Laura Hogan of JellyBean

You can find Laura at:


Resources mentioned:

KW Finder
Reddit Big SEO
Screaming Frog


Sebastian: Laura, welcome to the show.

Laura: Hey, you’re right.

Sebastian: Hey Laura. You’re the director of an agency called Jelly Bean, which is a full service digital marketing agency. Is that correct so far?

Laura: Yes, that’s right. So, Jelly Bean is my agency and we operate from Birmingham in the UK.

Sebastian: Nice. And you’re one of those agencies that seems to offer every service under the sun when it comes to digital marketing. Is that how you started out or did you have more humble beginnings?

Laura: Yes, I started out kind of doing a bit of everything. So, one of my first jobs was actually blogger outreach. I started doing that then that built into wider SEO, there was PR elements in it too and then I learned PPC after that. So, I’ve always been a bit of a mixed bag in what I’ve done. The only thing I would say we don’t do and that I just can’t do, I’m not a developer and I’m not designer so like graphic design and web design, they’re not a strength of ours.

Sebastian: And when you bring a client on board, are you trying to sell them all the other extension services or if they just want one thing, that’s what you’re going to sell them?

Laura: 100%. It’s whatever they want. So, the way we work is that we just have a flat fee. And it means that if somebody — say if we’re doing SEO with them, and then they actually like the idea of doing some PR, we can test it with them without adding a fortune on to their retainer for them. Then when we prove that it works, it can be an additional retainer too. We want to do whatever is going to help the client drive their revenue increases or leads if they’re slightly more B2B. We definitely don’t try and sell them everything, it’s whatever fix is going to work for them.

Sebastian: Who would you say your ideal client would be?

Laura: I really like eCommerce. Because I think from an SEO standpoint, there’s so much to get your teeth into, particularly when you start looking at the technical aspects of the site as well. There’s a lot you can do with products and the discontinued products in there as well — making the best value of those. B2B, I think is awesome for content. There’s so much thought leadership you can do on the B2B side. So an ideal client for us is somebody who’s willing to test, or willing to try. We come with some ‘out there’ ideas, I suppose with our PR. One that we’re running at the moment is, I’ve literally got petri dishes in the office and we’re looking at germs on makeup brushes and things. So yes, we just want someone that’s going to think outside the box a little bit and let us have a chance to be a bit creative.

Sebastian: So a B2B eCommerce, open-minded kind of company would be perfect for you guys then.

Laura: Yes, and anybody that’s open minded, takes advice on board. It always helps when people implement their techs quickly. There’s nothing less than a client that takes six months to fix some canonicals and 404s. I think any SEO can agree with that.

Sebastian: And how were you getting your leads in the beginning? Where you doing a lot of outbound outreach or did you build some sort of inbound authority?

Laura: A bit of both. So I was very fortunate that there was some people who contacted me and had seen me at events historically, and had contacted through that. We worked up some referral partnerships as well with other companies. But then we’ve done a lot of heavy outbound prospecting too and we don’t just send people a cold email, going “please work with us”. We actually are really creative with our sales process and how we approach people. I’ve sent out sea monkeys to a diving company before. I sent a chalkboard to a school — What else have we sent out that’s been — I’ve sent baking stuff to a tea company. So, we just try and send something really fun to somebody because nobody gets any fun post anymore. It’s mainly bills isn’t it? So, yeah, capture the attention.

Sebastian: Right. So, what would you say to a prospective client who says, you guys appear to be just another full service marketing agency? What makes you guys unique? Would you say that is your unique angle?

Laura: Creativity. I suppose everybody can say that. The unique angle which we go with is that we don’t work on this hour basis like a lot of agencies do where you buy eight hours a month, and then you don’t exist to us anymore. We don’t do that. We don’t have that solicitor mentality in the way that we work. We’re very much part of the team. I’m very big on face-to-face. Like, every single client we have I’ve met. I try and meet every single client every month. Some of them we meet more. We know a lot of the surrounding team as well. We know the sales team there, we know the products team at the company as well. We get as involved as the client will let us be. Because the deeper understanding of their business as a whole we have, the better the strategy we can give and the better results. We’re also not an agency that does a document for the sake of it. I’m more about rolling the sleeves up building links, re-optimizing pages, just getting it done, rather than sending a 10 page word document that basically says, ‘we’re going to optimize this’. It’s just being the most efficient as possible and getting the best results — Make friends, yeah?

Sebastian: Well, let’s switch the tactics. You mentioned eCommerce that you love to work with. A lot of eCommerce platforms as you know, are not very optimized for SEO. But if you had to pick, what would you say your first choice would be?

Laura: I think — I love WordPress WooCommerce. It’s a lot more popular now too. It is really common to see it. But you can edit every page, we can edit the content easily, you can edit the optimization easily, you can put your canonicals — in the sitemap. You don’t have some of the issues you have with Shopify. But I do think Shopify is getting better. And when people do have Shopify developers working on their site, you are able to fix a lot of those standard issues that you see with Shopify. I’m actually not a big fan of Magento. I know its super common for eCommerce but I think just to do basic things, like the CMS is — it’s not simple to use is it? It’s quite complex for most people. So, I think they’ve got a long way to go to get their SEO ideal for the standard business owner who’s got a big stock listing on it.

Sebastian: You mentioned WooCommerce. I know there’s a few other ones like Cart66 and I forget the other ones, but is there something specific about WooCommerce that you said the other WordPress-based eCommerce platforms don’t have?

Laura: I think it’s just the ease of it. You know, it’s not expensive to run either. So for small businesses in particular, it’s really simple and easy to use. They’ve got a really good plugin for Facebook too, so that you can pull everything into Facebook shop really easily. If it’s a subscription service, obviously they’ve got their subscription add on which are additional paid for, but their help sections ace too, so it just feels like they’re really user friendly in their approach.

Sebastian: And you mentioned you guys do technical, and I’m assuming you conduct audits. So if you did, would you use something like Content King or JetOctopus or Screaming Frog or do you guys have your own proprietary methods on that?

Laura: Yes, so we use Screaming Frog, SEMrush and Deep Crawl primarily. When we do any of our tech audits, we combine the data from the three and then pull together kind of what the issue is, what fixes and if it is a WordPress and things like that, we’ll go in and fix what we can for them. A lot of clients don’t have the time or they might not necessarily have the development resource to do it either so we’re happy to go in and fix what we can. And for content, like you say you know, you’ve got like Content King and BuzzSumo and some of the others as well that are awesome. It’s literally like a tool for everything isn’t it, in SEO now?

Sebastian: Yes. You mentioned SEMrush too, do you guys use that for like keyword research or do you use like standalone tools like Keyword Finder?

Laura: RIP KeywordsEverywhere — like we used to use that all the time and SEMrush, we do use for keyword research too. Google Ads still has a bit of value and then Bing Ads is quite good also a good idea for keyword research. But yes, we just combine everything. We look at what competitors are targeting too when we do our keyword research for clients because that can give a nice idea.

Sebastian: A fairly recent thing is the content optimization with Ryte and Surfer and ClearScope. Do you guys dabble in those tools or not really?

Laura: Not massively with those, no. But definitely open to hearing more about any tools that can kind of help for sure.

Sebastian: And to wrap up the tools section, a lot of SEOs are really weary about what hosts they go with — do you find hosting to be a big impact on SEO?

Laura: I’ve heard it can be and I know when — it’s like one host and they kind of share it across a few different sites or off the same host, then that can affect speed a little bit. We don’t have any of our clients that are sharing theirs with anybody at the moment. They’re all on their own individuals. So it’s not something of past experience but I have seen it and heard people talking about it before and saying that it can be an issue.

Sebastian: Do you follow any marketing blogs or podcasts or books or anything like that?

Laura: I must admit I use Twitter quite a bit. Which I know we all do, but I just find the conversations are so fresh on there and you tend to get two sides of every argument don’t you. People are talking about BERT at the moment and half of people are going ignore it means nothing, then somebody else is like, oh, my site’s been hit by BERT, what do I do? I feel like you get a really good overview on their. From a podcast perspective, I do quite like The Marketing Meetup. They do meet ups across the country that are obviously marketing focused. And because it’s not always purely digital, that people are talking about, it kind of gives you some ideas that you might not necessarily have thought about for things.

Sebastian: And what would you say to a SEO agency owner who’s basically just starting out and they’re pretty intimidated by the whole process of gaining new clients, what would you say to someone like that?

Laura: It’s not easy for sure. There’s a lot of luck involved to be honest but to just keep at it. Remember why you started it and why you wanted to build the agency up and just be bold with your prospector. We went to one of the biggest travel companies in the country within our first three months and we won it and that was by sending their marketing manager a video from a footballer that we know. And we knew that he supported that team. And we then got invited to pitch and we won the pitch. So don’t be afraid to be bold and be a bit different with the way that you approach it.

Sebastian: So you don’t need like an office or a large team to win these pretty sizeable clients?

Laura: No, we have an office but the whole team’s remote. I’ve got an office in the center of Birmingham that anybody on the team can use whenever they want. We can meet clients there, but we tend to take clients for lunch, we meet them at their office, we go for a drink. But now there’s people who live in Leeds that work for JellyBean. I wanted to hire the best people rather than paying for a fancy office and then relying on training juniors up. Which I’ve done before, and it’s awesome when you see people come in, and you train them and you see them turn into these awesome SEOs. But that’s not how I wanted JellyBean to be. I wanted everybody to be super experienced. I’d rather pay for really good talent so we can get strong results from the start and build a really healthy client base earlier on.

Sebastian: And obviously, we’re both on Twitter and it’s pretty active in terms of SEO. Do you find that there’s another channel out there that’s also as effective?

Laura: Reddit is quite good. There’s the BigSEO subreddit as well. I must admit, I’m not as much into Reddit as I should be. But I know there’s a lot of discussions over on there.

Sebastian: If digital money was to go away tomorrow, what would you find yourself doing instead?

Laura: I actually wanted to be a primary school teacher many years ago. And I’d started down that route and then got distracted by media. So I think I’d either be a journalist or be a primary school teacher, which is quite opposite aren’t they.

Sebastian: Hey, Laura, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Laura: Thank you for asking.

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