REAL TALK: HOW TO START YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING EMPIRE

This was my presentation at the SEO Shots V event, held in A Space, Makati in October 2016.

I haven’t written a new post for myself (as myself?) in years. I’ve spent the past 5 years (since I first put up my website and starting getting offers) working on client sites. Now that my team is pretty capable of handling things by themselves, I have some time on my hands, and it’s time for me to connect with the people on the interwebs again.

Anyway, the SEO Shots V event was presented by the SEO Organization of the Philippines to people who were interested in Search Engine Optimization as a field and/or as a possible career. Most of the attendees at this event were either link builders, writers, social media managers, and business owners.

(I spoke before Jason Acidre. Experience has taught me to speak to the crowd before they get too lost in his advanced digital marketing strategies. He should really bring a nurse around to attend to the high-altitude nosebleeds he leaves in his wake. Check out his blog at kaiserthesage.com)

Introduction

Hi, I’m Bingo Ventura.

I’ll give you a quick backgrounder regarding who I am, and what I know, so you have a better idea of what you can get from this talk.

I started working in the digital marketing industry in 2007, when I returned from Seoul, Korea where I was an assistant manager of a Korean Hagwon. (Which is basically an English academy, where American and Canadian teachers taught Korean students English.)

I had no idea that I would one day be a digital marketer, but a strange request from a former business partner pushed me into the field. He asked that I become a consultant to his online business, which was then simply online research writing for antivirus companies. I tried teaching his staff how to write these reports properly, but in the end, I decided to stop being his consultant and proposed that I become his contractor.

This meant that I would do the job myself, rather than teach others how to do it. I learned that English is something that you simply can’t teach in a short period of two to three months, even if we met twice or thrice weekly. I started by writing these descriptions myself, so I knew exactly what was needed, then I took on the role of managing editor for the small team I built.

Over the next couple of years, this team I built grew from 3 people to more than 30 people. This marked my initial foray into the world of digital marketing. Since then I’ve evolved into being an online marketing consultant with the “degrees” of Content Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, PPC, and Outsourcing Consultancy under my belt.

I Learned SEO Through Osmosis.

Online writing has and will always be a lucrative way to earn money online. I’m sure if you’ve read any SEO forums/websites, you’ve probably heard/seen the saying ‘Content is King’? Well, there are millions of websites out there, and all your SEO clients will need content. While I was busy providing high-quality content to clients who needed them in bulk, I started coming across the terms keyword and keyword density.

I had no idea what this meant at that time (this was around 2008). I also started to notice the term SEO being thrown around, but I didn’t really pay any attention to it. I (used to and still) speak to my clients on a weekly basis, and during one of these discussions, the term SEO was explained to me. My client talked about Search Engine Optimization, and what was done to optimize websites to rank properly. Onsite and Offsite (link building) Optimization.

When he told me this, I realized that I knew exactly what he was talking about. (Well, maybe not in the same words.) I knew about these concepts and what they meant, and what they do to help a website. I knew these things because of the different conversations I had been having with my other clients and peers.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already an SEO.

I learned it through osmosis.

os·mo·sis
äzˈmōsəs,äsˈmōsəs/
noun
  1. a process by which molecules of a solvent tend to pass through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one, thus equalizing the concentrations on each side of the membrane.
  2. the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.
    “what she knows of the blue-blood set she learned not through birthright, not even through wealth, but through osmosis”

 

The point of this section is that you are, or rather, YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR FRIENDS KNOW.

If you hang out with SEO/PPC/Digital Marketing gods experts, you get better at understanding what they do, and you start to think in a certain way towards digital marketing.

So, SOCIALIZE.

Get to meet the people in the digital marketing industry, find out what they think.

I think most of us are pretty friendly and approachable.

The Two Paths To Becoming An SEO.

There is a reason why I didn’t pursue becoming an SEO when I first heard about the field. I thought to be an SEO strictly meant being a higher level of web developer. From what I understood then, SEO meant being able to code the optimization into the websites, so Google can understand what’s what, and proclaim that particular website the winner for that SERP.

It’s not.

SEO is also about content, and how the proper content can climb the SERPS. I slowly understood how large the role of a content broker was to the field of SEO. All SEO work stems from the content that will be used, but again it’s not everything. How the content is planned, structured, and marketed also has to be considered.

If you can only create content, you’re a writer.

So there’s really no ONE way to become an SEO consultant. You can’t become an SEO consultant by just creating great content because if the content is good, but it isn’t structured, optimized with the proper keywords and weights, and marketed properly…well, it is just content.

If you know all the structures, can figure out all the keywords to target, can make a targeted list of prospects, but you don’t have the content to convert them? It’s also just as incomplete.

If you only know how to do the research, but can’t make the content you need to make conversions? You’re a link builder.

Being a link builder or a writer is one step on the path to becoming a full-fledged SEO consultant/director. Each has to learn the other’s skill set to graduate to the position of SEO Consultant.

And, when you graduate from the playing field of SEO consultants, you can take the stage as an SEO Director.

What makes an SEO Director different from a normal SEO?

Campaigns.

A marketing campaign is all about what direction the marketing efforts of a brand will go. This covers the structuring of the content to be created (Content Planning), the creation and enhancement of the content (graphics, features), the content marketing, and the reporting.

Aaaaaand, lest we forget… as an SEO Director, your budget per property you handle? Well, think about how much the writer, editor, graphic artist, link builder, web developer of a project gets paid…add it all together (and multiply it?) and you’ll get some idea how much these projects are worth.

Everyone in the digital marketing industry handles a percentage of this equation.

Okay, So You Have Skills….Now What?

(Or When Bingo Actually Starts Talking About How To Build A Digital Marketing Empire)

Now you have skills. You’re an accomplished SEO or Content Manager, you’re happy with your job (Or Not), and you’re thinking what your future will be like.

What are your options?

For you to break free of your salary cap, and to possibly earn enough to quit your job and go into business on your own, you need your own clients.

What do you do now?

Answer?

Fix your Reputation.

I get clients through referral now. I don’t market my services, I have some websites up, but I rarely update them. This happens when you take care of your clients and maintain an overall ‘pristine’ reputation.

Happy clients tend to talk about their favorite consultant to their online friends (your possible/future clients).

“Hey, this guy is pretty switched on when it comes to Content / SEO / Web Development / PPC…I’ll introduce you…”

This is great, and it also allows people at our level to say no to clients.

All clients will generally take up the same amount of time.

When you have options, it becomes more of an “is it a good deal/setup for me” type of question. (Who pays better?/Easier to work with?)

For some people, the question is, “is it interesting?”

But, let’s talk about you again, and how this is important to your career.

REAL LIFE LESSON: You will never have a perfect reputation.

This is usually due to one of three reasons:

  1. There are clients who are just dreaming about what they expect you to do for the money they give you. (#1 in SERPS or $100,000 in sales for $500/month)
  2. There are clients that will just not be happy. This is something that shouldn’t bother you so much. Let me clarify this. Sometimes, some clients will not be happy with your work. And you can’t do anything about it.If it happens, apologize and fix things as well as you can. If that doesn’t work, keep moving forward.
  3. You don’t really have a reputation yet. But don’t let this little thing get you down. If you don’t have a perfect reputation, don’t worry about it. It just means that you should meet more people who can get you more clients.

Focus on what you can, and that is to make new connections.

These events are pretty powerful because you get to meet amazing people.

People who can inspire you, people who you can work with, people who can ask you questions that will make you think about what you want to do next.

You know the reason why I still say ‘Yes’ when people ask me to talk?

It’s because events like these remind me of who I was, and who I want to be.

I remember my first SEO summit when I just wanted to be like the people talking on stage. (Benj Arriola! Woot!)

Me, JP, and Jason at Morcon 2011.

Shit Happens.

Remember I said that I only get my clients through referral? This means I try to maintain a good relationship with everyone.

But you can’t avoid it, sometimes, shit happens.

You weren’t able to hit targets, your client asked too much, you weren’t able to manage expectations, nagblackout, nawala internet, or lumabas Final Fantasy XV.

Any of these things or a combination of smaller things may keep you from performing at your best. Or, some of these may keep you from performing at all.

What do you do when the client hates you, wants to fire you? Be nice. Don’t make excuses. Follow this formula. “I’m sorry. This is all my fault. Let me make things up by….” This depends on how small the issue is, to how “friendship over” the situation is. Always make things up. Bahala na kayo how you structure things. Because this depends on your business model.

But for WORST, WORST, WORST case scenarios?

Here’s what you can do…IF you can handle it.

Don’t charge them for the last month, or don’t charge them for next month.

This is something you do at the very end.

Don’t do this every time you are about to lose an account.

You have to evaluate things first.

Here are two questions to answer before you do this.

  1. Is it worth it? I normally do this if the client is at least a $2000/month client. If the client pays less than this, it may not be worth it, but this again depends on your business model.
  2. Is this someone you want to keep working with? Some clients are headaches, or schedules or whatever. You know your clients better than anyone else. You know the answer to this.

If you’ve had a good relationship with your client, what normally happens is that they get shocked, and agree. You get one month to make things up to them. The deal is: if the remainder of this month/next month goes properly, and you make progress with the work, you bill them again the next billing cycle.

This has so far seen a 70% success rate with my clients, so be prepared for the risk.

(But if you pull this off, you will have a more than 80% chance of having a long-term client.)

Level Up.

School doesn’t end when you graduate. It’s a continuous learning experience. There are new things to study/test and implement every single day. There’s always something new to learn in the field of digital marketing. And our industry is all about innovation and change. Some people have thrived with experimentation and testing of new methods to optimize.

Real Links.

Search is all about making new connections between websites. With websites that are in the same niche, and are relevant to your site. The more sites you link to, or get links from, the better your campaign is.

It’s like that.

But think about it in real life.

If you look around you, you will see the human components of different online businesses.

Some of these people are responsible for one, or a hundred websites online.

A lot of our success as digital marketers also comes from the real life connections we make with other online business owners or like-minded people.

These are the people, you as a digital marketer, should ‘Link’ to.

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