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How Much Should I Charge For SEO Services?

One of the very first questions I asked myself when I started my own SEO business was, “How much do I charge?”

If you’re in this position chances are you’re asking the same question.

What’s a fair rate? What’s everyone else charging?

Do I charge fixed pricing monthly, per hour, or per project?

Whatever you decide upon, you’ll want to ensure that you’re profitable, but not too expensive or cheap to the point where you’re not getting any clients.

So where do you start?

Be careful who you listen to

I want to give you some advice before we get into this.

Be fucking careful who you listen to.

When I first started out, I decided to set my prices at $1,000 a month.

I’ll explain in a moment how I got to this number, but for now, I figured that was a nice, even number that I was comfortable with. It was also a figure that would allow me to get a fair amount of work done each month and make a reasonable amount of profit – so I went for it.

Here’s where it almost came undone.

As I’d just started out, I was keen to get myself some clients. Everywhere I turned I had people giving me that advice you seem to see everywhere – “Go to some meetups, network with other business owners, get out there amongst the people”.

Seemed harmless enough, so I did.

I printed out some business cards, put on my lucky socks and starting attending as many business networking groups and meetups as I could. Again, I figured this would be the best way to get my foot in the door, network, meet some people and land some paying clients.

As it turned out, I did actually land a couple of clients which was great, but it wasn’t without some uncertainty and frustration.

Almost every person that I spoke with told me that I was too expensive.

I was told –

  • “John, no one can afford $1,000 a month”
  • “Yeah good luck with those rates, I think you’ll need it”
  • “I’d love to get your help but I just can’t afford you”
  • “Mate, you’re dreaming”

That was fucked, because it put a lot of doubt in my mind, and when you’re just starting out, doubt is the last fucking thing you need.

So what did I do?

I put my fucking prices up.

That’s right.

I got back to the office and said “Fuck this, I’m putting my prices up to $1,500 a month”

And guess what happened?

I got a client. Then another client, then another, and before I knew it I had 10 clients, all paying me $1,500 a month.

So what happened?

I was attending small business networking events. My prices were fine – but my audience was all wrong.

That’s something you need to be very mindful of.

If someone is telling you that you’re too expensive, then chances are it’s only because THEY can’t afford you – not everyone else.

Common mistakes I see when it comes to pricing

Before I show you what I do, I want to cover a few pricing strategies that I’ve seen and why most of them just don’t work. Let’s start with the most obvious one.

Not charging enough

This is definitely the biggest problem I find most people are making in this space and its usually always for the same reasons –

  • They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.
  • They know no different
  • They’re scared that they won’t get clients if they’re not cheap

I can tell you right now that if you’re only charging a small fee (a couple of hundred dollars a month) then you don’t stand a fucking chance. You’re going to be jumping from one client to the next, constantly trying to pay the rent, OR you’re going to be running some churn and burn agency operation – breaking websites and ruining businesses in the process.

I’ve already covered this stupidity in length here – so go there and read that before you sign another “client” up at $300 a month.

Charging way too much

I don’t usually complain when I see freelancers being confident with their pricing – but what I do have a problem with are inexperienced assholes throwing around big numbers.

I’ve seen people with absolutely no experience at all who are completely new to the SEO industry, slap up a website overnight, then list ludicrous pricing such as $5,000, or $10,000 a month.

This might make sense for established large scale agencies with a team of experts, who might be targeting large brands like Coca-Cola and Nike, but for some kid sitting in a back bedroom hacking away on a $300 laptop its just ridiculous.

I think a lot of this happens because they’ve read a few Brian Dean posts and attended some “SEO” seminar and they think they can save the world.

Working for a discounted rate or for free

You’d be surprised how many coaching clients I’ve had that have said something like “Yeah, I don’t normally factor that in to my rates”, or “I just do that quickly because it doesn’t take long”, or “I probably shouldn’t but I don’t charge my clients for that”.

What you need to be mindful of is that while you’re doing all these “favours” your client is probably holidaying in Bali.

You’ll eventually destroy your own business while you’re saving everyone elses.

You should never be working for free, unless you’ve fucked something up, in which case, it’s up to you to fix it.

SEO pricing models

Let’s now have a look at some of the most common pricing models. I’ll give you my thoughts on each, along with whether or not I think they’re something you should consider.

Charging per project

One thing that I’ve never been a fan of is project based pricing.

For eg “Pay me $25,000 and I’ll do this, this and this, and it will be wonderful”

The issue is that every single campaign is usually different or unique in it’s own way, and the work involved is ever changing.

Read that again – the work involved is ever changing

One month you might be producing content, the next you need to disavow bad links, then you’ll need to assist the client with a PR opportunity, then during all of this, you need to help the client change hosts because of massive latency issues.

The scope of the campaign, is constantly moving around, often inline with the data and results you’re achieving.

Setting a “fixed price” on something that can change overnight can be tricky, especially if there’s an algorithm update or something else that pops up that you weren’t expecting.

There is an alternative to this method, which has worked well for me, but I think I’ll cover that another time.

Monthly retainers

Monthly retainers are the most common way of charging for SEO.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this model – infact its the same pricing structure I use, but with a bit of a difference. Monthly retainers simply mean you’re charging $X dollars per month for your services.

Again there’s nothing wrong with this model, but it can become problematic when you don’t really know what your deliverables are.

I see this shit all the time and it’s usually prospects on the phone complaining about being shafted by another SEO agency. “John we were paying $1,800 a month for 6 months, and we had no idea what they were doing.”

That’s not cool, and it’s certainly not going to help anyone.

Charging hourly

I think working at an hourly rate is the most effective pricing strategy there is for the following reasons –

  • Flexibility – As mentioned previously, the work you’ll be doing is likely to be changing month to month. By working at an hourly rate you’re more flexible with what work needs to be done. Sometimes you might need to prepare and submit a disavow file. Other times you might have to prepare and publish content. Sometimes you’ll be performing outreach, or site restructuring. Hourly rates accommodate every possible scenario.
  • It’s familiar – Working at an hourly rate is a much easier pitch and sell when you’re dealing with prospects because it’s a pricing structure that they’re already familiar with. Much like other traditional services, like mechanics, furniture removalists or cleaners, charging hourly doesn’t come as some “mysterious” or “suspicious” pricing model that will have the client asking “But what do we get for that?” which I’ll cover in a second.
  • It’s quantifiable – Hourly rates allow you to allocate your own resources (your time, and staff) in a measured way. You should be able to look over the work that needs to be done and say “Okay this month we need to get this, this and this done, and we have 16 hours to do so. So let’s prioritise these tasks and we’ll push that other stuff back til next month”

How I charge

I charge hourly, but I tie it in with the monthly retainer model.

In other words, I charge an hourly rate of $150 an hour for a minimum of 12 hours per month, which equates to $1,800 per month.

Make sense?

I do this for a number of reasons, but mostly because one of the most frequently asked questions I get all the time – especially when pitching for a new project is “John, you said you anticipate the campaign taking approximately 18 months. Is there any way we can get that time frame down? How can we get quicker results?”

My response to that is simply “Buy more time”

In other words, if the client wants to get results faster (which they always do) they simply buy more hours each month.

So to demonstrate –

  • Client pays the minimum amount – 12 hours at $150 per hour / $1,800 per month
  • Client wants to speed things up – 20 hours at $150 per hour / $3,000 per month

This is a really powerful way of increasing your earnings, and I’ve been doing it for years.

So a client can do the minimum 12 hours, or they can do more. They could do 15, 18, 25 – it’s totally up to them, and I will usually always accommodate it, so long as I’m not too busy.

It also takes the pressure off you, and puts it back on the client.

“I can only get so much done each month if you want to just put in the minimum amount of hours. If you want faster results you’ll have to put in more time”

The client will then either shut up, or they’ll realise its up to them.

So what should you charge?

This is a great question, and one that will vary inline with what your skillsets are. It will also depend where you’re located in the world, so you’ll have to factor that in.

I’m based in Australia, so I’ll use my location as an example.

$50 – $75 per hour

If you’re new to the industry and you’re just learning your way and you’ve undertaken a few courses then you should be probably working in and around $50 to $75 per hour. At this pricing point you should understand the basics of SEO and be able to provide sound work. The majority of your client base will most likely be soloists and small business owners.

$75 – $125 per hour

If you’ve got a more indepth understanding of SEO and you’ve been working in the industry for some time I think anywhere between $75 – $125 is fair. At this rate, you should be able to help businesses position themselves favourbly in search with a strong framework in place in order for them to grow and expand.

$125 per hour or more

For anyone that has a very comprehensive understanding of SEO, online business and in particular CRO, they should be working in this range. Typically SEO professionals working at this rate are able to completely transform businesses and help them increase their earnings considerably.

How I quantify what I’m actually doing during that time

I’m going to expand on this in an upcoming blog post because there’s far too much to cover here, but to summarise, I track everything that I do when I’m working on a clients site, and I include those tasks in my end of month reporting in what I call a “work summary sheet”.

The work summary sheet is a comprehensive overview of every single task that has been completed.

That’s right, every single task, regardless of how insignificant it might seem, because a lot of small tasks add up.

Here’s a notepad file that illustrates how I note down each task as I’m working.

You might think this is over the top, but I can tell you right now, that once I take this information, and enter it into my work summary sheet and send it over to the client as a PDF document, they’ll be seriously impressed.

Especially if they’ve just spent 12 months with some asshole that’s kept them in the dark about what works being done.

I’ve sent work summary sheets to clients and they’ve said “Shit John, this is a lot of work, thank you”, or “I wish we had of found you 5 years ago”. This helps you in so many ways –

  • They’ll keep throwing money at you
  • They’ll stick around long term
  • They’ll send you great referrals

But most importantly of all, they’ll have confidence in knowing that they’re not wasting money, and work is actually being done and you’re not just fucking around on Facebook all day.

Final say

I understand that people work in different ways and there’s nothing wrong with using a different pricing strategy so long as you’re providing value and not doing shit work.

One thing that does annoy me though are people that carry on in forums and business networking events that will say “Oh, you’re selling time for money, that’s stupid”

Well guess what? That’s how most service based businesses work.

If you think you can run a meaningful SEO business by just flicking shit off to the Philippines while you’re sipping cocktails on the beach in Hawaii then you’re going to be sadly mistaken.

Interested in working with me?

I can take you by the hand and show you step by step, how to setup and run a hugely profitable SEO business in just a few weeks. No bullshit, no gimmicks – just solid proven advice.

If you’re interested, jump on a free 20 minute consultation call and let’s have a chat.

How to Get High Paying SEO Clients ($2,000/pm+)

If you’re working as a freelancer the last thing you want to do is be mucking around wasting time with low end deadbeat clients

Regardless of what you’ve been told or what you might think you know, it’s just not possible to provide any type of quality service dealing with clients that are only interested in paying you a few hundred dollars a month.

It won’t take you long to figure out that the clients that pay the least amount of money are the ones that make the most amount of noise, and that will drive you mental, believe me.

So what do I do?

How do I get high paying clients again and again, over and over?

If you haven’t yet already, go here and read this post where I talk about my earnings over a 12 month period. If you don’t have time, then here’s a brief summary.

Last year I made almost half a million dollars working from home, as a freelancer, with 2 virtual staff, and no more than 20 clients (with no paid advertising)

That’s right.

And guess what? Most times I only had 8-12 clients, not 20.

I was able to do that because I wasn’t fucking around with lolly scramblers who only wanted to pay me a few hundred a month.

What happens when you offer “cheap” SEO

Before we get into how I did that, lets look at the why.

There’s no point just rushing in and asking for $5,000 a month just because it “sounds cool”.

You’ve got to have a good understanding about why offering cheap SEO is a waste of time which I’ll cover here.

Your profit margins are going to be shit

Regardless of what it is that you’re doing – even at say, $300 a month your profit margins are going to be absolutely shit. Even if you spend an hour or two hours of your time on a campaign at that rate, then you’re essentially going to be making maybe a hundred dollars a month, or $25 a week which is absolutely ridiculous

Your time is severely limited

If you’ve got a client paying you just a few hundred dollars a month, then the amount of time you’ll have to allocate towards their campaign is going to be severely limited and its going to take forever. Think about it, even if you decided to work at $100 an hour, doing 3 hours a month is absolutely pointless and it’s not going to achieve anything.

You’re not going to get results

If you’re only spending a few hours a month on a clients campaign, you’re just not going to have time to do anything useful and you’re certainly not going to get any worthwhile results. That doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t help you, and it certainly doesn’t help the client – and it’s certainly not going to allow you to showcase your work, and get referrals.

You’re going to be broke and constantly chasing more clients

If you’re mucking around with low end clients, you’re going to be in constant need of more clients, because you’re just making ends meet. In other words, one client drops out, the next one comes onboard, then the cycle repeats and you’re just going in circles – all the while feeling desperate because you’re fucking broke.

I’ve sat in on calls with freelancers that have been working in the SEO space for 7 years and they’re still fucking broke and scrambling for shitty leads.

Don’t do that.

You’re going to be providing a shit service

When you’re working with low paying clients, you’ll end up doing crap work.

You’ll be skipping between client campaigns, simply throwing in 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there with no direction or focus at all. You just can’t go deep with a business owner to understand how their business works, where they need help, and what you can do to make that happen when you’re charging shit rates.

Charging what you should be and doing the job right

So what can you do to get high paying SEO clients?

Firstly, I want to preface this by saying – this advice is aimed at people that really know what they’re doing. If you don’t, then I would strongly recommend you invest in my coaching and learn how to do this shit properly, before you start throwing out big quotes.

Because there’s a big difference between charging high rates and doing a good job, and charging high rates and providing a shit service.

You’d be surprised, I see people posting in Facebook groups asking questions like this all the time –

“Hi guys, I’m really excited but also very nervous. I just landed my first paying SEO client. They’re paying $3,000 a month, and I don’t really know what to do or where to start. Can anyone help or offer some advice?”

Stupid.

Put your fucking prices up

Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it?

Putting your prices up is something that a lot of people seem to struggle with – especially freelancers. I’ve worked with a lot of them in my time that have come to me for help and they’ve been charging $500 for a website and $199 a month for SEO and they’re making $25,000 a year and struggling.

Why?

Mindset.

They have a limiting belief of what’s possible, and that’s the very reason they’re pulling 12 hour days for $15 an hour.

Change your mindset and everything changes.

If you’re charging peanuts, you’ll attract monkeys.

Put your prices on your website

Second point is this…..

Put your prices on your website.

Yes that’s right.

Stop hiding behind an enquiry form hoping that someone might contact you.

This is another problem I see and it’s not just limited to freelancers either. Agencies have a tendency to do this and it’s just annoying. You ever been on a site and all you want to see are their rates, and you can’t find them?

It’s annoying isn’t it?

I think most SEO service providers do this for two reasons –

  • They’re scared that they’re going to miss out on a potential client because their pricing might be a deterrent, OR
  • They want the call regardless so they can apply some sleazy sales pitch to sign them up

Forget about that.

You want people to know what your rates are BEFORE they even contact you, so that you’re not going to waste time mucking around with someone who’s not a good fit.

Prequalify everyone

I’ve spoken at length about this and pre-qualifying new prospects is absolutely vital.

You’ll want to be sure that you get your rates out in the open before you spend 2 or 3 hours in a meeting or on a Skype call. This way there’s no time wasting. In terms of prequalifying you should be asking a set series of questions in order to to determine if the prospect is a good fit, before you get bogged down dealing with someone who wants to invest $99 a month. If you’re interested, go here and read this post, about prequalifying SEO leads.

Pricing transparency

Again, you’ve got to be completely transparent about your prices, which is why I said put them on your site.

You’ll save yourself a lot of otherwise wasted time mucking around with dead ends that call you asking how much you charge, then whinging that you’re too expensive. Again, its always best to get this out of the way early so people know what to expect before they pick up the phone.

Avoid low end clients

Low end clients attract more low end clients.

When you’re working with people that are only willing to pay you a few hundred dollars a month, then they’re going to attract more people that they know and next thing you know you’ll be working with 50 people paying $200 a month and you’ll be losing your mind.

You want to work with high end clients for the simple fact that high end clients attract more high and clients – simply via referrals.

Which brings me to my next point – referrals.

Ask for referrals

I make it clear to each client I have that if they send me a referral, and that referral leads to a paying client, then I will either –

  • Pay them for the referral (typically 10-20%), OR
  • I’ll give them some free hours to put towards their own SEO campaign

Most clients will take the free hours, so it won’t cost you anything – just a bit of time.

But remember, association is key. Clients that are happy to throw big numbers around typically associate with likeminded people, so asking them for a referral is usually always a smart move.

Do good work

This is pretty fucking obvious but it needs to be said anyway.

When you’ve got lousy profit margins, being able to do the job right is near impossible.

Instead, increase your rates and do the job properly. Once you do this, you’ll look back and think WTF was I thinking?

It’s a much nicer feeling knowing that you’re not rushed, and you can spend time with a client and get to know them, their business, how it works, where they need help, and how you can make that happen.

Instead of just blasting crap links all over the place and doing shit work.

Remember, aim for fewer, higher paying clients.

You want 10 clients paying $3,000 a month, not 50 clients paying you $99.

What you can do right now

If you already have a client base, and you’re sick and tired of spinning your wheels with shitty rates, then I would recommend that you do the following.

  • Think about what your rates need to be, and adjust them accordingly.
  • Let all your clients know of the pricing increase. Give them a few months notice “Hey the rates are going up, but not for another 2 months”
  • Consider leaving some clients on the old rate – but only if they’ve been with you a while.
  • Offer a personal one on one call to explain the increase with any clients that question it, or would like more information
  • Don’t lose sleep over any low end clients that complain or drop off

In other words, make the change right now – BUT don’t just put your rates up unless the quality of your service supports it.

You’re not going to have any clients left if you put your rates up and you’re offering a shit service.

Interested in working with me?

If you’d like to move away from low end SEO at $99 a month with whinging clients that don’t appreciate your time, then get in touch.

It will be the best decision you ever made.

How to Spot Red Flags On Prospect Calls and Avoid Crazy SEO Clients

One of the hardest parts of running an SEO business is getting clients – especially if you’re just starting out.

It can certainly be a relief when the phone rings, and there’s someone on the other end that’s interested in working with you. They’re cashed up, they need help, and you’re literally sitting there desperate for clients.

Sounds good right?

Not always, because let me tell you – not all clients are the same.

I often talk about learning to say no, because sometimes, as hard as it might be, its the right thing to do. Regardless of how much money they’re waving in your face, taking onboard a client that you know you shouldn’t have often turns out to be a huge mistake.

Having said that, I’m going to help save your ass.

Instead of constantly looking at your phone, worrying if that psychopathic client is going to call you again for the 15th time today, I’m going to share with you a few pointers that you need to be mindful of before you say yes to the next possible weirdo that calls.

Trust me, you’ll want to take notes.

Here they are, prospects to avoid.

Churn and burners

This is one that pops up occasionally and it’s definitely one that you need to be mindful of.

Infact I’ve been on numerous calls where I’ve been speaking with a prospect and they’ve said something like, “Yeah John listen, we we’ve tried 20 different SEO agencies over the last 6 months and they’ve all been crap” .

Now listen, I get it.

There’s a lot of shitty SEO service providers out there so I can certainly understand their frustrations.

But seriously, pay attention. If they’ve been jumping from one SEO company to the next every few months then chances are it’s THEM that’s the problem, not the service provider.

Sometimes the client is a nightmare and I’ve certainly had my fair share of them.

I’ve had numerous clients that I just haven’t been able to help because they wouldn’t get out of their own way, and when that happens it usually always ends in tears.

What I would recommend is asking them why.

“Why have they all been shit?”

If their reasons are fair then it might be an exception, but if they’re simply ranting and raving then chances are it’s them.

I’d seriously think twice about taking them on, because chances are, you’ll be next on their shit list.

Armchair experts

These are the type of prospects that you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

They’ll get on a call and start name dropping. “Oh I follow Rand Fishkin and Rusty Brick, Oh and Brian Dean too, so I’m pretty clued in about SEO”.

They’ll start talking about SEO tools and software too. “Oh, I have an Ahrefs and SEMrush account so I can see what you’re doing at my end”. They’ll also try to educate you about how Google works and the latest algorithm updates.

Fuck off.

Now what I don’t understand is why these people (if they’re so experienced) pick up the phone and ask for help in the first place?

So I’ve got someone on the phone literally telling me how to do my job before we’ve even started. I just find it incredibly rude and a massive turn off.

BUT – I always use the Jedi mind trick.

For eg, I’ll always ask “What do you do again Bob? Oh, you’re a builder. Okay, so if I called you and told you all about building codes, and best practices and what tools you should be using, would you be interested in working with me?” to which they ALWAYS reply “Oh ….I see your point, sorry.”

Fucks me off no end.

Don’t work with people who want to tell you how talented they are and how you should do your job.

Send them to over to Fiverr and wish them the best of luck.

Lolly scramblers

This is probably one of the most common you’ll experience working in the SEO space – and that is lolly scramblers.

These are the ones that get on the phone and say –

  • “John this seems rather expensive”
  • “Wow, this other company said they could do it a lot cheaper”
  • “Can I get a discount?”

Urgh.

People that pay you the least amount of money are the ones that make the most amount of noise.

Read that again.

They’ll bitch and complain and argue and annoy the shit out of you.

They’re also the ones that’ll be on the phone every 5 minutes trying to micromanage everything.

  • “This seems like a lot of unnecessary work?”
  • “My wife said she’ll do that so don’t charge me for it”
  • “What if we don’t do that to save some money?”

Its fucking ridiculous.

Prospects like this usually ask a lot of questions about cost before anything else and it’s usually the first sign of trouble.

In most cases I simply turn them away because to them its not an investment, its an expense, and I couldn’t be bothered trying to justify my rates to someone who’s trying to argue over every dollar.

Sinking ships

This relates to businesses that are going down.

Let me give you an example of what they might say on a call.

  • “John I’ve had to remortgage my house twice to keep this business afloat”
  • “I just sold my car to pay for this because the business is losing money fast”
  • “John I really need your help to turn this business around, because my wifes threatening to leave me and take the kids”
  • “My business partner shafted me and is taking me to court, so this better work”

The last thing you’ll want to do is climb on board a sinking ship.

Always best to turn these people away now matter how much money they want to throw at you, because you know it will be your fault that their business is failing, not theirs.

Judge Judy’s

These are prospects that get on the blower and make legal threats before you’ve even had a chance to ask them about their business.

“John, we worked with a previous SEO company and they ripped us off. We’re now involved in an ongoing court case and suing them for $12 million dollars. As a precaution we want you to sign this form for us that says everything is your fault if this doesn’t work and you’ll accept total liability. But hey, listen we’d love to work with you, when can we get started?”

Christ, I’ve had these calls and I haven’t been able to hang up the phone quick enough.

Third person prospects

These are people that get on the phone and they’ll say things like

  • “John my brother in law said that all we need to do is build forum links” or
  • “My wife said the best thing to do is just buy links on Fiverr”
  • “A mate of mine was saying that you just bold your keywords”

These are people that are being influenced by a third person rather than listening to you.

I’ve actually lost clients because of this, because they’d rather listen to their cleaning lady, than listen to me – someone with over 15 years SEO experience.

If you find yourself on a call with a prospect and they keep referring to “advice” that they read online, or got elsewhere – be careful.

You might be signing up 2 clients, not just one.

Barking dogs

I have a saying that I use often “There’s nothing worse than working with a client who buys a dog then stands on the front lawn barking themselves”.

These are clients that will hire you, pay you, and then tell you how to do your job

In fact I had one recently where I rebuilt his entire website. I fixed everything, layout, added in calls to action, fixed up the site structure, then began onpage optimisation and implementing new content. About a week after a large deal of work was completed, he decided to login and change almost everything back to the way the site was before we began.

It was beyond ridiculous.

In addition to that, he continually questioned me about everything.

  • “I think it might be best if we do it this way John, I’ll take care of it”
  • “Content? I disagree, I think we should just build links”
  • “No, I’m not interested in doing that”

If you end up on a call with someone like this and they tell you how to fix their problems, then it might end up becoming a struggle.

Probably best to say thanks but no thanks.

Aspirational types

These are the types of business owners who started their business last Tuesday and they want to be successful by Saturday afternoon.

They think everything is going to be quick, easy and highly profitable overnight.

The problem with people like this is they –

  • Are often oblivious to the amount of work involved
  • Are often impatient
  • Only want to hear what they want to hear and what needs to be said

In most cases startups and aspirational types are the ones with no money at all because everything is based upon “cupcakes and candy cane metrics” rather than reality.

Revenue splitters

Ever had a call from a prospect and they’ve said “Listen this business is going to make a lot of money, you work for me at no cost and I’ll give you 50% of the profits”

How does fuck you sound?

I’ve had quite a few calls like this, and I cant help but to shake my head at people for even asking.

Not only is it rude, but they’re often offering you 50% of nothing.

“Yeah sure, sounds great” – *click”

In summary

Not all prospects are crazy, but there’s certainly a percentage that are.

Always listen closely to the type of language that prospects are using on the first call and ask yourself –

  • Are they being rational? Are they being logical?
  • Is what they’re saying sensible are they emotional scattered or scrambled?
  • Do they have a long-term mindset? Do they understand that SEO takes time?

Most importantly, what does your gut say?

Sometimes you need to forget about everything else (even if the numbers stack up) and go by your gut instincts.

Remember, be careful of who you decide to work with. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t be afraid to say no.

Interested in working with me?

I help people go from zero to more than a hundred thousand dollars a year FAST, by starting their very own SEO business. That’s right. You could be sitting at home, making money in your undies running your own SEO business.

Want to know more? Get in touch and let’s have a chat.

How to Demonstrate ROI for Client SEO Campaigns

If you’ve got paying clients, then it’s your job to demonstrate a return on investment.

If you’re not, then you’re going to find yourself sitting through some rather uncomfortable conversations.

I want to point out two things here before we get into this, and they are –

  • Demonstrating an ROI for your clients is fucking important
  • If you’re not, or you’re using rankings as a performance indicator then you’re screwed

Now I can hear you saying right now “But John, rankings is what SEO is all about”

Bullshit.

Sit down and pay attention. I’m going to show you how to do this properly.

Why it matters

Demonstrating a return on investment is one of the most important things you should be doing if you’ve been hired to do SEO for a paying client. Clients aren’t real keen on wasting money so it’s up to you to prove to them that they aren’t.

It probably won’t suprise you, but most people that are providing SEO services use rankings as a performance indicator. In other words, results are simply measured based upon which page in Google the client’s website is on, which is fucking stupid.

I see this sort of crap in SEO reports all the time –

  • 30% of your keywords are now on page 1
  • 75% more visibility in search
  • Engagement is up 24%

Blah blah blah, who gives a shit.

What clients care about are paying customers.

I always say “Being on the first page in Google is meaningless if the phones not ringing or you’re not making sales” and it’s true.

Therefore you should be focusing on revenue, not rankings.

Revenue not rankings

This might seem odd, but I don’t like to make rankings the focal point with clients, and I certainly don’t use it as a measurment of how a campaign is performing. Infact, I make sure that when I’m prequalifying the prospect, they understand very well that I’m not interested in working with them if they just want to focus on rankings.

Why?

Because for the most part, it’s bullshit.

A keyword performance report doesn’t tell the client anything – a revenue report does.

First page for “fluffy bunnies”?

Whoop doop.

Instead, what I want to do is help them generate more revenue – because that’s a discussion that will resonate with business owners.

What happens when you don’t demonstrate an ROI

Now you might be thinking “John, who cares, I’ve just been hired to get my client onto first page”, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Let’s have a look at what happens when you take this approach.

Your shit isn’t measurable

Firstly, the client is not going to have any idea if what you’re doing is having any sort of positive impact, and neither will you.

It can be really uncomfortable finding yourself on a call with a client when they start asking questions. “Listen, John, we’ve been at this now for eight months, and we really have no idea if what you’re doing is helping us in any way. I think we might cancel.”

That’s a real shit thing to hear.

I’ve actually picked up more clients than I can remember that have been in this position. They’ve been working with other SEO agencies or freelancers that have been providing confusing reports that focus on stupid metrics or rankings and not revenue. They’ve come to me in desperation and said, “We’re paying this other agency $2,900 a month and we don’t know if what they’re doing is helping us?”

And again, I’ll see stupid SEO reports that are full of crap like –

  • Your SEO score is 72/100
  • Search visibility B+
  • Green lights in Yoast Hurray!

And it will contain 30 pages of charts and graphs and squiggly fucking lines and all sorts of nonsense.

But guess what? None of it mentions revenue. None of it.

Let me tell you this – most business owners don’t give a shit about all that technical jargon.

What they do care about is making money – that’s the whole reason you’ve been hired.

Now before you start arguing about rankings, let me say this – I’ve been doing this long enough to know that clients will ALWAYS want to talk about rankings at the start of the campaign, but once they’re a few months in they will ALWAYS shift that discussion away from rankings and want to talk about REVENUE.

Why?

Because all they can see is money going out, which is why you have to show them money coming in.

Your invoice is going to start feeling more like a bill

Secondly, if you’re not demonstrating a return on investment, then that investment is going to start feeling like more of an expense for the business owner. In other words, if they’re putting money in, and they don’t know how much money they’re getting out, then your monthly invoice is going to feel very much like an expense.

That’s certainly not an ideal situation to be in.

Your retention rates will suck

And lastly, you’re more likely to lose clients if you’re not demonstrating a return on investment because clients are going to get twitchy. Twitchy clients are impatient clients that won’t hesitate in cancelling your services because you’re not showing them returns.

So focusing on revenue and not rankings is absolutely key.

How to demonstrate a return on investment and kick ass

Before you start fucking around putting together stupid reports, let’s back up a second and revisit prequalifying leads.

You should always be doing this before you start working with someone so that you know you can actually help them.

Educating the client

The first thing you need to do is steer the conversation away from rankings and bring it back to revenue.

If you’re speaking with a prospect then you should be saying something like this –

Listen, I work a bit differently to most SEO agencies in that I dont want to focus all my time on rankings. Instead I want to focus on revenue – helping you get customers and making sales. That’s the whole point of us working together, to increase your bottom line – not just rankings. Because let’s face it, if you’re on the first page of Google and the phones not ringing or you’re not selling anything then that’s meaningless, right?”

I will tell you right now that if they’re smart, they’ll pause and say “Wow, yeah ok that sounds terrific” which is exactly what you want.

Determining the value of a lead or sale

First, you need to make sure that the lead or sale value of the prospect is viable before you decide to work together.

By that, I mean you don’t want to work with someone who is selling $2 pot plants. Because if they’re paying you $2,000 a month, they’ve got to be selling a shit load of pot plants in order for you to get them a positive return on investment.

So that that should always be your starting point – pre-qualifying the client and ensuring that the lead or sale value is a good fit.

Secondly, crunching the numbers.

Now, if the average lead or sale is worth, say, $2,000 or $3,000, then it’s going to be an absolute no-brainer. You shouldn’t have any problems because, again, if they’re paying you, let’s say, $2,000 a month and an average sale for them is worth, say, $3,500, then you’ve only got to help them get one customer per month in order for them to be getting a positive ROI – and let’s face it, you’re going to do better than that, right?

Sometimes its not that straight forward and it might be a squeeze, in which case you’ll have to get out the trusty calculator and press a few buttons.

TIP – One thing I’ve found having sat in with hundreds of prospects is that for whatever reason, whether its pride or ego or whatever it is, they’ll usually always throw bigger numbers than they’re actually doing at you. So be sure to ask what lead or sale value is at the low end. You’ll want to do this now, not 6 months in when they surprise you and say “Oh, no we also offer a service/product that is only $25”.

Lastly, tracking conversions as a monetary value.

Now, this touches on tracking conversions through Google Analytics. If it’s an e-commerce site, tracking sales is easily done, and you can track that accurately, so you know with absolute certainty what the monthly revenue is for the actual website itself.

Piece of cake.

However with lead gen, where it’s customer enquiries/acquisition, it’s a little bit different.

Here, you simply track conversions through your enquiry forms. So each and every time someone submits an inquiry through a contact form, you can track that as a completed goal set within Google Analytics as a conversion tied in with a monetary value.

In other words each time someone submits an enquiry, it’s an acquired lead that has value.

Got it?

TIP – Put a fucking enquiry form on every single page as a call to action.

Now, don’t forget call tracking also. You can do exactly the same thing with call tracking if you use a product like CallRail or Jet Interactive.

If you don’t know what’s going on or how many calls they’re getting, that can make it quite difficult in terms of being able to accurately collect data and demonstrate the positive impact that you’re having. So to simplify it, setting goals within Google Analytics for conversions, whether they’re calls, sales, or customer inquiries is vital in order to demonstrate what you’re doing is actually working.

Keeping this shit realistic

Now, I always set a conservative value when I track conversions for lead gen.

Why?

Because I’m not interested in over inflating the numbers artificially to make myself look good. Let’s just keep this honest, okay?

If a client says that a lead for them is worth, say, $1,000, I’ll track it a $250. There’s a number of reasons I do this.

  • Firstly, I know that they’re not going to close every single inquiry that comes through.
  • Secondly, they’re going to get a lot of nonsense coming through the inquiry forms as well where it’s not a legitimate inquiry. (You may need to take spam into consideration also like Indians offering bullshit SEO services)
  • Lastly, they might suck at selling or have an inexperienced person answer the phone/email.

Whatever the case, you’ll always want to go under, rather than over in terms of tracking estimated revenue.

Now, the whole purpose of doing all of this is that you want to be able to sit in on an end-of-month strategy call with a client and be able to say the following –

Ecommerce – “Okay, Kate, this month I can see that you had 35 sales and we did $28,000 in revenue. Last month you did $15,000 so we’re up from last month. The numbers are moving in the right direction. Not a bad return for $2,000 so you’re definitely getting a positive return on investment.”

Lead Gen – “Okay, Kate, this month you had 229 inquiries, which at a conservative figure of 25% close rates per lead, (based upon a lead value of $180) you should have generated at least $41,220. How does that compare to what you see at your end?”

Here’s how it looks

Now, for lead gen that final figure is something that you’ll have to discuss with the client at the end of each month and ask the following, “How does that compare with the numbers that you see at your end?”

This is really important, because you’ll want to adjust and refine your numbers each month to ensure you’re tracking at the right figure. Over time as you get it more accurate, you’ll both know that the numbers are right and SEO is definitely working.

Once you’re in a position of having a client see that they’re putting $1 in and they’re getting $3 out – they’ll just keep throwing money at you all day long.

Remember, revenue, not rankings.

Interested in working with me?

I provide SEO coaching and training so if you need help whether you’re a business owner, run a small agency, or a freelancer looking to ramp up your income, get in touch or come over for a cuppa.

I’ll pop the jug on.

How to Deal with Impatient SEO Clients

You ever had a new client that’s said something along the lines of “Listen, if we don’t get results in 3 months, we’ll cancel and go somewhere else”

I have, and it fucking sucks ass.

Needless to say, I’ve overcome that problem, and I’m going to share with you exactly how.

Twitchy clients, urgh

I just got off a call with a client, and it’s becoming obvious that he’s starting to get a bit twitchy.

By twitchy, I’m referring to the simple fact that he’s asking, how much longer, John?

He’s asking questions like –

  • How much longer is this going to take?
  • When do you think we’ll start getting some inquiries?
  • Is the site actually converting?
  • Has the traffic increased?

Now bear in mind that this client has only done 3 cycles of 12 hours – so 36 hours total, and he’s in a hugely competitive space (financial)

Now, for whatever reason, most people understand that SEO takes time, and even though they have this understanding, they still get twitchy. They still become impatient and expect overnight results.

I talk a lot about prequalifying my clients, and this is something that I cover extensively in my coaching. But when it comes to timeframes it’s more about educating the client, and helping them understand –

  • The amount of work involved
  • How long it took their competitors to get where they are, and
  • Issues that are going to take time (especially if their sites broken)

But regardless, I’ve found that no matter how much you try to explain this to clients, they still often feel the need to question how long things are taking. I think what worsens this problem are the sheer number of service providers in the SEO space that offer bullshit promises like “First page in Google in 3 months guaranteed!”, which is just nonsense.

This is nothing more than a sleazy sales pitch to get people onboard who have no understanding of how SEO works.

Problem is, it works because people are impatient.

Sometimes getting great results within three months is possible, but generally speaking, that only applies to sites that are already established. They’ve got a reasonable amount of content. They have established link profiles. They’ve already been putting in some effort in terms of building out their online presence. That’s a LOT different to someone who has a broken website and they haven’t published a piece of content or updated their website in the last seven years.

And that’s exactly the case with this particular client.

It hasn’t been updated since 2011, and now he’s trying to turn it all around within 3 months of SEO, which is just impossible.

But I get it. The whole reason he’s getting twitchy is because his competitors have absolutely crushed him. He’s done nothing in the last 7 years, whereas, his competitors have been absolutely hammering out content and building a truly great site.

Does the website suck?

I wanted to cover a couple of things in this post and talk about what you can do to prevent being in a position where the client is making you feel pressured.

Firstly, what’s their website like? Is it great, is it awful? is it a mess? Does it work at all? Are there clear calls to action? Is it built with conversions in mind? Is it user friendly? Is it going to require a complete rebuild?

All of these things combined contribute towards the amount of time it’s going to take in order for you to firstly get started.

Most times, when I take on a new client, their websites are totally broken and they need fixing. This in itself takes time – especially if it means starting over which is often the case. It’s very very rarely ever the case where the site is tip top and I can just get started without having to deal with any issues.

So the current status of the clients website is a huge contributing factor, and that certainly will influence timeframes.

How big is this thing and can it compete?

Secondly, the size of the website.

By this, I mean comparatively speaking. If someone comes to you and they’re working in the financial space and they have a 12 page website and their competitors have sites that have 35,000 pages or 25,000 pages, then it’s going to take a considerable amount of work for you to try and put a dent in that space. You’d be surprised how many clients have come to me and have expected results with a 15-page website when they’re competing in hugely competitive industries.

Forget it.

I always talk about the footprint of your site. The larger your footprint, the more market share you’re going to own, the more traffic you’re going to attract and the more customers you’re going to get. Think about it like a net, the bigger the net the more fish you’ll catch.

It’s pretty simple really.

Content content content

You need to take a look at the existing content that’s on the actual website as a starting point.

Is this content any good? Is it shit? Does it need fixing? Is this content that’s just sitting there and not doing anything?

Don’t forget, you should always check this stuff within Google Analytics to see if the content is actually generating any traffic. Most often than not, I look at sites where blog posts have been sitting there for 5 years and they’ve received two visits. Content like that, you’ll either have to try and fix it or you just get rid of it.

In any case it takes time.

The other thing you need to be mindful of is the content that’s there. Is it quality content or is it written in broken English? Has it been outsourced to India? Chances are, not only will you have to fix the website, but you’ll probably have to start over.

This isn’t always the case, but most clients sites I look at, are filled with rubbish content.

Whats the link profile like?

Something else you’ll need to check is the link profile of the site.

Does the site have an established link profile? Does it have a healthy link profile? Does it have high quality links from relevant sites?

Now again, if you’ve got competitors that have really well-established link profiles and they have hundreds or even thousands of links, and your client has two links from a then you got a lot of work to do. Of course, this all takes time.

PS – Dont mistake what I said there about links. It should be about quality not quantity, but it is worth checking.

Site structure, dude

This is definitely one that plays a vital part in the on-page optimization process, and its certainly one that takes time.

You should be looking at building out the site structure for a number of reasons.

  • To make it easier to manage
  • To make it easier to navigate (usability)
  • To ensure link equity is passed between pages (no orphans)
  • To maximise search traffic opportunities through enlarging its overall footprint

Site restructuring should always be part of your starting point especially in terms of on-page optimization. If the site is a mess and there’s no site structure at all, then chances are you’re going to have to spend some time on that.

Competitiveness

Next point is competition, or the space of which they’re operating in. If they’re in a hugely competitive space, then it’s going to take much, much longer to get results than it would in a less competitive space. For example, if you’re working with someone who specializes in home loans, chances are if they haven’t updated their site or done anything in several years – that is going to take a considerable amount of time as opposed to someone selling wheelbarrows at a local hardware store.

All of these things combined are contributing factors into how long an SEO campaign can take.

Don’t forget – with a lot of this stuff, you often need to sort out a lot of crap before you even get to a point of moving forward. Much like renovating a house. You’ve got to literally tear the thing apart before you can start performing work that’s adding value.

So what can you do in order to prevent clients from getting twitchy?

Here’s a couple of things that I cover within my sales presentation when I pitch for the job.

Competitors efforts

One question I always ask new clients when they come onboard is this – “Can you please send me a list of your top 3 competitors”?

Every single client knows who their competitors are, because most of them sit there Googling themselves all day.

This makes it easy for me, because I can show how long it took for those competitors to get where they are using SemRush. SemRush essentially allows me to see a historical timeline of search traffic acquired over a period of time.

Here’s an example showing Neil Patel’s site Quicksprout

This definitely helps because once the prospect or client sees that data for several competitors, then they’ll get it.

“Shit, Okay, these guys are killing it, but that didn’t happen in one weekend”.

We can both see, looking at the graph that the acquisition of that traffic and growth has taken a long period of time. There’s no reason why your clients should expect for that all to happen within a couple of months.

There’s a shit load of content to be done

When I reverse engineer a competitor’s site structure, I pull it apart and pull all the pages down and I export that information out into a spreadsheet. Once I have that information, I then send it over to my client and I say, “Listen, these guys are getting 50,000 visits a month. They have 1,800 pages on their website. Your site currently has 12 pages. We need to get moving. Is there any of this information in terms of the products and services that you provide that are relevant? If so, let me know which ones they are, and we can start mapping them out and creating these pages and this content for you.”

When a client gets a spreadsheet and it’s got 300 rows of URLs in it, they soon realise, “Wow, there’s a lot of work to be done here. This is going to take some time to get through.”

That can definitely help them realise the amount of work involved and how long shit takes

Setting realistic timeframes

I think most importantly of all, (and I do this again through my presentations) is setting realistic time frames.

For this, I always overestimate.

If I’m looking at a campaign and I think that might be able to get results in 12 months, I usually always say 18 months or more. I do this for a reason, because I would much rather say “Bob, we’re getting great results sooner than I thought, it’s starting to come together in just 6 months” Rather than having Bob on the phone asking “John you said 6 months and it’s now been 9 months, what’s going on?”

You always want to over estimate so that you give yourself some room.

Now that might be difficult for some of you to get your head around, and it’s certainly not a comfortable conversation to have – having to tell someone that barely knows or trusts you that this shits going to take 18 months, but it’s about being fucking honest.

I can tell you, honestly that I’ve never ever lost a new lead because I’ve been honest about time frames.

The good old question “How can we get results faster?”

I get asked this a lot by both new and existing clients, and its an easy question to answer.

“Look. You want faster results. You simply got to buy more time.”

This is because I work at an hourly rate. So if they want to speed things up, they’ll have to put in more hours each month.

Easy.

Don’t work with impatient assholes

Lastly, I want to touch on prequalifying, and this is something I talk about a lot.

Anyone that comes near me that says, “John, we want results in three months. If we don’t get results in three months, we’re going to cancel.” I tell those people not to bother signing up. I’m not interested in anyone that expects to turn their entire business around within three months. Don’t forget. It’s never three months. If a client is doing 12 hours a month, it’s not three months at all. It’s 36 hours, which is less than one working week.

I do SEO. I’m not a magician, and I can’t turn anyone’s business around in 36 hours, especially if they come to me and the entire thing is fucking broken.

Want to come over for a caramel latte and a high 5?

Cool, let me know and I’ll pop the jug on.

Oh, don’t forget, I provide SEO coaching, too. But you knew that already, right?

Here’s Why You Should be Charging Agency Rates as a Freelancer

There’s a common trend that I see amongst freelancers working in the SEO space, and that trend is this – they all under price themselves by offering cheap services.

Why?

Recently, I published a blog post where I shared my earnings within my own SEO business, having made almost half a million dollars over the last year. I decided to share this post over at Linkedin where I received an interesting comment by a guy by the name of John Curtis.

Here’s what John said…

Interesting read, John. So many freelancers are not willing to charge the big agency rates. The truth is the SEO products we offer is far more customized and delivers a far superior result more often than not.

I thought that comment was spot on, and infact, it was that comment that prompted me to write this post.

Now again for whatever reason, most freelancers believe that they need to go about charging a cheaper rate. Perhaps it’s mindset. Perhaps it’s confidence. I’m not sure what those reasons are, but I was certainly guilty of this when I first got started too.

When I first got started, I knew that there were certain things that I didn’t know, and unlike being in an agency environment, I certainly didn’t have the backing of other teammates and leaders to help guide me on my way. Even though I’d already been applying SEO within my own businesses for a number of years, I didn’t consider myself an expert by any means.

I guess just like a lot of freelancers, I started low with my pricing and adjusted my rates over time as my knowledge and experience grew. This unfortunately meant under quoting quite often and working longer hours. This made me feel frustrated and undervalued – especially since I knew I was doing good work. Now don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’m certainly not knocking freelancers for doing this, but I just want to highlight a few reasons why freelancers probably should take the opposite approach.

If I had my time over again, I certainly would.

Here’s a couple of key notes that I put together about why freelancers shouldn’t be afraid to charge agency rates.

You have a smaller client base

Firstly, you have a smaller client base.

This lends itself to being able to provide a more intimate service offering because you’re not being stretched in all directions by a dozen clients all at once. Having a smaller client base allows you to go a deeper on your campaign. You’re not just skimming from one campaign to the next. You can spend more time with each client because you have that time. This allows you to really know them and their business, how it works, where the money is, and how you can potentially help them improve their bottom line.

Agencies, however, especially if they’re large agencies with hundreds or thousands of clients can’t do this.

I always find it interesting when I see stats published on an agencies website where they’ll say, “We’ve got 35 staff and over 1,500 clients.” Well, it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that there’s no possible way that they could service each client properly and work comfortably at those figures.

1500 clients divided by 35 staff would mean that each staff member would be servicing 42 clients each month.

There’s just no way that any one person could be servicing that many clients at a time. It’s just not possible, unless of course they’re doing something unethical and let’s face it, in most cases that’s what’s a lot of large agencies are doing.

Having a smaller client base gives you a huge advantage because your resources aren’t stretched. You’re not just jumping quickly between clients, doing five minutes here and five minutes there. And let’s not forget all of the other work that comes with running an SEO business, such as calls, email, meetings, admin, invoicing, and everything else that takes up your time.

Having a smaller client base should allow you to provide a more intimate service offering, and your clients will love you for it – because they feel valued.

Now for myself, I typically have anywhere between a dozen up to say anywhere between 12 to 20 clients on at anyone given time. 20 is when I stop. A really comfortable spot for me is around six to eight clients. At the moment I believe I have 12.

You don’t need a million clients

The benefits of being a freelancer and charging agency rates means that you need fewer clients, and because you have less overheads, means that you’re not living in constant fear of being fucking broke. On the other hand, if you’re pushing low end prices, then you’re going to need more clients just to get by. I’ve seen freelancers working at a couple hundred dollars a month to provide SEO services, and it’s just ridiculous.

You just can’t provide a quality service for $300 a month.

When you do that, you’re going to be constantly scrambling for clients. If you have three or four clients, you might be just getting by each month. But if you have two clients drop out, then you’re going to be absolutely desperate to get more clients.

Now if you’ve got three or four clients and they’re all paying $2,500 a month, then it doesn’t really matter. It’s not going to affect you that much if you lose two or three clients.

Sure it won’t be great, but it won’t mean the end of the world either, but most importantly of all – you’re not going to be under the pump making stupid decisions because you’re desperate for money.

Higher margins, dummy

The next benefit, of course, are higher profit margins.

Again if you’re working at a couple of hundred dollars a month then your margins are going to be shit. You’ll be lucky to make $80 or $100 profit, and let’s face it, that’s fucking pointless. In fact, you’d probably be making more money on unemployment benefits.

Working at agency rates is much more beneficial because the margins are there. Again this revisits my previous point – you’re not going to be scrambling between clients because you’re desperate for money. If you’re going to do this, do it right and make it worthwhile.

Like I always say, you want fewer, higher paying clients.

It’s more fucking enjoyable

When you’re making good money, doing good work, and really helping people, the work immediately becomes more enjoyable – especially since you’re not under the pump financially.

You’ve got time to breath.

You can invest yourself with clients, which they’ll appreciate. You’re not just jumping constantly between campaigns, doing shit work and getting stressed out because you’re low on cash. Working at agency rates as a freelancer is beneficial for all those reasons.

Most clients don’t give a rats

One thing that I’ve certainly learned is that most clients don’t really care if you’re sitting at home in your underpants doing the work.

All they care about are results.

They couldn’t care less if you’re in some big fancy office in the middle of the city or you’re at home working in your pyjamas. In fact, I’ve had a number of clients come from large agencies that have said…

John, finding you was a relief. We’ve been working with Big Wigs SEO Company and it’s been incredibly stressful. Every time we called them we got passed around between different people. There was always a new campaign manager, or some new guy we had to speak with. They never returned our calls and often left us wondering if anything was being done at all.

However, when they start working with me, even though I’m just a small operation working from home, and they’re paying the same rates, they’ll say

“John, this is really refreshing. It’s great to know that you actually care, and we can jump on the phone and have a chat when we need to. It’s nice knowing that we’re working directly with you, and we know the work’s getting done, and it’s being done right.”

So there’s no reason to think that you’re not worth agency rates, just because you’re not running some big fancy office. Good work is good work regardless of where you are. So for those of you who do good quality work – stop dropping your rates.

Have some balls.

Have the confidence and the courage to charge what you’re worth.

Interested in working with me?

If you’re running an SEO business, working as a freelancer or perhaps you’re operating a small agency and you’re sick and tired of dribbling along then get in touch.

I teach people how to start, run and operate highly efficient SEO businesses – just like mine.

I can take you from where you are now to potentially where you want to be and move you right away from chasing $100 a month clients to some of the big end stuff, so you can get to $40,000-$50,000 a month – fast.

If you’re interested, then consider a free consultation call to see if we’re a good fit.

Cheers

Stop Fucking Around Sending SEO Proposals

Let’s talk quickly about proposals and why they suck.

Something I hear all the time when I get new coaching clients. “John, I’m struggling to get clients, and when I do, they don’t end up working with me.”

Not only are they struggling to get clients, but they’re struggling to close the ones they get.

And this is because they’re still sending PDF proposals in order to try and close jobs. Now I can tell you right now, if you’re still emailing proposals thinking you’re going to close a deal – you’re wasting your fucking time.

Here’s how it usually goes

Someones interested in working with you.

You spend an hour with them, either on a call, in a meeting or via back and forth via email. You’re doing your best to explain your service offering, how you work, the benefits and everything else it is that you do, and why the client should sign up.

By the end of the conversation, they’ll say something like, “That all sounds wonderful John. Listen, can you send us a proposal?”

So you agree.

You then spend a whole day putting together some big fancy fucking proposal. Its full of charts, and graphs and squiggly lines and shit all in an effort to impress the prospect and hopefully close the deal.

You send it over, then guess what happens?

One of 4 things –

  • You end up in some back and forth never ending “what about this, what about that” nonsense
  • You never fucking hear from them again
  • They say, “Sorry not interested”, or
  • They’ll send your proposal over to someone else that does SEO

Fuck that.

I can tell you right now, I haven’t done a proposal in close to five years – and I will never do one again – EVER.

I cracked almost half a million dollars in revenue last year in my SEO business and didn’t send one fucking proposal.

I can say with confidence that, If you’re working in the SEO space, and you’re still emailing SEO proposals to prospects, you don’t stand a fucking chance. If we’re competing for the same job, I could charge twice what you’re charging, and I will steamroll you and win the job every single time.

How?

Ill tell you in a moment, but firstly, let’s take a quick look at why I don’t send proposals anymore.

They’re a fucking waste of time

I’ve sat in the office plenty of times for hours on end, banging out a 20-page proposal thinking I was going to get the job. Sitting there – up til 2am, trying to make them look all nice and fancy and professional – adding fancy charts, and graphs and squiggly lines in an effort to try and impress someone that couldn’t give a shit.

Completely pointless.

I remember once wasting two days putting a big fancy proposal together for a high end client with my quote at the end of it, and I never heard back from them ever again.

That really pissed me off and I knew there had to be a better way.

The prospect isn’t really serious

Chances are, they’re just not serious.

If you’re having a conversation with a prospect, and they cut you off and say, “Listen. okay, it all sounds great, but best to send us a proposal.” then chances are they’re really not serious about doing business.

I don’t have time to fuck around, and I’m sure that if you’re working in the SEO space, that you don’t either. I want to cut straight to the chase. Let’s not waste each others time here.

I’m not interested in spending two days or whatever it might be, putting together some big, fancy fucking proposal if there’s something that we can have a discussion about now, and get it out in the open before we go any further.

Right?

This is why I always talk about being upfront about your pricing and rates well before you spend hours or even days with a prospect who’s not a good fit, so that you’re not wasting each others time – but I’ll talk about that more in a different post.

Lolly scramblers

This one’s probably the most common.

Chances are, anyone that asks you for a proposal has asked 10 other people as well, and they’re simply price shopping. Their entire decision is going to be based upon price and price alone.

“Well this company is a lot cheaper, let’s go with them and see if it works out”

When that happens it becomes nothing more than a race to the bottom and the value you bring is meaningless.

They don’t get read

One of two things are going to happen here.

If you give them a hard copy, it’s going to end up on their desk, gathering dust, probably beneath a pile of a dozen other proposals that they have yet to read through. Or, if you’re emailing it over, it’s going to sit in their inbox for days on end because they’re too busy to look at it.

And when they do look at it, they’ll flick through it quickly, and then they’ll either bin it, or they’ll forget about it. Either one of those outcomes is not ideal and it’s certainly not going to close you any new jobs.

You’re not special

What you have to realise is that if you’re sending proposals, you’re not standing out. There’s nothing special about you or your offer. You’re just going to look like everyone else.

You don’t want that.

You need to go well above and beyond what everyone else has done, so that when the prospect sees your offer he or she says, “Holy shit. This guy has really delivered something special here. This is a no-brainer, how do we get started?”

I’ll get to exactly how you can do just that in  a minute.

Your close rates will suck

I know from personal experience after sending too many proposals than I care to remember that your close rates are going to suck. There’s no perceived value. Its just a piece of paper with words on it.

Who cares.

There’s a few reasons here why close rates suck with traditional proposals.

Firstly, the prospect is going to be looking through your proposal without your involvement, and I’ve never been comfortable with that because if they don’t understand something, or you can’t elaborate on something, or explain it, then your proposal is open to any sort of interpretation.

Secondly, chances are they’re just going to flick straight to the last page and look at the price. Which means they’re more than likely to bypass everything else that you’ve covered in the actual proposal itself. They might have a quick flick through the deliverables, but skip everything and jump straight to cost – which sucks. This isn’t ideal because it doesn’t give you a chance to elaborate, and explain things, and most importantly of all – explain the actual value that you’re bringing to the customer. So not being able to interact and go through the proposal with your client becomes a problem in itself.

Now I can hear you saying “But John, what’s wrong with sitting with the client and going through it with them?” Probably nothing, but again, if we’re competing for the same job, I’ll win it everytime.

Trust me, keep reading.

Thirdly, confusion. If there’s something that they don’t understand in the proposal, then you’re fucked. They’re going to look over it, and be completely confused and say, “I don’t really understand this.” which is definitely not what you want.

They’re going to put it straight in the too hard basket.

So you definitely don’t want that. Again, because they’re looking at it without you. You weren’t there to explain or elaborate on things in detail.

Lastly – perceived value

Sending someone a PDF proposal, and I don’t care how well you dress it up, the perceived value of your offering is going to be minimal because you’re not going to stand out. As said, it’s just a document. Whoop doop.

How I close almost 100% of my prospects without a proposal

So If I’m not sending proposals, what am I doing?

Again, I haven’t sent a proposal in about five years, and my close rates are virtually 100%. I do this, because I’m prequalifying the shit out of every enquiry I get, before I go anywhere near the next step.

I prequalify because I don’t want to waste any time.

So, during the first call I’m going to cut straight to the chase and make sure the prospect is a good fit. I’m going to cover my rates and I’ll cover a few brief points about how I operate, the process and why they should work with me (what makes me different)

From there, if they’re happy to proceed once I have prequalified, and I know they’re going to be a good fit, and it’s likely to work and be beneficial for both myself and the prospect, then I’ll move to a sales presentation.

That’s right, a sales presentation.

Now I can’t stress this enough – a sales presentation will win you just about every single job you pitch for.

But it doesn’t mean having to stand up in front of 500 people in some auditorium with a laser pointer.

It’s not a Ted Talk.

They’re not some big fancy complicated process that involves days of preparations.

Quite the opposite.

I do these presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint and I present them over a Skype call that typically takes about 45 minutes.

Moving quickly whilst providing massive value

In terms of the presentation itself, and the slides – I have a ready made template that I use to do them which allows me to put them together in about 20 minutes. All I need to do is fill in the blanks.

Now in that 20 minutes, I move quickly.

Because I don’t yet know, (even though I’ve pre-qualified the client), I don’t yet know if they’re serious and they’re going to come onboard. So I want to minimize the risk. And by that, I mean I want to minimize the amount of time that I could potentially waste if they decide to sit through the presentation and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I’m not interested in fucking around for a whole day, or half a day, or whatever it might be. So I’m going to move through putting this presentation together quickly and that’s why I use a template.

Now be mindful that I’ve already covered my rates BEFORE, I get on a call and hold this presentation so there’s no surprises. There’s no sudden “shock” or “wow that’s expensive!” or any other nasty surprises at the end of the presentation. That shits already been covered.

So the entire presentation is me, outlining huge value.

This is key.

As to what I’m covering in the presentation, here’s a few key points –

  • About me – Background of my business including my service offerings
  • Case studies. I’m showing them (and explaining on screen) previous companies that have worked with me and the results I’ve helped them acheive
  • My process. I cover how my process works from start through the finish so they have a good understanding of what to expect and how it all works
  • Key campaign objectives – We’ll talk about campaign goals. What they’re trying to achieve and how I can help them (here I always push the emphasis towards revenue, not rankings)
  • Site audit – Here I actually perform a low level audit on the prospects site and include it in the presentation. Once a prospect sees that you’ve actually spent some time looking/researching their site, they’ll be very impressed and ready to come onboard
  • SEO marketing strategy – These are the recommendations I make in terms of moving forward. “This is what we need to do and why”
  • Cost summary – and lastly the cost summary. This is an itemised breakdown or summary of the actual investment

I essentially go through the slides one at a time, and I outline and explain to the prospect everything from top to bottom, from start to finish, including at the very end, a quote.

Now by the time I get to my pricing and outlining my quote, I have covered everything in detail to the point where the prospect shouldn’t even have any questions and is ready to sign up. In most cases I’m not even finished the presentation and the prospect is asking how to get started.

Why it works

Presentations are much more powerful than traditional proposals for a number of reasons –

  • Its intimate and personal. You’re not just flicking someone a piece of paper. You’re spending time together and establishing a bond
  • You get to explain everything so there’s no confusion at all about your offer
  • You’re answering any questions they might have during the presentation itself – which is powerful at removing doubt or uncertainty
  • There’s interaction. Its not just them, sitting there reading something. You’re working together.
  • There’s a much higher perceived value, because you’ve taken the time to perform a low level audit on their site
  • You stand out – Because if you’ve submitted a PDF proposal via email and I host a presentation like this, the prospect will only remember me, not you.
  • Your rates are insignificant because you’ve focused heavily on the value you’re bringing
  • You get the opportunity to highlight why you’re different, and why they should work with you – by showing examples
  • You’re setting clear expectations, removing doubt and anything else that could potentially cause the prospect to go elsewhere

Now I can tell you right now, I knock these presentations together quickly. Not only am I explaining my process, pricing, time frames, and everything else, but I’ve actually performed a low level audit on their site – and let me tell you, they absolutely love that.

Now sure, you might be able to throw that together in a PDF, but the power of the visual presentation itself, plus having that level of interaction that you just don’t have with a traditional PDF proposal – you can’t lose.

And this is why I say, if I’m competing for a campaign against five other people and they’re sending PDF proposals, and I’m spending 45 minutes on a call with a prospect, I’m going to win that thing every single time, and that’s typically what happens.

So if you’re sending PDF proposals, you need to change your strategy fast, because that stuff is just a waste of time. I can prequalify during the first call in about 15 minutes, spend time putting together a presentation in 20 minutes then close the lead in about 45 minutes.

And I can do that all day long.

Oh, and don’t forget, most times during that presentation, I can typically take a prospect who intends on spending $2,100 a month, and turn that investment into an $8,000 or $10,000 deal right there, whilst keeping the $2,100 a month retainer.

But you’ll have to work with me in order to find out how.

Interested in working with me?

I can show you how to start your own hugely profitable SEO business fast, without any nonsense or mucking around. If you’re interested, get in touch or place an order for a free 20 minute consulting call.

Don’t Get Caught Between the Client and their Web Developer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, working in the SEO space, it’s this.

Don’t get caught between a client and a web designer.

Most web designers have absolutely no idea what they’re doing when it comes to SEO. Whether it be site structure, on-page optimization, title tags, or even basic stuff like site speed and general user experience. A few times I’ve found myself stuck between trying to do my work as a hired SEO professional and having to deal with a fucking web designer who’s causing all sorts of drama with the client.

They’ll obstruct, refuse logins, reverse changes, and cause unnecessary panic. I’ve had web designers sending all sorts of emails to the client with stupid shit like “I found a broken link!” or “This page has been moved!” or other stupid shit like that.

Clients hear crap like this and they think somethings wrong, when indeed its about as important as your hair being slightly out of place for a school photo.

I often say “It’s like you’re launching a space shuttle mission to mars and they’re worried about what colour shoe laces the astronauts will be wearing”

It’s ridiculous.

Here’s the truth – for most SEO campaigns, things have got to get a lot worse before they get better.

It’s much like renovating a house. You rip a kitchen out, it’s going to look horrible, nothing’s going to work. It’s going to be a total mess. But you can’t put a new kitchen in unless you tear the old one out.

So to have someone in the background running around saying, “Things aren’t working,” or “There’s a fucking link broken on this page,” is nothing more than a distraction and it’s a total nuisance.

But that’s just a very simple example, I’ve had a lot worse.

Things aren’t broken, they’re just changing

As I said, SEO, (especially with on-page optimization) is much like renovating a house.

You’re going to be tearing down walls or pulling kitchens and bathrooms apart. Things are going to look horrible until, of course, you get everything sorted out and back in place – in which case everything is going to be fantastic. It doesn’t help to have some web nerd that knows nothing about SEO, barking into the ear of your client saying, “Oh, this isn’t working”, and “That doesn’t work”, and “There’s a broken link,” and whatever else in the background, it’s just a total nuisance.

Obstructions are worse

You can often find yourself working with a client that’ll say, “Listen, we don’t want you to change anything on the website, we’ve got our web guy to do that for us,” in which case you can’t log in and make simple changes that should take two minutes. Instead, you’ve got to pass the information or the change request over to the client. The client’s then got to send that change request over to the web guy.

Then from there, anything can happen –

  • They do it when the feel like it
  • They do it but whinge about it over 50 emails back and forth
  • They question it, causing delays
  • They do it, but they do it “their way”

All this does is slow you down, and guess what? It sure won’t be the web developer getting kicked up the ass when the client isn’t seeing results – it will be you.

Most web developers have absolutely no idea of SEO, so what I would recommend, is that you try and get full control of the project in its entirety. The web stuff, the SEO stuff, and anything else that you need in order to get the job done.

You caused this problem, you clown

Another issue that I’ve experienced are web developers who simply want to override your recommendations.

  • Me – “Listen you’ve got to get rid of these plugins. You’ve got 72 plugins here and they’re causing major latency, which is affecting site speed and SEO”
  • Client – “Hmm, okay, I’ll talk to my web guy”
  • Web guy – “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, we need all of the plugins otherwise the site will break!”
  • Client – “Our web guy said no because the site wont work”
  • Me – “Fucks sake”

It’s funny, I’ve worked with so many business owners that want to listen to some web guy that has actually caused the fucking problems in the first place. The business owners have come to me because the site’s not working, it’s totally broken. They’re not making sales. They’re not getting customers. Yet, for whatever reason, they still want to listen to their web guy that put them in this position in the fucking first place.

I always push to get full control over a project. I’m really not interested in bouncing around between a client and a fucking clueless web developer who’s more concerned about how big the logo is than they are about making sales.

Which brings me to my next point.

Sales not bullshit technical jargon

Something else that I’ve seen too is web developers who want to continually confuse their clients with technical jargon.

Web guy – “The CSS style sheet must be updated with HTML5 W3 compliant code, and the JS snippets embeded above the tags, otherwise the site wont render properly on Motorola Razr mobile devices”

F off.

How about we focus on making sales, instead of trying to impress each other with technical nonsense?

Here’s a few points on this one –

  • All this does is cause confusion for the business owner
  • The business owner doesn’t care
  • The business owner is busy running an actual business
  • The business owner wants to know about sales and revenue, not technical crap

In other words, it’s all about revenue, and a lot of web developers want to get bogged down in technical bullshit and when that happens, that can really have a negative impact on what you’re trying to achieve as an SEO.

At the end of the day, you should be doing whatever you need to do in order to help the client get results, and if you’ve got some dimwit web developer who’s in your way who wants to shout-out in the background about the colors of the fonts and fucking style sheets and whatever else, then you’re going to have to make the decision.

Either you take control of the project and you ask your client to get this guy out of your way or if that can’t happen, then you’re going to have to just say to the client, “Look, I can’t help you. You’re going to have to find someone else to work with.”

By the way – I’m not saying all web developers are like this, but from my personal experience – many are.

Agree disagree? Post your comment below or come around and punch me in the face.

7 Lessons Learned Making $477,426 In 12 Months Doing SEO from Home

I’ve been running my business now for quite some time and I still remember when I first started, how excited I was to get my very first few clients and be making money working from home.

I felt like “Id made it”.

For whatever reason, I’d always sort of aspired and aimed for making $10,000 thousand a month. I guess I just liked the sound of it. However within in a very short period of time, I blew right past that and have now far exceeded that figure in terms of the money that I’m making within my SEO business.

As the title reads, in the last 12 months, I’ve made almost half a million dollars running my SEO business from home.

It’s been interesting to look back, to see what’s happened within my business. Clients that I’ve worked with, mistakes that I’ve made, things I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in that time.

Having said that, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some thoughts off the top of my head, some of the biggest takeaways or lessons that I’ve learned.

These are what I would consider key items, not just small-time details. These are all the biggest factors that I think have really made the difference between me making a couple hundred dollars a month to where I am right now.

Confidence

The first one I want to mention is confidence.

Confidence has played such a huge part in how I’ve been able to really grow this business and achieve the sort of numbers that I have. However it wasn’t always this way.

When you’re just starting out, you’re often surrounded by self doubt and uncertainty.

  • Will this business work?
  • What if I screw something up?
  • Will I make enough money?

When you’re unsure of yourself it fucks with your confidence, and when you’re not confident, you end up doing stupid shit or making silly decisions.

Without boring you with the details, there were two problems I had –

  • I didn’t back myself
  • I listened to the wrong people

Infact, just 6 months before my business exploded, I almost quit and went back to a regular job.

I look back at my mindset during those first few years and even though I was determined, I still had wobbly wheels, and when you’re in that position, things can go either way. You’ve got to back yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.

Confidence is key and its something I cover in my SEO business coaching program.

Process

The next one I want to talk about, is the importance of a process.

There’s a great show, that I’m a huge fan of, it’s called The Profit by Marcus Lemonis. It’s very similar to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares where he’ll step into a failing business, pull it apart, fix what’s broken and have that business making money in a very short period of time.

Marcus always talks about the three P’s of business – people, product and process.

I’ve adopted this approach, and it just works.

It’s such a simplistic model, but it makes sense and it actually works.

So I often think about my product, which is SEO, the people, which are my virtual staff, (which I’ll get to in just a moment), and lastly, my process. I know a lot of people that work in similar fields to me – they’re web developers, or they’re doing SEO, or they’re doing some form of online marketing and they don’t have a process at all. They just totally wing it.

I know a lot of freelance web developers, in particular, tend to do this.

They have absolutely no process at all. There’s no onboarding process, there’s no customer acquisition process, they don’t pre-qualify their leads, there’s nothing. They just send a few emails back and forth, have a chat on the phone, agree to everything, shake hands then sit up til 3am every morning yelling and swearing because the job has blown out and they’ve realised they’re working for $2 an hour.

I understood the importance of having a set process – and let’s face it, without a process, you can find yourself becoming extremely stressed out and overwhelmed very, very quickly. Having a set process in place is an absolute must.

It’s interesting, one thing I’ve learned is that my processes are always evolving. It’s ever changing. It’s never static. You’ll always be learning. I find that I learn with each and every new client that comes on board. I learn something new, I adjust my process in order to accommodate that, whether it be to improve something or to prevent a mistake or something that perhaps went wrong from happening again.

But you’ve got to have a process. If you don’t have a process and you’re just winging every client that you work with, then you don’t stand a chance in hell running a successful SEO business.

PS – This is probably the most important part of my coaching, because I can give you my entire process that I’ve refined over several years, so you’re not fucking around wasting time and making mistakes.

Team

This really falls under my previous point where I mentioned people.

You’ve got to have the right people helping you.

This one’s always quite tricky. One thing I’ve learnt, is that it can be very, very hard to find good people. You can spend a lot of time looking for them, but Ill say this much – once you find the right people, do whatever the fuck you can to keep them, even if that means paying them a bit more than you should.

Within my business, there are two staff members that I absolutely must have. The first one is my web guy or web developer. Having someone to assist with technical web tasks is always necessary. The second is someone to assist with content. SEO done right is heavily dependent on content. I produce a lot of content for my clients, so having someone in place to provide high-quality content is absolutely crucial.

There’s no way in hell I could be sitting here servicing 20 clients and producing more than 100,000 words of content per month on my own. It’s just not possible.

So having the right people is absolutely essential.

Project management

You’ll find as your business grows and evolves, just like mine has, that I’m spending less time doing the work and more time project managing. I’ll never move right away from doing the work, because I enjoy it. I think it’s important, because when I’m sitting with clients, I need to know what the hell I’m talking about and if I’m just sitting in a leather chair, smoking a big fat cigar and I’m just pointing and yelling at people, then my skill sets are going to slowly drop off and I don’t want that.

I want to make sure that I stay sharp with what’s happening in the SEO space for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly, so that I can train my staff.
  • Secondly, so that I know I’m confident when I’m speaking with new or existing clients.
  • And lastly, just for my own sake, I want to make sure that I have those skill sets in place, because it’s crucial to the success and growth of my business.

I have worked tirelessly in order to develop a refined system that I know works. I know that I’m not going to miss deadlines, I’m not going to miss meetings. My campaign workflow and my priorities are in check and everything is running smoothly.

You don’t need a big fancy fucking office

Making almost a half a million dollars might lead most people to think that I have this huge office, with hundreds of clients and dozens of staff all running around in cirlces like a scene of out Wolf of Wall Street and everything is extremely stressful.

But it couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, I have two virtual assistants. Occasionally, my girlfriend helps out with miscellaneous tasks, and most times I have between 12 and 15 clients, at most, I have 20.

However 20 is more than enough. At that rate is when I put the brakes on, because it becomes a little bit too much for such a small operation.

But, I’m certainly not sitting here in a big office with expensive rent and wages and 30 staff and having to put on a suit every morning. That’s not what I do at all. I’ve got a very good work-life balance. I work Sunday through Thursday. I have Friday and Saturdays off.

I have a small home-based office. I live near the beach. I often spend time with my girl lazing around cafes and doing my own thing. Whether that be going to the gym or whatever else it is that I might feel like doing at the time – but don’t get me wrong, it’s not all cupcakes and candy canes.

Which brings me to my next point.

I’ve worked my fucking ass off

Every now and then someone says to me “You’re so lucky!”

Fuck off. Luck has nothing to do with it.

I work my ass off.

There’s no shortcuts. There’s no overnight success. There’s no magic wand.

I still remember eating chicken noodle soup for a week because my first client was late with payment.

To suggest that I’m sitting down at the beach every day, lazing around, sipping on caramel lattes would be absolute nonsense. Most days I’m here working. I put in at least 10 hours every day and I do that day in day out. This is not a business where you can just push a few buttons and pull a few levers and the money’s going roll in.

You’ve got to be prepared to work your face off.

And that’s exactly what I do.

I am absolutely relentless in that regard. In fact, I have a lot of people ask me, “John, how do you stay motivated?” For me, it’s about fear. And this is probably true for a lot of people. People are driven by fear. Some people have fear of leaving a job. For me, it’s the fear of having to go back to one. I couldn’t think of anything worse than to have to swap this life that I’ve built in exchange for some shitty job where I’m working for $20 an hour.

I just couldn’t do it.

So that keeps me highly motivated. Plus of course the money is great too.

Learning to say no

This is a big one.

I see this a lot when I work with coaching clients. Freelancers in particular, because they’re often desperate for money. They’ll say yes to anyone.

I understand it. I mean I get it.

When you’re first starting out, you’re going to need the money.

Someone waves $900, under your nose for a website or something and you’re flat out being able to pay the rent – chances are you might take it, but that leads to problems in itself, because you’ll end up working for $2 an hour.

And that shit becomes a never ending cycle of chasing shitty clients.

I’ve already been there and done that.

So I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with saying to a person, “Hey listen, we’re not a good fit. I don’t think this is going to work. Perhaps you could try this, this or this.”

I never ever just leave a person hanging.

I’ll never ever just say, “Listen, I can’t help you,” and hang up. I always make suggestions. I often get a lot of calls from people that are wanting cheap SEO. They might have a lawn mowing business and say, “John, can you help me?” I always bring up my rates early on in the discussion, and say, “Listen, I charge $175 an hour, $2,100 a month,” in which case that’s not a good fit for a lot of people that don’t have that sort of marketing budgets.

But that’s okay, because I prefer to work with businesses that are well established, where they have a marketing budget and they see it as an investment, not an expense. So I certainly very comfortable in telling people, “No, I can’t help you,” but I always make suggestions.

“Perhaps you could try this, or give these guys a call or, have you considered XYZ?”

And that, that’s often a good thing, and they’ll thank you for it.

You can’t simply be saying yes to everyone.

Interested in working with me?

If you’ve enjoyed this read and you think you’d be interested in working with me, and making this sort of money then get in touch. I can take you from zero to running a highly profitable SEO business quickly without any mucking around.

99% of the Time Performance Based SEO Sucks All the Time

Performance-based SEO simply means, you get paid inline with the results that you achieve. So if you do great, you get paid. If you don’t then you’re fucked. I see a lot of dickheads in this industry offering performance based SEO and it’s nothing more than a cheap trick to get people to sign up.

“Hey, work with us, you don’t need to pay anything until we get you first page in Google”.

Its fucking ridiculous, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

Before we go any further, I want to share with you an email that was sent to me recently from a friend of mine that does what I do – he runs his own SEO business, and he acquired a new lead who was asking about “performance based SEO”.

Here it is.

Just wondering whether you were open to negotiate a little on price. I was wondering whether I could pay $1,800 per month instead of your quoted $2,250 per month for the 1st 3 months and if I was to engage (sign-up) 2 new clients directly as result of the work you had completed on my site I would make a bonus payment of $1,350 (450 x 3) at the end of the 3rd month.

Now, here’s the reply given…

In terms of pricing, we don’t typically offer discounts or sales performance incentives. The reason for that is not because we don’t believe we’ll get results, I know that we will get results granted we have enough time to spend on your campaign given your level of competition.

As for performance based incentives, the main issue I have is that all I can do is send you leads to your business. I don’t have any control over the sales conversation or your close rate. While 2 new customers should be an easy gig, and I think we’ll get that pretty early, it’s still something that is out of our control.

You might think this is crazy, but we’ve had some customers tell us they haven’t received any new customers only to discuss each specific lead generated and have them admit they haven’t been checking their emails or answering calls because they were too busy.

Now if you ask me – his response nailed it.

High 5.

Why performance based SEO sucks balls (sometimes)

Man, where do I even start?

I guess offering performance based SEO to get more clients might sound like a cool idea, but let me tell you, it can lead to all sorts of problems because you’re essentially taking on all of the risk.

But isn’t that exactly what someone does when they sign up with you?

Not really, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

There’s two ways of looking at performance based SEO.

Let’s have a look at both.

The stupid way.

“Hey look, come onboard with us. You don’t pay us anything until we achieve the desired outcome.” 

The first problem is the definition of “desired outcome”.

That could be interpreted in many different ways. Is it rankings? Is it more leads? Is it more revenue? Is it all of those things?

Unless you educate the client about how SEO as a marketing strategy should be done – they’ll obsess over rankings.

I always move the conversation away from rankings, and I bring that conversation back to revenue. When you do that, you can then position yourself more favorably because you have more control. Instead of fucking around chasing rankings and manipulating the search results, you measure the amount of leads that you can drive to a website through organic search.

Guess what? Sometimes you can often achieve that outcome simply by fixing their fucking website, because most business owners have no idea what their conversion rates are. Chances are they’re fucking wasting traffic they’ve already got.

But let’s face it, 99% of people that work in the SEO space define rankings as a “performance indicator”. Infact you’ll see this sort of crap all over the place. “If we don’t get 60% or 50% of your keywords to the first page in Google in the first 3 months then you don’t pay us!”

Bull — shit.

Once you start tracking customer inquiries as a monetary value (conversion), you can start pulling levers, pressing buttons, and crunching numbers and saying to your client “Okay. Bob, this month, you had 25 inquiries, which given a reasonable close rate of 25% should equate to $38,000 dollars. You’ve paid me $2,000, you should have a profit margin of $36,000.”

That’s the conversation you need to have – not “Hey Bob you’re now on the first page of Google for Fluffy bunnies”

When you’re working at that sort of level, clients will just keep throwing cash at you non stop.

A better way (kind of)

Now I say “kind of”, because this is one of those strategies that big wigs in the SEO space like to talk about like Brian Dean, where they’ll publish some big long blog post titled “How I quadrupled my income running an SEO business from home whilst working in my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles boxer shorts” or some crap like that.

It could be really easy to tell you this strategy works and you can make a shit load of money doing it – but I’ve often tried it and found its not so great because of the following reasons –

  • It sounds good in theory but sucks in the real world
  • You have no control over other peoples stupidity
  • Business owners can be greedy (and sneaky)

So what is it?

It’s performanced based SEO where your earnings increase inline with your efforts.

In other words, the better you do, the more money both of you make. (you AND your client)

BUT (and here’s the biggest catch)

You have no control over what happens to that traffic and those leads once they land in the client’s lap. So you could be doing the world’s greatest SEO, sending a shit load of leads to your client, and their close rates might be fucking awful. Let’s say you’re sending 500 leads to a client a month, and they’re closing two out of that, or making two sales – that means their close rates suck balls and performance-based SEO is just not going to work.

Again, it’s something that’s well beyond your control. You can’t control how well the business owner is closing sales or converting inquiries at their end. You can read more about that here if you want.

Of course if the business owner knows what he’s doing, he wont have a 15 year old girl on the front desk or answering customer enquiries and they’ll actually be closing deals and converting customers. But that’s hard to know when you first onboard a client.

Just remember to prequalify and avoid time wasters that use language like this “John, if we’re not on first page for these keywords, then we’re not going to pay you.”

So yes or no for performance based SEO?

I don’t know anyone that works in this space that provides guaranteed results, where the outcome is 100% every fucking single time.

That’s just absolute nonsense.

I think performance-based SEO can work if you’re taking a commission or a set share of sales as they increase over time. So if a client signs up for $1,500 a month, and the first month they do $10,000, and they’re three months in, and that moves to $60,000, then after 12 months, they’re doing $800,000, I think that that’s a really good indication of positive results, and you should be paid inline with that.

It’s not something that I’ve done myself, but I think if anything, if you want to talk about performance-based SEO, that’s probably the best way to approach it. If the campaign is doing extremely well, then you should be provided with some form of incentive to work even harder to continue that momentum. I’ve worked on numerous campaigns where the client might be making $900,000 a year, and they’re only paying me $30,000.

That, at times, doesn’t quite seem right. So performance-based SEO, in that regard, when you’re paid inline with the results achieved is something that could potentially work.

Want to work with me?

I help small business owners do their own SEO. I help people start their own SEO businesses. I also help marketing agencies refine their processes and bring SEO inhouse.

Oh and by the way, I make a great toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich.

Come over Ill make you one.

Peace out.