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?

One of my sites generated our first lead in a new category late last night.  One of my partners sent an email saying:

“Who shops for _______ at 12:16am???”

So I got to thinking…  12:16am is late, and the product here is sort of random.  My inclination is that if you are shopping for this product at 12:16 am you are not just casually browsing.  You are looking to take some action.  That is the perfect site visitor.  So I wrote a longer response:

<< begin response >>

Consumer traffic is totally like that man.  People have to work during the day, so they oftentimes are only able to do their personal shopping at night.

In fact I find that people do lots of “shopping” and “browsing” during the day, but lots of “buying” at night.  I once saw someone make a huge mistake… they had a B2B site and put their PPC campaigns on pause on evenings and weekends, figuring that people weren’t at work then and therefore wouldn’t be buying.  They were “sorta right”.  Most of the traffic was during that time, so even though their ads only ran like 40% of the total hours in the week they still got 80% of the traffic potential, and thus only saved 20% of their total cost by turning the ads off weeknights and weekends.

But the mistake was this… Read the rest of this entry »

The vast majority of my firm’s clients provide either a service or a high-involvement type of product that is not typically bought via an e-commerce store.  As such, the client websites are all lead-generation websites.  Their primary focus is to generate leads that are then in turn used by the sales team to communicate with the prospect and close the sale.  Generally speaking, my criteria for what I will call a “lead” tends to be a bit more strict than most.

When I use the term “lead”, I’m generally talking about an opt-in, direct consumer-initiated action where they are specifically requesting more information from the client.  The most common manifestation of this is the prospect doing a search, finding the client’s website, and then either picking up the phone to call the client or filling out a contact form to request more information about the services, pricing information, etc.  That’s what I think of when I think “lead”.

I know this is a rather narrow definition, and discounts a lot of other great types of leads that are less-direct, but still quite valuable nonetheless.

Anyhow, when working with a new client I often find myself recommending that they add a contact form to their website, if they don’t have such a form already.  Anecdotally, I’ve seen this improve conversion rates and, just as importantly, improve the ability to track effectiveness of campaigns and use that data to improve the campaigns.

We just started with a new client this month, and here is what I emailed them regarding a contact form:

Hi <<Client>>,

I’d very much like to add a contact form to your website, a short form asking just a few pieces of info like name, email address, phone number and service they are interested in, etc.  Here are the reasons I’d like to do this:

1) Improve Conversion Rates – In general, I’ve seen contact forms improve the conversion rate of visitors-to-leads for the vast majority of clients.  The main reason is that it enables prospects to take action during off-hours.  Especially with a service like yours, there is a good percentage of your traffic that is visiting on the weekends, or very late at night.  If their only option is a phone number, they won’t call b/c they expect no one to answer the phone.  Additionally, you also will get the “goofing off at work” crowd which is actually quite significant – people who are spending a few minutes while at work researching personal stuff, and they don’t want to call b/c their coworkers will hear, but they are happy to fill out a form to make initial contact.  You currently have an email listed on the site as well as a phone number.  Again, a form is one better than that.  For some people just having an email address is to vague.  Its not a strong enough “call to action”, and since it doesn’t prompt the user with questions sometimes they don’t know what to write.  On your end, a form submission is better b/c you can ensure you have the 2-3 pieces of information you really need from a new contact.  With an email they might leave something out such as their phone number or the type of service they are interested in.

2) Better Tracking – We can track all form submissions in our analytics package.  We cannot track phone calls or emails sent via the email link in the same way.  With forms, I can gain valuable data and learn which keyword phrases bring you the most leads, not just traffic.  Often we may find that keyword abc brings 100 visitors and 3 leads, whereas keyword xyz brought only 40 visitors but 6 leads.  Without the form tracking we would think keyword abc was better and deserving of more attention.  With the form tracking we clearly know that keyword xyz is more valuable to you.

Convinced yet?  🙂  The cost of implementing this is on us.  Thoughts?

Upon writing this I realized most of the evidence I have is in my head and in my experience. There is a client we started with about 2 years ago that went from 2% to about 3% conversion rates when moving from email to form.  We did not leave the email up so this was email address vs. form rather than email address vs. (form + email).

Who has hard data on this?  Any case studies?

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.

I had a handful of entries into my IM Spring Break Ticket Giveaway, all of which were quite convincing.  If I had 5 tickets I would have given them all away, but I don’t.

The ticket goes to…  Roy Morejon

Congrats, Roy! Roy made his case on his blog, and offered the incentive of providing my with his personal notes from the event.  That enticed me.  I was pretty torn between a couple of entries, but ultimately awarded the ticket to Roy because of his offering of his notes combined with his follow-up email lobbying.  I also think he’ll get more out of it as this year’s IM Spring Break seems to have a strong focus on social media and affiliate marketing, both of which are right up Roy’s alley.

Thanks to all who entered!

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?

From what I know via a small handful of online interactions as well as watching a few videos and reading a bit about him over the years, Dave Snyder strikes me as a smart guy and a pretty darn good internet marketer.  Great.  Yay.  But I’m writing this blog post b/c I want to be a contrarian.  I disagree with about 75% of his recent post – 12 Things Internet Marketers Should Do Everyday, but hell let’s just say I disagree 100%.  That’s more fun.

Why?  Well I’ll blame Dave for my frustration with a viewpoint that goes much beyond him.  Everybody is recommending that we do more.  Doing more is not the answer.  Many of us need to do less.  I’ve been trying to catch up the past couple of weeks and have been working 16+ hour days.  Do more you say?  Not a practical recommendation. That’s too easy.  Of course we should always check our analytics more often and send thank you emails more often and do a million other things more often.  That’s not improving efficiency, its just adding to the workload.  The problem is that time is finite.  There is a concept called opportunity cost.  Its real.  Its not pretend.

Its not that these are bad ideas.  Its that there is limited time, and you could easily spend 4+ hours doing just this stuff.  That’s too long.  Do something else.  Do some work for goodness sake, and stop playing.  Best advice?  DIFN.

1. Check your damn analytics –

Eh, maybe if you spend 2 minutes to do this you can check it every day, but I would say 80% of the people I’ve supervised in internet marketing roles had the reverse problem here.  They checked their analytics frequently but only looked at the surface numbers.  I think you are better served to check your analytics once a week and spend that much more time diving into it.

2. Update your Facebook presence –

Are you serious?  Dude, I do the same damn thing every day.  Who wants to read “Jon is at work again” on Thursday as a new update, after Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each said the same thing.  Again, I think less is more.  Update it whenever you have something interesting to share.  For me, that’s like 2-3 times per month, tops.  Yeah, sad.  If you do different, interesting things several times a day than go for it.  Please don’t update your status though to let me know you are taking out the trash or buying ketchup at the grocery store.  Nobody cares.  At all.

3. Monitor your online reputation –

Again, every day?  If you are a celebrity or you make your living off of speaking engagements or media exposure than this might make sense.  Shoot, setting up a Google Alert might just do the trick for you.  Chances are though if you are one of those people you have a personal assistant or something that should be doing this for you.

4. Read at least one Internet Marketing blog post –

If you are a newbie this is great advice.  If you’ve been doing this for a while than I think you’ll probably learn more by doing and experimenting than you will reading babble.  Many bloggers write to attract an audience.  Its sort of like the news.  They aren’t really lying, but they are presenting what they think will sell better.  Many SEO bloggers also make their living blogging, speaking, etc. and not really doing.  I’m not saying “all” here or even “most”, but “many”.  So be careful.

5. Try to utilize a new tool each day –

Okay sure this is fine.  Should help productivity.

6. Hit StumbleUpon once a day and just Stumble –


7. Utilize Twitter –

I do this, but I shouldn’t.  I go back and forth.  If you have fantastic discipline and you can really limit this to 5 minutes a day than proceed, by all means.  Just be careful as its easy to spend 2 hours on Twitter and while you might have a fun time and find lots of interesting stuff, you might not really have accomplished 2 hours worth of value creation.

8. Take an hour and do something that isn’t Internet related –

An hour?  I should take 1 hour and spend time with my family, and then work all other remaining non-sleep hours?  That’s weak.  Again, you can call me hypocrite here and probably be right, but at least my head is in the right place even if my actions sometimes take a little while to catch up.  If I reduce the amount of time I spend doing these 12 things and elminate many of them I should have several hours to spend with my family each day.  That makes for a more well-rounded person.  I don’t just want to be the best internet marketer I can be, I want to be the best person I can be.  Part of that is being a husband, father, friend, etc.  I think that deserves more than 1 hour per day, given how much time gets allocated for work.

9. Check your competitors out –

Again, I don’t think this is necessary every day.  Is it important to monitor competition?  Sure.  Do you need to do it every day?  Probably not.  Same argument as item #1 about analytics.  Do it less frequently but go deeper.

10. Thank print media for being stubborn –

Okay sure.  That takes 3 seconds.  “Thank you print media for being stubborn”.  Okay done.

11. Check out IM Broadcast for the latest in Internet Marketing video – Ok, that’s a shameless plug, but if you know me, you know I’m a whore.

Whore.  Instead of doing that you should spend 30 minutes of your time each day linking to my sites with my desired anchor text.

12. Thank God, Allah or whomever that you get paid to play on the Internet.

Couldn’t agree more here.  When I was an adolescent I worked summers helping my uncles in construction.  As the peon, you move a pile of cinder blocks from point A to point B… then back to point A.  There is nothing worse in this world than doing that in 100 degree heat.  That was work.  Every job I’ve had since then has been cake.  The fact that it pays much better is just a nice bonus.  We are indeed very blessed.

Now this all said, I’m a total hypocrite.  Look at me writing a blog post when I have a mile-long to do list this morning.  First thing I did when I turned on my computer was check email and Twitter, and then watched a Youtube video.  I’ve wasted about 30 minutes this morning – and while I had a little fun watching the video, etc. – I’d rather have that 30 minutes back and either have gotten 30 minutes of work done, or had 30 more minutes to play with kid.

Okay so its easy to say something is wrong.  Bad idea.  So what’s the solution?  I’ll give you just 1.  That’s all you need.  In case you missed it up about, identify the key activities associated with acheiving your goals and reaching your desired outcomes.  Do them.  Do them first.  Do them now.  Stop reading this blog post and get to work.  Specifically eliminate or proactively subbordinate everything else.  Those are distractions.

Prioritization and discipline.  I’m working on both.  Wish me luck.  🙂