We’ve sold a million dollars worth of backlinks, PBN builds and guest posts… and here’s what we’ve learned. Our million dollars worth of advice, to you, whether you’re a business owner looking for SEO, or an agency selling SEO.
Yessir, in only 2 short years – we’ve gone from a nameless face in a sea of pop-up VA and SEO shops – to the guys who handle the campaigns for a quarter of the agencies you’ll find at Chaing Mai, or Brighton Meetup.
But we’re not talking about a million dollars in profits, by any means. Though our margins better than anyone else, it’s just a million bucks in revenue. In a couple of years. After starting exactly where everyone else starts
If that’s enough of a reason for you to read through what we’ve experienced (and you’re intelligent enough to differ between ‘revenue’ and ‘profit’) – this’ll probably be one of your more interesting SEO reads in 2019.
We’ll talk about infrastructure (scaling to 40 workers in 2 offices isn’t easy), what we’ve learned from selling SEO from the side of an agency, the kind of customers that keep people from ever really moving ahead and some other stuff that will probably only manifest as I pull this article out of my head. After all – if you serve all the backlinks, guest posts, outreach and PBNs for a quarter of the modern SEO world, we know all the trends.
Thanks to our core products being simple and customizable into a 100 different packages, forms and sequences – the customers create their own unique concepts all the time and have us fill them, negating the need for much internal testing so many other agencies boast about.
We use synergy from within and see the modern trends of what makes things rank. And while noone will ever know if you’re working with us or what your campaigns look like – we know what works in the SEO world and can nudge your campaigns in the directions that show results at that time.
(We’ll also pat ourselves on the back a bunch – as is evident, but hey – we feel good about what we’ve done for our customers and what we can do for you.)
So, without further ado, here’s what we learned from making a bunch of money in a short period of time by serving our customers the results they’re looking for. (Last pat of the back, I promise.)
Table of Contents:
First up – and this one is for the service providers and hustlers out there. Create a competitive product that looks unique. Even if it isn’t.
Yeah – I know. “This is a no-brainer, thanks, geniuses of SERPNinja for that guru-level advice.”
And you’d be right to think that, if you didn’t do anymore thinking past that point. But really – think about any product package by any SEO provider that sticks out in your mind right now, and if you try to break it down – you’ll realize it’s just made up of a bunch of existing, non-unique products.
What are PBN blogs – except websites setup and grown with the intent of using them to promote websites in the future? Did this idea not exist BEFORE the concept of a “PBN”? People only created sites for personal blogging or direct sales reasons? No.
What are GMB networks for lead generation? Do you really think – the month that Local Listings launched – a smarter marketer who tried them, saw the potential but realized there’s no SMS verification networks in place for him to use to create 20 properties in the area with PO boxes and manual burner phones? Do you think everyone who discovered the potential – just sat around waiting for someone to give them the tools to scale it?
What are niche edits, except old, indexed, aged content articles that are edited to contain a link? Sure, they’re niche relevant – and the irony of a good niche edit is that you’d never know it was one, because of the natural editing – but is it really such a unique concept we’ve invented? Editing an article?
Or did we just improve on the SAME PROCESSES that already exist, in updated new ways to work better today, and pushed our quality of service to everyone until we became an industry standard?
We hope you understand our main point here, in that, there’s nothing new under the sun. That the people who ‘create unique concepts’ and bank hard – are rarely people creating anything new today, but mostly putting a unique spin on a customized package of benefits being provided, and then GO HARD pushing their product until people recognize it.
So – our first main point of advice is, while there’s nothing new out there – whether you’re entering the marketplace as a new vendor or just trying to increase sales from your current customer base – you should package your available resources (like our entire toolkit of services available to you) in a unique fashion, so that even if everyone is selling the same thing – you can shout to the clouds, that what you provide is unique to you in this sense.
To explain in another way, sliced bread is just bread someone realized they should cut up before throwing into a bag and selling. It wasn’t exactly a new invention, and neither was the knife – but whoever packaged those two together to sell invented, well, “the greatest thing since sliced bread”, right?
Next – and this is important because it sounds obvious, like the last one. Have customer service that doesn’t suck. Seriously. Make it a priority.
While everyone is busy rehashing guru advice into cool new interviews, AMAs and conference content to generate new customers (which they don’t know how to take care of) – we advise you to focus on keeping your current customers, and making them as happy as can be. It’s hard to generate new customers all the time, and almost impossible if you’re running in the same circles as 90% of the marketers do – selling and reselling to the same people within the same groups.
So why be the guy at Home Depot competing against 30 others waiting for some guy in a truck to come and pick you for the handyman gig – when you can do a good job at the few gigs you do get, tell the guy to call you for all the future jobs – and stop standing outside of Home Depot within a month?
In case you didn’t get it – the unpaid labor competing is you. The guy in the car is the guy posting “What’s the best SEO provider in your opinion” in the groups – and the groups are Home Depot. The more you look after what clients you do get, the less you’ll have to stand on a corner looking for your next john, you know? (We’ll stop there since it’s like 2-3 different, equally insulting but informative insult metaphors in one.)
We can personally testify that 2/3rd of our BIGGEST BUDGET CLIENTS have been by private referral. If you’ve ever had a referral – you understand that it takes something special to get a person to go hype some product or service they’ve tried, to their friends, of their own free will, to the point where the friends try it as well. That’s how special you want to make your customers feel. They’ll make it worth your while moreso than any rehashed presentation attempts at lead gen ever will.
With that being said – your company goals are yours. Customers pay you to achieve theirs – but if their goals don’t go inline with your company’s goals, don’t bend. Some customers are just not worth your time.
At the scale we’re at – we pretty much work with everyone. Dedicated customer managers handle a few smaller volume customers and all their needs, while a bigger client might have a customer manager just for them and their needs.
But this took a lot of effort and pain to achieve. And it’s not practical or advisable unless you’re a sucker for punishment like us. We have the infrastructure set in place to be able to deal with what most would consider “annoying, pain-in-the-ass clients that request 3x the work they pay for half the time” – but even we occasionally turn away someone who does not line up with our vision of growing SERPNinja.
We understand that customers are the lifeblood of a business, but we also understand that we’re the lifeblood of their business equally so with the work we put in for them – so we are happy to help them grow only as long as it does not impede the growth of our own company.
Someone else will be the perfect company for the customer who wants things done a specific way – but if their request are diverting you from what you USUALLY do for the majority of your other customers – you’re really just straying from the company goal you ultimately have, to satisfy that one client. Not efficient at all.
This is where we like to apply the 80/20 rule – something you’ve probably heard of a dozen times, but haven’t really noticed the creepiness of how universal this rule is until you walk around for a day and try to apply it to everything in your life. And strangely – it does apply to everything. Not just annoying customers and estimating whether a workload is worth your efforts.
Twenty percent of your customers take up eighty percent of your/your teams time. Think about it now, for a while, and you’ll realize it’s true. It’s always true. We don’t know why – it’s a weird universal math rule we just have to obey and never question.
Your objective is – to either get rid of such clients (and it’s a never-ending process – you trim, onboard more clients, after X amount of months identify the annoyances again, trim, repeat) and create a consistent process in being able to do so – or creating a low-stress process for handling them, such as a dedicated account manager for the troublesome clients, etc.
Anything that will keep YOUR COMPANY GOALS in line without deviating everything too much. Paying for an extra account manager hire to take care of the annoyances that you spend several hours a day dealing with yourself from the 3 account managers you having to come with a problem client each – makes sense at this point, right? You might be paying a little more for an extra manager, but you’ve aggregated the 3 problem clients under him – and taught him how to deal with their requests. So you never have to do it again – and your 3 normal account managers can expand further with normal clients.
So – whether you fire your most annoying clients, or create a process to work with them – don’t let them deviate your company goals. And always practice the 80/20 rule to see if you’re doing something in an inefficient manner. As simple of a concept as it is – it’s probably saved us 1000s of work hours over the last 2 years.
But you won’t really listen to our advice about firing annoying customers. You’ll think you can handle their requests, the money isn’t so bad. In which case – all we can say is that all clients are different. The key to scaling LATER is to create a baseline standard FROM THE START.
SERPNinja sells every kind of SEO available to humankind. We sell expensive links, budget local citations, PBN setups to everyone who’s setup a PBN in the last year and everything in between. We do this to be able to cater to buyers of every kind of background – big agencies, small businesses and individuals just looking to power up their Amazon site.
The key to being able to scale, expand and continue to take on clients of ANY size at any time – is a concrete foundation (in the form of SOPs) from the start. A standard operating procedure (SOP) is simply a detailed instructional manual with a specific goal (be it making a PBN, or verifying a GMB property) – and all the steps on how to get it done in an efficient, but unique (no footprints) manner.
We created our SOPs in-house right from the very beginning – and this allowed us to build more complex structures of service packages/etc – without having to build a complex multi-tiered SOP for every such product. When SOPs are kept simple, open-ended and easily editable without affecting anything depending on that SOP at that time – you can simply stack 3, or 5, or 8 or your simple SOP processes to create a monster of a product – without any confusion, ever.
Our advice – if you’re looking to take on every customer possible, but have any hope of scaling at any point in the future – is to create baseline products based around simple SOPs unique to yourself. That way, if your great uncle dies (that noone knew about in the family) and you’ve weirdly inherited 20 new SEO clients on top of your current load – you won’t have to create a unique plan for every one of them from scratch (not efficient). You can take your SOPs (building blocks) and find a way to stack them in a unique way that fits every customers needs – without any additional confusion. Or the 20 new “mega-SOPs” made specifically for those clients – that if you ever wanted to outsource the process of (or even sell your company), would be a nightmare to move.
A great recent example, is one of our vendors – who became wildly successful while selling $8 social signals packs, and nothing else. A single product, with a simple SOP – did more in sales for them than most people do with their monstrous, multi-part SEO packages. By keeping their product simple and with a concrete baseline of what it does – they were able to take money from everyone, including the type of clients one would usually avoid. When the product standard is set in stone, it’s hard for anyone else to argue that they got something different than what every other one of your customers gets.
And so – this is our little writeup of what we’ve learned about building and scaling a business that made us a million bucks in a few years. No crazy pitches, no testimonials, not even a very satisfying finish to this article.
Because at SERPNinja, we’re too busy keeping our customers happy to finish articles. Helping them rank falls in line with our company goal, spending an extra 30 minutes to figure out a cute ending to this story, is not.
(Even though we’ll probably edit it over time – to add more about what we’ve learned and think you’ll find helpful.)
Thank you for reading!
Sathish and Mr. V
P.S. – If all you’ve gathered from this article is that SERPNinja is the SEO provider you want to be working with – that’s fine with us too 🙂