The world of SEO consulting has been going through some major changes recently. I recently wrote about business model innovations (here) and as if by magic one has appeared in front of me.
The recent launch of – and major complaints about – Cloud PBN highlighted this for me. Cloud PBN is a service that makes it easier to manage a network of websites built using WordPress. I’m not going to get into what has been going on, but plenty of buyers seem to be plenty unhappy.
What has been eye opening is the scale of sales being made and therefore, the presumed numbers of people running their own private blog networks.
Now that I have visited lots of the relevant Facebook groups that are devoted to PBNs I have had chance to get a much better feel for things. There have been two types of innovations.
Firstly, after the Penguin update, it is much more important than ever for an SEO to be in control of important links to client or money sites. This has been the case for some years now, but people are clearly taking it very seriously.
Secondly, a lot of people are moving into the “local” space ranking and renting websites. I first heard of this business model for SEOs over a year ago. I played around with it a little and didn’t really commit. Then in the last month or so I have been working on this much harder, since I started mulling these issues over here. I am currently working on ten sites that I hope to be able to rent to small businesses.
Why the sudden rush to rent sites?
1. Easier Monetisation: the harsh reality is that just because you can get a website to the top of Google does not mean that you can make money from it. If you happen to have a book, or supplements, or consulting to sell, then perhaps it is quite easy. However, if you have learned to perform SEO well, there is no guarantee that you have a book to sell…
Therefore, a separate and proven way to make money from the traffic makes life a lot easier. If the leads you generate are passed on to a real business, they already (hopefully) know how to make a sale to prospects.
2. It is easier to rank for local than for big keywords: which keywords will be easier to rank for?
“poker” or “kansas city business attorney”
“insurance” or “toronto personal trainer”
Since SEO can be very expensive, why not do the easier stuff? If you make it work, you will earn less than you might otherwise have done, but the likelyhood is that you will not rank a page for “poker” or “insurance” without years of work and a very large budget.
3. High potential earnings: one of the reasons that I have taken a renewed interest in ranking and renting websites is that I am a follower of the Viperchill blog. I had always presumed that finding clients that would pay more than 100 euros per month to rent a website would be difficult. However, Glen and his partner Diggy seem to routinely find clients willing to pay US$1,000 per month to rent a site. With a fee like that being paid, an SEO will only need a handful of sites to live in relative comfort.
Glen and Diggy often talk about how they are scaling their operation and generating tens of thousands of dollars per month in fees.
One little benefit of the rank and rent model is trust. There are a great many SEO snake oil salesmen in the world these days. Results vary wildly. But if a website is already in the top 10, that kind of proves a point. In fact, with a banner ad at the top, clients will come to you rather than you chasing them. That dramatically changes the dynamic of the sale.
4. You can turn it into a system: with every new client comes new problems to find and then fix on their website. When I build the site, I know the problems in advance and do my best to limit them as I go. There is no needle in a haystack to search for.
Even though I am only working on ten sites, I am already close to making a fully repeatable system. This means that I can get help and add scale. In contrast, after years of consulting I am still nowhere near a system.
5. Removes or reduces problem clients: a huge issue with SEO consulting is that a very good percentage of small business owners and managers handle SEO poorly. At the slightest negative movement in the SERPs they can – and often do – fire their consultant. If results are taking longer than they want to wait they can – and often do – fire their consultant. If they decide they want to cut their expenses for some reason, they can – and often do – fire their consultant. And if things are going badly, they always fire their consultant!
Plus, it can take forever to get things done, fix problems and generally make progress. This is a fundamental issue because the website belongs to someone else. However, when you rank and rent websites, you own the site, not the client. You want to make changes, make the changes! How fast can you do things? I’ll do it today!
If a client stops paying, then their details can be removed from the site and a new client can be found. In this regard, it is a much more efficient way for an SEO to operate.
But it is difficult to find an SEO consultant already! If we all start ranking and renting our own websites, there is a very good chance that we will start to push out the established companies from the top 10 results and insert ourselves instead. Small business SEO arbitrage. And, we’ll be earning enough money that we will actively refuse to work for difficult clients that are more trouble than they are worth.
This is going to be a huge change to the economics of many business sectors.
Where is all this heading?
I would like to refer to page 218 of the approved version of the small business bible, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.
Discussing the “growth engine” of a business he explains that, “What determines these [advertising] prices is the average value earned in aggregate by the companies that are in competition for any given customer’s attention“.
And then in the next paragraph, “If everyone in an industry makes the same amount of money on each sale, they all will wind up paying most of their marginal profit to the source of acquisition“.
Google’s business is so hugely profitable for exactly that reason. However, most people do not click on the ads, they click on the organic listings. As SEO has become more complex, it is less and less likely that a small business can handle their own SEO internally. Getting into those organic listings is often beyond the capabilities of the company and it’s staff.
For now, firms are negotiating and trying to set the rates that they pay. Small business owners feel that they have the power because they have the money. But if the majority of the SEO community shuns them and starts pushing sites out of the way with their own lead generating offerings, the balance will move, quickly.
By focusing on the high value spaces first (like this one) there is going to be a lot of money to be made. The source of acquisition used to be the print media, now it is the SEO provider.