Building a Long-Term SEO Business with Jonathan from PBNButler

In this episode, I sit down with Jonathan Kiekbusch from PBNButler to talk SEO services, agency building, and creating a sustainable SEO business.

In this episode, we cover:

  • How to make your clients never want to leave
  • How to get your first client within the next 2 weeks
  • How to put together a team and hire for technical roles like developers
  • How Jonathan started his SEO business with zero background or experience with it

Watch it here:

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Links and Resources Mentioned:


Daryl Rosser: Hi guys. Welcome back to another episode of the Lion Zeal show. In this episode, I brought on Johnathan from PBNButler to talk about SEO services, ranking … It’s really hard to condense what we spoke about in a few second intro. But some of the interesting topics we covered were hiring and scaling. One thing you have to do with providing all of these different services, is really figuring out how to manage a team and hire them. We get into a really interesting topic about that.

We also get into a few rants and raves about client getting and some really interesting techniques you can use to really make your clients never want to leave you, because a big problem a lot of people have is they get this client and three to six months later they’re like, “We really want to try this other company now.

We want to try this other thing now, because it’s coming to us.” We have a chat with people today who suffer from that exact problem. Whereas if you follow techniques like this that we’re going to cover inside the interview, it’s a really great way of building a solid relationship with them.

When you have a solid relationship with the audience, they’re not going to quickly leave just to save themselves $100 a month, $200 or whatever, small amounts of money to your business and theirs when you’re actively delivering amazing results and you have an amazing relationship with your clients. So that said, let’s go straight into the interview guys. I hope you enjoy it. It’s a really fun one, and it’s a pretty cool discussion about all things SEO and agency-building, and just all that sort of stuff. Let’s get into it. I hope you enjoy.

Hey man. Thank you for coming on the show this should be fun.

John: Hey. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Daryl Rosser: I guess we can start off with the absolute basics, and if no one has any idea of who you are, do you want to go for a little … What are you working on these days? Who you are, sort of intro.

John: Sure. Absolutely. I run a business called I2W which owns a few different IM brands, including PBNButler which is the most well-known, and Signals Ninja, and a few others. What we do essentially is we provide services and products to the digital marketing industry. The majority of those products are being used in a lot of agencies and a lot of work-from-home digital marketers’ campaigns on a daily basis.

My role in the business, other than running day-to-day operations, is to help the industry bring a new tide of enthusiasm for doing SEO, for selling to businesses, and working quite closely with marketers on a day-to-day basis, and agencies, to essentially help them streamline their procedures, their offerings, et cetera, so that they can essentially make more money and at the end of the day have more money to spend with us.

Daryl Rosser: That makes a lot of sense. With the enthusiasm thing, making them more enthusiastic makes them enjoy it more, does that come down to really just simplifying everything? So making it … Getting rid of all the stress and all that with having to deliver the service? Or how do you really … What do you do to make an experience easier for agencies?

John: Well, that’s really a … That has two sides to that coin. From our business’s side, what we have to do is we have to work with them to see how we can help them challenge pain points on both ordering from us as well as with their own campaigns, et cetera. But when it comes to helping agencies regain their enthusiasm and motivation, one of the things that I work on massively is breaking down tasks into small, achievable bites.

That means you actually feel a reward with what you’re doing. A typical example is for sales teams … Most sales teams have a monthly target. That monthly target is usually extremely daunting. If your monthly target is to, let’s say, sign 10 new clients, that sounds way harder to do than it is to sign two and a half clients a week, right?

Daryl Rosser: Much. Yeah.

John: Little, little things like that of saying, “I tell you what. Why don’t you email 10 people a day, and reach out to them and try and arrange a phone call?” Sounds a lot easier than, “I want you to email 300 people a month.”

Just by breaking down these steps of your campaigns and your goals and your targets, we’re able to bring back enthusiasm in sales people, in digital marketers, just because they’re actually able to achieve something which before seemed really daunting and hard to achieve.

Daryl Rosser: Gotcha. Yeah. What is interesting to me is that you guys are … Your business, where you make money from, is an SEO vendor. But your company is almost a trainer company if you think about it really, because you’re providing all this training on how to leverage your services.

John: Absolutely. I think that that’s really a shift that we discovered within about six months of launching, end of 2014, is that what we realized, that the two biggest pain points in the industry for vendors, I think, are the support and the education of the customers. The problem is … I think you will see this massively in Facebook groups especially, and forums.

A lot of people are not aware of what to do with the products that they have. They have all the products, all the services, all the training at hand, but they don’t know how to use them. That is really bad for a vendor, because I am not able to sell a product two, or three, or four, or 10 times to somebody if they don’t know how to use it because they don’t see an ROI, they don’t … Sometimes people would buy a product or a piece of training, and not use it at all. That’s the worst thing that can happen, because then they’re not going to get an experience at all. If they get no experience and no results, then they’re never going to purchase from you again.

What we discovered is that the more time we spent with the customers, educating them about how to apply the prods to their campaigns, how to sell more, spending time with them, even on joining them on sales calls, what we discovered is that their buying power would go up substantially.

Daryl Rosser: That makes sense. Do you believe that a traditional SEO agency, where the go in and sell to local business and stuff, they could take this same sort of approach of leading with training, just genuinely helping people really, and then selling services as the way they make their profit in the back end almost?

John: Without a doubt. I think you could go as far as to say that you could … I think that the buying power of the small to medium business today is huge. I think that if you could come in and you identified, let’s say, 10 businesses that are all run on WordPress, where the websites are massively outdated and they’re really terrible …

And you identified just 10 businesses, rented a meeting room and said, “Hey, you know what? I’m new in the area. I’m going to give you a free one-hour seminar on how to update your own website,” and now you invited those 10 business people, your cost is going to be whatever the meeting room cost is, right? Which, depending on where you are can be like $50 to $100. You can rent a room in a library or whatever.

Daryl Rosser: Probably, yeah.

John: And you sat down, and without asking for any money or anything off of those businesses, and just provided them an hour of your time giving them true value, those guys are going to become your customers hands down. I would go so far as to say that 60% of those people are going to be back in touch with you, if not 80% to 90%.

Daryl Rosser: Definitely.

John: You know, what does it cost you? Nothing. It costs you a little bit of time to reach out to people, which you can even automate today, and once you’ve done that it takes you a little bit of time to organize the thing. Now, if you wanted to do it at scale, you would obviously run like five of those seminars in a day or six or seven, and eventually you could even hire somebody to run them for you. But the point is, if you educate your clients, they have the knowledge and the power to even purchase from you.

How many times and how much time in total do we waste trying to explain what we do to people? If we can actually condense that by bringing 10, 15, 20 people into a room and saying, “Hey, you know what? Bring your laptop. I’m going to show you how to do the basics of editing your website for free next Saturday or in an evening,” I reckon that you can really help them understand why it’s important to hire a professional agency.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. You know, Chet Holmes talks about this in his book ‘The Automatic Sales Machine’ I think it’s called, where it’s basically education-based marketing, where you educate them on why they need to work with you, basically, or anyone else that does what you do, and then it directly leads in because once you educate them on why they need an SEO professional to help them out, who do you think they’re going to choose at that point?

John: Exactly. The thing is, too, I mean psychologically, they owe you, right? It doesn’t matter if they are consciously thinking that they owe you, but subconsciously they feel like they owe you. That’s why we use lead magnets, right? That’s why we give away ebooks and stuff like that, because it makes people feel like they owe you something because you’ve given them value. Now you can apply that to the industry, in every aspect possible.

The good thing is, too, that if you just went around your local high street, and just said … Just print yourself some 50 Vistaprint business cards, and you just went round your local high street and just popped into every shop and said, “Hey, do you own this store? Do you have a website? I don’t want to sell you anything, I just want to invite you to my evening. I’m new in the area,” sort of thing, of they’re going to do it. What have they got to lose?

If you’re in the UK, especially, if you entice them with a free pint of lager, they’ll definitely be in. I think that there’s so many creative approaches to doing this. You don’t even have to do it physically. You can jump on and do a webinar. You can use automation tools to reach out and get people to buy into your webinar. The way that I would do that is I would probably provide a couple of mini YouTube tutorials up-front to let people know that this is something that they’re interested in. Then, afterwards, you invite them to a webinar to say, sort of, “Find out more.”

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: I think from that webinar you don’t try to oversell. I think that you’re going to find that those people are going to be quite keen to find out what you do have to sell whenever you’re ready to offer it to them.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Definitely. So, with regards to training for your business now. I know you guys have the blog, and I’ve seen you doing some pretty interesting stuff recently where you were letting people schedule time with you on Skype, and you were saying that was a crazy, busy couple of days or whatever that was.

John: Yeah.

Daryl Rosser: What else do you do in terms of that training part? Is it in the support area for existing customers, or what else is there?

John: Essentially what we’re doing at the moment is we reach out to existing customers directly and we say, “Hey look, do you want to jump on a call regarding this?” A lot of customers email us by now as well, regarding just questions. They email us even regarding questions that have nothing to do with our products. If we have the time, we always reply to them.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: For the agencies, it’s more a formal thing where we schedule time. Just the beginning of this year, I went to an agency that has an office in two different locations in the UK. We literally delivered onsite training. Then for totally new, new customers that we’ve emailed out of the blue, so cold emailing or cold-called, we just … What we do is we offer them, first of all, to have a review via phone where we talk to them about their website, about their current branding, and we just offer them advice. Then after the call, we say, “If you want us to help with it, we’re more than happy to send you a quote.”

The good thing is that nine times out of 10, if you can explain really simple things to them, like showing people the load time of their website and then just showing them a statistic that, “It’s a fact. 60% of people that are trying to load a website on their mobile phone will abandon the loading if it takes more than three seconds to load.” The statistics …

You just pull those up and you send them to them, and you say, “Look. I’m not making this stuff up.” Then you show them on Pingdom or GTMetrix how long it takes to load their site. You say, “Hey. I can send you guides on how to do this, but unless you’re becoming a developer overnight, you’re not going to be able to. I can help you with it. Here’s my price.”

You can be a little bit cheeky with it too, you know, and just call them out and say, “Do you want to lose 60% of the people that are trying to load your business right now?” The majority of people are going to be like, “Obviously not.”

Daryl Rosser: That is really cool. I completely agree.

John: Yeah, and there’s too … People are always so focused on trying to get people new traffic. It’s like, “We need more traffic. We need more traffic.” I like to find businesses that are already getting traffic, and analyzing why they’re not getting the conversion rates that they should be getting, because that is the quickest win. I think that that is really big, especially when you’re talking …

When you’re looking at bigger contracts. I was on a phone call with Dr. David Darmanin, the founder of Hotjar, about a year ago. What he was saying that a lot of agencies are doing, that they work with, which are obviously agencies that go into the contracts of north of $10,000 a month is-

Daryl Rosser: Sure. Sure.

John: Is they will … Before they even send a proposal, they will deploy Hotjar and other tools on the client’s website, and do a full analysis of the quick wins that they can achieve not just by improving the rankings, but actually by improving the flow of the traffic through the website, minimizing where people are exiting the site and where you’re receiving drop-offs, where your bounce rates are going up.

And by doing that, a lot of these guys are able to get their clients results in the first month. Not by finding new traffic, but by actually increasing the conversion rate of the traffic that’s already coming to the site.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. The leveraging is already there. You may as well … And it’s quick.

John: Exactly. This is something that I am so passionate about. People really need to understand that the customer only cares about one thing, and that is a positive return on investment. It is as simple as that. They don’t care if you walk down the road with flyers for their business. If it gets some more clients, that’s what they want. At the end of the day, if you fit their budget, do it.

That’s the other thing. People are constantly undervaluing their services. Here’s a brilliant example of somebody doing it right. We have a client in the UK and all that this client does is sell citation building, right? But the irony is they don’t even do them themself. They let us do the citations.

Now, our citations range from just over a dollar to like … I think it’s like $.75 per citation, depending on how many you order. This guy is selling them at £3.50 per listing, which is about $5.00. He has multi location businesses signing up all the time. Now imagine if you have a business that joins you with 14 locations and they want 200 listings built in each location. You’re charging them $5.00 per listing per location, and are only paying out $.75? It’s easy money. There’s so much money in this industry. People just need to go out there and get it.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. It’s huge. It’s completely true. I’m kind of interested to hear, what were you doing before you got into PBNButler and into all the services that you have today?

John: My journey has been a little bit crazy, and I’ll spare you a huge amount of it. But my first professional job was when I had just turned 17 and I had just moved to India, which is a whole different story. But I moved to India, and I started working for a very traditional outsourcing business.

That business was looking for somebody that could speak German to take care of sales in the DACH countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland. So me at 17, German being my mother tongue, it was the perfect fit. They paid me nothing, I was on like $200 a month. It being India, that was enough money to come by.

What I did is I worked there in the office during the day, and was selling website builds to Germans, Austrians, Swiss people, and at night I would do nightclub promoting in Bangalore, right? At 17 that was great fun. I always had a great guest list and I enjoyed it a lot.

After 2008 I left India and I went back to Germany, and I got head hunted by, at the time, the leader in usability research, a big American company. They wanted me to join their account sales team in London, so I moved to London. Within six months I was the Director of Sales for Europe for this usability company.

Daryl Rosser: Nice.

John: I then had pretty much the best year of my life until recently just traveling around Europe and meeting really big businesses. I think I learnt an incredible amount about dealing with corporate businesses, because until you have sat in a meeting with American Express or Deutsche Bank or Bosch or something like that, where there’s one of you and like 10 of them looking at you saying, “How can we spend half a million euros?” You don’t really know what you’re doing.

I really learnt a lot there, and then after the bubble burst in the States I was actually made redundant from that business. That was a really big wake up call for me. What I did is I got so sick of the IT industry. I said, “You know what? I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m done.” So I started a physical security business in the UK.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. That’s a big change.

John: A totally bizarre change, yeah. And ran that business for three years. We got some really good work. We were involved in the Olympics. We did a lot of body guarding jobs. We did the security for the Queen’s polo and stuff like that.

We did some cool stuff. Then I met my now business partner Luke, who from a very young age had been a technical SEO. At the time he was mostly doing sort of churn-and-burn SEO, doing very well with it, making good money. But he was getting sick of working on his own, and me being the hustler, the seller, the guy that likes to do business, I said, “Hey. Let’s partner up. Your skills in the technical side of marketing and SEO, and my skills at building a business, I think we can do something here.”

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: We started doing both to begin with. I was still running the security business, so most of the time I was out of the house for 12 hours of the day, running sites and jobs and events and stuff like that. Then I would come home and spend another six, seven hours on the computer and catch a quick four-hour power nap and then go back out. But as I’m sure you know, once you find the one thing that you really want to be doing, it’s like an addiction. You’re relentless. You cannot stop doing it, right?

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.

John: You just want to get out there and do it. We did both, and one day we had the idea that there’s this huge sector of people who are working with PBNs, and that their shortcoming was that it’s really difficult to get good-quality unique content in high volumes at a low price for their PBNs. So we thought, “Okay. Let’s have a look.” What we did is we started producing this content in the Philippines, and we realized that we still weren’t quite there.

The quality was just not what we wanted it to be. So what we did is we hired a couple of American students to proofread that content, and all of a sudden the quality of the SEO content went way above that of anybody else’s providing it. And because we had the infrastructure that I had set up, we were actually able to do it at volume, which nobody else that had good quality content was able to do.

Very quickly, we realized that we’d sort of opened Pandora’s Box in a good way, because we were getting flooded. And us having the very sick mentality of not wanting to let anyone down … I remember days where I would be writing $4 article orders for people just in order to get stuff sent back to the customers.

Daryl Rosser: I love the hassle.

John: Yeah, and it was crazy. It was great and stupid at the same time. What we then realized is that we were onto something, and that people were really obsessed with the quality of the products and the service that we were doing.

So we started looking into doing more of it, and I decided to sell the security business. I sold it to a competitor of mine which was great. Got rid of it, done. What we did then is we started building out more products, and we realized, “We need our own production somewhere, somewhere where we’re in control.” Because the biggest problem that we were seeing for people in this industry is the fact that the majority of them are using virtual assistants. As great as virtual assistants can be they’re also incredibly notoriously unreliable.

Daryl Rosser: Yes.

John: You can find the best VA in the world, and they can stay the best VA in the world for a week, a month, a year. But a lot of the time you’ll find that eventually they just disappear, or they just stop doing the work. So what we decided is we needed to be a vendor that had their own office and their own staff, an office manager, an HR person, and does business properly.

So we opened up our office in India, which was in an apartment with like three developers and an office manager, and it was opposite a primary school which was noisy and we got to enjoy the Indian music every morning when they got into school. Within, I think, 18 months, we’re now in a big commercial office with 17 staff over there.

Daryl Rosser: Awesome.

John: The scale that we’ve seen just by staying true to our customers and fulfilling the services that they request of us has just been incredible.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. That’s really cool. I’d actually be really interested to talk about the team building and stuff like that. But before that, I’m kind of curious … When you first started with your business partner, Luke, you said, did you know SEO at that time? Or did you entirely learn it from partnering with him?

John: Honestly, I knew in essence what SEO was, but I didn’t have a clue.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. You knew of it.

John: Yeah. Exactly. I knew that you had to build some links and stuff like that, and that was is. But I didn’t have a clue, honestly. But then what I thought to myself was, I didn’t have a clue about usability research, and I became the Director of Sales of that. I thought to myself, “If I can do that, I can do this.”

A lot of what I know now I just learned by doing and by having that sickening obsession with wanting to succeed in it. The great thing is that the community and of course having a business partner who is an expert at it was so helpful, because I really … I just got dug in and I didn’t have an option. I said, “Hey. I’ve got a potential client. What are we selling them?” And he would say, “This, this, and this.” And I said, “You need to tell me what this means, because the customer might ask me.” You know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: It was just … I just threw myself into the deep end.

Daryl Rosser: I think that is the best way. Anything. Just dive right in and you’ll figure it out quicker that way than trying to spend six to 12 months learning before you take any real action. Just dive in and figure it out as you do.

John: Yeah. Well, the thing is too, a lot of people think that their prospects are going to be offended or think that you’re stupid if you say, “Let me get back to you on that.” It’s not a problem. If you’re honest with a customer and you say, “Hey, listen, you know what? I manage the sales and I know 99% of it, but that is a very technical question that you’re asking me. Let me just double check that with one of our techs and get back to you,” nobody’s going to be offended. They will appreciate your honesty every time.

Daryl Rosser: Sure. Definitely. I think that is just a big fear people have. Really, it’s huge. “I would get a client but I can’t because I’m not that sure on how all this works yet.”

John: Exactly.

Daryl Rosser: Like you’re saying, just go get them and figure it out.

John: Yeah, well the thing is right, I always tell people, “What’s the absolute worst thing that’s going to happen? You’re not going to get the client. Well stop fearing rejection so much, because the second that you stop fearing rejection you’re going to have success, hands down.”

I think that every person that I have met that has started their business by cold-calling I have tremendous respect for because I know that it’s hard when you start off. But every person I’ve met, they’ve said, “Listen. I just picked up the phone. I called 10, 20, 30, 40 people a day, until I got a client.” That’s it. It’s a numbers game, isn’t it? If you call enough people your calling skills are going to improve tremendously, and eventually you’re going to find somebody that says, “Okay. Take my money. Leave me alone.”

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Definitely. How long has it been since you first launched the content running service that it was initially?

John: We launched that in November 2014, so it’s been … What? About two years now.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. Yeah.

John: So within two years we’ve gone from two people working from their home offices in the UK to having a huge team in the UK, US, India and the Philippines, and having clients and customers all over the world. Honestly, hands down, the only reason I think that was possible is by building a team and investing in that team before worrying too much about getting customers.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. That’s what I was kind of curious about. Did you build the team to cater for the customers you didn’t have yet, or did you get the customers and then build the team to keep up?

John: Well, it was actually kind of a funny mix, because the initial … The head of the support and ops team is actually one of my best friends’ little brothers, who … I’m going to be best man at his wedding in like two days.

Daryl Rosser: Nice.

John: But the thing is, what happened was we got so many support requests right in the beginning because we had no infrastructure, no proper ordering system, and we had just sort of thrown this product out there thinking, “Maybe we’ll get a couple of orders.” What we didn’t realize is that we were going to have like 50 orders in the first two days, and we were going to be completely overwhelmed. So even though we didn’t have the money for it, we brought him on board part time.

The job he was doing at the time was really very, very lax. I mean, I think he was working 20 hours a week or something. We said, “Hey, to begin with, can you just join us and just do the support in the morning before you go to work, and then as soon as you get back in the afternoon?” And he started doing it.

We sort of paid out of pocket for that because we wanted somebody in the UK that could really cater to our customers. So for him it was almost a mix of, we already had the customers but we also went the extra mile because we wanted to have somebody that we knew could grow with us.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: But as far as the team was concerned in India, for instance, and in the Philippines, we hired an office manager before we ever had an office. The reason for that was that we wanted to just have somebody who could micromanage all the small problems, the …

Somebody needs to go out and create all the ads for the recruitment. Somebody needs to go out and visit all the offices. If you worry so much about all of these things that can be quite trivial, you’re never going to get anything done. And so we started doing that.

Now, I mean, we’re massively overstaffed right now, but based on the fact of how we’ve built up the business, we’re not doing it at a loss. Now we’re able to have developers in our team where I can say, “Hey, you know what? I had this idea. I really want to have this on our new WordPress site.” And they say, “There’s no plugin for that.” So I can actually go to our team and say, “Hey guys, can you build me a WordPress plugin to do that?”

Daryl Rosser: That’s cool.

John: And that is just phenomenal.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: It’s something that I actually dreamed about two years ago when we first started and we went through the frustration of trying to find a plugin that would work to do something particular that … And you know the struggle sometimes when you’re really stuck. But I think the hardest thing, honestly, has been trying to bridge the gap. We’re in the US, mostly on the East Coast. We’re in the UK in the South. We’re in the Philippines, and we’re in India. Now, it’s very difficult to make people feel included when you’re working on such a global scale.

Daryl Rosser: Sure.

John: Inclusion is incredibly important. I always work with the mentality that the more we invest into our staff and into our team, the more they’re going to invest into our clients’ work. So while my focus is to work a lot with the clients, a lot of my time is spent with the team and sort of understanding their pain points and their problems. It could be something as simple as sitting down with your order manager and finding out that a particular plugin is a huge pain, and it’s taking them twice as much time to process orders than it should just because we chose the wrong plugin.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: Once you understand that, and you just do a simple thing like replacing a plugin on a website, all of a sudden their morale is boosted. They go to work with a spring in their step, and everything’s better. But it’s that 15 minutes of sitting down and just understanding that, that it makes a huge difference.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, focusing on helping the team making their job easier because then they’re going to pass that on to the client. That makes a lot of sense. So how do your offices work together? You have … Is that four, you said?

John: Yeah. The one in the US isn’t a physical office. We have seven or eight writers over there who are university-educated writers who have all come from either the journalism or english literature sectors, and they write all our pro and expert content. So essentially, we get a lot of orders from people who need content for their or their clients’ money sites, and they basically take care of that.

Daryl Rosser: Okay.

John: The advantage there being that we’re far cheaper than traditional copywriting companies, but the quality is far higher than if you hired somebody like iWriter or something. So that team works, is based in Florida. They basically all work from their home offices, or they really like to meet up and work together. Then we have an overruling head of content, Lindsay, who did her Masters in English Lit, and is an incredible writer who spends a lot of time with them training them on how to write content for websites, working with clients and understanding, “What are your requirements? How does an Amazon review have to be structured?”

That makes a huge difference. The amount of clients that we have that place a small 500-word test order, see the content and then place an order for like 40,000 words is incredible. That’s the US team. Then, the Philippine team works out of one of those … What do you call those? It’s like a day office where we’ve just rented a bunch of desks?

Daryl Rosser: Like co-working spaces.

John: Exactly, because it’s a little bit tricky to build up the permanent establishment there for us right now based on what’s going on with their politics, et cetera.

Daryl Rosser: Okay.

John: Basically, we just rent a co-working space for them. They meet up there, and we provide them a lot of perks. They absolutely love working with us, and they’re the content team for the SEO content. And I mean, they churn out a serious amount of content. We do somewhere between 800,000 and a million words a month.

Daryl Rosser: Wow. Yeah.

John: That’s a serious amount of content, and a lot of that goes into people’s PBNs and web 2.0s and whatnot. The Indian office is a physical commercial office where we have the proper infrastructure, and people just come to work there on a day-to-day basis. What we do is we have a lot of Skype group calls, group conversations. We have Slack channels. We have a channel on Skype where we just like to goof off and send people funny memes that we found and stuff like that.

Doing that really brings you closer together. We’ve even had moments where we’ve had developers in India who are incredible developers who want to further their English, and then they get connected to one of the writers in America who then just spend an hour once a week or something on a Skype call just to help them improve their English.

Daryl Rosser: That’s great. Yeah.

John: That’s a sort of symbiosis that we have by having this international team.

Daryl Rosser: That is really awesome. I really want to talk about SEO as an ending topic, but before that I’m kind of curious if there’s any big mistakes and lessons, more importantly. You learn from mistakes, obviously, that’s the whole point of them. But is there any big lessons you’ve had while scaling to that sort of size?

John: I think that the thing that was the hardest for us was to make the decision to invest so heavily into infrastructure. I think that we held off on it longer than we should have. I think in the beginning too we made some mistakes with purchasing. Which is very trivial, but …

As an example, when we opened our first office we bought a bunch of cheap PCs because we wanted to keep the cost down, and it came to bite us in the the ass because they kept on breaking and we spent more money on technicians coming in than we would have to just buy decent branded PCs.

Daryl Rosser: The irony.

John: Exactly. I tell you what, actually. This is really important and a massive thing that we learned in hiring people, especially in Asia. I think, if I had learnt this 10 years ago, I would be sitting on a yacht in the Caribbean right now. One of the most important lessons that we learnt while hiring, especially developers and marketers in Asia, is don’t hire for qualifications and experience.

Hire for the willingness to learn. It is incredible. Nowadays, I don’t even look at their CV anymore. What I want to know is, “Can you understand me when I speak to you?” And “Are you willing to spend the time to learn your craft?” The major- … Because here’s the thing. Literally every single person in my business is more qualified than I am. Literally every single one of them.

Daryl Rosser: It’s perfect.

John: Everyone has a bachelors degree or a masters degree, or is an engineer or whatnot, right? And I’m there, I didn’t even finish 10 standard. What I’ve found is that once you find those people that are keen to learn that have a base knowledge …

Obviously, if they’ve never touched a computer and you want them to become a PHP developer, it’s going to be extremely hard. But if they have base knowledge of how to develop something, and then they have the willingness to go onto Code Academy, to spend relentless amounts of hours with you going over things, you’re going to be able to teach them so, so much faster.

The other part of that, from a business point of view, is it’s so much cheaper. If you hire people that have less experience but a higher willingness to learn, they have no bad habits that they’ve picked up in other businesses, they’re cheaper for you to hire because they’re less experienced, and the only thing that you then have to make sure is that you keep challenging them so that they don’t go to another business. Right?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: We now have an environment in our office where everybody is super-keen to learn. We have three generations of developers now in our office in the sense that the people that we first hired, then the juniors that were trained by them, and now we’ve got the juniors training up the people that have just come in. It’s incredible. That is amazing.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I guess another way of saying it or putting it would be “passion”. If you hire people that have passion about the subject that you’re hiring them to do, then they’re going to work much harder and be easier to work with, and just much better hires, basically.

John: Hands down. Absolutely. I think that finding people that match your passion is probably one of the most important things. I think one of the things that is very hard to realize when you start off, because most of the time you’re more fixated on solving a problem by hiring someone …

Like, “I need somebody who can develop WordPress websites or whatever,” but what you’ll find is that it’s far harder to find somebody when you’re looking for those qualifications and when you’re looking for somebody who knows about it and has the passion to really become an expert at it.

The other thing is, I think, not to worry too much about finances and growth is the best way to stimulate your finances and your growth. We re-invest pretty much everything that this business makes back into the business, because we’re not so hung up on living a lavish lifestyle or whatever.

What we want is we want to grow a business that gains in value in the long run. And I think that by spending more time helping the business grow and the people in the business to grow themself, you’re doing the best you ever can for your business.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. That makes … I actually completely agree with you, and that’s very smart. So with SEO ranking and the actual SEO process, what services are you guys delivering now?

John: The majority of the services that we do on PBNButler are the PBNButler staple, our social signals for instance that people absolutely love, and it’s one of our most popular products, as well as citations which are essentially directory business listings.

But what a lot of people don’t know and we’re going to start pushing this more and more now, is that we actually partner up with agencies and digital marketers and salespeople of any size … Not physically … Any size, and helping them with a complete turnkey fulfilment solution.

Essentially, the way you can imagine that is you come to us as somebody who wants to focus on selling SEO or marketing and say, “Hey. I would like to use the packages model. I want my margins to be 35% on anything that I sell.” Then we turn around and say, “Okay. That’s cool,” and look at the market that that person’s targeting and say, “Okay. How about this?

We’ll do a package at $500,” for instance, “And we charge you $300. Here’s what’s going to go into that. We will help you with every part of the process other than the sale. So you go and find yourself a prospect. You sell to them. If you need us to jump onto a sales call we will jump onto the sales call. What you do then is you get the client to fill out a joining form that is completely branded as to your brand, and send it over to us with the payment for the month.”

We do all the work. The customer gets a baseline report within the first 10 days that shows them where they’re at, what’s going to happen. Within 30 days all the work is done, they get their first monthly report. The beauty of it is you sell the customer once. After that, you have very little to do and you continue to collect your 35% on a monthly basis.

Daryl Rosser: Awesome. That sounds like a good service, yeah.

John: Yeah. So we essentially have partners now who work from home, who have sold 10, 15, 20 clients, who are making $5,000, $6,000, $7,000, $8,000 in margins monthly and all they’re doing is passing on reports and jumping on the odd call with their client to explain something.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. It’s scalable.

John: Yeah, reason why … Sorry. The reason why we love that is because we really want to focus on fulfilment. It’s what we’re great at. We really love doing it, and so the more we can focus on that, the more we can continue to keep our pricing the way it is. That is also why we have no affiliate products, as in why we don’t offer our products on an affiliate program, because we very strongly believe that our margins should be fair. If I start giving 20% to an affiliate, that means at our current pricing, I’m going to have to raise the prices by 20%. That’s not fair to our resellers.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. That makes sense and actually sounds pretty awesome. What I’m kind of curious about then, and we can close up on this topic is … What services do you deliver on those campaigns when someone comes to you and is fully white label, you rank everything. Do you have a process?

John: It’s a complete digital marketing campaign, essentially. Depending on the budget it starts off … We have a very large client for instance who sells very low value packages. All that they get is a couple of on-page actions for their on-page SEO, and they get monthly citation maintenance for instance. Then we’ll add in, for instance, an optional blog post where our team writes a blog post that’s optimized for SEO, et cetera, and then our team also uploads that to the client website.

It goes from that all the way to us doing literally everything from the full keyword research, the full on-page optimizations, rewriting of content, providing of content for the blog, link building, making sure that their social channels are updated … Literally everything that is included in a digital marketing campaign.

We can do PPC and Facebook advertising, but we’ll be the first to say that it’s not our specialty and we’d rather concentrate on doing SEO and that sort of stuff. Now, if there is a client that needs to see super-fast results, and our partner wants to allocate a small budget towards pay-per-core advertising on Google, for instance, we’ll obviously set that up. We’re really quite flexible when it comes to helping our partners out.

We’ve done crazy things too. We’ve done crazy things like promotions where we’ll say, “Hey, you know what? Every client that you sign that is a small local business, five to 10 pages, that commits to six months, we’ll rebuild their website for free.” We’re willing to do crazy things for our partners in order to help them maximize their sign-ups.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. That makes sense, yeah. Really, that’s a very awesome service. Really just go and over-delivering, basically, and that’s a huge advantage for growing any business, really. With SEO-

John: Exactly.

Daryl Rosser: You rank for additional keywords or you throw in something tiny, like you go on Fiverr and order a video for someone and send them a video. It’s a $5.00 video. They don’t have to know it’s $5.00, and they’re over the moon with it.

John: Exactly. I think that’s huge. It’s like you said, a very small thing can go a very long way.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: I think that by just being compassionate and having passion for what you do … I am a strong believer that anybody can be successful in this business.

Daryl Rosser: I believe the same. I know a lot of people would disagree, but I … If someone really commits and they do everything that … Like what we’ve done is nothing special, no offense.

John: No, no. It isn’t. It really isn’t. It takes determination. And the thing is, it takes the willingness to sacrifice your time, your personal time. Your holiday, whatever. When we first started this business and I went full-time into it, I earned less money from it than I ever had in anything else, you know what I mean? But it was a sacrifice towards wanting to really do this.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

John: It’s paid off. It’s great.

Daryl Rosser: That is awesome. So that’s probably good final words anyway. But do you have any final words of advice for people that would be watching us that are presumably running smallish SEO businesses, I’m guessing?

John: I think my number one advice is to jump onto the Lion Zeal training and sell lots of SEO and then contact us at PBNButler to help you with the fulfilment.

Daryl Rosser: Thanks, I’ll take that. Cool. So where can people find you.

John: You can find us on, and for those that don’t want to go there for whatever reason, you can also contact us via (

Daryl Rosser: Okay. If anyone wants to, are you still doing Skype calls or anything like that?

John: Absolutely. Always. I’m more than happy for anybody to contact me on Facebook, or Skype, and we can put my contact details under this interview. The only thing I always ask of people is to anticipate the fact that I travel 80% or 90% of the year and I’m always in very strange time zones or I might be on a flight and not reply for 24 hours. Yeah. Contact me any time and I’ll gladly jump on a call with you.

Daryl Rosser: Awesome. That is much better than I can do. I don’t discount calls or anything like that, because it’s time-consuming. And it’s really awesome that you get through that.

John: What I’ve found is a Skype call can be condensed so much more than sending 15 emails back and forwards.

Daryl Rosser: Sure.

John: I really think I can jump onto a call for 20 minutes with somebody and answer all of their questions for the next two weeks, versus having to go and into these emails 10 times, and emailing back and forward. So I’d much rather do it, especially now that we live in the age where we have numbers that redirect to our phones and stuff. I can just be waiting in an airport and catch like three calls. I’ve just made three lifelong customers while I’m waiting for an airplane.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And traditionally sales people are like that all the time, answering the phone non-stop, sticking with their distributors and all that sort of stuff.

John: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m totally with you there. Cool.

Daryl Rosser: All right. This has been fun, man. Thanks for coming on the show.

John: No, thanks for having me. It’s been really fun. I think we’ve covered a lot.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I don’t know what to title it. It’s just, ‘Everything SEO’.

John: Yeah. ‘Frustrations and How To … I Don’t Know, Just Get Obsessed With What We’re Doing’ I guess.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. All right guys. Thank you for tuning in, and I’ll see you in next week’s episode.


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.

4 Responses to “Building a Long-Term SEO Business with Jonathan from PBNButler”

  • aaslin sathrak  October 21, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for this episode Daryl. You & Jonathan are two awesome people to learn from.

    • Daryl Rosser  October 21, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      Thanks buddy, glad you enjoyed the episode 🙂

  • arba travel  October 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for the interview. PBN Butler is my favourite service provider 🙂

    • Daryl Rosser  October 27, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks for commenting 🙂