SEO Podcast .002 – Mads Singers on SEO Management and Scaling
Mads Singers is a management consultant and coach who’s worked with some of the biggest names in the SEO industry. On this episode of SirLinksalot’s SEO Podcast, we talk to Mads about common management mistakes SEOs make, scaling your agency, and much more.
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Chris: All right everybody, welcome back to another edition of our “SirLinkSalot’s SEO Podcast.” This is number two. Today we are with Mr-.
Nick: Mad Singers.
Chris: Mad Singers, Matt Sorenson… which one is it?
Mads: Mad Singers.
Chris: Mad Singers, okay. Do you want to give us a quick about you, a little elevator pitch about yourself?
Mads: Sure, man. My name is Mad Singers. I’m originally from Denmark. I haven’t lived there for about 17 years now. My background generally has been in management. So, I used to work with large companies like Xerox, IBM etc, and my passion for many years, pretty much all my life has been management, how to be effective with people, and how to manage people well. Basically, I left when I was about 18… I left Denmark. I lived in Ireland, the UK… I’ve been living in Eastern Europe and Asia. I’ve been around, and right now I own a bunch of businesses.
So, I have my primary business. The one that I spend the most time on and find the most fun is my management coaching and consulting. I also run an outsourcing business in the Philippines where I spend a fair bunch of my time. Then I’ve got a couple of sales projects and things like that.
Nick: The management business is that you’ve got like a remote location that you operate out of with employees etc. How does that work?
Mads: Yes. So, the management coaching, it’s a little bit of a mix. I have a specific course that’s called Management Mastery, Effective Management Mastery, which I say is the “80/20” of management. What I basically tried to do is take most of my key lessons and kind of condense it down to about four hours worth of video content split into a bunch of modules, which really take people most of the way there when it comes to management. For a lot of the clients I work with, when I first start working with them they’re like, “Oh I’m not good at managing people. I don’t want to do it. I just want to hire someone to do it or something.”
But most of the people… if you can learn SEO or you can learn e-commerce and stuff, getting the nuts and bolts of management is not that difficult. A lot of people want to work with me for a couple of months, and they actually start enjoying it because most of the time when you’re not good at something, you don’t enjoy it. What tends to happen is that when you start getting some skills and you start really realizing, “Oh, when you manage people well, that can give me a big benefit.” Then a lot of people actually really start significantly enjoying it.
Mads: Then, I also do coaching on Skype on a one-on-one basis or one to more basis. I do a lot of retreats with people. So, a lot of particularly online business owners, they meet a couple of times a year, they bring the team together in one location, particularly the management team. Very often I then fly in and spend one, two, three days with them and really help them move to the next level.
Chris: Is this primarily for SEO related companies or are you doing a big mix of stuff?
Mads: Really, management is the same everywhere. I work with lots of online business owners in general. I have focused a lot on the SEO and e-commerce industries just because… how do you put that politely? A lot of a SEOs aren’t naturally good with people.
Nick: Yeah, you are right. Sure.
Mads: I think that is the most polite way you can say it. A lot of SEOs aren’t naturally good with people, which means you have a lot of easy wins.
Chris: Which is why maybe they’re drawn to SEO in the first place.
Nick: Yeah. I was curious about that because you’ve worked for big companies like Xerox and IBM. So, that’s where you got your start and now I’m really interested in how you niched down because you’re a powerhouse in this industry. We’re a small community – SEO is small relative to what you were doing with IBM and Xerox. How did you end up coming from such a conglomerate type backdrop into where you are now? Or are you still working with corporate entities like that?
Mads: So, really what happened was initially when I was working with IBM, I started doing coaching on the side. I’ve always been extremely passionate about management. I’m really passionate about helping other people to learn and grow. What happened initially was I was working with other people in corporate, and to start out, it was mostly other individuals who either wanted to get into management or who wanted to grow within that current management role. But very quickly, it started also being companies. The thing is, it pays very well but when you are into big companies to drive in the motivation, it’s a very different one.
So, what happened was when I left IBM, I ended up managing people here in in Asia. What happened was I moved out here and I spent a bunch of time particularly in Philippines. Very quickly, I got into these entrepreneurial networks where I very quickly saw a huge opportunity to help a lot of people – which I started doing. Obviously, if you go and do coaching in some of the large companies, they’ll pay you 20, 30, 40 grand a day. Most entrepreneurs don’t have that kind of money.
It’s a totally different game in terms of the money aspect, but the thing is when you show up, it’s a totally different level of commitment. It’s not like people leaning back and saying, “Oh great, I know I’ve got four hours off kind of time to just lay my head down on the table and sleep,” kind of thing. Whereas entrepreneurs and generally entrepreneurial organizations, even the people within them… they’re just much more dedicated. For me as a coach, honestly it’s not as much about the money. For me, it’s about my love for seeing people develop. Within the SEO industry, I’ve worked with, I say all the big guys.
Nick: Everybody, yeah. I mean you just left Chiang Mai. You were a speaker there, you’ve spoken there multiple times, am I right about that?
Mads: I’ve definitely spoken in Chiang Mai, but I didn’t speak this year. But yeah, I’ve spoken in Chiang Mai. Yeah, I mean again I’ve worked with all the big guys. I worked with Diggity. I worked with all his companies, I work with Philip. I work with Ahrefs. I work with most of the big guys. Really, it’s so fulfilling for me to really see people grow. I think Kurt is probably a great example of someone that has gone from a couple of people to 20 people.
Probably one of the most successful businesses you’ll see in this industry. A lot of the time when people do it on their own, they bump into all these issues and they have all these growth challenges. But he’s a great example of someone I’ve really helped just keep pushing through all those barriers. Really helped him take his team to the next level. A lot of the time, what happens in management is you have these three kind of blocks.
When you start getting to eight to ten people, which is more than one business owner ideally should manage, most people hit a big block. Some people never actually go above that. Then there’s sort of another block around 20 to 25 where the companies start getting so big that it’s a bit too far from their owner. Everyone makes sure everything’s getting done the right way. At that point and really up to the next challenging point around 50 people, it’s all about having make sure you’ve built the right level of management around you.
Because that’s where your organization will really crumble. If you haven’t developed your staff well enough, and then when you get to 50, again that’s the challenge… the layers between the owner and the bottom of the organization start becoming so big that again that if your management team is not very well versed, you start seeing a lot of challenges. So, there’s sort of three of the areas that I focus a lot on. But, Kurt is a great example of someone that built a great company primarily with a Filipino workforce.
Nick: For people that don’t know his story. Do you mind just giving little bit-.
Mads: Quick recap.
Nick: Yeah, a quick little recap.
Mads: Yes, he started a CRO company. So, not SEO specifically but CRO. He basically started out primarily helping affiliate owners. He’d do CRO on their websites and optimize them for conversion. After that, very quickly he moved on to adding more pieces. So, again he was very good at niching down to start. Then he’s gradually adding more and more niches as he managed to master them and find all the equipment. Most entrepreneurs tend to do this in the beginning, they’re trying to say I work with anyone, anywhere… like I do SEO, E-commerce, local, whatever.
The problem with that is they don’t really niche down… they don’t really go specific, which means it’s always that everything is custom – everything is individual. The revenue might be good but the profit margins generally tend to be very low because of that. When you haven’t really automated and when you don’t know a niche very well, it’s so much harder to make really good profits.
Chris: It seems to be a big problem with new people making affiliate sites as well. They try to go too general instead of niched-down in the beginning and spread themselves way too thin and end up kind of just floundering.
Nick: Based on your experience with people who have succeeded in getting these 20-plus person teams, you’re talking about foundational strategies being the most important in scaling a company. I’m guessing primarily through automation of workforce. For somebody new getting in SEO, and we’re jumping ahead here but since we’re talking about it – what strategy would you advise anybody that’s getting involved in this business that wants to scale and should focus on at the early stages… at the very early stages?
Mads: Yeah. So, I talk with a lot of people about this but basically, fundamentally pick a niche. What happens with most SEO companies’ day to day as I said – they do everything all over the place. What happens is very often when they become successful, what’s happening is they’ve suddenly bumped into a client and they are like, “Oh, this is an interesting niche, let me do some more on this niche.” That’s really the point where they start becoming successful. So, if you do that from the beginning, your likelihood of being successful is generally higher or being successful faster is generally higher.
So, I’ll take a specific example. If you start out and want to do SEO… and from an SEO standpoint, if you look at the likes of local SEO, it tends to be a lot easier to deliver quick results. So, if you start out and you say, “Okay, we want to do local SEO.” Then my suggestion basically is to find a niche that has money… find a niche that’s not ridiculously competitive. Really dig in, really get into it, really try to fully understand it.
Now, if you pick a niche… let’s just for argument’s sake pick something – let’s say companies that do rentals of heavy machinery. I don’t know about tractors and trucks and stuff like that, where that’s a very high ticket item. So, getting clients is worth a lot, right?
Mads: If you’re picking it, you’re like that. You don’t necessarily have to niche down to a region but you definitely can, and for most people picking a country makes a lot of sense at least. But the whole thing at that point you want to do is you really want to have one or two, maybe three clients, and you really get to master it. You really get to understand what it takes to rank in this niche. Really what you can do when you get to that point is duplicate most of the work you do. Because you’re doing the same thing in Iowa that you’re doing in St. Louis.
It’s going to be the same thing – it’s the same keywords, it’s the same content. I’m not saying you should duplicate the content even though that does work in local. But if you have a content brief, you can literally use the same content brief again and again. If you work with a few clients, for example on the CRO side, to try and optimize for conversions as well. What happens is you start knowing what works and again generally what works in Miami works in New York. Generally, I’m not saying everything, but generally if you learn some things that work really well in one place, and they’re really likely to work really well in other places as well.
Now, this does a few things. One is that your lead-gen become significantly easier. Just like when you build a website, you’re like, “Oh, we do SEO, everyone come to me.” Why should people pick you instead of everyone else? And what it comes down to at that point is the cost. The thing is, if you get compared to everyone else, and the main sort of differentiator is your cost, if you are the cheapest, you will have a problem with margins and making money and delivering results. If you’re not the cheapest, you generally won’t get picked. So a lot of the time, people end up with all these funny, weird customers. What most people do in the beginning is they start out with low cost customers. The problem is when you don’t have a lot of resources, delivering results to customers with very little money is super time assuming, it’s difficult, and they’re the most difficult customers you will ever work with.
Because the thing is, people who only have $1,000 in their back pocket, they’re the most difficult to work with because they really want to make something out of that money. Then I was looking at it from an ROI, look long-term perspective. They are like, “Hey I’ll give you $1,000, bring it back to me right now.”
Nick: It reminds me of PBN sales, I want to cringe a little bit.
Chris: So, I think most people that are starting local agencies… We’re based in Austin, so the average local agency here in Austin, they would really target Austin based companies. But they wouldn’t really niche down – so you would consider that a pretty big mistake.
Mads: For me, it is 100%, because what happens is when you start with the marketing, your life becomes so much easier, trying to hit everyone everywhere all the time. It’s not a great marketing strategy in any business. So, just like with my coaching, like us targeting specifically SEO, specifically e-commerce business – my stuff works everywhere with any online business. I do it because it’s so much easier for me. First of all, when you want to sell to people seeing your name and seeing you around a few times, it makes it significantly more likely that they will contact you. But the second thing is also specific case studies. One of the tools I love for lead generation particularly for small agencies is LinkedIn.
So, if you can start hitting up, let’s say heavy machinery type niches. If you can start reaching out to those, and say, “Hey, we work with heavy machinery companies, AKA you specifically. Here’s a case study when we helped take one company from making 20 sales a month online to making a hundred sales online per month.” You have some very specific examples that are 100% relatable to them. When you’re the SEO company for heavy machinery, it’s like, “Oh, you’re talking to me, you’re not talking to just anyone. You are talking to me.” It makes landing clients so much easier.
Chris: It’s kind of running a targeted ad. Essentially, it’d be like your entire business is the targeted ad.
Mads: Exactly. When you start with Facebook and stuff like that, you’re just so much more targeted. The thing is when you do the same clients again and again, I mean there can be a little bit of variation though, but you know the niche, you can talk with them about their specific terms, about their technical tips, and you can really get to know this thing. Whereas if you work with a dentist one day, and the next day with an accountant, and the third day with that heavy machinery business, then you don’t know their businesses.
Nick: Right. You’ve missed industry standards and then you’re going to lose respect overall at some point in time. You’re going to lose clients in the end too… it makes perfect sense.
Chris: So, would you say this is probably the number one mistake you see people making in the SEO industry right now?
Mads: I was about to say in every business but definitely in SEO the most. I mean, most people starting a business do this thing. They want to hit everyone because they’re desperate for work. It’s natural… it’s a natural behavior. I don’t say people are being stupid doing it. I’m just saying there’s often better ways, and one of the problems with niching down a bit initially is it can be a little bit more difficult to get the initial customers. But as soon as you do get them, things start ramping up significantly faster. One of the key things is that you can also afford to charge a lot more, one of the things people always do in the beginning is they always charge bottom dollar. If you haven’t got a client, getting a couple of clients where you can get some testimonials can make sense though, I get it.
But the thing is, if you have a client that’s paying $2000 a month or client paying you $4,000 a month, the difference in the results you can deliver make it much more likely to deliver amazing results if you have four grand to work with compared to if you have two grand to work with. That’s one of the key things – charging more. It’s not just a question of being “more expensive,” it’s the ability to deliver results even when unexpected stuff happens.
Chris: Right, sure. I guess that’s a pretty big struggle for a lot of people. Like I said, they’re trying to get in with a cheaper price. There’s other people saying they can deliver amazing results for a cheaper price. So, it’s kind of this this balancing act you’ve got to play between-.
Mads: One of the key things, just touching on pricing a little bit – the amount of agencies that are charging $500 to $1000 a month is kind of scary. If you’re looking at it, if you’re charging a client $500 a month, the overhead and the administration and everything, it is so limited but you can actually provide a value for a client for that amount of money. So, again when you’re charging bottom dollar, what happens is you get the worst clients. So, one of the things I always tell clients that I started working with who have a small agency or are just starting out is to really charge a significant amount of money because the thing is – a lot of people have been burned by SEO’s.
You want to set yourself apart in the other direction. If everyone else charges a thousand dollars a month, make your prices visible. Put them on your website and say starting at $4000 a month. The reason is you will scare away the people with very little money that are not the ideal clients anyway. What happens is a lot of serious businesses aren’t interested in working with bottom dollar guys.
Mads: Again, getting your first one or two clients and testimonials in some case studies can make sense to charge not so much. But after that point, if you can get your prices up – I mean, I am not saying $4000 is necessarily a magic number. I could be $2000 or $3000 or whatever, but you want to move your prices up. By the way, when you pick a niche, make sure it’s a niche that actually has money. Sometimes I find people who niche down on niches that have absolutely no money, and they make tiny profits. Obviously, that way they can’t pay you a lot of money.
Nick: Even in hindsight… It’s like all right. When I first got into SEO. Yeah, let’s build the agency website. Let’s get a rank for the city we’re in, it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to get these clients. But talking to you, it’s like if I really wanted to make sense of what I was doing and I had the education I do now. Okay, I’m going to go back. I am going to focus. I am going to niche down.
In niching down, you’ve created ability to execute target markets via SERP manipulation, finding data industry standards, what their products go for, etc. It’s simplified, but when we start out, I feel like there’s an overwhelming concern for money or for growth like you said… and it’s just not there. But I think if somebody took the time to do that and take your advice on something like this, they’d grow exponentially and much quicker versus the road we did. Then it’s two years before you ever actually make anything that could support you in the industry. But yeah, makes perfect sense.
So, let’s talk about growth a little bit. Let’s pretend that I’m somebody who’s taking all of your advice right now. So, I’m starting niche down, I found a good niche that has decent margins. I’m starting at a higher price because I don’t want the bottom feeders. I don’t want people that don’t have the money to spend, basically. But I need these initial clients. Do you have any tips for the new guy to get over that initial hump?
Mads: I think being honest can go a long way. I work with a few people who basically started out going to some of these relatively big, reputable companies. Kind of say, “You know, I’m starting out in this thing, I’m not yet perfect. But I’m wanting to do some good work.” I’m going to do this at a reasonable rate or even sometimes do something for free just to get that case study, testimonial, etc.
I think as soon as you have it, a lot of my clients find LinkedIn so beneficial. Because you can really target people specifically by industry, specifically by role, and really reaching out in a personal manner to people can really go a really long way.
Chris: At what point do you generally see people who are doing this – who are starting a small local agency. At what point do you see them starting to automate some of their processes with teams?
Mads: It depends a lot on how well they niche down and how well they do things right. It really depends on what the founder’s skillset is. So, if the founder’s skillset is a SEO person, they would quickly often get a sales guy on board. So, SEO is kind of coming in a few different ways. Some of them kind of like sales, but not too many. Some of them absolutely despise the sales. If it’s sort of a very technical, nerdy SEO, they generally don’t like sales. One of the first roles they often get on board is that – either part-time or some commission-based sales guy – which makes a ton of sense. I mean, it really depends on the size of the clients and the amount of work involved, but some people, when they start getting three, four, five clients… start building a team.
It depends a lot on the process, it depends a lot on the type of clients, and on the work involved. Some agencies start all the way from building the website, SEO etc. So, depending on how much the scope is, it varies quite a lot.
Nick: Something I’ve heard you talk about on other podcasts as well that I thought was pretty interesting was – at what point in time do you think a business owner and entrepreneur needs to look for help? At what point do you want to start automating through human capital… through other people? What point is that?
Mads: The right answer is – when they want to grow. Because what happens is even as an entrepreneur, you can actually, again depending on exactly what you do, but that a lot of entrepreneurs can actually do a lot of things themselves. They can, but obviously you’re limited by hours – you’re limited by a lot of things. It depends a lot on what you have in the bank. If you’re constantly having to make a profit to sustain your own living, obviously that puts a limit to how much you can afford to invest in growing with people. So, there’s different scenarios but generally I would say when you’re ready to grow and when you want to take it to the next level. The key things for me are when you’ve found a business model of work, you’ve found a good niche, you’ve found the good audience, and you have a relatively consistent way of getting leads.
Then you start looking at – well, how can I scale this? Before you start pumping a ton of money into Facebook ads and stuff, you often want to make sure that you can actually fulfill. You’re starting to hit your eight, nine hours a day or whatever, and you’re struggling to fulfill, then adding more customers to the base is not going to help you do that better. That’s often the point, so what happens with most people is to start working ten hours, eleven hours, twelve hours a day. Then they start looking for help, and very often that’s kind of a bit too late. Because when you start working twelve hours a day, you are very ineffective generally.
Chris: Then micromanaging somebody else.
Mads: So, it is very financially dependent. I always say that one of the worst things you can do is put yourself under significant financial pressure… like if you don’t know how to pay your bills because you hire an employee. It only leaves you a couple of grand and you’re struggling to pay your bills at home – that’s detrimental to you and to be able to succeed. Some people can give you that extra push, but for a lot of people they end up spending so much mental energy on how they are going to pay these bills and what they are going to do to eat every day and stuff. It consumes so much of that time that they actually become really ineffective doing what they used to be very good at.
Chris: Also, it makes them a little too conservative in their decision making as well.
Mads: Actually, it makes them do things for clients out of fear of losing clients that often leads to a bad path… leads down a bad path and really puts them in a situation where the clients own them. It helps them build the business right now, but as soon as you have enough money to start leveraging things, what I always recommend is basically to have a clear sort of pyramid philosophy. What you are supposed to do in business is you want to start out, and in the beginning you are everything. When you start building a pyramid, basically what you’re consistently trying to do is to increase the number of dollars that each of your hours are worth. By doing that, you’re constantly trying to basically push the value of what you do.
Every time you’re doing things, when you look at your to-do list, and you say, “Well I know this stuff could be done by a guy but getting paid $5.00. I definitely don’t want to do that anymore because my time is more valuable than five dollars.” You start looking at… here’s some stuff that could be done by a $20 an hour – I definitely don’t want to do that… my time is worth more. Then you basically start building up the pyramid with people where you push low value work down the pyramid. Effectively, you end up building assets and taking up a company. That’s sort of the mindset behind it. Now, a lot of the time people really struggle to recruit in the beginning, and it’s natural. If you’ve never hired people before, the chance you’re going to go out and hire true superstars is generally fairly limited. Even if you know what you’re doing, hiring three superstars in a row doesn’t happen all the time.
One of the key things in the beginning, and for me the number one thing, is really having a good network. Because a lot of the time, you recruit in the beginning, and you’re much more likely to be successful if you either know someone or know someone that knows someone who’s a good fit for you. I generally think learning recruitment and learning to hire great people was one of the most important… probably one of the two most important skill sets for an entrepreneur. But taking the time and actually really perfecting that skill set is difficult with your first couple of hires. Because the first time you interview a human being, you have nothing to compare it to. For me now, I’ve interviewed thousands of people.
When I sit down and interview someone, I started to get the level of “Where is this person?” It’s definitely a good skill to learn, but you definitely can burn yourself a little bit in the beginning. Personally, I really love utilizing networks and so on. Also in the beginning, utilizing freelancers can be very freeing because you don’t need to employ them full-time.
Chris: So, this was something I wanted to ask you about someone who’s first starting to build their pyramid. They’re starting to bring on their first employees. I think a lot of people’s first instinct probably in this day and age is going to be to find outsourcers online – probably to keep costs down, and I was hoping you could shed a little light on building a team in-house versus outsourcing.
Mads: Again what I would say despite the fact that I own an outsourcing business, is it’s definitely not the answer to all things as many people would make it. Basically, the way I look at resources is that you want to get the right people doing the right things. If you’re hiring a sales guy as your first employee for example, you probably don’t want someone in the Philippines. I’m not saying you can’t find good salespeople in the Philippines, but more so that you want to get the right people in the right places. If you’re running a business where for example a lot of what you do is very simplified tasks like doing a ton of research every time you have a new client or you’re doing very low-level work, then yes it can definitely make sense to find that sort of cheap outsource workforce.
One example is we have a bunch of clients. They build that ton of sites, they’re like lead-gen sites for example and stuff where it doesn’t really make sense to have a native US person doing it. So, I really look at what the specific stuff that you need help with. Let’s say that for example you start your agency, and you’ve had a lot of luck landing these two and a half, three, 4k clients initially. Really what you want to do is you want to bring in people at a higher level who can help do, for example, SEO. When you do that, you basically… again, there are two roles. One of the challenges that most people have is it’s very difficult to hire people who already know and understand SEO at any reasonable rates. Because if you find a really good SEO, they would probably make a lot more money just doing that for themselves. So, very often what I’ve seen is people end up paying 8, 10, 12 grand a month for finding a really good SEO wanting to work in an office-based location in the US.
So, what most people go down the road of, which makes a lot of sense, is finding someone local who is maybe not well trained in SEO but is fairly technical… is fairly clued on. What they do is they end up teaching them pieces of the process. So, one of my fundamental rules is don’t clone yourself, and this might sound totally the reverse of what most people do. But the thing is, for most people it takes them three, four or five years to become good at SEO. If you’re really good and you’re training someone, you might do it in two years.
But the whole thing is you don’t hire people to have them sitting around for two years before they know what to do. From a business standpoint that just doesn’t make sense. Really what makes sense is looking at what the primary stuff you do is. So 80/20 of your task list, what’s most of the work you do? Let’s say for argument’s sake most of your work is link building. Well, then you want to bring in someone and you want to start up by focusing them on that areas that take the most time away from you. We specialize in how to do link building. For them, from a learning curve learning how to do a link building is significantly easier than learning to replicate you and learning all of the SEO game.
That could be learning to do keyword research or learning how to set up site… how to use Elementor or whatever sort of site building software you use. By specializing people, what happens is you’re much quicker to get them to the right level of expertise that matches what do you do. When you start, you start down at the bottom, and you learn a bunch of skills. The whole thing is if you hire someone else and particularly if you try to teach them everything, they would definitely start a little bit higher than you, but there’s so much to learn that they won’t grow significantly.
But if you just teach them link building, they will quickly get to a stage where they’re not significantly below you in skillset. If that’s all they do 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, they will very quickly get to a point where they’re probably at a similar level to you. Because they start perfecting, they start finding shortcuts, they start learning, they start doing things that mean they quickly grow. So, getting people up to similar level as yourself is important.
Nick: Right, make sense.
Mads: Then, basically what that enables you to do is that it enables you to… first of all you’re not less vulnerable. Because if you specialize people, they can turn out a lot more of that work. So, you’re much better at hiring three different people doing very specific roles instead of three people all doing what you do. Because for three people all doing what you do, the problem is if you’re one person and that one person leaves, that sets you back immensely. Whereas if you’ve got someone doing link building who leaves, you can bring in a replacement and train them up relatively quickly. It’s often a much simpler way or a much faster and much easier way building systems. Again, even within the US, there is this big range. There might be things where you can hire a great college student and they will be someone who has just finished studying, and they’ll probably get to a good level pretty quickly.
There might be some roles that are sort of business-critical. It might be tougher to find a good workforce for where you want to pay a bit more. But again, if you say link building is an easy thing to do, you’re better off paying a little bit less for getting link building and then having someone getting paid more, for example, to write copy or whatever. Just the last point in this is know what you want to perfect. What I mean with that, for example, if you run an e-commerce company, you generally don’t want to deliver your products by yourself. You hire a shipping company, you do it through Amazon, or you do something, right?
One of the key things about business is knowing what do you really want to perfect and what are the things you’re okay not doing within the business. So, if you do SEO, it could that you want to own the website thing. You want to do it in-house, you want to be an expert at tweaking sites and really fixing everything that’s on the website because and that’s often because that’s the owners strength.
That’s what they’re playing at… that’s where they set themselves apart from most of competitors. But they might say writing copy is not their game. They’re not good at it, and if that’s the case, you’re totally okay to find an agency or find a freelance copywriter who generally does your copy. You don’t have to own everything in-house but it’s important to make conscious decisions of what you own in-house.
Nick: Sure, makes a lot of sense. Let’s dive a little bit into how you’ve created this philosophy. You’ve got great ideas and great strategies for management. If your story is anything like mine, or you know 99% of other entrepreneurs, we’ve all tried to build the pyramids multiple times with all sorts of accidents happening, etc. How did you grow this fundamental kind of ideology about what you currently do today?
Mads: I mean honestly when I started out, I was only 18 when I kind of got hit by the management by IT… like initially when I was younger I had this idea that I wanted to be a IT guy. What happened was I got a job pretty early on where I got the most amazing manager, and made people happy to do work and happy to be at work.
For me, my entire childhood, I was told, “School is amazing, wait till you get out of school and work life is horrible.” You know I didn’t particularly enjoy school to say the least. So, when I got the job and I started working with this woman who made people love their work, I was like dang, that’s what I want to do.
Nick: What was it that she did? What was it that made her that person?
Chris: Can you remember something?
Mads: Yeah, so very specifically it was her management skills… and that’s very broad. But it’s the way she nurtured people, it’s the way she cared. It was the way she was; I mean everyone felt that she was personally invested in them and their success. The thing is, her method of management was really good for me. But there were definitely people who didn’t enjoy it to the level I did, right. So, again, the same way when you manage people, the more they like you the more likely they are to like working with you.
Mads: Like if you work with Elon Musk, you have to have a very certain personality to really enjoy working with him, right?
Mads: Because he is, and most people don’t like me saying this, but he can be a very tough guy.
Mads: If you don’t like immense pressure, if you don’t like phone calls at 3 o’clock in the morning with someone screaming at you, he’s probably not the boss you want, right? Some people who live life under that pressure, but again a lot of people don’t, right? So, anyways back to the story, the whole thing was that I got super inspired. Literally within a month and a half, I went from having this idea of me being like an IT tech guy to becoming a manager. I started frantically studying. For about 10-12 years, I paid for attending a bunch of management seminars out of my own pocket. I got mentors, I got coaches.
In the company I was working, I would literally find other managers in the business. I’d say, “Hey, when my shift finishes can I spend an hour sitting looking at what you’re doing?” I was totally hooked, right?
Chris: Did you say you were 18 at this time?
Mads: I know that’s not normal 18 years old.
Nick: It wasn’t for us, but it’s awesome, yeah.
Chris: Not just that you were super work-motivated, but the fact that you were an 18-year-old manager.
Chris: I’m assuming… were there any difficulties with trying to be a manager at such a young age?
Mads: I wasn’t a manager when I was 18, but that’s when I figured out that’s what I wanted to do. So, for me, it was again like within probably two or three months from that point I ended up becoming the deputy manager when my boss was away. That was out of sheer passion. I mean there were people on the team who were triple my age, right? Honestly, it wasn’t as much of an issue. So, the key thing for me was I very quickly got engrained in all the logic.
One of my biggest regrets and actually the reason I ended up leaving Xerox was because I really struggled finding other people, even within the higher level of the organization, who had the passion for management that I did. I ended up joining “IBM” which obviously is a huge company as well. I had a lot of different management challenges there, which were great. But again, there was definitely more people with sort of interest in developing and growing. But still, I didn’t feel like I met peers with my same passion. So, initially all my knowledge came from reading books and all this stuff.
When I first wanted to go into management, when asked people how they got there, they said you can go do this five-year degree. My view of school at the time and to this day is not the most positive in the world. So, a 5-year degree was not what I was interested in… which really was what pushed me to be frantic about the self-development. I started reading a lot about these people who didn’t have all these degrees and actually managed to become very good managers anyway. But that was really what sparked it. Then from there on, I obviously became a lot more experienced.
Mads: But what ended up happening was that, it wasn’t that I didn’t make mistakes. But what happened was when I made mistakes very quickly, I realized, oh I should have done this instead. So, because I already had the theory in my head I started understanding when I made mistakes. It was very easy for me to troubleshoot and find out where I went wrong.
Nick: Right, great practice system.
Mads: If I hadn’t had the theory in my head, what would have happened is I would have thought that was the right way to do it and the person was stupid for not responding to me the way I wanted them to. But really, because I had all the theory, it really enabled me to grow really, really quickly when I started to go into management.
Nick: Right. So, speaking about some of these things, do you have any resources if there’s somebody interested in diving into what you’ve done or getting involved in management positions? What are some resources that really impacted you?
Mads: Yeah, so my number one resource, very objectively is obviously, is my management course. Everybody should get it. Besides that, I have some favorite books. My favorite book of all time from a management standpoint is called First Break All the Rules – What the World’s Best Managers Do Differently. Beside the fact that I love the title, that’s probably the book that shifted my mindset the most, and I’ll sort of talk about 30 seconds about why it did. It’s basically studying a lot of main ideas. Very often, when managers are like, oh I want to be like Elon Musk, I want to be like Steve Jobs.
The problem is they often pick these characters that are not like them in character. The thing is, if you’re trying to be something you’re not… if you’re trying to be an asshole calling up people at 3 a.m. in the morning and that’s not your personality, you’re going to fail at it.
Mads: One of the reasons why there’s so many very similar personalities in business management and large businesses today is because a lot of people try and be like these. But the thing is, with this book it basically goes through and says the best managers are the ones that really get to know themselves first. They really managed to master their strengths and understand their weakness and figure out how to work with these things in relation to management.
For me, that was really eye-opening because most people ask the question, “Who’s the best type of personality to be a good business or a good manager?” Nowadays, my answer is – everyone can be. The key thing is really knowing and understanding who you are and what you bring to the table. What are your core strengths and what is it that can make you really good as a manager? What are the things you can compensate on? A good way to compensate is hire people who compensate for that thing.
If you’re an SEO and you hate setting deadlines for people and pushing people, actually bring in an individual who is very good at project management who is very good at setting deadlines and pushing staff to deliver. That’s a great way of mitigating. Whereas, what most people do is they try to become the person they think they should be. Because it’s not natural to them, they’re still going to be shit at it, though.
Nick: Makes perfect sense.
Mads: So that’s one of my favorite books. I have a couple of other ones, and there’s an obvious one called “Traction” by Gina Whitman which is a phenomenal book. It’s probably one of the most actionable books to read on management. Then there’s a guy called Peter Drucker that I’ve read everything of. For people starting out, the best book is called “The Executive”.
Mads: Which basically it’s a lot of theory and it can be a little bit dry. But from a management standpoint, it’s probably the best book out there. Then there’s a couple of other business books that are good for not necessary management, but more for business. Which would be things like “Profit First” by Mike McCalla, and that’s also an amazing book. So, well that’s a couple resources.
Nick: Great. Plenty for somebody to just start studying on most definitely.
Chris: So, walking back a little bit, what are your greatest strengths? What were your strengths that you realized early on that you tried to cultivate?
Mads: So, my greatest strength in general is knowledge that builds to comprehend and put a lot of data sets in my head and make great decisions. So, my natural personality is very similar to most SEO’s. I am generally like an SEO; they love data, they love information, and so on. So, that’s also one of my natural strengths, right. I’m really good at working with numbers… I’m really good at what what most SEO’s do when they look at a spreadsheet full of numbers and it’s kind of like the matrix. They see the graphs, and it makes sense to them.
One thing I learned pretty early on is kind of two in one. But it’s basically if you want to be successful, the number one skill that you have to improve is communication. Because communication is the single most frequent behavior as human beings that we engage in. It doesn’t matter if that’s your relationship at home, the relationship with your friends, networking or business relationships like employees, etc.
So, I did spend a significant amount of time from when I was 18 to about 22, 23, basically improving my communication skills immensely which is a large part of what’s in my management course. But really, that was a game changer. When you look at businesses today, salespeople and developers can’t talk together. Most organizations, when you have a sales team and you have a delivery team, they really struggle to communicate together. They don’t speak the same language. That makes it really really difficult for them to be very successful.
If you are one of those people who can learn effective communication and communicate between those parties, you put yourself in a very favorable position.
Nick: What kind of steps did you take in garnering that ability to communicate? Were you an introvert before or did you just think you needed to up your skillset to get to this level?
Mads: So, one fundamental is I’m a big believer in a behavioral framework called, “Disk” and I generally consistently use that to change the life of my clients. People don’t change natural behaviors, however what happens is that you can learn to be the less uncomfortable with things. So, if you’re a total nerd today, you’re never going to be a great salesperson who is running around talking to random people just out of pure joy. It won’t happen. If you’re uncomfortable talking to other people, what you can learn is to become a lot less uncomfortable doing it.
Mads: But it will never be a strength compared to people who have it as natural strength. So, the key thing here is definitely the framework of. The second thing I did was public speaking. So, I’ve done that now for about 12 years. I started out with organization called “Toastmaster’s.”
Mads: It’s probably the number one thing I recommend to shy clients and clients that struggle with their communication skills. Both because it’s a great network… you meet like-minded people who want to improve their skills, and they generally care enough about themselves to do self-development. For a lot of people, for a lot of people who don’t communicate well, actually building a network of great people is a really good place to start. Now second of all, a lot of SEO people… what they’re very good at is details and data.
When they first start talking about SEO, they won’t shut up again… nearly as bad as me. But they won’t shut up, right? What happens is, a lot of the time they talk a lot about details and they often struggle to be concise. One of the things you really learn with doing public speaking is… you know, I have 5 minutes. I need to take all this stuff I have and condense it down to 5 minutes… make it actionable, make it valuable. Public speaking for people like that is really, really beneficial.
It’s the same people who love writing these eight-page emails that just go on forever. When they communicate to people like them… great, they love it. But if you’re communicating to someone like a sales guy, they read the first two lines and they’ll run out of energy. So, their ability to learn to communicate both verbally and written in a way that’s effective is important. Particularly for data-driven people and for very detail-oriented people, it is probably the most valuable skill. I would say from public speaking, that’s probably the number one thing.
It wasn’t as much standing in front of an audience, it was much more those sorts of subtle skills that you learn. So, you learn a lot about body language, you know how you actually use body language within conversation. You’re not just sitting here with your arms crossed and being super…
Nick: Being closed.
Mads: Exactly. So, learning body language and learning really to hone in and very succinctly make clear points. That was probably one of the key things that I got out of public speaking, besides the fact that it pushes you. I mean it pushes a lot of your natural limits and so on.
Nick: Well, but you were also young, traveling overseas, meeting new digital nomads constantly etc. So, would you say your social life was kind of groomed as well?
Mads: So, honestly when I was 18-years old, I was probably the most introverted person you would find. So, when I started this game, what I did was, and it sounds ridiculous, I started learning about this management and I started learning that you should be networking and stuff. I’m like… I’m not good at this stuff and I literally set myself a challenge every day where I take public transport to and from work. I walk in and I sit down next to another human being. I say, “Hi.”
Mads: Just “Hi.”
Chris: Right, its huge.
Mads: For over a month, I literally just sat down next to 60 people or 50 people or whatever, and I said hi. Now a few of them started talking back to me but very few. But even for me, getting the courage to sit down next to a human being and say hi was frightening as hell.
Nick: Yeah, it’s an exercise.
Mads: After a month, I then upgraded. In the UK, they say “Hi, how are you?” And you can kind of say whatever… you don’t have to answer. So, I really like that point about the phrase. So, basically, I upgraded. Tor another month and a half I would sit down next to people and say, “Hi, how are you?” A little bit more, people started talking back to me, and that was really my start into networking and meeting people and so on.
Nick: That’s awesome.
Mads: When people see me at conferences nowadays, they can’t imagine that. Again, I’m not comfortable the way I am now when I’m in conferences. I’m not comfortable, but I’m a lot less uncomfortable than I used to be. I know from a business standpoint that it is by far the best thing to do.
Chris: Yeah and your method of getting over it. I think a lot of people make a little bit of a big mistake and they go down the self-improvement book hole without having any kind of actionable steps.
Chris: I guess all these books are pretty much telling you to take some concrete steps as well. But that’s why I really like your story.
Nick: I mean, I can relate to that. For a while, I had this exercise where I’d even go on a run and everybody that I passed on the trail, I’d have to lock eyes and smile at. Then, not look away until I’ve passed them. It was just like this thing having to do with looking somebody in the eye and creating some kind of emotional influx and being polite that just lasted a quick second. But I feel like it really changed something in your psyche… your ability to interact with other humans whoever they are. Especially, behind the computer we’re so detached a lot of times.
Like right now, we’re looking at each other, we’re having a conversation, it’s very fluid, very natural. But a lot of times if I consider picking up the phone for a client… no way in hell. Just email me. We get complacent in these scenarios. I probably think I was more outgoing before I started in this industry.
Chris: I was for sure; I think I was.
Mads: So, smiling was something I learned when I was about 22. It took me about five years to learn to smile. That also sounds horrible. I can promise you every time you see me smile; I’m faking it.
Nick: You seem like a very jovial person, so it’s great acting.
Mads: I am exactly like you, what I would literally do is go to the city center and very similar to what you did. I’ll walk down the street. I would look at people and I’ll smile at them.
Nick: I love that.
Mads: But the problem is… I feel like I’m the Joker. I feel like it’s up here, but it’s what most people would not even call a smile. So, it took me a really really long time. I would say smiling is still one of those things that I have to think about.
Nick: Wow, you’re talking about age 18 to 22, practicing these micro communication skills. Do you have any that you practice today?
Mads: Yeah, I’d say I’ve learned a lot of the basics. I’ve kind of gotten to a point I’m quite comfortable. I would say that the things that I practice a lot today are… So, naturally when you communicate with people who are very assertive, they don’t like it if you don’t look at them. They feel like you’re not looking that you’re not listening. Whereas when you’re talking with more introverted people, they might look at you a little bit and then look away. But a lot of assertive people feel like you’re not listening when you do that.
So, that’s one of the things that I’m still trying to get a little bit better at particularly in one-to-one conversations with various sorts of people.
Chris: So, do you try to maintain eye contact like 80%, 90%, 100% of the time?
Mads: Yeah, I try to go to their level. If you’re talking with someone like Steve Jobs who’s not here anymore, but people like that like you want to be staring at them while you have a conversation with them.
Nick: Have you read Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human” by chance?
Mads: No, I have not.
Nick: There’s section in there about communication and your ability to mimic what the other person is doing. Even as simple as something as slight of hand or touching my chin when they touch their chin and what it does to our psychology. I think some of these micro things that we do actually hold a lot more power than most people want to believe.
Mads: 100%, and honestly this is a lot of what’s some of the stuff that’s in my course. A lot of the stuff round Disk it’s about these sorts of things. It’s really about how people behave differently. You don’t necessarily need to become totally extroverted. But it’s a good example, like a lot of these extroverted people, every time they meet, they’re like “Hey, high-five buddy!” So, for a lot of a SEOs they’re like what the fuck is that?
But the thing is, when you’re meeting people who are like that, it helps you really take that relationship to another level.
Nick: You have to play the game. I mean otherwise you’re not the part of the pack.
Chris: It’s good to at least be comfortable with it to reciprocate a little bit.
Nick: A little fist bump never hurt anybody.
Chris: So, communication was one thing that you really had to work on and continue to work on. What are some of your other things that you see as weaknesses that you kind of hire people on to fill that gap in a sense?
Mads: Yep, so generally when I build up, which I do quite frequently a new business, I basically always need to partner with someone who’s got a strength in marketing and is the type of face of the company type person. So, someone who is again very extroverted and very good at building these relationships. I have learned to build very strong relationships one-on-one, but as an example, for both my coaching business and my outsourcing business, the first four years we were in business I didn’t even have a website.
I didn’t need it because I got a lot of clients. But when you run a business with over a hundred employees and you don’t have a website in the online industry, that’s kind of fucked up.
Nick: Are you dealing with a hundred people under you right now?
Mads: Well, so now the outsourcing business has about 130 people.
Mads: Then I have a few other people in the other businesses.
Nick: Okay, wow.
Chris: Are most of these people based out of the same location you’re based out of? I know you have the Filipino office.
Mads: Yes, so we do actually have a lot of home-based people. I’ll say 130 people are all Filipino. So, I have a few people in like UK, Eastern Europe, and Africa in various places. But majority of the 130 – that’s all Filipinos based in the Philippines.
Nick: Look him up people, you’re going to want to know about this.
Mads: So, I started an active outsourcing business really because I work with so many clients that were bad at hiring to put it politely. I saw a big gap in the market. They’re all looking for Filipinos and they couldn’t find good ones and so on. So, we started an outsourcing business. What we then realized later is they’re both crap at hiring and managing. So, we started an outsourcing business and we started supporting it with management. Really what we do now is we find the people. We help make sure that we deal with all the personal stuff, we deal with all the cultural differences compared to Western countries.
We help take care of all the personal stuff, make sure people have the right hardware, the right internet. We take care of all that stuff so our clients really only have to tell people what to do and how to do it.
Nick: So, you’re eliminating these common variables like “my Internet’s out sir,” or “You can’t make it today, see you next week.”
Mads: I mean, it obviously can still happen once in a while because there are earthquakes and typhoons and stuff happening sometimes. But let’s say we eliminate 95% of that sort of stuff. Because again, very often when people work with a client abroad, they’re like “Oh, they don’t know what’s going on, you know what I want to go out with my friends, I’ll just tell them. That’s alright.” All my managers on the ground are Filipinos. They have a little bit different way of dealing with this.
Chris: Okay, so you have Filipino managers on the ground in the Philippines. No foreign managers on the ground in Philippines.
Mads: No, so we do have one foreign manager in the business but he’s more doing the sales. He’s basically talking with a lot of our new clients and figuring out their requirements and stuff. So, I have a management team of three guys that are managing the highest-level managers of the outsourcing business. They’re basically taking care of that.
Chris: So, they manage them remotely.
Mads: Yeah, some of them are office based some of them remotely, but yeah.
Chris: Gotcha. So, I think we’ve been going about a little over an hour now. Do you have anything else that you want to ask?
Mads: Honestly, I can go forever.
Nick: Well, what are some of the main points maybe we missed that you would really like to get out there to the audience? Anything in particular?
Mads: I think talking a little bit about delegation could be very interesting. I thought a lot of people, when it comes to delegation particularly in the SEO industry, really struggle. I think the pyramid’s like a whole mindset of how much is your time worth. When people are sitting doing copy-paste stuff that other people could do for $2 an hour… if you ask them, “Do you want to work for $2 now?” Most people give you a pretty clear “no.” So, I think that sort of mindset around delegation is really important.
What I also try and go through a lot in the training is giving people the mindset of “what do you have to do.” Most people in the SEO industry think they have to be the mastermind SEO for the rest of their company’s days. If that is what you want to be, you need to hire a CEO for the company. Because the CEO of a company is generally not the expert. If you want to build not just a five-man company, but if you want to build a real business, you generally don’t want to be the expert in delivering the end results.
So, really learning to let go. I generally say there’s about two things you have to do as the business owner. One is hire the people that work directly for you, and two is doing the one-to-one meetings with those individuals on a weekly basis. That’s really the only two things you have to do as a high-level manager. Now, as a CEO… as a business owner there’s definitely a bunch of sorts of strategy things… setting mission values and things that you want to do as well. But on a day-to-day level, recruiting the people who work directly for you and meeting once a week are really the only two things that you cannot delegate.
Everything else that you’re doing today can be delegated. The most successful people generally don’t do them. I mean they let go of 80% of what they do today compared to next year to grow their business. If you can manage to do that, your business will grow really quickly. The people who keep holding on to keep being the experts… those are the people that become the bottleneck in the business and slow the business growth.
Chris: So, I think this is a very relatable topic to pretty much anyone who’s growing a business. Especially with SEO, most people start on their own, I think. So, they kind of become an expert and they trust in their methods… they know what’s working for them. I think the problem comes to be that they don’t want to let go and they have a hard time drawing the line between the quality not being the exact level that they want. You know… not being able to pass these duties off to somebody else. Do you have any advice on drawing that line?
Mads: Yeah, so one other thing is I’ve worked with a lot of people who build authority sites. The question that I tend to ask them all the time is the same which is, “Would you rather have one site that’s 100% the way you like it or have ten sites that are 90 to 95% there? What do you think will make you the most money?” That’s the fundamentals. What SEOs are generally really bad at is 80/20. The problem for most SEOs… say they have this 85-step checklist. The problem is again, even when you work as an agency, you have to be able to prioritize and say what is going to give the clients the biggest bang for their buck.
Where you go to make the client the most money with the least amount of effort, right? Because at the end of the day, if you’re following your 85-step checklist, that might take you a year to get through it. If 40 of those steps make incremental changes, you’re not changing the game.
Nick: So, in essence, in order to grow you’ve got to learn to let go a little bit of the idea of perfection, right?
Mads: Yeah. Actually, let me go back to Kurt’s business I know his business, CRO. But it was worth working with him… it was a great example because when you do CRO, you can test every freaking thing. When we worked with him, he basically starting saying we guarantee… and giving guarantees in a business like this is difficult. But he basically made a commitment to his customers to guarantee at least 30% improvement.
Mads: Now, that also meant that instead of actively testing every single thing that you can possibly test, it was easy for him to say, “We will test until we hit a certain level. If we deliver 200% improvement, there’s no point in us going in to tweak words on a page.” You make a very clear deliverable, and when you deliver that you say, “Okay, great, that’s done.” But the whole thing is, when you enable yourself to go deliver great results in a good way, that means it makes it much more scalable. So, let’s say from a SEO standpoint… translating that and saying, “Let’s say to customers that we have a commitment to you that we will triple your traffic over the next year.”
Now, if you know that your commitment is tripling the traffic or tripling the leads or tripling the sales or whatever, that’s a commitment that makes sense to a client. Honestly, they don’t care how many h1s you should have if it just gives them their actionable results. If instead of focusing on making sure the schema on this page that no one ever visits is perfect, you focus on the 80/20, what makes the difference… and if you focus on delivering that traffic, those leads, and those sales. When you get to that point, you can say, “Great, we’ve done what we need for the year.”
It makes you able to scale and grow much faster because you focus on the 80/20 and you get those big wins quicker. It makes you able to deliver a lot more results for a lot more customers.
Chris: Would you say that making a guarantee and having this goalpost – having a finish line for yourself… Would you advise people to make guarantees like this as a way to, in essence, keep them from doing stuff they don’t need to do?
Mads: So, I work with customers doing a lot of things, and one of the things that I try and push them to is getting to the finish line. So, for me when you do SEO, the problem is most people sell SEO. That sounds silly but that is really the problem. The thing is people don’t give a shit about SEO – they give a shit about the results that come out of SEO. So, they are either buying leads or they’re buying sales.
So, basically three fundamental questions you want to ask people are – One, “Can you afford to grow significantly?” That’s a relevant question to ask. If you’re trying to pitch someone who’s running a one-man copy company and they don’t want to hire employees, they probably don’t want to grow that much. They probably won’t have a budget to pay you a lot of money. If they can’t grow… if they’re not interested in growing, don’t work with them. Number two is, “How much money on average do you make per sale?” Number three is, “When you get either an email or a phone lead, what percentage do you close?” And that could be broken up because maybe by email is less than by phone.
The last two questions are fundamental because if people tell you every time they get a phone call they close 50%… If they say, “Okay on average, I make two grand per profit per sale I make.” Now that tells you that every lead you bring them is really worth a thousand dollars – or every phone call you’re bringing them. Now you can then work back and say, “Okay, I will charge you $3000 a month and I guarantee you that I will make you 10,000 for that money.” That will put you in a situation where you need to bring them ten leads every single month above what they have right now. So, if you look at their site right now and you see an average of five leads a month, that means you need to bring them 25 leads a month.
What that does is it gives you a very clear goal post. Now you can even say, “I’ll build you the first invoice up front, but I won’t build you the second invoice. Also, I’ve gotten you the first ten leads.” Now I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but it’s an option. What that does is, they don’t care how you deliver it. Now if you go and do Facebook Ads or PPC or whatever, you can do it. But really your commitment to them is not SEO… your commitment to them is – I will bring you ten leads.
If you ask most people and you say, “Is it okay if you pay me $3,000 and I give you 10,000 back?” It’s a good deal, and everyone says so. So, if you can make deals like that instead of selling SEO, you can do that. What that will enable you to do is first of all – you can definitely play this game and that’s where you want to stop. But sometimes, for example, it might take a while before you get there. So, you could actually compensate, for example, by doing Google Ads. Now, even if you don’t make a lot of money… when doing that, if you’re proving to people that they paid you three grand and you’re making them ten.
That enables you to do something that no SEOs do with this. Go back to the customers, and I advise a lot of agencies to literally send customers one slide every month. Nothing with keywords, nothing with volume. Send them one slide that says you paid me three grand and I made you 10 or 12 or 15.
Chris: Here’s your monthly report.
Mads: … and you say, “Hey, okay last month you paid me three grand and I made you fifteen. Do you want to continue?”
Nick: The argument’s simplified; you know where they going to go from there. Well, I don’t know… that’s a lot of money. Maybe fix my margins a bit more.
Mads: But what happens here is, it enables you to do the one thing no SEOs do with his increased customer budgets instead of decreasing. It’s like, “Well right now you’re paying me ten grand and I’m making you ten, twelve, fifteen or however many leads. Do you want to spend more money with me so that I can make you even more money? Why don’t we double this thing? You make me six grand a month and I’ll make you at least twenty.”
Chris: Right, it avoids the whole situation of, “Well, hey you ranked me, well now I don’t have to pay you anymore, right?”
Mads: The thing is, every agency I work with with this model who executes it well significantly keeps increasing their monthly retainers. Now, most agencies out there are happy to keep monthly retainers. But also, what happens is you can then do their SEO game to start – you can push that to the limit. So, maybe you want to bulk up with some ads in the beginning. Then when your SEO game starts ranking, you might even get that to the limit. When that gets to the limit you can start doing ads again. You can even start Facebook ads.
The whole point is if the pile of money you’re getting on a monthly basis is big enough… yeah.
Chris: Right. There’s always something you can do with a little bit more money.
Mads: The whole thing is customer satisfaction. People raving about you, people telling people about you. When you sent them that one slide compared to when you’re doing SEO and you’re getting some rankings and they don’t really understand how rankings translate into money. Because, you know, they can feel getting more phone calls, but they don’t really know what part of it happens because of you and what part just happened. Because they’re a great business. So, many companies cancel the contracts and three months later they realize, “Oh, that was stupid.”
But the thing is, it’s mostly because the SEO’s don’t communicate in an effective way what they’re actually doing.
Chris: Like you said, most SEOs might not be the best communicators.
Mads: But the fundamental problem is most SEO’s are SEO’s. They’re so passionate about SEO. They’re like, “Yeah, I’ll build you some backlinks, and if you pay me a thousand more I’ll build you some more backlinks.” The clients are like…
Chris: I mean, they make the mistake of thinking the client will remotely understand.
Mads: The problem is that they’re trying to educate the customers on SEO. If I walk into a shop to buy ski boots, I don’t really care what material they’re made out of and all of this stuff. I just want ski boots that get the job done. I don’t want to be a ski boot expert when I’m going on my third skiing holiday. Most business owners don’t want to be SEO experts because they actually… I know SEOs think people don’t have businesses to run, but they do. What business owners want is leads and sales… most of them don’t give a shit about SEO.
Chris: So, this would be like the simplification of the product… a commoditization of the product, or just kind of making into something very packageable, easy to look at, and digestible for the end consumer.
Mads: Let me ask you the question. How often do you increase the retainers people are paying?
Chris: Pretty often.
Mads: Good. That is the success of great agencies. If you have a good agency and you managed to increase retainer. So, even adding more services to increase retainers like business is all about customer lifetime value, right. If you’re running agency if you’re running service businesses, if you can increase the customer lifetime value. That means you can pay more money to acquire new customers. Which put you in a much better situation.
Chris: For sure, awesome. I think we start kind of winding things down a little bit here. Let’s see I’ve got a few outro questions here. So, how long did you say that you’ve been involved with SEO specifically.
Mads: So, I actually built my first SEO site in 2007.
Chris: Okay, you’ve been around for quite some time now.
Mads: I have to admit that a build a site… I had to be ace in the Philippines at a time. They were spitting out about 3,000 words of Philly-English content every day. That worked really well for a while. I made about 20, actually got up to 25 grand a month. Then all these exotic animals like penguin and panda started happening. I had a couple of years of SEO depression. I literally went from 20-some grand a month to $200 a month.
Nick: Those were the outlaw days of SEO where you could do any kind of tactic. You know, knowledge was really power then.
Mads: It was a lot of fun as long as it lasted. I can tell you, I definitely spent about 2 or 3 years hating SEO after that happened, and I swore I would never touch it again. Obviously, just like drinking, that never happened… so obviously I got back in the game. I haven’t been doing that much SEO myself. But as a fellow nerd I would say I love SEO. I probably know more about SEO than most people. I love management more which means that’s what I do.
Chris: That’s awesome. So, as someone that’s been around for a little while, where do you see things going in the SEO or internet marketing world as far as how people can basically be prepared… or you know, keep an eye looking forward?
Mads: I mean this probably sounds silly. Most people hate hearing this phrase, but “Great content.” I think, fundamentally, not just because of Google, but I mean Google will keep changing. Fundamentally for the last 10 years, SEO has less and less space in the SERPs. I don’t think the SERPs will disappear, but I think the percentage of traffic you keep getting from the SERPs will keep decreasing. Now that doesn’t mean it can’t be extremely valuable for some businesses, but it will happen.
I don’t think we’re in a game where the SEO real-estate on page 1 is going to grow at any point. Besides that, I think SEO is probably becoming even more interesting because it’s got to go down more avenues. So, when you start out looking at great content, you start looking at different kinds of content. So, you start looking at image SEO, you start looking YouTube SEO, video SEO. You start looking at SEO having much more than just SEO on a web page kind of thing.
So, I think building amazing, valuable content that people actually want to consume is important. Because again, in most industries there’s so much content out there, right? But building content that people actually really want to consume… things like these podcasts that are super valuable to people. I think they’re going to be worth even more. Now, the whole point is that, for example with podcast – more and more people start doing podcasts. Therefore, the competition will be fiercer.
But again, if you can level up your game… if you can be in the top five or ten percent, you have a huge opportunity. I think that’s the case with content all over the place. If you can stay in the top five, ten percent of written content, you also have a huge leverage. But I’m not saying that you need great content to rank because I don’t believe that’s the case. The more advanced the internet gets, the more advanced people get with the internet, the more critical they also get of it. Therefore, having great content and putting yourself ahead of that game is, for me, when we look five years ahead as the game changes.
I think when we’re looking a couple of years ahead, I don’t think there’s a lot of changes. So, I still see definitely a couple years where there’s a huge room for growth for the current model and the current framework of SEO.
Chris: So, keep focusing on the end user experience as the algorithms and whatever else continue to get smarter… and yeah we’re losing SERP space, for sure. So, as we were about to say goodbye, do you have one single parting piece of advice you could give to someone that’s kind of newer… who’s just getting into SEO or internet marketing? Just one little tidbit to live by, maybe.
Mads: This is difficult for me. I say, generally, just get in there and get it moving. The fundamental problem for most SEO’s is they’re people who love learning, and you have to have this balance between learning and action. Most SEOs sit out here and learn, learn, learn. The whole action piece is difficult. You will never build the perfect site; you will never plan the perfect site. Set an amount of hours and say, “By this time, I will start taking action.” I think from an SEO standpoint, that’s probably the best piece of advice I have.
Chris: It’s extremely solid. Well, Matt, thanks for joining us. I feel like I’ve learned a lot.
Nick: Yes, same, and I feel like we should be paying you right now.
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