Starting your own SEO Agency Webinar on September 7th with Begum Kaya, Nitin Manchanda, and Ilaria Fabbri.

Are you considering starting your own SEO agency or have you just started your own SEO agency and you need some tips on how to run your agency more effectively?

Joining Dixon Jones for episode 32 of Old Guard vs New Blood is Begum Kaya from BK Solutions, Nitin Manchanda from Botpresso, and Ilaria Fabbri from Reprise Digital.

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Transcript

Dixon Jones

Hello, everyone and welcome to old guard, new blood episode 32, how to start your own SEO agency. So this one is for possibly disillusioned people out there that want to go at it alone. Is it a good idea? I’ve seen plenty of people try and fail dismally. It’s not always as easy as it seems. I did it many, many years ago, and luckily I got out of there and I moved on. But let’s go and find out what’s happened in the decades since I was involved in my own agency.

Once again, I’ve got a fantastic crew with me, and why don’t they introduce themselves. Begüm, why don’t you start? Who are you and where do you come from?

Begüm Kaya

Yeah, thank you. Sure. Hello everyone, thank you for joining. Begüm Kaya, I am the founder and SEO consultant at BK Solutions, founded in Turkey. And I am working mostly with US and UK brands and also US and UK agencies, so I have this perspective as a founder and I also have this perspective as a person who works with agencies. So everything is kind of coming all together, and I’m at this stage of transitioning from solo consultancy to becoming an agency. So I can say that I’m the newest blood here, if I may.

Dixon Jones

Quite probably, thank you.

Begüm Kaya

Baby steps.

Dixon Jones

Okay. And Ilaria, tell us about yourself and where do you come from?

Ilaria Fabbri

Cool, yeah. Hello everyone. I’m Ilaria, I work in an agency actually. So I don’t have, not yet at least, my own agency, but I think I have lots of experience across different industries and different situations. So I think I have quite a lot of information, quite a lot of tips for anyone who wants to open an agency or wants to make sure the team he has with him is strong enough to beat the competitors.

Dixon Jones

Thanks, Ilaria, and it’s good to have a view of somebody that can see how other founders are floundering as well sometimes, which happens. And Nitin, how about yourself? Tell us about yourself and where do you come from?

Nitin Manchanda

Hey Dixon, thanks for having me, first of all. Well, I’m Nitin Manchanda, I’m originally from India, but living in Berlin, Germany for the last five and a half years. And I started my professional journey as a software engineer and then became SEO accidentally, but then I fell in love with this. I have more than 10 years of work experience in SEO. I was working for brands like Trivago, Omio and so on. And recently, a couple of years back, I started as a freelance SEO consultant, but very soon I realized there’s massive demand and I cannot clone myself, so I started hiring. And now I have an amazing team of eight people and I’m building this brand called Botpresso. Yeah, so that’s me.

Dixon Jones

Perfect. So I think we got a really good mix of people here, and a very worldwide mix of people as well. So that’s good to see. So before I dive into questions, I’d like to bring in my producer, David, who also of course runs his own, well, not so much an agency as a production company, but runs his own business as well. David, how are things, what have I missed out in my preparations today?

David Bain

Hello. Oh, you’re a pro, you never miss anything out at all, Dixon. I just want to deliver a quick message to those listening on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, other podcast platforms, other replay platforms, perhaps YouTube replay. Join us live next time if you can. You can interact in the chat, you can ask wonderful questions. We can actually put out your name and perhaps even your agency name, if you’re from an agency, in the chat as well. So if you can, next time visit majestic.com/webinars and join us live for next month’s episode. And I’ll be telling you about that and what we’re going to be discussing later on in this one.

Dixon Jones

And on that point, hello to Montse and Romero and Ibrahim who have all said hello to us in the chat. So thanks very much for saying things. And if you’ve got any questions as we go along, feel free to jump in. If you’re lucky enough to be listening on live.

So my first question to everyone is always the same on these things. If people don’t have 45 minutes to go through a whole podcast and you wanted to give somebody one piece of advice, this is probably crucial really, what one piece of advice would you say to somebody who’s setting up in business? I’m going to go with Nitin first and then go in reverse order.

Nitin Manchanda

Sure. Well, I think the number one advice I would give to anyone who is starting on business would be thinking about processes, thinking about SOPs from day one itself, because once you have processes in place, you can easily scale things up. Well, I started with SOPs, documentation, processes in the beginning as well, but it was not really properly done. So I would say focus at least 10% of your energy there.

Once you have it, scaling up becomes easier. And you can also deliver more professional experience, more high quality experience, if you have processes in place. You don’t have to train every single person whom you’re hiring. So once you have processes, that process also becomes more smoother. So that would be my number one advice if you’re starting fresh.

Dixon Jones

Process, okay. And I might come back and ask you where you store your processes so that people can see them and stuff as well, in a bit. Ilaria what about you? A thought for people, bit of advice for people?

Ilaria Fabbri

I think one of the first thing is choosing a niche, or defining your business because competitiveness is very high and very strong everywhere. And also, in terms of the opportunity and what offer you want to provide, I think one of the best thing to go through is talking about your team and thinking about which type of expertise you put together. So my advice would be to have a strong content team, because content is always very, very important and central and key, a trustworthy technical team, and a creative, as much as possible, creative PR or outreach team.

Dixon Jones

Okay, that’s brilliant advice as well. And I think we’re going to come back to the competitive landscape. I’ll come back to that in a second as well because I think things are probably a lot different from when I set my agency up in 1999. Begüm, what about you? What piece of advice have you got for people?

Begüm Kaya

I was going to say that treating people in your agencies as your assets, and building them as entities, as well as yourself, would be one of the best things that you can do when starting out. Just because I caught that Entity SEO book behind you. I think I got the inspiration from there. But when Ilaria was talking, I really thought about building these relationships and also considering your customers as basically assets and you are there to provide for them. So trying to position yourself not as a business provider, but as a solution architect or just an internal team would go a very long way, I think.

Dixon Jones

Well, another piece of great advice. And I think as well, if it was one thing that I wish I had, well, I was really pleased with what I did do, but I think if I was doing it again, I would spend much, much more time trying to do is, really, if you can hire the best that you can possibly get is my advice. And surprisingly, that’s not always the most expensive, although the problem is the really good people do want some big money, more than a small business can afford. But in my life I’ve found that partnerships are worth doing sometimes and sometimes giving up some shares of the company or at least some sweat equity for talented people is worth doing. The side part of that is don’t give away all your shares before they’ve proved their worth is the caveat to that one then. So that’s my little bit of advice, is hire the best you can.

I want to go back to Ilaria’s point there about deciding what niche you are going to go into, because when I think about the SEO agency landscape now, the competition compared to when I was at in 1999, I mean, frankly, no one had heard of SEO, and I hadn’t really heard of an agency either. I thought I was going to be an SEO consultant, and it was only as the business grew that I realized that people were looking for agencies rather than consultancies. And for me, the whole consultancy approach may have been a strategic error for me, and I should have called myself an agency at the start.

But how important is getting that story about who you are and what you’re doing right? Begüm, why don’t I go with you? I mean, have you spent some time on thinking about your own niche and what your strengths are as your business and how you’re going to differ from other people?

Begüm Kaya

I think when it comes to finding your niche, it really is connected with the projects that you get in the beginning, because you get to see what you like doing and what you have to do to make some money. So you are in that position to like which way do I have to go and which way should I go? So once you set that up, I think positioning is one of the very critical things that you have to deal with. For example, at the moment, I am having a hard time trying to position myself as a solo consultant versus an agency founder. So it’s something that I’m in progress, I would say.

Dixon Jones

It’s not an easy thing to get right. I don’t think it’s an easy thing to get right. And it sounds to me like you’re taking your cue from your existing clients who are pushing you in a direction that you may want to go, which is of course, one way to do it. And of course is where clients are willing to pay for it, so it’s good. I don’t know, Nitin, what about you? Have you gone in a different way? You have a programming background, has that helped you define yourself?

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah. Well, since I started my career, I always believed in automation and when I was working for and Trivago, Omio some other companies as well, so I was always believing in automating stuff because I think doing that same stuff again and again is something really boring. And that’s exactly the formula that I’m following here as well.

So about the competition. So yes, it’s massive when it comes to agencies. There are lots of agencies. So if you just go out, walk on a street, you’ll find five different agency offices here in Berlin as well. But I think the competition is rather lean when you talk about agencies or consultancies, which are doing something special, which are following advanced SEO practices, which are talking about technical stuff, which are talking about all this content automation and how you do things differently. So that’s exactly what I believe in as well.

So when I started Botpresso, the very first promise I had to myself was I will never, ever compromise on quality. And that’s the reason I have not marketed myself till date. So whatever business I’m getting, it’s coming through word-of-mouth or through my network. And I try to convert every single business opportunity that I have to a case study that we both can celebrate together. So that’s the motivation, that’s the first principle that I’m following here. So I think that’s how it goes with me.

And about the niche in particular, so when I started, travel was something which was my forte, because I was working for Trivago and then Omio, both travel brands. And then I worked for HomeToGo as well for a small stint. So travel SEO was something which was in my blood by now. And when I started, luckily I got couple of travel clients as well. I worked with them, grew them 250%, 300% in like eight, nine months on an average. And they were happy. And then I was like, okay, well I can do it. So let’s scale it. So that’s how it’s basically going for me so far.

Dixon Jones

That sounds quite a good story, because it sounds like there’s lots of ways in which you’re separating yourself from the crowd really, and the automation part of it, the presumably WordPress part of it a little bit, the travel part of it. And of course, there’s a lot of opportunities to automate feeds and things in the travel industry, which is ever changing. So I suspect you’ve got a fairly narrow, defined, great seam of potential income. So I like that, that’s something I couldn’t copy so that sounds like it’s well defined. So that’s great. Ilaria, you mentioned this idea of choosing your niche. What niche do you work in or how do you think people should be thinking about a niche?

Ilaria Fabbri

So first of all I think what the guys just say, I think combining the two is the best optimal approach. So having process in place, and automation is definitely the best way to be scalable and to be able to provide services to multiple accounts and to multiple clients. Also, be a partner and not just like an agency to offer its services is very, very important for retaining clients and retaining connections.

In terms of the niche, how I would, in terms of define my niche, would be personal interest. The case for Nitin, and also a little bit of market research. So understanding what’s your audience, what is already covered, what is still a possibility in the market? So what you want to go for.

I have experience with different and multiple situation, very, very different between them. With small markets, they’re products that are quite niche or big groups, global groups. And the approach is very, very different. So it is not strange to think that when they also go in [inaudible 001450] or pitching and everything, and when they look for an agency to cover them and to help them, they want someone different. If it’s a small brand or if it’s a corporate type of brand. So obviously, I work in an agency, and being in an agency for quite a long time now, I’ve been lots of opportunity to go in pitches as well in meetings. And the approach is, it can obviously be very different depending on the clients and the brand you have in front of you.

Dixon Jones

I think that’s good advice as well. I remember when I got rid of my… So my agency was Receptional, it’s still going now, it’s still going strong, but I never really got that story right. It’s a really hard thing to do for a lot of agencies to stand out from the crowd. And I think Receptional did a massive, a really good, job when they took over the business. It was a management buyout so the management bought me out, and they immediately shot a lot of my ideas down and went and did a much better job of branding themselves as yes, still a first full-service agency, a lot of PPC and stuff like that, but they really started focusing on, in their case, WordPress. And instead of just trying to order everybody’s websites, they properly went into the WordPress, design, build, market, do the PPC.

And so they had a much more focused approach, and they grew very, very quickly after they lost the original founder who was holding them back, possibly because I hadn’t found a proper story like that, that I think is so important for an agency.

And really, it’s probably the most important question for an agency. What defines you? What makes you different from everybody else? Because you don’t have to take over the world. You’ve only got to take over a bit of the world, and if you can own a small pond, that’s better than being efficient in a big pond, I think.

Okay. So let’s move on to some of the practical steps then of setting up an agency, because if I was leaving an organization, trying to go out on my own, there’s so many things I don’t know what to do. And I appreciate that you guys are all over the world. And so we’re in different countries. So we’re going to have different legal setups. I mean, how easy is it to set up your own business in Turkey, Begüm?

Begüm Kaya

It depends on different kinds of companies. You can be a sole proprietorship, or you can be a limited company et cetera. And all of those has their specific processes that you have to follow. But it’s rather easy when you are working with an accountant and they just sort everything for you, they decide on which… What is it called? Industry you are working in. So which job, branch you are going to open, et cetera. So it’s relatively easy.

Dixon Jones

Are you set up, in Turkey, are you in Turkish… What’s Turkish currency? Sorry. It’s been a few years.

Begüm Kaya

Turkish lira.

Dixon Jones

Turkish lira. And so, I mean, your bank accounts are in lira. How do you work with customers in the UK and US? I’m presuming you don’t invoice them in lira.

Begüm Kaya

I have basically all currency accounts that I’m working with and it just works internationally. You have all the global currency accounts and just receive per client needs. If they’re working in US dollars, I receive US dollars or Turkish lira, it doesn’t really matter.

Dixon Jones

So I use wise.com for that. You’re using the same one? Nitin’s nodding as well. So it’s suddenly been the easiest way to send money around. The problem with them of course in the UK is they’re not fully FCA regulated. So if they went bankrupt, then I don’t know where my money would go. Whereas if it was a Barclays or something like that, then at least I’d get some protection.

Begüm Kaya

Another service people can you use is Payoneer. I don’t know how compliant is that in the UK?

Dixon Jones

Payoneer?

Begüm Kaya

Yeah.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, Payoneer.

Begüm Kaya

People have been mentioning it quite a lot, and I was using it when I first started doing freelancing. It was pretty useful as well.

Dixon Jones

I know. I mean, I found Wise, well it used to be called TransferWise, wise.com really easy. So I’ll give them a plug for free. If you took my token, we could all get $60 per sign up or something like that. Anyway, nevermind. Sorry, you were saying-

Begüm Kaya

If anybody needs the link, I’m happy to provide.

Dixon Jones

Absolutely. Nitin, what about you? I mean in Berlin, Germany, how easy is it set up? Is it a lot of headaches or was it pretty straightforward?

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah, it’s a massive headache. Well, in Germany, everything is very document-heavy and it also requires the local language, and I do not speak German yet. And in general, I hate everything like admin stuff. I generally have a lot of documents and I only process them around the last dates and stuff, because I just hate that stuff.

So the road was not easy for me, especially the admin stuff and bank accounts and all that, but like Begüm mentioned, so once you have consultant, you can give a lot of load to this person. And also recently, so I was, even despite following all those practices, and following some solutions where you have a lot of templates, you can use them and save some time, but still I was struggling. So I met a good friend who is an entrepreneur himself as well. And he gave me a very nice advice. It’s a very simple one, but I think works like magic. So I’ve started doing that, I’m loving it. So he said-

Dixon Jones

He gave you a what?

Nitin Manchanda

He gave me an advice.

Dixon Jones

Okay.

Nitin Manchanda

So yeah, he said, “Whatever you do not like, just think about how much time you’re spending and then calculate your per hour price. And then you can compare whether it’s really worth it, because one is price. Second, that’s not making you happy. So if you hire someone who can do the job in that price itself, you should totally not think twice before hiring this person.” And when I did that, it was very easy for me. Come on, why I was spending so much time and so much energy on this which I don’t like? And I can hire someone really inexpensive to do that job to perfection. And that person would also be happy because they love this and they will also be able to make some money through their services.

Dixon Jones

When it comes to the setup and things, does that mean you have to trust those people a lot because you have to start giving them access to bank accounts and things like that? I mean, at what point do you worry about that kind of level of risk?

Nitin Manchanda

Well, that’s the biggest bottleneck. But for me, one good thing is I have a business entity set up in India as well. And my father got retired four years back, so he has been helping me with all that stuff because he retired as an account officer. So he understands accounts pretty good. And the guy who’s my accountant, he’s also my childhood friend. So for me, trust was sorted. I’m like, okay dad, you take care of everything which is accounts because I didn’t want to take care of that. So he took lot of load from me and now whatever was left, the German part, so there I’m finding these solutions. It’s a kind of-

Dixon Jones

But your accountant doesn’t speak German either?

Nitin Manchanda

No, the Indian guy, he doesn’t speak. He doesn’t know any even German rules, which are very different than what we have there in India.

Dixon Jones

Honestly, setting up a business in a foreign language would do my head in, I think. So credit to you. Ilaria, as that business grows, you see all the stuff happening around you. Do you feel that you guys are in control of your destiny as a result of the processes that were set up?

Ilaria Fabbri

Yeah, I think so. Obviously, we don’t have these type of issues or these type of challenges, usually. I know about German laws a little bit because I used to work with some clients in Germany, and I remember very well, everything was massively double-checked all the time. So I work in UK, so it is very, very different from here when you approach new client and you need to go through all the contract and sign up and everything. I remember very well it was very, very different for Germany.

And I can not even imagine how difficult it could be in Italy. It’s always much more difficult, everything around these type of topics in Italy. Obviously again, it’s not really my day-to-day work worrying about these aspects because we are covered by financial teams and stuff like that. But in terms of different countries, I think there are lots of differentiations, and UK probably is a little bit easier, I would say. That’s my opinion on that, but I’m not really the best person to ask about it.

Dixon Jones

I mean, I’ve been lucky. I’ve only set up businesses in the UK, but I’ve got a business partner in France and him and I discussed whether to set up our venture in France or in the UK. And he talked to his account, brother, friend, a lawyer, whatever, and said, “If you can set it up in the UK, for God sakes set it up in the UK.” Which was good because I couldn’t possibly have run something in France as well. Just because I don’t know the law.

And I think UK is fairly friendly for business startups. They make it easy for you to start, but also that makes it very easy for them to jump in and know that you are starting up. So it probably is in their interest because then two years later they can come down and remind you that you owe them tax. Whereas, I think if there’s barriers then it probably has a tendency for people to try and do things, not through the books, and then you’re adding to the black market economy. And then when you get caught, you’re in a much worse place. So if you are starting out, try and get legal as soon as you can, whichever country you’re in.

Okay. So what about business planning? Ilaria, I’ll start with you. I know you might not have done a business plan for your own business, but how much do you see of the business plans in the agencies that you’re in? And how important is it, do you think, for you to see those business plans?

Ilaria Fabbri

Yeah, obviously I have visibility on that most of the time. Not every time, but most of the time. And as you mentioned at the beginning, SEO is still not really the most important channel across everything. So most of the time the budget allocated to SEO is very little compared to other channels or other aspect of the business.

So what I can probably give my opinion on mostly is about how we still work so hard to convince clients and stakeholders about the importance of SEO, about the importance of investing money on something is organic. So it’s something that is not the part of paid expenses like paying Google to rank. So these are a conversation I’m having all the time at any level with all the clients. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small or a big client. So in terms of the visibility on the business plan, it’s always making clear how efficient can be SEO, and how can be cost efficient in terms of spending less and obtaining and make the most of it. So usually, what I give recommendation on is the objective. You have KPIs objective or targets for the year, and how much SEO can help with that, with a very limited cost for the brand or for the client.

Dixon Jones

Okay, great. And I’m guessing, Nitin, you’re up eight people, so you’ve probably been through and written a few more business plans because you’ve got an accountant with you. So before I come to you, I’m going to come to Begüm and ask, because you’re now going from that freelance process into employing people and potentially growing there. So how much thought have you put into a business plan and how much have you actually written down and what do you think you still need to do?

Begüm Kaya

Yeah, I actually hired someone, and I think he worked for me for six months and then we made him do the next move, and he was in a bigger agency in Turkey. I have been lucky enough to work with clients who came to me by word of mouth. So I was in a position to decline some clients even because I didn’t have enough time that I can work on those projects.

But at the moment, for example, when I need some extra power, I rely on freelancers, and it doesn’t go very calculated, definitely. But with the new projects that I’m having, I am basically calculating hours. How many hours would go into those projects? And if we had one year contracts versus longer contracts or shorter contracts, how much manpower would I need? And how can I automate some processes? How can I upscale the clients? And et cetera. And everything goes into that bundle, eventually that just gives me a total amount that I should be charging the clients for. And based on the clients that I will have additional, I’m actually planning to lay it out like that. But it was how it was.

Dixon Jones

So again, it sounds like it’s customer-led, the direction that you’re going with.

Begüm Kaya

At the moment it is, yeah.

Dixon Jones

So I suspect Nitin’s answer is going to be different. If not, I think mine is, my experience is different. Nitin, what about you? What do you put into a business plan and how developed is it? And did your accountant make you do it?

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah, no, mine is definitely a bit different here. So what I do is whenever I pitch to a client or whenever I speak with them, I tell them clearly that I’m not going to take this project as a consultant. So I’m going to go on the SEO strategy for your brand, which means I’ll have the rights to make decisions. I want you to be in the game with equal equity, so you’re putting in the same amount of passion that I’m putting in because for me, like I mentioned in the beginning, it’s not just a project. SEO for me is passion. I want to convert every single opportunity that’s coming my way to something big that I can be proud of.

So for that, I need commitment. So on day one itself, I say, hey, I would need let’s say one developer and one content resource full time who would be working with me. And then we keep it very clear in terms of KPIs as well, because I don’t answer those questions like how much will you grow the brand on day one? That’s impossible. For that I say, “Hey, let me just look at the website. Once I know the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities, the threats, then I would be able to tell you a better estimate on this.” So this is how I go.

And about the business plan, I think it changes often so when it started-

Dixon Jones

I mean, I’m thinking of the business plan for your own business, not for the client’s business.

Nitin Manchanda

On a business plan for my business, I think it changes often. So when I started, I was thinking too narrow and then I started thinking, okay, what else can I do? And for example, digital PR. So I’ve worked with some digital PR experts in the past. I love working with them, and I see this massive gap in the industry. There are a lot of people who are selling links, but very differently, not the right way, not the scalable way.

So I was thinking, okay, I want to do that in my life. But when I started, if I would have picked that time itself, I think I would not done the justice with what I am good at. So I set that up first and then I started picking other things as well. And now for example, I’m working with two clients, helping them on digital PR, not charging a single penny from them, because I told them that, “Hey, I’m not an expert. I just want to work on your brand and use it as a practice field for myself. So I will work with you, will bring some value for you guys. What I need in return is that you give me flexibility. You let me run the show.” And that’s working pretty good for me.

And once I build this confidence, I’ll probably officially start offering that. So about the business plan, I think I’m gradually growing it. I started as a consultant, then hired my first employee in November last year. It’s not even one year, it’s a team of eight already and still hiring, every single day I’m taking interviews.

And also, so in this team of eight folks I have, I have one full stack developer as well. So I’m also building a product, because I always wanted to build a product and scaling a consultancy, an agency, from one to 10 and then 10 to hundred, is really pain. It’s very difficult. But scaling a product from 10 to hundred to thousand is comparatively easy. So with that thought, I’m also working on product because I’m a product person. I love product. So I wanted to keep this consultancy angle as well because I love solving SEO problems. And in parallel, I’m also working on product because that’s something which will help me scale the business as a whole.

Dixon Jones

So this is really interesting because I mean, my world’s been very different, but then again, this might be because I set my first business up in 1988. So I’m guessing Begüm wasn’t born. And-

Nitin Manchanda

I was born in that year.

Dixon Jones

You were born in 88.

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah.

Dixon Jones

Of course, the internet didn’t exist, but I just finished my degree in maths and management. So my thesis was my business plan. So I’ve just got this experience of writing this really long winded business plan, the old typewriters and stuff. Well, okay, we did have computers but… And it was for murder mystery, so the internet wasn’t there. Sorry Ilaria.

Ilaria Fabbri

Yeah, I was thinking in terms of business plan, something else is important to think about is the offering. If you want to outsource something or not. Let’s say for instance, something is very usual outsources, PR, especially for small agencies. PR, outreach, is something you need to have someone really, really good otherwise it doesn’t really make the work and make the good results. So that part. And also in terms of teams, if you want to use employees, like full time employees, or if you want someone come in for some projects or freelancer, stuff like that.

And the last bit you can be, as you were talking about, production. Production of new tools or products. So if you start to produce your own craft. In some way, it can be saving money to not spending third party tools. But at the same time, you need lots of time and lots of good teams around that. So it’s always a balance of what you want to achieve and then how long you want to achieve your results.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. I’ve also found it very helpful to write it down. So I mean, even today I used it on a meeting yesterday, I’ve got about 14 page PowerPoint about where I want to be in five years time and who my client base is and what my marketing channels are and my cash flow problems.

And I have a friend of mine, Robert Craven, he’s kind of a mentor for running businesses and stuff. And he always advises you to, when you start a business, put down what you want in five years or in 10 years or whatever it is, the exit point, write that down on a piece of paper, fold it up and put it behind the radiator and come back to it in a few years time because unless you know where you’re going, you tend to make a lot of mistakes along way. You’re going to make mistakes along the way anyway, but knowing what you’re trying to get to is the hardest bit. And for me, writing things down has worked a lot. So I tend to have one to hand, but I’m pretty old school, I guess.

And maybe move life moves too fast these days for people to do that sort of thing because as you all say, things change pretty quick. So maybe it’s different. And-

Begüm Kaya

And also, I think along the way with the experiences that you have and the people that you talk to, your perspective changes and your goals can change too. So I mean definitely setting up your goals within five years is something very smart to do, but each year your goals might change and you should welcome that change and put on top of it with each step that you’re taking.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, exactly. Anyway, could go forever on that particular one. But let’s move on to something slightly different. And I found it really interesting Begüm, that you are in Turkey and your customers are in the UK and the US. And it feeds into my next question, which was, do you trade in your local or your own country’s markets or do you get your customers from overseas? And all three of you seem to be working with customers overseas. So I guess the interesting question is why? Why did you choose that approach as opposed to getting people on your doorstep? And I’ll start with you Begüm and go Begüm, Ilaria and then Nitin this time around. Begüm, how come all your customers aren’t in Turkey?

Begüm Kaya

It was actually something that I chose to do because I worked in an agency here in Turkey for a year and then I realized how Google works and how search works in different countries, I mean, English speaking countries, is very different to what we have in Turkey. And I wanted the chance to explore what these markets are seeing and how it can contribute to me as a global SEO consultant.

And then the pandemic hit, and I started hearing from and reading from many people all around the world and I was really fascinated by what they’re experiencing and what they were implementing, what they were testing, et cetera. So I wanted to be able to do it myself in English because Turkish market is very limited and the comprehension of Google is not that well. And the other consideration was definitely the finances, because with Turkish clients versus global clients, what you get is very different. I was going to say one more thing. What was it? I cannot remember.

Dixon Jones

It’s okay. Jump back in along the way. So that’s fine. Ilaria, what about you? Are your clients local or overseas or how has it worked with you?

Ilaria Fabbri

I have experience a little bit of both. My preference is always working with clients they are based on different markets in different countries where we can use a little bit of international SEO as well. The reason is because the culture behind that and the approach is more interesting, it’s more varied, so for you as an SEO person is probably more interesting at the end of the day.

But at the same time, the approach and the strategy more or less is very similar. For an agency, I guess, for a new agency especially, I think a big, big asset is having someone who speaks different languages, not only to please clients covering different markets, but also to reduce the cost of an extra agency to translate content or to do transcription. So in terms of the choice, it’s probably more expensive going for clients they have markets in languages which are not your language, but at the same time, it puts you in a much higher level of competition.

So you are exposed to bigger clients obviously, and to bigger competition as well. So maybe it’s not the first step, I would say. If I would be in an agency, or in the agency, it would be not the first one year time, but eventually is definitely something I would aim for.

Dixon Jones

I think you are all incredibly brave for going into foreign markets and taking them on. I’m scared to death going outside of my little comfort zone, even though I do it a lot. Nitin, what about you? I mean, you’re in a different country and don’t even speak the language.

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah, exactly. Well, I also have international clients. So yes, I do have some clients where they are primary markets are the markets where I don’t understand anything about that language, probably just hello and all that stuff, basic stuff, not even that in some cases. But I love taking challenges. And in those cases, I’m working with the content experts they have in-house to set up the process and then working on things.

So I think it’s manageable because when I was working at Trivago, so they are present in 55 markets, they have 69 domains. And same with Omio, they are present in 22 markets, and I was taking care of their global SEO strategy. And there I was dealing with a lot of people speaking with different native languages. So it was fun. So in the beginning, when I joined Trivago and I got to know, okay, 55 markets, and this is what I’ll be doing. And I was like, like you mentioned, scared to death.

But when I started working with these people, I think it was fun. So it’s again about setting up processes and continuous exchanges. And that’s something that I believe in, I believe in setting up, for example, even at Trivago and then I continued that at Omio and now in my current consultancy as well, I have that. So we have a weekly exchange round where we talk about, okay, what is something that someone in the room knows about? What they want to talk about.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, Ibrahim was saying money talks. Basically he’s saying, you go where the money is.

Nitin Manchanda

Yes, absolutely.

Dixon Jones

Brutally honest, which seems a very fair point to say. But it also tells me, just looking at what you guys are doing. It tells me that where you are shouldn’t be a barrier to where you’re going to do business. We really are living in a global world, and it doesn’t matter where you’re based, you can still tackle anybody anywhere, really if you’ve got the courage really. So get up and give it a try. So by the way, I was going to ask you Nitin, what do you use to store your processes and share them around?

Nitin Manchanda

Well, Notion is awesome.

Dixon Jones

Okay. So you’re using Notion. Do you do videos for people or do you do documents?

Nitin Manchanda

Right now it’s just documentation, but I’m basically planning to add videos and some other stuff as well. So I’m actually thinking about, so not right now probably next year mid sometime, I’ll start building another thing that I’m thinking, which is a platform where you just need to select the text stack. For example, if you’re on WordPress, you just select, okay, I have a WordPress website and that’s it. Then you have all the documentation which is related to WordPress. That’ll have documentation, videos, examples, interesting Twitter threads, everything that you can think about. So that’s when someone is working on, let’s say WordPress, and now they’re solving, for example, information architecture, they just click on information architecture, you have all the documentation there. So I’m planning to build this. So I plan to build this Q4 this year itself, but because of some other…

Dixon Jones

This is one of those, yeah I’ll never have the time to actually build it kind of things, isn’t it?

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah, exactly.

Dixon Jones

So Notion is probably still going to be your tool for a while to go.

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah. Notion is pretty awesome right now, yeah.

Dixon Jones

Okay, cool. All right, guys, we’re already up to time, but I wanted to finish with a question. What would you do differently if you started out again? Now, I don’t know which way. I’m going to go with Nitin first. I’ll go around Nitin, Ilaria and then Begüm. You’ve been at it, in your own business, for a while and you’re up to eight people. If you started out again, what would you do differently, Nitin?

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah. Well, I think I would probably invest a bit more time initially before signing a contract to make sure we have a hundred percent alignment. Like I mentioned about passion and other things. So it is a mutual process and sometimes I’ve signed… I learned a very hard way, sometimes I signed a couple of contracts and then the response from the other side was pretty awesome in the beginning. And then gradually they started focusing more on PPC because that was giving them immediate impact. So their focus from SEO went away. And then still, they were expecting me to bring some magic and then grow them a hundred percent overnight. But that doesn’t happen. So I think if I would have started or spent more time with them on alignment in the beginning to ensure that we are both on the same page, and that would’ve been awesome. So if I start again, I’ll definitely focus more energy on that.

Dixon Jones

Okay. And Ilaria, what about the agency that you… Well, I mean, whether it’s the agency you are at or agencies in the past, what do you think, if they were starting out again, they should do differently?

Ilaria Fabbri

I think two challenges that I learned from, one is about hiring people and the team around you, how you build it up is very, very important, is part of your daily work and it’s part of your daily results with the client as well. So this is something you need to always spend enough time on to define what you want or what you want to achieve.

And the other bit is set up expectation with the clients and with the brands you work with. So usually what I do is provide a number of targets or a number of packages, if you want, in terms of when we put together the scope of works or the planning for next year ambitions. So yeah, I think set up expectation quite precisely is quite key. Not saying always being reducing the expectation, but being quite freer on that. Something like you can actually achieve with the team you have in front of you.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, I think that’s a very valid point, the way in which we build a team up is critical really in the end. And you don’t know till the end whether you did it right in the first place sometimes. And Begüm, you are just in the throws of taking on your first teammate, but I bet you’ve already got things that you wish you’d done differently. So what about yours?

Begüm Kaya

It was a happy, diverting way. So no questions there, but I think I would learn more about Eisenhower metrics, the one where you are going to do the work, where you’re going to delegate, et cetera, earlier. And I would think more about embedding mindfulness into my everyday at work because it can be very stressful as a solo consultant etcetera. So just knowing your ways would be nice.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, that is an important conversation for another day, I think actually. It’s trying to get that work life balance and the approach is really important and founders get themselves so stressed sometimes over the smallest of things. You’ve got a client who you promised an email back that day and three o’clock in the morning, you realized you didn’t and it wasn’t an important email, but it becomes very, very important to your next three days because you didn’t sleep.

Begüm Kaya

And on that point, I think what Nitin said really comes into play, finding your alignment from the beginning is really important.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Guys, we’re at the top of the show. Thank you ever so much for coming along. Just before I ask you. Well, just before I bring David back in, if people wanted to find out more about you guys and touch base with you, where would they go? Begüm?

Begüm Kaya

Twitter. Begüm Kaya SEO.

Dixon Jones

Twitter. Sorry, say that again.

Begüm Kaya

It’s Begüm Kaya SEO. It’s going to be difficult, but I’ll drop it in the chat.

Dixon Jones

It’s all right. B-E-G-U-M K-A-Y-A SEO.

Begüm Kaya

Yeah, thanks so much.

Dixon Jones

Because people on podcasts can’t see what’s on the screen. Ilaria, how would they get a hold of you?

Ilaria Fabbri

It’s probably LinkedIn, and is under my name, which is Ilaria Fabbri.

Dixon Jones

Okay. So Ilaria is I-L-A-R-I-A. Can you spell your surname?

Ilaria Fabbri

It’s F-A double B R-I.

Dixon Jones

Okay. F-A double B R-I. And Nitin, how about you? How can people find you?

Nitin Manchanda

Yeah, well you can catch me on botpresso.com. That’s my official website, or you can just search for my name on LinkedIn or Twitter and you can find me there. I’m very search friendly.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Again, I’m going to have to spell that out. So Nitin is N-I-T-I-N but Manchanda is M-A-N-C-H-A-N-D-A for those on-

Nitin Manchanda

Thank you, Dixon.

Dixon Jones

Those on Spotify and Apple. Guys, thank you ever so much for coming down. Just before we go, David, can I bring you back in, tell us what’s going to be happening on the next show.

David Bain

Yeah, absolutely. Look, wonderful episode this week. It felt like the conversation could go on at least double the length of time. So perhaps we need a part two of this at some point, but next week is going to be-

Dixon Jones

The mindfulness stuff, I’d like to bring that back in. So maybe we can bring Begüm back in for that.

David Bain

Okay.

Dixon Jones

What’s on next anyway?

David Bain

Sure. Episode 33 next time, that’s going to be on Wednesday the 5th of October. Same time, same channel. How to win an SEO award is what we’re talking about next time. And we’ve already got two guests for that one, Montse Cano. I think Montse’s watching at the moment. Hi, Montse, and Kevin Gibbons. Serial award winner, Kevin Gibbons as well.

Dixon Jones

He certainly does seem to win every award I’ve ever seen.

David Bain

So just go to majestic.com/webinars to sign up for that.

Dixon Jones

Brilliant. Thank you very much everybody, and we’ll see you in cyberspace. Cheers.

Nitin Manchanda

Thank you, Dixon. Goodbye.

Begüm Kaya

Bye.

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