Thanks for joining us again, Kai! We’ve talked about your approach before, and it really seems like you have this unique blend of PR and SEO, which utilises content writers for hire. In fact, I think that the line between the two has become pretty blurred. When you’re doing your elevator pitch, how do you frame yourself? Do you stick to the SEO titles, or do you also work in a nod to the PR side of things?
KD: I used to frame myself as an SEO consultant, but in the last six months, with the help of some coaching from one of my mentors – Johnathan Stark – I’ve made the explicit decision to frame myself as an outreach consultant, primarily because nobody knows what an outreach consultant is at first.
To put it in perspective, I can be at a cocktail party, connecting with new people, and this title gives me a chance to explain what goes into being an outreach consultant. It immediately lets me frame what I’m doing in a new way and shows how I’m combining best practices from business development, public relations, and search engine optimization. At the end of the day, I could easily frame it as SEO, but there’s a stigma associated with this industry at times.
I even had a past client say to my face, “The two things I hate in life and just can’t stand are SEO consultants and lawyers!” Considering my background and the fact that my dad is a lawyer, it made for a bit of an awkward conversation, to say the least.
By intentionally framing it as outreach, I’m able to control the conversation a little better and add some intrigue to the discussion. It’s really a powerful way to communicate when I can dispel these preconceived notions about SEO and show my methodology at the same time.
Do you practice technical SEO? As an example, if you take on a website that has bad content generated by the client’s content writers for hire, maybe some lingering SEO penalties, or any other number of unfortunate realities on the technical side of things, do you take this on, or is it outside of your approach?
KD: I approach it and offer guidance, but I don’t necessarily tackle it. I do offer products, like the “Website X-Ray,” where I go in and do a technical audit. It’s a checklist that covers about 300 issues across 10 different themes or subjects on the site – accessibility, content issues, etc. By the time I’m done, I send over a 30 to 50 page report that covers everything I found and my recommendations for fixing the issue.
The big reason for this is that there’s so many content management systems and platforms that it’s much more effective to point the customer in the right direction and let their developer or site content manager who deals with the content writers for hire handle it on their end.
This Website X-Ray, is it something you control manually, or is it an automated process?
KD: It’s entirely manual. I literally go through and review everything about the client’s site that the content writers for hire have generated. I’m actually completing one for a startup right now. Day one consists of four to six hours of auditing the domain and then mapping out what needs to happen next. I guess you could call it a hands-on or “boutique” process.
Do you have a standardized price for this service?
KD: I do. It’s $849 per client.
What about your everyday working conditions? Do you operate out of an office?
KD: Actually, right now it’s just myself and an assistant, so I work from home. However, we do meet up a few times a week for work sessions and planning. I like the idea of small, “boring” businesses, so this setup is perfect for now. I might hire an additional assistant down the line, but staying small and keeping things personal with my stable of clients is a fun way to operate.
That actually transitions us perfectly into the next topic. Previously, you’d mentioned you liked to keep a fairly lean roster of about six to eight clients in your back pocket. Is that still the case?
KD: That’s spot on. I work with six to eight clients at a time for my ongoing services. Usually, I’ll also work with one to three additional clients on “one-off” projects every month. Back when I was starting as a freelancer, I rode the income roller coaster, so I’ve made this recurring stable of clients a high priority.
That’s really admirable, if I may say so. Kudos to you for maintaining that discipline and those relationships. What qualifies as a competent client? Are there clients that you’d turn away?
KD: Thanks! And there are clients who just aren’t on the same page as me at times. I probably turn away two to four people every month who are interested in working with me, but they just aren’t a good fit. Generally, someone who’s not a good fit for me is someone who has a new website, isn’t producing revenue online, doesn’t have quality content writers for hire, or doesn’t have a crisp, clear idea of who they want to reach.
My ideal client profile as it stands now covers retail and eCommerce companies that make somewhere between $500,000 and $5 million dollars in revenue a year, as well as those who also want to grow and expand via SEO and digital outreach.
Interesting. So how did you come up with that range in particular?
KD: In terms of those numbers, we’re dealing with smaller companies that enlist somewhere between one and 15 employees – which is the kind of team I like working with. I’ve worked with larger enterprises before and it takes a long time to get things moving forward. With the smaller teams, I’m able to connect directly with the person in charge, which naturally reduces the amount of downtime and back office politicking going on. Also, when I look back at who I’ve worked with, I always tend to come back to the notion that I like working with clients that fit into this size range.
What’s your typical client retention rate like? Do you have most of your relationships last for years and years?
KD: I’d say that because SEO and outreach consulting provides continual benefits, it’s kind of like running a marathon. You wouldn’t stop on the side of the road after 15 miles for no real reason, so I advise these clients to stick with the process in the long term.
The longest client relationship I’ve had was 24 months, and typically I see my client engagements last between six and eight months. At that point, they might decide that it’s been a great relationship, but they want to take things internal, or they want to focus on a new area of weakness.
In a lot of ways, I think of this as a huge win even when a client looking for content writers for hire chooses a different path. When I think back to my time initially as a freelancer, most of these projects only lasted around a month – if that. So to be able to work with a client for three, six, or nine months is a huge win. I love watching these relationships grow stronger over time.
Is client retention beyond an average of six to eight months something you’re actively working on?
KD: Not necessarily. I like seeing the direction of my business grow and change over time, and I think part of this is that clients naturally just cycle in and out of the industry. Given my client “cap,” I generally only lose and gain a new client every couple of months or so.
If that wasn’t happening, it wouldn’t be possible for me to change and redefine the direction of my company, which at this point is more on target with retail and eCommerce businesses.
So there you have it. From developing the ideal client profile to managing a digital outreach business on a daily basis, Kai continues to provide an amazing amount of insight into what it’s like to be a player in the modern world of SEO and content development, where you should look for content writers for hire. If you can’t wait to hear more from Kai, join us next time as we wrap up this engaging three part series. Until then, if you’d like to learn a little more about Kai, feel free to leave a comment below or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or over at his site, Double Your eCommerce.