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Sebastian: Hey guys, welcome to the SEO podcast. This episode, we have Ryan Stewart. Ryan welcome to the show.
Ryan: Thanks for having me. Good to be here.
Sebastian: You started WEBRIS an SEO agency and then three years later, you sold it to another company called From The Future, is that right?
Ryan: Correct. Yes, and I actually just negotiated my buyout from the agency so WEBRIS is now soon to be back live.
Sebastian: What was the purpose behind the sale? Were you just looking for cash?
Ryan: No, the purpose was that I was tired of running an agency. I was burned down, I was worn out. We grew fast, we grew well, we were profitable. It was a great business but it consumed 150% of my time in my life. And I wanted to get more into selling my training platform. I just didn’t have the time to develop it. I wanted to get more into software. So, this is opportunity came up for me to — it wasn’t quite an exit like a full buyout, it was more of a merger than anything. But it allowed me to free up my schedule. From The Future bought my agency. I became a partner at the agency From The Future but I didn’t have any necessarily day to day operational responsibilities per say. So I was able to pursue other things while taking a paycheck from the company in lieu of a buyout. So I was able to basically get like passive income in a sense for a fraction of the amount of work that I was doing at the agency while still being involved in an agency so that was the main reason. I just wanted to focus on other things. But now it’s back at the point where, you know, I just believe that I can do it myself again. Now that I have a team, I have the resources, I have my other companies up and running doing great now, you know, I just want my own agency back again for a number of reasons.
Sebastian: So, you’re a partner at FTF right now, but you want to go back into your own agency and take control again is that what I’m hearing?
Ryan: That’s exactly what you’re hearing. Correct.
Sebastian: So, when you go back and become WEBRIS again, what would your ideal client look like, or do you cater to everybody?
Ryan: No, that’s a great question. So Caesar is actually back here now. He’s going to be pretty much running the agency of the day to day and all that stuff. We’ve been talking a lot about how we want to do that. Do we want to pick a niche? Do we want to go after, like only small clients, only local clients? And right now, we’re pretty much going to go after everything and anything that we can get our hands on just to get revenue in the door. I’m a firm believer that cash flow is king and getting cash in the door and basically just kind of shooting holes in what we’re building and then figuring it out from there as opposed to going in and I’m not going to turn down money up front because we need to build revenue. So, our ideal client right now is anywhere from I would say like $2,000 to $8,000 a month in retainer spend. I know that’s a pretty big range but that depends on the level of service that they would need. So, a $2,000 client would probably look like a small local business that is performing pretty well. They just need someone to manage, do some reporting for them, kind of stay on top of things but does not require a lot of hand holding and communication. Whereas an $8,000 client would be somebody that needs more strategy, needs more consulting and hand holding and therefore has to pay more. So like the service will pretty much be the same but like the variable in terms of the cost will have to do with the amount of time that you need from a local communicator, strategist type person. Because that’s where having years of running agencies, now I understand that that’s where things can get expensive is your staff and your payroll. And understanding that different retainer sizes and different types of client need different levels of communication, need definitely different levels of expertise. So right now, I get quite a bit of leads so I’m starting to entertain those leads and do a better job in the sales process of understanding what their needs might be down the line. Like our main goal is not so much this is our type of client, but it’s more like, this is what we don’t want to do. We don’t want to deal with clients that are going to be a headache. So we’re doing a much better job of trying to identify that during the sales process, which means I’m having multiple phone calls, I’m asking a lot more questions, I’m trying to get access to their analytics ahead of time before I even start putting together a proposal and wasting my time with that. It’s much more of a pre-qualification in terms of what’s going to align to what we’re selling as opposed to selling in somebody that down the line is going to require a lot more resources and we’re going to be upside down in our time losing money. So it’s not so much like we’re going to work with e-commerce clients that can pay us 20 grand a month, it’s going to be more along the lines of clients that we believe we can service profitably with not a lot of headaches and give them a good service too obviously that kind of goes without saying.
Sebastian: And now you have a personal brand so it might be easier to get some clients. But back in the day when you first started WEBRIS, how were you going about getting clients? Were you doing local meetups or other tactics?
Ryan: It’s the same thing I’m doing now. I just have momentum now and I actually had a meetup here in our office last night and somebody asked that question too. And they were asking about like, creating content, how do I do it, I don’t have time, trying to run an agency? And yes, I’ve been doing this now for, when I look back on my YouTube channel, I’ve been posting videos up there for like six or seven years now. This is something that I’ve been doing for a while and that was my strategy back then too. It was content promotion, just getting as many eyeballs as I possibly could. But if I didn’t have this kind of head of steam built, what I would do would be to advertise. And I would go out and I would pound the pavement meeting as many people as possible. That’s just not a skill set of mine. I’m an introvert. If you put me at a networking event and I’ll just be sitting there in the corner with a beer you know. It’s not really my strength. There’s just a lot of stuff man. I mean like outbound sales works really well too. I actually hired somebody for me personally to help with my training, The Blueprint training to do outbound sales and it’s working really well. People assume outbound sales doesn’t work because they’re constantly bombarded with shitty outbound sales people. But when you actually take the time to connect with people and have conversations and then introduce them to what you do instead of just being like hey, my name is Ryan. And people try to get slick with it like in their LinkedIn bios like I help companies grow and scale, set up a call with me. No, I don’t want to do that but if you hit me up on Instagram and we chat — actually the two kids that I recently hired for full time employees were just sending me Instagram DMs for a couple of months. So I know about people that man, if you can break through my business schedule and get my attention with some DMs and offer me some tips and advice — The kid that I hired, he was seeing my Instagram ads and he was like, yoh, there’s a better way to do it. Like, let me set it up for you for free. He came into the office, we had some conversations and I hired him. So outbound works really, really well. I think that it’s something that people just don’t know how to do right. So, if I were to go back all the way from scratch and I had nothing. I had no money, I had no people, I had no awareness in the market, I would just do outbound sales. I would be on LinkedIn, I would be on Instagram just prospecting for people that I thought were qualified and just having conversations. That’s it.
Sebastian: Alright well, let’s switch to tactics for a second. We all as SEOs, we love working with WordPress but if you had to, what would you say is the next best CMS to work with or you don’t mind working with?
Ryan: Probably Shopify but that’s of course only for e-commerce. After that, honestly they’re — so that’s another thing I should have mentioned is that at the agency now, we’re only working with WordPress websites. Because operationally to get — so like at the agency right now From The future, we have a lot of specific developers to work with non-WordPress CMS’s like Demandware, like all these other platforms that are great because we can charge clients a lot of money for that type of work. But those people are also expensive if you have to keep them back filled with work otherwise, you’re paying them and you’re not profitable on that person. Operationally again, just something that I learned is, I don’t want you to take this agency to $100 million. That’s not what I want from this agency. I want this agency to fit into my overall portfolio of companies as a cash flow property. Something that people pay us every month, maybe we make 50 grand a month in client retainers. Got a handful of really cool people that work on the stuff. They’re happy, they can work remote, I can pay them well and we can be very high in margin and I can take a good salary from the company and that’s it. That’s all I want from this agency. And part of that means streamlining operations to not have headaches and hiccups down the line which can come with working with CMS’s that people don’t know how to do. So, if we have a client that runs on Demandware, then that person who’s running that account, wherever they are, whether they’re here or offshore, whatever, if they don’t know Demandware, they have to learn it. Which is going to take up a lot of their time which means I’m not making money off that. So, WordPress is so big that so much of the web runs on it that it’s not even a niche to be like we’re only going to work on WordPress websites as opposed to you know, there’s a ton of great CMS’s out there but like all of my people know WordPress and it’s easy for me to get offshore people to go in and change page titles on WordPress, as opposed to Demandware — You know what I’m saying, it’s just a whole thing. So that’s one of the things that we’re focusing on is just WordPress websites. We’ll do Shopify too but I’m actually trying to not do that much e-commerce. I’d rather just do like lead gen and again, campaigns that are similar to what I’m doing for myself with The Blueprint and at WEBRIS because that’s the system that I’ve built for myself which means it’s what I know very well. Which means my staff knows it, which means they can do it without my time and attention and we can just kind of set it running on without me needing to be there. So there’s other great CMS I don’t know because I only use WordPress. My other partner, his name’s David Krevitt. He’s kind of my technical liaison. He handles all this stuff. So, we have a piece of software that’s almost getting ready to go live that doesn’t run on WordPress. I think runs on Rail. I don’t even know what it runs on. It’s just outside of the scope of what I know. So he just handles that stuff. But from an SEO agency point of view, I just focus on WordPress. There’s other good stuff out there too I guess but WordPress is just the best for me.
Sebastian: Of course. Well diving into your toolset for a second here, if you had to conduct an audit, what would be our first tool of choice?
Ryan: We have something that we built internally. It’s called the website quality audit. It’s amazing. But in all fairness, that tool runs off APIs, so this is why my partner David, we built a tool now runs in sheets and Data Studio as the final output but what it does is it pulls API data from SEMrush, from DeepCrawl, from Search Console, from Google Analytics, which I would say all those tools would be like my first tool that I would check. It pulls from ahrefs, it pulls from Majestic. It’s really powerful. And then it pushes it up to something called Big Query which is a cloud processing engine to process all that data and then it spits it out into a spreadsheet format and then also into a Data Studio report so we can see what that looks like. And that report basically tells us all the issues that we’re looking for, like low hanging fruit, pages to improve, pages that need links all that stuff. So I mean, all those tools I could I could put on my first tool list. DeepCrawl is awesome — Ahrefs is my favorite SEO tool. It’s what I check the most. But Google Analytics is incredibly powerful and Search Console too. And that’s why we built that tool is because we need all of them. And we got tired of pulling up separate reports. So we figured we should just put it into one. And we did it and now it’s awesome.
Sebastian: I was going ask you — my next question was going to be, if you had to pick an all-in-one-SEO tool, would it be a Ahrefs or Serpstat or SEMrush? I guess you said Ahrefs?
Ryan: Yes. I mean — I don’t have one because I like Ahrefs for its link index and I like it for its keyword reporting and for its ability to do competitive research. I wouldn’t use it for technical SEO audits. I like DeepCrawl because I’ve just been using it for a while. But like Sitebulb is also really bad ass. Screaming Frog is cool too — that works. But unfortunately, and I’m not talking shit, but I don’t think Ahrefs technical tool is where it needs to be for me to use that and rely on that. So if I were to pick one tool that I could only use, it would be Ahrefs but I need other ones to do holistic SEO.
Sebastian: And content writing optimization, do you use Ryte or ClearScope or Surfer?
Ryan: Clearscope is cool. I don’t use it for my properties because I feel like I know my stuff really well. But when it comes to doing client stuff where we don’t know and understand maybe their industry, Clearscope is cool. And again, I know Clearscope because the dude reached out to me and hit me up. Bernard, he just sent me an email was like, this is a tool blah, blah, blah and I was like, cool, let me check it out. And our employees really liked it so now we use it. But I’ve heard good things about Ryte too but I think it’s kind of expensive. I don’t know.
Sebastian: Yes, they’re all pretty expensive. So you recently came out with a course called The Blueprint. Can you tell us more about what that is and who it’s for?
Ryan: Yeah, The Blueprint training is an end-to-end SEO training platform for agencies and consultants. Literally everything — from it’s probably now like 20 modules. Everything from client onboarding, technical SEO, keyword research, on page, link building all that stuff. And each one of those modules has a ton of short step-by-step videos all built based off a process. It’s not like me on a whiteboard like “this is keyword research”. It’s built into decks, presentation style. And then I just basically run you through step-by -step how to do everything including keyword research. And then also what we’ve done is we built our tools into that. So like we have a keyword research template and I’m doing keyword research on screen with different examples using that template. And then basically just showing you how to do keyword research, live. So that’s end-to-end. There’s also a Slack channel for ongoing consulting. It’s awesome. I love that business. It’s been doing very well and David Krevitt is my partner in that. And that’s been going tremendous for us.
Sebastian: We’ll link that up as well. Do you read any books or blogs about SEO or marketing in general?
Ryan: I don’t. I mean, I listen to some podcasts, I listen to Perpetual Traffic which is one of my favorite podcasts for paid traffic for Facebook ads. I don’t really listen to SEO ones that much because I don’t — I know this is going to sound bad but I don’t feel like SEO is changing anymore. It’s kind of boring. I don’t really care to listen to case studies about growing traffic anymore. It’s just not new information. But Facebook is something that’s constantly changing. And it’s really hard to figure out so I like to listen to stay on top of that. They’re constantly changing like they’re adding new ad types in there. It’s just dynamically changing whereas with SEO it’s like they roll out an algorithm update every now and again and I just don’t care. But Perpetual Traffic is really good. I also like GaryVee podcasts. I think GaryVee is highly underrated by a lot of people. A lot of people in the SEO community don’t like him, they think he’s annoying. But I think — it’s almost ironic, like the SEO community is like a big champion of content, but they also don’t like when people put out too much content which is kind of ironic. And from what I understand of like the negs against GaryVee in the SEO industry is that like, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He was given his parent’s business before but like the dude’s a baller. From an executive level, like his insights — I think people listen to him because they want strategic insights. But he’s not going to be like “hey, this new ad format in Facebook is really good”. He’s telling you at a high level, how to have success and he’s also doing it for you. Like if you just look at what he’s doing, he’s giving you the blueprint. People just don’t want to execute it. And I think the SEO industry is very avert to things like Instagram in general for a lot of reasons. Mostly because we don’t really live interesting lives. We’re sitting in front of our computers all day. So you can’t really have that like you know, stories type feel of like, “hey, look at me on my spreadsheet” you know what I mean. But I listen to GaryVee’s podcast. I think his insights are tremendous especially at catching trends. If you just listen to him to just understand like what’s coming down the pipeline in terms like overall marketing trends, I think he’s awesome. What other podcasts do I listen to? I listen to another one on capitalism.com. This dude Ryan Daniel Moran. I like him. That’s more holistic kind of like business. He talks a lot about Amazon and e-commerce but I also just think his mentality and for where I am, at my career too, I’m less focused about that new marketing tactic and I’m more interested in the things like investing my money and tax shelters — things like that as opposed to like that new marketing tactic. And again, I’m doing so much marketing too is that I know its working because I’m doing it and I’m testing it and I see what’s working. And I know how to scale that now. And I have a podcast too. I don’t listen to it but you should listen to it.
Sebastian: I do. So Ryan, where’s the best place people can reach you? Is it Twitter, email, or just through The Blueprint?
Ryan: Instagram man. Instagram is my shit now. It’s ryan.was.here on Instagram. Same thing on Twitter, ryanwashere. Twitter is really good for me. The Blueprint is a business I’ve been focusing on a lot but WEBRIS.org is coming back and then I also have my personal site; Ryanwashere.com. Where I offer consulting. I do a lot of consulting with agency owners. They’ll zoom me into calls, run through some strategy, things like that. I really enjoy doing that as well. So any one of those, you can find me I’m very active.
Sebastian: Bonus technical question, if you’re up for it. If you had to find the meta data and link data of 1 million URLs, how would you go about approaching that?
Ryan: Honestly, I would have I would have my partner — I would have my team do it. I don’t know. These are the things that I don’t know anymore. I’m super fortunate that over the last couple years I’ve hired some really smart people that you know — This is just kind of an important concept that I think that a lot of people in SEO get stuck on is that they get too bogged down in things like that. Not that that’s not an important question, I’m not trying to say that. But if you want to continue progressing and growing your career, you have to be understanding how to take that step up. And staying down in the weeds on things like that. You can’t scale. If I’m focused on doing things like that and not hiring people who understand how to do things like that, and take this service to the next level and stay on top of that stuff and then build people under them that can do it too. How am I supposed to get to that executive level? You know, how am I supposed to run a 100 million dollar company if I’m worried about how to change the title tag on a Demandware website? You see what I’m saying? So I learned that a couple of years ago, and I’ve been working really, really hard to surround myself in part — like number one is partnering with the right people who complement my skill set. So like my partner in The Blueprint, David Krevitt, he knows all that stuff. If I have a problem that I don’t know how to answer, I just hit him on slack and he’s like, “don’t worry, I got it, this is what I do”. And same thing with him. We’re rebuilding his website and like really revamping its marketing, doing a lot of video stuff for him. He relies on me to help him out with that. And then also, Caesars back here, if somebody hit me up, I’ll be like, “yo, Caesar” and Caesar would be happy to do that, because that’s what he does. He enjoys doing that stuff. So I think it’s surrounding yourself with people who understand those things. If I were to answer that question honestly, I would ask Caesar how to do it. I have no idea and honestly too that type of stuff just doesn’t interest me anymore. I just don’t care. And that was one of the reasons that the agency now — I just didn’t have any interest in doing a lot of that type of work. I wanted to do other stuff. So yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to come off like an asshole answering that question. But I think it’s a very important thing that a lot of SEOs specifically, because it’s such a tactical service. Things are changing a lot. You do have to stay on top of things. But running an agency and building a business like you can’t get stuck down in the weeds. I think a big thing that SEOs struggle with is learning how to delegate work and learning how to hire and manage people to do it right. And then what happens is that people say they have an agency because they have a few employees, but like, they’re not growing past a certain level because they’re still highly involved in the service. They’re still highly involved in strategy. They’re still reviewing keyword research data and you just can’t do that. And that’s of course, if your goal is to scale. My goal is to scale. Maybe not my agency, but my other businesses. And again, I know that I can’t scale past a certain level if I’m constantly digging back into the weeds to try and figure things out that are just not worth my time when I can pay somebody to do that and then I can focus on things that are just going to make the company money. My time needs to be focused on making sure that people are happy and cool in revenue generating activities. That’s the most important thing that I can be doing right now. And finding and fixing meta data is not going to make us more money, you know, for sure.
Sebastian: Awesome. All right. Well hey, Ryan, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it man.
Ryan: Anytime brother.