Help Me Help You

It looks as though Scoreboard Media is pumping out better content than Tropical SEO. This post is no exception.

I’m constantly amazed at how many of these “SEO Firms” with the big followings generate little to no income from their own projects. If there is a stronger signal of quality for a lack of confidence in their own ability, I can’t think of it.

If anyone with more than 3 years of experience is allocating more than 50% of their time to consulting, I’m going on record as doubting their skills.

Why is it so important for a consultant to market their own sites?

  • During periods of uncertainty having limited obligations creates easy income opportunities - one reacts to the market quicker.

  • So we can do risky stuff without risking client sites. Not testing limits is intellectually dishonest and defeats the purpose of calling oneself an optimizer.
  • Better pay. Building growing passive income streams is far better than getting paid by the hour.
  • Growing passive revenue streams help the consultant get a baseline for their value and ensure they value their time.
  • A reasonable consulting rate filters out the worst potential clients while attracting high value clients.
  • Passive revenue streams allow us to be selective with clients, working with the rare client worth taking on, and extracting enough profit from them to deliver them significant value.
  • We learn how to spread ideas better if we are pushing things we are passionate about. It is hard to be passionate about a client site and see their full potential unless I pushed myself first. We learn when...
    • good ideas spread;

    • when good ideas do not spread;
    • when we see garbage spread; and,
    • when we see things backfire.
    • Seeing junk spread and figuring out why some good ideas do not teaches you much more than when the market acts as you would expect.
Published: March 21, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


March 21, 2007 - 11:46am

Interesting post.

I myself working as an consultant with FreeZone Internet (UK) i have 19 months experience that i gained by working on my own sites.

In 5 months the FreeZone Starts Ranking No.3 For the term "UK web Hosting" From No where in

What i think is SEO is on going process and each day is a learning day. I didnt get any degree in SEO what i learned so far is from You Blog, DP Forums and Shoemoney and i consider all of you great teachers.

I have hunderds of question might one day we have a meeting face to face :)

March 21, 2007 - 2:44pm

That's a great point, and it applies to a lot of industries.

If you are an SEO, read your own website copy - if what you say you'll deliver to your clients is a good deal there is no reason why you shouldn't sell it to yourself as well!

March 21, 2007 - 3:34pm

Spot on. As Consultant it is important to push the boundaries like you say, for your own knowledge (and for fun). You will then, not only attract the appropriate clients for your skillset, but also push what you can achieve.

You can also create potential revenue streams for yourself and then won't have to get in the dog-fight of day to day "provincial SEO' clients. The ones whose friend who spoke to someone whose sister told them they must have more keywords. The one who questions everything you do to the n'th degree based on hear'say. The one that can't set specific benchmarks in the beginning.

March 21, 2007 - 4:48pm

I couldn't agree more. Most of the times, I'll only consult as a favor to someone, otherwise I find it far more profitable to simply do things internally.

I will say that consulting does help a person find niches that otherwise may have been unexplored though; thus it can be useful from a market research perspective.

March 21, 2007 - 5:04pm

I agree with Ross. This topic applies to my industry as well. I have a lighting showroom and it is hard to sell lighting when my showroom is not in order. Thanks for another great post.

March 21, 2007 - 5:58pm

Don't forget:

  • It keeps you sane

There are only so many good opportunities I can watch clients take a pass or sit on before I become disillusioned with my fellow man :)

March 21, 2007 - 6:00pm

Good point. I have been working in the search engine optimization field full time for a year and a half now and am starting to generate more revenue from my own websites then from the work I do for clients. When I first started in SEO I didn't know much (though I thought I did) and have been humbled after doing tons of research. I am a million times better at SEO now then I was when I started and i know there is still a lot left for me to learn. However, it is nice finally seeing my projects show up on the first page for competitive queries!

March 21, 2007 - 6:55pm

While I do think I'm a lot cooler than Tropical SEO, I think both of us have been so busy being lazy (yes, that makes sense) that our content production has taken a hit lately. It's the most non-eventful Cold War in history.

March 21, 2007 - 7:00pm

I've never understood how any SEO, even one who primarily worked in an agency setting, could not have any side projects of their own. At the very worst, you might make some beer money and learn a few things on the way. At best, you can make some serious cash that can dwarf an salary that someone might pay you.

I used to DO SEO at an agency, but I LEARNED SEO on my own time working with my own sites.

March 21, 2007 - 7:06pm

Some of us are just in the process of learning and building our own sites and experimenting, not in the consulting field yet. I work for a Company, I'm passionate about SEO and hope to get to the top as you guys have. Thanks for all the good advices Aaron.

March 21, 2007 - 7:06pm

Having your own sites has the dual purpose of acting as your resume. What better way to show of your stuff then allowing clients to see your sites at the top of the serps, driving good traffic and most of daily interaction with information 'consumers' in the way that seobook does. I too was amazed when searching for a small PR agency, how many fail to keep their sites up to date, the best opportunity to showcase to me their skills. 'Under construction' to me sends a message my PR campaign might be a long time in the making too!

March 21, 2007 - 7:56pm

mmmmm! I started "doing search" from our apartment in downtown San Francisco almost 10 years ago.

I make decent $$$$s these days and can pick and choose my customers.

I had a small wedding DJ business in San Francisco that was booked solid thanks to Alta Vista and Excite et al

I became curious as to why I was doing so well and number one everywhere - what turned out to be curiosity has led to a new career path.

I have bought into a "select few" respected peoples websites and ebooks (not the crap stuff) and continue learning everyday from sites like this and a few others I won't mention ;) The dog didn't eat mine!

I'm usually always up to date

What is next ?


March 21, 2007 - 11:51pm

We've occassionally dabbled in self-started projects, but never had the funding base to eschew clients and go after them whole-heartedly. I don't know that I suck at SEO, but I'd say that I'm not very good at business management. I think it would be more accurate of Brian to question someone's "business savvy" and "financial leveraging abilities" rather than strictly the quality of their SEO work or advice.

March 22, 2007 - 12:45am

I think business savvy is part of it, but seriously, if you can do it for a client at a price point and in a time frame that gives them a decent ROI, then why not for yourself?

That is not to be construed as doubting your skills Rand, just wonder about the focus.

March 22, 2007 - 2:06am

Interesting post but it's not all as black and white as that.
I'm doing well with websites which don't take up a great deal of my time and my consulting is taking me to doing my own seminars and more. Each case should be judged on its own merits.

March 22, 2007 - 6:46am

Funny that I read this post, as our company has kinda of taken the opposite path. We recently combined our marketing and engineering departments to form a new company that offers marketing services to other companies, the same marketing services that made our original business a success.

Why the new venture?

Demand. We had people coming to up to us left and right inquiring about "how we did it." Exisiting customers, partners, competitors, and others familiar with our other business. It made sense to start offering these services through a seperate company.

If you are good enough at what you do, you can charge whatever you want and people WILL pay. Sometimes they pay enough that there is no need to do anything else other than work for them as a service provider.

On the other hand, we have also created our own properties, in addition to services, to serve as "breeding and testing grounds" so that we make mistakes on our sites, not our clients...

March 22, 2007 - 3:37pm

Rand has done an excellent SEO job for himself.

Monetizing and SEO are two different things. Of course, you would want them to come together.

Dan Merfeld
March 22, 2007 - 4:42pm

At a previous job, I was part of a committee to hire a SEO firm to assist in optimizing our online retail store.

Most of the companies we interviewed put on a pretty good show, but when we asked them how well they ranked in their own sites, most of them didn't have a clue.

We made sure to offer the companies an opportunity to select the search term or even provide to us the most basic statistical achievements with their own sites. Again, most of the companies went blank and scrambled to come up with a reply.

In the end, this single question was the determining factor in our selection process. Something to think about for all the SEO consultants out there... how well do you rank?

March 22, 2007 - 7:43pm

People call and ask me who I hired to get my rankings. When they find out it is all me, they ask if I'm available.

As Garrett states, the demand is there. At some point it made sense to spin off a small segment of time to consult. My own results are the best advertising, I get to cherry pick, and I turn down 9 out of 10. The revenue is gravy.

March 23, 2007 - 9:14pm

I learned SEO before I had ever heard the term or read anything about it, simply by experimenting with my own sites for several years. It was interesting to read SEO articles later on and compare them to what I had learned on my own. There's nothing that can replace learning from your own projects. Reading car repair books doesn't make anyone a mechanic, if there's not lots of hands-on experience.

I admire anyone who is able to create enough streams of passive income to make a living. I'm still working on that ...

March 23, 2007 - 9:40pm

I find myself wondering how the famous bloggers come across as anything more than commentators. Rand is a perfect example, since he already wrote a blog on this very topic.

When I think of SEOmoz, I think of a group of people who attempted to provide SEO services and ended up realizing that they enjoy the discussion more than the execution. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a place for SEO commentary and a place for SEO execution.

I think of companies like iCrossing and iProspect when I think of successful SEO companies. When I think of successful SEO commentators, I think of SEOmoz, Stuntdubl, GrayWolf, Aaron Wall, and Dave Naylor.

Where I once drew criticism from Rand for my opinions of companies like his, I now see that his overall goal has been to be more of a SEO2SEO coach and industry commentator.

Without all the blog commentators out there, SEO would still be a taboo subject.

March 24, 2007 - 12:48am

By the way, I in no way intended the above comment as an insult. So for those of you who may try to twist my words or misinterpret my intentions, let me restate.

From what I know of SEOmoz's development, they turned a corner and decided to pursue SEO from a different angle than they had previously. It is my understanding that they were an SEO shop with a blog. They put so much into their blog and SEO community discussions that they appear to have transitioned from SEO shop to SEO Bloggers/Speakers. Obviously, they still do both, but I think it's rather obvious that they're going to make their mark by affecting what other SEOs think, say, and do.

Nothing negative was intended this time, so pardon my wording.

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