As the owner of a growing internet marketing company, I’m terribly curious about how other agency leaders spend their time. On this note, I tweeted out a question yesterday on Twitter and was looking for a few responses.  There’s nothing like an open-ended opinion question sent to a targeted market to get a good reply rate.  Specifically, I asked:

SEO Agency Question

I got back some great responses:

CoreyCreed: Regularly drop your worst clients and keep getting better ones.

pepperjamceo: position our clients ahead of the competition.

portentint: Restrain myself when people say “I don’t think that’s how SEO works”

ericfransen: Manage people & expectations

wilreynolds: SEO, I still do SEO about 40%-50% of my work week.

I asked the question b/c for the last several months I’ve been really focusing on running our agency – looking at things like processes, systems, efficiency, scalability (while still staying high-touch and high-end in approach), etc.  Anyhow, I’m not sure I can even answer my own question.  I guess I’d say putting resources in place to be successful.  That’s pretty darn generic though.  Maybe more specifically I’d pick two things.  For the “agency” part its communicating with our clients.  For the “SEO” part its monitoring keywords that convert and using that data in combination with current rankings, traffic potential, etc. to continually revise which keywords we are most directly targeting.

Additional thoughts?

Two Jobs in One?

I’ve recently been interviewing a number of candidates in a search to find someone to add to our team at Ephricon as an SEO Account Manager.  This person will do two main things:

1) Work with clients:  Communicate with them… develop strategy, desired outcomes, action plans, etc.   Report to clients on results, etc.

2) Do the actual work:  Aside from communicating and planning, they’ll actually do most of the SEO work for these accounts – link building, on-site optimization, etc.  In some cases this may even extend to moderate copywriting and actually publishing new webpages, in other cases the clients and/or third parties handle that.

So anyhow, I like to have one person do this job.  Other SEO agencies break this into two roles – with the first person being someone who essentially spends their day on the phone communicating with clients, writing reports, managing relationships, etc. and the second person actually doing the nuts and bolts like writing title tags, making copy tweaks, building links, etc.  I don’t like to break it down like that, b/c I think too much gets lost there.  I feel the guy doing the work is too far removed from the client and it creates unnecessary layers of communication, etc.  The tradeoff is that its harder to find one person who excels in both of the two above areas than it is to find two separate people.  Some might argue you’ll almost always have to compromise slightly in one area on the other if you opt for one person.

What is the Right Number?

So in the process of having phone calls, emails and interviews for our new job opening, I’ve talked with a number of people who currently serve similar job functions.  Some just “do the work”, so just “manage the clients” and some do “both”.   I’ve gotten a couple of people that have done SEO for a total of 1, 2 or 3 sites in their entire careers… maybe as they were an in-house SEO person, etc.  And then I spoke with one girl who currently manages 100 ongoing accounts, and two other guys that manage about 50 each.  Those sound like really high numbers to me.

At Ephricon, I’m looking to have each person manage roughly 8 to 12 clients at most… and probaly more like 5 to 7 to start.  If you do the math on managing 100 clients each month, you maybe have only 1-2 hours each month per client.  If the client calls and wants to chat for 30 minutes you are left with no time to actually do any work!!!  That being said, our client load of 8 to 12 (ish) probably is too high for some firms where the scope of their engagement is more comprehensive than ours, and its probably too low for other firms.  If you are charging $250 per month per client than you really can’t afford to anything more than a couple of hours of basic SEO for that client each month, so you’d better have a large number of clients.

If I had 100 clients to personally manage I wouldn’t be able to swing it.  I wouldn’t even remember half of their names, and I’d easily spend 8-10 hours per day on the phone alone.  I’m too verbose.  I’d never get any “actual work” done.  That’s why we landed on 8 to 12.  For me its enough clients that you have some diversity,  yet few enough that you can remember their names and dedicate a nice chunk of time to each of them every week.  Plus you can list them all on one sheet of paper or one dry-erase board 🙂  As such, we’ve tailored our service-product offering to fit a certain level of scope and price point to fit this, and then we target prospective clients that are looking for our level of scope.  If you need 40 hours per week of SEO consulting than we can’t help you – I’d suggest that you’d be better off hiring someone in-house or hiring another firm that does that level of scope.  Each person there probably only works on 1-3 accounts (hopefully).  That said, if you only need 2 hours per month of effort we can’t do that either – you should probably go with one of these firms where they each handle 100 clients.  Success in that environment seems to require established processes, checklists and automation.  If you are somewhere in the middle, than we may be a fit 🙂

So clearly my opinion is that 5, 10 or 15 clients is probably an okay number of clients/projects for a full-time SEO person to manage at one time.  100 sounds way too high to me.  1 or 2 sounds too boring to me.   But I’m totally biased.  Obviously this is all relative to scope and level of involvement.  For instance, at Ephricon we not only make recommendations but for about 75% of our clients we actually make the changes ourselves – FTP to the site, re-code what needs to be re-coded, post new content, etc.  If we got away from that and just made the recommendations and then passed them on to someone else to implement we could probably handle 20 or 25 clients each.

Your Thoughts Please!

So a few questions for everyone:

  1. Do you “manage the accounts”, “do the actual SEO” or “both”?
  2. What’s best?  Should one person do everything, or should their be a project manager and a separate production team?
  3. How many different SEO clients and/or different projects do you manage at one time?
  4. What other criteria or considerations matter here?

Is the message at the top of my page header on the Ephricon website clear enough?  I’m looking for a superstar SEO Account Manager to handle 5-10 client accounts and really “own” them.  Talk with the clients.  Decide what needs to be done.  Do the work and/or coordinate with a few others on our small team.  Track the results.  Show the clients.  This is a full-time SEO Specialist + Account Management role.  I also have two more junior-level openings as part-time opportunities for website maintenance and a general internet marketing assistant.

Get the details here and let me know if you are interested.

IM Spring Break 2009So to make a long story short, I cannot attend the upcoming IM Spring Break event.  I bought my ticket roughly 6 weeks ago, but between being buried with work and having a family commitment that conflicts with the date, I simply can’t make it.  Have no fear though, as the Ephricon team will be represented though, as Tim Staines will be there with bells on.  Or maybe a sombrero.  Okay he’ll probably have a polo shirt and cargo shorts or something.  Whatever.

The IM Spring Break “un-conference” is the sequel to Scary SEO, and is expected to be quite a big deal.  Its a much more intimate atmosphere than the larger conferences, meaning you should  be able to meet people more easily and have some more in depth conversations.  Its also meant to reflect the spring break atmosphere with a poker tournament one night and a BBQ / pool party the next.  Sounds like good times.

Okay so since my ticket is already paid for, and since I can’t go… I’ve decided to give it away!  Who wants a free ticket to IM Spring Break?

Its a $500 value, or $379, or however you want to look at it.  You will have to pay for your transportation and hotel costs though, but I do believe there is a group rate at least on the latter.  Take 5 minutes and enter. This blog isn’t that popular, so there probably won’t be that many entries… your chances are pretty good!   Here’s what you need to do…

How to Enter

  1. You must make your case in no more than 250 words.  Shorter is okay, longer is not.  Tell me why you deserve the free ticket.  Post this on your own blog or other website of yours.
  2. Notify me of your entry either via Trackback or by posting a comment on this post.
    Update: Leave a comment or email me… not sure if trackbacks are working correctly.
  3. Your entry must contain some reference to a “belly flop“.
  4. Should you win, you must agree to drink at least one Magic Hat #9 in my honor.
  5. All entries must be received by tomorrow night (03/25/09) at 6:00pm EST.  Winner will be chosen and notified soon after.

The judging will be completely biased.  If you are looking for tips, I’d suggest feeding my ego in any way possible!  Other than the above there are no strings attached here.  I’ve already spoken to Dave Snyder who is running the event and he has approved this giveaway.  The winner will only need to bring their ID to be granted entry.

Need a little more convincing?  Check out the speaker list, its an all-star lineup with Loren Baker, Todd Malicoat, Chris Winfield, Brian Chappell, Neil Patel, Brent Csutoras, Wil Reynolds, Dave Snyder, Rae Hoffman and more!  And to think, five minutes from now you could have submitted your entry for a free ticket, and get to attend the event for only the cost of transportation and hotel.  Your ticket even includes food.

So who wants a free ticket to IM Spring Break?

If you are a search geek like I am – particularly one who is a fan of local search and SEO for SEO companies – than you might find this story about Lancaster SEO rather humorous. Have a look.

Or you might take pity on me. Either way, enjoy.

Okay so for this post instead of talking about using SEO for online lead generation, I’m going to talk about online lead generation for SEO services.

When I started my SEO firm back in 2003, I immediately identified Baltimore, MD as my primary geographic market.  At the time, I was living in the Towson area – which is a suburb about 15-20 minutes north of Baltimore.  In 2003, few people had heard of SEO so I was worried about getting enough demand in Baltimore, much less a smaller suburb.  I targeted keywords like “baltimore seo” rather than “towson seo“, as I thought the latter was simply too niche a keyword and didn’t have enough demand to support my lead generation needs…

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