Many are drawn to the idea of running an SEO agency: interesting projects, challenging work and, of course, ideas people take notice of. Nevertheless, the challenges of agency life can prove to be a rude awakening, especially for operators/marketers who fail to constantly reinvent themselves.
Keeping your SEO agency profitable relies on many variables. You need even cashflow, dependable processes, and a little bit of luck. That said, the lifeblood of any SEO Agency is continuous upgradation of technology, tools, techniques and processes. For what works today might not work tomorrow. That’s exactly what I’m going to narrate : how failing to update can kill your agency! Read along……
My typical day started with an early-morning 4 hour intensive account health monitoring. I began with a thorough analysis of the previous day’s performance metrics for each of the accounts. I then checked the rankings and conversion data of all my ‘Most Valuable Keywords’. Now this is where it got a bit hectic, I handchecked the SERPs for all my MVKs, noting the key changes in rankings and competition. I then went on to analyse overnight and weekly phrase trends for new opportunities or issues. Performing Webmaster Tools health checks in Bing and Google was again a routine. The rest of the day involved overseeing execution of SEO best practices, content strategy, keyword strategy/discovery and dealing with ad hoc questions/issues for a variety of clients. 10 hours after I started my work, I got back home and planned my work for the next day. All of this may sound a little hectic but I love my job!
This was me a year ago.
Hi, I am SaiKiran GVR, an SEO expert / agency owner and this is my story. More than a story, this is a record of my introspection, to be precise. An account of how my inertia to embrace/keep up with the latest tools and techniques almost killed my business. The problem was never my technique, it was my reluctance to come out of my comfort zone! And of course I’ll tell you how I survived. Most of you SEOs reading this blog should be able to relate (especially ones that are getting old :). I hope that this blog will serve as a caution sign board for you to avoid certain pitfalls. Read along.
I run an ad agency that primarily focuses on SEO. We work with many small to medium sized local businesses, a few nationwide companies, and a couple of international companies. I lead all search marketing efforts – paid and organic. I take direct responsibility for monitoring, maintaining and improving traffic for all our clients.
Why I failed!
Just to add a quick context, I started my career as an intern with an ad agency. Sharp as I was, I quickly rose through the ranks. My superpower was my ability to quickly prepare beautiful excel SEO reports and dashboards for my clients. Preparing SEO reports day in and day out, across clients, helped me understand all the different facets of SEO/SEM. And since I was so good with excel, I never came out!
Even after starting my own agency, I worked with the same old manual SEO techniques. Honestly, I never felt the need to come out my comfort zone. My complacency, obviously, didn’t last long. (It was not so obvious back then!). Quick changes to google algorithm rendered my techniques obsolete. Increasing client demand for results worsened the situation. I started putting more and more hours. Instead of upgrading to new tools and automating work processes, I simply did more of what I knew. After a point it became unsustainable, I had to automate or perish.
At this point it was evident that my reluctance / inability to upgrade and automate was the fundamental cause behind my slow death. This was my moment of truth, I had to face my weaknesses. Losing was never an option so I decided to change the situation once and for all.
I took a week off, secluded myself and sat down to analyse my problems.
Path to Automation: Identifying High Effort + High ROI areas
I started by mapping my entire workflow. Next, I classified all my tasks into an Effort / ROI matrix. With some basic research I could identify tasks with High Effort and High ROI which could be automated. This was my analysis:
1.Keyword Rank Tracking
Google is our most important source of visitors and revenue. 70% of traffic and 65% of our revenue are driven by search traffic. Both paid and organic traffic are equally important to us. The combination of reports from adwords and analytics provides all the data we needed to analyse and improve our paid results. But when it comes to organic traffic there is no one specific source to see how we were ranking on our ‘Most Valuable Keywords’. We relied on excel sheets to track and monitor these keyword rankings on a daily basis and this was a huge time drain. Time we would rather spend on improving our results. And even after spending so much time, our data was often out-dated and incomplete. I identified this task to be the first one on my automation list. And I found the perfect Keyword Rank Tracking Software!
2. Keyword Grouping
We monitor over 1500 keywords on a daily basis (broad and long tail). This is huge data and after a point, organizing this data into excel sheets becomes cumbersome if not impossible. We needed a better way of organising and tracking these keyword groups.
3. Competitor Tracking
Most of our clients operated in markets with a high level of competition. Most of their competitors were mature companies when it came to online marketing, some had their own online marketing department and others relied on agencies to generate traffic and increase conversions. Keeping a track of the competitors and devising a good online marketing strategy based on this analysis was crucial for our success. And to monitor and adjust the results of our strategy we had to track their keyword positions on a daily basis. Looking back, I can’t believe that we manually tracked all those keyword positions on excel sheets, it was such a waste of time and productivity. This was another task that needed urgent automation.
4. Identifying new keyword opportunities
As I had mentioned earlier, we rely heavily on organic search for acquiring new customers. Keyword research is the lifeblood of this process. In order to optimize this marketing channel it was crucial for us to track our search engine presence and to constantly monitor competitor keywords. It was easy for us to discover new keyword opportunities this way. Doing this manually was not just hectic but also ineffective (considering the scale).
5. Assessing ROI of our SEO efforts
We understand that strong content is essential to assist our technical SEO efforts . We, therefore, take up both the activities simultaneously, combining SEO with a blogging strategy. The success of which needs to be tracked regularly to understand if our efforts are bearing results. Without a proper tool, calculating ROI of our SEO efforts can be time consuming.
Hand checking SERPs and tracking keyword positions in excel takes a lot of time. It is inefficient and extremely manual. Most of the times you would know if you were losing customers, but without a proper tool, identifying the exact leak could be hectic.
What I needed to succeed
After a thorough analysis of my workflow, I finally arrived at what I needed to succeed. I needed an automation tool which could give me:
- A clear overview of the positions of our websites in comparison to our competitors in the SERPs
- A clear overview of how these positions change in time.
- Group keywords to see how we rank with a specific product or brand, and how this changes over time.
- Dive into these keywords to see our exact position and gain an overview of the other websites that rank in the top 10.
- Clear trend indicators that tell you what to prioritize, to instantly identify keywords which need my attention.
With a clear picture in my mind, I went on to try several seo tools and created test accounts with the most promising tools.
Selecting the right tool
My core problem was my inability to embrace new tools and techniques. I always preferred staying in my comfort zone, doing things like I always did. So when I decided to change all of that, I was careful enough to chose the right tool. I looked for a tool which was absolutely easy to use, which took the least time to start (which offered the least friction). I was especially particular about these features:
1.Quick and Easy
The implementation of the tool needs to be quick & easy.
2. Simple Design
The tool needs to be very user friendly and intuitive. I should be able to start without any assistance, nor do I need to consulate for help.
3. Reliability of data
The keyword position data needs to be reliable and up to date. My SEO strategy would be based on this data, so I was very particular about this.
4. Clear Presentation of Data
Without a clear presentation of data, it simply becomes impossible to monitor the effectiveness of thousands of phrases in search engines. The information needs to be presented in a way which makes it easy to draw conclusions.
5. Keyword Groups
The tool should allow me to easily combine our client’s keywords into groups, and track the average progress of these groups as a whole over a period of time. This is absolutely critical to our business, as with modern SEO there’s little value in showing individual keyword positions to our clients (due to their regular fluctuations).
6. Trend Monitoring
As for me, if I am unable to instantly compare the ups and downs of positions without having to go to the search engine, the tool is of no use to me. I need to know the rankings that have risen a lot or fallen, in order to understand what could have occurred.
The one feature I was really particular about was the daily alerts by email. It is very useful to compare if there are large variations in the indices and get instantly notified about the position changes.
The ability to send white labelled keyword position reports to my clients is again a huge time saver.
9. Customer Service
I would definitely appreciate a reliable customer service. – Quick contact and, if necessary, helpful and always in touch.
A right tool can change your business
Selecting the right tool changed the way I worked for ever. ReportGarden proved to be the perfect tool that fits my budget. With ReportGarden, I put most of my tasks on autopilot mode and monitored them using custom built dashboards. This leaves me with time for learning and implementing new SEO techniques.
- First and foremost, we’ve eliminated 4 to 5 hours a week we would spend hand-checking SERPs
- We as a team became infinitely more productive. Since using the tool, we have increased productivity by more than 50%.
- As a result of being able to track rankings on a daily basis, we are able to diagnose issues quickly and prioritize our efforts to address the most valuable opportunities.
- In terms of spotting problems and opportunities, we became a lot more efficient. Our data and account teams completely rely on this data to keep our clients and client strategies on track.
- Daily rank tracking is a huge advantage to SEOs, particularly when managing multiple sites. Daily rank tracking helps us to precisely tie positive rank changes to actions we took.
- We are spending a lot more time on tracking performance, optimization and planning, all of which has an immense effect on our performance.
- Verifying the positions is now matter of seconds. SEO tools are indispensable to gain control over the rankings that you drive.
With automation tools in place, we are able to effectively track thrice the keywords, organized in a way it’s easy for everyone to understand. In less than a year, we have an increase of 140% in our organic traffic from Google alone. SEO tools definitely helped us keep track of our keywords and empowered us to react with great speed. In the past it was a burden checking results with our previous SERP tracking tool, now it’s a pleasure.