I thought I was going to be the one needing help. SEO was about as new to me as America was to Christopher Columbus. Now I was being asked to run the day to day business operations of a successful and growing SEO practice.
This meant planning out client deliverables, selling our services to clients, and guiding employees throughout the course of their work. It meant becoming an SEO expert so that I could train employees to strive for the same. It meant realizing where I stood in this SEO world and developing a plan to stand higher.
Backtrack to the Beginning
It is probably important to inform you where I started and what my purpose here is. I began my working career as an accountant for the largest public accounting firm in the world. I was dealing with international tax returns for hundreds of clients, and I was miserable from sun up to sun down.
I spent the better part of every day in the office. I spent anytime outside of the office attached to my phone dealing with emails and coworkers. So, through the trials of grinding through 365 days a year of a job that demanded the most out of me yet provided me little to no satisfaction, I learned how to buckle down and do the work that needed to be done. You mature a bit faster when you are forced to accept a harsh reality so that your everyday can continue.
To this day, I have never missed a deadline with a project nor have I forsaken a responsibility bestowed upon me. And it is for this reason that I was able to get my current position.
I was approached with the opportunity to take over the helm as the Director of Operations of a small SEO company called I’m From The Future. When I asked my now partner Nick why he was offering me this opportunity, he provided my with a simple explanation. He was looking for someone who was trustworthy, can hit deadlines, and can change a growing side project into a business.
And so, the learning began.
Into the Fire
Agreeing to support the daily functions of an SEO company is a simple task. In the beginning, you are discussing cash flow, business procedures currently in place, client structures, really just a lot of fun stuff. Then you realize how much more homework you have agreed to take on. Over the course of a few weeks, I put the onus on myself to learn what I could about our clients, our staff, and our contracts, while also needing to study up on the intricacies of this new field I have thrust myself into.
SEO is more than just monitoring search results and grabbing links. The are so many more important things at play in this industry that get so quickly overlooked.
For starters, the first thing I realized is that search results really don’t matter. They are a vitally important end result that companies can use to track progress, but really, no client is impressed by improved search results. Instead, they are impressed by higher CTR (click-through rates), better conversion rates on site, good web design, and on-page optimization. The trick to any industry is being able to crunch the myriad of trivial tasks down into a select few instrumental services that offer clients never before seen results.
Telling a client that we could allow them to rank first for a specific keyword is not only deceitful, as there are hundreds of factors that go into that ranking, but also cloaking the primary objective of our business.
See, our business is built around the concept of making our clients more money. And clients make more money when their customers can find their products more easily and are encouraged positively to purchase their products and services over the competition. Therefore, simply telling a client that all their problems will be fixed once we get them to the top ranking position is deceitful.
Therefore, we needed to readdress how we approached business.
When companies came looking for our service, there were generally two rules that applied. First, most companies don’t understand the process of search optimization. And second, most of the decision makers of a company don’t see the value-added benefits of SEO support from a money perspective.
Therefore, since we were claiming to be SEO experts, we needed to prove how good SEO design of a company’s website could lead to net positive growth for any company. This meant addressing the major concerns of every decision maker.
We needed to find a way to break down every keyword in the vertical-specific universe and show the inherent value of each keyword. Then, we needed to attach dollar signs to those keywords in order to provide a financial metric that would support our work.
Luckily, prior to me joining IFTF, Nick (the founder of IFTF) had developed a highly refined Keyword Matrix, which is still the most comprehensive list of keywords in any client specific universe. This product allows for any client to see every keyword associated with their company and identify the most ideal and beneficial keywords to target.
This matrix allows for us to then design strategies around going and ranking for those specified keywords. We can then get started with on-page optimization, which is really providing our clients with basic tips on how to improve their conversion funnel on their website to maximize the monetary gain from every customer who visits their site.
Through a combined focus of monthly traffic, average CTR, and focused improvement of conversion rates, we can provide specific proof of value added benefit to any client. By establishing our impact on a clients yearly revenue, we can position ourselves in a unique position when compared to all of the other SEO firms operating in the industry.
What is the Reasoning for This Sales Pitch?
Agreed, I went a little salesy in the last section. But there was a point for it, I promise.
See, in my initial research of this industry, there was one thing that was evident to me. There is little to no proof and support for the work being done.
As I covered previously, simply pointing to search engine rankings is nice, but that doesn’t translate to a large majority of business owners, especially not Fortune 500 business owners. These are the cream of the crop, the smartest and most financially savvy people in the world, and they understand the lack of value to having a #1 ranking on Google.
Instead, these are the men and women who want to see a consulting firm provide them with quantifiable data to support any expense incurred. There has already been evidence of companies in the tech world misclassifying numbers and financials due to discrepancies in translation from the tech world to the business world. If IFTF was going to grow and become a mainstay in this industry, the first thing that we would need to do is measure our services and products in a unit of measure that made sense to these industry executives.
That unit of measurement is numbers and statistics.
It was this initial realization that opened my eyes to the fact that, while the field I was operating in was completely different, my experience working for a Big 4 accounting firm translated over into this position. I was trained to view all success and failure through a numbered prism. A success cannot be labeled a success unless there are numbers and facts to support the claim. Otherwise, you just have an expense that is unable to be translated to a client.
Finding a medium to discuss business is a major roadblock for many people who thrive in this industry.
I have met many developers who have no idea how to discuss business with corporate executives, and I have met many website designers who believe that they can prove their merit through their work alone. But, if our firm is to grow into the company it can become, finding ways to prove our vitality to our clients is paramount. This is what I do.
What to expect…
Over the course of my employment, I am going to catalog all of my learnings and discussion points here. Simply as a way to express the thoughts of someone who is finding their way in a business that is new and developing. I will treat this site as an open forum, meant to house all of the mental discussions I have with myself daily. A safe and secure place to translate and codify the development of myself as a Director of Operations.