High-volume/low-touch SEO agencies are the fast-food restaurants of search engine marketing. The “Big-Box of the Search-Box”, so to speak. With their focus on short-term goals, out-sourced labor, and cheap price, these firms represent the underbelly of SEO to many high-touch consultancies. But just like the behemoth retail companies they emulate, high-volume SEO agencies are some of the biggest in the world. And for good reason: they can make a lot of money. Read on to learn three strategies high-volume SEO firms use to rake in those dirty bills without having to wash the blood off your hands later.
Keep Expenses Low
To foodies worldwide, McDonald’s is public enemy #1. It personifies poor nutrition, highly-processed ingredients, and homogenous taste, all qualities despised by the gourmands. But for the average Joe who just needs to grab a quick bite for lunch, it represents a fast, cheap, convenient, and predictable way of fulfilling a need. Likewise, McSEO serves up basic, highly-scripted optimization services at a low cost. And for businesses that don’t have the time or budget to contemplate the terroir of their long-tail keywords, it’s an attractive option.
The high-volume model has limitations, though, one being price fixation. I don’t know how much money McDonald’s makes on each Hot n’ Spicy McChicken they sell, but at $1 each, it can’t be much. The price-point of a flat dollar has a lot to do with the popularity of the product, so increasing profit margin isn’t a simple matter of raising the purchase price.
Instead, McDonalds has to constantly work to keep expenses low and output high. So even if they only make $0.20 of profit per sandwich, they make that small margin millions of times per day. And that doesn’t take into account the effect of up-sells and cross-sells either.
High-volume SEO firms work the same way: their power is in their scale. To remain attractive to their target audience, high-volume agencies keep their end-cost to customers low by tightly containing their expenses.
Expenses like lead-prospecting are relatively fixed, so they focus on variable costs like research. As described in our post ‘The Tough SEO Sell You Can Still Overcome’, one of the primary strengths of Recon reports is that they not only reduce the time it takes to do initial research on a prospect, but at much-reduced cost. This is because Recon leverages SpyFu’s extensive database and computing power to eliminate common time- and labor-intensive tasks like data entry and interpretation. Even small-scale optimization strategies require up-front research time and Recon turns what can be a day’s work or more into something as short as an hour or two.
Reporting expenses are another prime target for cost savings. Unlike the cushy, trendy offices of high-touch agencies, high-volume agencies are run extremely lean, often out of call centers. They need an inexpensive and speedy way of coming up with a snazzy and informed piece of collateral to present to a prospect during pre-sales and customers for monthly reporting. Recon goes to work here as well, offering powerful customization options like client-logo branding and pre-formatted templates and summary sections.
Once a Big-Box agency lands a sale, their execution team hits the ground running. It’s critical for them to make things happen from month one because they don’t have a large retainer to draw on or a contract that locks them in for several months at a time like many high-touch agencies.
The representative will pick a couple of the biggest-opportunity keywords and get to work. If the client’s site already has a standing domain, they’ll implement some basic on-page SEO like title tags and meta-descriptions that contain the targeted terms. If the client doesn’t have an existing or workable domain, the rep can throw up a micro site to start building on. Then they’ll shop-out or generate simple content that targets those terms. With that, they’re done for the month.
This strategy is great for high-touch SEO agencies as well. Though you’ll certainly want to take the time to understand the client’s needs and do in-depth research into their domain’s long-term goals, showing progress the first month is great for client confidence.
Approach the early-execution phase similar to how you would for eCommerce clients. Instead of trying optimize all the title tags across the entire site, pick one area with some vulnerable keywords and execute on just those pages. You can use the ‘Keyword Groups with the Most Potential’ section from a Recon report to cut a clear path to the lowest-hanging fruit the campaign should target. Then write a basic piece of content or make an infographic that’s portable and see what happens. After you’ve got some work on the table, you can begin more in-depth research and planning.
K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, SEO
I’ll be talking more about this point in a future article, but generally speaking, Big-Box clients tend to be less-sophisticated and newer to the world of SEO. Most of these clients are small businesses or individuals who know they need to get their site ranked organically but can’t justify the expense of a large-scale optimization campaign. Just like our McDonald’s example: they’re looking for a quick means-to-an-end without a lot of hassle or pretense (or expense). Other times they are just getting their feet with marketing their business online and want to see if it’s actually effective.
As such, when selling to these types of prospects, it’s critical to avoid overwhelming prospects with too much data. Complicated graphics and walls-o’-data can intimidate even the most intelligent prospect, and quickly ruin a sale. It just makes sense for any type of SEO: providing a professional report that’s easy, quick, and inexpensive to generate but that forgoes a daunting flood of information will naturally increase sales success.
Using the ‘Executive Summary’ template within Recon’s customization dashboard makes it easy to hide the detail-heavy sections and keep a presentation simple, concise, and understandable. (Think lots of charts and graphs that highlight their competitors and what they’re doing, relative market-share, etc.) Focus less on the mechanics of SEO (ranks and clicks) and more on the ROI (money).
High-touch” doesn’t have to mean spending hours poring over keywords and spreadsheets. And ultimately, it shouldn’t. Because clients aren’t paying an SEO for research or your ability to fill out huge spreadsheets anyway, they’re paying for execution. The only difference is that high-touch clients are paying for execution and a relationship. Recon allows consultants to move their focus away from ‘knowledge work’ and back to people work, giving them the time to do what’s most important: building relationships with clients and growing their business.
Shout-Out: Big thanks to Dave A.for designing the great logos. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org