Case Study: Start A New SEO Agency From Scratch

People are fascinated with the idea of seeing someone “start over”.

I’ve wanted to see the same myself. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the approach they take, knowing why they take this approach, and being able to follow along with them?

That is what I would like to share with you in this new case study.

I’m personally going to be starting a new SEO agency, from scratch, and documenting my approach and process for you to see what works, and what doesn’t.

To make it more interesting, this whole business will be built from the opposite side of the world to the country I’m targeting.

I always say that you only need a phone to sell, now let me show you.

Here is the plan…

Niche Selection

As I cannot take the approach of becoming a local expert, I’m going to focus on one specific industry.

I will reveal the industry in a later update, but my reasoning for choosing it is that the keywords are not overly competitive, and good customers for them will spend from $8,000, ranging up to the $30,000+ level.

The general recommendation for choosing a niche, is to pick one that has $1,000+ lifetime customer value. For me, $1,000 seems too low, especially when you’re saying over the customer lifetime. I much prefer $5,000+ LCV.

The target country will be the UK. I’m from the UK and have an existing company setup, so this is the easiest for me. The US would probably get quicker results though, with there being more potential clients within any given niche.

Lead Acquisition

I plan on generating all of my leads online, and building an email list.

To do this, there are three strategies I have in mind:

Strategy #1: Facebook Ads Funnel

If I could only run paid ads for clients on one platform, it would be Facebook.

Here is the funnel I’m going to start off by using:

new-agency-funnel

Usually, I would require them to opt in for downloading the book. But I recently came across the concept of giving away valuable content for free, then simply retargeting them with your offer.

The idea here is to get them off Facebook, add trust and value with a free book / report, get them on an automated webinar, and sell them on getting on the phone with you to begin the sales process.

Tools

  • LeadPages – Landing page creation tool for the book giveaway page, webinar sign up page, and webinar confirmation page
  • StealthSeminar – Allows you to create automated webinars
  • Facebook Ads – For initial targeting and retargeting
  • YouCanBookMe – For booking in the strategy session calls
  • Pages – To write the free book and convert it to PDF format
  • Keynote – To create the webinar slides
  • ScreenFlow – For recording the webinar
  • ActiveCampaign – For list building and automated email sequences

A breakdown of each individual element of the funnel…

1. Facebook ads

I’m going to be targeting people that have “liked” association pages, and people that have general interests in the niche.

I’ll test some different targeting options, see how it works, and reveal the details at the end of this case study.

You can learn more about the different targeting options here.

(Already started running the initial ads. Had 9 website clicks costing £3, approximately $4.64)

2. Free book

I copied some content previously created for my old agency, re-purposed it for this, and added some extra content.

This comes to 22 pages, including a pitch at the end for a free strategy session, linking directly to a YouCanBookMe page.

The book is in depth, covering how to rank in Google, optimising your website to convert better, etc.

It would probably convert better if it was shorter, since it’s unlikely someone will read the entire thing. We can test and see what happens.

3. Retargeting for the webinar

Whether they read the book or not, they’ll be retargeted with ads promoting the webinar.

If they did not read the book, the webinar will act as a more interesting way of learning.

If they did, the webinar is a way of expanding on it, and getting their questions answered.

I’m not specifically tracking whether they read the book or not, so these two groups of people will see the same ad.

It’s important that the ad looks similar to the previous ad or landing page, they need to remember downloading the book.

In the ad, I’ll probably include a picture of the book to remind them.

(I have not started retargeting yet as the audience needs to be at least 20 people)

4. Automated webinar

I’ve already recorded a video of about 1 hour and 30 minutes, to use as the automated webinar.

This took a fair bit of time to create.

In total there are 54 slides, 9 of them being the close or transition to the close.

For each slide, I wrote out a script of what to say. Then recorded the entire thing using ScreenFlow.

The close is for a strategy session call.

This is already setup with StealthSeminar to run once every weekday.

I’m using ActiveCampaign to manage the list, and will setup automated follow up emails for this later.

The registration page is powered by LeadPages, and automatically updates to reflect the next webinar date.

5. Strategy Session

Using the free version of YouCanBookMe, people can pick a specific date and time from my calendar that they are available to speak. It also sends them a confirmed booking email.

I will still reach out to them a day before the call, just to remind them.

(I’m using Skype for the calls, with my UK number set as the caller ID)

On the strategy session, we will cover information about their business, some of which I will research prior to the call. Including how they are currently ranking, which competitors are ranking, etc.

But for the most part, the strategy session allows us to discuss the content in the book/webinar, and for me to qualify them to see if they are a good fit for my services.

If they are a good fit, then I’ll offer them a proposal.

Strategy #2: Networking in industry relevant forums

This is the part I dislike, but something I know works, it is just boring and time consuming.

There are multiple semi-popular forums within this industry that I can join for free, and start engaging with business owners.

This requires patience, to focus on adding value, not pitching. And will take time to see results from.

I’ll start by responding to any questions about online marketing with highly in-depth answers, this will establish me as an expert, and then hopefully can start some interactions from there.

One thing I can do is send them a message privately after responding, with something like this:

Hi John,

Glad to see you liked the feedback I left for your website!

You are welcome to message me if you have any more questions about it or would like me to expand on it.

You can also send me an email here [email address].

Cheers,
Daryl

I’ll play around with this on 2-3 of the forums and see what comes of it.

I’ve not signed up for any forums yet, but will begin working on this soon.

Strategy #3: Cold Emailing

For anyone on a budget, this should be a go-to method for you.

I’m not going to specifically try to get leads from this, instead my plan is to find people that are interested in improving their online marketing, without actually offering to do it for them.

To do that, I’ll be using this message:

Morning,

Do you mind if I do a review of your website for our blog?

I’m looking to add more content to our blog, and came across your website as one we could do a great review of.

Here is an example of one we recently completed:
[link to a blog post]

This isn’t going to cost you anything, I just wanted to make sure you won’t mind. Some businesses only want to hear that they are doing everything perfectly, and if that is you, that isn’t a problem, but you probably don’t want us to do a review.

Let me know if you are happy for us to do this, I can email you it before publishing it if you like.

Cheers,
Daryl

The ‘morning’ part is irrelevant, it’s only because I’ll be sending it in the morning.

The idea here is to achieve two things.

Firstly, I genuinely want some more blog content, and this is an easy way to establish expertise with anyone that reads the blog.

Secondly, it opens them up to showing their interest in online marketing, without expressing interest in using our services at all.

Once the analysis has been posted, hopefully it will blow them away with value, and then we can push for a call to discuss it further.

Sales

I’m currently living in and travelling Asia, which means I’m on a completely different timezone to the UK. And obviously, will be unable to meet any prospects or clients.

This is not an issue in the slightest. I have not met most of my clients, even when I was living in the UK.

Here is how I’ll manage this…

For selling, I’m going to use Skype for making the calls.

One great feature of Skype is the caller ID setting, I’ve currently set mine to my UK mobile number. This means unless I feel the need to say, clients will not even know I’m out of the country.

Also, I have a strict rule that clients cannot call me without pre-scheduling a call. And then when we are pre-scheduling it, I make sure it’s clear that I’ll be the one calling them. My intention was always to travel from day one in this business, so I put these rules in place to allow it when I had the money.

As for the actual selling strategy, I’ll be using a consultive approach. It will be split over two calls, the first is the consultation and qualification call. The second will be to deliver the proposal, using Join.me. This allows us to talk it over as if sitting in the same room.

We covered the basics of how to sell over the phone before, but if you want to see my exact approach to it, including the actual proposal I use, I’m explaining it in a paid webinar shortly, more details here.

Costs

Tools / Software:

  • LeadPages – $37/month
  • ActiveCampaign – $9/month
  • StealthSeminar – $97 and then $69.95/month
  • Screenflow – I already had this installed, there are free alternatives. Normally $99.
  • Pages / Keynote – Free with Mac, plenty of free alternatives
  • YouCanBookMe – Using the free version

Total spent on tools so far: $143

Total monthly recurring for tools: $115.95

As for the Facebook advertising, I will release further updates on this later. I’m going to start it small and slowly scale it up while testing different audiences and ads.

This case study will not be one of those “turn $1 into $10,000” examples. If you don’t have at least $1,000 to invest into starting your own agency, I suggest you do some freelancing or get a job to raise the funds. You need to be willing to do what it takes to put yourself in the right position to get started, and that can often be doing something you hate for a little while.

With that said, I will keep track of my expenses for you to follow along with. We may find that the cold email or forum promotions are way more effective than spending money on FB ads.

What would you like to see?

If there is anything specific you would like to see in this case study, or things you think I should try, leave your suggestions in the comments below.

You can follow the case study along and get early snippets in the Facebook mastermind group.

Thanks for checking out this post, let’s see what happens next.

Edit: After wasting some money on ads pointing to wrong landing pages and silly mistakes, I realised I didn’t have time to fully carry out the case study myself without outsourcing, which would ruin the case study aspect. So I decided to train up a total rookie to do it. I’ll update the results later, but he got his first 2 clients within 2-3 months of starting, although not big clients, it’s a start.

Daryl

About Daryl Rosser

Daryl runs a six figure SEO business primarily focusing on local clients. He's extremely analytical, and his favourite ranking strategy is using PBN's.

37 Responses to “Case Study: Start A New SEO Agency From Scratch”

  • Cory Goneke  May 20, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Awesome!

    What I found cool about this first article is how simple you keep things like the Facebook ad funnel. Everyone tends to over complicate it for some reason. Looking forward to seeing your success.

    • Daryl Rosser  May 21, 2015 at 5:49 am

      Thanks Cory!

      I deliberately kept it simple because I don’t have enough time to put into this to make it complicated lol. Will see how it works and test accordingly.

  • Eric  May 21, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Enjoying it so far. Haven’t gotten to where I have trouble yet. Keep on with it. Thanks.

    • Daryl Rosser  May 21, 2015 at 5:50 am

      Thanks Eric! Will post more updates soon.

  • Gunter Eibl  May 21, 2015 at 5:45 am

    Excellent plan. Very curious how this will work out, will follow this case study. If you give the book away wtihout opt in, how then do you build the list?

    • Daryl Rosser  May 21, 2015 at 5:52 am

      Glad to hear, Gunter.

      They have a retargeting pixel tracking them when they visit the book download page, then we can run ads specifically to the people that expressed interest in it. In the ads we’re promoting the automated webinar, and when they sign up for this, they’ll be on our email list.

  • James  May 22, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Will you just be using FB to handle your re targeting? What about third party ones like Perfect Audience etc, will you be testing those too?

    • Daryl Rosser  May 23, 2015 at 2:07 am

      I just went for the absolute quickest setup. Since they’re coming from Facebook anyway, it means they must be using it, so it was easier and quicker to setup the retargeting there. May be worth testing later, I’ve used AdRoll in the past for retargeting.

  • Craig  May 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

    This would have been useful when I started years ago. Although, the post still provides information for experienced marketers.

    • Daryl Rosser  May 28, 2015 at 3:23 am

      You’re right, for newbies this is a gold mine. Still some useful tips for most people though, no matter what stage they’re at with their agency.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Dennis  May 28, 2015 at 6:03 am

    Great case study! I am really looking forward to your next post! Keep em coming!!

    • Daryl Rosser  May 28, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks Dennis! Have not looked at it since writing this post lol, been kind of busy. Getting back on it soon.

  • charles  June 17, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Very cool case study and I’ve been reading/watching everything on the blog, extremely helpful

    But since you are traveling, wouldn’t it be easier to do affiliate SEO sites? Whats your reason for agency/clients? Is it just because its faster/easier money?

    • Daryl Rosser  June 19, 2015 at 8:33 am

      Glad to hear, Charles!

      I created a video the other day where I spoke about different cycles or stages of business. The main point was that client SEO is perfect for starting out, it’s a cash flow business.

      After you start getting clients, I recommend putting that money into affiliate marketing. It’s more passive.

      Client SEO isn’t really my main focus anymore, I don’t want too many clients, I like the lifestyle aspect of this business. With that said, I want to show people that are at that stage – what they should be doing.

      Travel isn’t an excuse, it’s all over the phone / internet.

  • Ian Ainslie  June 20, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Nice value, as always, so thanks for that.
    Would love to know what the niche is that you are referring to in the post 😉

    • Daryl Rosser  June 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      Will reveal later! Need to put a little more time into this case study, and share an update soon.

  • Ian Ainslie  June 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Just a quick question: when you state that you’re more into affiliate marketing nowadays, so you mean you’re setting up Clickbank/CJ sites or something else?
    Thanks!

    • Daryl Rosser  June 21, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      CPA more so, not a fan of ClickBank. Nothing against CB, you get a few great products there. I just prefer promoting something that gives me a commission for a lead, rather than a sale.

  • Mike  July 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    U Da Man Daryl , keep the dream alive …

    • Daryl Rosser  July 10, 2015 at 8:37 am

      Thanks Mike!

  • Eric M  July 7, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Hey Daryl, thanks a ton for sharing your approach! I just found your site from the Marketing Inc threads, and it looks like it’s been about 2 months since this specific post went live. I was wondering if 1) you had a recording of the webinar you mentioned which you could share, and 2) if you could provide any update on how the agency is coming along?

    Would definitely appreciate the insights as I begin to think of how to develop my own funnel. Cheers!!

    • Daryl Rosser  July 10, 2015 at 8:39 am

      Hey Eric, the webinar can be found in the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/lionzeal/permalink/1657911031109734/

      I’ll post a proper update later. I probably should have got an apprentice or something to do the work on this, would have made a lot of progress then. I’ve only put maybe 8 hours into this so far.

  • Anthony Rizzuto  August 10, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Daryl

    Very impressive. Its obvious you have learnt a hell of a lot and implemented all over the years to write this succinct, to the point & logical post. Thanks for the hard work putting it together & sharing.

    When will you be giving us an update?

    Toni

    • Daryl Rosser  August 13, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Thanks Toni! I’ll post something later, need to put some more work into this, had about a month off of work just now, getting back into it shortly.

  • jukooz  August 23, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I’m very curious how your fb ads numbers play. CPC, cold to lead magnet conversion rate, lead magnet audience to webinar, webinar to strategy session. And from prospect acquired this way – strategy session to sale conversion rate.

    Or if you don’t want to share those numbers, maybe you could share hoow much does it cost you to bring a person to strategy session (guess with this long funnel, if they know that you charge 1000+ before booking, conversion ratio of strategy session would be at very least 30%.

    Thanks Daryl,
    You are cool guy.

    • Daryl Rosser  September 4, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Thanks man. I’ll share some more details later. For now looking for a partner to run this case study for me, since I haven’t had time to work on it in a while. Spent a bunch of money on ads pointing to broken landers – oops.

  • Khaled Soliman  August 28, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Hi Daryl,

    Nice job with putting together this post. I wish I had this information when I first got started many years ago. To everyone who’s still making excuses, JUST DO IT! Trust me, you have more than what you need to start an SEO company. Information like this was not available when I got started so take advantage.

    Thanks for sharing, I’m yet to use the automated webinar method:)

    • Daryl Rosser  September 4, 2015 at 7:17 am

      Thanks Khaled, glad you liked it. You’re absolutely right. If more people just took action, rather than trying to learn more, there would be a lot more guys crushing it in this business.

  • Stefan  September 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Hey Daryl, great post! Will you be posting a follow up with progress?

    • Daryl Rosser  September 18, 2015 at 10:27 am

      Yep, will do, and may post early snippets in the Facebook group too.

  • Thomas  October 12, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Nice one darly! Can some pls give me the link to the update (Can’t find it). Have a nice day.

  • matjaz  January 26, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you for your time to post this. I will follow you . I still dont know why, but some how i belive you 😉
    Youre SEO agency will be based on PBN or some other factors too ?

  • SmarterSEO  July 31, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Great post Daryl. Just started reading your approach to get clients… Not sure why you lost steam in doing this yourself? I’m sure it will work… but you need to be active to get things done. I suggest that people use the free plugins and woocommerce extensions out there to do some of the things you mentioned instead of paying recurring monthly fees. I signed up to the facebook mastermind group, and will be looking for vendors. Another method you could add is to hang around SEO and marketing forums that other people (outside of SEO).. visit looking for vendors / help. If you establish expertise there, its a cakewalk. I built my agency from 1 person to 85 full time employees on site using this approach … in conjunction with a simple $5 tripwire offer. 🙂

    • Daryl Rosser  August 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

      It definitely works, I’ve used the exact same approaches to get clients already, and will still continue to. It’s just I didn’t have time to run the case study + the agency I already had + my affiliate sites + Lion Zeal, lol. I was trying to do way too many things at the same time.

  • Joe  September 2, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Hey Daryl,

    Longtime follower of yours! Love your work and the videos recently have been inspiring!

    Where are you t on this project? I’d of course be interested to know your niche and how its going.

    Still looking for a partner? 🙂

    Let me know,
    Joe

    • Daryl Rosser  September 3, 2016 at 5:38 am

      I actually haven’t spoken to the guy I partnered with in a few months, not sure what happened. Will be looking for some new partners soon for test projects / case studies, make sure you’re in the FB group.

      • Joe  September 3, 2016 at 5:00 pm

        Hey,

        I’m on the FB Group, I’ll keep an eye out! Can you give us all some detail on the client niche?

        Thanks,
        Joe