Episode 34: Outsourcing your digital marketing on the cheap with Dom Hodgson

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In this episode you will hear a SearchNorwich recording of Dom Hodgson giving his talk "Adventures in outsourcing your digital marketing on the cheap". What exactly happens when you put your marketing out on Fiverr? Find out.

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Dom's slides


MC: Welcome to Episode 34 of the Search with Candour podcast! Recorded on Friday the 1st of November 2019. My name is Mark Williams-Cook.

This episode I'm bringing you another search Norwich Talk; this time by Dom Hodgson, who did a brilliant talk on what happens if you outsource or SEO on the cheap. If you haven't heard of him, Dom is the founder of Kerboo and Little Warden. Kerboo is a link analysis tool, it helps you find if you've got things like toxic links, there are lots of different link research tools available that maybe aren't quite as trustworthy. I have used Kerboo, it is decent! Dom isn't paying me to promote it, but I think it's worth mentioning. Little Warden is a neat little tool he also made, that monitors all the niggly stuff that can fall through the net especially if you're dealing with lots of clients, things like domain name expiration, certificate expiration, change detection and that kind of thing, so both worth checking out! Dom was kind enough to come to SearchNorwich and not only talk about the loads of charity work he does, but gave it a really great example of just what happens if you try and stick your marketing out on Fiverr! Hope you enjoy it!

DH: So I'm Dom, we've never met before but you've just seen me speak for 10 minutes but forget about that. That's my daughter Scarlett, she's not Dom. So I am the CTO of Kerboo and Little Warden and I used to run a SEO Conference, I used to have a sweet shop, I used to have an advertising network and what I mean to say is, I like building stuff. I really do like building stuff, why I just keep building stuff; it got so bad that my wife - three years ago bought a transatlantic cruise so with no Wi-Fi and no phone signal, so that I wouldn't build something while we're on holiday.

We're talking about SEO software we all use SEO software because there’s a lot of it. No seriously, there's a lot, there's absolutely a lot of it. Those are all I could find fit on a slide and there's so much more and when you talk about building SEO software and how much money is flying around at the moment we've got DeepCrawl who raised £1.75 million, we've got SEMRush who raised £40 million, Botify raised 20 million dollars and then I've literally got no money - that’s my daughter's piggy bank that I am emptying right there.

So can you do it? Can you launch something? Can you launch a website or an application or software into such a dominant market? Well if you read the blogs and books, they say build an audience, you know, but what if you don't? What if you don’t have time to build a mailing list or write an e-book or do a Twitter account that suddenly became popular? You know, it says get funding for marketing and growth, but what if you don't know anybody? What if you don't know any VC investors or you haven't got time or you just want to get it done?

Write a detailed business plan, that's like the number one rule for everything. But what if you came up with the idea on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic and you have no internet whatsoever and you just wanted to do it? Well that's how we created a Little Warden, we literally built it on a cruise ship, while my daughter was asleep and my wife begrudgingly joined in which is fine, it's fine. And there's this saying within websites, that if you build it, it will come; if you build it, if you build something amazing, if you build the best thing, people will find it and that it's not, in fact I'm going to tell you it's utter bollocks because and not many people will do this, but this is an actual graph, with actual stats. So you see here, those are numbers and that's the traffic that we had - so pre-launch, launch and then BOOM creators again. Yeah back to there, once you had that launch, you got initial Twitter push and then boom, back! Now at one point there were more people in space than were visiting my website on a daily basis right and I might have just spent six months building this website, what am I gonna do? Now you're all smart people in this room, you're all thinking ‘Dom, you just need some digital marketing, that's all you need, a little bit of a push, you just need you know, some Facebook Ads, some Google Ads, some keyword research, a comprehensive SEO audit - that's not a, I just liked that picture and I just really wanted to find some way of using it - some social media love, obviously need a press release and the viral video because everybody needs to viral video.

So as a professional digital marketer, I go to the one place where everybody goes for this sort of stuff - Fiverr. Does everybody here know what Fiverr is? Does anybody not know what Fiverr is? Right, basically you've gone to a website and people do services for five dollars - sounds a bit... people do stuff - we're going to talk about what people do, basically the price is $5 and people will do stuff.

So, no this is a serious grown-up conversation. So, we have a massive $50 budget for this, yes that is all the money we had at that moment in time and we decided we're gonna do five dollars per maximum job. We weren’t going to leave any negative reviews but we're going to publish everything that got delivered and obviously you start off with some Facebook and Google Ad copy. Anybody here do PPC? Anybody here do Facebook ads and stuff like that? Only two of you, wow.

So when you go to Fiverr the first thing to do - how do you choose? When you search Facebook ad copy, there are 1800 results that's people that say they can do it for you, how do you choose? Well the only logical thing you can do, the only differentiator is avatar. This is Vito I mean, look at that mustache - that is a strong mustache - he's got books behind him, so he's obviously read them but he knows what he's talking about, you know, that to me says ‘trust me, I can do you Google Ads’ so obviously we went with him - £3.50 one, I'll create an ad that attracts buyers and gets you clicks - I'm in! I’m in Vito. So literally advert one, it came within four hours of buying this, we remember so you don't have to, we didn't ask for images but you're helpfully set the Xcode keyboard shortcuts for us to use - I don't know what that is. The line here that I've highlighted is ‘we make your site look good so that you look good’ and I think we'll all say that Vito looks good, yeah. So that's not all though, Vito threw in an extra one for free - amazing - he added some art, word art 2003 there - your website called ring ring and click here to keep your website happy. Well, the people who do Facebook ads, what do you think? Do you think this would work? You can say no, it's fine. I could test it but that would cost money, so I'm going to assume they won’t. So the delivery was on time, the quality was decent, would we use it again? Probably not. But three vetoes out of five I think that was a pretty good start for five dollars.

So now we are on about keyword research, now Dan's going to talk to you about keyword research, doing it the proper way, I'm going to talk to you about outsourcing it. This is Kathy, Kathy will research the top 30 best keywords for your niche - and if there's any Americans in the room, it's pronounced niche like quiche, not “nitch” - so she asked for some seed keywords - there are Americans in the room right now - so domain exploration, check, redirect checking, robots.txt monitoring that's what I sent out - like look, just get us some keywords for that, you know, tell us what the search volumes are, what should I be targeting and literally within an hour, she came back with this; keywords - search volume, cost per click, PPC, competition, and SEO and I was like ‘brilliant! five dollars well spent’ and then something just stood out about them keywords because I've done a little bit on my own and it turns out that if you just use a free keyword tool and type in domain name inspiration, they're exactly the same as what she said - she's literally just gone through a free tool, typed in my first keyword, done export and charged me five dollars for the privilege! No. Delivery on time, quality stolen when I use it again, one out of five - not happy with Kathy.

Now this is the one that you're all interested in, the comprehensive SEO audit because some of you right now are charging you know a couple grand for these SEO audits, if I get a decent one for $5, you are not in a good place. So this is Dimmie, we went to him - Young Caesar the the username was - ‘we're working on the report and it would be ready in less than 48 hours’ - brilliant some of you don't do it in 48 hours - ‘meanwhile, would you mind sharing me your business vision and goals’. Dimmie cares, he wants to know what I want to achieve, he wants to help me, that's the sort of reaction you get for a five dollar purchase on Fiverr, so I emailed him, ‘look this is what we're doing, we're a small company, we're trying to grow, we need to achieve this and that’ and then he replied with ‘Hey friend!’ - see we’re friends now - ‘we're working on your project however, we just need a little bit more time.’ No problem Dimmie, we're friends now, that's fine. So we gave him a little bit more time and then the next day boom, there's my SEO report, it’s straight there. But, you can't probably see this but right at the bottom it says, Chris and Stan there, so what happened to Dimmie? I replied, I was like ‘Is Dimmie okay? I sort of got worried that Dimmie had got fired for delaying our SEO report and they had a really strict time budgets only because he'd asked for extra time and they didn't respond and then the account closed, like the next week and I was like I really hope Dimmie’s okay.

But let's have a look what they delivered. So first of all they sent as a competitors.text, they've looked at our website and these are the competitors that they think we have - and certificate monitor and two of those have registrar's and we can't compete with them, one of them is technically competitor. They sent us this helpful image which basically says we're doing sh#t in every category but no justification on nothing that we should do to fix it - it just basically goes “ahhh”.

They sent us a disavow text - does everybody know what disavowed text is? So the idea behind a disavowed text is if there's links that are untrustworthy or could possibly give you a penalty in Google, you put them all in a list, you send them to Google and say please ignore these, they helpfully created one which has every single link to our website on it. That's the start of fresh terminology - as well I'm here if you do need help with that, that's what Kerboo does - that's a small plug!

Then it comes to the SEO report. The SEO report, this is what you are talking about, two hundred and thirty three issues found - it was a twenty page website, how much can I have done wrong with this? I used to work in search. Now there's some people in the audience that have just worked out what's coming now. So we had to look through it, and we were like, ‘oh no, what's going on?!’ but then at the bottom, hang on a minute... SEO PowerSuite, they literally just put it in SEO PowerSuite, press go and give me a report. But worse than that, they haven't paid for the subscription to white label it, they've gone for like the student edition to cheap out, it costs $99 a month to white label it and hide that fact. They haven’t changed it from the default CSS. Oh, delivery was late, quality was cheap, would I use it again? No, 2 out of 5, #justicefordimmie.

So now pressurize, anybody working PR in the room? One person, you can put your hand up higher, you are supposed to be like proud like woah! Okay so you're worried about your job here, yeah don't be.

Okay so this is Jack Smith, now we looked at him and was straightaway like, hey Jack, we're gonna go for it! We picked Jack for two reasons, number one; he's a good-looking fella and number two; he's been from both Nigeria and the USA which means he's well travelled, right? He's seen the world, he's been around, that's what we want with someone writing our press releases. Then you just look at him, that's a good-looking man writing on Fiverr, and I don't know about you but something mmmm, so like I do with every picture that I find dodgy on the internet, I did a reverse Google image search and it turns out it's Richard Madden and I don't know if anybody knows this but he’s from Game of Thrones. All right and I'm not gonna spoil it for anybody but he's dead, right, so really yeah like six years ago right so, no he's doing my Fiverr job! Yeah so when he delivered it, I said hey Richard using his real name (don't worry I won't tell anyone), thanks for taking my job it's not quite what I had in mind but I've checked your Wikipedia and I can tell times have been tough, you haven't been here much since Game of Thrones, I said (you should have been one of them icewalker people, they've been in seven seasons and have done naff all the entire time) thank you and have a magical day - no response. So what did Richard/ Jack give us, this was the press release - now I thought I was being really smart, I thought I would get a press release written about the fact that I was getting a press release written on fiverr, didn't work out like that, I don't know why it didn't.

So first of all, the first quote was ‘Little Warden was founded by a team of professional and specialised information technology. Little Warden writers have tripled in size since opening its doors and outsourcing to numerous clients…’ Now I have an issue with this, I do not like this because ‘tripled in size’ - when we started the company it was me, my wife and our daughter. At the point that that was written, there was me, my wife and my daughter which would mean that was only a subtle dig about my weight. I replied back ‘This is my withing scale and you can see this since we started the company, I've actually lost weight so I want that rewritten right now.’ The undeniable facts are space or opportunities not utilized cannot be created. However, that does lead to my first quick tweetable quote if anybody's live tweeting this right now; 'the undeniable facts the story opportunity is not utilized can be created.' With the use of Little Warden rights and your specific business needs will be optimized tell yourself I know a lot but I can still be wrong, which leads me to my second quote of all tweets ‘I know a lot but I still have a chance of being wrong.’ Thank you very much. So the issues with it, just a few slight issues, they got the company name wrong, it was filled with nonsense, there were numerous spelling mistakes and it wasn't actually about what the brief was about. It was made up. The full one by the way, that is only four sentences, it's like two pages long, the full one is on the blog. Everything that we've done today is downloadable and you can look through it. Delivery was on time, quality was all right, will we use it again? No. Three Ned Stark heads on a pole, sorry he’s dead as well.

So then we need some social media love. Alright, now I know what you're thinking, they're just going to buy some Instagram likes, they’re just going to buy some followers - no we're not! We are going to buy traffic because that works. So we found this seller here, going… (don’t leave, I'm not really gonna buy traffic. Don’t worry, it's not unethical, it's fine.)... Okay 375,000 fans in a Facebook group, they'll post my link. I'm like it's easy money, so we just did some quick math - 375,000 fans, now if we assume a ten percent click-through rate, that's 37,000 visits to my website. Now we've got about 3% conversion rate, that's 1125 customers now with a £30 basket value, that’s £33,750 worth of new customers for five dollars. I'm a genius! Now everything we do basically translates to us going on holiday, so seeing that I was looking at the bungalows at Disney World because that’s usually where we go and these are about £2000 a night and I was like ‘we've just made £33,000 in my head, I can stay there for two weeks! Job done.’ That's £33,000 every single month and then I saw this, £500,000 and 500,000 fans for the same price, I'd be stupid not to! Well quick maths again, 500,000 fans, 50,000 visitors, 1500 customers, £30 basket value, that's £45,000 every month!

At this point I was looking at villas, because why would I want a hotel? I can actually buy a villa! That's what I'm like, I’ve £45,000 coming and I saw this! 20 million, whoa. Now we did tweak some of the math, just to make it a bit more realistic so we dropped it from a 10 percent click-through rate to a 5 percent and a conversion rate of 2%, let's be realistic! So 20 million fans, that's 1 million visitors, that's 20,000 customers, that's 600,000 pounds a month for five dollars. At this point, I was looking at a place called Golden Oaks and they start about £5 million a house, but I was like you know what? I'm getting 600k a month, why not?

Then I saw this one 50 million, 50 million people in one group will see my link. So let's go through maths again - 50 million fans, that's 2.5 million visitors, that's 75,000 customers, that's £2.25 million worth of customers every single month, for five dollars! My original investment hasn't gone off, I've still paid $5! At this point I was almost a millionaire, so I did what all millionaires do, start spinning up, going around and I emailed Disney and said I'd like to sponsor a ride because sponsoring a ride costs about 10 million, but I was like I'm getting two and a half million every month, that's fine.

So the results time - this is what we submitted to them, this is what was in the group, we got proof that was in all the groups, everything like that. Three weeks later, it's gonna be posted to a group with 50 million people, we expected 2.5 million people to click through - wasn't 2 million, wasn't 200,000, wasn’t 20,000, wasn't 2,000, wasn't 200, wasn't 20 it was 2. And there's a bit like that starts to prove it, there's the Google Analytics. At that point I emailed Disney back and said please ignore my previous correspondence. So the delivery was on time, quality was lacking, would I use it again? Two Mickey Mouse's out of five.

Then we talked about a viral video. When you go to viral videos, there are thousands - there's more people doing viral videos then there are doing Facebook ads, but I was very specific about what I wanted. Alright, a lot of viral videos, they’ll just take your logo and splash it on a CGI. I wanted somebody to work for their $5 and then I found this guy - I will take a pie to the face and say your message for $5 - I’m in. If there is anybody in this room that wouldn't pay $5 for that, I don't want to be your friend, because that is the best investment you can do.

We even broke the rules on this one, we doubled the budget and we went for the £7 package. Yeah, because the pie would have the logo on the bottom - the dream! That is the dream with any small business owner, you want the logo on the bottom of the pie. So, ‘city works media thank you for ordering, I’ll have it done in about four days’ - I assume he had to bake a pie or something. That was Addy. So that waiting at the computer for four days, about three days later ‘hey I'm really sorry but due to Brad's schedule…’ - who's Brad? That was Addy, who’s Brad? It’s like they're a small media company, doing pie in the face now right. ‘...Due to Brad’s schedule, he's just had to fly out to LA for an emergency pie shooting and he's actually not offering this gig any longer, I apologize for the incontinence’ which I thought was quite a personal thing to put on email, but you know I had paid $5.00 for a pie.

So then I found this one and I literally thought that that was CGI, I thought somebody had photoshopped that on someone's face, I was like there's no way this is real, it turns out it is! Because for $5.00 - I don't know, we probably won’t have audio - but she's also from New Zealand, so she's got a funny accent. She didn't get the logo, it's alright... there you go, she waved, nice little wave. So the delivery was delayed, the quality was magnificent - it was everything I wanted, would I use it again? Oh yes, four Gangnam styles out of five.

So the results; we spent that $50 - what did it achieve? Was outsourcing on Fiverr a good idea? No, it was all terrible. It was all crap, but that's what we wanted because we blogged about the entire thing, we put everything on there and we had loads of traffic, everybody was excited. Like I will go to an event now and people still talk about the SEO report or still talk about the blogging and things like that and we're doing it again this year, we’re doing it slightly different but failures, you can still get something out of it and we intended this to be a failure because it was really funny.

But there are things that we do as a company, which are serious - we have three key principles that we have within Little Warden, which is be human, be memorable and be funny. Everything we do, every marketing campaign, every stupid idea, every feature tries to at least go to as many of those as possible. So to be human, I've mentioned it a few times, Little Warden were a small company so there's three of us; me, my wife and my daughter. My daughter sh#t at coding so she doesn't do a lot at the moment. I’m like, just get that, no don't spill it, it's fine but we don't try and be bigger than we are. So when you sign up, you actually get a little message from us - it's a video, we're all sat on the sofa and I say Scarlett, we've got a new customer, she goes yaaay and people love it because it reminds them that it it work we're a small company. What my wife won't let me do is when people cancel, I have a video of her crying, but I just think that’s funny! You take the good with the bad.

When you've been a customer for a year, we send you a birthday card. A lot of companies in search, the ones with the budgets and everything like that, will sometimes send you a hamper full of alcohol and full of like chocolates and stuff like that or like a thirty quid a month product - I can't afford that. But we send you a birthday card and it's hand signed by all of us now. I could send you a hamper or I could get a four year old to write her name in 50 different cards, which one's more difficult? Let me tell you that! It also has a little gift in there which is a custom-designed laptop thing, I've got some here for people.

We're honest. So last year we had a small data loss issue, which affected three customers. We had a small database issue for three customers, we lost about three hours worth of data and we could have got away with just telling them, we could have got away with not telling them. But we actually just emailed every customer and said look, here's what's happened you're probably not affected, if you are we've emailed you and the subject was ‘we f#cked up, we're sorry!’ We got, maybe a hundred responses from people saying, that's fine; don't worry; thanks for letting us now; we got three complaints because of the fact I'd used a swear word in the subject, that's all people were upset about. Not the fact that we potentially lost data, we've done a swear word, so I was like there's nothing I could do.

Be memorable. We don't have a massive marketing budget, so when we interact with somebody we've got to make sure that we're memorable, we've got to make sure that we stick in there. So when somebody mentions us on stage, when someone retweets something, when somebody goes to a conference, we'll try and send them a tweet and it's a handwritten tweet, it's personal to them and it just says thank you so much, because every time we are mentioned on stage, we see it, we feel it and it makes a difference to us.

Be funny; we try and be funny. Our Twitter account is run by robot Dom, I'm real Dom in the company and the Twitter accounts are run by robot Dom and that came round as an idea because… is there anybody that has ordered cards from Moo? - so when you order cards from, we used to get an email from little Moo, who said I'm just going to talk to Big Moo, Big Moo’s the printer and I'm just gonna see all your orders. I really loved that idea, so when you sign up to Little Warden, you get an email from robot Dom. Robot Dom is quite an asshole but he's like, look I'm gonna sort you out, I'm gonna tell you when someone's messed up, I'm the one in charge, he does all the emails and everything like that.

I thought it'd be funny if I gave him the Twitter account and he literally interacts with our competitors and so this is somebody, they're going ‘I think this is the best new SEO tool of the year’ and it wasn't us so I was like eh, it’s fine, they’re good and we really do just interact with people but we also interact with me, because real DOM and robot Dom like to get an argument on Twitter and between us (real Dom is me) but literally I will type something switch to a tab and reply and people will be like ‘yeah get in! Yeah you tell him real Dom’ and I'm like, it's me, it’s fine. We gave him the Instagram account for a while, it was just pictures of other robots that he liked, with stories. We have lots of Easter eggs on the website, so there's about 24 Easter eggs. This is my mate Jeff, he's been on the website for about two years, he only found out he was on the website because I did a presentation last week and I had this slide in and he was in there and it's just ‘what the Jeff’ and our customers have started to call it Jeffed, so you know, we'll be in the slack room he'd be like ‘Dom, I'm just getting Jeffed all morning, what's going on? We've got an issue. It's nice that his name now has become a term internally for an error. There's about twenty four Easter eggs on the website and like only about twelve of them have been found and we just having little things on there.

All that leads to this, that for us is the most important thing, that's month-on-month growth every year. now we're a small company so that growth there might be two customers, it might be one customer, it might be five customers because we don't have a massive marketing budget. We're just about to do PPC, we've never done that before, so it's all word of mouth, it's all organic but we've always gained more customers than we lost with churn and that for me is the most important thing, that is my goal every single month is to grow. Small plug at the end before I leave, just the penguin Awards - see I did this presentation yesterday and I hadn't done the bit about the penguin awards, so you already know about the penguin Awards, so thanks I'm Dom, that's not Dom!

MC: That was Dom Hodgson at Search Norwich. I hope you really enjoyed that, you can see the actual video of Dom giving that talk as well as his slides at along with a full transcription of this episode as well.

This week is actually the next Search Norwich event, on the 7th of November, we've got two great speakers joining us; Andrew Smith who is the ex-head of SEO for Expedia, cheap flights and edreams, he’s going to be talking about big site SEO and Steven Van Vessum, the co-founder of Content King is also coming along to talk about SEO disasters. This event we're supporting local Norwich charity The Feed, who are as well going to be providing food and drink for evening. Hope to see you there, if not have a great week and Search with Candour will be back next Monday!

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