Chris Dyson On The Business of SEO Consulting: Learning, Prospecting, Partnering, Client Expectations and more!

Chris DysonI recently sat down with Chris Dyson over email and we got to chat about a topic many SEOs regularly ask about: how do you run an SEO consulting business?? Of course, our interview ranged wider and addressed topics such as Inbound.org, but even those essentially are tangents of our main discussion.

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1) You’re very active on Inbound.org – what was your initial interest?

The main initial reason I joined was because I wanted to discover new blogs and news sources.

Online marketing is a fast-paced and ever changing environment so by not following a path of continuous improvement and having a wide breadth of industry reading you soon cannot meet the needs of your clients.

I think we can all agree that there have been a significant number of changes in the world of SEO over the past few months and I wanted to find a way to find the “good stuff”, and hopefully connect with people who are in similar place in their career as I am.

2) Have you since derived benefits besides satisfying your initial interest in the site? Why would you recommend it (or not?) to others?

I have definitely uncovered a lot of new blogs and made a lot of new contacts by being an active member of the site.

As a slight by product I have also had some of my posts hit the front page and bring me a reasonable traffic spike, something which I had never anticipated as I am still relatively unknown member of the SEO community.

 3) You’re in business with a partner. Why go that route instead of starting on your own?


Sam and I have been friends for several years; we have done lots of projects in the past.

A few years ago Sam setup a digital design business, which I initially helped him with and when I was made redundant a few months later it seemed only natural that we combined our collective knowledge and teamed up.

I think we complement each other well; he’s great at sales, design and he’s a far better DJ than I could ever be. While my skills are more technical so I generally manage that side of the business.

 4) What’s your favourite post you’ve ever written, and why?

I would have to say it is my latest post “Building Brands and Links with Blogger Outreach” not because I wrote a lot of it but because I collaborated with a lot of marketers I respect to write it.

I enjoyed all of it from the outreach, writing the questions and having the opportunity to curate and learn a lot of new things.

 

You said you enjoyed the outreach with the people who collaborated on that post. Many of us dread outreach. How did you make it enjoyable?

The best way to make outreach enjoyable is to treat it as an opportunity to make new connections. If you approach outreach purely as a task to obtain links or social shares you will find that you will be disappointed, especially if you do not have an existing relationship with the person involved.

I think Dan Shure summed it up well with his recent post on empathy and humility.

5) What does blogging skill correlate with that can be useful to SEOs?

I think a lot people see blogging as purely a one way conversation but it’s not.

  • Good Bloggers understand the importance of good copy and engaging their readers.
  • They understand the power of a headline to maximize the impact and reach of their content.
  • They connect with online communities and are often Social Media power users
  • They read A LOT to stay relevant and improve their site and content
  • They are very creative – it’s not easy coming up with new content

The skills of great bloggers can easily be applied to becoming a better SEO

 6) What is the most challenging part of your job in SEO? 

I think the most difficult part of SEO is educating and managing client’s expectations appropriately. When I took on my first clients I allowed myself to be beaten down on price or over promise just to sign the deal, now I treat all client pitches as a two way process. They are selling themselves to me as much as I am to them.

I find pricing my services appropriately and being honest are the best ways to weed out the clients I don’t want to deal with.

 7) If you had to start over in internet marketing from scratch, what would you do, knowing what you know now?

I’ll keep it simple – do what you love!!

I would make sure I specialised my skills in the things I really enjoyed to do & I would definitely outsource the tasks I didn’t want to do or wasn’t great at sooner.

The other thing I would do is allocate a proportion of my time to working ON my business and NOT IN it every month.

You said you’d specialize from the start – but beginners typically need to take any work they can get, to pay the bills. How would you have balanced the two?

I agree it is tough at the start and quite often as a freelancer you will take whatever comes your way, technical audits, copy-writing, web design, link building or social media management. You will take any job going with any clients big or small.

But, being a generalist sucks, the work is rubbish, the clients are often the ones you hate working with and the project budgets are poor. To be honest you will also find that you are less busy, I’m not going to deny it, you are taking a RISK but by being well known for a particular area you will find more work; better paid work.

I’ll take James Agate as a good example as someone who has marketed themselves as a specialist. He has spent a lot of time guest blogging on various industry websites about the benefits of guest blogging as a way to obtain quality links and also to build your brand online. His business has grown exponentially in the past few months as his reputation as a guest blogging expert has become en-grained within the SEO community and I am sure he would not be receiving half as many new business leads had he not spent the time branding himself as a guest blogging authority.

So had I had my time again I would have still taken on the work that was necessary to pay the bills and put food on the table at the start, but I would have invested a lot more time in developing my skills in the areas I was both a) good at and b) enjoyed. I think this all comes back to finding time to working ON on your business and NOT IN IT.

Also, how would you work on the business and not IN it? 
I now take time out of my business every week i.e. not doing work for clients and spend this time in these areas:

a. Strategy

This is the time I spend to step back away from business and look at it from the outside. Ask yourself questions such as:

- Where do I want my business to be in the future?
- Who is my perfect customer & how do I target them?
- What products/services do I want to offer?
- What is working well and what isn’t and how am I going to change it?

b. Pipeline

This is the time I allocate to making sure there is a stream of new customers waiting for when I finish my latest projects. I usually split this time on activities such as social media, blogging and good old fashioned B2B Networking.

c. Education

This is especially important if you want to be specialist. Being a specialist makes it much easier to keep on top of the latest industry news and trends in your area.

d. Reward

This is the most important area as many people who are self employed forget it. As a business owner you work hard and sacrifice a lot of personal free time so make sure you take some time away now and again to clear your head and wind down.

Hope that helps…. :)

Comments

  1. A very insightful interview Chris and Gabriel. I especially enjoyed reading the part about your work ethic and how you take the time out to work ON your business and not simply IN it. I think this is a powerful distinction and one that can so easily slip. But the benefits are clear. If you take the time and effort to grow, stay innovative and forward looking, it will really help your business increase its strength and sustainability.

    Comment by Georgina El Morshdy - June 28, 2012 @ 11:41am
  2. Exactly Georgina. If you only work in your business, you wake up to find out that it's out of control, the work controls you and that you're not enjoying it.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - July 2, 2012 @ 11:00am

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