previously $50K/m) because they were acquired and getting new revenue numbers is unlikely
– Updated revenue numbers for Credo from $32,000 per month to ~$48,000 per month πŸ’°
– Changed Ayima’s annual revenue numbers from $18M to $14.3M based on their public statements πŸ’°
– Removed LinkResearchTools ($5M annual revenue) as the numbers were a few years old and it’s my understanding they no longer wish to share them
– BuzzSumo – doing $450,000 per month – was acquired by Brandwatch who were then acquired by Cision. I have removed them as I don’t think we’ll ever get accurate numbers again.
– Increased PlumberSEO revenue from $3.3M annually to $5M πŸ’°
– AuthorityLabs – over $2m in annual revenue – was removed as I can’t find updated revenue numbers and they haven’t updated their blog (or Twitter) in over two years.
– Rankwatch ($2.3M in annual revenue) was removed as updated revenue numbers are not known. 4 years out of date is a little too much for this page.
– gShift – doing $2-5M in annual revenue – was acquired by Mintent. We removed it from our list as future revenues are unknown.
– Changed ThirdDoorMedia revenues from $10M annually to an estimated $6-7M
– Updated The Hoth revenue from $10.4M to $26.5M πŸ’°
– Updated Rankings.io annual revenues from $2M to $12M πŸ’°
– Removed SoloSEO, which seemingly went from $48m/year to zero
– SEMrush became Semrush (sans the capitalised ‘SEM’) and a publicly listed company trading as $SEMR
– Ahrefs went from $40M ARR to $100M+ πŸ’°
– Yext went from $280M in annual revenue to $390M+ since the original post πŸ’°
– I removed GoPBN as there no longer appears to be a ‘face’ behind the operation
– Removed TTT as I don’t have updated revenue numbers for them
– Moved this article from Gaps where it was originally published

With the SEO industry expected to generate $122 billion in revenue by 2028, who is actually making that money, and are there opportunities for those of us with the necessary skills to get a slice of the action?

These are the questions I looked to answer with this in-depth report on the most successful companies in the space.

I haven’t tried to include every SEO brand out there – agencies alone would make this list enormous – but rather focused on showing a variety of the ways people are making money.

For the 2023 version of this report I’ve spent over 100 hours updating it to keep it as accurate as possible. I’ve had to delete thousands of words on companies that are no longer active or no longer share updated revenue numbers.

Speaking of which, as far as I know there are five exclusive annual revenue figures below that haven’t been shared elsewhere.

That said, I should make the disclaimer that you shouldn’t take the revenue numbers I’m sharing as fact. Many are self-reported, and some are based on my own calculations where I may have made mistakes, though I’ve shown my working out and I’m happy to rectify anything.

(Also, my understanding is that many agencies report money they receive for paid advertising campaigns as agency revenue, so keep that in mind as well.)

Let’s dive in…

#1

Centori – $28,800 in Annual Revenue

SEO Coaching and Software

Centori originally started life as a tool called ‘BlogTrackr’ to help companies with how they position themselves, but after a few iterations found itself on a new path focused on people who want to rank their websites higher in search engines.

With revenue numbers verified by Stripe (via IndieHackers), the SEO coaching and slack community currently generates around $2,400 per month.

Whenever I update this report I like to show a smaller, more “realistic” success story to start things off and Centori fits the bill.

Their revenue is currently a little erratic, and I don’t think they’ve truly found product market fit, but I wish them the best of luck.

#2

Front Page SEO πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί – $144,000 in Annual Revenue

SEO and Content Creation

Based out of Brisbane, Australia and founded by Janet Camilleri, Front Page SEO started life as Front Page Web Writing back in 2014.

It was until 2021 that Janet decided to rebrand the company to adopt a clearer SEO-focus and started offering audits, keyword research and workshops.

Thanks to this 2022 interview we can see that she’s currently generating around $12,000 per month.

I have to say that after looking at literally thousands of SEO agency websites over the years, Janet’s site isn’t fully polished but I just love how personal it is. I imagine that goes a long way in attracting clients to her services.

#3

SEOButler – $268,000 in Annual Revenue

Content and Link Building Solutions

Towards the end of 2022, SEO Butler was acquired by the public company Onfolio Holdings, trading as $ONFO on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Because of the acquisition, we know that SEO Butler was generating $268,000 in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

Onfolio acquired SEO Butler for $950,000, or a 3.54x multiple.

I generally assume that a company is making the most money from the offering it tries to promote the most, and the first thing you’re directed to buy on the SEOButler website is their content writing services.

At the time of writing, a 3,000-word article would set you back $210. That goes up to $405 for a 3,000-word article if you want it to be optimized with the SEO tool ‘Surfer’.

While I’m not sure we’ll get exact numbers for SEOButler going forward, we will be able to follow the success of Onfolio as a whole, so I’m sure there will be more updates to come here.

#4

Credo – ~$500,000 in Annual Revenue

Agency Matchmaking

It’s been impressive to watch Credo founder John Doherty go from running the marketing team at HotPads (an arm of Zillow) to starting what is essentially a digital marketing matchmaking service for those looking for quality, vetted service providers.

In the first published version of this report Credo revenue numbers were revealed in an interview as being $32,000 per month. Updated for 2023, based on our independent research, we have increased this to $48,000 per month.

These numbers are not exact as there will be monthly fluctuations, but you can see it as a fair average.

While Credo isn’t just about connecting people with SEOs, it’s certainly the industry that led to me knowing about John and their headline (pictured above) mentions SEO.

#5

Indexsy πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ – $598,000 in Annual Revenue

Enterprise SEO Services

Branding themselves as an “enterprise SEO solution”, Indexsy was founded by someone known for building in public, Jacky Chou.

Despite how successful Indexsy has become, it is not actually Jacky’s biggest source of income, which goes to show you can offer services people are happy to pay for and focus on other projects at the same time.

I can’t tell you if they make exceptions to only helping enterprise customers, but unlike most other companies on this list their service offerings are only SEO related (many others also offer PPC management, website design and so on).

Indexsy numbers are recent as of 2023, with $598,000 being their 2022 generated revenue.

#6

WriterZen πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬ – Just Raised $1.35M with 12,000 Customers

SEO content platform

WriterZen are the only company on this list where I don’t have any financials for them, but I wanted to share their story because I think they’ll be an interesting company to watch going forward.

Especially when just a couple of months ago (November of 2022) they raised $1.35M to take their AI-powered SEO content creation software to the next level.

Tracking the SEO industry shouldn’t just be about who is already doing well, but who is up and coming as well (or at least, that’s my take).

An interesting stat revealed alongside their funding round is that they currently have over 12,000 users.

Based on how much they raised and their pricing, that’s a little bit strange to me. Would you raise $1.35M if you’re pulling in over $324,000 per month (cheapest paid plan x 12,000 customers)?

I think this customer number means:

  • Those are not all still active, paying customers (but that doesn’t make sense to announce when you raise money)
  • They have a lot of customers paying less than their current pricing plans
  • Their margins are small
  • They only gave away a very small part of their company

I’ll see if I can get more details on this but as I say, with how popular AI-powered content creation is becoming these days, I’ll be watching how they use this injection of cash.

#7

Demandwell – $1.8M in Annual Revenue (Raised $5M)

Content Production SaaS

Indeanapolis-based Demandwell describes their software offering as a “content product suite” to help you drive an impact with SEO.

After just 18 months in business they were able to reach $1.8M in annual revenue, as verified by GetLatka and discussed on the SaaSClub podcast.

Like similar tools, the way Demandwell appears to work is that you start with a few keyword ideas for articles and then their software helps to create an outline you can then “flesh out”. There’s a bit more to it than that, so I recommend checking out their features page if you want a more detailed walkthrough.

In January of 2022 they secured $5M in seed funding to help “accelerate the transformation of the SEO industry”.

In the 2024 update of this report I’ll let you know if they’re closer to making that happen.

#8

WordLift.io – $1.9M in Annual Revenue

SEO & Content Marketing Services

WordLift markets itself as an AI-powered tool that helps you get more search engine traffic.

Among the customers featured on their homepage there are some impressive names like Airbnb, Oakley and Ray-Ban.

Their primary offering focuses on helping you add structured data to your content, with plugins for the likes of WordPress that sit beside your content as you’re writing.

They first revealed their revenue on an interview with Nathan Latka, sharing they had made $1M in 2021.

This was updated in 2022 to reveal their annual revenues now being $1.9M.

Note: I don’t often find Nathan’s numbers to be accurate in terms of dates (I’ve covered this in more detail below) because he often writes 2022 next to older revenue figures, but this time he’s updated a 2021 revenue figure, so I believe it is accurate.

#9

Inbound Pursuit πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί – $2M+ in Annual Revenue ($1M+ Profit)

e-commerce SEO agency

Inbound Pursuit is an Ecommerce SEO Agency that was founded by Keval Shah just a few years ago.

I’ve followed Keval on Twitter for a while now and he’s regularly talking about the success of his agency and the results he’s been able to achieve for his clients.

In 2023 Keval shared that the revenue for his agency is over $2M per year, with more than $1M of that being profit.

With all respect to Keval, I think if you took one look at his agency website you wouldn’t assume it’s the success story that it is. There’s little to no personality to the design or anything about Keval himself, which is the complete opposite of his Twitter persona.

I have a feeling he’s an incredible salesman when potential client opportunities come up, but it doesn’t hurt if you’re getting great results as well.

#10

MvH Media πŸ‡³πŸ‡± – $2.59M+ in Annual Revenue

full-service agency primarily focused on SEO services

The Financial Times listed MvH Media as one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies for 2022.

With annual revenues of €2.39M (or around $2.59M USD), they’re a full-service Dutch digital marketing agency that appears to primarily focus on SEO services (it’s the first service offering on their homepage).

My Dutch isn’t great even though I’ve been to the Netherlands more than 20 times in my life, but even then I can see they’re clearly doing well in the country with 13 nominations for the 2022 Dutch Search Awards.

Another nice thing about having their revenue verified by the Financial Times is that we can also see some other numbers, like that they have 29 staff, and a compound annual growth rate of 63.73%.

#11

Serpstat πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ – $2.6M in Annual Revenue

SEO Software Platform

Ukrainian-based Serpstat describe themselves as “The growth hacking tool for SEO and content marketing” and lay claim to being the most upvoted SEO tool on ProductHunt.

Their primary focus is to help you perform keyword research and track Google rankings for any brand on the web.

When this report first launched Sepstat revenues were recorded as $840,000 per year.

Now in 2023 they’ve confirmed to me (which I think is an exclusive) that they are now generating $2.6M in annual revenue.

#12

Growth Machine – $2.8M in Annual Revenue

SEO & Content Marketing Services

Growth Machine was founded by Nat Eliason, an entrepreneur I now consider a friend (at least in “met and chat sometimes on the internet” terms).

His agency was on track to pull in 7-figures in just its second year, and when this report first went live we revealed they had around $85,000 in monthly revenue.

Now, as of 2023, the company pulls in around $83,000 per month in revenue offering content, link building and on-site audit services. This was verified by our own research.

#13

RankScience – $3M+ in Annual Revenue

SEO Split Testing

Rank Science offers automated SEO split testing, designed to help you tweak a % of pages on your site to find what Google and other search engines are looking for so you can implement winning variations across the board.

Since the original version of our report Rank Science have received an additional $1.8 million in funding from investors, taking their total to $1.9 million. This not only shows the potential for the brand but also the belief in both their model and execution.

They’re in an interesting space with few competitors (for now) and have some impressive brands on their client roster.

Updated for 2023, we have independently verified they are now doing more than $3M in annual revenue (up from around $960,000 per year previously).

#14

WordAgents – $3.3M in Annual Revenue

SEO content services

With some well ranking sites like DigitalTrends on their client roster, WordAgents offer content writing services with a particular focus on helping customers increase organic search traffic.

They have quite a few different options available, but three packages they offer at the time of writing are:

  • Silver package: 20,000 words of content for $1,300
  • Gold package: 60,000 words of content for $3,600
  • Platinum package: 100,000 words of content for $5,500

There appears to be no different in the quality you’ll get for the packages. Just that the more you pay, the less you pay per word.

They also have smaller options starting at $70 for 1,000 words of content.

While WordAgents are undoubtedly a success story offering a much-needed service, it’s important to keep in mind that I would expect their outgoings are high also. After all, they have to pay writers to produce all of that content as well.

Revenue numbers have been updated now in 2023, based on the revenue they generated for 2022.

#15

PlumberSEO – $5M in Annual Revenue

SEO & Website Design

If you’ve read any of my writing over the years you’ll know I’m a huge advocate for going niche if you’re to offer SEO services so I had to include one of my favourite examples of that: PlumberSEO.net.

See, you can still have success even when the dot com is taken.

Reporting to Inc.com they revealed their 2017 revenues were $3.3M, with three-year growth of 78%.

More recently I found this interview showing they did $5M in 2020 revenue.

I wish there were more recent numbers, but this is such a cool example (and still an active business) that I had to keep it in the list.

One of the main reasons going niche can work so well is potential clients instantly think, “Yep, that’s the company for me.”

They’re limiting the number of companies they can work with, but their close rate is likely far higher because of it.

#16

ThirdDoorMedia – $6-7M in Annual Revenue

SEO news & conferences

You may not know the name ThirdDoorMedia, but you may know their popular media brands like Search Engine Land and MarTech, or their marketing conferences (primarily for SEOs) such as SMX.

Founded by Danny Sullivan – who now works at Google as their public Search Liaison – Third Door Media primarily generates revenue from advertising and event sponsorships.

When I first released this guide, annual revenue for ThirdDoorMedia was reported as $10M. They had revealed their revenue numbers to Inc to get on their annual Inc 5,000 list.

The most recent revenue estimates I see around the web are in the $6M to $7M range.

Generally I wouldn’t include a listing if it’s just based on estimates, but they’re such a leader in this SEO news space (and it was verified they were making $10M annually at one point) that I think they would be missed.

#17

Impression πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ – $7.8M in Annual Revenue

digital marketing agency with an SEO focus

With offices in Nottingham and London, Impression is a UK-based digital marketing agency with a primary focus on offering SEO services.

In November of 2022, co-founder Aaron Dicks revealed the company were generating around $650,000 per month, and on track to hit their goal of Β£10M per year ($12.2M).

I tend to prefer companies that are solely focused on SEO and while that isn’t the case with Impression, SEO is a huge part of what they do.

The first testimonial on their homepage is for their SEO offering, and it’s also the first thing they highlight on their services page. The first award they show on both of those pages is also winning ‘SEO Agency of the Year’ at the Global Digital Excellence Awards.

#18

Helium SEO – $8M in Annual Revenue

SEO and digital marketing agency

Making it onto the Inc 5000 for 2022 – their first time on the list – things are growing quickly over at Helium SEO.

BizJournals helped me get started with their revenue numbers, but their most recent revenue calculation is my own.

Previous years’ revenues they’ve disclosed were:

  • 2018: $796,061
  • 2019: $2.9M
  • 2020: $4.2M

As the Inc 5000 for 2022 takes into account 2021 revenue numbers – where they state having 971% three-year growth, I now estimate that Helium SEO are doing around $8M in annual revenue.

Like many SEO agencies on this page and around the world, they don’t just offer SEO services, but SEO is clearly their focus when it’s in the name of the company and the first offering you’ll find in their navigation bar.

#19

Rankings.io – $12.1M Annual Revenue

SEO for Lawyers

Chris Dreyer’s Rankings.io is a great example of what I’ve taught people for years when I recommend they go niche with their marketing agency.

The business was founded in 2013, and as of 2022 they have now been on the Inc 5000 for five years in a row, which is incredibly impressive.

Annual revenues for the year were noted as being $12M.

Inc rankings are based on revenue and growth rate, and Rankings.io’s listing on the platform shows their three-year growth rate as 156%.

Chris is a well-known name in the SEO world so it’s great to see he’s doing so well.

It’s interesting to note that the branding of the business has been tweaked slightly from when we first published this article.

I’m fascinated by their positioning, so I like to track how their homepage headline has been changing. Here’s some of the evolution so far:

  • Original headline: Grow Your Law Firm with First Page Rankings
  • 2020 headline: We help elite personal injury law firms dominate first page rankings
  • 2023 headline: The SEO agency of choice for personal injury lawyers and other elite law firms

Notice the change to specifically call out personal injury lawyers, which is where they must have been finding their most success in converting potential clients (and getting great results).

#20

Ayima πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ͺ – $14.3M in Annual Revenue

Performance SEO & digital marketing agency

Due to being a public company, each quarter Ayima must share their financials for investors to look over. These numbers are reported in SEK (Swedish Krona) due to where the company was founded.

I should note that they also have offices in the UK πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§, Canada πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦, the US πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ and Hong Kong πŸ‡­πŸ‡°.

Their most recent annual revenue numbers have been reported as being 150.24M SEK which converts to around $14.39M USD at the time of writing.

I’ve updated the numbers for 2023 which is one of the nice things about tracking publicly-listed companies.

On the UK-targeted version of their website they describe themselves as a “SEO and digital marketing agency” and feature clients like the popular budget-airline, Easyjet.

#21

Thrive Agency – $18.7M in Annual Revenue

SEO and digital marketing agency

Thrive Internet Marketing Agency holds the impressive accolade of being featured on the Inc 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies for six years in a row.

When listed on the Inc 5000 back in 2018, their annual revenues were reported as being $6.3M. For 2022 they were reported as having 197% three-year growth, which would bring their annual revenue to around $18.7M for the previous year.

This lines up with what they revealed in a December 2020 Mixergy interview stating they were doing over $15M per year. So while I wouldn’t take my figure above to be perfectly accurate, it’s as close as you’re going to find without them revealing the specific numbers again.

I should clarify that they are not just an SEO agency, but the first three services they offer on their header menu (SEO, Local SEO & Technical SEO) definitely show where their priorities lie.

#22

Ignite Visibility – $18.9M in Annual Revenue

SEO and Digital Marketing agency

I have a bit of a soft spot for Ignite Visibility.

Back when I was 16 years old and blogging about SEO for the first time (on a site you may be familiar with, ViperChill), Ignite Visibility were a fast-growing agency that inspired me to keep going when attracting clients was tough.

I remember talking to the founder a few times via email and blog comments and that was a big deal for teenage Glen.

If memory serves, they were primarily focused on social media marketing at the time rather than SEO, but they definitely offer SEO services today. It’s not their only offering, but it is the first service they mention on their homepage.

What’s particularly impressive to me is that they’ve been on the Inc 5,000 list of the fastest-growing companies six years running (!).

As Inc doesn’t reveal revenues anymore, I based my calculations based on the revenue from their 2019 listing (which was $9.4M) and their latest 2022 listing, where three-year growth is written as 101%.

In other words, my reported figures aren’t perfect but likely very close the actual number.

#23

SocialSEO – $19.7M in Annual Revenue (Close Estimation)

SEO and Digital Marketing services

I was hesitant to put SocialSEO on this list because an acquisition means this is likely the last time I’ll be able to report on their revenue.

I’m writing this knowing I’ll have to delete it in a year or two but I think they have a story worth telling, so it’s worth the effort.

Originally known as Pikes Peak SEO, SocialSEO has been on the Inc 5,000 list and impressive six times in a row, including for 2022.

I don’t have exact revenue numbers for them, but a press release in 2018 showed they were expecting to pass the $10M mark for 2019. If we then take their 2022 three-year growth rate from Inc, we can extrapolate they’re doing around $19.7M in annual revenue currently.

More recently, SocialSEO joined a few other agencies and became part of Intero Digital, a Colorado-based digital marketing agency who have worked with Google, Jaguar, Oracle and National Geographic.

With over 350 employees making up the combined entity, I don’t think we’ll see any more numbers from SocialSEO on its own going forward, but at least as of 2023 they’re one incredible success story.

P.S. The building and logo in their website header (pictured above) are real. If you’ve read our behind-the-scenes article on blog header images, you’ll know I love this kind of thing for some weird reason.

#24

Go Local Interactive – $24.2M in Annual Revenue

Local SEO services

Go Local Interactive dub themselves as a full-service digital marketing agency but when the first three calls to action on their homepage are focused on SEO, it’s fair to ranking clients higher in search engines is a priority for them.

The original revenues published in this report were $12.1M, which was shared when they were listed on the Inc 5000 for 2018. They were again present on the Inc 5000 list in 2021, though Inc no longer shares revenue numbers for companies.

It’s pretty rare to see companies in the Inc 5000 list with less than 100% three-year growth so it’s fair to say GoLocalInteractive are making at least $24M in annual revenue, and possibly a lot more.

#25

The Hoth – $26.5M in Annual Revenue

link building & content services

They have raving fans, vocal critics and over 300,000 customers.

Whatever you feel about link building and content services from The Hoth, one thing is clear: They know how to sell them.

Hoth, which stands for “hit ’em over the head” was founded in 2010 and later acquired by Next Net Media which also owns Backlinks.com.

If you’re a Detailed reader you may recognise them as the only link building company I’ve reviewed (so far).

For the sixth year in a row they’ve made it on the Inc 5,000 list of the fastest-growing private companies, with three-year growth of 155%.

Previous revenue numbers we had for them were $10.4M – which was revealed to Inc – so this lines up.

BizJournals report their annual revenue as slightly higher than our estimate, but I don’t know how they came to their calculations so it seems safer to stick to our smaller claim.

#26

Oxylabs πŸ‡±πŸ‡Ή – $27.1M in Annual Revenue

Proxies and SERP Scraping

While you can’t call Oxylabs an SEO agency or a business that focuses solely on SEO, it does allow a lot of SEOs and SEO tool providers to fulfill their offering.

On the surface, Oxylabs is a proxy service provider. The simple definition is that they let you crawl and scrape data from around the internet, and they have millions (literally) of IP addresses you can use so you don’t get “blocked” in the process.

Of the first five potential uses for their offering on their homepage, one of them is described as ‘SEO monitoring’, and they also have a dedicated service page for people looking to scrape and extract data from search results (like Google’s).

I don’t use Oxylabs, though I do use a competing product, and I know how large companies like to rely on others to do this work rather than build out their own offering.

As they were featured in the Financial Times’ fastest-growing companies for 2022, we know their most recently shared revenue numbers were €25M (or around $27.1M USD) and that they have 245 employees.

#27

Moz – $60M in Annual Revenue

SEO SOFTWARE PLATFORM

When I started in SEO, Moz were undoubtedly the number one brand in the space.

Not only did they have the most popular blog, but they invested millions of dollars into building a Software as a Service platform to help people rank their sites higher in Google.

That was over a decade ago now and while Moz aren’t on the top spot anymore (Semrush and Ahrefs definitely have more market share), they’re still a big player in the space.

Moz built annual revenues to over $60M β€” with $30M in investment over multiple funding rounds used to help them get there.

In June of 2021 Moz were acquired by iContact, a subsidiary of J2Global. Today, J2Global are known as Ziff Davis, a publicly-listed company trading as $ZD on the Nasdaq exchange.

Unfortunately Ziff Davis has not shared any revenue numbers of Moz that I know of, but they do comment on them in investor meetings. Here’s a 2022 quote that I thought was interesting,

It’s interesting with Moz. When we acquired Moz we knew we had a company in a very important space, search engine optimization, that had a really storied position but, as a business, wasn’t really delivering any profitability. And as we often do in situations like that, our immediate focus was how do we extract margin, how do we extract earnings from the business. And that was job one, which has been accomplished and done.

In other words, they weren’t very profitable, but Ziff Davis has managed to turn that around.

Typically I would remove a business for lack of any recent revenue numbers, but because Moz are such a big player in this space – and it’s clear they’re doing tens of millions in revenue – I’m going to hold out in the hope I’ll be able to get more recent numbers at some point in the future.

#28

BrightEdge – $60-120M in Annual Revenue

SEO & Content Marketing Platform

It’s hard for me to like BrightEdge. They started (and lost) a four-year legal battle with Searchmetrics who they claimed were infringing on their SEO-related patents. The five BridghtEdge patents up for discussion were later invalidated.

My personal feelings aside, BrightEdge has built something that many companies are happy to pay for. Their platform, which they describe as “driving the convergence of SEO and content marketing” is relied on by some of the biggest brands in the world.

The first-ever version of this report had their annual revenue at $50M, which was taken from their Inc 5,000 list profile, back in 2015.

Reports from other sites estimate anywhere from $60 – $120M, but I can’t find any evidence of those numbers. No two websites can agree on their numbers, but I do promise to update this if I can find more concrete reports.

Update: Since this article went live I’ve been told by some people I respect BrightEdge are closer to the $100M annual revenue mark. I’ve sent out some emails to try and verify this, but I’ll likely remove them if I can’t find anything conclusive.

#29

Ahrefs – $100M+ in Annual Revenue

SEO SOFTWARE PLATFORM

When I released the first version of this report a few years ago, Ahrefs were one of the only estimations on this list as at they time they didn’t like to talk about their revenues.

I had predicted they were doing around $40-$50M in annual revenue. A prediction which was essentially “laughed at” by the founder of another brand on this list for being too low.

It turns out I was right, as Ahrefs verified they were doing $40M ARR at the time.

Today, Ahrefs are a little less secretive about how well their company is doing, revealing in 2020 that their annual revenues were $66M.

In 2022 they revealed to TechCrunch that they were generating more than $100M per year from over 50,000 customers, with just 90 employees.

#30

Semrush – $267M in Annual Revenue

SEO SOFTWARE PLATFORM

Offering a wide range of tools to help you reverse engineer the success of your competitors, Semrush appear to be everywhere these days.

Like Ahrefs, they were always fairly secretive about their actual revenue numbers, but now that they’re a publicly listed company (trading as $SEMR), we have a lot more insights into how well they’re doing.

Not only can we track their financials, but they also share how many customers they have and the kind of growth trajectory they’re on.

I’ve been updating this article for a while, so I have some numbers I imagine nobody else is nerdy enough to keep track of (unless they’re a direct competitor):

  • December 2019: 54,000 customers
  • March 2021: 67,000 customers
  • March 2022: 87,000 customers
  • September 2022: 94,000 customers

If you do some basic maths, they’re getting around 1,166 new customers per month, or 38 per day. This number is probably a bit higher, because it doesn’t take into account people no longer using their services as well.

#31

Yext – $390.6M Annual Revenue

One of the nice things about having public companies on this list is that I’m always going to have revenue numbers for them and they’re always going to be up to date.

The latest full-year financials shared from Yext ($YEXT) show them pulling in over $300M in 2022.

What may surprise you is that Yext is generating those revenue numbers from just 2,700 customers. And that’s actually a 15% increase year over year.

That number might sound high, until you compare it to the likes of Ahrefs (50,000+ customers) or Semrush (94,000 customers) then you realise how much some brands must be paying them.

While many may no longer view Yext as just an SEO company, for years seven of the twelve solutions they presented to clients were all SEO-focused.

Every time I update this report there are always companies I know are successful but can’t find any recent revenue numbers for.

Some companies I would have loved more info on include:

  • Victorious SEO (5x on the Inc 5000)
  • SEO Werkz (5x on the Inc 5000)
  • Moz – they used to be completely transparent about their exact revenue numbers
  • ThirdDoorMedia – Google’s Danny Sullivan is still a shareholder in the company (as far as I can tell) and they have a hugely popular media brand in this space

As per the introduction, I have made attempts for my numbers to be accurate, but please don’t take them as fact. I have removed thousands of words of content from previous years’ updates because numbers are too out of date.

I really hope you found this insightful, but there is more…



Though the above list is just a small sample of companies that are succeeding in the SEO world, it’s pretty clear that the companies which make the most revenue are typically reliant on offering services or software.

Many transitioned from one to the other, such as Moz which started as an SEO consultancy before making the switch.

Few do both.

#1

Building a Profitable SEO Agency (Based on Personal Experience)

I’m not going to promise that you can generate 7-figures selling SEO services, but it is something I’ve done myself so I feel pretty qualified to talk about it.

If you aren’t too familiar with my backstory, my first online success was working on a Myspace alternative for DJ’s when I was 16 years old.

It quickly grew to 10,000+ members and was even featured in the book DJ’ing for Dummies.

My job was to help get more people to the site, so I started looking into how Google worked and was able to rank the site on the first page of Google for terms like ‘DJ forums’ and ‘DJ equipment’.

I know this sounds cheesy but I fell in love with SEO overnight. I finally started to understand how this service I used every single day actually worked, and at the time it felt like a superpower.

That same year I started a blog and SEO ‘agency’, ViperChill, sharing everything I had learned. It wasn’t pretty, but not bad for one of the first websites I created.

It was built in ASP.net which I had very little knowledge about

Yep, submitting your website to search engines (left navigation link) was a big deal back then, and one of the biggest offerings online.

After discovering SEO, all I wanted to do was improve the websites of other people, so offering SEO services was a no-brainer.

My dream took a long time to become a reality though, and one of the main things I put that down to is trying to help anyone and everyone. I wasn’t focused on who I wanted to help, or how I wanted to help them.

I ended up giving up on my dream of selling SEO services until I realised that knowing how to sell was just as important (if not more so) than trying to become the world’s best SEO. (A weird goal I had at the time, especially because there’s no way to determine the best…and it doesn’t really matter).

If I’m being totally honest, I think it’s clear that ‘general’ agencies which don’t focus on a niche can make a lot more money than specialised ones.

The downside I’ve found though is that they tend to need to have offices, presence around the world and a sales team who know how to pitch connections and broker big deals.

That’s not the kind of thing I’ve ever wanted to be involved in.

Going niche with your agency can give potential clients the feeling that “this is the company for me” and also means they’re often happy to go outside of their local area.

From my personal experience, your two best opportunities are to either go niche with the service you’re offering (e.g. website audits) or the industry you’re looking to help (e.g. Rankings.io above focused on lawyers, or PlumberSEO focused on plumbers and HVAC specialists).

I’ve had a lot of success selling audits β€” generating six-figure profits from $40 videos – and have a hugely detailed guide on exactly that over here.

Our offering went from $40 all the way to $8,000 (link above)

It’s as relevant now in 2023 than ever before.

Learn how to do SEO (I’m biased, but I put my all into SEO Blueprint and along with Detailed it’s my primary focus for 2023).

Learn how to sell your offering.

And if you’re really serious about trying to change your life offering SEO services, go all-in.

Find interviews with every agency owner you can. Read books on sales. Reach out to agency owners, try to give value, and see if they have any advice on offer.

Become so good at your specialty (link building, audits, keyword research, local SEO, creating content that ranks) or know so much about your ideal client (lawyers, gym owners, plumbers, SaaS companies) that it’s a no-brainer to work with you when you talk with potential customers.

#2

The Gaps in the SEO Software Market

I’ve built a WordPress plugin that generated $300K+ in revenue and our Detailed SEO extension for Chrome (free) is about to hit 100,000 weekly users so I have some experience in what I’m about to say, but not as much as offering services.

If you’ve been reading my content for longer than this year, you’ll likely know that finding “gaps” in profitable markets is something I love to do.

Numerous people have said I helped them make millions due to the guides I share and that’s something that still blows my mind to this day.

I don’t say this to brag, but because I don’t think I’m about to reveal any gaps at all.

In fact, I think your best chance of success in such a huge market is just to model what people are clearly happy to pay for already.

There are hundreds of rank trackers.

Dozens of software providers to find domains for your private blog network.

More site audit tools than anyone could ever get around to using.

And countless companies helping you research your competitors’ links, rankings and most-shared content.

That last point includes (but is not limited to):

  • Ahrefs
  • BuzzSumo
  • Mangools
  • Majestic
  • Morning Score
  • Monitor Backlinks
  • Moz
  • Searchmetrics
  • Semrush
  • SE Ranking
  • Serpstat
  • SEO Powersuite
  • Similarweb
  • Sistrix
  • Spyfu
  • UberSuggest

If so many can exist and thrive now, my point is that there’s probably room for one more.

PICTURED: Some of the lesser-known, but very active, Semrush & Ahrefs competitors

Side note: Getting involved in this specific kind of business can be insanely expensive. Semrush might have generated $267M in the past 12 months, but they aren’t making a profit.

I’m currently working on some software in the SEO space and my approach is simple: Add improvements I personally need and think are missing from a type of niche tool people already find value from.

I wouldn’t build upon something if the solution already existed exactly as I wanted it to.

Examples of the kind of niche tools I’m referring to include:

  • ScreamingFrog (a desktop crawler for website audits)
  • LinkWhisper (a WordPress plugin to help with internal linking)
  • AlsoAsked (keyword insights from Google’s People Also Asked feature)

I picked these three because they’re fairly niche in what they offer but also popular at the same time. Not because I think you can (or should) go and compete with them.

I could go on, but you hopefully get the idea.

To have success in the SEO software space, I don’t think you have to be the first to create something. You can succeed by building the next one of something that already exists.

From there you can compete on price. Marketing. Customer support and ideally, features you want but you can’t find elsewhere.

I’m not saying you can’t make money with a completely new platform or tool idea β€” every niche had its first.

Just in my experience you’ll likely spend a lot of time educating people on what your tool actually does and why it’s better than what’s out there, rather than just being seen as a competitor to an existing solution people already understand.

This guide just hit the 7,000 word mark so I think this is a pretty great place to stop.

I really hope you got value from this.

If you haven’t noticed (this is our third content piece for 2023) I’m going to be producing more content on SEO this year than I ever have before, so of course I have to recommend subscribing to our newsletter below if you don’t want to miss the updates.

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