Elite Strategies 2013: Our Year in Review
It has been such an amazing year here at Elite Strategies. When I quit my job now almost 4 years ago I never dreamed my small consulting business would be nearing enterprise status. Everyday that I wake up I am grateful for all that has been given to me, and for the amazing & talented team that I get to work with every day.
My Wife Joined Us
Other than the fact that she is the love of my life, she is literally one of the smartest and most talented people I have ever encountered in my life. And I’m not just saying that either, she has literally doubled our growth in just over a year, and has truly made this company her home. From the moment I started this company, I begged my wife to come work for us. It pained me to see all of her talents go to waste for other companies when she could be working with the family business.
Finally she made the leap and never looked back. She was the missing piece that we needed, and has been able to do things that I have never been able to do – such as stabilize our sales and really take hold of our marketing and branding departments.
Jacquie was also the person that was the most instrumental in shutting down our cold calling center and moving towards our new strategy.
That’s right, I put a selfie on our corporate blog.
Has it affected our relationship?
Only in good ways. Most of you probably think we work side by side in the same office, but it is quite the opposite. Our working hours are different from one another, so when she leaves the office at noon, I am usually on my way in. Rarely is there overlap in our work schedules and when there is we work very well together.
Our Website Tripled in Traffic
I don’t know how it happened, but it did. Our unique visitors literally tripled from 2012. I can honestly say I’ve never purchased or schemed any backlinks for this site. All SEO has been purely public relations, and a lot of blogging. We even had a bit of negative SEO happen mid-last year from someone, but a quick disavow ensured that would not harm us.
I also attribute this growth to our blog. Posting some great blog posts made our average time on site go way up and bounce rate way down. It also caused us to get thousands of social shares and social interactions this year, which we all know Google loves.
Sam, the core cog in our machine
We Tripled Our Backend
Early last year we really started to move away from using consultants to hiring in-house. We had a few bumps in the road, but the team we have right now is just kick-ass. Our backend office is no-nonsense and everyone is dedicated to our clients from sun up to sun down. We have a strong presence in SEO, social media, content, and web development. Everyone works together towards a common goal. We have a very crazy system that is something like:
- Lots of Whiteboards
and it seems to work out just fine. I am a technophile at heart, so coming to work for me is more like getting to take part in my favorite hobby in the world.
A Renewed Commitment to Whitehat
When Penguin 2.0 rolled out, it hit a few of our clients in a not-so-good way. I took this very personally being that I, along with our sales staff have very personal relationships with our clients. It hurt me to see them suffer in the search engines so I knew I had to take action.
My title at Elite Strategies is CEO, but my day to day role is more like director of technical operations. I manage our servers and oversee pretty much all SEO and social media activity for our clients.
This year I put my foot down and forbade anyone from using any tactics outside of Google Webmaster Guidelines. Now, we were never a black hat SEO company by any means, but it was a challenge to get rid of some old habits.
I can now say with 100% conviction that we have not imposed any penalties on any of our clients since this renewed commitment. In addition to that, we are seeing a much higher retention rate and much better results for our clients.
We Stopped Cold Calling
We actually shut down our cold calling operations in 2011 I believe, but it really set in this past year. I wrote a blog post about our experience in cold calling for SEO leads as well.
Cold calling put a huge amount of stress on our team, and it was a constant source of anxiety for me personally. It was the core of our operations for a very long time, and I was worried that we would lose momentum. It ended up being the best decision we ever made, and never looked back.
Our Blog Blew Up
The primary reason that our website tripled in traffic is our blog. I committed to writing 2 solid posts per week, and managed to write several posts that went semi-viral. In addition, we started seeing much better engagement:
- social shares are way up
- we went from getting zero comments to several per week
- we now have 10 people who have posted guest posts and 4 that post regularly
- our new design definitely helped
Our top posts for the year were:
1. 8 Most Overused SEO Images – This post went viral on several forums and social media sites, and got shares from a few people which caused a huge surge in traffic. It ended up doing so well that I wrote a post about it titled “9,538 Views From a Stupid Post, A Tale of Virality.” This really was kind of a stupid post that I just whipped up, but it just goes to show you that if you make a post that appeals to the masses and is executed properly, it can take off very well.
2. Guide to Tumblr SEO – This is actually a 3 part guide that I wrote after experiencing a ton of success with Tumblr. These posts are ranked for all sorts of Tumblr SEO and marketing related keywords on Google, and generally bring in anywhere from 15-50 visits a day to our blog.
3. Owning Pinterest in 11 Hours – This is another post that was inspired by an actual client case study. The Pinterest account we used continues to bring in actual revenue to the client in this study. This post got hundreds of social shares and continues to get passed around the web and gather links.
It has been a challenge running an agency and trying to post, but blogging about internet marketing is something that I have truly learned to enjoy, and actually look forward to. I love the research phase of blogging, it really keeps me on the edge of the industry at all times.
I Replaced Myself (almost)
For the first 2-3 years in our company, I was literally on the front lines of all operations from SEO to sales to web development. I had 2 goals:
- create systems that would enable me to reduce the amount of repetitive tasks I found myself doing day to day
- hire professionals that would allow me to step away from the day to day operations and focus more on the company
Luckily, I managed to meet both goals. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve stopped doing SEO for our clients. In fact, SEO and web development for our clients still takes up roughly 60% of my day but it is a choice that I make to do that rather than a necessity. I love being able to delegate tasks and know that they are being done by people that I trust in.
I’ve been reading a lot about growth hacking this year, mainly blogs and have been obsessed with systems and automation. I’ve found that some of the most successful people in the world are not the ones that are the most talented or the most educated, but are the ones that know how to delegate the best.
There Have Been Challenges
For starters, we had a bad problem with some of our bloggers using unlicensed images and getting huge fines for it. Our content writers know not to take images from the web, but sometimes images from social media sharing sites (for instance) that appear to be free and clear of licenses but are actually from another site. This is still a challenge for us and are still seeking a solution for finding solid images for our customers blog posts day to day.
Inheriting penalties from other SEO companies has been another challenge. So far this year we have taken on 3 clients that were free and clear of penalties, but received a penalty after a few months of being with us. We ended up adding a clause to our contract stating that we are not liable for any penalties that might be imposed by Google as a result of links that were built prior to our contract (or work that was done prior to). This put a lot of stress on our project management team having to deal with irate customers as well as our technical staff scrambling to get rid of these penalties.
It is getting tight in our office! As of January we are officially out of room, yet we are expecting to hire 2 more people. Right now we are considering getting another satellite office, or getting out of our lease and getting into something with more square feet.
It’s Been a Great Year
This year at Elite Strategies has truly been amazing. The success that we’ve experienced have faaaaaaar outweighed the challenges.
It truly feels like we are making a difference in the world. It feels like we are helping people. We actually get calls and emails from people telling us that we are helping them.
I am going to continue to let our own organic growth be our guide. While we will continue to set short term goals for this coming year, I know that if we continue to do great work and treat people well that we will continue to thrive in the industry and great things will continue to happen.