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This article was written based on Ungagged 2017 presentation given by Hannah Thorpe, you can view the full slides here. Originally posted on

Today’s digital market is continually changing so it’s imperative to adapt the day-to-day running of your business accordingly for optimum efficiency. For example, machine learning. Google’s algorithms use data and statistics to learn on their own to understand exactly what users want when browsing the web. Similarly, personalisation is a key part of creating businesses which engage with their core target audiences.

On top of this, businesses have to enter the world of automation as manually intensive tasks take a back seat. Why manually send out ten tweets a day when you can do so in a fraction of the time with automated social media posts across multiple platforms? Some may say this is an information overload and that is where SEO expertise comes in.

When should you invest more in SEO?

There is always a time to invest more in SEO practices. Whether you’re seeing a stagnant performance, rapid growth or a steady decline, each stage can he helped through good SEO. But at the same time, depending on the business goals, how much should you invest and when?

For example, you may want to invest in stagnant performance because you would like the opportunity to fast-track to rapid growth, but at this stage, you have lower revenue and cash flow. It’s about being smart with your money and investing a feasible amount during a time it will be most effective.

The timescale of SEO’s impact is unpredictable

SEO takes time to see results so in many cases it is seen as a gamble. But you may well have insights which can speed up the process. Have you had time working on the site? Do you have competitor knowledge? Experience in SEO? Historic data? The people investing in SEO often have more actionable skills than they may have initially realised.

So, we’re not exactly sure when the SEO will have its impact but we still need a maximum return for minimum effort. It’s at this stage, investors need to be savvy and think very hard about investing money effectively, having the team to do the job and finding those time savers.

Invest money effectively

The 3X Rule is an ideal way to have a template of how much to invest and where. As a rule of thumb, employees should be delivering three times more deliverable work than their salary. The best way to measure this is monthly salary versus how many hours and the price of billable work.

So, first off, invest in technology. You have your team of humans, now let the technology do its bit too. Before investing, ask yourself some questions. Does the technology save you time across multiple clients? Are there multiple uses? Does it provide better or more accurate data than you already have? Does it free up your team’s headspace for other tasks?

Stop doing the tasks you hate

Most of us have a slight ego and we may think we can do everything efficiently and to a high standard. This may be true for some, but for a large majority, we need to stop doing tasks we always procrastinate on, or hate, and give them to someone else to fly through them.

There are also a few ‘don’t dos’, which could be really be affecting the speed of your business’ output. Stop cold calling for new businesses, instead outsource to a sales team. Don’t manually finding outreach targets or email addresses for link building campaigns – use tools that have thousands of contacts ready to be exported in one list.

Planning your budgets by week, month and year is imperative for understanding where money can be invested and where money need to be saved, including your FUF.  

It’s time to save time

If you find yourself constantly trying to save money then spending too much time on the running of the business and the day-to-day tasks may be the business’ problem. Finding time savers from a project management and technical delivery side is imperative for maximum efficiency.

From the managing director, straight through to the digital marketing intern, organising your daily and weekly tasks creates a well-oiled machine. It breaks up long periods of work into manageable chunks with the satisfaction of ticking off completed tasks.

In addition to this, we earlier touched on automation. Using tools like Content King to notify of website issues will save you time on manually auditing a site. And when it comes to the day-to-day deliverable work, creating templates for your keyword researches, competitor analysises and reports significantly reduces the time spent on these deliverables.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Apologies for the cliché section heading, but it’s really true. Without any well-thought-out preparation, 4-hour tasks become six hours, eight becomes twelve because too much time is spent on figuring out how to execute the task rather than actually executing it.

Tools like let you set out tasks for each of your employees with deadline dates and billable hour information, while comments can be added and statuses can be updated. This helps management hand out the correct number of billable hours per client and gives the whole team clarity on the status of each deliverable.

Processes you need

There are certain aspects of running the business that has to be well thought out. Getting to know the clients with client onboarding, allowing time to make sales and bring in new business, giving enough time to deliver all work, being there to handle any complaints, give your employees 1-2-1s to monitor their progress and feelings, and finally marketing the business itself. All need to be dovetailed into the everyday running of the business.

Avoid any unnecessary time-draining tasks. Little Warden and Content King give you regular alerts on a website’s status from a content and technical SEO standpoint, so long-winded manual checks are not needed. Use templates for everything, from deliverable work to onboarding meetings with clients.

Need an answer to something? Use Ask Wonder – don’t spend thirty minutes scanning Google or asking colleagues. You have a great content marketing strategy, but simply not enough time to do it, don’t overwork and produce low-quality content, instead, outsource. Upwork is a reliable freelance tool with a huge database of highly-qualified copywriters looking for work.

Get a helping hand from tools matches the colour tone of a website and gives you the colour code to embed in future creative assets. This is brilliant for infographics to suit your client’s brand style. Similarly, Xtensio Persona Builder allows you to build a persona for the core audience group of a business. It allows the team to be consistent when producing visual work for a client.

Datamining is another excellent way to improve time efficiency. When doing a site search on a particular (a forum, for example), instead of manually dragging in all the URLs and title tags, you can easily pull them all together in one excel export.

Employ the right people 

For maximum return, you need it to be the right people’s time. A business simply doesn’t work unless you have a balanced combination of personality types. The four most common types are the playfuls, the powerfuls, the peacefuls and the precises. Essentially, if you had too many of one group, the working dynamics wouldn’t work.

How people interact within a business is just as important as who the people are. Away from the regular chatter, which is great for morale, most confrontations often have a pattern. You can either be an adult (the rational figure), a persecutor (‘it’s all your fault’), a rescuer (‘let me help you’) or a victim (‘poor me’). The latter three make up the drama triangle which the team can work on avoiding for a better environment.

How to attract candidates

Give your business’ audience pre-warning before putting out a job offer – ‘we’ll soon be looking for a new SEO specialist, watch this space’. Get people excited. Then once it’s ready to advertise, write a blog, include the job specs, then advertise on social media. Have a thought process behind marketing your vacant spot – you are in marketing after all.

Make sure the benefits of the role are clear and obvious (professional coaching, training, additional holiday etc). Use tools like Textio to make sure every letter and grammatical mark are perfect in the job description.

Finally, the screening process (if you’re not using a recruiter). Ask your team to do the first review of CVs, use Grammarly to check all CVs and cover letters are up to scratch, request cover letters answering a specific question to see how someone makes a decision, and hold an initial call with all the candidates before progressing to face to face interviews. 

Key takeaways

So that’s it. How to scale your SEO business. Here are six of the main takeaways: