SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a way to increase the visibility and the ranking of a website with keywords. Glen Allsopp, an entrepreneur and a consultant at Detailed, talks about how he fell in love doing SEO works, explaining why businesses would want to see their websites rank higher through link building on Google. Furthermore, Glen tells us why doing SEO consulting and other marketing activities are making a significant impact in generating leads in the business. Glen shares the truth behind SEO and how it will help you in your industry.
I’m excited to have Glen Allsopp joining us. Glen, welcome.
Michael, thank you for having me.
You’re a consultant and entrepreneur. Tell us more about what you’re doing.
My focus for the past years has been SEO, ranking websites higher on Google. I fell into the role of consulting a few years ago. I wouldn’t have classed myself as a consultant for the past years, but it’s something I fell into. I’m focusing on that now.
Tell us a little more about how you fell into consulting.
For a large part of my SEO career, I’ve been building links for websites. That’s a big part of how Google’s algorithm works. What became increasingly common is that people would come to me for links. I knew that the links I would build for them wouldn’t help their website as much as it could as if they had fixed some things on the actual website first. I started recommending things to people, advising them on what to change before we got started in doing link building together. I fell into it.
You built an agency to seven figures at 25 years old. You’ve made the pivot into SEO consulting. You’ve worked with some large companies, including Buffer and ConvertKit. What do you feel has made the biggest impact in generating leads and inquiries for your SEO consulting business?
The answer to that took me way too long to figure out. When I started doing SEO, I loved it so much. I couldn’t imagine that being able to do that for other people was actually a thing that people get to do all of the time. I was excited that that was an opportunity. If someone came to me and said, “Do you do link building? Do you do reputation management? Do you do keyword research?” whatever people ask for, I would say, “Yes, I do it.” It was pretty weird that people would ask me for things I didn’t offer. I would say yes and they wouldn’t end up working with me. “I said yes to exactly what you’re asking for.” It didn’t go anywhere from there.Always try to be ahead of the curve. Click To Tweet
How are people finding you nowadays though? What would you say is working best for you to be able to generate leads and inquires for your current consulting business?
In terms of traffic, I have a lot of sources. Every SEO company should be ranking for something. I rank for various keywords around link building and keyword research. As far as focusing on what changed, it was having to focus on a specific offering. The success that I had, from people wanting things and not working with me to people working with me, was because I focused on link building. That’s what I became known for. That was the thing that I did. When people wanted that, they would come to me. Honing in on a specific offering, I find that was so important.
We see this with a lot of the consultants that reach out and come into our coaching programs. They often have a lot of skills, experience and even expertise that they’ve developed over many years, often in the corporate world. It can be a real challenge for people to make a decision. Often, you have to say no to a lot of things that you could do to be able to say yes to the ones where you can create the greatest results. That was the process that you went through as well.
I want people to come to my website. I want 90% of people to come there and think, “This is not for me. This is not what I’m looking for.” The 10% who come there and see the offering think, “This is for me.” They are the people who are likely to convert into something. I get traffic from a lot of sources. I get a lot of traffic that doesn’t convert. Maybe there’s some aspect of my offering, on me or the website that they don’t like. To have success in this business, you probably have to be polarizing to some point, where there are going to be people who don’t connect with you and don’t like what you’re doing. Those that are left think that you are the perfect fit for them.
You’re doing some SEO. You’ve obviously been in the game for a while. People have heard your name. They find you in some different ways. You’re getting traffic. Are you doing anything else beyond that? Are you speaking? You’re doing some podcasts. Are you doing any guest writing? What other marketing activities or business development activities are you doing on a regular basis that’s helping you to generate more business?
There are two clear things. One is writing, putting content out there that people care about and having people want to share my work and talk about it. Building an email list is a big one. I do guest posts infrequently. This is probably the third time I’ve been in a podcast in years. I don’t do speaking. I don’t do events or meetups. All of my focus is either writing something that people are going to share and talk about and people will see my “skill set,” or what a lot of SEO should be able to do, is I rank for the service offerings that I want to offer with various websites, getting search traffic to sell services that tell people how to get more search traffic.
When you talk about writing articles or content that people want to talk about, people want to share, is the distribution channel through your own website or are you putting that content on other people’s websites?
In my industry, in the SEO world, I have written for a few of the big websites. I’ve also been mentioned in a lot of places, Forbes, The Guardian and Entrepreneur. I’d be surprised if those have ever converted into leads. It is all about what I’ve written on my own website. I have tens of thousands of people on an email list. I have tens of thousands of people on Facebook, Twitter and real people who not that I bought or anything like that. The important thing is, I have to write something worth talking about. I do not disrespect that I have that reach. It’s something I’ve blogged for several years before anyone cared about what I had said. I learned how to write what people want to read about. If I can write something incredible, I have the audience that can help take that further. That’s always my focus before I put something out there.Whatever you promise, make sure you over deliver. Click To Tweet
I’ve spoken with many consultants who have been blogging for many years, in some cases. They followed all of the best practices, the conventional wisdom around, putting out lots of content. While they’ve done that, in some cases, they have even seen their search rankings and overall traffic increase, it doesn’t always generate more leads for them. What we do with them is helping to strengthen their calls to action, look at how they’re structuring their content, how they’re structuring their emails. That turns into a lot more leads, a lot more consistent inquiries coming in for them. With your expertise in SEO, for someone who has already a big list or some of the consultants who reach out to us, we can make tweaks. We can make adjustments quickly and see positive gains. For those who maybe don’t have a big list, who have a blog or they have a website, but they’re not getting much traffic, is SEO something that they should even be thinking about? Is there, in your experience, a better place where they should be focused?
A large part of SEO is about links. If people were never ever talking about consulting success, no matter how good the content you write is, it’d be hard to get that showing anywhere in Google and getting search traffic. There are exceptions. There are ways to game the system. You can buy links and build your own websites to build links and so on. You don’t have to do everything the natural way. When you’re starting out, it is hard to get people who are going to talk about what you’re doing. If you want to focus on “white hat link building” and having people talk about your stuff, you can put out a lot of amazing articles. If you’re not getting the links, it’s unlikely that you’re going to see the search traffic and rankings that you want.
To get those links, it’s going to be from relationships and connecting with people who can talk about you and share your work. That does take time. It is something I would focus on from day one. I wouldn’t focus on IE, thinking of the link building. I would focus on, “Here are the relationships I should be building while I’m creating this content, while I’m putting it into the world,” almost doing the 80/20 rule where 20% is focused on the content and 80% is the relationships that could potentially promote things for you down the road. Start on it from day one, but do not expect that it’s going to bring in many leads, traffic or visitors, at least for the first few months of getting started.
What you’re saying is, don’t go into it with a short-term mindset, expecting results anytime soon. If you see it as a long-term part of your marketing mix or a part of your business that you will be working on consistently over a long period of time, it will provide dividends for you. That’s what we’ve seen in Consulting Success®. We’ve been putting up content for many years. We didn’t have an expectation of it generating a massive amount of revenue or anything at the beginning. Looking over about a decade back in time, we have a lot of inbound inquiries, a lot of people reaching out to us, without us having to do anything. We’ve put in that work, which doesn’t mean that we stop and not doing anything going forward, but we want to continue creating valuable content and sharing what we’ve learned. I can see that in our own case.
You cannot think of a single business on the internet that you could name that suddenly had a ton of traffic from search engines. It didn’t build up over time. Everyone is building it up slowly over months and years. There are shortcuts. There are slightly unethical ways to go about it. If you want to do things legitimately and you’re thinking about the long-term, it is a linear thing. It keeps growing as time goes on.
Let’s keep this on the ethical side. Someone, let’s say, has their consulting website up. They have a blog. They’ve posted a little bit of content to it. Maybe they’re getting 100 or 300 visitors to their site each month max. There’s little traffic coming their way. What would be something that they could do that is completely legitimate that would be, in your experience, the best step that they could take or the best action that they could implement that would get them moving in the right direction? If it’s your site and you’re getting started from day one, but you don’t have the connections that you have. You don’t have the list that you have. You just have your expertise, your website with a blog and a little bit of content and traffic, what would you do?
You can jump to the top of the expertise ladder quickly as long as you hone in on something. Being seen as the top SEO expert is not an easy thing. It will probably take you a lot of time. Being seen as the best link builder in the finance space or the best online reputation management guy for politicians, you can do that quickly. Anyone, any coach, any consultant out there starting out, even if you have plans, even if you think, “I want to do link building for everyone,” or “I want to be the life coach for everyone,” whatever it is, start first with a small industry. You can widen that base later on.
With that in mind, I would also focus on specific keywords. Don’t try to rank for a life coach. Don’t try to rank for a financial consultant or whatever it is. Try to rank for a financial consultant in Sydney or affordable financial consultant in Sydney. Even if, in the future, you want to target in much broader terms which get a lot more traffic, that’s totally fine. When you’re just starting out, take advantage of trying to be the specialist in a small area, a small industry. Publish all of your content around that, the specific tax laws for Australia, the specific diets and the specific mindsets for the thing that you want to be the specialist in. Focus on producing content for that. Worry about being an expert for more people later on. Focus on one small piece of the market.Focus on the things that would be best for you. Click To Tweet
A common question that people ask regarding content is, how long does it need to be? I’ve seen a whole bunch of studies from different places, saying that the longer form content, 1,500 or 2,000 plus words, tend to get better rankings. Is that true in your experience?
The most common phrase you will ever hear from an SEO is, “It depends.” In some industries, yes. The best thing to do is always judge the search results. Go to the searches for whatever you want to rank for. If Google is rewarding long content, and they’re doing that for most of the results, you probably have to do the same. If Google is rewarding short content, that does happen. I’m thinking of industries like currency conversion. When you try to convert currency, Google will probably tell the conversion for you. If you click on any of the top ten results, they probably have 200 words of content on the page. It’s not always a requirement to write a lot of content. The absolute best thing to do is go and look at what is there already in search results. You probably stand more chance of picking up links in shares. There are a lot of studies around what content gets the most links and what gets the most shares. It’s somewhere around the 1,500-word, 2,000-word mark. You get the links and because you get the shares, that results in the rankings from that.
You mentioned about focusing on specific keywords and how important that is. Instead of being broad and calling yourself a management consultant, you’re going to want to get into maybe M&A Consulting for fast-growing startups or whatever the keywords are that you’re going for. Is getting specific around your target market the key for people to write detailed content using that keyword throughout the article or piece? There’s a lot that goes into this and we can’t get into all the fine details, but just the high level, what are some of the best practices that consultants should have in mind when they’re crafting their own content?
I probably sound a little bit like Google spokespeople when I say this, but I do not think about keyword percentages, how many times I use a keyword in the headline or anything like that. I try to write the best piece of content, so that when someone comes to that article, they’re thinking, “This is incredible. I want to share this with other people,” or “I want to do business with this person. They are teaching me things I have never seen before.” As a good example, I don’t want to put this to the test. I probably have enough authority to rank for terms, like general terms of my industry like keyword research, onsite SEO, link building, but I always go for long tail phrases. I ranked number one for advanced link building and advanced keyword research. I take the general topic and I only market it and write it for a specific subset of that industry. Don’t think about the keywords. Don’t think about how many times you mentioned something. Make sure that the content matches the headline that you promise. Whatever promise you put in a headline, make sure you over deliver on that, the content and that will probably work out pretty well for you.
You’ve worked with some large well-known organizations. There’s a whole bunch of those that we haven’t. You’re helping them with SEO. You do it all as a small, remote team without an office. How is your team structured? What do people do at your company?
This has changed so much over the years, depending on what the service is or depending on how many people we are helping. We’ve had dozens of people working with us. It’s always been a remote thing. I have had offices, but they’ve been for other businesses related to websites but not related to SEO. We’re a fully remote team. We have a developer on board. We have someone who handles all the miscellaneous day-to-day stuff. We are a perfect mix of, “You have to be a good SEO, know what you’re doing and find problems on a website. You also have to be articulate and elegant in the way that you express that to someone else, whether that’s through a phone call, whether that’s through email, whether that’s through writing it up in our report.” To work in our team and to be with us, it’s not just about, “You can find a problem with a website.” It’s about being able to explain that to someone in a way that they will not only understand it but will also take action on it. I don’t get any joy about telling people about problems that they don’t go and fix and see benefits from. There are a few of us on the team. We’ve got a full-time developer, a few full-time SEOs and someone who handles random odd jobs that keep the ship going.
How do you communicate effectively with your virtual team?
We have calls every day. If we don’t have phone calls every day, we don’t do Slack or anything like that. We do email or we do Skype chats.
Does that work for you?Write something worth talking about. Click To Tweet
It’s perfect at the moment.
You had people coming to you for link building. That wasn’t the only thing that you were offering. You want to offer other consulting services because you saw it wasn’t just link building. There were other things that they could be improving with their websites. That’s an interesting situation that a lot of consultants find themselves in. Maybe they want to offer something to the marketplace, but the marketplace wants something different. If you can take us back to that time, how did you have that conversation with people who came to you and said, “Glen, help us to build links. That’s how we found you. That’s what you’re known for?” You’re saying to them, “I can help you with links, but there’s something else going on here.” What did that conversation look like? What did you find to be the most effective transition to be able to sell to people something that they weren’t initially thinking about?
The industry of link building, for people who don’t know, there are companies who make tens of millions of dollars per year, on the Inc. 500 and 5000, who just focus on link building. It is a huge industry. If you want to rank in Google, you need links to your website. The demand for link builders is there. I always try to be ahead of the curve. I always try to do something before it is needed and before the demand is there. I position myself right. I have the connections and the relationships to offer great service and so on. Throughout most of 2016 and a lot of 2017, I was coming up with a new angle for link building that was very much a press-related thing.
As legitimate as we could get, it’s getting in front of people who write articles. They want to quote experts, how we could be the experts that they want to quote in those articles or how our clients could be the experts that those people want to quote. That was a huge focus for me. I told people about it. I figured it out, how to do that in a bit of a scale. I told people about it. I had a ton of people set up calls. They wanted to know more about it. The best websites that reached out to me, they were broken. The amount of work it would take to get some of those links was a lot of work, but the results that they would get or likely get would be pretty incredible. If the website itself weren’t that great, the result of all my hard work wouldn’t be seen by the client.
The end result for links of any kind of SEO is that you want more targeted search traffic. You want it to last for a long time. As long as you’re doing something legitimate and unethical, I don’t think it should matter where that comes from. The point of my conversations was, “You want links because you want more search traffic, but there’s something else on your website that if you fixed that, you would get that exact same search traffic. It would be quicker. It would be easier. Let’s do that first. If it doesn’t work out, we can build links. Let’s focus on the thing I think would be best for you.”
What I hope everyone takes away from that is, you shifted the focus. It wasn’t about the deliverable. It wasn’t about link building. The focus was, “What does the buyer want? What is the actual end goal?” I had a call with a bunch of clients where we were talking about this exact situation. Sometimes buyers approach you as the consultant. They’ve already self-diagnosed. They’re telling, “I’ve gone through it. I’ve realized I have this problem. I need this specific solution.” The consultant’s role is not just to say, “I can do that for you,” even though you might be able to. It’s to probe deeper.
It’s to ask more questions to figure out, “I understand what you’re saying and what you’d like to do. Tell me now why do you want to do that? What is the goal? What do you want to achieve? How is that meaningful for you? What happens if you don’t do that?” It’s exploring all the different angles. That’s exactly what you did. You explored, “What is the end result that you want?” “It’s more targeted traffic that lasts a long time.” “What if there was a way that you could achieve that but takes less time, less money and fewer resources? Would you be open to that?” “Yes, we would.” That’s the transition that you made. All consultants can find the same transition and should be open to having that type of conversation with all prospective clients.
I don’t know where this quote is from. When I have to say something that the person might not necessarily like, some criticism of a website or something they did that they shouldn’t have changed, I say upfront, “I’m your consultant. I’m not a contractor who is following a set of rules. I’m here to help you based on what I know. Let’s make it happen.”Whatever it is you want to achieve, just start first with a very small industry and then you can widen that base later on. Click To Tweet
Glen, I want to thank you for coming on, sharing your story and some great tips with us. I also want to make sure that people can learn more about you and your work. Where’s the best place for them to go?