One of the biggest barriers to SEO for small and medium sized businesses has been its unpredictable nature and the rising cost of doing the things that actually make a tangible difference to rankings.
Mark Preston of Wildshark SEO is aiming to change that, with a low monthly cost service, starting from £74pm aimed specifically at the SME market.
I caught up with him to ask him about the proposition, and his tips for doing SEO on a budget.
Q) Could you start by telling us about your background, how did you get into SEO?
A) Way back when I left school I went to college full time for three years to become a qualified mechanical engineer then went back to college for another three years to become an agricultural engineer. I worked within this industry for many years until around 15 years ago when family health issues forced me to take a hard look at my career. I needed to have a job that was flexible so I could take my daughter to hospital appointments as and when required so I decided to go to night school and gain an IT qualification. I then set up my first business selling web hosting. Like any online business, I needed to drive potential buyers to my website so I started testing lots and lots of different online marketing methods. I learnt a lot during this time, including what NOT to do.
The way I saw it was – I would look at all the major competition and work out what I could do to be better than them instead of just copying what they are doing. I started setting up website after website to test different online marketing methods. This way if something did not work then it would have no impact on anyone. I ended up having about 120 websites in lots of different industries from a flatpack builder website to a music video site, most of which was ranking at the top of the search engines making me a very good monthly income in affiliate commission.
My big break came in 2007 when I confirmed a large contract worth multiple six figures per year. This allowed me to setup a digital company with qualified staff. Over the next three years, work flooded in and I had offices in both Inverness and Cheshire.
From here I went in to the white label industry, providing white label design, development and marketing services to UK digital companies until the launch of Wildshark in 2013 where I decided to concentrate on helping small business owners sort out their online presence and try and build a little trust back in to the SEO industry by telling people the truth.
Q) Tell us more about your company, Wildshark
A) Wildshark is one of the UK’s top white label SEO suppliers, providing quality SEO packages to web design and digital agencies throughout the UK at trade prices. We also offer our packages to small business owners at the same trade price our white label partners receive.
One question we get asked all the time is – “how do you manage to provide quality SEO packages whilst keeping everything in-house at such a small monthly fee?”
Most SEO agencies either outsource the work off-shore or they have large sales costs. At Wildshark we are in a unique position where we do not have any sales people working within our company so we do not have the marketing expense our fellow SEO agencies have. Our white label partners are our sales team which provides us with a constant flow of residual orders. Our own website is also ranked highly for hundreds of targeted phrases which bring in a constant flow of direct enquiries and orders.
Our in-house team is made up of top SEO professionals who complete the analysis and technical tasks and our team of IT apprentices complete the day to day manual tasks. As we secure new orders we just take on another IT apprentice to make sure we can handle the work load. This business structure allows us to grow, provide solid customer service, keep everything in-house and ensure our package prices are kept to a minimum.
Q) How do you convince skeptical company owners to invest in SEO over other channels?
A) I would never recommend that any business owner invest 100% of their marketing budget in SEO only. The SEO strategy should be a part of their complete marketing strategy so when you ask me about convincing companies to invest in SEO over other channels, I would not.
As our company does not do any telesales, we do not have to convince anyone. By the time they come to our website and contact us, they already know they need SEO. All the convincing is done through the copy on our website.
Q) You offer a number of different packages, could you briefly explain the difference between them?
A) In order to provide a solid service and ensure results at affordable prices, we offer the following four packages:
On-Page SEO Package (£39 one-off) – From time to time we get approached by small business owners who wish to perform all the off-page activities themselves but just want to make sure their website is fully optimised with no on-page issues.
Local SEO Package (£74 pm) – Our local package is ideal for businesses who want to attract more custom from within their business location. The types of businesses who purchase this package are florists, bakers, pizza delivery and builders amongst others.
National SEO Package (£129 pm) – As the name states, our national package is ideal for small business owners who wish to promote their business throughout the UK or any other English speaking Country.
National Plus Package (£195 pm) – Our local and national packages are all about getting your website ranked at the top of Google for multiple targeted phrases but our National Plus package goes one step further by helping you increase your online conversion rate.
Q) The cynic in me would question how much value am I going to get for £74/Month, how do you manage to deliver value for such a small monthly fee?
A) The value is determined within the research and the results. The research completed will demonstrate that when the results are achieved then the return will be provided. Even though our packages are priced low, our white label partners are easily reselling our packages for around £500 per month building a very good residual income.
We manage to deliver exceptional value for money by having a really good business structure and making sure we never offer any bespoke services. We do not profess to be a master of everything and instead prefer to be an expert at one thing – SEO. If our clients require any services that are not contained within our packages then we try to point them in the right direction – usually, one of our own white label partners.
Q) With tactics such as article marketing and directory submissions becoming increasingly ineffective, what are the scalable and cost-effective methods of link building you carry out?
A) One word – outreach
When we secure a new client we make sure we explain to them that we need them to work with us to make sure people actually want to link to their website. We then point people who we have already established an interest in our clients industry in the direction of their website, press release, blog etc… Depending on the industry will depend on how many natural links is gained.
If a business owner is serious about their business growth then they should stop using outdated link building tactics now!
Q) How do you work with clients in terms of KPIs?
A) The honest answer is we don’t work on any key performance indicators. Wildshark offers cost effective SEO packages to small business owners who wish to get their website ranked at the top of the major search engines. If clients sign up to our National Plus package, however, we do help them to increase their online conversion rate as well.
Q) What does your typical client campaign look like in terms of activity each month?
A) As we provide set packages, we are up-front and state on our website exactly what we will do and what they receive. This way there is no confusion. We do tweak the contents of each package from time to time to make sure we are constantly providing a strategy that works very well.
When we receive a new client it is important that we first look at the history of that website and ensure the on-page is perfect then move forward with generating brand awareness and building authority on a monthly basis.
Q) Have many of your clients been impacted by Panda 4.0, if so, what actions have you undertaken to recover?
A) This depends – we do get new clients coming to us that have seen a drop in rankings around the time of the Panda 4.0 release but as we make sure we clean everything up during the first month then I can state that not one of our existing clients was negatively affected by Panda 4.0. In fact we saw an increase in rankings on many campaigns.
Q) If you could advise an SME with little time or budget on one single task they can undertake to improve SEO performance, what would it be?
A) This is a good question as there are so many things but I would have to say that it is very important that their website is free from the basic SEO mistakes (lack of meta tags etc), displays quality unique content and is fully optimised for attainable keywords.
Q) Content marketing, short-lived fad or here to stay?
A) With the increased exposure of inbound marketing, it is defiantly here to stay but people need to change the way they think about content marketing. Writing a blog post and posting it on Twitter once is not content marketing. It is time that people started writing about subjects their audience actually want to read.
Q) What are your favourite SEO/project management tools?
A) I use a selection of SEO tools which I use to complement each other. The first and one that many people ignore is Google Webmaster Tools. We still get many small business owners sign up with Wildshark who do not have webmaster tools attached to their website. It is a must and provides so much very useful information that can be used. As far as other SEO tools are concerned, I would have to say Moz beyond any other is my number one favourite for many reasons.
As far as project management tools goes, I have tried quite a few but have to say that using TeamWork to manage all our clients’ campaigns makes life so much easier.