The next guest on the podcast is Jarod Spiewak, , I would like to say technical, geeky, great at automation and all that kind of great stuff, one of the best ones I’ve actually seen in person, so thank you very much for joining me, Jared, it’s a pleasure to have someone with your technical knowhow on the show.
Yeah, I’m happy to be on. I remember you teasing, coming out with a podcast quite a few months ago, so I’m happy to finally get a chance to be on it.
Yeah. I actually was going to do it in April this year, and it’s one of those things, I was going to do it at the Brighton, where you and I were both speaking at the Jonathan Kiekbusch’s event prior to Brighton SEO and I went down there with good intentions but you know what it’s like, you go down there, you have a few beers and then it doesn’t quite work out and then four or five months down the line people are saying, “What’s happening with that podcast?”
Yeah, I just never … You know what it’s like, just other things come up and stuff like that, but I’m in full flow now, so … And it’s, yeah, as I say, good to have you on and talk a bit about what you’re up to all the automated stuff that you do and everything else. Just prior to going into anything like that, just for anyone who’s listening who doesn’t know what you do or where you’re based and your background, do you want to just give the audience a quick description of what you’ve been doing in recent years?
About Jarod Spiewak
Yeah, sure, so my name is Jarod Spiewak, as you mentioned, mainly what I do is I run an agency called Blue Dog Media based out of Manchester New Hampshire, which for anyone that’s not from the States, I’m about an hour north of Boston. Whenever I say Manchester people assume I’m from the UK, which is absolutely not true and at least once a month I’ll have someone reaching out to me and being like, “Oh, I’m visiting Manchester in the UK, do you want to meet up?”
About an hour north of Boston here in the States. Mainly like I said, agency work local SEO for professional services, mainly law firms, contractors, accountants, that sort of stuff. Aside from the agency I also dabble a little bit in SEO and I’m buying some sites up this year, just to explore that area. My background from starting the agency was, I started learning about this SEO stuff by myself when I was in high school, I put it to the side a little bit and did a year in corporate marketing, that was terrible, I’m never going to do that again.
Then from there, I started freelancing SEO a little bit, I got picked up by an agency. I worked for that agency for just under two years and while working with them did various, more freelancing and some white label for other agencies, I was able to move up within that agency and become their lead SEO strategist and eventually as what I was doing was taking more off, I decided let’s actually give this stuff a go.
Then towards the latter half of 2017 I massively reduced the hours I was spending with that agency, and then at the end of 2017, right after the first CMSEO, or the Chiang Mai SEO Conference I left that agency completely. At that point I was working like, I think it was about 10 hours a week, so it really wasn’t much, and then I just went full swing into what I was doing.
Then around, towards the end of the first quarter of 2018 was really when I really figured out, okay, this is what we’re going to be doing, this is what we’re going to be called and all that kind of good stuff.
SEO with Developers Skills
Obviously, you’ve learned SEO for yourself, but do you come from a developer background or anything like that, or is that just something you pick up quite easily along the way?
It’s just been something I’ve been able to pick up, so through school I … So I tried taking multiple different languages and I took Spanish for two years, I took German for a couple of years, I tried learning Russian and Japanese and all these different languages and just can’t grasp it, but programming languages I can pick up, nothing, it was really strange to me. When I was in high school, I’ve always been a big gamer and I found this game online that actually taught you how to code at a very basic level, just basic syntax.
For anyone that may be familiar, it’s just the for loop, it was very low and it was very basic stuff, it was actually based on ActionScript 3 I believe, which is an Adobe program with Flash. From there I was like, “Oh this is really interesting.” This is before I cared too much about SEO, so I dabbled in mobile app development a little bit, I never really got into that. A little bit of game development, but when it came to those skillsets there’s a lot of things like graphics and animation and a bunch of other stuff I don’t know how to do and I don’t have any real skill for, so I really didn’t make it very far with that.
In 2015 or 2016 I actually started a web development company and then three months later I closed it because I was like, there’s no way … Even to this day, I can’t stand doing web development projects for clients. I just pass it on to other people’s, it’s not something that I enjoy, whatever, in any sense of the word. I really prefer it as a … Development as a tool to help my business to use various other things, as well as being able to work with developers very well, but not as a service itself.
Yeah, now just some of the … The reason I’m asking that question is obviously we spoke together at the SEOButler thing prior to Brighton, and just some of the stuff you were talking about there in terms of the Screaming Frog thing and all that kind of stuff, it was really weird, it just came across like you were some web coding genius as well. I’m like, “Jesus Christ, this guy is … What is his background? Is he just some mad coder who enjoys a bit of SEO or whatever?” It’s quite interesting that you do SEO and that’s your core thing and you learned all of that stuff to make your life easier as an SEO, which, that’s even better than I thought.
If you’re able to turn your hand to those skills, and I think many of us, including myself, are not blessed with being able to pick up … Even you’re saying there, some of the basic stuff, you were playing a game and it taught you the basics and you were talking about certain things there that I’ve never even heard of. The very basic things for you are probably mind-blowing for someone like me. I’m an old-school SEO and I consider myself to have a broad range of knowledge and I know and understand how it all works and everything else, but in terms of coding and stuff it just has always, always, always been a massive weak point.
That’s how I’ve never … If I want any kind of automation or to make life easier for myself, I’ve never had the ability or brains to be able to do that, so I think it’s probably why you stick out. For me, on the occasions I have heard you speak, I’m like, “Bloody hell, this is one smart guy,” and I think it certainly does set you above most other SEO’s when we hear you talking about all that stuff. We all love automation, we all want to work smarter rather than harder and stuff like that, and it’s great that you’re able … You’re just, you’re clearly one of those guys though that can just do that quite easily.
I’ve spoken to so many SEO guys that they couldn’t even do a bit of HTML, it’s just that’s too hard for them, so I certainly think it’s a unique skill in itself that you’ve got there. What I’d like to know more about, and obviously you’ve got … You’re doing all this stuff, and you’re a young guy, but what’s the sort of things that you’re automating? What sort of processes are you automating within your day to day business?
What SEO Processes can be automated?
To give you a very high level, anything and everything, I’m what I consider efficiently raising, if something takes more than five minutes of my time I try to find a way to automate it. Now, it’s not always practical automation, it’s not always something that works, and I have travel boards dedicated to just things that I do, that I need to figure out a way to automate. That’s how my mindset works at a high level, is whenever I’m doing something and I think of, “There must be a way to do this faster,” or “I wonder if I can automate this particular part of this process?”
I write it down and when I have free time I actually try to work on it, just because, I mean if I can take what normally takes me eight hours and do that within three hours and then I can either do an entire workday in three hours or I can now have five extra hours to do something that somebody else doing what I was doing wouldn’t have the time to do, because it would take them eight hours to do that.
In terms of some of the things that are actually being automated, to explain a couple of documents I’ve talked about beforehand, and I’ll get into a little bit about how someone could get into automation themselves, is one of the main things that I put out there publicly is my keyword research automation sheet. It’s more of a fancier word than a keyword research sheet that helps you automate part of the process.
It does not click a button, that’s how other word research is done but basically only in the public version, there’s a newer version that I’ll eventually release … What it does is, you export data from places like Ahrefs, Search Console and all these other places, you indicate what pages on the site, through just coming up with your own name for it, like home page, working page, permanent page, whatever it may be.
It helps you sort through that list, organize, post data, select what keywords you want to target and then organize that on a per-page basis on the other side of that at a very high level, I think it’s teambluedog.com/keyword-research or something like that. I think one area where, basically it would be proof that sort of sheet, is what a lot of the automation that are able to be done at a very basic level, is it helps with parsing various amounts of data.
Wherewith Ahrefs if we export a page that runs for 1,000 keywords, well all I’d have to do is import that into a Google Sheet and automatically on the back end it automatically parses out based on certain metrics. The keyword has to have a certain amount of search volume, it would have to contain a certain word or a certain string of words, it has to be a certain keyword difficulty if that’s what you’re looking at. It just speeds that up massively if you already know what you’re going to be doing.
Automating Disavow Files
Another sheet is something that I created when I had to do a disavowal file for a client and basically they had done some very old-school SEO, massive amounts of un-relevant PDM’s, back in 2012-2013, that still existed on their site back in 2015-2017. Had to export the link for the files from Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush, OpenLinkProfiler, which everyone’s got, and a couple of other sources.
Now the issue with this is that there’s a lot of duplication and overlap and I wanted to find where the unique links were, so I just created a sheet that just basically looked at each individual sheet, found where the data would be for the URL’s, where the link was coming from or where the backlink was from, find all the unique ones from each individual sheet and then just combine that into one sheet so that I could see, “Okay, here’s all the ones that were unique on Ahrefs, here are all the links that were unique on Moz.
Again just data parsing another sheet and then I’ll get into how to, someone could actually dive into automation without it being super overwhelming for them, is when we were doing secondary citations. The type of citations you’ll probably order from a vendor, you get 50 citations and then you get a list back of all the citation URLs. Well the issue was, we needed to then check, do these citations, do the links actually exist? Do they link to the correct page that we want them to link to?
Would it be anchored text being used as a URL inquiry? Is the website a click here as an image? Is there for whatever reason a keyword anchor? Whatever it may be. We also wanted to check how many links were on that page, so is this a citation where we just get one link? Do you we get three or four links? Just to keep track of all that. What I noticed was … What we needed to do was take the URL and figure out a way to easily figure out all that kind of data and through a tool called Screaming Frog which anyone that does SEO is probably familiar with, it just allowed us to do that.
What I did was I went into list mode, added all the, let’s say 50 URL’s, crawled them, because this mode only crawls those individual URL’s, and then I exported the outlinks and then what that does is that file contains every single link on that page, which goes into the thousands very easily. Where the automation comes in, is then I built a sheet that you just import that link file, you indicate what the client’s URL is and then it parses through that list and it finds all the links from that list that link out to the client URL as well as the anchor text being used. It was able to automate a lot of that sort of process as well, if that makes sense?
Yeah. No, that was the one you were speaking about at SEOButler was it not?
Automating Screaming Frog Processes
Not exactly, so what I was talking about at Brighton was, with Screaming Frog version 10.0, and this gets into something that’s way more technical in my opinion, is it came out with console commands. If someone isn’t familiar, at a very basic level, basically your entire computer is run through your command line, for lack of a more technical explanation. If you’re on a Mac you can open up the Terminal program, if you’re on a Windows you can open up the command prompt.
There’s a lot of different things you can do in here. People who are familiar with, run Excel are probably familiar with this. You can start on your root user, you can do things like go into a specific folder, delete files, create files, a bunch of other fancy stuff. What you can also do is control various programs and what Screaming Frog now allows you to do is you can have a string of commands that says, “Call this URL using this config file and export this sort of file.”
What I can do is I can say, well if I have a specific product that I’m trying to do for a client, maybe I use a specific configuration file, which you can already save and import on Screaming Frog normally, and then I export certain files. Let’s say I export to see if there are any broken redirects or there are any redirect chains that there are any issues with [inaudible 00:16:10] URL’s. I want to maybe export the internal list to no tab, and maybe I also want to export the images that are missing or text.
Normally what I would have to do is I would have to open up Screaming Frog, load my configuration file, enter the URL I want to start crawling from, crawl that, wait for that to finish and then manually go to each report and click export. Now with the Terminal what you’re able to do is, through a process called alias, it’s basically a variable if you will, I can just type two or three characters plus the URL that I want to crawl, and what that allows me to do is, even without a GUI or a gooey or a graphical user interface, it will just run that program without any sort of interface with it.
It can automatically crawl that completely and export all my files for me, with only me having to press a couple of buttons and put in the front page URL.
Interesting, interesting. On the stuff that you’ve just spoken about there, as someone going, “Bloody hell, that sounds really good.” Is that something that you share with people? Do you give it away, sell it? You does someone get their hands on that, or can someone get their hands on that?
Yes, well actually I wrote a guest post for SEOButler. If you just Google SEOButler or Screaming Frog Automation, you’ll be able to find a step by step walk through for both Mac and Windows, as to how to get started with that. It’s very, all the code if you will is copy and paste. I’m very accessible generally through Facebook and the easiest way to get in touch with me, also by my email, that’s the easiest way to get in touch with me, so if you have any questions just let me know.
That will be a very … I try to make it as simple as possible in order to get somebody started, so it should be fairly straightforward. I haven’t had anyone reach out to me yet and tell me that they had any major issue.
Interesting, interesting, so for people who want to start to do this type of thing for themselves and start to come up with ideas and automate certain things, you mentioned earlier that there are easy ways to do that. Something, is there a tool or how would you suggest people could get into that and start trying to do it?
What Digital Marketing Processes can you automate?
Sure, so I tend to find that automation has a snowball effect. What I mean by that is a lot of the things that I’m automating today or even the methods that I’m using to automate things, I didn’t even have a thought of using those, there are tasks that we do now that, I’ll open it up and I’ll start working on something and be like, “Oh, I know how to automate this, because I already did this before,” and so it does have a bit of a snowball effect.
Once you get started with it you’ll learn more things, and as you learn more things you’ll realize that, “Oh, yeah, on these eight other things I can apply this logic to that, and then now that I understand this I can do this, yada, yada, yada.” What I would recommend is for anyone that wants to get started with automation, start with Google Sheets or Excel, whatever you’re using, I prefer Google Sheets, and look at anything that you’re doing that’s repetitive and create template folders, files, if you haven’t already.
For example, let’s say a task that you do is, or maybe that your VA do is, you go to Ahrefs, you enter in the client URL, you export all the backlinks that they have. You then upload that into a sheets file and then you then parse that list where you’re looking at all the backlinks that are do-follow and have a DR of 20 plus.
Well, what you’re able to do is, automate that completely, is you build essentially what I call a helper sheet, and so you’ll get used to some of these equations and whatnot, but you import that spreadsheet into a Google Sheets sheet and then you create a new sheet and you try to, without editing the original uploaded file, to parse all the data you need automatically. For doing something like that you would … The query function is something that I would recommend everybody be aware of how to use, and you’d be able to do this just with that one function.
You’d be able to say, okay, query the entirety of the import sheet and only pull in the URL’s where the VR is 20 plus and the follow/no follow is listed as do-follow. The query functionality would be the easiest way to do that. That’s what I would recommend, is just to figure out, if you don’t know these functions, just literally Google it, that’s what I did before I even knew the query function existed. I just looked at, what am I trying to do, and I Googled what I’m trying to do and then I found a solution and then I just figured it out from there.
Google Sheets Automation
Anything with Google Sheets is going to be the easiest one, because you don’t have to know how to script, you don’t have to rely on third-party software or anything like that. I mean you can use scripts through app scrips, but I wouldn’t necessarily go that far yet. Just look at things like, even in a more basic form. If you have a VA, go in the export folder, you export a file from let’s say Ahrefs and maybe you only want three individual columns.
Well, instead of going through and deleting the extra 20 columns that you don’t need, have an import sheet and then have another sheet that just pulls in, just equals the entire column of the one you want. All you need to do, instead of your SOP essentially being, export this file, upload it, delete these columns until you only have these three left. You just input the file and it already parses all the data for you.
Parsing data through spreadsheets would be the first thing that I would recommend people automate. Because you’re going to get used to certain functions such as the look-up, query, already formula, which is a good one, if statements, count, depending on what you’re doing, and the various forms of count, count F, count A and so on and so forth. Those main ones, array formula, if you look up and the query will allow you to automate a lot.
Where you’re going to be trying to focus on automating is anything that a VA does, and the reason being is that VA’s when you typically give them tasks, you’re typically giving them step by step SOP’s with very little wiggle room. It’s go to A track, click this button, click that button, export this, once it’s uploaded it’s here, make these exact changes. Those are going to be the easiest things for you to automate because computers work in … For say, basic information, computers work in the same as the actual logic. Do this then that. You’re able to … That’s where I’d probably focus.
Anything that a VA does, anything that is parsing data through spreadsheets, I would spend my time focusing on that before you worry about things like Screaming Frog animation or app scripts or creating small scripts for other things that you’re doing.
Can you use Automation to cut down on VA’s?
Interesting, so in terms of people scaling up their business, loads of people are using VA’s for all these tasks. Do you still use VA’s for some things or do you fully automate everything?
No, I try to automate as much as possible. The way that I look at it, the way that I look at automation is in a couple of different ways. Some of the questions that I get every once in a while when I talk about automation, mostly from people that are starting off with their MLR or it might be that their revenue is a bit smaller, so they aren’t doing things at a certain scale where automation is required, is why do I need to do this? What’s the benefit of it?
There’s a lot of hesitation. This takes me five minutes, if a VA does that in five minutes why should I bother to automate that? The way that I look at it is in two different ways, as to why it is beneficial to help these people or to limit how much they actually need to do. One of which is, let’s say that there’s a task that you do that takes 10 hours for your VA to complete, and they get paid $5 an hour, so you’ll have $50 in cost to complete this task.
Now let’s just say, to keep the numbers clean, that you just double the price for what you are billing to the client. You have $50 in cost and you bill the client $100 for the task. Well, if you’re able to automate the majority of this task, and you can’t always automate things completely, sometimes you just automate part of the task. Let’s say that this now only takes an hour of that VA’s time. Now your costs are $5 instead of $50. Well, there’s a to of wriggle room with this now.
You can have $5 in costs and still bill the client what it used to cost you, $100, so now you’re making way more money and you can have a much higher profit margin while still being able to deliver the same exact quality of work.
Automation allows you to offer the client more value
Another option is to be able to do more with the budget that a client gave you, so let’s say you stick with that, times two, now what used to be billable at $100 for a client is now billable at $10 to a client and you still double it, which means you now have an extra $90 in billable expenses to do more with their campaign, which is just going to be really helpful for local SEO where you’re usually running with lower budgets and where any kind of advantage in that range can help you quite a bit.
Then the alternative is also to do a mix of things. Maybe you take that task that used to be billable at 100 and you used to have a cost of 50, well now that you have a cost of 5 and maybe bill at 50, and you take part of that and you increase your margin a little bit and you also increase the amount of work that you’re able to do for a client a little bit.
Because if you’re let’s say, just to say arbitrarily, if you’re able to give a client 100 points, quote, unquote worth of SEO, and all your competitors are able to do about the same, well if you automate it enough and then you’re able to do 150 points, quote, unquote worth of SEO work, where your competitors are able to only do 100 within the same budget, you’re going to have a much easier time and a much more consistent time, being able to get better, faster, stronger results with the same amount of budget and money compared to what other people are able to do.
That’s one of the ways that I like to explain the benefits of automation and even if you’re able to easily pass things off to a VA. Now, the other side of things is that when you pass things off to somebody, you’re just mitigating time. If something takes 20 hours to do, and you pass that over to a VA, that still takes 20 hours, it’s just that it doesn’t take you 20 hours.
Scaling your SEO Team
Eventually, you’re going to fill your own time up, the VA’s going to get their time filled up, and you’re going to have to hire another person. That means you have even more overheads, which means you have to be able to maintain more clients. You’re going to have more expenses and all that stuff that goes around with scaling a business. I don’t know about each individual listener, but personally I would much rather have an agency that does 50,000 in monthly recurring revenue, with one employee and one VA, than 50,000 in monthly recurring revenue with five employees and 10 VA’s.
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. One thing I do want to ask you though is, you mentioned earlier that one of the options, by using automation means that you can give the client more value for their money. Surely there has to be a line drawn there at some point, where you don’t want to offer them too much value for their money, because you want them to keep paying.
What’s your thought on that, because I think anyone … Obviously doing it your way is very smart and it gives you the ability and it’s not really costing you as such, but do you never feel like, you don’t want to give the client say what would be the equivalent of a £1,000 worth of SEO work if you had to do it manually, because they’re going to expect that on a regular ingoing basis and because you’ve been able to work smarter, should you be penalized in the pocket for that?
That’s the way I would think about it. Where does the line stop? Because obviously your job is to do the best job possible for your client and if you can spend there £100 doing £1,000 worth of work, compared with other agencies, when do you stop? At what point will you actually stop and say … [crosstalk 00:28:52]
I wouldn’t necessarily say you ever get to that point, because there’s always the next step with a client. If let’s say what normally takes somebody six months to achieve, you’re able to consistently do in half time or three months, that doesn’t … I mean the agreement with the client shouldn’t end, assuming that you’re working with clients that are able to scale their own businesses and not have to cut things off because they’re too busy or anything like that.
It’s just a matter of, okay, here we went after these things that are really important to you know, we were able to achieve the result we want, okay, well now what’s the next level? Do we start working on additional pages? Can we discover additional keywords? Can we go into more locations? Can we try and arbitrage our strategy? Maybe we set up one or two more websites for you and we also try to vent those. You can also be within the search for multiple positions and so on.
How much Value do you give to a client?
I wouldn’t say that there is necessarily a cut off where I would go, “I’m giving the client too much.” Because personally, my focus is always on being able to give them as much as possible within reason. That’s what I spend a lot of my time doing, is trying to improve the services that we’re offering, in order to get better, faster, stronger results and all that good stuff. I would say that there’s probably a point where if you’re doing … If you’re 100% putting all your savings into just doing what the client, I would make sure that you’re profit margin is where it needs to be.
I mean if what used to cost you $500 now only costs you $100, but you’re still doing $500 in billable expenses to the client, because you’re just doing so much more, I would maybe take a step back and go, okay, well if we’re, what did we have, $300 in billable expenses as this used to be, well this would have cost us $600 beforehand, which we couldn’t have done before, and now we’re able to make more profit margins and we’re able to do more for the client as well. I don’t know if that answers your question or not?
Yeah, it makes sense. I was just curious to get your personal viewpoint on it, because everyone is different and they think about things in a different way, but no, I think you’re tackling that in quite a smart way.
The next thing I was going to ask you was, you’re doing this stuff for clients and you’ve got this real smart way of working that’s obviously very scalable. Do you do a bit of lead gen or whatever yourself and talk about … [crosstalk 00:31:32]
Yeah, sure, so I just want to …
Or do you simply just focus on clients?
Say something on the previous question real quick. Is that one of the things that, when it come to I guess outpacing the client as well is, one of the things that I also try to make sure that we’re doing from a strategy perspective is before a client even signs on, I generally have a list of other things that we can do for them as the campaign moves on. For example, I already know more services and more areas that we can go into later on, and I would recommend anyone else do that as well. You should always be thinking about, “Okay, what happens after we achieve this goal, what’s the next step?”
Getting into Affiliate Marketing
To your question is, not really, so I mentioned earlier that doing a little bit on the affiliate side of things, just buying up some sites, it’s just the one site, but it’s mostly just been buying sites. I haven’t really had too much of a chance to dive into that too much, so my main focus is the agency, just because I don’t want to not be able to … Not cannibalize my own time if you will, by focusing on too many areas.
It’s more of, there are weekend projects where we’re working on video plate or some of the affiliate plates, but my primary focus is the agency side of things.
In terms of your agency, obviously you’ve got the smart way of working, with how much actual staff … [crosstalk 00:32:59] Are you actually working with?
I have a design which is really only for, if we need any changes to a client thing, we just need something to look a little bit differently, to match what we’re doing for SEO. I have a webmaster who helps me with any cloning sites and moving sites from the station to development or implementing any changes that we need to do from a developmental perspective on the client’s site.
This year we started offering Google Ads for PPC services, so I have a landing page designer who’s just there whenever we need landing pages created. Let’s see, there’s … I’m most definitely forgetting someone, which I apologize for in advance, quickly. Yeah, I mean that’s mainly what’s going on. I have great relationships with various people in our industry, for being able to use vendor services for various individual needs.
It’s a lot more logical sense, whether it’s getting certain things audited or taken care of, or whether it’s these guys are much more skilled at page view optimization or these guys are really great at, I don’t know like citations aren’t something that we do in-house. I do have a citation person actually who mainly does citation audits and then creates the primary citation bank, the secondary citation bank is done in-house.
My goals with the automation stuff is to keep the people as limited as possible while being able to do as much as possible. I mean it’s a game for me, to see just how big things can grow with as few people as possible. I think it would be really interesting to see if I could let’s say, have one in-house person plus myself and if we’d be able to hit a million a year with that, if that would be realistic based on the kind of stuff that we’re doing or not.
SEO Problem Solving
To me, that’s a game and that’s, I mean I love problem-solving, so that would be really interesting to me. Even if we can achieve it, it’s one of these, well, if we did this would be quite amazing so just how far can we push it?
Yeah, I think it’s a smart move. As you say, there’s a lot of different vendors out there who are just really good at what they do, whether it’s a light vendor or time speed guy or whatever, knowing that it’s something that I personally do a lot of, is use different people for different things. I don’t particularly want to go and learn how to do outreach and use Pitchbox and all that kind of stuff, so there are vendors for that, that deliver good quality outreach there and so on.
I think pretty much what is going on in our industry is 95% of everything can be outsourced if you had to, so I think it would be a great story if you could have yourself and say one other guy and turning over a million, I think it definitely is achievable. When the way technology, automation and outsourcing and all that stuff, I don’t see there being any reason why you can’t hit those figures quite easily.
Can you really automate a million dollar Digital Agency with 2 staff?
Obviously it’s client management and everything else that would potentially stick a spanner in the works for that, but that’s down to being able to pick and choose the right clients as well. I think that would be the only real problem I think you would have, is potential, is two guys enough to be able to manage that whole bunch of clients? I think if you’re charging the right prices of course that can be done, but again you could even outsource the client management side of things as well.
I’m sure there’s somebody out there that is just really good at talking the talk and can just allow you to crack on and do what you do best, which is obviously ranking sites and automating stuff. It would be certainly a great story if you were to make that achievable. I think as I say, there’s no reason why you can’t, other than clients really on that. Sadly you can’t really, some clients you have to hold their hands or certainly here in the UK they need handheld.
There is, sometimes you go on and you think it’s going to be a five minute call and it ends up and hour and 10 minutes, so there’s a lot of things that are outwith your control in terms of time management there, unless you’ve got some cool way of automating that, I’d work at doing that.
Getting rid of painful clients
I mean there are some things that we have in place … [crosstalk 00:38:03] For me, I’m very quick to fire clients that become a pain when it comes to communication. If they’re the roadblock and they take up too much of my time, where it’s like, if I have to be constantly meeting with you, if I have to handhold you, you’re constantly having problems that aren’t real problems, I’m very quick to do it. This just isn’t a good fit, because I don’t have the time to deal with you.
I would rather have two clients at half the budget that you have, that are easier to handle, than someone that’s going to take up so much of my time. Just because I’m not there to handhold them I guess. As mean as that might seem, I have other things that I need to do in order to be able to run my business. I’m very quick in that frame of things, to get rid of people that quite clearly just take up too much of my time.
When it comes to account management, some of the things that I have done is, so when we take on clients, we don’t just jump in to retainers, and so our process is that we have a standalone or one time offer that there’s no commitment. It’s just we go in, we figure out what their goals are, we figure out what the issues are. Out of that and we create a strategy around it, we figure out what kind of … Or what they could potentially need, what kind of challenges they expect to face with this.
What they’re going to really need as a budget in order to achieve what the want to do, compared to what they want to have as a budget and all that good stuff. From there, that’s fairly standardized in terms of what we do, because we work with mainly just service businesses where everything is built around there, so it works really well for them.
I just copy and paste that into Gmail and then eventually I’ll probably just have a one-button click to actually email them because I know that functionality exists. I just need to look into the dependencies and exactly how that’s going to look to a client, everything like that. For a lot of the tasks that we complete that are normal tasks that we do, it’s just, there’s an email file, we just enter a client name linked to a file if I need to.
For example, like content, we have an approval process for content, they have seven days to approve it. If we don’t hear back from them it’s automatically approved, just so that the client isn’t a roadblock. What I have is just a calendar that pops up within that HTML sheet, which it’s just natively built-in. I think it’s native within HTML, I don’t think I had to build that, I think that it was just, I just put in a link and it was there.
Basically I click that and it has a calendar that pops up and it’s automatically attached to today, so I just drop the cursor down one day, because that’s the week out, and then I complete that and it basically says, “Hey Bob, we just finished writing four new pieces of content for you, you can find them in this folder. Please approve by this date. If we don’t hear back from you then we’re going to consider them automatically approved. If you need more time to be able to review these please let us know so that we don’t have to publish them to early. Thanks.”
Using Google Data Studio
It automatically already created copies of that for recording we use Data Studio, so we automatically get this pretty long email that goes through, how exactly, what all their reports mean, what everything looks like, so on and so forth. That helps a lot with cutting down on the timing, because I don’t have to track emails and stuff like that for anything that we’re consistently doing. I can just pump that out very easily. it’s something that VA could honestly do for account management at that point.
For other things, I think it’s just a matter of setting expectations, to make them not having to ask those questions. What I try to do is, I have a good name for this, I call it the once and done, if you will. Meaning that any issue that comes up during a campaign, I want to make sure that that issue never comes up again.
If a client has an issue where they Googled something themselves and they didn’t like how it looked, I want to either write a piece of content that already answers that question for them, so that the next time it’s asked I can just send it to them or I want to have a video that I assume I’m doing at some point during the campaign, early on or into an expectations doc that already answers that question for them, so they never even have to ask it in the first place.
That’s how I personally try to keep account management to an absolute minimum. I mean right now I would say there are only two clients that are ever really emailing me, that need something. Because everything else is just handled for them.
Yeah, well that’s interesting. One thing I do want to ask you is, obviously you’re a young guy and you seem to have a very wise head on your shoulders. I took me a long time, a couple of bankrupt businesses and stuff to find out how to deal with clients properly and all of this stupid stuff, and just to get, waking myself up. Who or where or who inspired you to think like this? Were you just born to think like that, logically, or is there someone who mentored you to iron out a lot of these kinks in your business?
Because as I say, for such a young guy, you’re doing things in a very, very smart way, and I’m just curious to know if there a mentor behind that or someone you follow or whatever?
Not really, so I got started online when I was 14, I was in high school at the time. I think a lot of the mindset behind automation and finding ways to do things easier, is just that I’m big into gaming, I mean I’ve been gaming since I was eight, constantly. When I’m done working for the day, I go and I play Xbox for three or four hours if not more.
I’m very into that and throughout my entire life and I think a lot of what I do just goes back to that, which is that when you play games you need to be able to solve problems and there are glitches that you want to find or speed runs that you want to use. You want to try to do things as fast as possible and all these various stuff. There are new methods that you want to discover that are really difficult challenges that you want to do.
I think it just gives you a problem-solving mindset, so a lot of the … Actually I think a lot of it is just I’m wired to quickly realize, here is a problem, now I want to just find an easy solution. I think the drive behind it is just circumstance, I’ve just always been driven to solve problems, go out fix things on my own, do things by myself. It really to my core bothers me when I know that there’s a problem and that a solution isn’t created.
Which is why I don’t think I’m a very good employee, it’s because when I work for companies and I hear there’s a problem, I very much, I want that to be fixed and it bothers me a lot when that problem isn’t fixed, especially when the solution is so easy. Again, I don’t know that was necessarily the best answer, I think it’s really just who I am.
No, it’s just interesting to know that you are wired up that way. I think probably because you’re wired up that way you’ve adapted to this type of business very well, because it is pretty much problem-solving in a lot of cases and maybe with a bit of gaming background and everything else it’s just been a perfect match for someone.
Because I am not, I mean I like playing games and stuff, but a lot of the mistakes and experience I’ve got is learning the hard way and doing all the hard work and stressing myself out and doing everything manually and I wasn’t able to scale my agency up the way, the clever way that you are doing it. I felt the pain on the other way and as I say, I’m just curious to see how such a young chap can think like that.
Yeah, sometimes you’re just born to do stuff and it seems to be a perfect fit and you obviously do very well and stuff like that. On a final note …
Does Jarod Spiewak enjoy networking?
Are you going to Chiang Mai this year? How do you, do you find that there’s a lot of value networking, because I know for a lot of young guys they’re introverts and they don’t like networking as much and stuff like that, but I’ve seen you at Chiang Mei last year and at Brighton SEO this year and stuff like that, you seem to embrace that side of things as well. Do you feel that that’s still an important part of your day today … [crosstalk 00:47:43] and things, and all that sort of stuff?
When I think about various [crosstalk 00:47:48] stuff, I don’t really think about who’s speaking or the topic of the event, I more so think about who’s going to be there. As someone, I’m very introverted myself, but … I’m never one to go up to someone and start a conversation, but if someone does come up to me I’ve no problem having that conversation. One of the things that was really good for me last year is because I spoke at one of the workshop events in Chiang Mei, is that lot of people there were very familiar with me and I constantly had people coming up to me, which to me made networking for me very easy, because I didn’t really have to go out of my way to just introduce myself to someone, because that’s not me to do.
I mean the networking last year for me was monumental, there were so people that, once you get to know them in person, there are things that they’ll tell you that they don’t speak out about. There tends to people that know a lot of stuff that never write a blog post, that never put out a video on YouTube, because they just, if they do, it’s not that they’re not afraid to share it with you, through in person.
There’s also a lot of people with various skill sets. I met someone who was very well versed in the web security sector and this year I got, my personal site was hacked with a very sophisticated means, and so I was able to contact this person, I was like, “Hey, look, I know that you’re really good at this, can you help me solve this problem?” There were various other people, but I’m very good at referring people to other people and so when I know what people are good at I’m like, “Hey, Mr Client here, here’s someone I know that does it well.” Or if this person has a problem I’ll send them there.
I’m back and forth and as well as even stuff like this, I mean knowing people to get on their podcast, I do guest posts, all that stuff really helps. The networking is what really makes the events worth going to. I mean not that I would say, “Don’t go to the actual conference itself,” but I mean the networking is where I think that you’re going to get probably the 80 out of the 80-20.
Craig Campbell: Yeah, no 100% I would agree with you on that. Although Chiang Mai does have some good speakers as well, so I’m sure if anyone listening wants to go to a conference, Chiang Mai is one of the better ones that are out there. Sadly I’m not going to make it this year, I’ve got another speaking event a week later over in India, so I’m not able to make it and I just can’t be arsed doing the whole travelling thing back and forward, halfway across the world.
Craig Campbell: I’ve just spent a month in the US, so it’s going to take me a few weeks to recover from that and then I’m as I said doing that, but yeah, I’m gutted to be missing Chiang Mei. It’s one of my favourite ones and a lot of my friends and colleagues, guys that I deal with and vendors and all that kind of stuff will all be there, so I’m going to have massive FOMO when you guys all set out to go over there over the next couple of weeks.
Craig Campbell: That is us sadly out of time Jarod, but I think you’ve offered a lot of value there and a lot of tips and insight knowledge as to how you work, how you’re wired up. For anyone who is looking to maybe reach out to you and talk to you and [crosstalk 00:51:23] bounce ideas off you or whatever it may be.
Jarod Spiewak: Sure so my personal site is jarodspiewak.com.
Craig Campbell: What’s the best place to … [crosstalk 00:51:29]
Jarod Spiewak: There’s a list on there that I barely ever use, but the contact form emails me and then you have my email, which you can just shoot me off an email or whatever. Team@bluedog.com is the agency site, content gets put up there as well, a little bit more consistently, so if you want to join the list or hear from me some more you can probably join that one.
Jarod Spiewak: Then Facebook, it’s pretty easy to get in touch with me on Facebook. Well, I’ll probably get your message, but I do check it out. I’m really not on a social media site aside from Facebook and then recently I started a YouTube channel which I’ll hopefully get a couple more videos on it eventually. Yeah, so either emailing me or Facebook is really the easiest one.
Craig Campbell: No worries, Jarod, thank you very much and I hope you have a good trip in Chiang Mai.
Jarod Spiewak: No worries.
Read more: craigcampbellseo.com