5 Ways an SEO Can Make More Money (That Have Nothing to Do with Google)

Today, let’s skip past SEO tactics and get right to the green. As I’ve blabbered about before, many SEOs lack common business sense. In no particular order, here are some tips I think are important for any SEO who is trying to be a better CEO.

1. Decide to make more money.

OK I don’t mean to sound like a speaker at a pyramid scheme “success seminar”, but goals are very important. As soon as your goal becomes “make $XX,000 per month”–as opposed to a goal of say, ranking #1 for a certain keyword, or getting 350 bloglines subscribers to your blog–you’re on a more focused track, and likely to make more money. Smart people tend to achieve their goals, the issue is picking the right goals in the first place.

2. Get a damn accountant.

Having an accountant do your taxes can be surprisingly cheap ($500?), but it is also surprising that a really good accountant can be hired for only a marginally more expensive price. Spend $1000 on a smart accountant who handles a lot of other entrepreneurs, and chances are he’s going to save you a multiple of the $1000 you spend. And a penny saved is a penny earned right? (Did I really just write that? Am I getting old or something?)

3. Depreciate asset purchases as aggressively as you legally can.

A lot of accountants don’t know how to handle depreciation on online assets such as premium domain names, and tend to be over-conservative when depreciating them. So if you’re investing in a lot of online assets, you may want to get an accountant who specializes in Internet business. But even if you have a “regular” accountant, find out how they’re treating depreciation of Web sites and premium domains that you purchase. According to this article, you may be able to depreciate over a 5 year schedule. One single premium domain could wipe out nearly all of your tax liability for the year. :-) (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or accountant, do not take this as legal advice, consult your own accountant and lawyer before depreciating anything.) Just be aware of this issue, and use tax law–legally–to your advantage.

4. Raise your prices aggressively and periodically.

OK you may raise your eyebrows at this one, but the truth is a lot of people get “used” to earning a certain amount and then more or less live with that indefinitely. The reality is, online you can go from novice to expert in a specialty pretty quickly (i.e., you can go from novice SEO to pro in 12 months, and you can go from n00b affiliate to super affiliate in 12 months). So make sure to take stock of yourself periodically and try to figure out if you provide more value than you did before (and if so, how much).

Last month I had my business partner call all of the merchants we’re an affiliate for, and ask them if they can pay us a better rate. Guess what? Every single one said yes. Our largest merchant partner gave us a 10% across the board increase. (We’re doing good volume, so they want to keep us happy.) It was probably the most profitable 5 minutes in our company’s history, a short, painless phone call made us an extra five figures this year.

If you perform a service, I think this tip is even more important. Are your prices the same as they were last year? Do you have more clients this year? If so, demand has increased and you should raise your prices. Are you better known this year? If so, your reputation has increased, and you should raise your prices. When a client knows you and likes you they won’t be angry that you’re asking them for more money. They will simply look at the new price and ask themselves if the value is still there, and if it is, they will pay you the new amount. Trust me, they would rather pay you marginally more than go to the bother of finding another provider, who may or may not be a scam/idiot. Another interesting thing is that increased pricing generally leads to increased value perception; you may find that you actually attract more–and better–clients with higher pricing.

If you’re an employee, you should also be aggressively (but politely, and intelligently) asking for a large raise periodically. The difference in the value created between a first year SEO and a second year SEO is huge–as should be your pay raise. If the value you create has doubled (and your boss is smart enough to recognize that), you’ll be able to negotiate for a lot more pay. So do it. Disclaimer: a lot of bosses are stupid, and won’t recognize value. In my experience, most employees also fall into two camps–those who wildly underestimate their value, and those who wildly overestimate their value. Make sure you fall into the third camp.

5. Get a personal assistant.

If you’re creating a lot of value, at some point you have to do what you can to remove low-value activities from your daily work. The best way to do this is to a) outsource what you can (design, programming, etc.), and b) get a personal assistant for other sorts of tasks (research, pick up dry cleaning, etc.) Bonus points if the assistant is hot and wears skimpy clothing. I actually have a “virtual assistant” who lives in another country and would pretty much hate my life if I didn’t have him (and I would get less done and make less money).

Anyone with other good business tips for SEOs, feel free to comment!

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#1 James Dunn on 08.02.07 at 8:28 am

“Raise your prices aggressively and periodically.” “Bonus points if the assistant is hot and wears skimpy clothing.” - I love it. Good advice.

#2 Copy King on 08.02.07 at 8:34 am

“Bonus points if the assistant is hot and wears skimpy clothing. I actually have a “virtual assistant” who lives in another country and would pretty much hate my life if I didn’t have him…”

I would consider putting a little more qualification or distance between these two sentences. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you don’t. ;)

#3 admin on 08.02.07 at 8:41 am

I am comfortable with ambiguity.

#4 julien on 08.02.07 at 12:30 pm

so, can you recommend a way to get a good personal assistant? all the companies i’ve tried (two indian ones) weren’t particularly responsive. who do you use?

#5 admin on 08.02.07 at 12:33 pm

> who do you use?

A guy who did a small project with me, and gradually I used him more and more. Good provider relationships don’t happen overnight. I find it’s generally better to try to find individuals (not companies), and then test them with very small projects. Honest on a small scale usually gets replicated on a large scale, and vice versa.

#6 DaveStarr on 08.03.07 at 1:05 am

Some very good advice here. Especially numbers 2 and 5. Number 2 should probably have the add on advice of “Use the Accountant first, not last”. Most of us tend to follow the model of blundering along until tax time and then handing the accountant a shoebox full of “history” for the year. A good accountant can still save more than his/her fee, but there are many things that can’t be taken advantage of “after the fact”. This would be a good time of year to sit down with your accountant and plan the strategy from now until April 2008. Jan 1st 2008 would be an even better time to plan to maximize your coming year profits.

On number 5, I am in a position where I could start a business offering personal assistant services … I live in a country (Philippines) where there is a huge pool of well educated, excellent English-skills, internet-savvy talent. Since you have already found it profitable to use a “virtual assistant”, maybe you could share a little about the way in which you farm out work (by the hour, buy the job, etc., and a guess or two as to the scope of the market in the US as you see it? Anyone who wants to discuss this further with me direct can feel free: davestarr (at) gmail (dot) com

#7 werty on 08.03.07 at 3:32 am

I totally agree with the accounting. Ours is getting us to change from an LLC to an S Corp, which will save us each 5k or so on taxes this year.

What do you have your personal assistant do? I am lazy so anything less I can do I would be a fan of.

I would not mind a local personal assistant to do all my BS errands, but that type of work could not be outsourced overseas.

#8 admin on 08.03.07 at 6:19 am

> What do you have your personal assistant do?

make lists of “link beg” targets, manage social media spam rings, submit to blog carnivals…

#9 modernnomad84 on 08.03.07 at 3:22 pm

Forgot to tell ya- but it’s been delicioused….

#10 firelead on 08.11.07 at 11:09 am

How are you able to get an accountant that cheap? :)
Usually they are $75 - $150 dollars an hour.
well - i love the blog - good reading. Keep up the good work.

#11 shakedown on 11.29.07 at 1:16 pm

It’s important to not just decide how much money, but how you are going to make that money. To make money online, you can’t just focus on SERPs. You have to start your campaigns with the outcome in mind. You need to set AND meet your customers’ expectations before they even know they are in the market for your product or service.

All to often we become familiar with our industry and we start speaking to our customers in acronyms instead of the language they are using to search for your product/service. For instance, I do a lot of affiliate work in the financial services industry. In credit repair a term like “creditor intervention” is commonly used among professionals in the industry. My customers don’t start their search process using “creditor intervention.” (Sorry, I won’t share my keyword list with you.)

Your keywords should meet the expectations of people new to your industry. THEN…. You HAVE to meet the same expectations when they land on your landing page. Let’s say you buy some “guru’s” e-book and he tells you to use the “Buy” before your keywords in the title. “Buy Widgets” - so you customers click on “Buy Widgets” and they land on a page where they have to follow your logic through a site to find a shopping cart. If someone clicks on “Buy Widgets,” their expectation is they will land on a page where they can buy widgets.

From a SEO perspective, your linking strategy should also consider expectations. Make sure your text in your backlinks aren’t just there as spider bait, but they are also setting expectations that will be met on the landing page. Get pagerank for converting terms, not just general terms. If your deeper pages are addressing the expectations of the backlinks, your site WILL be crawled and you load your home page with broader terms. Within a surprisingly short time, your site will start climbing the SERP ladder.

Build your campaigns for conversion and when you start getting the traffic, it will be good, converting traffic.

#12 luk4biz on 03.03.08 at 1:55 am

I agree with you on number 5. If you want to unload some of the daily task, you can outsource it. Outsourcing is one of the cost effective strategy that you can adopt.