Five Reasons This Post Exists
1. To Publicly Evaluate The Business – As months go by, memory blurs, details are forgotten, progress can seem stagnant - in essence, this serves as a way to collect and preserve the important aspects from the last year in Evolving SEO. And more importantly, to take a giant step back and evaluate Evolving SEO in an objective manner.
2. To Take My Own Advice - I tell clients (in applicable industries) all of the time. Share your successes, share failures, share data, speak with personality. That’s CONTENT!
3. To Answer People’s Requests - A handful of folks tell me they’d be interested in a “year in review” for Evolving SEO. They’ve been curious in what’s happened in the last 12 or so months, so this is an easy way to share that with everyone.
4. To Look Ahead - To prepare for something - and I’m not going to lie. I’m not sure what that something is …more about what could be next for Evolving SEO at the end of this post.
5. NOT to “humblebrag” at ALL – This post is hopefully an objective, honest and entertaining look at the last year. Despite certain small achievements, there’s plenty more I could have accomplished. And there were some mistakes made. But at the same time, you have to acknowledge failures AND progress. It’s part of growing and preparing for what’s next.
Looking Back At December 23rd 2011
Evolving SEO as a viable full time business was still in it’s infancy one year ago. But a few folks encouraged me last year, and I will never forget it.
Let me be clear – I don’t actually think I came through for what they predicted. Not even close. I will NEVER think I have “arrived” at some false notion of a finish line. There’s SO much more I think I could have accomplished. SEO is NOT a popularity contest for me.
But what mattered was their encouragement. I have to say, if they know it or not, those simple 140 characters spoken over the web stuck with me all year.
And later that night my wife and I celebrated our 5th year wedding anniversary. I told her what my friends had said, and I told her I thought 2012 was going to be a great year for Evolving SEO.
Was 2012 A “great” year? Let’s take a look back!!
Note: I know not all the following stats (thumbs up / tweets) are “important” in the grand scheme of things. Just a fun way to highlight some of my best (and worst) content from the last year and certain rough benchmarks. For example, follower count matters less than engagement, but I’ve personally seen a direct correlation between “effort” and follower count.
These stats are from December 23rd, 2011 – December 22nd, 2012
Evolving SEO Stats
Website, Unique Visitors: 16,561
I put minimal effort at best into gaining traffic to Evolving SEO, mainly because most effort is focused on client work. And I don’t publish content very often.
Website, Most Visits In A Day: 596
(October 22, 2012 – Ben Folds post)
When I do publish content though, it tends to do well in that day/week.
Active Clients December 2011
Active Clients December 2012
Total Number Clients Helped In 2012
About 47 (ranging from small consults to big projects)
Dan / Personal Stats
New Twitter Followers: +2,071 (since 12/23/11)
Most Commented Post
The Ultimate List of Rank Checkers (47 comments – including my comments)
Most Tweeted Post
Least Commented/Tweeted Post
Five SEO Minutes With Noah’s Dad (0 Comments / 12 tweets)
Hours Worked On SEO
(only the last quarter of 2012 was actually full time on SEO, more on that below)
- 1,465 in the year
- 122 a month
- 6 per business day (roughly)
- Take note, I didn’t always remember to track my hours
- Also note, roughly 900 hours were spent teaching music across the year (again, more about that below).
Roughly 8 or 9 – ranging from casual, to actual interviews.
Job Offers I Accepted
None (obviously, duh) ;-)
- Most Thumbed Up Post – Click Worthy Titles (139 Thumbs Up)
- Most Thumbed Down Post – WordPress SEO (5 Thumbs Down)
- 136 Private Moz Questions Answered
- 81 Public Moz Questions Answered (as an associate)
January-August 2012 – Not tons of people may know or realize, but for the first eight months of 2012 I was essentially working two jobs. In this time, I was still teaching piano lessons roughly 20 hours a week. This quickly became quite difficult and taxing on my schedule and well-being around Feb/March and was a huge challenge to maintain, until September when it cut down to 5 hours a week.
May 2012 – My wife Sarah, graduates college (with honors), with a business degree, and can now help behind the scenes on Evolving SEO part time. (She helps with bookkeeping, administrative stuff, SEO tasks, research and is a huge help on the occasion I make a website for someone).
September 2012 – I cut down teaching music to only 5 hours a week. I was able to work out a deal with a local music school, for them to take over about 15 hours of my teaching schedule (teachers come to my studio space). This allows me to finally focus 95% of my time and effort on SEO.
December 2012 – Hire first two subcontractors to help with client work – Ted Ives helps me with some keyword research, and Anthony crafts me some incredible titles/concepts for a client project. And although technically not a subcontractor, when someone needs heavy duty link building I recommend Ross Hudgens, whom I’ve had the pleasure of teaming up with on a few projects. It takes the super-duty link stuff off my back and allows me to focus more on what I do best.
Notable Dates / Events
December 23, 2011 - Sarah and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Evolving SEO is still only about 35% of our monthly income, with on average 3-6 active clients. I am still teaching music lessons 20 hours a week.
January 3rd – In an effort to do some local networking, I apply to BNI. My application for membership at the local BNI was initially rejected (because the “Internet Marketing” company claimed they “did SEO”).
They later accepted me, but in the 45 days that has passed, I had become too busy to commit to the weekly meetings.
February 2012 – After a series of blog posts at the beginning of 2012, finally some great referrals start coming my way from other SEO agencies. I go from twiddling my thumbs to being totally packed with SEO work in a matter of a few weeks.
March 20-22 – Attended SES NY.
Spent most of the time working in the lobby of the Hilton. (In part to keep up with work, in part due to boredom. Sorry SES, but that was like the least helpful conference ever).
March 22 – Gave my first ever SEO presentation at SES NY – at a sponsored session for SEMNE (so not a “real” presentation). Kinda thought I bombed the talk (hadn’t even practiced it).
March 27th – Officially became an SEOmoz Associate
April 2nd - Attended LinkLove Boston
May 3rd - I was a guest on the ever-loved #seochat. Despite prepping with pages of notes, I thought it didn’t go so well, but it was fun. (Alan Bleiweiss had a good time mocking me / stealing the show).
June 9th – My application to speak at Mozcon as a community speaker is not chosen (despite a cupcake bribe!)
June 27th – Gave my second SEO Presentation at a Distilled NYC Meetup. Myself, Tom Critchlow and John Doherty Presented on “SEO For Startups”.
Despite nervously pacing forward and back during my presentation, I thought it went pretty well! Ha!
July 25-27 – Attended Mozcon in Seattle.
August 16th - Applications to speak at SMX East AND Agents Of Change are both declined on the same day (my birthday!)
September 1st – Began working with our first “dream” client, Vosges Chocolate, as a result of this post I had written almost a year prior.
On the same day, I finally go from 20 hours/wk of teaching music to only 5. HUGE relief, and can finally focus on SEO basically full time.
September 25th - Technically, we took an extension on paying 2011 taxes, but still paid them “on time” in full for the first time… ever (I’ve always been full/part time self employed since college and have never been able to pay taxes in full due to lack of saving – I have my wife to thank for managing this so effectively).
Still got hit with fines though, for not paying quarterly.
October 1st - Began working with our second “dream” client, Nashoba Valley Winery, as a result of this post I had also written about 9 months prior. Ended up basically just migrating them to WordPress, and didn’t actually do any SEO (yet) so don’t judge it that way
October 18th – Started the NoBoard SEO Series on YouTube. A bi-weekly video series in which I spend a few minutes sharing/teaching/talking/muttering stuff about SEO.
The NoBoard SEO Series – Episode #16 “Exposing SEO Opportunity With This Custom WMT Report”
I’m tired of being rejected to speak, so with this series I hope to prove that I can engage and share SEO concepts effectively, and be an asset to any conference or event willing to have me!
October 23rd – Hosted a webinar on Twitter for Private Schools through edSocialMedia (THAT was a blast!)
November 5-6 – Attend SearchLove Boston.
November 7th – Spoke at Mozcation Portsmouth. My third SEO presentation. Talked about “Analytics For SEOs”
I thought the delivery was good, but think the content it’s self could have been better. Permanent videos have no been published, but you can see the replay of the live streaming version here.
Thanks to Dan Freund for the image!
December 23 – I publish the first Evolving SEO annual review (this post!)
7 Biggest Failures / Regrets
Knowing how to do SEO and do it well is one thing. But feeling like you’ve been thrown into the far deep end of deadlines, responsibilities, running a business, managing expectations… that’s a whole different beast. Here’s some things I could have done better, and at least now learned from to avoid in the future.
1. I took on some projects I was not 100% excited about - immediate recipe for depression and failure. I fear I’d taken on a few projects I honestly wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about, and it perhaps showed in the results. I’m highly self-critical to begin with, so maybe my version of a “bad job” isn’t so bad… but still. Standards are standards. I wish for everything I do to be exceptional not just “OK”.
2. I owed a few sub-contractors money for far too long - In short, I got myself into a project I should not have (note #1 mistake above!), and ended up subcontracting some of it out to complete it.
I hired two people to help me finish this project – and it took me much longer than it should have to pay them in full for the work they had done. I felt terrible about this (in fact, part of the problem is I didn’t tell immediately my wife I owed them money – whoops!).
Emails like this are NOT fun…
So, when it came time to hire some extra help this December – I paid them in full up front. I don’t want to ever have to worry about owing people money like that again.
So THIS is better!
3. I over promised on a few occasions - again, learning the hard way a bit here, but expectation setting has been something I had to work on initially (getting much better now). I’m not saying I didn’t come through, but I came through with a few lonnnggg nights powered by coffee to get the work done. Waking up still caffeinated is not fun.
4. I mistook “busy taking in leads” for “busy with paid clients” - even though you have leads coming through the pipeline, this does NOT mean you’re “booked” with actual work.
I’ve learned, I’m not “booked” until the schedule is booked with paying clients. Far too often, I’d state a 4-5 week lead time, thinking that current leads were going to turn into clients – or even more upsetting, some prospects verbally indicated a job may start, but then a check wouldn’t come, or it would come 3-4 weeks later, and I could have started someone else in the meantime.
So this happened a few more times than it should have;
I’m all about taking my time with the sales process and educating people, but there’s a fine line between that and working for free – especially as basically an independent consultant. I’ve been learning to gauge these situations more effectively.
5. I didn’t leave enough time for my wife – as a business-owner/freelancer I’m far too susceptible of falling into the “I’ll just take this one extra job and work 2 more hours each night” – but that’s a trap. And the math isn’t that simple. And I’m afraid it’s left me overbooked and without enough time to spend with Sarah. Or spend outside of just “work”. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE working. In fact, this is the happiest I have been since performing music full time.
But life has to be a balance. Work and play can mix and the lines can be blurred, but dedicated time with loved ones is so important. Even when I was physically there spending time with my wife, my mind was often elsewhere (or sadly on my iPhone). Big mistake.
6. I kept making websites for people, instead of just doing SEO - I do enjoy making websites (it’s how I got into SEO in the first place) but I still seem to stick myself in situations where I’m making websites, rather than optimizing them.
I love doing it, but it’s just not the most fun and useful way to spend my time. Especially since just about every website I’ve made has taken longer than I’d budgeted for (and technically it’s eaten away at profit per man-hours… “dan-hours”?) – These jobs typically take twice as long as you think, which eats at the bottom line, and takes away from working directly on SEO.
7. Not upgrading the Evolving SEO website – This website as it stands, was assembled by myself in a week in my spare time. It’s just a silly WordPress theme, and I can’t stand it any longer. A local designer even created a new design for me for free out of his own desire, and I did nothing with it. I think 2013 should be the year where I greatly upgrade this site its self!
Six Goals / Plans For 2013
Man. This is the TOUGH part. It’s SO easy to get caught in a wheel that just keeps spinning. It’s easy to get trapped in that and not look far ahead at the bigger picture and try to take control of where you’re headed.
1. Keep Moving Towards “Success”
Success for me is almost a silly, too-vague word. We don’t even know what it means. But for me, I can make it concrete by defining success as the intersection between three things;
- Fulfilling tasks/situations
- Helping others
- Ability to monetize
2. Speak More
Man, I got the BUG of speaking this past year. Only a few instances but I’m hooked. This is one reason I’m doing my YouTube series – to practice speaking, and because it fulfills 1, 2, 3 above.
3. Utilize Subcontractors More
There’s smart people who can do certain things WAY better, faster and with more enjoyment than I can. And I also receive great joy in seeing other people succeed and be proud of something. And my clients are getting a better value. I can’t think of a much better win-win-win. I’m not ready for employees yet, but I’m going to continuing experimenting with sub-contracting a LOT more in 2013.
4. Create More Content
I looovvvveee writing posts and putting together pieces of content for the SEO community. I would love to find ways to do this that are monetized within themselves, so it’s not “extra” time spent off the clock. Since it’s something I enjoy so much I figure that’s where you’re biggest success can come from, so might try to maximize this.
Right now, I’m in HUGE violation of the putting myself in “fulfilling situations” rule. I kinda wish Evolving SEO had an office in an inspiring town or city, with interesting things going on, like-minded businesses and people, and thus the option to grow (in terms of employees) if it wants it to.
I find myself not wanting to “settle” into a full office here in Holden (next to Worcester, MA) simply because I do not feel this area is the best fit for Evolving SEO – and not personally inspiring.
A relocation might take a year to get to, but it’s one of the biggest personal and business goals I have for Evolving SEO at the moment – relocate to a place more inspiring and be an important facet to a local community.
6. Take More Risks
This is the BIGGEST issue I see, looking back upon the last year. There’s some “failures” – but really? They’re not much. I’ve been playing it a little too safe.
I’m definitely not saying I’d take risk with clients, but with my own personal development – hell yeah! I haven’t failed enough.
Lastly A Thank You
I hate to pull out the “there’s too many people to thank” but (un)fortunately it’s true! This is perhaps one the best parts about being in this industry, is ALL the wonderful and caring folks who have helped me out, and helped others out.
THANK YOU everyone who has been helpful, encouraging and selfless – and I only wish to be able to give back even a tenth of what you have given to me!