Is It Better To Have 1 Large Client or Lots of Smaller Ones?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on SEO Oasis. That’s down to 2 reasons, the first is being more busy with content of Amazon SEO, Ghost Fitness & clients rather than posts on the blog. But the bigger (not moaning) reason was I simply didn’t know what to write about, but this topic hit me again recently and it keeps coming up when I speak to a lot of SEO consultants around the world. – “Is it better to have 1 high paying, large (probably corporate) client, or lots of smaller ones (most likely smaller local businesses?)” In this post I’m going to outline the pros and cons to both and then make a decision based on my personal preference. But I am interested to hear everyone’s thoughts, so feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have an opinion.

Before I get started on the pros and cons I wanted to put a monetary value to this to make this a more “real” case study/opinions. So this is the situation – Your 1 large client is a global brand looking for a full digital marketing campaign that they pay you £10,000 a month or £120,000 a year for, this doesn’t include ad spend but everything else, such as your profit margins is down to you. The multiple smaller ones are 20 smaller, local and national businesses that total exactly £10,000 per month in earnings for yourself. So your total earnings at the end of the year are the same.

Pros of the 1 Large Client

  1. Customer Service is easier – You are only dealing with a single client and usually only a couple of individuals inside of this company. E.G. Marketing director, managing director, CEO etc. Personally I enjoy talking to successful business owners anyway and if they pay you 10k a month they are on the way.
  2. A single website to optimise – This is probably the largest positive.  You can put all your effort into optimisation of a single website. Content, links, on-page all becomes easier when there is only 1 site to look at.

mad-menCons of the 1 Large Client

  1. The risk of losing the client – Similar to the scene in Mad Men when the red stripe was lost. [Also on the Mad Men point there is a good article on how this series is applicable to digital marketing.] For an advertising company relying on 1 client for 60%+ of earnings is dangerous. So 100% of total earnings is even more dangerous. Remember losing this company might not simply mean that they decided to change companies, your client may go out of business, have health issues or might even completely cut ties, you can’t ever be safe with a single client. All of which is the biggest risk to having an individual client accounting for 100% of your earnings.
  2. Corporate Stuff– Meetings, phone calls, being available all the time is something that most self employed SEOs dislike. So having to deal with constant updates, meetings or essentially feeling like you have a job is definitely going to be a con.

Pros of Smaller Clients

  1. Easier to Close (Less corporate levels) – Generally it is easier to close a smaller business than a larger one.
  2. Losing 1 Client is only 5% of your business – Assuming you cannot generate any new business, losing 1 client isn’t the end of the world and won’t have much of an effect on your end profit.

Cons of Smaller Clients

  1. Less understanding about schedules – Generally if you have 20 clients you’re going to need to hire a VA (virtual assistant) to handle some of the admin tasks, otherwise this is going to leave very little time for you to actually optimise and promote their websites. Stuff like emails, calls and tweaks to the site that will inevitably have to be made.
  2. Hiring is Essential (Hence Profit Margins Reduced) – Hiring is essential if you have over 12-15 clients. Doing all of the tasks associated with SEO yourself for all of these clients is going to quickly lead to you burning-out and hence quality of the work being reduced. You can also outsource these tasks, but these outsourcing connections, and finding high quality individuals to outsource to, is a hiring process in itself.

My Thoughts

In an ideal world it would be easier to have 1 large client on a yearly contract, and although this is relatively easy to do for larger digital marketing companies, for smaller consultants or firms it usually isn’t an option. As a result I would personally advice splitting the small/large client down the middle. Taking on smaller clients with the end goal to have the “dream” client. If you keep this in-mind then you won’t hire “bad” clients and you will also have the capacity to take on the large(r) one(s) when they do come to you.

The perfect split (Assuming £10k maximum monthly earnings) In my opinion:

  1. 5 x £1,000 per month clients. – National businesses that can benefit from your services dramatically, but also provide the staple of your earnings.
  2. 1 x £3,000 per month clients. – A large, potentially global brand you want to land as your primary client.
  3. 4 x £500 per month clients. – Local businesses that you are looking to build a connection with and then upsell.


My First Foreign SEO Website – 1 Year On

Almost a year ago today I started a foreign seo project. The niche was weight loss and the language was Spanish. 1 year in and these are the results and my thoughts.

To cut a long story short, it did not go as well as I thought it would, but not for the reason I thought it would….If that makes sense….. My biggest concerns were simply ranking for the keywords, and everything else associated with the language barrier. For example creating content in Spanish…. But luckily I found a good Spanish content writer early and got some nice articles on the site and the language barrier wasn’t really an issue thanks to Google translate and semrush.

My biggest mistake by far was not researching the market effectively. SEO, whether that be client seo or affiliate seo is like having your own mini business. 99% of the time you only sell through your website, but you still need to know what the back-end looks like. I had an old client who wasn’t happy about the number of leads they were getting through, despite explaining conversions and simple stuff like phone number placement ect, they just couldn’t get their head around why people were on the site and didn’t call (turns out they did call, just weren’t converted to clients or customers.) The same thing happens in affiliate SEO (in any language!) Ensure you know what you will be selling before getting started. I’ll be the first to admit that I am bad at monetisation!! The serpshaker review I did last week pretty much sums that up too. Learn from my mistakes and ensure there is some sort of a market before going into a niche.

Results

The results were poor, but only from an earnings point of view. I was very happy with the traffic, which is strange as usually both are related to each other. My keyword research was great and we even ranked 1st for the Spanish version of ‘weight loss products’ but the market was simply too Cold. The organic traffic stats are below for the year.

Spanish aff site stats

Initially I monetised the audience to a specific product. The sales page was in Spanish and the results were horrid! Zero sales from close to 590 clicks. That’s not random clicks either. Those are targeted clicks! After this I had a bit of a break from the site and just decided to put adsense on the site and let it do what it would.

The site only generates currently about 15 quid a month which for a highly ranking weight loss site is pretty terrible. I haven’t touched the site in almost 6 months and it still continues to rank and make that money. I’m a big fan of scale, so if that £15 a month was quick and inexpensive to earn then I’d say this project was a success as I could simply scale the method, build 100 sites a month and get to a six figure business inside a year…..

Unfortunately with link costs, hosting, domain, social signals and a bunch of other things my costs came close to £700!! So needless to say I won’t be doing this again. Moving forward on the site I will probably just leave it be, let it generate it’s pennies and then eventually just flip it for a couple of hundred quid and try to break even from it.

Moral

The moral of the story is simple, test the market before going into it! I would have been better targeting a long tail English keyword and monetising that traffic than ranking 1st for a number of large Spanish keywords!

Foreign seo in general is a lot easier to rank, and if I can reach #1 for weight loss products with 600 quid and about 20 hours of work, you can rank for some huge stuff! Just be careful of the market and make sure it converts and is worth the initial funds and time.

Thanks.

Tom.

1 Year On in the SEO World | Lessons & Aims for 2016

March 2016 marks exactly 1 year when I’ve been officially self employed. I wrote a personal post on medium on this subject about business in general but also wanted to take a more SEO focused approach and give a 1 year round up about being in such a volatile industry. I’ve also got a couple more posts lined up and an update on the bing case study which is looking very interesting 2 months in! But more on that in a few weeks.

Although I’ve been flirting with the online marketing industry for years I only officially set up an “seo front” in the form of Ghost Marketing in late 2014 (October I think.) Initially the site was absolutely terrible and my ranking strategy itself was pretty weak (compared to nowadays.) Anyway 5 months later I’d managed to pick up 3 monthly clients through a bit of luck and being the best SEO in a small city (Salisbury, Wiltshire.) People say you don’t get any leads from ranking for “seo city” but I’d say as long as you don’t live in a village you can pick up 1-2 good leads a month. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But I landed £2,600 directly from ranking for “SEO Salisbury”… And that probably took 20 hours and £200 to rank for, so not a bad ROI.

Fast forward to today and my process of ranking a website itself is greatly improved. I’ll never stop testing, but I think once you have a process in place for just about anything in life, it becomes a lot easier. There is so much BS in the industry that sometimes its difficult to see what actually works, BUT it’s been the same for years…Seriously. My outlined strategy has never changed:

  1. Keyword research.
  2. Competition analysis.
  3. On-page optimisation.
  4. Level 1 Link building.
  5. Level 2 Link building.

It’s seriously that easy.

For any new website I’m creating, any client proposal, or any website the process is the same. The methods of each are obviously hugely different but the baseline itself never ever changes.

Through the 1st half of my year I was lucky enough to pick up a couple more clients and really start to get moving in the right direction, I also posted alot to SEO Oasis and also started to build up what I call “digital assets”, my PBN network, affiliate websites and other types of sites. Although these still make up a tiny proportion of my income, its constantly growing and isn’t directly related to client generation, which is always good.

The second half of the self employment year wasn’t so good. I didn’t pick up as many clients, got a bit lazy and essentially lost the drive I needed…. Luckily by November time it was back and I felt a lot better by the new year. January was a great month and I also started another business and everything is now going in the right direction again.

Lessons:

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin – I tried to create 5 of everything, and do 50 of everything that my competition was doing. Although this was great from an effort point of view, I quickly ran out of cash-flow before I saw a return.
  • It takes longer than you think – I thought I’d be on at least 40-50K profit by the end of year 1. I was not even close. SEO (like most business) has a very large lag time. Something you do today might take 6 months before you profit from it.
  • Bad clients aren’t worth it – At first I said to myself I’d take on any client I got. Even if they seemed like A holes, I was good at what I did and they could see this, even if they didn’t understand SEO itself. Nowadays I realise it seriously isn’t worth the hassle.

2016 & Year 2 of Self Employment

Every 6 months (or so) I like to re-write my business goals and personal aims. What I did well, what I did badly and just act as a self review. In my second year of business the 3 aspects I would like to increase/improve:

1.) Increasing the number of good clients I have. Clients = Money, and although might be frustrating at times, they are 100% the easiest way to make some money in SEO. I (unlike some others) still like client SEO, getting a site to rank and knowing your making another persons business money is a good feeling, so by the end of 2016, I would like to have 10+ “Good” clients.

2.) Grow the digital assets to £3k / month. Ideally more than this figure but as a baseline this is what I’d be looking for. This is everything online marketing related (adsense/affiliate marketing ect) that isn’t client based. More on this in the coming weeks & months.

3.) Grow the fitness business to £10k / month (sales). As I mentioned above I set up Ghost Fitness in late 2015/early 2016. This figure sounds high but really isn’t from a pure revenue point of view. Given the cash flow I believe the business could be up to £20,000 / month within a 6 month period, but purchasing stock takes huge chunks of cash and hence grow slows as a result. If I manage to acquire funding in this time (which I am currently trying to do) this figure might go up!

That’s all.

As I mentioned above, a more definitive round-up is at: https://medium.com/@TomBuckland/rant-1-year-on-the-self-employment-grind-57483f227fcb

Thanks for reading.

 

BING SEO Case Study: Part 1

Bing SEOI just finished reading Neil Patel’s most recent update on his new venture on Nutrition. He’s up to $22,000 in earnings (not profit) within 9 months! All well and good, but your Neil Patel, you have contacts and you have the funds to invest in a new venture. But his idea got me to thinking again about how I’ve been looking to start a big project in Bing. Ranking some pretty beefy keywords, that you’d not really ever consider ranking in Google.

My current Bing SEO test is still ongoing with some relative success, ranking on page 1 for “seo company” within 3 months. Again this nudged my entrepreneurial mind to start something a bit bigger with Bing.

As everyone knows Bing is a lot easier to rank in than Google, it’s like the outdated Google and with a 10% market share, people generally ignore Bing. BUT this makes it less competitive in the SEO world and hence more opportunities are open. Better to have 10% of something than 90% of nothing!

Thus was born my Bing SEO Case Study. If you’re like me then you like to add both time and monetary aims to new projects. So I decided to do with:

6 Months to £2,000 a month with Bing.

To expand on this a little. I choose the £2,000 because this means I could flip the site for £20-£30k at a later date if I needed and 6 months because, well if it doesn’t rank in 6 months with Bing its just not going to rank anyway. Also to clarify this would be £2,000 per month profit, although costs would be low I can see sape costing £200 / month by the end of this project…. Although 1 time costs such as the domain name, press release ect are not going to be included in the running monthly total.

Funny/Depressing fact: £2k a month would be twice as much I was on at exactly this time last year! Ahhh The joys of being an intern!

As with most things SEO, I started with keyword research. 

Step 1: Keyword Research

I already had a niche in my head, one that I’d start with affiliate marketing and may even go into a physical product business if I thought the market was there at a later date. I’m not going to reveal the keywords or the site throughout this process as I want to keep everything 100% safe, although in the later updates I will be updating the rankings.

The primary keyword in Google had a mind boggling 800,000+ monthly searches! That was the worldwide figure, and frankly would probably cost millions to rank #1. The UK specific data was still over 50,000!

Moving to Bing’s keyword tool. As Bing had approx a 10% market share I thought I’d see figures of around 80,000 and 5,000. I was wrong. The worldwide figure was just over 20,000 and the UK specific searches were even worse coming in at only 600.

This made 2 things extremely clear. The first was there was absolutely no point only targeting a specific country with this market, I had to go global, more specifically concentrate on the US and secondly ranking on page 1 probably wasn’t even going to be enough, it would have to be top 3 if I wanted to reach my goal of £2k a month.

One aspect that’s currently in the back of my mind, although I haven’t really thought about it too much yet, is the fact I will probably need another set of keywords to reach the goal, which affected my decision for the next step.

Step 2: Domain, Hosting & Set-up.

It’s bing so we are looking for at-least a partial match domain name and this is what I went with. I also decided to go with something semi-brandable, so if I wanted to flip the site at a later date, it would be relatively easy to do without having any name or exact match keyword ties.

Hosting, nothing special just stuck it on a bluehost account I already had. Set-up again what you would expect from a lazy SEO, which is just WordPress. Then from there again it was your basic plugins; yoast, security and some things to make everything function a bit quicker and easier. I’m just emphasising here that it was nothing special!

Step 3: On-page.

Due to the range of keywords I decided the homepage should take the broadest keyword possible, in this case its a 1-word keyword. Along with a few 2 word highly searched variations. This would let us hit the brand name whilst still getting the value for an exact match, due to the domain I selected.

Again as this is bing we don’t really have to worry about over optimisation to much. We want out primary keywords as much as possible and a lot of LSI keywords as you’d expect. General on-page optimsiation practices here. Images, lots of text, properly structured articles and a couple of authority links out will do it.

For the content itself I decided to start with 4 primary pages. So the homepage + 3 ranking pages. I also included a contact, about, privacy and terms page just to beef up the site a bit and add some trust.

Step 4: Design, Theme and Offers

If you’ve seen any of my personal website you know I like simple design. Make it clear and concise. And its also easier for me so its a win win win. The theme and offer integration was going to be a bit more difficult. I used a variety of offers but they were all super related to the content and keywords I was trying to rank for, with the commissions ranging from 5-20%.

Although I don’t like to judge conversion rates and EPC values that advertisers use, according to these if I could send about 2000 clicks a month through to these guys, I’d hit my £2,000 a month goal. That’s 2000 x 20% = 1000 conversions a month. With an average sales volume of $50 = $25,000. With my % being approximately 10-15%. = $2500 – $3750. Translating this to real money = £1700-£2500. So 2000 clicks a month was the goal, this was assuming the 20% conversion figure held, which seemed a bit high to me….

Diving further into the SEO maths meant I needed about 65-70 clicks a day to reach my goal. Taking a 25% CTR from my site lead to a figure of 280. Let’s call it 300 Visitors a day, 9000 monthly visitors to hit the goal. Sounds good! 

Step 5: Social Foundations & Press Release

Although this wasn’t going to be a white-hat site by any stretch, I wasn’t going to throw it away by buying 100 sape links as soon as the site went live. I decided to pick up some social signals, build the usual twitter, G+ and Facebook pages and also pick up a press release. All of which just (in my opinion) helps give the site a “launch” style to it and build some trust.

Step 6: Niche relevant comments

This was a easy one. Just needed to get some branded and niche relevant signals going. Picked up a package of relevant blog comments, 100% manual, 100% clean too, easy. This was to get the needed industry relevance which wasn’t going to be coming from the sape or press release.

Step 7: Sape Links

Sape is going to be the power behind the site, the relevance is going to come from the comments and the next step with the trust from the social signals and press release. Sape links work extra well with bing but I will be keeping them as clean as possible, especially in the early days, just to see if Google wants to come along for the ride too, if I get hit by Google early then I will be more aggressive with the linking strategy itself, if not then I’ll probably air on the side of caution with the sape links, less exact match, lower quantities ect.

Step 8: High Quality Relevant Contextual links

Although its bing I’m still going to throw in some high quality contextual links. And heck if the sape hasn’t killed it the site might also rank in Google too! Depending on how much time I have on my hands when this step comes along will depend if I just go and buy a few links myself or write a couple of guest posts. This step is going to be the most expensive, as I’ll be looking for 3-5 really good, contextual and relevant links!

Step 9: Re-evaluate

After almost 2 months I’m going to re-evaluate the site, check rankings, check to see if any affiliate commission has been made and write the plan for another 2 months. I’d like to think that by 1st March 2016 the site would be in the top 20 for all the pre-selected keywords, even the big ones, but only time will tell. Also between now and then I know I’ll be adding “money pages” to the site with new keywords to target as well.

Next update will be on the 1st March 2016.

1st March 2016

It’s now the 1st March and I thought I’d post an update about the progress of the site. Current earnings are 0, but affiliate clicks have started to come through in the past couple of weeks. Traffic is also around 5 visitors a day. The main metrics I’ll be looking at are bing/yahoo rankings. Currently the site sits on page 2 for 2 of the primary keywords. There’s not really that much to report yet, rankings are coming along okay, bit slower than I would have liked but they should pick up over the next few weeks. I’ll be posting a new update on 1st April.

 

Thanks for reading and if you want to subscribe, you can’t. But follow me on twitter instead.

Cheers,

Tom.

Solving the “Un-natural Linking Penalty” – Double 301

On the 22nd of November I received a message from Google saying one of my Spanish affiliate website had suffered an “unnatural linking penalty”. This wasn’t surprising as I purchased a lot of random links to this website and also a couple of sape links too. Anyway, ranking dropped along with organic traffic, so I needed a solution. I decided to follow the guide of double 301ing the website, method seen here. And report on the results.

22nd November:

Penalty occurred. Remove sape links but no others.

29th November:

No movement back, although results moving quite a lot still. This is when I began the 301ing.

image

  1. Purchased 2 new domains – 5 mins. 
  2. Set up the exact website (content / images) on one of the new domains. – 20 mins.
  3. 301 penalised domain to “Middle man” domain. – 5 mins
  4. 301 middle man domain to new domain with previous site content on – 5 mins. 

The entire process from start to finish took about 40 mins. If you have experience transferring WordPress websites and are familiar with your domain registrar and 301ing sites, this is a really easy process. Will have to wait to see if rankings recover and if I’ve even done this all correctly first! Write the next update on the 8th December.

11th January:

Okay it’s been long enough now I think its time to reveal the unfortunately negative results.

Keyword SS

Results for a couple of keywords increased but generally the results were negative and hence in this instance the double 301 did not work.

Well, that failed. But you live and learn.