Side Hustle Stories: The brilliant way to make side money with SEO

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Jamie Marsden

Jamie built (and sold) a successful SEO company

This article is part of the Side Hustle Stories.

Sometimes finding a lucrative side hustle is simply a matter of looking at opportunities in a slightly different way.

Jamie Marsden is an experience search engine marketer.

Now, he is about to reveal a brilliant strategy for using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to create a successful side hustle that your clients will love.

Take it away, Jamie.

The back story

1988, Liverpool Umbrella Company.

It was an absolute gold mine, but only when it rained. The brokers in the insurance district of Liverpool would pay anything to avoid getting their mohair pinstriped suits wet.

That was my first lesson in business. Target your clients, know their pain points, and be ready with a perfect solution.

Dejected with the lack of opportunities in the city, I left Liverpool in 1998 and hopped over to the USA.

On my travels, I was introduced to the Internet. I’d love to say that I saw the potential, that I saw where it was going, but the truth is that I just saw a bunch of problems. However, as I said before, where there are problems there are always people willing to pay for solutions.

On my return to the UK I started to look at ways that I could earn from the web. What kind of solutions could I sell? This led me to the world of SEO.

I started Better Search Marketing in early 2000 and grew it successfully for a further 10 years.

Last year I was offered an exit from the business by a much larger player in the market and have been concentrating on Muse Traffic ever since.

What I got paid

It’s a tough one for me to answer as my income was not normal for SEO. My company specialized in a particular type of SEO, Conversion SEO.

We got a percentage cut of any profit made through the site for the life of the contract. Our fees varied from project to project. Our profit split percentages where extremely high, but the way that I made these costs bearable to our clients was to offer a guarantee that we’ll raise their web site profits by 100% — or they wouldn’t have to pay us a penny.

What would give a better representation of payment in the SEO industry — and what is achievable by running a side hustle — is the sort of numbers I was doing when I first started up.

You’re going to be looking at around $2000 per month, per client.

I didn’t hire anybody else until I hit 8 long term clients, but panic was setting in at that point. Realistically you can manage 5 clients quite easily by yourself, without it taking over your complete life.

Getting the skills to perform the hustle

You need to learn about web traffic and marketing if you want to do this as a side hustle. I don’t think that you need to be an expert, but you need to know the basics.

You can learn all you need to know on SEOmoz which is an outstanding SEO community.

You also want to concentrate on learning about web conversion. The best source in the industry is Conversion Rate Experts, who give away some excellent free guides.

If you have a little bit more cash behind you and can bank roll the business for a couple of months, I would think nothing of approaching somebody like Kristina Cutura, who was feature in a previous side hustle, to take care of the traffic driving.

Don’t start an SEO Consultancy

If I was going to start all over again there is no chance that I would create a business like Better Search Marketing.

I personally think that this kind of SEO consultancy model is dead, which is one of the reasons that I got out when I did.

When I got into the industry there weren’t too many other players. Nowadays the market is saturated with people offering SEO skills. Plus, you’re going to have to compete with outsourcers from places like India or the Philippines, who lower the profit margins.

How to avoid competition and still make the big bucks

I’m completely convinced that the reason my company was able to grow at the rate that it did was because we understood what business owners really wanted … profits.

Most SEO guys will bore their clients to death with stats and ranking positions, the truth is 99% of clients don’t care about that stuff. All they care about is what revenue increases you have caused on their site. Period.

Imagine …

Consultant 1 = “I’ll get your site to the top of Google for your keyword phrase.

Consultant 2 = “I’ll drive buying traffic to your site, if they don’t buy or opt in you don’t pay me anything.

I think we all know who is getting that contract.

So instead of the typical model, I suggest that you become an affiliate for local businesses in your area.

The affiliate model is a hard game to be in because everyone is fighting to drive the same traffic to the same offer, but if you took the principles of affiliate marketing and brokered your own deals with local business owners … well, then you’re not fighting with anybody else and you’re selling in to a untapped marketplace.

You can simply send the traffic or leads from your site to their business for a cut of the profits. Its win-win, for both parties.

Educating your client on this new system

The way that I see it, this is just a case of educating the client about what an affiliate could do for their business.

The best way to think about the process is lead generation. The leads industry is massive and far out weighs the SEO industry, but the big problem with the leads industry is that you have to buy in bulk. For example, 1 million leads in the motor industry for $10,000.

Most of the leads are untargeted, old and not that effective as they are mass marketed by lead generation firms. Secondly, most local businesses don’t bother with lead targeting so it is all new to them.

The best way to offer the services would be to create landing pages in niches, such as “Beverly Hills Chiropractors” or “Plastic Surgery in LA.” These landing pages need to capture emails or make the prospect call a number.

If your capturing email addresses, then you use a service like Aweber. If your driving to phones you will need to track the phone calls. Buy an 800 number for each client and then track how many calls go through to that client.

So let’s say Mrs. Miller runs a carpet store. You could build a website that gets a list of qualified traffic interested in buying carpet. Then, you can sell those leads to Mrs. Miller’s carpet store.

I would start out by selling for a cut of the profits. For example, Mr. Smith spent $3000 on carpet and you get 10%.

If your sending 1000 leads per month and they’re closing less than 10% of deals then something is a miss and it’s time to move on to their competitor. Once you’re established then you can change that to cost per lead, which would be more profitable and not that reliant on the sales person doing there job.

The other plus side of building this type of business model over a regular SEO consultancy is that you own your landing and sale pages. Which means should the relationship break down with your client you can just take it to their competitor. You don’t have to be exclusive to anybody and you’re in total control of the solution and the assets … something that no normal SEO can claim.

Note: It would be worth your time and money to consult with a lawyer about what legal disclaimers to add to your site. There can be a lot of laws to follow when selling email list data.

How to get new clients

I don’t believe in sending letters or emails, you’re just warning people that there’s a pitch coming.

All of my clients have come from personal relationships, unplug, get out there and knock on some doors. It sounds old fashioned, but nobody else is doing that anymore which means it’s effective again. Plus, you will find that most people will be happy to just sit down with you right there and then.

My first client, who sold custom made iron gates, gets his iron from a Liverpool dealer, buys his tools from a local tool supplier, gets his printing done by the guy 3 doors down the street.

He didn’t want to receive an email from some faceless search geek, he wanted to talk person to person, so I just knocked on his door and asked if it was possible to get an appointment with him. That account turned into a lifelong relationship that earns over $18,000 per month. Not bad, huh?

Here are some more ways I found clients:

  • Drive to your local business district and walk from one end to the other pitching clients. Our idea isn’t a hard sell since all the risk has been removed, plus with the state of the economy, small business owners are constantly looking for risk free business growth ideas.
  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce. I can’t recommend this enough, at one point we had 90% of the group of our local chamber on our books.
  • Highlight the problem to every business owner you talk with. Print out a screen shot of the search results and showing their competitors above them, draw a big red ring around it, nothing gets the blood boiling like seeing there competitors out doing them.
  • Give masses of free advice, reciprocity always works.

The best tip that I can give you is that if you come across like corporate Joe then people will always treat you like a company, if you come across like yourself (just a regular guy or girl out to make a buck with their talent) people will treat you like a knowledgeable friend.

7 Responses to Side Hustle Stories: The brilliant way to make side money with SEO

  1. Imtiaz Nabil says:

    Thank you, Jamie! An intense article. Some of the suggestions are simply brilliant! The difference between pitching to a corporate Joe and a regular Joe is so true, yet we regularly manage to fall into this slipup. The whole world is our audience, the trick is in making the distinction between them and our target entities. Acquiring the local Chamber Of Commerce membership is a rock-solid advice. I particularly took delight on the instance of printing out the search results showing the competitors above and red-marking them – that is a very smart psychological maneuver!

  2. Imtiaz Nabil says:

    On another note, the link associated with Muse Traffic is sadly not really going anywhere.

  3. Fin says:

    Very inspiring article. Amazing write ups. All I can say is the best. Keep on posting.

  4. David Graves says:

    One of the better guest posts here. The magic bullet is being a human and offering a no-risk deal.
    Sad how few will take this to heart.

  5. Nice post, when you create the landing pages do you recommend using a third party name or the clients name? When you create the landing pages, is SEO your primary traffic source? And, so I assume you’ve had success generating enough leads in just one city (or a couple surrounding cities)? Thanks!

  6. Freeman says:

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.

    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

    • James Clear says:

      Hi Freeman. Welcome to Passive Panda. It’s nice to have you around.

      My articles get syndicated on Yahoo from other sources. I’ve never actually written an article for Yahoo.

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