How to Hire an SEO Consultant or Agency (E111)

  • John Doherty
  • Founder of Credo


John Doherty is the founder of Credo, where they connect businesses with the right marketing provider from Credo’s exclusive network. Since 2015 they’ve helped over 3,000 brands, including some of the world’s most well known, work with great marketing firms.




Charles:                        00:00                In this episode of the Business of eCommerce. I talked with John Doherty about how to hire an SEO agency. This is a business of eCommerce, episode one 11 welcome to the business of eCommerce to show the helps eCommerce retailers start, launch and grow their eCommerce business. I’m your host, Charles Palleschi, and I’m here today with John Doherty. John is the founder of Creo where they connect businesses with the right marketing provider from cruise exclusive network. Since 2015 they’ve helped over 3000 brands work with great marketing firms. I asked John on the show today talk about what you should look for when you’re hiring an SEO agency, so Hey John, how are you doing today?

John:                            00:44                Good, Charles, how are you? Thanks for having me on.

Charles:                        00:46                Yeah, great to have you on. Super interesting to talk about this side of SEO, right on working with a consultant and how to actually kind of do like the high level of when you should be doing it, if she should be doing it, and kind of all the strategy around that. I’ve talked to a bunch of guests in the show on kind of the tactical SEO, but this is kind of a different level, right? You kind of focus more on when to work with a consultant, how to work with them. Is that kind of what you guys focus on at credo?

John:                            01:14                Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I actually come from the SEO world. I’ve been in SEO doing SEO for about a decade now for the last four years has been helping companies basically find the right firm to work with through credo. And so really I’ve kind of more from like being in the trenches, tactical, that sort of stuff. I can still do SEO quite well, but I find a lot more interesting on the business side. How do people do a good job of hiring for for SEO, for digital marketing? Really? you know, I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years. You know, my background is I worked, I worked agency side couple agencies. I worked in house for a couple of years with Zillow and then I’ve also been a solo consultant and then seem 3,500 plus companies come through creative looking to hire. So I’ve talked to a lot of companies.

John:                            01:53                I’ve seen a lot of companies sign with firms and in a lot of companies not signed with firms. I’ve seen companies signed with the wrong firms. And so it’s a, you know, I’ve seen people hire the wrong type of, of firms so it consultants have an agency or vice versa. And so yeah, I learned, I learned a lot of lessons and it’s something not a lot of people talk about. And I think it’s something that we should be talking about more, especially in the digital space as we’re growing companies. Because once you get beyond just you and you found product market fit or you’re starting to get some traction with your eCommerce company then it’s a, you know, basically the question becomes how do I scale it more? And doing that well is really, really hard. And as we were talking about offline, that like, you know, this stuff is really hard and so whatever I can do to help people do it better and give them kind of more signal in a very noisy world I love to do that.

Charles:                        02:36                Yeah. Sq is one of those things too where if you’re hiring some external, they don’t really, if you’re not doing yourself right, you’re hiring some external, you’re not going to see results for, you know, 60, 90 whatever days into the future. Right. So it’s very, unless you know how to hire, you’re not going to know for a inlet. If you don’t know how to hire, you’re not gonna know for a long time that you did it wrong. Right. It’s cause you’re going to hire someone then three months in stock to figure out, maybe we made some fundamental missteps there. So SEO is a very unique thing because it’s not like, you know, a lot of roles, like you hire developer or whatever, someone support someone internally. You can look at the work product in the first couple of days and at least see are we going in the right direction? But SEO is like a very different, it’s very like magical different thing where,

John:                            03:21                Yeah, yeah, no, I, I’d say yes and no to that. What I’ve seen actually is that I’m like, it is, it is hard to hire for, especially because SEO encompasses so much and as an SEO that works for any commerce company isn’t going to work for a SAS company, isn’t gonna work for a services company. And so, so while, while that is very true and so you kinda got to figure out what are the different things that I need. If you don’t know SEO, then you know, it’s going to be hard to say like, okay, do we need you know, do we need content? Do we need technical? Do we need links? Like, you know, what is it, I get a lot of people coming to you saying like, I need links. I look at their site and I’m like, I can’t even load your site.

John:                            03:52                Right. It takes 20 seconds to load. Like we, we need to solve that first. They’re like, no, I just need links. Okay, good luck to you. But then like on the, you know, on the developers side, like I’m, I’m technical enough, I’m technical to a dangerous level, but like me hiring developers in the past, it’s like, okay, I can kind of, so salad, if it’s good, I can sell it if it’s working, but I don’t know if it’s optimal. Right. So I think like basically what it comes down to is in hiring anything really, my question is always who’s doing the hiring? So if it’s like a marketing manager that’s been in digital for a long time and they’ve hired agencies before they’re there, they’re probably going to do a pretty decent job. But if it’s like a business owner that’s never done SEO before, it’s kind of skeptical of marketing.

John:                            04:28                They tried spending, you know, they spent $20 on Google ads and it got no conversions. And so therefore it says it doesn’t work. They’re going to be much harder, you know, to help hire. And they’re, I mean, and they’re actually the ones that I want to help the most hire well, but they’re also the hardest to help hire. Well. so it really comes down to, you know, the background, who’s doing the hiring, the questions you’re asking and and all that. But, but we, we can get into that because I, I’ve actually found quite a few ways where if someone doesn’t actually know what they’re talking about or, or what, what to be looking for there are ways to get clear on that short of agreeing to a 12 month SEO campaign and not knowing until, you know, eight months down the road if you’ve just wasted that, you know eight times, however many thousands of dollars a month you’re paying them.

Charles:                        05:10                Yeah. So what you said at the beginning though, how do you even know if you’re a retailer out there and you’ve kind of have some different marketing tactics, you have a few channels going on, but you are thinking about using SEO as one of those channels. How do you know you’re ready to, or is there some fundamental things you need to do ahead of time, or how do you know it’s the right channel for you to look at next?

John:                            05:31                Yeah, yeah, that’s a good, that’s a good question. And I don’t know that there’s an easy answer. Like most things in business and entrepreneurship, there’s not, there’s not really an easy answer. My question would be you know, if you, so if you have other channels that are working really well you know that, that’s great. My question would be, have you kind of maximized those, right? Have you optimize those? Have you scaled them as much as you can? Are you starting to see diminishing returns? And then just, and then looking at your competition and saying like, you know, how, how are they beating us? Okay. They’re, you know, they’re killing us when it comes to SEO. Right? They’re good. They’re gobbling up all this organic traffic. We’re nowhere to be found on the first four pages for all of our main keywords I’ve got sort of thing.

John:                            06:09                You know, and then, you know, there’s a lot that can be done there, but it also comes down to what have they been doing to rank, you know, how much do we think that they’ve invested in ranking, all of those sorts of things. And all of that matters when it comes to making a decision about whether or not you should invest in it. So let me tell you a story. When I worked at Zillow, so Zillow is, you know, marketplace not not at any commerce company. But they they launched basically based off of PR and there’s estimate right there, their data play for basically putting a price tag on all the houses in America. And I, I know this story cause I, I used to work, I worked at Zillow for a couple of years. And basically they pushed really hard on owned content PR, like that sort of stuff, but they didn’t focus on SEO.

John:                            06:51                And what they realized was that there, at the time, biggest competitor Zillow group now owns Trulia. But truly it was their biggest competitor. Truly. I had focused on SEO from the start. And so Zillow actually chose to focus as a company. They, they call us, or when I was there, they called this thing called the play, which is basically what is the, the whole company kind of focusing on and thinking about and as you’re building new products and all of that who basically making sure that what you’re doing is going to benefit that or a minimum not hurt the play. Right. But everyone’s kind of pushing towards this North star metric. There’s a play master, that kind of stuff’s kind of someone leading the charge. They call it a play in 2011 and so basically started staffing up the team.

John:                            07:26                They hired some SEOs, they hired some like builders and content writers, all that sort of stuff. And by 2013 ish, they were based, they basically overtook Trulia. So it took them, you know, a year or two of investment, but they had other channels that were really, really working. And so my question is always you know, w what do you think the w what is the opportunity right? Like, how much traffic do you think your competitors are getting? So let’s look at SCM rush, SCM, competitor’s domain. And you can kind of see what their what their organic is. I think that’s the immerse lets you take a free trial as well. So you can just like log in for seven days. But if they want a 30 day trial, get rush, we’ll get them that. But shameless plug there, but but, but, but, but it’s super useful.

John:                            08:07                I’ve used a for as long as I can remember, but basically looking at like, what are, you know, what are your competitors ranking for? How many searches do that have? How much traffic could you get if you’re ranking number one, number two, number three, and then how much budget is it going to take to get there? If you’re not an SEO professional, you’re not going to be able to do that yourself. Right? So I actually tell people, pay someone, pay a consultant to basically put together an SEO, you know, do an SEO audit of your site. Like what are some of the, some easy things that you can fix when it comes to, you know, technically and all of that so that you can rank, but then also a roadmap for what cures are you currently not targeting that you could be targeting. What links are you not getting?

John:                            08:40                What, you know, what I link constantly. You’re not producing all these things that are going to benefit SEO. And then so starting with that and then basically from there determining if you know, that budget, say they say it’s going to cost you $4,000 a month ongoing, you know, for the next like two years to catch up to your competitors, you know, is that $96,000 worth it? Basically and you know, or could you put that money into, you know, a new email system or something like that, right? Invest in a cart, a cart hook or something like that to you know, to, to improve your conversions. And, you know, an abandoned cart reclamation and all of that. But, but so that’s where I tell people to start. If you’re like, you’re not sure, should I invest in this?

John:                            09:17                Should I not? What’s it gonna take? You know, what am I, who am I going to need to hire all of that? I say start with a w w with a, a basically an audit and a roadmap to, to kind of get you get you going and at least tell you whether or not you should invest in it. Right? Better to do that and to spend $3,000 and two to get this, like get this audit and roadmap done and determined that you’re not, that you shouldn’t invest in it yet. Then pay someone $3,000 a month for six months and then determine that it’s not going to get you the return that you wanted. Does that make sense? Yes.

Charles:                        09:47                Most. So this whole audit and roadmap process, is that something that most of the consultants offer before? Like, cause a lot of times, like you said, you go to someone and they want a six month retainer, a 12 month, whatever that is. Do most of them offer the audit and roadmap through the same consultant or agency before you signed up for that? Is that like a paid thing or how does that typically work?

John:                            10:07                Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a, it’s kind of all over the map. I’ve seen it all. But what, what I tell people to do is, especially when it comes to retainers, I tell people don’t sign a six to 12 month you know, contract if you don’t know, like kind of what you’re even going to get from it. Right? Or like what your opportunity is or any of that. I actually tell people don’t sign 12 month retainers. I say sign an initial three month retainer. Make sure that you’re starting to get results and that you’re working well with the, with the person that you’ve hired and then go month to month ongoing. So I, I literally tell people, I’m like, don’t sign a 12 month retainer, you know, off the bat. You need to take an investment mindset into SEO, but you shouldn’t.

John:                            10:44                But like committing to 12 months up front with, with someone you don’t know is, is kinda crazy. I feel the same way about hiring full time by the way. But when it comes to you know, audits and roadmaps, a lot of a lot of consultants and agencies do that. A lot of H one thing you have to watch out for is there are a lot of agencies that are gonna that are gonna offer to do that for free in order to try to build your business. And I always in order to try to win your business, sorry for the ongoing you know, for a 12 month retainer and I always say, you know, you, you get what you pay for. I would rather pay someone to build out, you know, to do the audit, do the strategy, you know, the roadmap, all of that.

John:                            11:22                So that, you know, I, I basically know that like, they, I mean they are incentivized you know, payment wise to get me the right thing. You know, and, and, and to do, to do their best job. And if they’re then the right person to execute on that, that’s great. But sometimes you get an, you get an audit and roadmap done. It’s like you need [inaudible] Nicole, you need analytics, you need content produced both like, you know, top of funnel content and you need downloadable content. You need all of that. You need links built, you need PR, all of that. No solo consultants can be able to do that for you, right? So if you hire a consultant to do that, then you need to hire an agency to actually execute upon it. So you have to ask yourself, do I need the strategy that I’m then going to, or the roadmap that I’m then going to hire someone internally to kind of execute upon or like, or take people that I already have working for me to execute on or you know, am I looking really for, for the road like audit roadmap and a strategy and services, right?

John:                            12:11                Cause those are two very different things. And so, so usually, you know, usually you need to go to it, especially if you haven’t invested in SEO before, you don’t know SEO, et cetera. Invest in getting that, getting that audit and roadmap done first probably by a consultant that’s, you know, been around the block that’s worked with a bunch of businesses like yours, that sort of thing. And then if you determine that you’re going to do like these two things in house, but these other four, you need to find an agency for them. Basically get them to get them to recommend you know, someone to work with or come to create them. We’ll help you find someone. I like that. But there’s very much that difference between like roadmap strategy and services. Cause consults, senior consultants especially, they’re doing a lot more strategy, roadmaps, audits, that kind of stuff, but they’re not actually executing on the campaigns.

Charles:                        12:52                Oh, okay. Yeah. Cause a lot of that I could see if someone comes up with a roadmap, there’s gonna be a piece of that. Most folks can do a piece in house or have someone on the team that can generate content. Maybe they’re doing all right, like there’s pieces that are better suited for in house pieces that are better suited for completely external, like the Lake bill, whatever it is. There’s pieces that, you know, depending on that roadmap, you’re going to want to slice some off for you. Some for external.

John:                            13:17                You got it. Yeah. And like what should be done. And so like, like development for example, for technical, you know, technical SEO, like you have canonical issues, you have no index issues, you have, you know, parameters and crazy parameters going on. You can control some of that and like search console and that sort of thing. But you know, maybe you need some dev work, right? If you have a custom like eCommerce platform or even if you’re on like Shopify or, you know, Wu or Magento or whatever, you know, digital marketing agencies are usually not development agencies and so they’re not going to get in. They’re not going to be able to, you know, to to optimize your, you know, your legacy. Magento install, right? The best recommendation might be get onto the, get onto the newest version of Magento. Right? But that’s a bunch of work.

John:                            13:55                But their point is they’re not going to do that versus they can create content, they can do outreach, they can get you on podcast, they can do PR, they can do all of that. But you know, you’re probably going to be best suited to have the actual development work for the technical SEO recommendations. Have that done. You know, in house, maybe you have a content writer that’s creating content, they just need topics and then they need help with outreach or training on outreach or you know, whatever. There’s many, many different ways to slice and dice this. And so each, you know it’s unique for every company. Though there are kind of main buckets that I’ve seen.

Charles:                        14:26                Got it. Okay. Yes, that’s a super good tip right there. I feel like a lot of people just dive into the retainer and skip over this patch. And this is what I’m saying is that you could get, you know, a lot more value out of that same the Tim retainer. You get a lot more value out of that if you just use it in the right way versus just saying do everything like, yeah, like rewrite my Magento install. Like, like you said, they’re not going to be great at that. So that’s super good. Yeah. So now once you decide, okay, I want to go, I have some tasks I have to hire external for, what do you do from there? Are you looking at a consultant, an agency? How do you know when to pick one versus the other? Like what’s that pro like? What is that decision making process look like?

John:                            15:03                Yeah, yeah, it’s a good, it’s a good question. And once again, it kind of it depends. It is, and it depends on what specifically the thing is that you need to get done. And, and also like what your team is and, and all of that. So, you know, once again, going back to the, the, you know, audit, slash roadmap and you know, kind of services delineation there as a generality audit slash roadmap consultants are best for that and for services and ongoing executing on campaigns agencies are better for that. Just as a generality,

Charles:                        15:35                Say it one more time. That was actually, cause that was important.

John:                            15:38                Yeah, for sure. So in general, if you’re looking to get an audit slash roadmap done, you know, SEO, email content, whatever channel it is, a consultant is usually best for that. If you’re looking for services, someone to actually be executing on the campaigns, doing outreach, writing content, et cetera, that is usually best for an agency. And usually that’s because you can string together teams or freelancers and that sort of thing. But then basically you’re the project manager, right? As opposed to managing, you know, one, one agency that has the people that are doing all the things. Otherwise you have to go, you have to hire all the people, you know, all of that, all the freelancers. And that’s just not good that, that, that’s really hard to do. Well. so, so yeah audit house roadmap consultants and and ongoing execution on the services of the campaigns does usually best for an agency.

John:                            16:28                And, and, and you know, whether you need, and the question usually then becomes, well, how do I know if I need strategy or I need, you know, or I need services do usually the answer is actually pretty simple. It’s, do you have someone internally that’s doing it right? So if you, like, if you have a content manager who’s a great content creator and is creating, you know, awesome content and they have a team of, you know, concert writers that they’re working with, you don’t need to hire an agency that, you know, to execute on content marketing, right? You might need help with outreach or like training, like PR training or, you know, something like that. You know, in order to, to, to get links and, you know Preston and what have you. But you know, you don’t need someone to execute on content in that case.

John:                            17:06                So really it comes down to once again that like that roadmap should tell you, okay, what do we need to do technically? What need to do content wise, what do we need to do, link building wise, all those sorts of things. And then saying, what do we have? What do we have a staffed internally and what are we putting budget towards? And then what do we not have staffed internally and what are we not putting budget towards that we probably should and we’re not going to hire full time, you know, for whatever reason. Can’t get the head open or it’s, you know, it’s a six month thing or, or whatever. And so it’s better to work with a kind of an outside provider.

Charles:                        17:34                Are there certain tasks that you would like if you had to put the different like SEO tasks in three buckets, bucket one being always hire external for a bucket, two being never hire external. And then the bucket three of sometimes maybe, are there certain things you would, you know, say always like, like for example, you would never probably hire a internal accountant or attorney right? For your business, that’s until your turn size. But for most that’s like not inappropriate things you go. Where would that fall for SEO tasks? Like what you should look external for versus internal?

John:                            18:08                Yeah. Yeah. So I would say, and once again, it’s until you get to a certain size, once you’re over really a w with e-commerce 2 million a year or something like that you should probably look at hiring at least like an SEO manager full time to kind of facilitate all the things and to really run the strategy. Internal. Yup. But until then, you know, working with a, having like a kind of a marketing manager that’s kind of overseeing the different you know, agencies and channels and that sort of stuff. They go deep on one thing, but they’re kind of like, you know, a little bit deep on the rest. I get the importance, but they’re not actually executing on it. I would say that you should almost always hire until you have an SEO manager in, in house who has a technical background.

John:                            18:49                You should almost always hire if you’re looking for help with technical SEO so you know, all the basic like metadata things, internal linking, that sort of stuff, but then also kind of deeper code issues and all that. You should almost always hire an external consultant for that. When it comes to content, it depends. It depends on the team that you have. But when it comes to to link acquisition, I would say that usually you should hire externally for that. Once again, it depends on what your kind of the strategies that you’re executing upon. You know, if it’s like if you’re going for kind of PR level links, domain authority, you know, which is Mazda’s kind of score of, of websites. Which they would want me to say that Google does not use domain authority and their ranking algorithms but it’s kind of their zero to a hundred score versus Google.

John:                            19:37                Google’s PageRank zero to 10. Basically if you look for PR levels, so high domain authority, you know, New York times guardian, that sort of stuff, that’s probably best done internally. With a great story and all of that. But if you’re looking for more like, you know, kind of like guest post outreach and you know, that sort of stuff you know, creating, creating content you know, getting, getting you placements that sort of stuff that’s probably best for a, for an agency and they’re like bigger creative content, that sort of stuff, unless you have a team that’s dedicated to it and you’re able to kind of resource that internally with budget and people that’s usually best to have to have kind of an outside firm do for you. And really, really what a firm, an outside firm allows you to do is expedite things, right?

John:                            20:19                So you’re, you have a marketing manager and they’re like, I know we should be investing in SEO, but man, I’m managing email, I’m managing content. I’m managing like a merchandising on the site. They don’t have time to go and spend 40 hours and do a ton of cool SEO on it. Right. you know, you should pay someone for that because basically he’s going to take three months to get it done. It’s kind of an opportunity with the person internally. It’s an opportunity cost. So a good, you know, some of that focuses on SEO audit specifically. They can turn that around in two weeks, right? And you can start executing on it. So it’s way quicker than if you tried to do it internally. And that’s usually the trade off that I tell people. It’s like, yeah, you probably could go and do that in house, right?

John:                            20:56                But you’re going to have to open up the head, you’re going to have to get the job rec out there, you’re going to have to recruit, you’re going to have to hire them there. You’re gonna have to wait for them to start. You have to wait for them to onboard and then they can finally get down to work. Right. So it’s going to be three to six months at best before you actually get something done. Versus if you work with an outside consultant or agency, you can go in and like two weeks. Right. It was just an audit, you could probably have that done in two to three weeks.

Charles:                        21:16                Well, and the nice part is, and I would say the agency, but say something like content generation, they can work alongside of an internal team guessing, right? So you can at certain times of the day, maybe you want to produce, you know, double the amount of content or whatever. You just want to wrap up. You have that like dial, you could just kind of turn and say, okay, now we want to do five pieces a week or whatever that is.

John:                            21:35                Totally, totally. Or, or, yeah, yeah, exactly. And, and you know, if you need to share strategies a little bit, like say you’ve been investing in, in, you know, content for kind of top of funnel traffic and awareness for 12 months and so you’re getting traffic but it’s not actually doing anything for your business. Right. you know, there’s like, okay, let’s shift a I know this isn’t as like prevalent in the, the eCommerce space as it is in like SAS or kind of services businesses. But then you can shift to like, you know, high quality, like downloadables and guides and you know, that sort of thing. But I mean commerce like buying guides, right? The, the, the 20, 20, you know, ski buying, I’m big scare. I live in Denver, right? Like the 2020 ski buying guide. You know, like all the bait like back country should be doing that.

John:                            22:15                They do invest in that sort of stuff. Right. so, you know, you can start investing in those sorts of big pieces and every year kind of refreshing them and that kind of thing. But yeah, you’re putting your point is exactly right. And that’s exactly what I was getting at is they can work alongside you. It, it can be quicker to kind of spin up, you know, those those different things that you need. You know, bigger content design. You know, the, the, the messaging of it, all of that. An agency can work on that, you know, in tandem with your team internally that are, that’s doing all the other things.

Charles:                        22:42                Got it. Okay. So now let’s say you find that agency, you start talking to someone, you’re like, Oh yeah, I want to go with this person. I want to go to this agency. I think this is what I want. What do you, as far as like the contract, I don’t know if you call it negotiation, but kind of the upfront deciding that engagement, we’re talking about the retainer, that sort of thing. What little what do you call them? Like what safety’s, what do you put in place to make sure you’re not getting burnt with like a 12 month contract, a 12 month retainer that produces nothing? Like what sort of things would you say you should bake into that to make sure you’re safe?

John:                            23:16                Yeah, it’s great. It’s a great question. And I’m, I’m not a lawyer. And so none of this is legal advice. I’m just not an accountant. So no, this is accounting advice. But so with those disclaimers in place, what I what I tell people is you know, if someone’s trying to get you into a 12 month retainer, ask them if you can start with three months and then, and then go month to month on going after that with a 30 day out. So that, you know, some people want you to give a, I don’t want you to give 90 days notice or something like that. 90 days is a full quarter. Right? So like you could tell them at the beginning of Q that you’re stopping working with them and you have to keep working with them until the beginning of Q4.

John:                            23:48                Right. That’s a, that’s a long amount of time. So usually you can negotiate on that. We actually have that baked into our terms of service on a, on credo that that basically when you stop working with a firm, 30 days notice is required. So I would say there is, there is that other than that, some of the, some of the things to watch for are, or to to require one is a monthly report of like what are the things that they’ve done, what are the things that they do that they’re going to be doing? And then what are the metrics look like? So settling on the metrics, you know with them that they’re going to be kind of that you’re kind of looking at and, and a good agency should be like, what are the business metrics that you care about that we need to be caring about as well that we should be reporting to you on?

John:                            24:26                All of that sort of thing. Good agents, they should ask you that. Yeah. So you should be ready to tell them that. But they should also ask you that because that lets you know that, you know, they’re not just kind of my myopic SEOs, like just talking about links and canonicals and that sort of stuff, but they actually get that they’re helping you build your business and you’re looking for access to that sort of data. Would you give them access to Google analytics and say, here’s my cart? Absolutely. Absolutely. You would show them. They should just be able to log in and pull that data themselves. At that point they need access to everything. Absolutely. Absolutely. But with that, having them sign a mutual NDA is completely, is completely on the table. Like you, you should probably do that. We actually have that big tend to our terms into our terms of service as well.

John:                            25:07                Like, you know, they should agree that they’re not going to share your data with anyone else and they’re not going to do like a case study without asking you and show your logo on your, on their site without them asking you and all that sort of thing. So, so, so that you should definitely have that in place. Yeah, I mean, you should think about them as a, as a full partner. You know, they should have access to your analytics, to your search console. You know, to, if you, if you’ve been tracking rankings, if you’ve been, you know, you have a, an SEM rush account that you’ve been, you know, running site audits for the last like, you know, 12 weeks running, you know, having it run every week automatically. You should definitely do that. You should help you get that access because the, as much data as they have, that helps them to basically put, make sure they’re putting together and then executing on the right strategies.

John:                            25:50                Okay. Got it. And then the reporting part is every month, you know, what have they worked on and then you know, what the results that we’re seeing and then what’s planned for this month. You should have complete transparency into that. So they should let you know what they’ve done this month and what they’re planning on doing next month sort of thing. Yeah, totally, totally. And ideally you’ll have that in like in the proposal and statement of work as well. And on credo when people, when pros build out their you know, their proposals for clients that they’re signing through credo, we actually have them specify out every single month. Like month one we’re doing this, month two, we’re doing this, month three, we’re doing this. And we require that they that they submit their report by, by a certain date client then has, you know, time to take a look at it and make sure everything you know is correct.

John:                            26:31                All of that. And we, and they all that has to happen before we actually release payment to the, to the agencies do our, through our network or our marketplace. So you know, these are all things that I think should just be standard. A couple of other things to, to know as the business that’s hiring a firm, you or a consultant, you should be the owner of everything. You should own the SCM rush account or the Mazda counter, whatever is that you’re using. It seems like, you know, dub, but like you should own your domain, right? Like the inter domain from them.

Charles:                        27:03                Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard of that happening before it. Yes.

John:                            27:07                Yeah. So, so literally I Charles, this happened to my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was a, was a marriage and family therapist in Austin, right. So not only a commerce business but she had a, she had a website and it was, it was super old. She was like, I wanna redo it. I wanna update my messaging needed, update these things. She had been paying this guy like $40 a month. I don’t know what he was doing, but he owned her domain. He owned her analytics, he owned all of that. And he literally like once he told her that he, once she told him that she was like, that she was, you know, moving away from working with him. He didn’t, he wouldn’t give me any of that access. I had to go, I had to, we had to buy a new domain for, we had to create, we had to go to a completely new site, created.

John:                            27:45                We had to, you know, install new analytics, like all, it’s all that historical data now that there, there’s that much like traffic data and that sort of thing. Right. but like this literally happened to my mother in law, Charles and I’ve seen it happen to big companies as well. So, you know, just kind of a kind of a cautionary tale there that you should own all of those things. You should give them you know, give your a, your pro, your you know, agency or consultant you’re working with, give them read access. You know, and unless they’re like working on fixing your, you know, your analytics you know, installation, that sort of stuff. Like don’t give them right access. There’s no reason for them to, for them to have that.

Charles:                        28:18                Got it. Yeah. I’ve heard of folks that happening to even someone with their like AdWords account and yeah, I remember like, Oh, I’m working this consultant and you know, I’m getting more checkouts. I’m like, Oh, that’s great. What are they like, how are they doing? It? Kinda like, I don’t know if I don’t have access to the account [inaudible] account to that. What are they doing? Like I don’t know. It’s all their own account and like, so when they cut ties with that consultant, it was just lost like all of that information they could not. Yup. Yeah. So like it. Yeah, I’ve seen that too. So it’s scary.

John:                            28:47                Yup. Yup. Yeah. So you should definitely be looking for that. And usually, I mean if you know someone’s about the board, you know, they’re, they’re based domestically, that sort of stuff. You know, you’re, you’re not really going to have issues with that, but it’s just, it’s just something to make sure you know, make sure I’ve just kind of dotting you’re dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s.

Charles:                        29:03                Yup. So one question, and I hate the question, but I know people are thinking, so I have to ask the question. Okay, let’s do it. Yeah. Everyone kind of wants to know before they engage with someone what’s like the price they should be looking at. And I know literally ranges from like nothing to just pick a, pick a big number to pick a really small number. But like how do you know like what you kind of like, is there a metric like, you know, when they tell you when you shop in an engagement ring, you should use some, you know, I don’t know what it is, like three months of salary, some absurd thing is this is just something, it’s two months. Yeah. Okay. Whatever that awful metric is for you.

John:                            29:37                Crazy. Cause I would have spent way more on my my wife’s occasion ring if I followed that. Yeah.

Charles:                        29:42                Yeah. Like is it, is it that SEO though? Is there something with like, Hey, you’re doing X, you should be looking at spending about this. Or like how should you even budget for someone to know what you should expect to spend?

John:                            29:55                Yeah. Yeah. So Google digital marketing, pricing guide and, and find the, get listing there. So I actually have a whole digital marketing industry pricing survey that I’ve run twice now. I did one in 2017 I refreshed it in April of 2019. So basically I, I break it down between like us, UK, rest of the world, consultants, agencies, services, strategy, all that sort of stuff. As kind of a if you’re looking for kind of a, so freelancers are different, right? Freelancers are usually people working on the side or they’re overseas or something like that. You know, so, you know, they might charge you, you know, I mean, if you’ve ever used Upwork, right? You’ve gotten quotes everywhere from like $20 an hour to $2,000 an hour now, maybe not $2,000 now, but $200,000 now, right? A lot.

John:                            30:39                So the kind of the average for agencies and consultants is somewhere like blended hourly rate. And most agencies, consultants don’t work on an hourly basis. And I actually advise them not to because the incentive, the incentives are misaligned. Businesses hiring are incentive by stab them work as little as possible. They’re incentivized to work as much as possible. Right? So so expect to pay your, you know, your pro, if you’re getting an audit done, it’s gonna be a flat fee. If you’re getting up, you know, having a retainer, like it’s going to be, it’s going to be a flat, like monthly retainer. And sometimes it will be kind of a minimum, and then like if more hours are needed then you know, it’s at, you know, one 25 an hour or something like that. So most agencies and consultants charge somewhere between like 120 and $175 an hour.

John:                            31:20                And you know, it just depends on who’s, you know, who’s working on the projects and all of that, but they kind of use a blended hourly rate. You know, consultants can become much more expensive. You know, I’ve, I’ve personally, and I know a bunch of other people that have as well, like depending on the client, I’ve charged four figures now or before. Right. But like, but that was baked into what is, what is the engagement and what are, you know, what’s the value that they’re going to be getting there? But you should expect to pay. So for an audit depending on the size of your size, if you’re an eCommerce company you’re any commerce site and you have, you know, under a thousand skews, you’re looking to get a tech and you’re on Shopify and you’re looking to get a technical SEO audit done.

John:                            31:53                It’s probably gonna be somewhere in the like 1500 to $2,000 range. And that’s just the audit. If you’re wanting to get like the roadmap in place and that sort of stuff, you know, it costs a little bit more. So somewhere in the 2,500, $3,000 range that might be a little hyper, a thousand IP or up to 10,000 skews. It’s definitely going to be in that range. And maybe a little bit higher if you’re over 10,000 skews. So you’re on a hundred thousand or a million skews, you know, the PR, the price is going to go up from there. But that’s about what to expect. And then for the retainer, it kinda depends on what they’re doing, right? They’re starting with an audit and then they’re producing content, right? They’re producing five pieces of content a month for you. Are they producing like a huge buying guy is going to be 10,000 words.

John:                            32:30                It’s going to take X amount of time. You know, they’re hiring like a, they have writers that they work with to do that kind of thing. They’re doing all this research, doing all this design. You could probably, you could pay, you know, in the the thousands, the low five figures a month for that sort of thing. But once again, it’s all in the what, what return are you expecting? What traffic are you expecting? How are you expecting to convert? All that kind of thing. So usually I see commerce companies retaining agencies around, you know, these are eCommerce companies with somewhere between 1,010 thousand skews, a somewhere between 2,505 to $6,000 a month. And once again, it kind of depends on the different things that they’re doing. So you should understand like, you know, what are we paying for here? Like what’s the breakdown of like the technical audit and consulting side was to break down the content side.

John:                            33:11                It was a breakdown of the link building side. And if you’re like, Hey, you know, you quoted me 7,500 but I really only have four to spend, they should come back and be like, okay, that’s fine. It’s gonna take a little bit longer to see results. They shouldn’t just say like, okay sure you can have all that for four K right? Like they should actually say like, Hey, we said we need to pull back on some scope. We need to maybe move like link building, you know, to starting in month four. Right. We’re not doing that in months one through three. Let’s cut back on the number of pieces of content and we can get you to that like four K Mark. So, you know, have an idea of what, what you can afford to spend have an idea of, you know, kind of how well organic is already converting, so how much traffic you’re going to need in order to really recoup that cost. And then, you know, and keep building from there. But that should be a decent ballpark for you right there.

Charles:                        33:53                Yeah, that’s helpful. And it sounds like there’s a little wiggle room, right? So if they say, like you said, seven and I’ll come back and say, I can only spend four. It’s not okay. You know, we’re done. That’s it. Forget it. It’s more, okay, we can still do this just slower possibly. Or just change the order of things. And yeah,

John:                            34:09                There are some agencies, and I’ve seen these that they’re just like, Nope, take it or leave it. And, and it doesn’t help them close work, right? Like, I’m, I’m here to help clients you know, businesses find and hire the right and work with the right, you know, the right firm. I’m also here to help firms get, get great clients. And so, you know, I tell them like, I’m like PR present a range of things. Like here’s, here’s kind of package one, package two, package three, right? Pricing and scope and all that is, you know, kinda going up. And then people can kind of pick and choose, right? So you pick the middle one and you’re like, let’s do this middle one by Kai, but like, you know, we really got to, got to get down to four K, so can we cut it back to four pieces of content as opposed to six pieces of content a month?

John:                            34:45                Usually they’ll do that and there is some negotiation room there, but don’t expect them to be like, if they pitch you at seven, don’t expect them to, if you ask for, for to just be like, Oh yeah, sure, we’ll do it for four. They shouldn’t do that. Right. It’s only seven. Yeah, totally. Yeah. yeah, I mean 100%. It’s not like there’s not like buying a used car. You know, and if they, if they do say, Oh yeah, sure, we’ll do it for four. When they originally quoted you seven, you should ask why, right. Why did they quote me seven before? Right. were they just like thinking I could afford it and they would like try to, they’re trying to take me for a ride. If so, that’s not the kind of person you want to be working with. Right. like there’s usually not a good answer to why did they agree to do it for, you know, 40% off just because you asked. Yup.

Charles:                        35:26                Awesome. All right. Yeah, that’s super helpful I think. Yeah, having some of those guides too. It’s definitely, it helps you going into it knowing, should I even show even bother if you don’t X to spend what you’re kind of looking for the audit. And it’s nice just dealing with the audit cause at least then you have a roadmap and even if you don’t, if you can’t commit to some monthly type retainer, at least you have the roadmap and then you personally can say, you know what, I can do the work just a lot slower than an agency, which is fine. And at least you’re moving in that direction. Right.

John:                            35:55                What else do you start executing on it? Right, exactly. You started asking on it. You’re moving that direction, you’re seeing more traffic, you’re seeing more revenue from there, and then you’re like, okay, I’ve tapped out as much as I can do. I’ve gotten to the end. And so, you know now like, like, Hey, let’s go let’s go talk to this firm. Right. and see, you know, if they can kind of take it to the next level and you know, how Patel pricing has changed and, and you know, offerings and all of that.

Charles:                        36:16                Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Super good tips, John. Thank you. I think it’s super helpful. If anything you want to plug anything people want to see what you’re working on now, what can they do? So,

John:                            36:25                Yeah, for sure. So the best place to connect with me personally is on Twitter. Twitter.Com/Doherty, J, F, D, O, H, E. R, T, Y. J. F. And if you’re a, if you’re a, an eCommerce company and you’re looking to you know, you’re looking to hire then we have a guide to hiring a digital marketing firm. If you go to get, it’s actually right there on our homepage. There’s kind of an email capture there. And if you’re, you’re looking to kind of figure out your, you’re thinking through like, how do I even go about starting SEO for my eCommerce company. If you go to [inaudible] dot com slash e-commerce dash SEO dash framework there’s a, there’s basically a, the five step framework that we’ve seen that works for growing an eCommerce sites, SEO rankings. And you can, you can download it right there. So I, you know, I put that together specifically to help eCommerce companies do a better job. You know, getting started with their own SEO and then the guide to hiring to, to help them do a good job hiring. A lot of the stuff that we’ve talked about here is in there.

Charles:                        37:18                Awesome. We’ll link to that in show notes as well. So thank you very much for coming on today.

John:                            37:21                For sure. My pleasure, Charles. Thanks for having me.

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