For this weeks episode of the Lion Zeal Show, I’ve brought Brendan Tully on for the second time to share how he’s built his search marketing agency to over 200 clients today.
It’s another episode full of nuggets and “low hanging fruit” opportunities to get quick results with local SEO, so I highly recommend giving it a listen if you’re an agency owner.
Links and Resources Mentioned:
- SearchEngineShop (Brendan’s agency)
- WPAlpha (Brendan’s hosting company)
- 9 Simple E-Commerce SEO Strategies For Ranking in 2017 (Our first interview together)
- Raven Tools (White label client reporting)
- SERPFox (Rank tracking)
- Screaming Frog (SEO/onpage SEO checking tool)
- N.A.P. Hunter (NAP checking tool)
- BrightLocal (Local SEO / citation tools)
- ZenDesk (Customer support system)
- Process Street (Checklist and task management tool)
- Zapier (Automation tool)
- Lucky Orange (Heatmaps / visitor recording tool)
- Drift (Live chat tool)
- Why you should be offering Adwords, not just SEO
- Why $5,000 per month is easily justified for local SEO services
- Brendan’s “quick wins” for getting easy rankings and results for your clients
- How to get avoid annoying and needy clients
- Why you may want to consider $500/m clients
Daryl Rosser: Hey, guys. Welcome back to another episode of the Lion Zeal Show. In this episode, I’m sitting down with Brendan Tully to talk about how he has built his SEO agency or search marketing or really his agency that delivers results for his clients and makes them money, how he’s built that up to now having over 200 clients. We’re going to talk about local SEO and how you can obviously justify your feeds, how exactly he delivers that service. We’ll talk about AdWords and why you absolutely should be bundling this into your services. We’re going to talk about other types of services, also, that you can bundle in an add to your SEO services, because, guys, the main point of this episode that Brendan wants to get across is that the way you make your money is by delivering results, making your clients more money. That doesn’t have to just be SEO. It doesn’t have to just be back links. It could be AdWords managing. It could be improving their website. It could be different things like that. That’s what we’re going to get into and really break down how exactly he’s built this up, what exactly he’s offering and how you can do the same to massively scale up your SEO business, your SEO agency.
It’s a very cool episode. I really hope you enjoy it. There’s a lot of great nuggets and recommendations and advice here, especially if you’re starting out and struggling with how you can justify like honestly, we get into how you can justify $5,000 a month for our SEO services. It’s not that complicated. It’s not as complicated as you may think. Let’s get into the episode. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s get straight to it.
Tully, what’s up man? Thanks for joining me for the second time on the show. It’s very cool to have you back.
Brendan Tully: My pleasure.
Daryl Rosser: Last time you were on, response was awesome. I think it’s the only, actually, eCommerce SEO one we’ve had. It’s extremely awesome. I highly recommend everyone check it out. For anyone that missed it, should we go for like a little intro as to who you are again just for anyone that doesn’t know?
Brendan Tully: Sure. My primary business is called The Search Engine Shop. We do client SEO, primarily for Australian businesses. About 80% of our business customers are based in Australia. I started the business by accident in 2008. People started me … I used to have an IT company. After we finished with that, people started asking about … We had a big online store as well. People started asking about this thing called CEO and they actually meant SEO.
Daryl Rosser: My mom says that.
Brendan Tully: I started to …
Daryl Rosser: My son’s a CEO.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Started doing freelance just on that. Then in 2010 won a government contract with some friends to do workshops and consulting, workshops and training for small business owners in Australia, paid for by the government. That’s how I built the business.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome.
Brendan Tully: Today we manage several hundred, online assets for several hundred Australian businesses, some of them tiny, like little tiny, local businesses that we talk to once or twice a year and then some of them are big businesses that we talk to almost every day, I think.
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool, man. With regards to SEO, is there a specific size you want the business to be or budget or anything? Are you just working with all sizes?
Brendan Tully: Yeah, that’s a good question. It was interesting listening to John Logar’s interview with you. John’s all about go for the big clients. I totally agree with his position there, that generally SEOs tend to undercharge.
Daryl Rosser: Massively, yeah.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. I mean, five grand a month is pretty much nothing for a big business for a marketing spend. I look at it from a lifetime value of the customer perspective. I probably split it into two as well. There’s customers who you have more of a transactional relationship with. Then you have clients that you have, it’s more of a relationship with ongoing. With the small end, so long as it stays in that transactional zone where they buy something from you and they get a result and it isn’t this open scope where they scope creep and they’re on the phone to you every day or whatever, so long as it stays in a customer relationship and it’s transactional versus relationship, then it’s okay to do those little. If we have clients on $500 a month SEO plans and they’ve been on there since 2010 and we talk, generally those little guys, we end up talking. They send an email maybe once a quarter or once every six months when they have something going on with their business. They’re ranked number one for all the terms they want. They have an AdWords strategy that’s totally dialed in.
From our perspective, the relationship works because we’re profitable. We’re getting more money than the work we’re doing. We’re making profit. From their perspective, they’re profitable from the spend as well. The little guys, as long as they’re low touch and their fairly automated, that’s fine. Then the big guys, I’m happy to take those on as well, but I understand that they’re definitely going to be high touch, if someone’s paying five, 10 grand a month. Then with 10, 20, 50 grand ad spend on top of that, they’re going to want to talk.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, for sure. With regards to the little clients, the $500 a month ones and that. The big issue I see people have is they’ll get, say, a 500 or $750 a month client. Even then their so stretched that they’re on the phone like every second day. How do you avoid? How do you keep them low touch customers?
Brendan Tully: Yeah, you have to be careful with the qualifying. I think it all comes down to how you sell them. Again, coming back to John, he’s really good. He’s a born salesman. He talks about, like to him, it’s so easy. It’s so natural. I think it’s really, you got to be careful in the sales process, like the qualifying. Be clear. Basically, there’s three things you need to sell somebody. They have to have a desire demand. You have to have a trust. You have to have a relationship with them. They’ve got to trust you, your product and your business. Then they’ve got to have a means of paying for it. You’ve got to be careful that they can afford to pay for it. Those little businesses who are stretched and they’re going bust tomorrow if they don’t get customers in the door, they’re going to be bad clients. They’re going to want to be on the phone every day of the week and want to know what’s going on.
It’s really about making sure that you’re clear on the customer relationship, how it’s going to work, and certainly for the first three months, I expect us to be breaking even. I don’t expect to be making any money on it. I look at it as a long term relationship. For the first three months, we might even be losing money or just not profitable, or breaking even on the time. SEO it’s going to have a ramp up period. It’s getting that period where they’re going to see, from when they start, when they see results, is getting longer and longer as Google gets smarter and they close loopholes and certain things get less effective.
I think it comes down to qualifying the client properly. Other guests have talked about this, that you’ve had on, that you can’t take on a client who’s selling a $2 widget and they make 30 cents profit. They’re going to need to sell a billion widgets to even afford to be able to pay you and have an ad spend and everything else on top of it. It’s really about client selection, qualifying them properly, being clear on the relationship. I don’t like to do any business with brand new startups, startup businesses or basically businesses where the business owner isn’t commercially mature. It’s getting more difficult now as more people … You have more people getting into online retail and they just want to rank high and they just want to make money. They’re so desperate to get to the top of Google. They really want to outsource the responsibility for the business to someone else.
You’ve got to be really careful with the qualifying, I find, more and more. Particularly, there’s a lot more prospects in the marketplace. We can fall into that trap where they just load, pile on the responsibility to you to build the business for them, where as that’s not really your role. You need to be clear about that.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I’m seeing people these days that message us saying, “I want you to rank me number one for this key word and I’ll pay you once you’ve done it.” Like, “Build my business, then I’ll just give you a commission of the top.”
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Yeah. At the end of the day, they wouldn’t go to a magazine or a newspaper or a TV station and say that about advertising. An SEO’s no different. We also generally don’t, we’ll rarely do SEO standalone. We’ll always bundle it with AdWords where possible.
Daryl Rosser: Interesting.
Brendan Tully: For a couple of reasons. SEO and AdWords, they balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. AdWords is fast. We can turn it on today. Set up a campaign today. Within 24 hours it’s up and running. Whereas, SEO, we start today, could be weeks before we see any noticeable movement. It gives us that ability to deliver results straightaway. It also is a good test of, I’ve found, the commercial maturity of a business. If you ask, say to a business owner, yeah, SEO’s great, have you thought about AdWords? You usually, so it’s part of our qualifying process. Usually you can gauge how commercially savvy they are by their response. They’ll be like, “Oh, I’m not paying for clicks.” I mean, well, you’re paying for AdWords, which is indirectly paying for clicks anyway. Yeah. I use it as a good test there.
Also, it’s a good way to test the budget. If they’re not willing to … We’ll say to the client, “Let’s test this campaign for this product. Let’s test it for two or three months at a $1,000 a month budget or $5,000 a month budget and then review it after three months.” If they can’t have that conversation without injecting a lot of emotion into it, that for me is usually a red flag that they probably don’t understand the mechanics of marketing, that they have to pay a dollar and if they make $10 back they’ve won. That’s ultimately what the game’s about. I use that as a qualifier as well.
Daryl Rosser: I like that.
Brendan Tully: I think, and also, so much of the search taken up by ads now. In some searches more than half the page is going to be PPC. You have to be realistic that the top of the page and organic is often more than a scroll down the page, like when you get past all the page stuff. From a delivering results to the client perspective, you’re kind of hurting them if you don’t at least put AdWords on the table and suggest it. Especially with things now, seeing like paid placement in the snack pack as well.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Do you also get … One thing I love about AdWords is I can turn it on today and I’ll get … It’s basically like research. It’s instantly going to tell me which keywords are performing and things like that. When you start ranking, we know all that data straightaway.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, exactly. You can’t really get clean keyword data anywhere anymore. It’s the only way to get clear, exact keyword data, especially, like you might be able to get really accurate keyword data, but it still doesn’t, you’re not going to get it for your location and per device and all this sort of stuff. It’s a pretty small investment, if you think about it. If you run an AdWords campaign on $1000 budget, for a month, even if you don’t get a high impression share, you’ll get a very good idea of what the search terms are. You can kind of reverse engineer the real numbers based on the impression share. It’s a super powerful tool from that perspective, I reckon.
Daryl Rosser: Are you running in conjunction endlessly? Or do you get the SEO up then switch? Or is it a mix of both?
Brendan Tully: We do both. Yeah. On some devices, like on a mobile device, for example, almost always on anything that’s searched that’s going to be any way commercial, above the fold is all just going to be paid ads, particularly on mobile devices. It depends on what industry it is, as well. We’ll typically run them both, continuously, forever. That allows us to keep … We keep the relationship going because the customer needs someone to manage the ad spend. If they’re making profit from it, it doesn’t matter. So long as they’re putting a dollar in and getting a return and that’s profitable for them, who cares where the traffic comes from, really. I mean, it’s like any traffic source. Facebook Ads as well, you’ll run them for as long as their profitable. I think in the SEO space they’re just like, “Oh, I don’t do paid traffic.” Or, “SEO is free traffic.”
Daryl Rosser: I’m better than that.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. I mean, SEO’s not free. You’re just really devaluing your knowledge. That knowledge that you have and the ability to rank someone, that didn’t come for free. You’ve invested a bunch of time on it. You might have a way to monetize it.
Daryl Rosser: PBNs as well. If you spend 100, $200 per PBN site, that’s a cost.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, exactly. It’s not free. I think the fact that people think that SEO traffic is free probably just highlights that they’re seeing it the wrong way. It’s all traffic. It all has a cost. The numbers work differently, in different ways. Also, there’s a risk with SEO. At some point, the client is going to have a problem when the rankings drop off or the strategy used doesn’t work anymore. It’s going to need some extra love, or the client’s going to call you up one day. They’ll be like, “We’re now at the bottom of the page. What’s going on?” It’s really just a marketing channel. If you’re doing search engine stuff, it’s crazy to me that you’d only offer SEO when AdWords is often a lot easier, quick hit, better relationship with the customer. Everybody sees a better result. You can charge the customer more if you’re doing SEO and AdWords as well.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I want to go back to a point you mentioned earlier when you said, again, like a $5,000 a month client, or for easy to justify like $5,000 a month to a real business. Can you expand on that?
Brendan Tully: A couple of things. Traditional businesses, if you look at, well, let’s call it a traditional business that’s bricks and mortar, or it’s successful or it’s multimillion dollar revenue and then they run the books by the numbers. They’re not just a mom and dad business or a handful of people running a small business.
If you look at SEO’s one marketing channel, AdWords is another, Facebook Ads is another. If you look at all the marketing channels in terms of cost and return, those businesses, especially if they’ve been around for a while, they’re used to paying, like we used to for our online store, back in the early 2000s, we used to pay for magazine ads. They’d be three to five grand for a full page magazine ad in a computer magazine that would run for one month. If you think about that in terms of ad spend, and you’re charging $1,000 a month for SEO that sticks around forever, or sticks around for a long time anyway, it has a residual effect, the SEO’s really cheap and you’re giving them a huge result.
I mean, if you look at other channels, like TV advertising, full page newspaper ad or half page newspaper ad in a major city newspaper, it’s going to be 20 grand, 30 grand, something like that. It’s perspective. I think a lot of it is because a lot of SEOs are a small team or they’re a single consultant. They kind of view it from their perspective as, “If I had two clients at 5 grand a month, I’d have a six figure income or whatever.” Whereas they’re not really seeing it as they’re a service provider. They’re a marketing agency. If they choose the right clients, if they’re not tiny, little solopreneur businesses. If they choose the right clients, then they can charge appropriately. Then the client’s stoked, because then they’ve gone from paying tens of thousands of dollars for print advertising, or even yellow pages. Typical small business yellow pages, you know even typical small business yellow pages spend 50 or 100 grand a year. They’ve gone from that to online where they can track it, see what’s going on. They’re seeing results. It works. You can charge less, still make a lot of money. It’s profitable. They’re stoked. You’re stoked. Everybody’s happy.
Daryl Rosser: It’s like you mentioned earlier. If you invest in $1 and get $10 back, they’re going to be happy all day long.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, yeah. I think, yeah, it’s important. This is only going to work if you’re dealing with a business owner that is commercially mature, they understand these commercials and they can sell this. I’ve had so many times where we’ve dealt with a client. We give them a whole bunch of traffic and calls or whatever, and they can’t convert it because they can’t sell. There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle there to get it to work.
Certainly you’re going to get a lot of attention as an SEO guy. Absolutely the small guys are going to be in love with you because they’re desperate to be number one to make the business work. The thing about the bigger clients that John Logar was talking about, they’re not desperate. You’re going to have to chase them. You’re going to have to find them and get in front of them. They’re not going to be the people, often they’re not going to be the people that you just bump into or get referred to. It’s a different kind of client. You need a different mindset in order to sell them.
They’re also not so worried about … You see in the Facebook group, people talking about what reports do I give the client. Do I tell them what links I’m making? They don’t care. I mean, we’ve done phone reports for clients before. It looks pretty. There’s a pretty graph and all our clients get PDF reports from Google Analytics. We use Raven Tools to generate those. Almost always, the client will know if they’re going to get more sales, they know the phone’s ringing, they see the dollars coming in. It’s a different type of engagement that and I think a lot of SEO people, particularly at the small end, aren’t used to. They undersell themselves and they’re stuck in that $1,000 a month kind of market.
Daryl Rosser: If the business owner is, can’t really … a word to use, but like they understand well and they’re happy to invest, then they’re not going to be caring about, “Oh,” like looking at the stats every day, seeing how many visitors they get. They just know that it’s working.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, commercially mature is the word I use.
Daryl Rosser: That’s the one.
Brendan Tully: Or commercially savvy. They don’t want … They have a business to run. They don’t want to talk to you every day. They want to have a meeting once a month or once a fortnight. They want to know the numbers. They don’t want to know the story. They want to know they’ve given you a bunch of money and they got more in return. That’s it at the end of the day. All the mechanics and all the detail underneath, that only becomes a problem if they’re not seeing a result. That’s when they start to look at what’s going wrong, or they’re questioning what you’re doing or the value you’re delivering. If their phone rings all day long, they’ll be happy. If they see dollars coming in, then, you’ll be their best friend.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Do you track, then, any sort of results for them, like the phone calls?
Brendan Tully: We used to. We don’t really anymore. We track conversions through the website. We generally push any call tracking back to them. If they want to do it, we can have a conversation about it. A lot of the big ones, they have systems in place where they know, like I said, they know if they’re selling more. Also, they don’t want to change phone numbers and be tied into tracking systems. If those numbers get out into the public, then they’re kind of going to be tied to them forever. We have a handful of clients we do it for, but most are like, “We’re tracking it internally.” They know. We do track conversions. We track anything that has a formal booking or some way we can track those online conversions. We’ll do that.
Daryl Rosser: That makes sense. My question was, because when it comes to AdWords, like how do you know if the ads are performing on your end?
Brendan Tully: We try and track the conversions as much as we can. Usually, we’ll have a conversation about, they’ll have their sales data and their CRM data. Usually for those bigger guys, they have something on there that’s generating leads. If it’s eCommerce, then we’re capturing the sales through the checkout. We can see that data anyway.
Daryl Rosser: Okay. Do you have any advice, then, for someone that wants to start doing AdWords for like a local client or anything like setting up the ads, just beginner mistakes?
Brendan Tully: I guess just sell someone on it and do it. Jump in the deep end. Same as … I say that. There’s a balance. You have to be responsible with client’s money. I think this industry has a bit of a … There’s a lot of cowboys out there that will take their clients money.
Daryl Rosser: Most, probably.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. You can do real damage to people’s businesses if you’re irresponsible with this stuff. I guess, if you have clients you’re already doing business with, pick one or two that you have a close relationship with and talk to them about it. That’s how we got into it. We started doing SEO in 2008. Then it was kind of limiting. It’s like, “Okay, you’re ranked number one now what?” Let’s do ads. Let’s do AdWords. We started that. What I found with it, it’s so much easier than SEO. It’s so black and white. You run the ads for these keywords. You run these ads. It works or it doesn’t work. There’s no sitting around waiting for rankings to go up. I’m really surprised that more SEO people don’t do AdWords, because it’s so much, it’s so technical like in the SEO space, but I find it much easier because it’s just so black and white. There’s a clear cause and effect. There’s none of that trying to guess which changes that you made.
Daryl Rosser: For once Google wants to give you good advice.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, exactly. The way I see it is Google is really a paid search engine with a handful of free results, whereas a lot of people see it the other way around, that it’s a free search engine with paid results. I mean, their business is selling ads. That’s their primary product. Why wouldn’t you get involved? You can also see a lot. We’ve learned a lot about on page SEO, doing ads, like we know what ad copy works and what generates results. Like some of those small changes you make to an ad if you change the top and bottom lines of an ad, like it can double the click through rate. Then you learn things about writing meta descriptions and some of the on page stuff.
Daryl Rosser: Exactly. Then you just copy that straight over to the on page.
Brendan Tully: Yep, exactly.
Daryl Rosser: Perfect, man. I know one of your big things that you’re a big advocate these days of, and it comes down to the SEO ranking factors is having a super-fast host, as fast as possible.
Brendan Tully: Yep.
Daryl Rosser: Can you expand a little bit on like why that’s so important on a local level?
Brendan Tully: Sure. Two parts of that. One is that it needs to be super-fast. The other part is that it needs to be super reliable. It can be fast and it can be unreliable. You can get a Host Gate or a Bluehost account to go pretty fast. Then, as soon as they get traffic or site gets a little bit of traffic, it’s going to fall over. They claim that they have 99% uptime. That means it’s still down for 3.3, 3.4 days of the year, which is pretty big.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah it is.
Brendan Tully: That’s a lot of downtime. Basically the hosting is the fundamental thing that everything’s sitting on top of. If it’s slow, if it’s unreliable, if it’s insecure and gets hacked, then everything else that’s stacked on top of it is going to have a problem. If the hosting’s slow, and we came across this problem when started doing AdWords, because it doesn’t matter as much. It didn’t matter as much back then if the site was slow or the SEO. Now it does. People have a lot less patience today because they have faster connections or whatever.
Daryl Rosser: For sure.
Brendan Tully: If someone’s fighting for traffic and the site’s going offline, that’s a problem because they’re paying for traffic to something that’s not there. There’s a direct loss of money there. It’s not just opportunity costs. We started looking at this. There’s a couple of different angles you’re looking at, besides their going off line, this is a problem, they’re paying for traffic. That was one aspect. The other aspect was that we started selling hosting and we started selling it because the site would go offline. The client would call us. We were responsible for the hosting. We weren’t selling it. They were buying it from someone else. We didn’t have control over it. There was kind of a disconnect there. We were being made to be responsible for it, but we couldn’t really be responsible, because we couldn’t control it. That’s what the whole hosting thing came out of. What we found is now we can get a client that’s on crap hosting, put them on good hosting and they’ll almost immediately see some sort of benefit. Sometimes it could be a ranking benefit. Sometimes a conversion benefit. Sometimes they’re just happy that it’s not slow anymore.
We started explaining in the workshops that it starts, this foundational legs. We’ve been doing these workshops for years for small businesses. We’re like, “They don’t understand anything.” We had to break it down to the core building blocks. We’re like, “At the bottom, you have the hosting. If the hosting sucks or it’s broken, then everything else you stack on top of it is not going to work properly. Fix the hosting first, all the other bits, the SEO, the AdWords, the sales, the phone ringing, the checkout, sales through the checkout, they all work better.” The first thing we do with any client is look at the hosting, fix it, sort out the SSL cert now, which is becoming more important. That’s where that whole hosting and hosting speed came out of.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I like it. Aside from the, obviously, benefits that actually provides to your clients, I also like the idea that you’re stacking all these services on top of each other. You have the host, then you have the SEO service, then you have AdWords manager. It’s all stacking it together.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, the other thing with the hosting was it was a really good way … An SEO business is all about customer lifetime value. Like we were talking about before, it’s all about how much value you can deliver the client and how much you can get paid for it. It’s really about the lifetime value of the client. I’m happy to take on a little client if it doesn’t cost us much and we have a high lifetime value out of that client. Some of those little clients we took on in the early days, that we still have around, over the years they’ve paid us 50, 70 thousand dollars over the course of that relationship. We don’t do, from a … We’re not on the phone every day. They don’t need a lot of attention and energy. They don’t need a lot of love. It’s a very profitable relationship. It’s all about lifetime value in that respect. The maximum value we can deliver to the client, the maximum value we can get out of the client. Hosting was a good way to increase that LTV from the client.
We had little clients. We’d build them a website. We’d do some basic SEO. They’re in a country town or regional area, they rank number one, we had the AdWords dialed in. It was kind of like, “We can’t really do anymore.” They’re kind of like in maintenance mode. We started doing hosting, which then … Our hosting’s not cheap. At our highest hosting plan, it’s not cheap for a small business. 250 a month is our highest hosting plan right now. As part of that we do WordPress patches. We do maintenance. We keep the on page stuff, the basic on page stuff up to date. They get some of the premium plugins.
The little guys aren’t on that. Most of the little guys are on a $55 a month plan or $50 a month plan. It was a good way to get more value out of the client. It’s a good way to increase the LTV of the client. Little client, the LTV might be five grand over the course of a couple years. That was an easy way to almost double that or add another two or three grand of LTV on top of it.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. Would you recommend someone running an SEO agency now or just starting out with it to go stack all this stuff straight away or go by pinches?
Brendan Tully: Yeah, the hosting for us was quite easy because I have an IT background. I understood all the mechanics. There’s probably a middle ground where you could put clients on a managed WordPress host that you get affiliate commission for, or you’re reselling someone else’s hosting. Like WP Engine, they’re great, because it’s secure. It’s fast. They take care of caching. They take care of patches. The platform has security built in. There’s probably a middle ground there where you just move your clients on the WP Engine and they pay them directly. You take the affiliate commission for the sign up. Once you’ve got a bit of a traction with that, then potentially resell something else, so you’re basically selling it directly to the client, or white label something. Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I really love the idea of stacking things up and just increasing the LTV of your clients. That’s ultimately how you’re going to make the most money possible and the most value.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, those little guys. Yeah. I mean, we do support plans as well now. We’re doing like a fixed fee support plans that are generally about $100 a month. They get five small fixes a month. We ran the numbers and most small business clients, the little guys are paying somewhere between $700 to $1000 a year and just hourly support for fixing things. The support plan is a way we get consistent revenue. They’re happy. They perceive them. They’re not getting weird big bills because something breaks on the website. They want to change something. That was another way on top of the hosting that suddenly, we have all these little guys that we couldn’t really monetize after we had done all the work and they were number one for everything, everything was working. Now suddenly, we have an ongoing relationship and effectively another business stacked on top of the SEO and AdWords stuff.
Daryl Rosser: That’s very cool. I love that. It’s a very cool way of doing things. Hey, you sent me some notes before this. One of the things you mentioned I’m really curious about. You said, we generally don’t do keyword research for local SEO.
Brendan Tully: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daryl Rosser: What does that mean?
Brendan Tully: Okay. Our strategy with keywords and content is this. We don’t do keyword research anymore, because the data’s so murky. It’s pretty much useless, especially in very niche markets. What you’ll find is there’s good clients in niche markets. We do a lot of stuff with mining and industrial clients where if they get one project, it could be half a million bucks or a million bucks. There’s not a huge amount of search volume. There might be 100 searches a month. That data is like super murky. They like super technical terms that their clients are using. They might not even appear in keyword tools. We kind of started doing this thing where we got the client to actually, instead of us telling them keywords, we said, “Okay. Tell us what you sell. Brain storm a list. Spend 10 minutes. Write everything you sell down on a piece of paper or an Excel doc, whatever it is. Then prioritize them in the list that you want to sell them, like top to bottom. Some of them you might not want to sell anymore.”
Then, from there, what we do is match every page up on the website. It’s kind of like the silo, SEO silo thing, very kind of simple format. At the most basic level, it’s very hard to rank in Google for something you don’t have a page of content for. We’re like, “Okay. You want to sell these 10 things, but you’ve only got two of them on the website.” Step one, let’s build out some content pages for these products. That made sense to them, totally. As soon as we had the content up, obviously they started ranking higher and getting more traffic for these products or services. Then we’re like, “They’re new on the website. It’s going to take a while to rank them. Let’s do AdWords. Let’s do a trial.” Particularly for some of these guys where it’s like you do a product that’s half a million bucks, your AdWord spend is $200 a month. These numbers are insane.
Daryl Rosser: All right, interjecting quickly. With the AdWords, how do you price it?
Brendan Tully: Good question. Particularly in those niche markets, you’re going to be paying less than five bucks a month a click. We will say you need to be a minimum of a thousand bucks a month for these test budgets. It really depends on the market. If it’s a plumber, with cost per click’s $20, $30 a click, that doesn’t work. I’ll know by their search terms roughly what they cost, because I’m familiar with it. It just depends on the client and the market they’re in. Full hosting, for example, we do do PPC for our own hosting. The cost per click 20 to $40 bucks a click. It’s pretty pricey.
Yeah. We started doing these AdWords campaigns. Then we got all this keyword data. It was really clear. It was a real shortcut like we just talked about before. The data is all there. It tells you exactly what these weird technical terms are that their customers are using that we don’t understand. We can see the data. We get all this really rich keyword data. Instead of doing keyword research on the front end, that’s the process we now use. They get much, much faster results, because it’s all logic. It’s just based in basic salesmanship. You can’t rank for that product if you don’t have a page for it. A customer can’t buy it if you don’t have a page for it. By doing this process, building these pages, we achieve the goals in a round about way, if that makes sense?
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, no. It makes a lot of sense. Actually, it was really interesting you say that, because I follow a similar process if I rank like local leads or anything. It’s like good for the client. What’s the list of all the services you sell. What’s the list of all the areas you want to target, prioritized again by which areas are going to bring the best customers with them. Then create all the pages and do the exact same sort of process. It just makes sense. It’s self explanatory as well on a local level. People are going to search the service name and the area name and stuff like that.
Brendan Tully: Exactly. It also helps in the sales process. They’re going to ask how does SEO work? It’s like, okay, here’s the first step we do. We explain this process. They’re like, “That makes total sense. That’s totally obvious. I didn’t realize that.” We’re also like, “If you have the pages already, we say they have to be one and a half scrolls long. If we say 500 words, they have no idea what that means. Say one and a half scrolls, they need a few pictures. Basically, the customer has to, and I think we talked about this in the SEO, in the eCommerce episode, that the customer should be able to go to that page and have all the information they need to make a buying decision, or like the next step decision without having to click around the site. If you build the content from that frame or that perspective, then all of a sudden it’s really easy to do two pages of content. You can have a paragraph this big with a contact form that takes up half a page. You’re already half the way there just by having some of those basic content elements.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. I’ve been encouraging people these days to add more and more content to their homepages and stuff for local SEO. It makes sense anyway. It’s going to help them convert as you’ve said. Also it helps from an SEO perspective, from having all that content on the page.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. If they’re an established business, they already have those conversations with customers. They were like, “I don’t know what to write.” It’s like, you’re talking to customers all day long. What are the three things they ask you about this before they buy? That’s what needs to be on the page. What is the product you’re selling? Why they should buy it? What’s the problem it solves? Maybe how much it costs or a ball park price and some other common questions. If it’s a product, then the manufacturer will probably have a video half of the time. You can go and take that video, there’s some more content. Couple of photos a contact form. That’s two pages of content, easily.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s a very good point. With link build in, do you do anything fancy?
Brendan Tully: No. Our process is to do links last. We have four parts. We basically built this process, again, from having to explain it to small business owners. We have four parts to SEO. These are for local SEO, doesn’t necessarily work for affiliate SEO or different types of SEO. Basically we break it down into four parts. We talked about, we have hosting, the technology bit and the general best practices. That’s where we start.
That’s the first thing we look at. We fix the hosting. We look at just the general best practices stuff, web master tools, are they in Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps? Do they have a live chat on the side? Is the site running an SSL? Is it smartphone compatible? Does the contact form on the contact page work? That really basic stuff.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, absolutely. That’s hugely important.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. It’s just a checklist. If you’re missing one or two of these things, like if you’re missing maps listing, just by going and getting the maps listing automatically, their phone’s probably going to ring more. For some businesses, just by going and setting up a Google Maps listing, they probably paid for like three months of your service. That’s where we start. We start with that hosting stuff and some of that best practices. A lot of those clients will be getting traffic already. Just by fixing simple things like putting the phone number in the header of the site. A lot of the time they’ll get double the inquiries or double the calls or whatever. That’s where we start. Then we go through that content process. We get them to brainstorm the products and services they sell. Then we build out the content pages and add it to the website and do all that sort of stuff. We already talked about that.
Then we do the on page SEO. One of the big things we do is really custom write the meta descriptions. We have a way of doing it that really increases CTR. We can take someone who’s in the number one spot, or in the top three spots, rewrite the meta description for those pages and they’ll automatically get more traffic. Even if they’re in the top spot, we can probably get them 30 to 50% more traffic just by writing a better meta description. Ultimately, the search results are a page full of ads, right? If you write the meta description with copy that would go in an ad that sell a click, then you’re going to get way more clicks. There’s kind of this assumption that if you’re in the number one spot, you’ll get all the clicks, but that’s not true, because you’ve got a page full of ads now. You’ve got some Google Maps listings with a bunch of reviews. You might have other people that have rich snippets or review snippets showing and you don’t. It’s a lot more competitive than it used to be.
We do that, that’s a big thing we focus on and just general on page SEO stuff. Then, we look at link building last. Link building’s expensive. It’s risky. It may or may not work and it can take time to work. There’s not necessarily a direct connection between doing links and ranking straight away, whereas there’s a direct cause and effect by, if you have a page of content, we’ll start ranking you for that search term. We look at links last. We’ll do PBNs very last if we need to. There’s so much low hanging fruit like video sites, just video stuff in general, citation sites, industry directories, the big social networks. We do all that stuff first.
Daryl Rosser: Sometimes you rank before you even need to get around to the links.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Particularly in a regional area. If you’re doing work for someone who’s in a small town or not like a capital city type location, then usually you can get away with doing all that stuff, not even touch like PBN or the expensive links. Then they’ll be in the top three spots at least, especially if they’re a niche or specialty service. That only has a handful of competitors.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. With the videos, how do you get those links? Do you pay professional people to go do videos or just like a Fiverr presentation?
Brendan Tully: One thing we do a lot of that I didn’t talk about was, so one of my business partners is a professional photographer. He’s has a professional photography studio. Where possible, we’ll try to push the client to do proper commercial photography.
Daryl Rosser: That’s never upsell?
Brendan Tully: Well not really, we don’t make any money from it. It helps conversions, usually. We talk about the three Ps. Three Ps of photography are your people, your promises and your products and services. We try to have all three of those and photos on the website. They just look good. They look real.
Daryl Rosser: I like it, yeah.
Brendan Tully: They’re a fantastic … You’re competing with so many other people now. It’s a fantastic way to stand out.
Daryl Rosser: It’s definitely like worse than going to a restaurant and they don’t have pictures of their food and stuff like that.
Brendan Tully: Exactly, right? It’s an easy way. If someone’s looking at your client’s website, there’s no doubt they’re looking at two other competitor’s websites. It’s an easy way to stand out. Usually we’ll do photography first before video if we’re getting professional video shot. We’ll try and shortcut the process if the manufacturer has videos. Then it may be outside the terms of copyright, but we’ll go and grab those videos and put them on the client’s YouTube channel. Then a sneaky thing we do to go and dominate the SERPs is, setup a Vimeo & Dailymotion channel. Put the videos on there, rewrite the titles and descriptions slightly so they might be the second keyword variant. Also put the video on the Facebook page. Put back links in all the descriptions.
If you have an eCommerce site or a site that has 10 or 20 videos, those links can be quite powerful. Then if you take the RSS feeds from all those video sites and put them into a couple RSS feed directories, then you’ll get a lot of low hanging fruit links from those aggregators that while they’re not great, they’re good pillow link kind of things. Low quality links that they just boost the link profile. For whatever reason, that strategy just works really well. Having the video on the page and doing that seems to really rank, particularly for those low to medium competition terms, without really doing much else.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, local SEO is relatively simple, isn’t it, because they want real businesses, that’s who they’re trying to get to rank.
Brendan Tully: Yep, yep, exactly.
Daryl Rosser: This stuff just makes sense.
Brendan Tully: So many tools, right? Reviews are so easy to do. It’s so easy to set up, as long as the client is good at what they do. It’s so easy to set up a system where they ask, automatically, every time they do a job. Like, we have a big plumbing franchise. We’ve implemented the review system. Every time they do a job, they just have an automatic thing that goes out asking for the reviews. Not everyone’s going to do it. If they’re doing, across the business, 200 jobs a day, and we got five or 10 reviews a day, that’s a lot of reviews over the course of a year.
Daryl Rosser: That’s a crazy amount, yeah.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. It’s almost impossible for a competitor starting at zero to beat that. You can’t they’re just so far ahead of the site.
Daryl Rosser: How do you create that?
Brendan Tully: It’s pretty simple. There’s a lot of tools out there, now, to do reviews. Sometimes it’s just a basic system we set up. We’ll set up a gravity form, a hidden page with gravity forms on their site to do that logic. Then, there’s other reviews out there that will, other tools out there that will send, they’re $20 a month or whatever, they send the email to the customer. They come to a feedback page. If they give over seven out of 10 they ask them to put a review on Google or Facebook or wherever it is.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I like those. If it’s like seven or above, it’s like leave a review. If it’s less than that, it’s like, “Send us some feedback.”
Brendan Tully: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Like privately. It’s small, but you figure out issues with the business as well.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, exactly. The small businesses will use that feedback to improve themselves. That’s becoming a real problem now is that you can rank a business. You can do all the work in the world. You can rank them number one and whatever, but if the business sucks, and they get bad reviews, it’s very, no matter reputation management you’re doing. No matter how aggressive you are, if the business fundamentally sucks, then it’s going to be an uphill battle. One thing we teach is that the web amplifies sentiment. If people think your business sucks, then the web becoming more prominent and more powerful is just going make, that’s like a megaphone. You’re telling everybody the business sucks. Whereas the business is great, like whatever they do, they’re good at providing that service, then the web’s going to amplify that sentiment as well.
I think that’s important when you’re dealing with clients that you need to make sure that they’re doing a good job in a way, because no matter how good you are, if they suck, then that’s not going to be a very good long term relationship for you.
Daryl Rosser: That’s very true. Do you add that to the qualification?
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Like we won’t deal with anybody who’s dodgy. It’s just not worth it.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, absolutely.
Brendan Tully: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Hey, last time we chatted, you recommended a few tools. I remember you mentioned like Process Street, which is awesome. I started using that in my business actually. Do you have any other tool recommendations to use?
Brendan Tully: I love Raven Tools because the PDF reports are really awesome. I’ve been using Raven Tools for like eight years or something like that. They used to have an awesome rank tracker. Google told them they couldn’t use their API, so they had to shut that down. That was like five years ago. We use Raven Tools. That’s probably the oldest tool we’ve been using. We pretty much, we use that, like it has a good site auditor, but we use that for doing, so basically any client we deal with, they get now, automated, monthly, on the first of the month, they get a PDF report that looks really good that just pulls the data from Google Analytics and a couple of other places if we want. That’s probably one of the key ones.
What else? We use SERPfox. Everybody knows about that. Screaming Frog SEO Spider, everyone probably knows about that as well.
Daryl Rosser: Surprising a lot of people still don’t use it though.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. There’s a couple other. There’s like some … There’s like a Chrome browser extension called N.A.P. HUNTER! There’s a handful of tools we use for like fixing like NAP consistency issues and citations. We use BrightLocal a lot. We do a lot of citation stuff with BrightLocal. Probably the big one is Zendesk. We just wouldn’t be able to deal with this business if we didn’t have Zendesk and Process Street.
Daryl Rosser: That’s how you track through hundreds of clients?
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Yeah. Zendesk has so much automation built into it. It’s just amazing. We actually just upgraded now to one of the enterprise plans. It’s like $60 a month per user. It’s not cheap. Yeah, we wanted some of those extra features. Like today, since it’s the start of the month, so anyone who’s on maintenance or has an active support plan, all the Process Street WordPress maintenance jobs trigger. It corrects hundreds of tickets in the system. We just would have no way to deal with that without Zendesk.
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool. Zendesk, if someone emails, I guess, it automatically brings it into Zendesk?
Brendan Tully: Yeah, a lot of stuff still hits my inbox, unfortunately. Yeah we try and push people into Zendesk. We’re trying to do everything in Zendesk. It’s like a rule, if it’s not in Zendesk it doesn’t exist. To do something, it ideally has to be in Zendesk. Although, I’m probably the biggest breaker of that rule. I’m like, “Mike, can you just do this? There’s no ticket for it.”
Daryl Rosser: It’s always the business owner that’s going to do that.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. I love Zendesk, Zapier is a big one, like we have some of these apps doing different things. We watch a lot of client assets, which is APL, like we watch like a lot of our long term clients will have Zaps to watch their YouTube channels and things like that. If they put stuff up there, we’ll know. We’ll know to go and automate it. Some eCommerce clients, we watch the RSS feeds. If they put new products in there, then it corrects tickets to do stuff. Often they’ll add a bunch of products and won’t tell anybody. That’s it really. It’s nothing magic, really. Probably the process is the big thing. We’re really heavy about the commerciality around the things we do. It’s all about, at the end of the day, we’re not really selling SEO, we’re there to help the clients sell more stuff. We kind of, generally, do whatever it takes.
Lucky Orange is a tool we use a lot. It uncovers a lot of … I don’t know if you’ve used it? It shows you videos of customers on the website.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, yeah. I think you mentioned it last time as well. It sounds very cool.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Drift Live Chat is what we’re using for a lot of the clients. That’s what we use now. I like Drift because it’s really cheap but it has a really good customer interface on the website. It’s really nice from a website visitor perspective to use.
Daryl Rosser: Do you use that on your local clients?
Brendan Tully: Yeah. More and more. We used to use Opium, but Opium’s super clunky from a website visitor perspective. Drift is really nice. Also, it has a free … I don’t know if it’s still free, but I was actually talking to a client about it this morning. Yeah, it has a free option for up to 100 live chats a month.
Daryl Rosser: That’s quite a lot.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. The app works really well. It’s really simple. For our less tech savvy customers, we’re like, “Let’s try live chat and see what happens.” Try it for a month. Tool’s free. You have a smartphone already. The thing about Drift is it’s really good at capturing the chats that you miss. If you’re not getting a lot of the chats, you’re busy or whatever, it still is really good at capturing the email address. There’s not a lot of leakage, like missed live chats. Those are probably the two big things we’re using right now for conversion, Drift and Lucky Orange.
Daryl Rosser: I guess that increases the conversions anyway, just having the live chat option on the page.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. Like for us, for our hosting, I think probably half the customers we sell hosting will talk on live chat, even if they don’t get an instant response. A lot of them are at like 10 o’clock at night, which is really weird. We respond to those in the morning and they’re totally happy.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough.
Brendan Tully: It’s kind of like having the phone number on the website thing. It’s just a trust builder. People might not necessarily call, but just they know it’s there. It’s like a subconscious trigger or trust builder or whatever you want to call it.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. What is it you work on these days?
Brendan Tully: Right now I’m working on our hosting business. That’s a part of the business that I really want to build. Just had a big strategy review around that and where to next. We’re working on, right now, hopefully in the next two weeks we’ll have 24/7 support for that. We need to build, so building a bigger platform. We want to have three thousand customers on it within the next 18 to 24 months. To do that we need to check a whole bunch of boxes first. That’s my big project for the next three or six months is to get that dialed in.
We also do a lot of kind of related to that, like a lot of, we have this product called WP Speed Fix. We do a lot of fixing slow WordPress websites, which is kind of … It’s a little bit of what we do for SEO clients. It’s what we do for the hosting clients as well. We just started doing it as a service. We do a lot. We’re going to do an info product version of that, because we have, there’s probably 100 things that can slow down a WordPress website. That and the hosting is kind of my next three month plan right now. Selling, selling people. That’s the bit I like.
Daryl Rosser: That’s why you make the money.
Brendan Tully: That’s what I like doing. If I could just sell all day and just give the sales stuff to somebody, that would be perfect. Talk on the phone, have coffee, or have tea, whatever.
Daryl Rosser: The funny thing is that so many people get into SEO and they forget that it’s their job to sell. They’re trying to do everything but the actual sales.
Brendan Tully: Yeah. That’s the thing. If you’re passionate about something, it can be really easy to get sucked down into the detail and really just enjoy doing the work. Which is great, but at the end of the day, sales and marketing is what makes the business. I mean, I used to suck at selling. When we had an IT company and our online store, I had a business partner who’s the sales guy. When we parted ways, I didn’t how to sell. That was the bit that I had to learn. I used to hate the telephone. Now I love talking on the telephone. Anyway, talking on the telephone, I talk on Skype now. Yeah, I used to be afraid of the telephone.
Daryl Rosser: You love it when you start making money from it.
Brendan Tully: That’s it, that’s the way you got to see. This is a money making machine. I can talk to anyone in the world for free now on Skype pretty much, or almost free. They give me money. Now, today, people are comfortable signing up for thousands of dollars a month that auto bills their credit card. Five years ago, that was quite hard to do. Now people don’t really have an issue with that.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, entirely over the phone.
Brendan Tully: People wanted to meet before and see what you’re like and have coffee or come to your office. Now it’s great. Everyone’s too busy or just the world has changed. I think smartphones have been great, because people are comfortable doing video calls and they’re happy doing business over the phone and doing business remotely like that. There’s no chance at all five years ago, eight years ago of being able to run the business like we do today without any physical office presence and seeing people in person. Yeah. It’s a very different world. It’s very exciting, I think, still. It’s still like there’s a wild west.
People talk about the good old day. I’m like, “Only fucking do AdWords back in 2001.” In 10 years’ time, these are going to be the good old days. It’s probably like …
Daryl Rosser: Very true, I said the same thing.
Brendan Tully: You look at domain names, right? A domain name’s $20 or whatever it is. 10 years’ time they’re probably all going to be gone. It’s going to be $2,000 for a domain name like minimum. These are like the Wild West days of in 10 years’ time people will be looking back thinking, “Oh, we should have got into FPA back then or whatever it is.”
Daryl Rosser: Back then it was so easy just for some PDN links.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, exactly right?
Daryl Rosser: Any final words of wisdom or advice for fellow SEO agency owners, that’s like newer stages?
Brendan Tully: Yeah, I’d say the big one is don’t think of yourself as a SEO company, because that’s very limiting. That’s where we started out. Now, our job is to help customers sell stuff online. We could do that with Facebook Ads, it just happens that we like to focus on search because Facebook Ads is a totally different world. I’d say look at the LTV. LTV is all about, that’s what’s going to make or break the business, the lifetime value of your customers. Whether that’s you’re charging them $500 a month or five grand a month, that’s a really important factor. I think it’s very limiting if you just see yourself as an SEO guy or an SEO business. You’re leaving a whole bunch of money on the table. Absolutely, if you haven’t listened to it, go listen to John Logar’s episode. He’s an amazing sales guy. Sell anything to anybody. He knows what he’s talking about, that’s for sure.
Daryl Rosser: All right, man. Where can people find you, and also your hosting solution, you sell that to other people as well, don’t you? People who are watching this?
Brendan Tully: We do indeed. Thesearchengineshop.com, the hosting solution is wpalpha.com.
Daryl Rosser: All right, man. Cool. This has been fun.
Brendan Tully: Yeah, man good to talk.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I think you’re the first guest I’ve had on two times like fully.
Brendan Tully: Sweet. Nice. Must be doing something right.
Daryl Rosser: All right, man, yeah, thanks again for tuning in. Hope you guys enjoyed the episodes and I’ll see you guys next week.