How Prospective Clients Search for Digital Marketing Services

These days, the digital landscape is more competitive than ever. If companies want to have an edge, a strong online presence is a game-changer. But many organizations don’t have the expertise or capacity they need to accomplish this. 

That’s where digital marketing agencies come in. 

Unfortunately, the online space for marketing services is just as crowded for agencies as it is for everyone else. So if you want to earn your future clients’ business, you first need to prove your mettle by fighting for visibility in the SERPs. 

To learn more about how potential clients are really searching, we examined the top 100 keywords related to “marketing agency” by volume. 

Here’s what we learned.


How People Search for Marketing Agencies

Using the Keyword Magic Tool, we studied the top 100 keywords by volume in the US keyword database, related to the term “marketing agency.” Of these: 

While 15% of the keywords on our list were associated with a specific agency brand, the quality of those keywords varied significantly. For example, the top brand-related keyword by volume was “thrive,” but the intended meaning behind this search is ambiguous. 

“Thrive” could also refer to several unrelated companies, such as cruelty free beauty brand Thrive Causemetics, grocery brand Thrive Market, or the behavior change management focused Thrive Company. Even if we just look at marketing agencies, this keyword could also refer to Thrive Internet Marketing Agency (which ranks at position 10), The Thrive Company, or Thrive Digital. 


As a result, it’s unclear how much of the search volume for this keyword is actually relevant, or which agency it refers to when it is relevant..

The second highest-volume brand-related keyword, “comrade,” did not bring up marketing-related results on the first page at all. Instead, Google understood this as an informational search about the meaning of the word, and the agency in question, Comrade Digital Marketing, appeared on the second page, in position 14. 

Similarly, while keywords like “best agency” or “best digital marketing agency” may in fact refer to NYC-based The Best Agency, and “top agency” might refer to the marketing agency network of the same name, both of those keywords are so general that it’s unclear how much of the search volume is intended to target those specific brands. 

By contrast, the most successful brand keyword on this list was “power digital marketing,” which has an advantage in that it contains the term “digital marketing.” Not only was this the third brand keyword by volume, but all 10 SERP results on the first page — and even the topmost search ad — referred to that agency.

Here are all of the brand-related keywords that appeared on our list: 


Search Volume





power digital marketing


thrive com


thrive company


thrive marketing


dma marketing


best digital marketing agency


top agency


best digital marketing company


power digital


thrive agency


advantage marketing


best agency


thrive logo


Key Takeaway: the value of brand-specific keywords depends heavily on the brand in question. Before investing your time and effort into brand keywords, spend time researching to identify unexpected sources of competition or confusion and decide whether this tactic makes sense for you. 

35% were local or region-specific searches.

In the keywords we examined, 35 of them were local search. Nine of these included the search phrase “near me,” rather than calling out a specific region. 

Of the search terms that did specify a region, New York (with 13 keywords) and Chicago (with six) were the most strongly represented on our list, followed by St. Louis and Miami. Of these, “marketing agency Chicago” had the highest search volume.


Search Volume

marketing agency near me


marketing companies near me


digital marketing agency near me


marketing agency chicago


digital marketing near me


marketing agency new york


marketing near me


marketing agencies nyc


marketing firms near me


marketing firms chicago


Local search actually had an even higher impact than it first appears. In fact, many of the top 100 keywords that did not appear to be local searches nevertheless returned results including a local pack. 

For example, when we looked at the top 10 related keywords by volume (excluding brands and local keywords), nine of them featured a local pack:


Search Volume

advertising agency


digital marketing agency


advertising agencies


seo agencies


marketing company


marketing companies


digital marketing companies


internet marketing agency


Key Takeaway: Local search might impact more keywords than you expect, so make sure you’re optimized for it. This includes maintaining an up-to-date Google Business Profile, and correct address and contact information on your site and in any directory listings.

73% had a commercial search intent.

By comparison 9% of keywords had an informational intent, and 14% of keywords had a transactional intent (a majority of these were also local searches). Only 4% were navigational, and all of them were branded keywords.


What is the difference between commercial and transactional search intent? 

In short, a commercial search intent is when somebody is researching a potential future purchase. In other words, these are prospective clients that are actively interested, but aren’t yet ready to make a final decision. When they’re about ready to sign on the dotted line, that’s when they’ll start using transactional keywords. 

42% referred to a specific type of marketing agency or service.

42 out of 100 keywords referred to a specific type of marketing agency or service. 

Of these, “digital marketing” was the top keyword, at number two, followed by “advertising agency,” at number four.

Digital marketing also had the highest number of individual-related keywords at 36. Popular variations to digital marketing used phrases like “internet marketing,” “online marketing agency,” and “website marketing.” 

Other interesting keywords in this category included: 


Search Volume

SEO agencies


Media agency


Small business marketing companies


Small business marketing agency


Creative agencies NYC


Website agency


Analyzing the Results

Next, we wanted to find out which agencies dominated the first page of the SERPs. So, using Keyboard Overview, we took a closer look at the top 15 commercial keywords in the US database, related to the term “marketing agency.” 

A note on our process: We decided to look at the top 15 keywords rather than the top 10, so that we could compare a few similar keyword variations (i.e. “advertising agencies” vs. “advertising agency”). We also excluded branded keywords from this analysis.


Below are our most notable observations. 

Number Matters: Singular vs. Plural Keywords

The top 10 organic results featured a combination of individual agencies and directory pages or agency lists. Which type of result we saw the most largely hinged on the numerical case of the keyword in question.

In other words, if the keyword was plural (i.e. marketing agencies) then the results were dominated by directories and listicles. If the keyword was singular, then the results mostly tended to be individual agencies. 

Marketing Agency Lists & Directories

The keyword “marketing agencies” had the most directories in its results. In fact, directories won the entire top 10, and three websites (Clutch, Digital Agency Network, and Improvadio) each won two separate positions. 

The runners up each had eight of their top 10 positions belonging to directories: 

  • Advertising agencies
  • Marketing companies
  • Digital marketing companies

As for which directories dominated the SERPs for these keywords, Clutch came in at number one, winning 15 top 10 positions in 14 of the analyzed keywords. The runners up included: 

  • The Manifest: Top 10 for 10 keywords
  • DesignRush: Top 10 for nine keywords
  • Digital Agency Network: Top 10 for five keywords and seven positions

Key Takeaway: If the search is plural, Google appears to prefer results that compare, rank, or list multiple agencies. As such, it may be worthwhile for agencies to focus on ranking for singular keywords for their own websites, alongside getting listed in top ranking directories.

Which Agencies Ranked on the Most Keywords?

Of the agencies that earned a top 10 position in the analyzed keywords, only five appeared more than once: 

  • Thrive Agency: Top 10 for nine keywords
  • Blue Corona: Top 10 for six keywords
  • Coalition Technologies: Top 10 for four Keywords
  • The Marketing Company: Top 10 for 3 positions on two keywords

Note that in addition to ranking for the most keywords, Thrive also had the most brand-related keywords in the top 100. Thrive also won more number one positions for these keywords than any other agency (they won two of them). 


What You Can Do About It

If you want to generate leads and grow your agency, your website needs to end up in front of your future clients. But any marketer knows how difficult it can be. Here are a few tips to focus your efforts: 

1. Pick your keywords strategically

When choosing your keywords, always consider the intent behind the search. For example, if the search results only focus on directories, or on content unrelated to marketing, carefully consider whether ranking for that keyword is worth your time and effort. Semrush’s Keyword Difficulty and Search Intent metrics can be especially helpful in this process.

While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to target informational keywords alongside commercial and transactional ones. If you’re not sure where to start, try using the Keyword Overview tool to identify questions related to the keywords you’re targeting. 


Then, make sure your content answers those questions clearly and accurately. Answering your audience’s most important questions can help to demonstrate your expertise and build trust. 

Although you might also serve clients from hundreds of miles away, don’t forget about your local community. After all, even if searchers don’t append a location or “near me” to their search term, there’s a strong chance Google might return a Local Pack anyway. 

In addition to ensuring that up-to-date contact information is available on your agency site, make sure you’ve got an updated Google Business Profile, and that your directory listings are accurate.

3. Get listed in directories

Your future clients might come directly to your website from the SERPs. But they might not. Maximize your odds of finding them by making sure you’re included in top marketing agency directories. 

Not sure where to start? Consider becoming a Semrush Agency Partner. The Agency Partners platform connects users looking for marketing support with trusted, Semrush-certified agencies. Clients can search for you by services provided, industry, budget, location, and more. 

Help Your Future Clients Find You 

When it comes to online visibility, there isn’t a single answer. Instead, wise marketers use a multi-pronged approach that accounts for all the myriad ways your audience might find you. That might mean creating great content and optimizing it, email marketing campaigns, PPC campaigns, social media marketing, and more. 

The most important thing is to know your audience, and to meet them where they are, when they need you most. 
The Agency Partner Platform is part of the Agency Growth Kit. As an Agency Partner, you can demonstrate your Semrush expertise through featured partner badges and PR opportunities, and attract quality leads.

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