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Digital agencies struggling to find the right skills

67% of agencies have hired during the pandemic – but 51% have struggled to find employees with the skills they need,  52% said that they have struggled to find contractors with the skills they need and 39% are concerned about a skills gap in the industry.

That’s according to Verblio’s annual digital agency survey, provides insight into the industry during the past year, including content creation during Covid-19, the secrets of content success and hiring, skills and the most popular tools.

Other key findings include:

  • SEO is the most desirable skill in the industry

  • Demand for content increased by 71%

  • Asana is the top tool for content success in the industry

  • 18% of marketers admit to buying links

  • Agencies gained an average of 9 clients and lost fewer than 4 over the past year

  • 75% expect continued growth into 2021 and beyond

  • Blog posts (61%), landing pages (42%) and social media posts (35%) are the most profitable content types

  • Social media posts (79%), email newsletters (65%) and outreach (27%) are the most popular promotion tactics

  • Blog posts (61%), landing pages (47%) and video (43%) are the best content to invest in

The most desirable marketing skills

The survey revealed that the most desirable marketing skill is SEO and SEM, with creative thinking and ideation, and copywriting coming in second and third.


Marketing Skills

Percentage Vote





Creative thinking and ideation






Data analysis



Social media



Paid social media advertising












Email marketing






Mobile marketing



Digital PR


Despite the pandemic, the vast majority of those surveyed said their agency had actually seen an increase in business over the last 12 months, with 71% agreeing that demand for content specifically had grown.

During the last year, on average, agencies have gained over nine new clients and lost less than four.

A whopping 75% of those surveyed expect revenue generated from content to increase over the next year, with just 3% believing it would decrease.

Verblio found that on average, agencies charge over $2,000 for an interactive campaign and more than a quarter charge $5000+. Unsurprisingly, social media posts are the cheapest content type with an average price of $130.

Despite interactive campaigns commanding the highest price, blogs take the top spot for generating profit, with 62% selecting blogs as one of their most profitable content offerings. Landing pages come second, with 42% saying they are a leading profit maker for their business.

Nearly all the experts Verblio spoke to agree that some form of promotion is needed to get results. Promoting via the client’s social media is the most popular method at 79%, but 18% of agencies still admit to buying links and coverage.

The survey asked experts what content offerings they plan to invest in the most over the next five years and blogs take the crown. Over 61% of content creators are looking to expand and develop their blog offering, with landing pages and video not far behind.

Top 10 tools for success

29% of agencies don’t rely on any particular tools. The other 71%, however, have plenty they can’t live without. Here are the top 10 tools for digital marketing success.

  1. asana


  3. Hotjar

  4. SEMRush

  5. crazyegg

  6. Trello

  7. 99designs

  8. ahrefs

  9. Lucky orange

  10. accelo

Touching on the survey insights, Verblio CEO Steve Pockross, said “The results from the 2021 digital agency survey show that despite a crazy year like 2020, agencies continue to see the value in content marketing,with demand for the service increasing by 71%. It’s encouraging to learn that 67% hired during the pandemic, with SEO coming in as the most desirable skill. But with 51% struggling to find the right people for the job and 39% concerned about a skills gap, it’s clear more needs to be done to upskill teams and attract more talented individuals to the industry.”

Agency roles boom as businesses outsource marketing 

Marketing roles within agencies increased 35% year-on-year to March 2018, according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

The news comes as organisations increasingly look towards outsourcing, reveals the trade body, which also revealed that the number of marketing vacancies as a percentage of all available roles, increased by 1.68% year-on-year.

The insight, based on data from Vacancysoft, revealed that while Greater London has been the leading location for marketing vacancies with a combined total of 58%, the fastest growth was found in other regions, with the North West, West Midlands and North East seeing vacancy increases of 35%, 41% and 22% respectively.

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, said: “The continued rise in marketing vacancies comes as no surprise. In the digital age investment in marketing is business imperative as organisations vie for the attention of increasingly fragmented audiences. No longer confined to big business, now even relatively small companies are investing in building brand awareness to boost revenues.

“Rather than bring talent in-house, many companies are choosing to outsource to focus on core business, solve capacity issues, cut costs and bring in expert skills to enhance service quality.

“Equally, in terms of geography, significant vacancy growth outside of London is not unexpected. The North West and Midlands are well established regional hubs for creative skillsets, with Salford for example, home to MediaCityUK and other specialist agencies.”