How To Build a Foreign SEO Agency with Edwin Twigt
In this weeks episode, I’ve brought on Edwin Twigt to talk about building a foreign SEO agency.
I recently met Edwin for the first time, while he was visiting Saigon. He ended up sharing some interest things he’s working on with client SEO in the Netherlands, so I thought it would be fun to bring him on the show.
In this episode, we cover:
- How does SEO differ in the Netherlands to other countries
- How to build a foreign PBN
- The most lucrative and valuable clients to target for faster growth
- Using list building and email marketing to get SEO clients
Watch it here:
Daryl Rosser: All right guys, welcome back to another episode of the Lion Zeal show. In this episode I brought on Edwin from the Netherlands. We get into client SEOs, which he kind of identifies himself as a client SEO, even though he also does a bit of affiliate marketing these days. Edwin’s brought up a pretty decent amount of money from client SEO, allowed him to quit his job and travel a lot and have like a lot more free time nowadays.
He’s also built up a PBN of almost, not quite, almost a thousand sites now. We get into how he managed and how he built this up, and also obviously he’s doing this in the Netherlands, rather than like the US or the UK or Australia. We get into how to build up a PBN and manage it and how ranking and get a clients and everything works tucked in like, quote-unquote foreign countries. To him it’s just his country, but you know to anyone that’s outside of there, then it’s foreign SEO as people call it.
It’s a pretty interesting interview, we get into client strategies, how to clients and Edwin shows a pretty different approach. He doesn’t do like cold email or anything like that. He has tested it, but his approach of getting clients is more like an inbound approach. We kind of go into how exactly he did that and kind of broke down the story of what exactly he did. That’s that guys, let’s cut straight into interview, hope you guys enjoy.
Hi man, hey, thanks for coming on the show.
Edwin: Yeah, thanks for having me, Daryl. How are you?
Daryl Rosser: I’m good man. Do you want to start? I’m presuming people, you kind of like not in the spotlight or anything like that, you want to start with a little intro of who you are?
Edwin: Yeah, sure. My name is Edwin, I am from the Netherlands, a really small country in Europe, across the UK, I guess where you’re from. I got into SEO, I’ve been a full time SEO for about five years now. Maybe it’s cool if I tell a little bit of how I got into it?
Daryl Rosser: Sure, go into it.
Edwin: Because I started my working life pretty early, when I graduated from college I had a degree in IT and I was working for a company that had me as an intern first and then I got there working full time. It was a software company and they produced like cash registers for small businesses like drugstores and liquor stores.
My card said I was the account manager, but actually I was just a technician there installing these computers and the software on them and then also talking to the employees how it worked and stuff like that.
It was nice working there, but I always had a feeling like, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to start something for myself. I was always a bit interested in Google actually, because I knew that when people search for something they probably want to spend some money there, I mean that makes sense.
I bought some course, it was back then there was like a course that taught how to do EMD-style domains. I think it was, I can’t remember the name, but it basically said, “Pick a keyword, register an EMD and rank it.” At the time-
Daryl Rosser: How long ago is this?
Edwin: This was back in I think 2009, the end of 2009.
Daryl Rosser: Okay.
Edwin: It wasn’t like the big SEO thing like it is today people doing, it was like more geared towards, “Make money online with SEO.” It’s not really an SEO course, but more like that.
I bought that and it was interesting. It got me interested in doing SEO, so I created a few EMD sites like obscure type of keywords here in the Netherlands, and it was working. It was working really great, I mean register the EMD, do some basic on-page and basically you’re on page one.
I bought like a theme that was made for AdSense type of sites, so it was like full of adds. I got like maybe 10 sites and they were earning around 500 euros a month. That was kind of cool, so I-
Daryl Rosser: Okay, a good start, yeah.
Edwin: Yeah, it was a good start and it took me some time. I created some forum profiles that were like the thing back then, you had a Paul and Angela type back links. I don’t know if anybody remembers them, but it’s creating accounts on high domain authority, not really forums but more like Adobe and that kind of thing, with high domain authority and place links that worked like gangbusters back then.
I had like 10 sites and I realized that, okay, I can make 500 euros a month with these AdSense sites. I’ve got to do this full time, man. I mean, it has potential.
I did that for a while while I was still working and in the end of 2010 I decided that I want to go full time doing SEO.
Daryl Rosser: Nice.
Edwin: I was still living back with my parents, I had a mortgage to pay and all these things. I realized that, well maybe it’s better if I take a chance right now and, well if it doesn’t work in maybe two years then can always find another job. I was still young.
Daryl Rosser: It’s not a huge amount of risk.
Edwin: No, it was low risk actually. I think I was 19 back then when I got full time, or 20, something like that.
Daryl Rosser: Okay.
Edwin: My mom was really supportive, I got some friends who said, “No, you shouldn’t do that, you’ve got a good job,” but I did it anyway. I quit anyway and I got some money saved up so I could live like a year with money I’ve saved because I wasn’t spending that much. I was only getting some beers in the pub every now and then, that was about my spending habit.
That later turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but in around 2010 my girlfriend also graduated from college. She was doing psychology and she graduated so we decided that we’d go travel for three months.
That was really cool, we went to Asia, where you’re located right now. Something bad happened because my AdSense account got blocked. My 500 euros a month got totally smashed and I had nothing to show for it.
Even then another, that was around that time I think the first penguin came, or the panda, I’m not sure which one it was, but a few of these sites also tanked. Basically I got down in the dumps and I thought everything’s over and this thing isn’t going to work.
Then I thought of doing some affiliate SEO, doing basically the same thing I did with these AdSense sites, but then affiliates. I had a really good thing going with like subscription to newspaper site. It was an affiliate site so it paid like 25 euro a sale. I was doing, I got back up around maybe 1000 euros a month. Then another penguin came, I screwed up and the thing happened again, my whole income was gone.
Then I decided in around 2012, in the time between 10 and 12 I was a bit doing this thing, going up and down on the income. It wasn’t like I was doing really great, but around 2012 I got introduced to PBNs, found some YouTube video of a guy talking about them. I always knew there were something like this, because around that time it was more secretive than it is right now. There were people doing these like expired domains thing, but it’s not like there was blogs like yours that had how to do them. It was more secretive, people talked about private links and it was not like I google something and I have a guide on how to do it.
Around 2012 I got like enlightenment I think you can call it. This was the thing I’m going to do, so I got all in. I bought like 20 PBNs that time around from auction, GoDaddy. I bought them on closeout, so it’s not like bidding, but you could just buy them.
I had them and I started doing some client SEO. I started out with a link-building service that got. Basically I had a site that was ranking for buyback links here in the Netherlands, and people bought these backlink packages. Mostly they were business owners, but they were people who were already into SEO and they got like their own on-page SEO. They were more looking to buy back links and I used that PBN to place links on them. Every month I place some Web 2.0 links, some PBNs. That was like the the thing back then.
Daryl Rosser: Got you.
Edwin: Then I think around the end of 2012 I started doing like typical client SEO. That’s when my business started to pick up again and I had like a steady income from clients.
Basically that’s been my journey till 2012. I have done a lot of client work in 2012, 2014. From 2012 to 2015 and nowadays I have put my client business, it’s producing a healthy profit. I got partners that send me referrals, I’ve got my own clients, but I’m not so focused on growing the agency that much, I just have it.
There come some new leads, some clients go away, but I’m not like totally focused on growing it, I’m more focused on affiliate right now. Because I figured that getting an affiliate site to number one is basically the same thing as getting a client to number one, and my profit margins are way higher with affiliate. I can scale it further.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. Would you identify yourself as a client SEO guy today or an affiliate SEO guy?
Edwin: A client SEO still, but it’s like 75% client, but I’m not fully focused on getting more clients. The business, my agency is running as it is. I get some new clients, new referrals, but I’m not doing massive outreach and stuff like that for my agency. I thought my time was in 2016 I also decided that I want to enjoy life a bit more, because 2015 it was too much. I worked like 70, 80 hours a week, I got caught up with grind, grind, grind, type of mentality.
Daryl Rosser: I know the feeling.
Edwin: Although I like working hard, I kind of got the feeling in late 2015 that the whole year was past and I didn’t do anything, my whole year was wasted on working. Also around that time I read the 4-Hour Work Week and that got me thinkingabout outsourcing. I bought your training, your VA training, got a VA, and managing stuff is basically done by my VA right now and I’m focused-
Daryl Rosser: Was it easy? A lot of people have horror stories.
Edwin: It was easy to get the VA and I made like my own training around your training, because I had some very specific task I want him to do, but the letting go, that was kind of hard. Because I was grinding, doing all this stuff, this managing stuff, like scrapping domains, putting up PBNs, writing content. I mean, I was doing it all, and then I had like … I went from working 60, 70 hours a week to maybe 15 hours a week. I got like a, how do you say it? I felt less important, if that makes sense.
Daryl Rosser: Oh, I get it.
Edwin: That’s when I decided then I’m going to work hard, but now I’m going to focus on growing my affiliate sites. Because if I can get that sites to number one I know the profit and it’s less work than managing clients, if that makes sense.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, cool. What you’ve explained so far, basically you did SEO for a long time, longer than me actually. You got into client SEO, which is where I started to take off, so we’ll start there. You scaled it up a bit to the level it’s at today, and these days it sounds like you’ve kind of got it running pretty smoothly without too much input. I guess you have to speak to the clients every now and then and you get referrals. What did you say?
Edwin: Yeah, I got … I have two types of clients, because I have a couple of agencies or other B2B businesses I work with. They have like a clientele and they resell my services for profits.
Daryl Rosser: Oh, so no management at all from you?
Edwin: No management at all.
Daryl Rosser: Nice.
Edwin: I have to do the work and then my agency or my other B2B partner then talks to their client. I charge like a little bit less, but it’s worth it because I don’t have to manage the clients, I don’t have to speak on the phone. There comes a healthy stead of leads, work I guess, because it’s not really they just tell me, “We need this done, we already closed the client.”
I also have direct clients who I work with directly, like your typical SEO client. Usually small businesses here in the Netherlands, with not extremely small but mid-range I guess, maybe 10 to 20 employees. They want to rank for local keywords and they are my clients directly. I also try to get some referrals from them, but I tried that system that people talk about, when you give your client a discount when they refer something to you, someone to you, and that I tried to implement, but sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work.
That’s the two type of clients I have and I got my agency, I got referrals, I got some new leads coming in. Basically, it doesn’t run itself, but it’s not like I need super a lot of time to manage it, because my VA takes care of that right now.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that’s cool. How much time would you say you spend on the Agency stuff nowadays then?
Edwin: I think I spend around 10 hours a week maybe.
Daryl Rosser: What is that on?
Edwin: Mostly doing, I do the keyword research for clients, I do that. I also do the sales when I get a new lead.
Daryl Rosser: Makes sense.
Edwin: I do sales because my VA doesn’t talk Dutch. I also prepare work my VA needs done because it takes a little bit more preparation from my side, because it’s in Dutch, I have to prepare it. I mean I have to prepare articles and place the links in the articles, so my VA can put it on a PBN.
It takes a little bit more time than in English I guess, because most of these VAs obviously don’t speak Dutch so they can’t write articles that way.
That’s what my time goes in, and also managing clients like I do send reports and try to make some calls, keep the relationship warm, I guess.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, makes sense.
Edwin: That’s basically what I …
Daryl Rosser: On that topic of the VAs and everything and the content struggle, how do you actually do the content then? Because if you just have one VA?
Edwin: I have one VA, yeah.
Daryl Rosser: They don’t speak Dutch, how do they … How does that work?
Edwin: Well, my content strategy, I have like writers here in the Netherlands, so I outsource some of my articles to my clients. I also sometimes write articles myself because that’s one thing I’m pretty good at. I mean, even when I take in my hourly rate I can do articles, definitely PBN articles, I can do them in like in two, three minutes. It’s like one of the things I’m pretty good at writing, but I don’t try to do it too much. I outsource most of it, but sometimes if I need an article quickly I write it myself.
That’s what I use for PBNs, so mostly outsource content from writers in the Netherlands. I prepare all these articles in a One Drive Word document. I put them there and my VA has access to them, so there’s folders for clients. Then I put the links in the article, I put them in the article so he basically has to copy it, log into the PBN, paste it and copy these links. That’s how it works.
With Web 2.0 that’s another thing I use, mostly for pillowing, like distributing the anchor text. I mostly use newly created Web 2.0, so my VA creates these accounts on WordPress, Tumblr, all these Web 2.0 sites. I mostly use spun content for that.
It’s not like your typical spun content that I put it in a spinner. I actually or I do it myself or I have a writer who does spinning, and this goes like really deep spinning, it’s not like get an easy article, only change some synonyms. It’s like spun on the sentence level, on the word level and even on the paragraph level.
Daryl Rosser: Okay.
Edwin: There goes, I invest like 100 euros for one spun article. That seems like a lot of money for a spun article, but I can use that article like 200 times without being duplicates. It takes maybe three hours to create a spun like that.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, yeah, that makes sense, and if it works, then so be it.
Edwin: Yeah and sometimes I use, I mean I try to use it only for Web 2.0 more like a pillow links than on my PBN, because even though the risk is very low with the way I spin, I rather go with unique content on PBN.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. Is it expensive to have the writers for PBN content?
Edwin: Not so much. For a PBN article I usually use, not like 500 word articles, more like 250, maybe 300. I pay like 4.5 euros maybe for that, so it’s not that expensive.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. Yeah, not too bad. How did you hire them?
Edwin: I just got, there’s like these webmaster sites here in the Netherlands, and people just offer their services for like a cost per word. Then sometimes you give them regular work they can give you a little bit of a discount on that.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. So we were talking about PBNs before and saying that like foreign SEO is not really foreign SEO to you it’s just SEO. But a lot of people have questions about going into, like even not just foreign SEO but even if they’re from a different country, they’re from somewhere in Europe or something, they want to create like a PBN. When buying domains and stuff, are you just buying local domains? Do you have just content in your country in your language, or do you have it in English? How does that stuff work?
Edwin: Usually I only, I think like 99% of my domains are .nl, that’s our extensions, domains, PBN domains. There are some ways to get drop domains, so they’re expired today and you can drop-catch them, have some tools to do that. I’ve had some bad experience with drop-catching domains, because you usually get some …
I mean like in every 10 domains I drop-catched there were like two people emailing me, all sorts of lawyers emailing me because I stole their domain you know? People got angry because they forgot to renew them.
Usually, it’s bad luck for them, but it’s not like when you get an email from people like that every other week, it’s not like you enjoy that. I kind of forgot about drop-catching domains, I went full on scrapping. I scrape in my own country and I scrape 24/7. I think I’ve scraped every site in the Netherlands that’s available. My VA manages a lot of that, but I scrape.
I get them in .nl, they’re cheap to register and I only put Dutch content on my PBN. I also had some auction domains that I bought, like .com or .net, they were previous English sites or whatever, and I put Dutch content on them.
That worked fine as well, but for me it’s just cheaper to get the scrapped domain that’s expired that I can register for like a couple of euros.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, that makes sense. What tool are you using to scrape?
Edwin: Good old Tino man, that’s all-
Daryl Rosser: Really?
Edwin: -I’m using. Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Old school.
Edwin: Old school. With Tinothere’s a lot of processing in it, but I have my VA do all the processing. You have to export it, you have to do a whole process like cleaning the domains, putting them in majestic, all that type of stuff. I got that process my VA to do.
I check out scrapers, but they were like $100 a month, $150 a month and I figured my money is better spent to let a VA do that and also let him manage other things like managing PBNs and stuff. I decided to go that route, so I have hundreds of spreadsheets with expired domains in all types of niches. When I need some I’ll just check them and register what I need.
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool. You said when we spoke before that you have nearly 1,000 sites on your PBN now.
Edwin: Yeah, nearly. I know it sounds cool to have 1,000+, but sorry man I only have nearly.
Daryl Rosser: Nearly.
Edwin: Nearly 1,000, yeah. When I say that to people I have like 1,000 PBN people say, “Wow, you can rank for anything.” I always like to explain that, because it’s not like one big PBN that I place all of my clients or my affiliate sites on. I build dedicated PBNs I guess you could call them, for clients or for my own sites, and I place only one or two links on them.
That’s like the biggest part of my PBN, if you can call it that. I also have, maybe a third of my domains are more like general type blogs that I place more links on them, so to different clients, maybe some affiliate sites. There’s like two separated types of domains.
Daryl Rosser: A client would get links from a general PBN and it also get like a private one created just for them?
Edwin: Usually if the budget is right I try to always create a dedicated PBN for them, yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that makes sense.
Edwin: Sometimes when a client, it isn’t that big of a client, I just use general PBNs or I use … I also have, in the general PBNs I also have niche-specific PBNs. Some are like business oriented, some are like home improvement oriented, and some are like generally. I try to avoid that what you’re talking on your blog, how do you call it, with the interlinking.
Daryl Rosser: Oh, okay.
Edwin: I’m not sure how you pronounce it.
Daryl Rosser: It depends which one.
Edwin: Yeah, I’m referring to the blog post where you’re not try to link every domain to every client.
Daryl Rosser: Oh, I was talking about clustering I think.
Edwin: Yeah, clustering, exactly, that’s what I mean. I try to cluster them, that I also put some links to unrelated sites and stuff like that, so it’s not only my clients links are on there, there are authority links on them, some posts without links. I try to do that.
Daryl Rosser: Okay that makes sense, yeah. Removing the footprints basically, as much as you possibly can.
Edwin: As much as you possibly can, but also obviously I’ve had some PBN de-indexed. It happens you know, but the think I see is that it doesn’t have an effect on the rankings. It doesn’t have an effect, I don’t know why Google would de-index sites, because the way it looks is that the juice is still pushing, you know? Even with de-indexed domains sometimes.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I think it’s link ghosting. I think it’s kind of toxic if you leave it up there for too long, but it doesn’t … Like, yeah, if PBNs get de-indexed the site still ranks exactly the same, nothing changes.
Edwin: Yeah, exactly.
Daryl Rosser: How do you manage 900 sites? Even if they’re not all for like one huge network, it still must be some management time and effort going in there.
Edwin: Yeah. I think every month or two I get my VA to log into all of them and I take my security measures. I have like a ghost re-blogging. I have him install that on his Firefox, disable all types of things that are related to Google and I have him update the plugins.
If there are some problem with them, I mean some sites, some hosting companies, don’t get me started on them, they change an IP without notifying you. Then I get like a spreadsheet and I try to figure it out, I fix it. Mostly my VA does it every other month, I guess.
Daryl Rosser: He logs into 900 sites every other month?
Daryl Rosser: Damn.
Edwin: I tried using MainWP, but I was too paranoid for it, man. I got like 600 of my PBNs on MainWP and I got … I was waking up in sweat and stuff. It was too much for me, I didn’t want anything in one place for all my PBNs.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. How does domains work over there with whois protection? Do you get that on them?
Edwin: Yeah, there’s a couple of registrars who offer whois domain protection. Some even do it for free. You can also register it on different names, I guess.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, just to make it sounds as cool as possible, as if you didn’t just say fake. No, fake whois is cool I think, I promote that a lot.
Edwin: You can conclude that from it, yeah. Mostly when there’s like free whois privacy I try to use that. A lot of domains have that. Some they have fake whois I guess, and some … Here I think Google doesn’t have like the whois information they have on .com and .nets. It’s like with all sorts of privacy regulations there’s very basic stuff in the whois. There’s only the name and an email address, that’s all that’s in the whois.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. The UK’s kind of similar, we don’t actually have the email, just the name and the address, if you don’t set it.
Edwin: Yeah, I know, but nominant, I guess?
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Edwin: They’re pretty tough on fake whois I guess.
Daryl Rosser: They are, if you know what you’re doing it’s pretty simple. I would just use a real UK address, you get by super easy, just fake name. Tell everyone how to do illegal stuff right now.
Edwin: I think if you register them with the Namecheap, the .co.uks, then you can also, they also don’t put any whois information in there. I think it’s like privacy protected with Namecheap when you do a .co.uk.
Daryl Rosser: I think Namecheap do it for UK, don’t do it for UK, but 123 Reg, which is the worst company in the world, they do it for UK domains.
Edwin: Oh, okay. I see.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, what about hosting then? I know you made like a funny face or something when I mentioned hosting earlier. How does that work?
Edwin: Basically I try to go the cheap hosting route as much as possible, so like 10 euros, $10 a year hosting.
Daryl Rosser: Is that local though?
Edwin: Most of them are local, yeah. Some of them are like Ukraine, other European countries, because we have a lot of countries in Europe. You have France, you have Spain, you have all sorts of little places that if you search well enough you can find some cheap hosting. I try to go that route.
I also have a lot of them on Cloudflare and Incapsula, thanks to your guide. It works fine and these domains actually tend to be less risky when it comes to the indexing I found. I’ve never had a Cloudflare domain de-indexed. I don’t know why, but that’s just what I’ve seen.
I try make some, I don’t have like 900 hosting accounts, but that’s the funny thing when you work with different dedicated PBNs, you can put like 20 domains on a hosting and it doesn’t matter because they don’t point to the same client.
That’s what I try to use, and I also have some more obscure SEO hosting accounts that I don’t try to use too often, but for more risky projects I use them. They’re not like SEOhosting.com, but they’re smaller hosting companies that also have an SEO hosting package, which is, I wouldn’t call it safe per se, but it’s less risky than going with the known SEO hosting providers. I use some of them, but not too many.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that makes sense. As for ranking your clients then, is it 80, 90% PBNs? Then you do Web 2.0 you mentioned? What’s your process?
Edwin: Yeah, it used to be like … That was back in 2014, 2015, that I could use just PBNs and I could be pretty aggressive with the anchor text, like use variations of the main keyword, but like put them in a sentence and stuff like that. I didn’t use too many branded links, that was back in 2014, 2015, but as of late I found that I need more links, like more link diversity.
Although I’ve seen people say that it’s not necessary, but I try to get like a 50 to 60 referring domains from free platforms like Web 2.0, some directories that’s used a lot here in the Netherlands. Also some profile links and then I come in with the PBNs and then use mostly direct or how do you say it, exact match anchor text, or a variation of that on my PBN. I have a better result and I use less PBNs, so that’s been my strategy for most of late 2015 and this year 2016.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that makes sense. Let’s talk a little bit about getting clients, because you said you’re still a client SEO guy even if you’re doing a little bit more affiliate these days.
Daryl Rosser: Your first client came from you ranking a site and you selling back links?
Daryl Rosser: How did the 2nd one come through?
Edwin: It was also from the first…
Daryl Rosser: Okay, the first one that wasn’t that.
Edwin: Yeah, the first one, let me think … Yeah, it got through my website, because I made like agency style website back then and got some local rankings and got a lead. That was a bit of a, well I would say it was hard for me because I didn’t have any sales experience and I was still talking in terms of back links and on-page and stuff like that. I closed him somehow, he got my client, I ranked him and he has been a client ever since, still a client.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome.
Edwin: That got the ball rolling. I did some cold calling also where I wasn’t really selling my SEO stuff, but I was more selling the appointment with the client. I had like a little booklet here in the Netherlands that taught not to sell on the phone but sell the appointments. I went there and had some appointments going. I got a few clients from there.
Then the whole partnerships came about with the agency or other B2B businesses. That’s when things really start to take off, I got more clients, more regular, steady work from them and yeah. That’s about it.
These days when I get leads it’s mostly from referrals or from people finding me. I’ve also done some Facebook advertising in the past, but not doing that as much recently.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. I’d love to hear about the partnerships, but before we go into that, you kind of glazed over cold calling. I thought, “Yeah, I just did some cold calling and got some clients.” Most people don’t have the guts to pick up the phone and you kind of just glaze over it like it was nothing. Do you want go a little bit, what were you actually doing with that?
Edwin: Yeah, I actually made a list, like a prospecting list, I made that. I got a book that was about cold calling here in the Netherlands. It had a very, very interesting name, I’m not sure how to translate in … Well, translated to English it was like, “Cold calling, brrr”, that was in Dutch, the title.
It was a funny book and it got like, it was about just calling. I mean you don’t have to worry, just pick up the phone, sell the appointment, don’t sell anything over the phone, that was what it taught, the book. I thought like, “Fuck it, I’m just going to do it.” I made a prospecting list, targeted actually a few B2B businesses, who I could make partner, you know? That they could re-sell-
Daryl Rosser: Okay, how did you find them?
Edwin: Just using Google searching for web design agencies, other printing agencies, stuff like that.
Daryl Rosser: Okay.
Edwin: Got a few appointments and I also had a list of like a few local businesses that I tried to call and got a few appointments there. Like you said, it wasn’t like I was enjoying cold calling, it was still, my heart was pounding when I had to pick up the phone, but I did it anyway. I got some clients from it, some partnerships. I think if I really pushed through with it, I could scale it up even further, but I didn’t.
Daryl Rosser: It’s not fun, is it?
Edwin: No, it’s not fun. I mean, I actually think if you do advertising, direct mail and then follow up with a call, that’s actually a better strategy I think than just cold calling. Because the way I did it, I had to physically go to the client and I went to like 20 meetings and I got maybe one or two clients.
A lot of time was invested in it and a lot of money as well, because my time is worth money obviously. I think if I went the direct mail route, obviously you have to mail it out, you have to do some preparation, but I think your conversion will be better with direct mail than it is with just cold calling to sell an appointment, I think.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I definitely found that.
Daryl Rosser: One in 20 that you met with, that’s not just out of one in 20 calls, that’s one in 20 that you met with after the calls, ended up becoming a client?
Edwin: Yeah. I think two of the 20.
Daryl Rosser: Two of 20, okay. Did you do a lot of calls? Did you continue for a while? What sort of numbers are we talking?
Edwin: I think I did around 80, 90 calls and I got, maybe 20 is a bit high, I think I got like 15 appointments. 15, something like that, and two of them became a client. One was only for a few months and one was a partnership I still have today.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. How much were the clients, if you don’t mind saying, at that time?
Daryl Rosser: How much were the clients at that time, like what sort of clients were you getting out of that?
Edwin: I only had like one direct client and it was not too much, it was only 250 euros a month. Because I still was talking in terms of, “We’re going to do some back links,” and stuff like that. The other partnership, there was a partnership that I still have today and that obviously is an ongoing relationship that pays off a lot more. I can’t put a number on it right now, but yeah. I think if I target only those types of businesses you can grow pretty exponentially, I think.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that makes sense. You did the cold calling and then from there, how did you transition into getting the partnerships, the companies that refer deals to you and stuff? That sounds like that’s where it kind of took off?
Edwin: Yeah, that’s where it took off. Actually my backlink service, a few agency type partner like agency people with a web design type agencies, they bought some back links from my backlink service, so I thought that’s an opportunity. I called them, I got into a relationship with them, I emailed them. Basically keep the relationship warm and that eventually turned out to be a partnership that I still have today, a few partnerships that I still have today. Basically my backlink service was kind of a good thing actually.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome.
Edwin: Turned into-
Daryl Rosser: You were ranking for like buy back links or rent back links or something?
Edwin: Yeah, I don’t have the service anymore because it kind of went lost I think. I was ranking for buy back links and I had a funnel in place, so I actually had a ‘get response’ account, a few basic emails that I sent them over a couple of weeks, and then they bought a package from me. When they bought a package and they got results I got on the phone with them, we already had a relationship. I got on Skype, I emailed them, I basically keep them warm and that turned out, I introduced them to the idea of reselling my services to other people and it took off from there.
Daryl Rosser: That’s really clever. So people went on this site and were selling back links directly on the page or did they have join an email list and everything first?
Edwin: You could buy it directly on the page with like a buy button, but for the people who didn’t want to buy directly I had like a funnel in place, so they can get some free back links. Basically I taught them how to create some Web 2.0 basic back links in a .pdf, sent them some emails and referred them back to the sales page where they could buy the backlink packages.
They were basically a combination of some Web 2.0 I created for them, some directory links and to top it off, some links from my PBN, which obviously got the best result for them.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, for sure. How big of a list did you build?
Edwin: Not that big actually. It was maybe 400 people. They’re still on them and I sometimes even email them for some backlink packages and I always get some sales from it.
Daryl Rosser: Nice, that’s pretty cool. 300, 400 people?
Edwin: Yeah, it’s not too much but it was okay.
Daryl Rosser: It’s quite a decent amount if they’re all in the Netherlands and they’re all local businesses or resellers.
Edwin: Yeah, exactly. I also got some people who were doing affiliate sites and they sometimes want to buy some PBN links. It’s like a diverse group of people, but mostly the people on the list are a little bit more savvy about SEO. It’s not like your typical local business who just wants to get some more leads, it’s like people who have done SEO before. Obviously they were searching for buy back links so they know what that is, so they’re not going to search for that if they have no clue what it is, obviously.
Daryl Rosser: Makes sense. What was your funnel looking like when just …
Edwin: Basically value, value, value. Got them like … I had a .pdf that’s like a create a site on WordPress.com and really basic stuff that any SEO should know. It was cool. Then I referred in the mail to, “Have you already created account on WordPress? Here are some other tips.”
Stuff like that, just value and on the end of the email I said, “If you want to buy some high quality back links go to the sales pages and you can buy. There are some temporary bonuses,” you know all the scarcity stuff built into it. Yeah, that’s how it basically went.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. Inbound marketing, it’s cool stuff.
Daryl Rosser: You got a few clients out of that, did you deliberately make an effort to get some? You had a few customers through the backlink service that were on that email list, did you email out and say, “Hey, does anyone want to resell my services?”
Edwin: No, I actually got a few people who bought like a package, and I thought, “Oh maybe they’re interested in doing a monthly link package or doing some full SEO.” I also targeted some of the people that I thought would be interested in reselling and I got on a call with them. I had their information, I had their website, I basically built a relationship with them from there. More value, more value, reminded them of the things I could do for them and that turned out to be a great move.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. Like you picked up the phone and called them? You sent them an email?
Edwin: Yeah, one or two ways, sometimes I picked up the phone, sometimes I just emailed them and got them some more value.
Or got them interested in doing a monthly SEO or backlink deal. That’s how it went. That was more focused on reselling, but in 2014 I actually learned from I’m not sure who, but people were talking about, “Don’t talk about the backlink stuff,” because that was what I was focused on at that time. I had a backlink service and I tried to get some people reselling them, but basically it was focused around back links, you know?
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Edwin: When I switched to talking about ROI, what it could do for them, I talk more in business terms instead of SEO terms, that’s when I got more direct clients, like typical SEO clients from doing that.
Nowadays when I take on a direct client, so not from a partner or a reseller, it’s always focused around how much can I maybe make them. I make like a prospect of thing what I can make for them based on the search volume, the conversion rate etc. That’s how I close my local business type clients these days.
That’s when it took off even further, because when I talk to a typical business owner and I mention I got a PR3 backlink for you, the guy doesn’t know what you’re talking about, right?
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Learning how to sell was massively valuable?
Edwin: Yeah, well not … I was always pretty decent at selling, I guess, but not to business owners. I could always talk to people, but the language I used was not the language business owners spoke. It was basically the same thing but just using different languages and using a different angle I guess, to sell the service. That’s when my local business clientele grew basically.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that makes sense, yes.
Daryl Rosser: How did you start getting the direct clients?
Edwin: Yeah, basically most of the direct clients, they come from my website. They find me, they search for stuff like SEO and then in a city. Or I did some Facebook advertising to target-
Daryl Rosser: You said that yeah.
Edwin: -local business as well. That’s how I got leads. Basically I got on the phone with them and then I’d do the whole sales, typical SEO sales process. Get them on the phone, get them to talk about their business, make a proposal and focus on what’s in it for them, you know? That’s how I got more local business clients.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. How is it split currently then between referral clients and direct local clients?
Edwin: I think when I look up my clients, I think maybe 50% of my client business is from reselling or referrals, and the other 50% is from direct, local business type clients.
Daryl Rosser: Oh, that’s pretty evenly split then.
Edwin: Yeah, pretty evenly split, yeah.
Daryl Rosser: You said something interesting before, you said that you like to target clients that are around 500 euros a month, which is less than what I usually encourage people to go for and what most people are targeting. Do you want to explain why?
Edwin: I’m not sure, maybe I’m just not talking to the right clients, but the most of the clients I target, like local businesses, they’re really okay with spending 500 a month on their online visibility SEO. I also have, or had clients in the higher rangers like 1,000 or even 1,500+ a month. Although I can obviously I can deliver more for 1,500 or 1,000 euros a month, but usually they are, the retaining rate is less. Because a client for 500 euros, I’ve got clients like three and a half years that are paying 500 euros a month, and when I typically get like a 1,000 euros a month client, then it’s maybe a year, sometimes shorter. I also have some clients that are longer, but the retaining rate with 500 euros a month client is better what I found than higher priced clients even if I deliver more for 1,000 or 1,500 euros a month.
Daryl Rosser: That’s fantastic.
Edwin: I don’t know why, but yeah. The way I manage the clients, I think it’s more in the 500 range. I give them a call every month, send them some reporting, and I think maybe for 1,000 or 1,500 euros a month they expect a lot more, you know? More like get on the phone every week and that’s just not the type of management I do for my clients, I’m willing to do for my clients.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, so you think that over the long term because of retention rate, that you’ll make more money. You’ve seen from your experience that you make more money-
Edwin: From my experience. I always try to go for like higher priced deals-
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, if someone comes to you, you don’t say, “No, too much, go away.”
Edwin: No, I mean I try to do it, but I’ve just found that the bigger the client is the more they expect from you, I guess. It’s not a bad thing, I mean I want to do more work for them, but I don’t know, it’s something I found. I don’t know what the exact reason for it is, but it’s just something that I found.
I always try to go for higher obviously and I rather have 1,000 a month client for a year than a 500 a month client for one and a half year. Obviously I make more from the 1,000 a month for a year. It’s also easier to close 500 a month clients. It’s just a number that works for me, I guess.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, fair enough. What about a management? I don’t like clients that are like, less than $1,000, and even that’s kind of pushing it. I just don’t like dealing with them.
Edwin: Actually for me it’s the other way around, because the 500 euros a month client are easier to manage than the 1,000 or 1,500, because they expect more from management. If I got a client that’s just give him a call every other month, how is he doing? Keep the relationship warm, send him a report, that’s cool with a 500 euros a month client. With a 1,000 a month client, they want more. They’ll hassle me more than the 500 euros a month client, so it’s kind of the other way around from you, but yeah, that’s what I found.
Daryl Rosser: No, makes sense, I was just curious. I guess it’s different for everyone. Cool. Let’s do a few faster questions that are just completely random, to wrap it up, because we’re like 50 minutes in nearly.
Edwin: Wow, that went fast.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, really fast. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made since starting your agency, the agency stuff specifically?
Edwin: The biggest mistake I made, I think not outsourcing quick enough, fast enough. Because that basically, like I said, I’m only have like 20, 15, 20 hours a week managing the SEO agency. My life is better now. I mean, when I would have started outsourcing in the beginning, I think I would have scaled better, I would have been further than I am right now. I didn’t start it, I was always like, “I have to do everything myself,” and that’s the biggest mistake I think I’ve made.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. Okay. On that topic then, I just thought of this on the spot, based on like poreto’s principle 80/20, what’s the 20 of things that you spend the time on that brings in like 80% of the results?
Edwin: I guess finding new PBNs.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, really?
Edwin: Yeah, because for me obviously usually it’s like getting more clients, obviously. For me right now I’m not into scaling it even further, I’m just into managing it right now, get some new clients like it is right now. Usually I would say sales, but in this case getting PBN leads is-
Daryl Rosser: Because you’ve already got the partnerships in place?
Edwin: Yeah, exactly. Getting PBN links placed is what brings the most results, so I’m going to say where I am right now, PBNs are my biggest thing that puts in results.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that’s an interesting answer, yeah. What’s your, like you’re just focusing on affiliate SEO now you said. What’s your plan or goals for the next say 12 months?
Edwin: I have like only three affiliate sites that I’m working on currently. One is in, oh I’m not going to name the niche, but it’s a pretty big niche.The site is already producing some decent sales. I have better days and some less better days, but I want to scale. I want to get that site in the top three, it’s a big niche, I am with the biggest keyword I am targeting right now I am on the top of page two.
Daryl Rosser: Nice.
Edwin: I’m already quite a few PBNs in, so I’m going to push some more and I want to scale my affiliate income to the level where my agency is right now.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that makes sense. Yeah. I think it’s more scalable for the time that you put in.
Edwin: Yeah, exactly. Obviously if you don’t have a cash flow going I would say clients are the best thing to start with like you mentioned. But if you’ve got a cashflow business you can fund your affiliate with that. I think that’s money spent well or time spent well, because if it takes off, then one site can produce a lot of income, you know? If you target the right niche.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, that makes sense. What sort of affiliate stuff are you doing? Amazon?
Edwin: No, I’m focused here in the Netherlands and we don’t have Amazon actually.
Daryl Rosser: Really?
Edwin: I think you can order it. Yeah, I think you can order but it’s not like a big thing here in the Netherlands. In Germany, that’s our neighbouring country, it is, but in the Netherlands we have a competitor I think from Amazon, that’s bol.com and it’s like the Amazon of the Netherlands. They also have the same thing Amazon does that people can sell their things on them, so like e-commerce store owners who have their own, the same thing Amazon does.
Daryl Rosser: That was interesting.
Edwin: Yeah, exactly. Maybe it’s even a division of Amazon, I don’t know, it could be. Not sure if that’s the case. Sorry, what was the question again?
Daryl Rosser: What type of affiliate, what type of offers is it?
Edwin: Yeah, mainly I send them to a page and they buy something and I get a commission. It’s I guess pay per sale? I don’t know how it’s called.
Daryl Rosser: Pay per sale.
Edwin: People buy something in a store and I try to target higher type things, when I get like 20 to 50 euros of commission. That’s like what I like to go for. Yeah, that’s what I do basically. But this, yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Would you recommend someone if they’re not from the US or the UK or anything, to target their home country?
Edwin: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve never thought about targeting the US with affiliate or with clients. Never even crossed my mind because, why? I mean, there’s plenty of things that you can do in your own country. I think the other guy you spoke to in an interview, from Denmark I guess?
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, my buddy Stinus.
Edwin: Yeah, I mean, he does it in his own country. You can look at the US or the UK and copy it to your own country-
Daryl Rosser: That’s the smart thing.
Edwin: Yeah, but if you live in like a western, even if you want to go the client route and you live in a western European country where there’s money, I think, you could target clients. I mean, every local business needs new leads.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, it doesn’t matter where they are.
Edwin: I mean, why would you target not your own country when there’s even more competition as well?
Daryl Rosser: Exactly. Yeah, I don’t target the US, preferably. I have sites there, but I try not to.
Edwin: Yeah, I mean for you it’s different because you’re English speaking so you can target the US. But again, why? I mean, in the UK there’s plenty of room for growth I think.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, exactly.
Edwin: Even if you’re in Germany and even if you want to go the affiliate route, I think people on your show mentioned before, competition here in the Netherlands it’s not like super easy because there’s a lot of people into SEO, but I think it’s easier here than it is in the UK or in America, because simply there is more people speaking English than there is speaking Dutch.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, creating some competition with yourself.
Edwin: Yeah, exactly. If you want to go to the affiliate route, definitely go in your own country I would say.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, and what niche should I target again?
Edwin: Whatever you want, man.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome, man. Final question to wrap it up. Someone’s just starting out and let’s do it a little bit more interesting, let’s say they’re making like 500 euros a month, because that’s the level that was quite a big deal to you. What would you advise they do from that stage?
Edwin: It depends if you have mortgage and stuff like that, but I would definitely pay my mortgage first. If you just have 500 euros to spend I would go all in with PBNs. Buy like crazy amounts of PBNs, that’s what I would do. Even if you don’t have a client yet, because if you have 500 a month cashflow you obviously have some clients or stuff like that.
I mean, the best investment for your SEO business you can make is buying PBNs and hosting to put them on. I think you can reuse the PBN, if you get like 20 sides, you can use them for clients. If you want to take a little bit more risk you can also put your links to your affiliate sites on them, although I wouldn’t do that, but you can technically do that.
That’s like an investment that will pay off. I mean, 20 PBN links to any site will probably give you an increase in rankings.
Daryl Rosser: A little bit more than probably, if they didn’t I’d be kind of worried. Your PBNs would be kind of toxic.
Edwin: Exactly. Yeah, so if you want to go to learn how to scrape because you can save a lot of money on the auction domains. You learn how to analyze a lot of domains because if I have a scrape with like 500 available domains, I filter them, I check them. You get a feeling about how linking on the internet works.
I mean, it’s, yeah. Scraping is something that gives you an idea, even if you place a link to a site and you analyzed a lot of links coming into PBN domains, you kind of get like a feeling of how people link on the internet. That’s also a great thing on how you should link to your affiliate or client sites.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome man. I think the biggest takeaway people should take from this is that it’s a lot simpler to get more clients when you target web designers and people that can resell your services. Then also your inbound approach is very good. Building up an email list that you can basically sell to and get clients, on demand, maybe not the best clients in the world, but on demand. Building up those emails lists and doing like the inbound marketing stuff. Yeah, if you targeted, if you could build up an email list of web design agency or something that I actually know I can trust you, it’s just money.
Edwin: Even if you want to go with a advertising route on Facebook, I mean you can target web designers, you could target … I mean, there’s endless possibilities. If you can build a relationship with them, it’s the same relationship you need to be building with a direct client. But when you have a partnership you can get more out of it.
I mean you can get 10 clients from them over the year and one local business is just one local business, but the type of management is the same. You have to call them every once in a while, you have to maintain the relationship, to have to send them some gifts every now and then. I mean the typical client management stuff, but the local business only pays the local business fee, it’s just one client, and the partnership pays off in, you get more clients out of them, but the management is the same.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Awesome man. This was really one. Is there anywhere people can find you if they want to send some questions or 50 questions or annoy you?
Edwin: I think the best place is to place it in the Lion Zeal group, if people have a question. I also will give you my Facebook, if you want to become friends you can get a friend request, but I think that’s a good place.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome man, yeah. I’ll include a link to your Facebook and maybe request people that tag you in the group rather than like spamming you by private message with questions.
Edwin: Yeah, I think that would be better, and if people have questions maybe if there’s other people that can see it too, then I think it’s better spent than me answering questions on private messages.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I give you a new job.
Edwin: Yeah, exactly.
Daryl Rosser: All right, man. Thanks again for coming on, this has been cool.
Edwin: Yeah, thanks for having me, it was nice speaking to you again.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, for sure man. All right guys, thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode and I’ll see you guys next week.