Scaling an agency isn’t easy.
It’s impossible if everything revolves around you. You’re juggling sales, employee onboarding, deliverables, and a whole lot more.
That’s why you need SOPs.
An SOP is a standardized way of doing something. It offers step-by-step, detailed instructions on how to carry out a task.
We use SOPs all the time to help deliver consistent, scalable services.
With SOPs in place, you can delegate more effectively, streamline your workflows, and deliver the same great service to your clients every time.
In this guide, we’ll reveal how you can create SOPs for your agency.
- What an SOP is
- Why SOPs are important for agencies
- The tasks you can create SOPs for
- How to write an effective SOP
What Is An SOP?
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of written step-by-step instructions on performing a specific task or process. It’s a detailed checklist that makes sure everyone performing the task does it the same way.
SOPs are about determining and documenting the best way to do things.
This minimizes the risk of misunderstandings or mistakes. It also helps your agency maintain a consistent quality of work.
Why Are Standard Operating Procedures Important For Agencies?
Having SOP documents can be a game changer for your agency. Here’s why:
Outlining the best ways to handle tasks helps team members achieve high standards consistently. Whether you’re working on a project for Client A or Client Z, the execution is performed with the same level of precision.
This is super helpful if you outsource any of your deliverables. Freelancers and outside partners have clear guidelines to follow.
SOPs help to streamline repetitive processes. Instead of wasting time figuring things out or doing things differently each time, your team members have a direct set of instructions to follow.
This makes scaling your agency, growing your team, and taking on more clients much easier.
And if someone is unavailable or leaves, having an SOP minimizes the disruption. Your team can step in and perform the tasks they were responsible for to the same standard.
Create SOPs for EVERYTHING in your agency. Never be left hanging when a contractor disappears. Never spend weeks onboarding someone new.
— Pierre de Preux (@Pierre_dePreux) July 6, 2022
Training And Onboarding
Bringing new hires up to speed can be challenging.
In a Zippia survey of people who had left a job after 6 months or less, receiving clear guidance and more effective training were ranked as the top two things that companies could have done to make the new employee stay:
SOPs offer clear guidelines and assist with training. New employees can understand their responsibilities and what they need to do without constant guidance.
Standard Operating Procedure Examples For Agencies
There are a bunch of tasks that your team performs regularly. Once you’ve worked out the best way to do a task, you can create an SOP.
Once you have nailed a process in your business that works, create an SOP that standardises the process. As you grow these will become key.
— Craig Zingerline (@craigzingerline) February 16, 2022
Here are a few SOP examples for processes that can be standardized:
While each client will have unique needs, you can streamline the onboarding process by having systematic procedures in place.
You can create SOPs for establishing the scope of work, communication, contracts, NDAs, and other documentation. The basic structure for your initial SEO assessment can also be standardized.
This way, every client gets the same great start.
Keyword research is one of the most time-consuming activities for any SEO. You can streamline the process with an SOP.
This is also a task that you can outsource. If your team is struggling to keep up, consider using a white-label keyword research service.
An SOP can provide a checklist covering everything from title tags and meta descriptions to content readability and internal linking.
Link building is tough. And if you get it wrong, low-quality links can harm a website’s search ranking.
You can create standard operating procedures to help your team build relevant, quality backlinks. That could include everything from identifying target websites and competitor analysis to blogger outreach.
Technical SEO Audit
A technical SEO audit can be complex. A systematic approach can streamline the audit process. It can help teams identify technical errors that could impact search engine rankings.
You can include which tools to use, what to look for, and how to create technical SEO recommendations.
How To Create An SOP For Your Agency
Here’s how to create clear and actionable SOPs for your agency.
Identify The Need
Start by making a list of tasks that your team performs regularly.
You want to prioritize the processes that have a big impact on client satisfaction or where mistakes happen often. These are the tasks where SOPs will be most beneficial.
It’s a good idea to consult your team. Are there any internal processes they find tricky or specific areas they believe should have a set way of doing things?
Gather Relevant Information
The next step is to gather the information you need to create a step-by-step guide.
Your best resource is team members with first-hand experience of the task. They can offer a practical perspective on what works and what to avoid.
This will ensure that the SOP document is based on actual practice and solves a real-world problem.
It’s also worth checking if there are any informal existing resources. You may find makeshift guides, notes, and even memos that can provide a foundation for your SOP.
Before you start fleshing out your SOP, compare your current methods with industry best practices. There might be more efficient ways to perform the task.
Structure The SOP
Using the same SOP format simplifies the creation process. It also makes it easier for team members to follow any new SOP they pick up – they know what to expect.
Here’s how to structure your SOP template:
A clear, descriptive title makes it easy for team members to understand what the SOP covers. For example, if the SOP details the entire keyword research process, you might title it “Keyword Discovery and Analysis Procedures.”
Briefly cover why the SOP is necessary. The goal is to show team members why they should use it.
Explain the impact you want the SOP to have and how it will help your team with their responsibilities.
Define when the SOP should be used. When should team members refer to the guide?
For keyword research, the scope might be “Applicable for all new client content strategies and when optimizing existing content.”
This is the core of the SOP. It should detail the entire process of how to do the task from start to finish.
Outline each step in a logical sequence.
For keyword research, you could start with defining the client’s niche, then creating a list of seed keywords, using SEO tools, analyzing search volume and competition, and so on.
Roles And Responsibilities
Clarify who is responsible for each step. One person might carry out some talks, while others will need the input of several team members.
For example, a junior SEO specialist might handle the initial keyword research, with a senior analyst confirming the final keyword selection.
Tools And Resources
Specify any tools and resources required to complete the task. That could include your internal agency templates and third-party tools.
Write The SOP
The next step is to flesh out the structure.
It’s important to keep the wording actionable and easy to understand. If there are SEO acronyms or terms not everyone on your team might know, provide a quick definition.
You can make the instructions clearer by adding visuals. For example, annotated screenshots can be helpful if your SOP covers using a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs.
Flowcharts can work really well for more complex processes like technical SEO audits. You can illustrate the process and how each step flows to the next.
Our CEO Joe Davies has a great process for automated SOP creation that really cuts down on the time taken to produce a reliable SOP, plus you can always incorporate the video of you completing the steps to really help make everything super clear.
The 60 second SOP ⏰
SOPs are a drag. But they SERIOUSLY change the game if you’re scaling.
This method makes SOP creation super speedy, and kind of addictive.
I guarantee you’ll use it. pic.twitter.com/iwxrisvN0r
— Joe Davies (@fatjoedavies) May 24, 2023
Create SOPs for your agency
Then turn them into content:
You have more existing content than you might think.
— Ryan (@RyanMSchnitzler) January 14, 2023
Review The SOP
Once you’ve finished your first draft, share it with key stakeholders. Their feedback can help you make sure you don’t leave out any important details.
Before you roll out your SOP, test it on someone unfamiliar with the task. See if they run into any problems or get stuck.
This can reveal any steps that need more explanation or if anything is missing.
This week I finally started delegating in my new agency.
What did I learn?
My processes weren’t as buttoned up as I thought.
Best way to improve your SOPs is to start handing them off to other people. Gaps & errors become blatantly obvious REAL fast.
— Shane Martin (@Shane___Martin) June 12, 2023
SOP implementation isn’t just about drafting the document and moving on.
Best practices evolve, your agency might start using new tools, and the way your team works together might change.
An outdated SOP can waste time and resources.
Schedule regular reviews to ensure your SOPs provide the right guidance and help your team do their best work.
Scale Your Agency With SOPs
Without structured processes in place, agency growth can quickly become chaotic.
SOPs help you deliver consistent quality. As you expand and take on a broader range of clients, your team has the resources they need to succeed.
And if you take a two-week vacation from the agency grind, your inbox won’t burst with “HELP!” emails when you return.
Head of Content
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