As a result of so much of my time being spent focused on building an SEO company and ranking websites, I’ve been fortunate to come across a number of people who are on a similar journey. Today I would like to introduce one of those people, Matt Prados, to the world. Matt has managed to build a 7-figure yearly revenue stream running his SEO business by targeting two specialist niches in the medical field.
Matt, from Southern California, is someone Diggy and I have been in touch with for all of 2014 and thought it’s about time we got him on the site to share his knowledge.
This is a topic I’m really passionate about and I hope you are too, because there are some great nuggets of wisdom here.
As I think a lot of entrepreneurs do I was sitting in a seminar listening to a guy that was making millions online who frankly was not very smart. I said to myself “If this monkey can do it then so can I”. Up to that point I had never bought a domain, built a website and had no idea how to code. I had been in sales my entire life and knew I could sell internet marketing to local business owners.
I found some people that could build sites and we started selling. We had no product yet landed 10 clients before we even built one site. This was about 1-2 years before main street marketing and every guru was pitching local marketing.
I focused on SEO, PPC and social media when we started out. We quickly found social media to be a poor source of traffic for local businesses. We found that PPC was great but limited for local businesses and that no matter what the bulk of the traffic was coming from our SEO efforts.
So naturally we focused on the biggest sources of traffic the most.
We actually started with one niche and only did that for 4 years then expanded to a second niche later on. We did this because we knew the first niche very well and had sold to this industry before for other services.
For the second niche we created a great relationship with a consultant and he sent us traffic. He hated internet geeks and had been burned too many times. I handled one site for him which showed him our skills and he started to refer us business.
That is the #1 way to build a local business FYI: Parasite marketing. But most of those opportunities are gone due to first mover advantage.
I believe there are two strategies for people starting a local marketing business and both come down to picking a niche. The first is niche & industry the second is niche & area. By doing either of these you can make your work flow easier to scale and expand quality delivery.
Bringing on and off loading team members as well as mentors is probably the biggest areas of change I have experienced. People that are good at the beginning are not always good in the middle or later when things get bigger.
Hire slow and fire fast some say. That is OK but really hire when you need to expand and fire when you need to cut dead weight.
I respectfully disagree. I know that this strategy can work, I did it in my first niche but that was 5 years ago. Today, because many have gone down this path, most industries have “the gurus” and while you can disrupt them it is not that likely. Niche publications are very expensive to advertise in. Niche conferences are very expensive to be a vendor at. Getting on stage is even harder for a new person.
So now the doom and gloom is over… what would I do in TODAY’S environment to build a new SEO business? I would choose a territory where I live and hopefully have connections in and so on. I would be like the neighborhood realtor and build my business through relationships. Join or start a business networking group. A friend of mine started a new way to create these groups like this one for Bristow. I would use his model.
Also from an SEO point of view think of the great PBN you could build that is 100% about your location… interlinking between local client sites, guest blogging, JV’s you could organize and so on. This way you can go to clients offices’, take photos, shoot videos, meet/train staff. The biggest lesson in this business is no matter the results you get if they do not result in money in their pocket because their staff stink or they do not think that lead came from you, you will lose business.
This is not important in the selling phase but is in the scaling your business part. The longer you keep clients that wealthier you will be.
So the more touch and personal contact you can have the easier time you will have in proving results and keeping clients. Plus for marketing you could do local event sponsorships and do good in your community. You could have events locally to generate leads and sales and it will be easier to get results as “THE CITY SEO GUY” vs the “Niche Guy” neighbors talk and refer. Not guys that went to college 10+ years ago together.
I have squashed a few start-ups that tried to take my position in my niche. But I can’t compete with the guy who is “local” to client with local-shop type campaigns. The biggest issue that no one talks about is retention of clients in SEO, local marketing and PPC or the % you WILL lose. “Churn” as it is called in the grown up world. Every business will lose clients.
I never thought about this when I went in business almost 6 years ago. Since the attractive part of this model is monthly income lets get the dirty little secret out: You will lose clients. The trick to BIG success is to lose as little as possible. I could go on for hours on this. I am half inspired to do this in my own area even though we have a very successful international company. Perhaps we can do a webinar on this some day. (Glen: Sounds awesome!)
The one and ONLY way to handle churn if you are in fact delivering a good service is Call Tracking. Record calls and review them with clients. Clients never give you credit for leads without it. I have used most of the platforms out there – I know many have issues – so I created and use MessageMetric.com
It’s really not what I’m seeing across hundreds of absolutely huge industries. And when the market is so huge – i.e. helping hotels get more customers – then there is going to be space for new competitors. Since we’re attracting clients online here, that would eradicate the need for being a vendor at conferences and advertising in niche publications. These people can definitely be reached via Facebook, Adwords, Blogging and outreach.
Not forgetting of course angles like the Rank and Rent model where you can showcase your SEO skills without having to pitch to anyone. I think myself and Diggy are good proof of that.
You definitely have a point about being successful in a specific region though and I already see this working really well. Daryl, who I’m going to be interviewing on the blog soon, is pulling in some nice figures with that approach. I see no reason why you couldn’t implement both. For instance, being the go to guy for marketing London Hotels. For a lot of people I think just hoping to attract local clients could be difficult, especially if you don’t come from the best area.
I think it’s a shame when people try to sell SEO and they target anyone and everyone. From what I see the market is crying out for the SEO gurus in the automotive, retail, medical and other industries. The online gambling sites are certainly paying people who have learned SEO for that industry very, very well.
Adwords: Dental Advertising $22/click, Lawyer Marketing $18/click to just name 2 of the top “niches” that are promoted to go after.
Facebook sure they are there but its gonna be a tough go with little street cred.
Blogging and outreach in local business marketing is like yelling from a rooftop.
Hotel marketing maybe but I don’t see how you can do both as if you are the “Hotel” guy you can’t have two clients going after the same keywords i.e London Hotel. In my opinion you have to be loyal to that client, so one client per niche per area in local marketing.
Referrals are the #1 source of traffic for all businesses. That is why people with loyal lists are great affiliates. Going after franchises or multi-location businesses is a great plan too.
I have never tried the rank then rent model; I always rent then rank.
I agree you should not just try to sell “everyone” but I think that being the “SEO guru of Seattle” is a niche in and of itself. People like doing business with people like them which being the “Hotel SEO guy” makes you like hotels kinda but being the “SEO guru of Seattle” you ARE a Seattlian already.
I think SEO as a stand alone service is very risky. I really believe people need to be able to do Adwords, get conversions, understand email marketing and so on. Kind of like how the IM “gurus” have grown up and now do “High End Coaching”, I believe that the successful local marketers or local SEO’s will grow up and be a real internet marketing agency and not just offer SEO.
But beyond that I believe there is more money in having your own product that you can do SEO for or more completely drive traffic and conversions to so having a product (or service if you are organizationally inclined) is very valuable.
I see some of the most successful online marketers (from affiliate guys to product launch people and FB ad guys) moving to having their own real product, supplements and T-shirts that they can sell in mass. Get your local marketing agency going as a building block but do not think it is your 100 year+ company. Get your skills dialed in. Learn traffic, learn conversions, learn ROI…then find your own.
There are definitely ways to get around such high click prices and sources of traffic. Net Profit Explosion – the marketing company for gym owners – do a great job of utilising Facebook to get people to come back to their website. I have no doubt they’re building remarketing lists that they can push on Twitter and through Google as well where clicks will be much cheaper.
Underground Elephant are another good example. They’ve just this month been placed on the Inc 5000 fastest growing companies list for the second year running. They capture leads in these exact expensive cost per click industries – using PPC – and resell them for a much higher price because of what these leads could be worth. A ViperChill reader (and member of their staff) confirmed all of this to me.
Totally agree with you on the London Hotel comment regarding SEO; every time we open our doors we have to turn people away because they want to rank for a term we’re working on for another client. I was more referring to the other angles of business you could do for them that you hinted at earlier like email marketing, helping with conversions and so on.
Myself and Diggy have a dozen law companies paying us a nice monthly fee for SEO services. Most of these were picked up through the rank and rent model and none have ever met us in person. Though I am sure, if you have the sales skills, selling locally has amazing potential. In fact I think a lot of people reading this are going to read your comments, which you coupled with some great marketing ideas, and think “I can do that” and I hope it inspires them to take action.
I just see the potential to scale and grow your business being much bigger if you can figure out how to get the attention of a particular market online because then you can target businesses in any industry you care about and any area.
If I ever settle down in one location I may just give the local expert angle a shot.
The business has had its ups and downs especially when it comes to SEO with all of the updates Google make. I think I have learned to see where Google is headed more than ever, so now I have fixed our systems to match that moving forward. I have also done quite a bit in recent months to cut costs, increase net profit and still improve the overall quality of the service we offer clients.
Now is the time to scale, get more sales and add more team members. I think that in the next 12 months I can double my business while continuing to deliver excellent results.
Investing in as much education as possible that is needed to get the insiders view of SEO. Reading the blogs, watching the Twitter feeds and even going to events is not enough. I hired one of these “speak at events guys” with all his technical “know how” and that was a disaster. He worked so slow and could not scale to save his life.
I have bought every course on SEO. I have paid every top SEO to see what they know and would do in my shoes. Some of it was good advice and worth it; some was complete shit and had no value in a local agency. Marketing has to become an obsession because traffic is nothing without conversions. Conversions are where the money is made.
I buy all the real marketing courses even if I will know 98% of the content already. If there is that 2% that could boost my business by a few points I am all about making the investment.
ALL. You need to know what works, what used to work and predict what will work in the future. You will get Google slapped because the other dirty little secret is that ALL SEO IS BLACKHAT. Google has an algorithm and they do not want use to manipulate it. You must not only do SEO for local; you must do their PPC and their site and so on because if you don’t, the minute you get slapped you are fired.
On top of that, if you will have to do the same amount of work to manage SEO, PPC, or a website for a company that grosses 1M/yr and will pay you $1,000 per month or a company that grosses 10M/yr and will pay you $5,000/mo which do you want? Companies with 50+ employees are on average spending $63,000/yr on their website, SEO and email marketing.
Whatever you do, get your hustle on!
As a final thought, I wanted to add to this.
I love running an seo agency for my local business clients. I think it is a great business but not in place of having your own physical or digital product – either local or national – to sell and deliver. If you already have a successful business learn marketing to be more successful at that. For example, I was at a BBQ with a friend and met a guy that sold packs to runners, hikers and bikers and I gave him some information on how to do retargeting with ads.
I didn’t see him for 6 months then bumped into him and he said because of the information I shared with him he made an extra $100K in the last six months in sales. So needless to say I will expand my SEO agency, but at the same time I am marketing new products I’m personally bringing to market as well to have more than one source of income. Learn SEO sure, but master marketing.
When someone can SELL they will always eat well. Someone that has mastered marketing and conversions will be RICH!
I want to thank Matt for taking the time out to share his thoughts on running a business and how others could look to run their own in the future as well. If anyone would like to see Matt’s very own call tracking solution then please do check out Message Metric.
As always, comments are always appreciate so we both welcome any feedback. I’m sure Matt will join us for a bit below 🙂