In November we had our first webinar with NO-BS Marketplace about how digital agencies are scaling during COVID.
For those that managed to attend, thanks for joining us, we hope you managed to get lots of value and insights from the webinar.
For those who couldn’t make it, today’s your lucky day!
Just like we promised in the webinar, we’ve uploaded the entire video for everyone to watch on-demand.
If you want to watch the webinar and unlock the special gifts at the end, then be sure to sign up here.
But for those who prefer to read (or struggle to understand our accents) we’ve also transcribed the main points of the webinar below.
Which Industries Have Increased Ad Spend Recently?
Neil: Thanks Amar, thanks for the wonderful introduction, as well. So, just starting on this now with which industries we’ve seen that have increased ad spend recently. So this data comes from one of our partners, Opteo, they’re a Google Ads optimization tool. If you don’t know them, check them out, really cool platform, definitely worth having a look at. And, if you are a PPC Protect customer you get 30 days free, so definitely worth having a look at.
But, what we’ve seen here is that travel, obviously as we all know, we all know travel had this huge, huge reduction in ad spend. Any of you agency owners out there that work with travel clients, you were probably thinking; “Oh my god I can’t believe what’s happening” back in March and April when everything was going pretty bad. And we saw the same with hobbies and leisure, and we saw the same with real estate. And this all makes sense, nobody wants to move house, peoples jobs were insecure, they didn’t know what was happening, they didn’t want to invest in hobbies, and in anything that was enjoyable for them. No one was having a fun time, no one necessarily felt like they were in a good place.
What we saw on the flipside, was again, common sense like we would expect. You know, shopping increased massively, beauty and fitness increased massively, especially at the start of all the lockdowns throughout the world. When you’re going to be stuck in your house for thirty, sixty, ninety days and you can’t go to the gym anymore, what do you do? You buy gym equipment, and that spend goes way way up.
Now what we’ve seen with this data, with this graph, and what agencies are doing, is a lot of people right now are saying, you need to go out there, and find ecommerce clients because everyone’s moving online. This is the hot opportunity, right? You need to build web stores for these people, you need to bring them from the offline world into the online world. The fact is, from what we see, if that business hasn’t done that now, they’re never going to, they’re not gonna survive, it’s too late. So when you hear people saying “as an agency owner you should be investing in client acquisition, in shopping space, in the ecommerce space, it doesn’t work at this point.
Actually, the best sectors to be targeting right now are the ones that based on this graph you might expect the least, which is travel and hobbies and leisure, travel especially, because travel isn’t going anywhere, it’s coming back. People are going to go on holidays, everyone wants to go on a trip abroad – me included, I’m sure Amar and Lachlan are exactly the same you know, can’t wait to getaway. That just isn’t going to change, and we see that that ad spend is slowly starting to return to normal. It’s not there yet, it’s not anywhere near there yet, but these companies know that next year, this vaccine rolls out, they’re going to have pent up demand.
It’s going to be probably the busiest year they’ve ever had, and for them to be at the top of the search results for SEO, for them to have good strong paid search campaigns, they need to be investing now. No one else is going after this industry, no one else is looking at travel, or real estate as an agency because they all think “it’s dead, no one’s looking at it”. But actually, the opposite is true, so we’d say it’s a really good industry to target.
What I would say is if you do have any travel customers, do look into their conversion data. And this is just something based on what we saw, so we can’t name any names because I’ll get shouted at by the PPC manager for talking bad about them. But we have a major international travel client, a household name, you would know who they are, and when they saw this reduction in ad spend, they actually saw conversions peak, and they were thinking “this is amazing, everything’s going terrible everywhere else, but we’re getting so many conversions.” Actually what they’d done is they’d tagged their contact form as a conversion. Thousands of contacts, all cancellations. Nobody wanted their flights anymore, cost them a fortune, PPC Manager thinks they’re doing great- they’re not, so just make sure that you are actually, yeah, tracking that information, you’re tracking those conversions as accurately as possible. Don’t end up in that situation.
So as we just said to recap on that; biggest reductions in travel hobbies and real estate, but they actually represent the biggest opportunities right now. Biggest increases in beauty, fitness, shopping, home and garden, that opportunity has mostly passed, it’s not really worth pursuing at this point. If you’ve got clients already in that space, great, double down on it, don’t acquire new clients in it. And, overall, ad spend, and ad budgets really are starting to recover, and we would expect around February, March next year, so when about twelve months have passed that we’re going to be pretty much back to where we were based on our data – other than perhaps travel being a bit lower if the vaccine hasn’t rolled out.
But on that note, I know Lachlan has some information he wants to share on the SEO and content side of things, so over to you Lachlan.
Biggest Increase In Content & Inbound Linking
Lachlan: Thank you very much. It’s fascinating, that content. We obviously saw a similar shift, however, our seismic movements came in industries that were perhaps a little bit more prohibited to using Google Ads content, so they had to shift to organic content. And the good news is I’m not going to sit here and read this list out verbatim to you so don’t stress, but the biggest movements we saw here were CBD oils and remedies for all human conditions that were not considered, maybe documented, or western medicine, so there’s a really big shift in investing in those industries, a bit of a grey area. Other grey areas such as payday loans which are huge, huge interest rates, short-term loans. Again, Google paid ad guidelines a little bit of a grey area. One that sort of took us by surprise was digital education.
We found that all of the online education centers started investing very heavily in their content and third-party link acquisition, and we weren’t too sure why, and it wasn’t until I was discussing this with Neil that he had some really fascinating insight into the digital education space, so I’m just going to quickly hand it back to you Neil.
Neil: Yeah so what we actually found for anyone that works in that space – so, digital courses, that sort of thing – that sector actually has the highest rate of click fraud or invalid ad traffic of any sector that we monitor and that we track. It was quite surprising to us, but I think also the fact that it’s so competitive and the CPC’s are so high that it does make a lot of sense. We were seeing about thirty-two – thirty-three percent of clicks in that sector being invalid.
So, a huge amount, and what we actually saw off the back of that was that a lot of those advertisers who perhaps couldn’t get their campaigns to perform anymore, they were moving into content marketing, they were investing in link acquisition, and going down the organic route. On the flip side it has actually opened some opportunities, we have seen CPC’s fall, the auctions on the ad platforms are a bit less competitive than they were, and so it will balance out at some point, and I’m sure people will come back in and start throwing money at it again, but it does explain, like Lachlan said, why we saw that shift over to organic.
Lachlan: Thanks heaps for explaining that, so the final part here is sort of law firms that specialize in employment law because obviously a lot of employees did get it rough during COVID. So employment law firms are really just hammering that specific content to capture those inquiries through.
Now, on the screen here I’ve actually put in some really juicy data. So I’ve got the average placement volume that we’re seeing from these industries of what they’re currently purchasing to move the needle in the search engines. So we’re seeing an average of seven to ten third-party content placements per URL going out, and the average cost of a successful outreach placement is a hundred and eighty-nine US Dollars here, so if you do the math just quickly you’re sitting between 1500 and 2000 dollars a month of link building, and that’s from the agency side, so those retainers that those agencies will be collecting will be circa at least double that, because they’ve got to factor in obviously their own margin.
So, those industries right there are really, really ripe for the taking. And from an SEO point of view, industries that have been impacted by COVID that are actually still investing heavily are; migration agents and lawyers for onshore visa applications because the people are still stuck in that respective country. They can’t go home, and they still need the visa, so migration lawyers and agents are still investing heavily and so were local tourism companies. Bed and breakfast, winery tour operators and luxury accommodation. As Neil mentioned, there is a lot of pent-up demand there. Also, digital agencies are finally getting their own house in order, finally investing in themselves and their own content marketing, which is great to see.
How To Sell PPC Services During COVID
Neil: Yeah so, what we’re seeing is obviously agencies that are targeting those industries that we’ve just mentioned on that previous slide. They are growing the best. They are getting the best return out of their investments at the moment, so it makes sense that that’s, you know, they’re the industries that you should very much be targeting.
What we have seen as well is that standing out from the crowd now is more important than ever. The agency market place is complex as it is, it’s competitive, it feels a bit like a race to the bottom sometimes, when really what we should be doing is positioning on value and value ads, so really standing out is even more important.
You might find you’re not getting referrals in anymore when the clients are people that were referring you are too focused on their own businesses. What we’ve seen agencies doing very well is what we call a “foot in the door offer.”
I know Lachlan you used to do something like this, many many moons ago, where you used to do, I think it was “don’t pay until you rank” something like that.
Lachlan: Yeah, haha, you’re gonna drag my past into the webinar.
Neil: It’s brave doing that. So we don’t recommend that, don’t do that at all definitely, but we do see that these foot in the door offers are quite useful. One we’ve actually seen executed really really well is the free Google shopping listings that rolled out in the UK, in Australia, and I think a few other territories as well. We found quite a few agencies that actually helped their clients to set up the free Google shopping listings for just a one-off fee, so it’s money in the bank for the agency, great. Client’s getting value, they’re getting free exposure and clicks on Google shopping, but it’s also really useful to then upsell, perhaps a smart shopping campaign, or a standard shopping campaign even, when you can go to that client and say;
“Okay we’ve been running this for two weeks on the free side of Google shopping, here’s the data, here’s what we see.”
If we were to do a full shopping campaign or a smart shopping campaign, this is the return that we could expect, and we can always put that into actual, quantifiable financial for them. And again, what those well performing agencies are doing is they’re not saying “it will cost you this much” they’re saying “it will make you this much.” And that might sound simple, but it’s amazing the amount of agencies out there that we see going to their clients saying “it’s only 500 pounds extra a month.”
500 pounds is a lot when their client is not sure that they can pay the mortgage this month, or they can put food on the table. But, if you can say to them “instead of it costing you 500 pounds a month, the data shows that this will make you eight thousand pounds in sales” that’s a much much stronger proposition.
And, what we’ve actually seen some agencies doing on that basis is they’ve been selling – if they’re in lead acquisition or lead generation – we’ve been seeing a cost per lead model be developed quite a lot, so we don’t recommend full profit share, because you’re not in control of the business financials and you have to leave that to someone else, but we see that cost per lead can be really quite effective, and the way that we would always recommend people do that is buying leads upfront.
So saying to clients “we can give you ten legal leads a thousand dollars or fifteen hundred dollars” client pays you, you then deliver, over time, 10 legal leads by using the skills that you have as an agency in-house to generate those leads. So, your PPC managers can spin up landing pages, can run ad campaigns for them and so on, and that can be really powerful, especially if you’ve got one or two leads you can generate just on your own, off your own back, and then send those leads to five, six local companies in that space, for free, don’t charge them anything.
“Here’s an example of what we can do.”
You send those to five different companies, you will get at least one client out of that, without a doubt you will, because if you’re selling leads and you’re only paying when you get a lead, that company knows they can close twenty five percent, sorted. It’s simple maths, it works out.
We also recommend showing real value over other agencies here, so I think this is something that Lachlan is going to touch on a bit more, but transparency is key. It’s more important than ever at this point, and if you’re not being fully transparent with your clients, they are going to go somewhere else. I’m sure everyone on this call is a fantastic transparent agency which is great, I know some of our clients are on here, and they’re all fantastic, but in the agency world, it isn’t always like that, it’s not always transparent.
If you can stand out by being transparent, you will build a great reputation, you will get great clients, and you will make good money. That means things like providing real-time dashboards to your clients, you can get something like Cyfe for about 30 dollars a month for a full white label solution on it. You can then provide real-time interactive dashboards to your clients, they can see all their data in real-time, they can see exactly what they’re paying for, which clicks they’re paying for, how much it’s costing them. That’s really important to them when every single penny counts, and that’s the value add that you can give. You can use fraud protection for all monitoring tools like PPC Protect, really shameless self-plug there but I got the opportunity so why not, and overall just being fully transparent like we say.
We really need to make sure that we’re taking the clients best interests at heart here, and we’re showing them exactly what they’re getting from us.
How To Sell SEO Services During COVID
Lachlan: Definitely. Transparency, as you mentioned, is the key, and I’ve got a note here, you said clients need to see exactly what they’re paying for. Traditionally with SEO, clients never really saw what they were paying for, and if their rankings and traffic didn’t come through then, it would sort of create a bit of resentment between the agency and the client. So in 2020 and 2021 onwards, transparency upfront – and I know agencies struggle to educate clients, and like you said it can feel like a race to the bottom.
Building authority comes from good quality content and third-party referring inbound links, then all of a sudden you’re shifting the conversation out from like a dopamine rush;
“Hey if you pay us, you’ll get ranking, and you’ll make money.”
Right, because that’s just a sure-fire way to failure, so if you educate them on the first part, then you are able to set expectations with your customers. So, once you’ve explained how to build authority, you can then pull some competitor research on their competitors, because all small business owners love to know what their competitors are up to, and then you can set those expectations on how much content they need to start posting on their website, what that content looks like, you can educate them on the technical on-page side of things, and then also how many third-party inbound links you need to start acquiring for them or earning for them every month. So then you’ve shifted that conversation from just “here make money online” to “I’m actually going to grow your business and your customer base in this tangible manner where our KPI’s are set, and you’re not just judging me on rankings, traffic and money increasing in your bank account.
So how do you do that? Well, you build a retainer model hybrid, trying to tell SEO agencies that they need to can the retainer model is just not possible, so the way we’ve seen successful agencies roll this out is they split the strategy and the content and the on-page, and then the off-page, so this gives your customers a really good opportunity to say, invest in the first three months in getting their website set up correctly, or if their websites terrible you can upsell them into a new one, and then from month three onwards you have a further budget for content and those third-party links, so then everything is broken down into blocks, and your clients know exactly what they’re paying for.
That is the key to selling SEO that we’re seeing in 2020 and 2021 onwards. The flipside of this is that by adding all this value in such a transparent manner, you’ll become invaluable to your client, and It makes it very hard for them to leave, so how do you become invaluable? You keep adding as much value to their business as possible, and get as much of your service offerings to them, so you want to turn that relationship into something where you’re adding so much value to their business that they can’t actually leave you, right so I guess that’s another perfect segue back to you Neil. How are you seeing your clients cross-selling PPC to their existing SEO clients to add as much value to the ecosystem and retain them for longer?
Cross Selling New PPC Services To SEO Clients
Neil: Right so what we’ve seen with cross-selling PPC over to SEO clients – some of this we touched on in the earlier slides – if you imagine for these points we’re talking about an SEO client you have that has never spent on PPC, right so they have no PPC campaigns running and you want to get them running PPC campaigns, not only because it generates revenue for the agency, which is obviously the ultimate goal, but because you know it’s going to give value for that client, and that they can make more revenue from it.
So like we touched on, we have setup fees for free google shopping listings which we can then use to show the client the data, show the client the expected ROI and push towards smart shopping, push toward standard shopping campaigns and so on. That’s great if you’re working with an e-commerce client. Obviously like we mentioned before, new e-commerce vs traditional business clients trying to move them into e-commerce, not really going to happen at the moment, but if you’ve already got one, fantastic, push down that.
Custom dashboards, fantastic opportunity. On the SEO side, I think every agency out there has some sort of rank tracking tool that they use. We always suggest that you are transparent with these, that you show these to your clients, you show them what their rankings are in real time, as long as you educate them on how to interpret that data, but that can be a really really powerful upsell for PPC, because we can use both sides of it, so if we have just started an SEO campaign we’re on page two, where nobody looks, so we’re in position seven or eight on page one where we’re getting five percent of the clicks. We can go to a client, and we can say to them;
“We need to run a PPC campaign on these keywords because we’re not being found, we need to get above the fold, and as we, over time, increase the rankings with the SEO campaign, we pull the PPC campaign back to compensate for that, and actually overall spend is pretty much the same, we’re just putting it in different channels and getting better results for that.
On the flip side, if you’re already doing very well for the client and they’re ranking position one, position two, this is an opportunity to go to them and say;
“let’s dominate above the fold, let’s rank position one” which in some results of some pages is the only result you’re seeing above the fold now, you’ve got four ads, you’ve got a knowledge graph, or you’ve got a Frequently Asked Questions, and then you’ve got the first organic result. So you’ve ranked number one, people still really aren’t gonna click you as often as they used to, but you can then rank in the paid pack as well, and you can bring in a lot more traffic that way. You’re dominating the SERPs for your client, you’re bringing even more revenue back for them.
Retargeting is an area that so many neglect, whether it’s because they’re not creative, they’re analytical, they don’t want to do the creative assets, I’m not entirely sure, but there’s a huge opportunity here to tie your SEO campaigns in with retargeting. When you’re doing an SEO campaign, you’re not creating content for the sake of creating content, you’ve got a goal, there’s always a goal behind that content creation, and it’s part of a funnel.
Retarget the people with display ads, dynamic display ads, whatever you want to us, that are coming into that funnel to bring them back into it further down, qualified traffic, it’s cheap, and it’s a great way to show your clients that you’re building on the success of the SEO campaigns, and like Lachlan mentioned, a lot of agencies now are splitting that strategy part out in their retainers, and this is exactly the sort of thing that would come under that. It’s showing those clients that there are huge opportunities out there that perhaps they weren’t aware of before or they weren’t being tapped into, but that’s why they’re paying you, as an expert, to do this.
In the same vein as that, brand campaigns and on the flip side, competitive campaigns can be really really powerful, brand campaigns, super cheap clicks, they convert very well, thirty, forty, fifty conversion rates, you can show clients very easily the value of PPC through a brand campaign.
Now, if the client comes to you and says;
“Not paying for my brand because I already ranked number one” which is pretty much what happens in a lot of cases from my experience, and they don’t like the idea of paying Google for their own brand name, show them the power of a competitor campaign, find their biggest competitor, bid on their brand, be number one – within reason, don’t bid too high obviously – but be number one, capture that traffic, it’s pre-qualified traffic, go back to your client and say;
“That competitor down the street from you, we took seven leads off them this month. We took fifty sales off them this month.”
That client is going to throw money at you when you do that, they’re going to want to invest, they’re going to want to make that business – I don’t want to say suffer because that sounds a bit, horrific, but they’re going to want to make that business lose as much business as possible so they can cement their position as number one in the space and whoever comes out of this pandemic era as number one, they’re going to dominate so much of that market.
A lot of agencies are sort of dropping by the side, and if you can position your client to be number one, then they’re going to love you for it, they’re going to throw money at you.
I’ve already done the upsell so I’m not going to go through fraud protection again because that just feels cheeky, I’ve already mentioned that one, but also partnering with designing SEO agencies if your a pure play PPC agency is really powerful, so if you find agencies out there that only offer SEO, that only offer design work, they have a book of clients that need your services, anyone that’s doing marketing or has any sort of website now needs a full stack of marketing services. They might not be getting it from their agency, partner with that agency, get into discussions with them, give them kickbacks, referrals and so on. That can be a really powerful lead generation channel, it’s what we used to do when I ran the agency, we actually were a white label agency that purely partnered with other agencies, and if done right, it can be phenomenally successful, and so on the flip side of that, looking at the SEO agency side, Lachlan I know you’ve got some data you want to share here.
Lachlan: Yeah sure, and I just wanted to make a quick note here because we learned the very hard way on this: If you are going to run a competitor campaign through paid search, don’t use dynamic keyword insertion in your ads, because if they’ve trademarked their name and that’s what people are typing in, and it’s dynamically inserting it into the ad, you’re in, yeah, so avoid using their branded term, just throwing that one out there.
Cross Selling New SEO Services To PPC Clients
Lachlan: So, cross-selling new SEO services to PPC clients used to actually be a slam dunk, because you could pull search term data and find some longer tail high converting keywords and you could get them in there and it was data driven, like what was not to love?
Here’s some inquiries you’re receiving from these keywords, let’s rank for them organically because the competition isn’t too huge because they’re a little bit longer tail, and deliver that value there. However, this year – I think September – Google stopped sharing their search term data, well, about eighty percent of it.
Google have their reasons, I’m not going to go into any conspiracy theories I have around Google’s modus operandi.
Neil: Money, let’s put it that way.
Lachlan: Yeah. Money, control, power, CIA something something.
So, this genuinely brought a really big challenge to full stack digital agencies who wanted to sell SEO because it made the value proposition a little bit harder because obviously with SEO there is a time component. So, instead of shooting in the dark and trying to work with our agency partners and try fifty different methods of cross selling, we actually just surveyed around five hundred business owners and marketing managers with the following question:
“Is content and link building part of your 2021 strategy?”
And ninety-seven percent responded with “yes.”
That’s a very large percentage of people, so business owners and marketing managers know that it has to be part of their strategy in 2021 and onwards. We’ve seen agencies add the value first, so to cross-sell SEO services to their PPC clients, instead of going;
“Here’s some keywords we’ve found that ranked for them” they’re going;
“Here’s a content planner, and here’s what your competitors are doing or not doing, and we can take that market share, and here’s how you come up with ideas and structure and posting KPI’s, and then also, here are some exclusive third-party guest posts and inbound link opportunities that we’ve reached out to and spoken to the owners of the website and they’ve agreed that we’re happy to partner up here. “
So if you front load with the value, again, the transparent and tangible, then you have a much higher chance of success than just trying to shoot in the dark and sell old-fashioned SEO techniques. Again, we decided to ask the question. With over a thousand search engine marketing agencies globally, we asked them;
“When you are selling SEO services to your existing clients, do you lead with a content driven SEO strategy “
And seventy two percent of respondents said yet, and nearly thirty percent said no. We are seeing agencies in the more fast-paced markets, say, Europe, USA and Canada, shifting to this content and exclusive link building opportunities, whereas in Australia I do feel like we’re a little bit behind on that. We’re still very much selling the fifty keywords for a thousand dollars a month spray and pray model, but the market is shifting, and that will flow down, and clearly, business owners are very receptive to that.
I’ve got a few little pretty slides and graphs here for everyone;
Following on from that transparency, look, it’s completely our business model to be transparent, so we’ve gone again and said;
“Do you prefer front-end transparency and manually being able to choose the sites that you have the ability to acquire an inbound link from, or, do you prefer the click and go method?”
Ninety three percent of respondents said it’s transparency that they’re after, so there’s an extremely clear trend here that if you combine all of the industries we’ve spoken about earlier that we know are investing thousands of dollars a month into their search engine marketing with a transparent approach, it’s clearly a product market fit.
Now this is just a little bit of third-party data so it’s not all just coming from us, actually I think I’ll let Neil take this one.
Neil: Putting me on the spot for this one aren’t you.
Neil: Good thing we practiced it. Yes, so this is from Google Trends. I assume most people on this webinar are going to be familiar with what Google Trends is.
What we can see is where SEO is at the moment as a topic compared to classified advertising. Now I’m sure that just about everyone – if not everyone – on this call has heard “SEO is dead, SEM is dead, PPC is dead. It’s not the future, it’s not working anymore.” All we say when people say that is; look at this graph.
Look back in 2004 where we were with classified advertising and how much money was being pumped into that, how many businesses were built off that. Look at what’s happening to classified advertising, and yet look at where SEO is at.
SEO, and SEM and PPC will get to where classified advertising was, one day everything will be digital, everything will be online, especially with COVID and this pandemic that’s only accelerating that change.
So we can see SEO isn’t dead, SEM isn’t dead. It’s at twenty five percent – maybe not even that – of where it could be, and that I think ties in with a lot of what we’ve said today about where these opportunities are, you know there is so much opportunity out there even when the agency market feels competitive, feels like “how am I ever going to get a client because someone will always come in cheaper than me” well they will, there will always be someone cheaper, but it’s not a market that’s commoditized, it’s not a market that’s built on price, it’s a market that’s built on quality, and it has a lot of growth to go. You invest in your own growth, whether that’s through new client acquisition, upselling to customers, or it’s doing your own SEO and your own PPC as an agency, which so many agencies fail at – ourselves included when we used to have an agency, we weren’t particularly good on that front, but you can just see the opportunity that’s there, and there is a massive massive growth opportunity here, and the people who are innovative, who are leading the pack and who are taking those opportunities are the agencies that are going to survive, they’re the ones that are going to be the highest performing, and they’re the ones that are going to be worth the most money at the end of the day.
Lachlan: Yep, correct. I believe that what we’re seeing now is the intersection of old and new, and that the agencies that actually really build a well thought out strategy that combines multiple traffic sources, and they really put in the effort to build a great offer for their clients and a great hook, and educate them, the long-term plan for growth is, as we see here on this graph, has the potential to be a very successful one for the agencies that adopt that.
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