How We Turned a Small Blog into a Million Dollar SEO Company in One Year
One million dollars. That’s the holy grail of online business achievements. Nobody starts a business and says, “I want to do $350,000 in revenue this year.” Sure, that number is great, but it isn’t a milestone that many chase after. Now, think of how many business owners say, “I want to do one million dollars this year.” A lot of them. It’s a magical number.
My marketing agency, SerpLogic crossed the million dollar revenue mark in less than one year. We didn’t luck out or just happen to make the right business connection that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Nope. I built this company from $0 to more than $1,000,000 in less than a year by working my ass off. I didn’t do it alone, either. I have built an amazing team and I am proud of every single person I get the pleasure of working with each day.
Many people will brag about their financial accomplishments, but not many people will talk about what they did in order to reach that level. I’m not like most people, and those of you that have been reading my content for the past year already know this. I tell it like it is and don’t sugar coat anything.
As we approach our 1st Birthday on November 30th I wanted to share something special with you all. This is actionable advice that can be used to not only grow an online marketing agency, but businesses in multiple niches as well.
Here are fifteen things that I did, which helped me scale to more than one million dollars in revenue in just one year..
1. Started out as a blog to give me a platform to get my name and voice out there.
SerpLogic started off as a little blog, where I could write about anything related to internet marketing that was on my mind. Truthfully, I was fed up with what was out there. I saw self-proclaimed “SEO experts” writing about how buying links was bad and how content was king. These people we advising people to just blog all day long and don’t worry about links, because they will come naturally. LOL. Yeah, OK.
What was even funnier was the fact that these same people that were writing about the evils of link building were some of the biggest link sellers in the industry. There was such a double standard going on, and the sad part was that people were really listening to them. Most assumed because these individuals wrote for publications like Forbes that they knew what they were talking about. These same people would write a post about SEO and how you need to be careful about paid links, and within the same article there would be a link to an SEO company that paid them for a link.. I shit you not.
I was fed up with the nonsense in the industry and SerpLogic gave me the ability to write about whatever topic I wanted to, without having to get approval from an editor. There were no topics that were off limits. I really only intended to blog here and there, whenever something in the SEO world upset me or I felt something needed to be exposed.
2. Progressed into selling products in order to attract a higher caliber of client, while maintaining 100% control of my selling platform.
As I started to blog more often, my audience grew. Most people were drawn to my content because I spoke the truth and didn’t dance around topics such as link building and link acquisition. I was one of the only SEO people to openly admit that link buying is a huge industry and it happens every day.
I also wasn’t afraid to hammer on the fact that links are still (and always will be) the ranking signal that Google uses the most. Now more than ever, high quality links are the way to the top of the SERPs. I can take a brand new domain and a fresh website and rank it by just securing a handful of top editorial links. Yes, you can attract them by blogging until you are blue in the face, but companies with money want fast results, and the quickest way to get these types of links in to simply purchase them.
As I continued to blog, I started to receive requests from people looking to buy links and hire someone to perform outreach. I saw a huge market and opportunity, so I began offering services. I started small, offering them just to my email list that I started to build from day one. This is a perfect example of why building a list is so important. I immediately had an audience to market my services to.
I also saw an opportunity to create a marketplace that I had full control over. If you invest time and money to establish your brand on a third party website, you have no control and if they go under they take your business with them. The timing was perfect, so I started to roll out products and services.
3. Leveraged content marketing and niche-relevant interviews to grow my audience.
My blogging was attracting the attention of SEO agencies, resellers, and business owners looking for a no nonsense company to work with. But, it was also attracting the attention of SEO industry blogs and mainstream media outlets.
Because of my blogging approach (not holding anything back), it led to a number of guest posts on Ahrefs, which is one of the most read SEO related blogs out there. It got my face and name out there to a large audience in this industry, leading to several new business relationships and clients.
I was also able to score exposure on Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Inc, HubSpot, etc. The more mentions I received, the more exposure I was able to get for SerpLogic. Links to my website increased, my email subscriber list grew, and I was receiving client inquiries every single day.
Content marketing works! I openly bash the gurus that preach about it, but not because it doesn’t work. It does. I just can’t stand when they say buying links is bad and claim they don’t do it. They do. They buy them and they sell them.
4. Published regular content and then promoted it via Facebook.
You can post content on your blog every single day, but unless people are reading it, you aren’t going to experience the benefits. You need to get eyes on your content. The more people that read it, the more who will share it, helping your content gain even more traction.
I see a lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking that content marketing is a way to get free traffic. It isn’t. You have to spend money to make money in business. Even though the internet is a huge worldwide opportunity, there is so much content out there, all wanting the same people to read it. You have to pay to place it directly in front of them.
I have found Facebook to be the best. It allows you to really target the ideal audience. I promote all of my blog posts via Facebook. You might be surprised at what type of client you can attract via Facebook. I have signed some of my largest companies because a key executive at their company came into contact with my content on Facebook. The entire world is on Facebook, so it’s my go-to promotional channel when I want to get a lot of eyes on a new blog post.
Also, make sure you target the countries that match your price point. While 5 cent clicks on Facebook look good on paper, they typically aren’t going to bring me clients that are looking to spend thousands of dollars a month on SEO. Now, if you are selling $200/month garbage SEO, then yes, you could explore that lower quality traffic. Pay the premium to get the highest quality traffic.
5. Wrote articles based on trending news, creating viral articles on social media.
I saw a lot of success in taking a hot trending topic and creating a marketing article around it. Two examples are this blog about Donald Trump that has received more than 3.4K social shares and this blog about Conor McGregor that has received more than 6.6K social shares.
Again, this strategy has helped introduce me to some huge clients, many which spend $XX,XXX monthly on links and outreach. Articles that are based around something that is ultra popular in the news are going to attract clicks. It isn’t even about click bait titles, because if you look at the two examples I provided you will see that the titles have the subjects incorporated into the title, but in a non click bait way.
When someone reads an article that has a popular topic incorporated they are more likely to share it, because they want to appear to be the source of relevant news and information. Social media likes and popularity is the modern day currency. As a society, we crave the attention and a post that receives a lot of likes is almost self gratifying. So, in an effort to attract approval from social media followers, people want to share stuff that will come across as popular.
When I write a blog post with trending news built in I know that I’m going to get a full blown army of people that will share and promote it for me, for free.
6. Used a lot of click bait titles when promoting on social media.
I grew my blog audience by using paid promotion on social media. It’s the fastest way to get people to know you exist, and if you are publishing high quality content you are going to attract regular readers. It sometimes takes multiple interactions with someone before they will inquire about your offerings, so you need to make sure they come back multiple times.
The content has to be high quality, but you also need to attract those clicks, and creative titles do the trick. There are only so many titles that can be used for SEO and link building articles before they all start to sound the same.
Here is an example: 10 Must-Knows About SEO & Online Marketing Beyond Links and Keywords
This title attracts curiosity, which then results in a click. If you write boring titles they will blend in with the other thousands of articles published every single day. Writing titles is an art form. You have to optimize them for the search engines and your target keywords, while also ensuring they will spark enough curiosity to trigger a click-through. I can say that I have used creative titles to help pull in traffic that would have otherwise skipped over my content if my titles were boring.
7. Sent regular emails to my list with useful information and discounts.
When you are just starting out you need to remain relevant in the eyes of your audience. I started to collect emails from day one on my blog, even before I had the idea to grow SerpLogic into an agency. I know the value of a list, so I started to build it from the very first day.
In the early days, I would simply email my list when I published a new blog post, which helped me to grow a very loyal following. I wasn’t trying to sell them anything. I was publishing content for the right reasons, and I believe that was one of the main reasons why my readership grew so quickly. I wasn’t throwing in eBook downloads that were trying to sell something and I wasn’t trying to get my subscribers to watch some fluff webinar. I was delivering nothing but value.
Once I evolved into an agency, I decided to reward those people that subscribed to my list from the beginning. In addition to the contact new content, I would share helpful industry news and tips. Then, I would also extend special discounts as a thank you.
This accomplishes two things: it generates sales and it also keeps your list subscribed. If you send out regular emails and they contain something exclusive, your list isn’t going to opt-out. Even if someone doesn’t take you up on a particular offer, they know that there could be something offered in the near future that might appeal to them.
8. Continued to expand our product range to appeal to our top clients.
Our Outreach Product and Authority Links are our top selling products. We could offer these two services alone and do well over a million dollars annually, but in order to constantly grow you need to appeal to your big spenders. I am constantly speaking to our clients to see what they need. From these conversations, we have added services such as our infographic design and placement.
Your top clients are the ones that are supporting your business and will gladly increase their support if you can offer them additional services. Through simple conversations I was able to identify additional products we can offer to not only make our clients happy, but to also increase our revenue. In just one year we have a product offering that rivals agencies that have been around for several years.
I’ve learned that it’s best to simply ask what else you can do for them, rather than guess. You might think you have a great product or service to offer, but unless a client specifically asks for something, you have no idea how well it will be received. Make sure there is a demand prior to investing in the creation of a new offering.
For example, rolling out a full service infographic design and placement product required hiring designers and additional outreach staff. If there wasn’t a true demand for this, I would have wasted a lot of time and money. But, knowing there was already a handful of clients waiting to order, it greatly reduced the risk.
9. Maintained an upfront approach with our clients.
The majority of SEO companies are constantly jamming fluff and bullshit down the throats of their audience and clients. They make ridiculous claims and promises and then backtrack when they can’t deliver. I have always been entirely upfront and honest with every client.
These people are spending a lot of money on SEO, and they deserve to hear it like it is. There are no guarantees when it comes to SEO. Google could roll out a new update tomorrow and rankings could drop. Penalties could be handed down for any reason under the sun.
From day one my approach has always been to explain what the client is buying. For example, when they purchase an authority link, they are buying that particular link. They are not buying any ranking or any guarantee. This has helped us attract top quality clients that understand SEO and know what they are buying.
For example, someone new to SEO might assume that if they drop a couple thousand dollars on a Forbes link they are going to automatically rank. This isn’t the case. Is it a great link? Yes, it’s one of the best that you can have in your link profile, but it’s just a piece. The branding and the referral traffic are also appealing.
Honesty and an upfront approach has probably cost my agency sales, but the people that want to hear false promises are the ones that I don’t want to work with.
10. Listened to the needs of our top clients – we now have single clients spending upwards of $50k+ per month.
“How can we help your business be more successful online?”
This is something that I am always asking our clients, from the ones that have placed a single order with our agency, to those that are spending thousands of dollars every month. I do this because I genuinely care and want to see all of our clients succeed, but it also opens the door for bigger monthly retainers.
We have clients spending upwards of $50K per month because we listened to their needs. They didn’t start off spending that much money. We achieved this kind of growth because we deliver exactly what we say and we cater to individual needs. If we didn’t do this these clients might still be spending a couple thousand dollars a month. Imagine what that would do to our overall revenue? The extra effort shows them you care and it helps you identify plenty of additional revenue opportunities. (Check out the recent 3 month snapshot below..)
You can email each client or you can use an online survey and integrate it into your email autoresponder to ask specific questions at specific times (ex: 2 weeks in, after first order is delivered, etc.).
11. Never settle and constantly think bigger.
I have never settled and I have never gotten comfortable at where we were, financially, as an agency. I am always thinking bigger and always increasing our revenue goal. The moment you settle and say, “This is good enough, I can live comfortably” is the moment you will lose your competitive edge and your competition will blow past you. By always looking forward and striving to reach new numbers, you get the advantage of constant momentum.
Think of it like pushing a big rock up a mountain. If you push steadily, you will keep going up. The minute you stop, the harder it becomes to get rolling again. That forward momentum is key.
A million dollars in annual revenue is nothing to take for granted, but I see so much opportunity for even more growth. I could do three million in revenue next year and still won’t be content. Business is a lot like sports. There are always going to be new players that come into the game and want to take your spot. Nothing is guaranteed and you must outwork everyone else to maintain your position.
I will also say that it’s important that your entire team think this way. I am very selective when it comes time to hiring. I make sure each team member shares my same way of thinking. If not, you will never grow. Everyone, from the customer service reps to the content writers and outreach specialists are all playing to win, and I make sure they all know that they all play a major role in the success of the agency.
12. Used infographics to obtain links on websites that attracted additional free press, mentions, and links.
Want to know why our infographic design and outreach product sells so well? Because it works. We not only sell the product to our clients, but we also use the strategy ourselves in order to secure strong authority links and priceless branding.
Here is an example of an infographic of ours that HubSpot published. Not only did this get us a link from one of the top marketing blogs, but it also helped attract attention from one of our biggest target markets: SEO agencies. There are so many SEO companies out there, and many don’t have access to secure the top links, so they are constantly seeking reseller opportunities. With so many bullshitters in this industry, they are always on the lookout for providers that actually deliver.
HubSpot has agencies all around the world, so naturally that single infographic placement drove hundreds of agency owners to our website. We have developed several great relationships because of that one placement, and over time it will be responsible for several hundred thousand in revenue.
Many business owners experience initial sticker shock when they see what it costs to create a great infographic and secure media placements, but when you consider the SEO benefits (links) and the fact that it creates an evergreen piece of marketing collateral that will continue to drive traffic for years to come, it makes great financial sense. It’s a great overall value, and it has worked for us personally, which makes it easy to sell. We like to practice what we preach to our clients. If it doesn’t work for us, why would we sell it?
Take a look at the screenshot below, this is just a handful of the FREE links obtained due to the Hubspot post example I gave above.
13. Understood this was a business from the very beginning, with the goal of acquisition or sale.
Once I knew I was going to take SerpLogic from a marketing blog to a full blown agency, I treated it like a business, with the goal of an acquisition or sale down the line. Far too many people treat this industry as a hobby or side business. I’m building an agency that will be able to continue generating money and experiencing growth, even if I stepped away.
While we will generate well over a million dollars this year, the real excitement is the growth, which indicates that next year our net profit should be north of the one million dollar mark. While this number gets me excited for several reasons, it’s the fact that it makes the agency even more valuable in the eyes of a buyer that really makes me smile.
I have already successfully exited one SEO agency, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will follow a similar path eventually with SerpLogic. I enjoy building new companies from the ground up and eventually I will get that itch again.
Many of the business decisions that I have made that resulted in massive growth opportunities came to mind because I was thinking long term. It’s easy to get caught up in the “now” but if you step back and look at the bigger picture you will make better decisions that help your growth and revenue numbers.
14. Overcome adversity and fake bad press from jealous competitors along the way, while still crushing records month after month!
With success comes haters. It happens in every aspect of life, and business is no different.
A new happy relationship brings out the haters that are miserable in their own personal life and find satisfaction in attempting to bring people down to their level. A new job will attract hate from people that are jealous and unhappy with their own career. A new car will cause haters to come out and find things to complain about. Experiencing success in business attracts the same kind of negativity.
Most of the negativity will come from competitors that sadly can’t come anywhere near close to you, but will do everything in their power to tarnish your name. I experienced it when I owned my first SEO agency and as soon as SerpLogic started to gain traction and was receiving a lot of media attention the anonymous posts online started to fly in. Actually, there was a post made on a popular website the day we launched. We hadn’t even signed our first client and there was already a bad review online.
You could get pissed off and worked up over it, but it won’t do any good. It only pulls your attention and focus away from building your company. I’ll be honest with you, that first bad review that was posted before we even signed a client got me worked up and I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out who did it. Now days I just let the punches roll and don’t give it any attention. I refuse to feed the sad little trolls.
Intelligent clients know they are fake, because they also run successful companies and experience the same nonsense. That’s the benefit of working with large companies with proper SEO budgets. They understand the bullshit, like fake reviews and online slander, because they deal with it as well. The more successful you are, the more hate you will see first hand.
15. Remained as hungry as I was on day one.
I am just as motivated as I was when I started the agency as I am today. This is mainly due to the fact that I love what I do. It isn’t even a money thing, because unless you love what you do, it will eventually feel like work and burnout will look you directly in the face.
Sure, there are days I get frustrated or have to deal with something that isn’t fun, but that happens in every business. You need to understand that everything you worked so hard for can be taken away quicker than it took to achieve. I remain very hungry and I stay humble, as I know what I came from.
When you stay hungry you are always looking for ways to improve, both yourself and your business. I would suggest you find a mentor or someone else in your industry that you communicate with on a regular basis and share strategies and discuss the ups and downs. These types of relationships will help you stay motivated. Think of it like having an accountability partner that is there to make sure you remain hungry and focused each and every day.
Taking a business from startup to more than one million dollars in revenue in less than a year is not easy. Trust me, I have failed multiple times, but along the way I have experienced success because of one thing: I am not afraid to put the work in.
There are too many people in the SEO industry that believe they can simply work a couple hours a day and just watch the money pour in. The days of reselling crap from Fiverr and forums are long gone. The SEO companies that survive will be the ones that have built up a solid team that understands what truly works.
Don’t put so much focus on “living the dot com lifestyle” when you are working on building your business. Too many people start a business for the wrong reason. If you are only focused on working a couple hours a day from the beach, then I have news: you will never reach that goal. That lifestyle is a byproduct of working your ass off. I can promise you that I would not be where I am today if I wasn’t focused on building a company over building a lifestyle.
I didn’t write this blog post to brag. I want it to serve as proof that you can achieve anything you want to as long as you are willing to put in the work. There are far too many guru retards out there that would love to convince you that their $37/month system will change your life. It won’t. Work harder and smarter than your competition.. and listen to the needs and wants of your customers if you want to build a successful business! It’s as simple as that.
Latest posts by Tommy McDonald (see all)
- How to Leverage CONTENT UPGRADES to 10X Your Email List Building - October 16, 2017
- The Definitive Guide to Do-Follow & No-Follow Links & Why You NEED BOTH! - October 5, 2017
- How to Master Video SEO and Dominate YouTube (and WHY You Need to Start Today) - September 25, 2017