We spend a lot of time discussing SEO tactics, but in an ever-changing industry, and especially in times of uncertainty, the strategies agencies use to see success should deserve more attention. On this popular (and still relevant) Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones discusses four essential success tactics that will ultimately increase your bottom line.
Russ also addressed the issue of profitability in his MozCon Virtual presentation this year. To view his and our other fantastic speaker presentations, you can purchase access to the 2020 video package here.
Howdy, Moz fans. I'm Russ Jones and I can't tell you how excited I am for my first whiteboard Friday. I'm a Principal Search Scientist here at Moz. Before joining Moz 10 years earlier, I was the chief technology officer of a small SEO agency in North Carolina. Hence, I have a strong passion for agencies and consultants doing the work on-site, helping websites rank better and building businesses.
I wanted to spend a little time today talking about the lessons I learned at an agency that I admittedly only learned through trial and error. But before we go any further, I just wanted to say thank you to the people at Hive Digital who I've learned so much from, Jeff and Jake and Malcolm and Ryan, because team performance over time has led to the creation of an agency. Any agency that succeeds knows that this is part of it. So let's start with this thank you.
But I really want to point out that we spend a lot of time talking about SEO tactics but not really how to be successful in a rapidly changing industry where there is almost no certification and where it can be difficult This can explain to customers exactly how they will be successful with your offer. So I'm going to break down four really important rules that I've learned over these 10 years. We'll go through each one asap, but at the same time, hopefully you'll have some great ideas. Some of these are ones that feel a little uncomfortable at first, but just follow me.
1. Increase prices
The first rule, number one in Let's Make Money, is to increase your prices. I now remember exactly two years in my job at Hive Digital – it was called Virante back then – and we talked about price increases. We just looked at our customers and said, "There's no way they can afford it." Fortunately, however, we had the foresight that price increases mean more than just charging your customers more.
How it benefits old customers
The first thing that hit us automatically was … "Well, with our old customers, we can just do it Discount She. It's not that bad. We are in the same place as always. "But then the thought occurred to us:" Wait, wait, wait. When we discount our customers, we actually increase ours perceived value"Our existing customers are now thinking," Hey, they're actually selling something better that's more expensive, but I'm getting a deal. "And by offering them this deal because of their loyalty, you generate more loyalty. So it can actually be good for old customers.
How it benefits new customers
Now the same situation for new customers. You increased that perceived value. So your customers who come to you think, "Oh, this company is professional. This company is ready to invest. This company is interested in providing the highest quality service." In reality, you can because you increased prices. You can spend more time and money on each customer and actually do a better job. The third part is, "What's the worst that can happen?" If they say no, offer that to them Discount. You're back where you started. You are in the same position as before.
How it benefits your employees
This is where it really matters – your people, your people. If you offer prices on the bottom line, you cannot offer them elevated, you cannot offer it education, you can not Hire them to help or you can't get better workers. But if you do this, if you increase prices, the entire ecosystem that is your agency will do better.
How it improves your resources
Finally, and most importantly, what we'll talk about a little later is that you can finally do it Tool on. You can get the resources and capital you need to actually be successful. I pulled that kind of out.
When we have a chart of the quality of the services you offer and the price you sell for, most agencies think they offer great quality for a small price, but the reality is you are probably down here. You are probably under-selling your services and because of this, you cannot get the best of what you can.
You should be up here. You should offer higher quality, your experts spending all day studying this, and price increases will allow you to do so.
Now the price increase is only part of it. The second is discipline, and I'm really terrible about it. The reality is that I'm the guy looking for the latest and greatest and just jumping in, but the schedule matters. As hard as it is to admit, I learned this from the CPC folks because they know they need to stay tuned every day of the week.
Well, here is something we came up with when we left the company and that was to put all of our customers on a schedule as much as possible.
- Yearly: We would cover keywords and competitors who do a full analysis.
- Half-yearly: Twice a year we conducted a content analysis. What should you write about What has changed in your industry? What different keywords can you target now with additional resources?
- Quarterly: You need to look at links. It's just a problem big enough to have to look at every few months, a full link analysis.
- Per month: You should look at your crawls. Moz will do this for you every week, but over the course of a month you should give your customers an idea of what has changed.
- Weekly: You should be doing rankings
However, there are three things that you need to consider with all of these types of analysis. Each of them is a …
- Hours for advice
This seems a bit of an exaggeration. But if one of these comes back and nothing changes, of course you don't have to call, but each of them means extra money in your pocket and a much better service for your customers.
It may be hard to believe that if you go to a client and tell them, "See, nothing has changed" you are actually giving them value, but the truth is when you go to the dentist and they tell you : You don't have a cave, that's good news. At the end of the day, you shouldn't say to yourself, "Why did I even go to the dentist?" You should say, "I'm so glad I went to the dentist." With the same positive outlook, you should sell to your customers over and over again, hoping to give them the clarity they need to be successful.
3. Tool on!
Number three, you'll see this a lot in my videos because I just love SEO tools, but you need to upgrade them. Once you've raised the prices and started making more money with your customers, you can actually do so. Tools are superpowers. Tools allow you to do things that people just can't. As if I couldn't figure out the link diagram on my own. I need tools for that. However, tools can do much more than just check existing clients. For example, they can give you …
You can use tools to find opportunities. Take the tools in Moz for example, and you want to find other car dealerships in the area that are really good with the ability to rank but don't do as well as they should be in SERPs. You want to do this because you have already successfully serviced another dealership. Tools like Moz can. You don't have to use Moz just to help your customers. You can use them to help yourself.
Better preliminary tests:
Nobody blindly enters a sales call. You know who the website is. So you start with a great pre-audit.
That means you'll make more money faster. If you can do your keyword analysis in half the time every year because you have the right tool to do it, you will make a lot more money and serve more customers.
This one is just amazingly simple. It's bulk pricing. Every tool out there, the more you buy from them, the lower the price. I remember sitting down at my old company at one point and realizing that every customer who walked in the door had to spend about $ 1,000 on individual accounts to get what they got through us by doing We were able to take advantage of the volume discounts we offer as an agency by purchasing these seats on behalf of all of our customers.
Tell your customers when you are on the phone with them and say, "Look, we use Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMrush" on the court and list all of the competitors. "We do Screaming Frog." Just name them all and say, "If you wanted to get the data from these tools yourself, it would cost you more than we actually charge you." The tools can sell themselves. You save them money.
4. Just say NO
Well, the last section, really quick, are the things you just have to learn to say no to. One of them has a little nuance. I'm pretty sure there will be some bite in the comments, but I want to be careful with that.
No monthly contracts
The first thing to turn down is monthly contracts.
When a customer comes to you and says, "Look, we want to do SEO, but we want to be able to cancel every 30 days." The reality is this. You are not interested in investing in SEO. You are interested in getting into SEO. You are interested in experimenting with SEO. Well, that won't work. It only takes a competitor or two to actually invest in them to beat them and if they beat them you will look bad and they will close their account with you. Sit down with them and explain to them that this is a long-term strategy and that it just isn't worth it for your business to get customers who aren't interested in investing in SEO. Say it politely, but just turn it away.
Don't turn anything back
Now notice that my next thing is not to dismiss anything. So here is something careful. Here is the nuance. Learning to fire customers who are bad for your business, who will lose you money or who are just rude, is really important, but that doesn't mean you have to turn them away. You just have to turn them in the right direction. That right direction could be tools themselves. You can say, "See, you don't really need our counseling hours. You should be using these tools." Or you can reach out to other young companies, friends in the industry, who may be having problems right now.
I'll give you a quick example. We don't have a lot of time, but many, many years ago we had a customer who came to us. In our old company we had some rules about who we would work with. We decided not to work in the adult industry. But at the time I had a friend in the industry. He lived outside of the United States and had come through difficult times. He literally let his business be taken away by a series of truly unscrupulous events. I picked up the phone and called him. I did not turn the customer away. I gave it to that person.
As early as the next year he got a new job at the head of one of the largest gambling organizations in the world. In all honesty, they weren't on our list of people we couldn't work with. At that time, we received the largest order in the history of our company, which put our company in order for a whole year. It was just because we didn't turn the customer away, but turned them in a different direction. So you have to say no to reject everyone. You are opportunities. They may not be your chance, but they do belong to someone.
No service creep
The last one is service creep. Oh man, this one is hard. A customer comes up to you and lists three things you offer and then they say, "Oh yeah, we need social media management." Someone else comes up to you, three things you want to offer and they say, "Oh yeah, you have to write content," and you don't. You just don't have to do that. You have to learn to shave services that you cannot offer. Instead, give them to people who can and do them very well.
What you will end up doing in your conversation is your sales pitch, "See, I'll be honest with you. We're great at some things, but this is not our cup of tea. We know someone who is really great at it. "That honesty, that openness will only give them such a better relationship with you, and it will build a stronger relationship with the other specialty companies that will send business your way. So it's really important to learn to say no in order not to say service creep.
Well, there's a lot we've walked over there. Hope it wasn't too quick, but hopefully we can talk more about it in the comments. I look forward to seeing you there. Many thanks.
Video transcription from Speechpad.com
Ready for more?
You will discover even more SEO benefits in the MozCon 2020 video package. At this year's special price of $ 129, this is invaluable content that you can access again and again year-round to inspire and spark your SEO strategy:
- 21 full-length videos from some of the best in digital marketing
- Instantly download and stream to your computer, tablet or mobile device
- Downloadable slide decks for presentations
Get my MozCon 2020 video package