It’s no secret that the SEO industry is growing.
Between 2012 and 2015, there was an 18% rise in the number of SEO jobs within the top 20 US cities. (source)
My inbox is spammed daily with bulk spam campaigns offering to “get page 1 on Google”.
Even the Lion Zeal Mastermind has new members joining daily, many of which are brand new to starting an SEO business.
And it’s easy to see why.
The number of unique searchers using Google within a month grew from 37.1 billion in 2007 to 114.7 billion in 2012. That number is still growing today. (source)
And it’s not only people searching ‘funny cat pictures’.
Google’s revenue increased from $50.18 billion in 2012, to $74.54 billion in 2015. $67.39 billion of this being from advertising revenue. (source)
Needless to say, search is serious money.
Not only for Google, there’s a reason software businesses are willing to pay up to $35.29 per click, and lawyers up to $42.51. It is highly profitable for the advertisers too. (source)
This large rise in search engine usage and public knowledge of it’s effectiveness, has led several marketers and opportunists to leverage it as a business, myself included.
Many readers here were probably drawn in by the simplicity of ranking with a PBN.
It’s almost push-button. Get a few clients, add links, watch the recurring income roll in.
Except, it’s not.
The little step we grazed over isn’t a little step. I’m talking about “get a few clients”. This part is far from push-button, and it’s the single most important part of running a successful client business.
It’s not difficult, but it’s time consuming and requires serious persistence.
The opportunities are still there though…
In 2010, there were reportedly 27.9 million small businesses operating in the US (source). Our collective community doesn’t own that many PBN sites between us.
So why is it that so many of us struggle to get our first client?
I believe it comes down to two things: myths and mindset.
Myths lead to a bad strategy potentially leading to months of wasted time, and in some cases, quitting.
What are these myths?
Myth #1: Rank and Rent is the best model to get started with because it’s easier to sell
“Rank a website top in Google and businesses will be biting your hand off to get ahold of your leads!!”
For anyone that’s tried it, you know it’s a little lot more difficult than that.
When starting out, competition analysis is confusing. You guess based on the limited knowledge you have, which in most cases leads to overly competitive keywords being targeted.
This often prevents you from ever ranking the website. You’ll either run out of capital, or give up after wasting thousands of dollars into a PBN to get it ranked – then seeing little results.
For those that do manage to rank their first website, they often begin asking themselves, “Now What?”.
It turns out that unless you’re ranking for huge keywords, out of a beginners budget, you need to pick up the phone and start dialling businesses to rent it from you.
That’s not to say R&R is a bad business model. I’ve seen multiple 5 figures per month being generated from a slightly tweaked version of it. But it’s not a starter friendly model.
Myth #2: Facebook Ads are the easiest way to get clients
Create a few ads, point them to a landing page, sell them SEO. Fully automated, sit back and watch the leads roll in.
Except, it’s not.
This is a funnel from DigitalMarketer. As you can see, there is a little more to creating a FB ad funnel than is often advertised.
For most people starting out, their results follow a path like this:
- Invest hours into creating videos, landers, and offers for the funnel
- Spend $500 on ads while testing and tweaking the funnel
- Spend another $500 on ads
- Run out of budget
Once again, that’s not to say funnels don’t work. In fact, I use them in my business. But it’s not the right model for starting out.
It takes a lot of time to create a funnel, and a lot more time and money to make it profitable. It’s not set and forget. It’s set, test, test, test, then test some more.
Leave the Facebook Ads for when you have the budget to effectively test it and bring it to profitability.
Myth #3: You need examples or proof
“I may as well start with a R&R site because I need an example before I can get clients”
It’s fully understandable where this myth comes from, but it’s completely wrong.
People won’t buy from you unless they know, like, and trust you.
But there is more than one way of building trust than examples, you can educate them.
If you act like an expert and sound like an expert, you are an _____.
I covered how to do this in the free sales training series, but all you need to know for now is that you don’t need any examples.
Here is why these myths fail beginners
Most beginners quit before the R&R sites is ever ranked and rented.
Most beginners quit before the FB ads ever deliver their first client.
The reason for this is a loss of momentum.
Google says the definition of momentum is “impetus of a physical object in motion”.
My definition is the merging of two ideas:
“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards”
And the snowball effect:
As a definition, I’d describe momentum as a rolling score of how fast you’re moving forwards. The faster you’re moving, the faster your momentum is going to increase. If you’re not moving – your momentum is zero.
If you were to monitor two people starting out, one that become successful, another that quit, it would look something like this:
The unsuccessful person, slowly loses all of their momentum, while the successful person does the reverse.
The difference is that the successful person, consciously or not, created quick wins. We’ll cover that shortly, but let’s map out what would cause someone starting out to lose all of their momentum.
We’ll use the Rank and Rent Model as an example…
Your website is LIVE and onsite optimisation is done. You have 5 PBN sites setup.
Current Ranking: 122
Overall Total Invested: $289
Momentum Score: 100
You’ve ordered some link building services to diversify your backlink profile. You’ve linked up all 5 of your PBN sites.
Current Ranking: 71
Overall Total Invested: $349
Momentum Score: 120
You’ve purchased another 5 PBN sites as you’re not ranking well yet.
Current Ranking: 58
Overall Total Invested: $549
Momentum Score: 80
You’re asking for advice from all your friends, but know it’s a waiting game, you’re not a quitter.
Current Ranking: 42
Overall Total Invested: $549
Momentum Score: 60
Growth has stagnated. You thought it would be easy after your competition analysis, but your friend tells you it’s more complicated than you thought and you will probably need a higher budget.
Current Ranking: 38
Overall Total Invested: $549
Momentum Score: 20
Some new product launch is happening and it looks way easier. The guy’s making huge money and it is so much faster than this. Let’s try that instead.
Current Ranking: 38
Overall Total Invested: $549
Momentum Score: 0
The above example is theoretical, but it’s almost identical to the path I’ve seen several people follow.
(If your experience was similar to this, please share your story in the comments)
Notice how the continual lack of results over time drained their momentum.
In month 2 it increased 20%, as a result of the rankings jump. But as the results slowed and because less meaningful, it dropped further and further.
The problem was they were missing quick wins.
A small milestone you can achieve to boost your momentum
I built my first business this way. What can I do to earn $1 per day? Okay, now $2. Now $3. And that scaled all the way up to over $100 per day for me.
It’s dangerous to not able to achieve any goals for 6 months or longer. Like we said earlier, if you’re not moving forward you’re moving backwards.
Rather than change your goals though, set milestones, or quick wins.
There is a simple way to determine what your quick wins should be.
Step 1. Create a timeline from starting out, to the end result
Here’s a timeline for cold emailing:
Step 2. Any type of result = your quick wins
For cold emailing, the same 3 steps that must happen before we acquire a client.
These are our quick wins. They don’t need to be big, but they’re fundamental for gaining a client.
Now, every time you get a response from a cold email, you’re only 3 steps from them being a client. If you get enough of these, one of them will get on a call with you.
Every time you get on a call, you’re only 2 steps from them being a client. If you get enough of these, one of them will listen to a proposal from you.
Every time you deliver a proposal, you’re 1 step from them being a client. If you get enough of these, one of them will become a client.
These aren’t only part of the process, they’re exciting opportunities moving you closer to your goal of that first client. And even if it takes you 3 months to close your first client, you will have these quick wins along the way.
The other defining factor towards your momentum
There’s a mindset myth that’s not directly related to SEO, but will influence your results.
The Myth: Money doesn’t make you happy
Not only is this usually coming from a mindset of either or, it’s scientifically incorrect.
A study by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School showed that people with incomes lower than $75,000/year were more ground down by the problems they already had. A lower income didn’t necessarily make them sad, but it made their life more difficult, making them less happy.
When completing interviews, a higher percentage of people with lower incomes reported being sad or stressed the previous day.
It’s no surprise why, money provides freedom. If you’re struggling to pay your bills, that’s not a stress free environment.
That’s one of the attractions to this business, you can make great money with significantly less freedom sacrifices than many other options. You can travel the world while running your business as an example.
It also requires very little capital to get started. This is known as a cashflow model:
SEO client businesses can be started for less than $100.
Cash intensive businesses on the other hand, require significantly higher investment. Software is a great example. You invest a lot of money initially, but when it turns profitable it scales massively.
Cashflow business doesn’t require nearly those levels of investment, but it doesn’t scale as well. That’s not to say you can’t scale it to a decent level though.
A simple mistake to make when starting out is not treating SEO as a cashflow model.
Instead of committing to an outreach method, myth #2 leads you into trying Facebook Ads, only to get stuck in this trap:
Critical mass is the point in which it’s profitable enough to continue without our personal money funding it. The benefit of our business, is that’s only one client.
But when you first start out, most people do not have enough personal funds to bring the project to critical mass.
Not only do they run out of money before getting results, their momentum drops like an over-optimised EMD after Penguin 2.0.
When you barely have enough money to get by, spending your last $500 on Facebook Ads isn’t the most relaxing feeling. And as the results take longer to arrive, your momentum will suffer.
There is a point of critical mass though, you just need to reach it. Unfortunately most people starting out don’t have the budget to achieve that.
Now that I’ve pulled the rug out from under you, let me show you…
The holy grail of client acquisition methods for starting out
1. Cold Email
Practically free to start with and a solid method of directly reaching your ideal prospects. A great model, just be sure to stand out.
(New blog post coming out soon on how to effectively send cold emails)
2. Networking Events
If you live nearby any type of businesses events, even very small ones, get over there! It’s a great way to meet other business owners and help them out. By being that “cool helpful guy”, they’ll trust you and see you as an expert. Then guess who they’ll go to when they need SEO?
3. Cold Calling
It sure isn’t pretty, but it works. One of the students in my Immersion Bootcamp (closed now) recently picked up a $1,500 web design gig from cold calling, he’ll upsell them SEO later.
4. Lumpy Mail
Old school strategy that will get far more attention than cold email, but costs more to do. Armando created a free video series covering it on the blog. Arguably could be taken from the list, but can be done on a smaller budget, and fits well with the concept of quick wins.
5. Industry /Business Forums
These communities are a concentration of your ideal prospects in one location. You’re crazy not to join them and start networking. But don’t be a pitch-guy. Add value by helping people, don’t plug your services in every post.
Not their ad platform. Start connecting with your ideal clients and reaching out to them. You can also use LinkedIn groups if there are good ones in your industry.
Most people never get a client because they focus on the wrong activities
What do you need to get your first client?
- A fancy website to show you’re a real business
- Your website ranked top to show you’re good at what you do
- A decent sized PBN to rank the client
- Systems in place to make taking on that first client smooth
- Testimonials from free work you’ve done as social proof
Right? No. Completely wrong.
Here is what you really need:
- A basic website for online presence
To be honest, you could even skip that, but I’d say it helps a little.
Besides choosing the wrong marketing model, you could drain your momentum by wasting your time on the wrong activities.
If, after 6 months you’ve built a PBN, setup a fancy agency website, and built some example sites… all while doing zero prospecting and outreach… guess what will happen to your momentum?
The two most important activities for running a successful agency are:
You don’t need a PBN, you have nothing to rank yet. You don’t need testimonials, you can sell without them. You don’t need examples, you can sell without them. You don’t need a fancy agency site, nobody cares.
You just need leads that you can turn into clients. And you get those leads by prospecting and outreach.
Searching for potential leads that you can contact (outreach) to generate sales for your business.
Reaching out to the qualified prospects to deliver a marketing message for your business.
That’s all you should be focusing on, every day. Make it a habit, set daily goals, and commit to it.
If you’ve found this training useful and want more strategic training on building your client SEO business, get on the early bird list for Agency Immersion. The whole Agency Immersion training was built around the strategies explained in this blog post, but broken down into actionable steps.