Career Day Episode Overview
Hear the story of Jeremiah Smith, founder and CEO of SimpleTiger, and learn about his career path and his beginnings innovating from the trenches of SEO.
A Renaissance man with expertise ranging from link building and content optimization to Chinese medicine and military weaponry, Jeremiah Smith’s wild ride shows how taking risks can lead to learning (sometimes the hard way), spiritual growth, and ultimately, marketing success.
Ben: Joining us for Career Day is an SEO and Renaissance man whose areas of expertise ranked from link building and content optimization to Chinese medicine and modern military weaponry. Jeremiah Smith is the founder and CEO of SimpleTiger, which is an agency that makes inbound marketing simple for SaaS companies with a holistic strategy that includes tactical optimization, content marketing, and digital PR that helps clients drive sustainable traffic growth and increased revenue through search.
Ben: But before we get started with our conversation with Jeremiah, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.
Ben: Okay, here’s our interview with founder and CEO of SimpleTiger, Jeremiah Smith. Jeremiah, welcome to The Voices Of Search podcast.
Jeremiah: Thank you so much for having me, Ben. So happy to be here today.
Ben: It’s great to have you here and I’m excited to hear about your broad set of experiences and how you have managed to get into both SEO and things like, I don’t know, Chinese medicine and blowing stuff up.
Jeremiah: It’s a long, discursive, wild path I’ve been on, but I’m excited to be able to talk to you about it. Very passionate about this stuff.
Ben: Sounds like you’re a guy that’s going to go deep on multiple different subjects. So let’s jump in. Talk first about how’d you get the SEO.
Jeremiah: Sure. So it’s a funny story. I don’t know how most people get into SEO, but I’ve discovered it totally on accident. I was building websites for clients many years ago and one of my clients got done building their site and they said, “All right, it’s good. We want it in Google.” And I was like, “Okay, I’m sure there’s like a form somewhere. I’ll go submit it and go check out Google.” And I’m like, you know, how do I get the site to search in Google? I discovered, yeah, there is like a whole submission thing. It was kind of early stages of Google search console, basically when they called it Webmaster Tools back in 2006, something like that.
Jeremiah: And yeah, so I went through the process, submitted to Google and they were like, “Okay, great. Now all you need to do is just make sure that it’s search engine friendly and all this kind of stuff. And I was like, “Okay, that makes sense,” and then started digging into it and I was like, “Wait a second, this is interesting. There’s a lot that I can do to make it search engine friendly, like a ton, like a ton of stuff I gotta do to make it search engine friendly.” I started looking into that and discovered this whole underground industry called search engine optimization. My eyes just opened up and I was like, “Oh man, this is it for me. I’m digging into this. This is really cool.”
Jeremiah: So I started working on it and I told the company, my client, I was like, “Hey, here’s the deal. It’s not as simple as just submitting it to Google. There’s a lot more to get it actually show up for the keywords you want to show up for when you go sit down in there and Google something, and you have to think about the value that’s going to bring to the table. People are really going to be finding us who are actively looking for what we sell, so it might take me a little while, I don’t know how to do it, but I’m a fast learner, very tech savvy. Let me dig into it and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
Jeremiah: They were cool with it so I got to work on it. Over the next six months I dug into doing SEO for this company, and in a six month period of time was able to generate $2 million additional dollars in revenue for their company. They were a small $4 million company, so $6 million in revenue all of a sudden was incredible to make that little shift just doing something I was teaching myself.
Jeremiah: Now, I was really lucky because it was the early days of SEO to a degree, so if anybody listening was playing in those early days, you remember just how easy it was to do SEO, so generating that kind of revenue back then was super simple. Nowadays, significantly harder. It’s a lot longer game. It’s a lot more work goes into it. But back then it was much easier. So I saw the value of that. I could not believe it. I was so excited what I was able to generate from something I just taught myself that I had to have more, had to learn more. So, I dove deep into it and decided to make that my career choice.
Ben: If it were only as easy as submitting your site map to Google and saying, “Okay, I’m done.”
Ben: We’d all be on a beach somewhere.
Jeremiah: That’s right.
Ben: I’ll ask, is this a little bit more complicated driving SEO growth? I think inherent in your description of how you got into SEO was you were building websites for people. So you had a technical background. Were you a developer?
Jeremiah: I wasn’t a developer, I was a designer and was really comfortable with some design aspects. Although I gotta say, if you compare the two now definitely more of a developer than a designer. I’m not that great at design. Heck, I’m not that great at development either. But more than anything I understood the way robots worked and that was really into that, so when I went from just building a rudimentary basic website that wasn’t anything special, like, nobody here would be proud to see it or anything. Actually, it would be very embarrassing now cause I was 12 years ago. But when I went from that into doing SEO for the site I really found that I was having this intimate relationship playing with a robot that was massive and powerful, but really, really cool and actually had like a personal touch to it because it would do things for my client’s business and I could see them rank higher every couple of days for a keyword that I’m aiming at.
Jeremiah: I remember when it started popping up high on the first page of Google and I’m like pushing it up from ninth to seventh to fifth position. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, look at this happening.” I’m tweaking stuff and every day I’m just like refreshing and looking at ranking reports and stuff, it was just so much fun that I fell in love with it, decided I’m going to build a relationship with this thing. I’m going to master working with Google, and yeah that kinda set me off in that direction.
Ben: So were you an independent contractor that just stumbled on to working for a client? Were you working for an agency? What was the actual role that you had as you discovered SEO?
Jeremiah: Yeah, great question. I think that context is important. I built the site for them as a client to begin with and then they were like, “All right, we like the site you built for us, we trust in you.” My mother was doing their accounting so that’s how I was connected to this particular company, but they were like, “We need somebody to handle our marketing full time.” It was a very small mom-and-pop shop. They were hustling, selling Chinese ATVs and dirt bikes all across the country. So I mean, it’s very basic company. Nothing too special or crazy except for just to how they ran things. They were wild.
Jeremiah: But they wanted me to handle their marketing for them, so I came in with the traditional approach looking at sending out postcards and mailers and doing cold calling and stuff like that. They were even … At the time they were sending like faxes and stuff, which is highly illegal. I was like, “I’ve got to help them figure out marketing in a way that it’s not only legal but very effective.” Right? So when I stumbled across a SEO, how that came to be, I was a contractor of theirs and they had me in their offices, but I was a contractor full time and I was handling their “marketing” I was doing, you know, postcard mailers and flyers and all this kind of stuff that just was working, but you guys get it. It was not working great at all.
Ben: So you discovered that digital marketing was a technology that you could use. You mentioned that you had liked having relationships with robots, in a professional sense of course. You decided to basically focus your career on SEO. Did you move away from working for this specific brand? What was the next role that got you into SEO in a larger capacity?
Jeremiah: Yeah, so basically when I discovered the whole SEO thing at this client’s office, I told them, “Hey, here’s the deal. It’s going to take a lot more work than just me submitting it to Google and we sit back and just raking the riches. I’m going to actually have to work on this. It’s a full process. There are companies that hire full teams of people to do this full time, but it’s something that I think I can learn, and I’m looking at our competition. I don’t think anybody’s competing at a level that we might be able to compete at. If you let me just take some time and invest time in learning this, I’ll apply everything I learned to your company and your company only and we’ll do everything we can to help it succeed.”
Jeremiah: They were gracious enough to say, “Yeah, but if it doesn’t show results, like you’re done, you’ve got to quit.” You know? And I was like, “Okay.” So I jumped into it and within a month or two I started showing some results. Within three to four months the results were strong, and at six months, like I said earlier, they were very, very strong. That sold them on SEO. They were set. I could walk away from it and they continued running very smoothly for the next six months after that. They went from making $4 million to $6 million a year to make it about $10 million to $12 million a year just kind of on the set it and forget it work that I created there.
Jeremiah: That was, again, back when SEO was still kind of early, so you could do that kind of stuff, you could walk away and it would work for a while. So then from that I was like, “This is my career path. This is what I want to do full time and I want to do this for multiple different types of businesses.” So I went ahead and updated my resume. I had only ever done some small client projects before that, then this is like the single largest client project I’d ever done in terms of results. So I said, “Let’s put that on my resume. Let’s let that lead my resume and let’s just have an SEO career.”
Jeremiah: So I put it out there and I got a job right away, a job offer at an agency called 360i. Probably familiar with them if you know much about the enterprise SEO and Fortune 500 corporations and working with them on the agency side of things. They were one of those kind of agencies, you know, 15 to 20 offices around the world, 600 plus employees, massive clients all on the Fortune 500 list. So yeah, I got brought in at the ground level there is an SEO technologist and got to learn how the big guys do SEO.
Ben: So tell me a little bit about that experience. You went from working for a small mom-and-pop company doing SEO and sort of validating that the channel works. You sort of cut your teeth there in the next thing you know you’re at this mega agency working with Audible and NBC, MTV, like big companies. What was the difference between working with mom-and-pop and working with, you know, NBC.
Jeremiah: Right. Well, I have never had, first of all, benefits in my life. I had never had a salary. And so both.
Ben: That sounds nice.
Jeremiah: Yeah, so both of those were awesome. As like a young 20 something I was like, “So cool.” You know, I didn’t graduate college or anything like that. I did like a semester and a half or something and dropped out. So, you know, I didn’t really have many great prospects in that regard, and so this career path was really exciting for me. It was a real blessing. So I dove deep into it and I worked in a cubicle with a sea of other people and got to sit in on meetings where Google would come to our offices and tell us about things that are working on because we’re such a huge and influential company and we’re steering these massive brands that are spending tens and hundreds of millions a year on their advertising platforms, so they want to inform us, like, “Here’s what we’re working on,” because they want our loyalty and stuff. Right?
Jeremiah: So I got to be involved in that. I got to work with some really cool developers that were developing algorithmic systems for keyword research and keyword velocity and technical audit systems, and even some tools that were like, nowadays, you know, shady. Stuff that you’re not allowed to do but-
Jeremiah: But well, like pinging Google with a lot of questions, you know? We used to ping Google all the time with a bunch of different queries and check rankings ourselves instead of using ranking tools. This was at a time when building SEO Technology and tools were still kind of rudimentary, so a lot of the tools kind of sucked. So sometimes we just built our own and sometimes those rules would kind of break terms of service and stuff like that. I got to admit, I’ve done that myself too.
Ben: That’s not as shady as I thought it was going to be.
Jeremiah: That’s not that shady. We weren’t doing any kind of negative SEO or anything like that. We actually had worked with some clients situations where they had run in just negative SEO. We had to help clean things up and stuff like that. So, I mean, we were very strong, very reputable agency. So cutting edge though that some companies weren’t keeping up at building tools for us, so we would build our own. And like I said, sometimes they break terms of service and stuff, Google. But it allowed us to do some really cool stuff and learn a lot.
Ben: So you’re at an agency, a large agency in a foundational time for SEO. As the tools are becoming more sophisticated you’re really learning about the cutting edge of technology in the search industry, and eventually you move on from that large agency. What’d you do next?
Jeremiah: Yeah, so the time kind of came from me where, to be honest, I think this is different for everybody. It was different for me than it was for some people that were at the agency, but I felt a little bit out of place and I still had a strong entrepreneurial desire to grow and build my own thing and to do things that kind of shook things up and we’re disruptive. The agency that I was at had its system, and it worked and they didn’t want to change that. If they were going to change it was going to be based on what they needed, which I totally understand. I get it.
Ben: It sounds like you got tired of being in the cubicle farm.
Jeremiah: I did. Big time. At the same time they probably get tired of somebody always trying to shake things and change things. They didn’t want me there. So it was definitely a mutual separation. I ultimately got like go, though. It was at a time where there was all kinds of financial strife and everything, and that was one lesson that taught me working in the large agency side can be dangerous, because when one client pulls the plug that can hurt a lot of people simultaneously.
Jeremiah: So that taught me kind of the dark side of agency life, right? Where the job security’s just as good as your client relationships and their budgets. I mean, sometimes the relationships great, but they literally don’t have the budget so they have to pull it back. It kind of woke me up to the reality of it, but at the same time it made me want to control that for my own destiny. So I decided to start working on my own kind of consulting and agency side of things.
Jeremiah: Now, I had already been doing a little bit of consulting on the side and talking to a few small companies on nights and weekends and stuff and giving them advice and helping them along, but I realized I really enjoyed doing that more so than what I was doing at the big agency that I would just continue growing that. So I continued growing the consulting practice on nights and weekends. This was at the time it was SimpleTiger, it was my own little thing called SimpleTiger, and I was just talking to these little companies about things they could do to improve themselves in search while not actually doing anything for them because I didn’t have the capability or the people behind me, but I went from there into actually working for another small agency just to quickly of course get a job.
Jeremiah: I wasn’t at a point where I could afford to just run completely based on the consulting relationships I had, so I worked with this other small agency that was really cool. They were doing a bunch of interesting things with web applications and mobile applications and they needed some SEO to help some of their clients along. So I kind of came in, brought in this SEO process, worked for some of their clients, helped them a little bit, but in the long run, again, kind of ran into the same scenario. They were a mobile app development shop. They were not an SEO marketing agency, so I started seeing kind of the writing on the wall again and it was time for me to make a move from there just like it was the previous agency.
Ben: So let me ask you, you mentioned that you basically left 360i. There was some turnover at the company, you were let go, you landed another job at a smaller agency but it sounds like you’re basically providing auxiliary services. It wasn’t their core business principle, but you said that you brought in SEO strategies. How much did you take away from being at a large agency that you were able to apply to a smaller … did it give you the playbook that you were able to apply in your consulting work or for your other agency or were you basically making up your own process?
Jeremiah: It helped me see things through a functional framework that I still use to this day. That functional framework is critical because it basically organized everything that I knew and things that I would not yet come to know, but like that are going to evolve in the future, and give those things buckets to fall into when they become important. So that framework was very valuable, but I basically defined the process myself.
Ben: Talk to me a little bit more about that framework.
Jeremiah: Absolutely. I espouse this very strongly and teach it and preach it. The framework I kind of break things down into is four kind of major categories of activity:
Jeremiah: 1. Keyword research.
Jeremiah: 2. Technical.
Jeremiah: 3. Content.
Jeremiah: 4. Off site.
Jeremiah: So that was a framework that kind of evolved and not very much an official way at 360i, but something where everything fell into one of those categories. There were people on the team that handled each one of those different areas really well. We all had to be cross trained on all of them, but you would have your specialists that just shown in certain areas, like your technical developer would clearly just be the person to refer to when technical stuff broke, where the content person, the content coordinator would be the person you referred to in their content issues and concerns.
Jeremiah: So that framework really helped us start setting things up, helped me start looking at things so that whenever I would talk to a client as a consultant I would say, “Look, I can help you with keyword research and your technical audit. I can give you some content recommendations. I can give you some link building recommendations, but these are things I can’t necessarily fulfill cause I’m not an agency. I don’t have people who are writing content. I don’t have PR people who are building links and stuff like that. But, this is what you should be doing.” So you can see how I was a little limited on the consulting side of things but how that overall framework was kind of a system or a process that could be leveraged to produce results from SEO.
Ben: So where you are today is obviously different than when you started consulting, when you launched SimpleTiger. Sounds like the agency you went to was relatively short lived and at some point you took your consulting business doing SEO consulting on the side and have turned it into a full fledged agency. Talk to me about how you’ve scaled your agency and what was the process going from, one man–I’m going to use the metaphor in a garage, even though I’m sure you weren’t in a garage–to the high rises of Sarasota, Florida.
Jeremiah: Yeah. It’s real interesting transition, but the smaller agency that I went to work at where I was kind of an auxiliary service, eventually the same exact scenario happened that as at the previous agency where our largest client that took up 50%-60% of our revenue, they went and pulled out. They just pulled out their budget. They couldn’t do it for the next year. I had to get like … I was an auxiliary service, I didn’t matter to the core operation of the business, so totally understood. No hard feelings there. Had great relationships at both agencies. Love those people. Love what they do. They’re still fantastic. But I had to go.
Jeremiah: That was at the time, though, when my consulting practice on the side had really built some strength and got to the point where it was supporting my income in a great way. So, I’ll never forget the first Monday after I lost my last job in 2009, sat down at my laptop at my kitchen table and I opened it. There’s no emails, there’s nothing crazy going on. I’m like, “All right, well I’ve got these consulting clients. I got to set up some project management tools. I got to set up a weekly check in with them. I got to set up a sales process and I got to start growing this little thing, you know?” It was a very intimidating moment, but I went ahead and did it, and that was the moment that SimpleTiger officially became my security, my safety net, the one thing I was going to devote myself to.
Jeremiah: Yeah, from that moment forward I just started growing SimpleTiger’s consulting practice and just really intensely consulting companies based on my relationships throughout the industry and people that I connected with on the agency side, the client side, people who knew me at 360i would refer me to people. Even 360i would refer business to me, and the second agency that I’ve worked with, Digital Scientists, they were awesome. They would refer business to me. So I got really lucky because of the relationships that I had there. They knew that I needed work. They didn’t necessarily have all the people in house to fulfill the work. It wasn’t necessarily the kind of work they needed, so I was very blessed to have them refer work to me and kind of be the foundational beginnings of what my agency is today.
Ben: Tell me a little bit more about growing an agency and where you’re specializing, what are the services that you provide? How did you get from, “Hey, I’m sitting there in front of a laptop with no emails and so I’m going to implement a couple of tools and check in with the clients that I have,” to a more scaled agency like what you have today.
Jeremiah: Sure. The very first thing I did was I did some outreach, some very manual, direct, one-to-one outreach to people that I knew, people in my LinkedIn network, people that I knew, names and phone numbers that people I had talked to and met before. In those days, man, I would work with anybody who would pay me and I would do anything I could for them, starting with SEO, but I would span out and do anything else I could do as well. Now, I didn’t know much else, but I knew Google Analytics pretty well and knew paid ads pretty well so I’d play around with some of that. But really, I was lucky that most of it was SEO that people needed help with.
Jeremiah: So I sat down in front of Linkedin and I’d start reaching out manually to a few people that I knew their names, I knew what they did, I knew the company they worked for, we met at a conference or we met at some event in Atlanta or something like that. I would hit him up and ask them how their work’s going, how their business is going, and if they’d like to meet with me and chat about SEO or something like that. I was very lucky that some people responded pretty well.
Ben: I like that you’re in what I call the AFM stage of running a professional services business. I’ve been a consultant, I’ve worked with Searchmetrics for years. But you know, in a consulting capacity. AFM is the anything for money stage. The way to break out of that stage that I’ve found is exactly what you’re saying, is you are leveraging your professional network and doing just that, networking and keeping up with the people that you have a relationship with. That always spins up business.
Ben: As you think about scaling beyond the AFM stage into more specialized where you’re building a brand and a reputation talk me about that process.
Jeremiah: That was exactly right. I mean, I went from doing anything for money back then to I got enough SEO work to where I needed help, so I reached out to my brother much younger than me at the time. I mean, still much younger than me, but we’re older now so we’re the same age. At the time he wanted some work, he was interested in what I was doing. We talked about it. I said, “Look, I’ve got a couple of clients here I could use your help doing titles and meta descriptions for them and coming up with some content recommendations, run on a technical audit here or there, maybe some keyword research every now and then.”
Jeremiah: He was totally open to it, so I started giving him some of those tasks while I’m out here selling and doing some consulting. He’s handling from a fulfillment and he’s turning back to me with these deliverables. I’m checking them and I’m like, “Dude, these are great. Like, is this good work.” So I was like, “Let’s do this thing, man. If you want to do SEO, let’s get you a job in the industry. Like an actual job, not one that I can pay you for, but like a real one for a little while, and you do some consulting work with me on the side and let’s train you up in SEO. Then if this is something you love to do maybe we can join forces one day and really build something together.”
Jeremiah: So he was all about it. He ended up getting a job at an agency down here in Sarasota when we moved down here. It was one of my previous clients. I connected him, I was like, “This is my brother. I taught him, I trained him. You guys need an in house SEO help. Hire him. He’ll be good for you.” So they did and it blew them up. They were wildly successful because of Sean’s work. He’s an incredibly savvy business guy. Really hard worker. Takes really serious pride in his work, so he was able to generate awesome results for them in a short period of time.
Jeremiah: Then from there he had built his own kind of client base of people that he was talking to that he met on Twitter and do an outreach. He also discovered that he has a skill in writing, which was awesome. Right? So I don’t write at all. I don’t write blog articles. I talk a lot like this, but Sean is a writer.
Ben: And you do it very well.
Jeremiah: Why, thank you, Ben. I appreciate it. But yeah, he was writing articles on Medium back then when Medium was really, really cool, and he got really awesome companies contacting us and saying, “Hey, we want your consulting help.” So he’d come to me, he’d be like, “Hey, I got this person. They want help. Let’s pull them on and see what we can do.” So we started kind of pooling all of our resources together, all of our clients and consulting together and eventually built something that had enough income that he could leave his agency job just like I did, so I’m running SimpleTiger full time, but he’s kind of doing it part-time until eventually he has the skills and the acumen and has grown enough other client businesses for another marketing to know what needs to happen.
Jeremiah: So we joined forces. He left that previous agency after a couple of years working there and really getting sharp and came in, and he and I just pooled all our resources together and really started closing client projects, consulting them well. From there is where we started building a team and an agency.
Ben: So this whole thing is really just about you being able to push your brother around.
Jeremiah: I would also say, it’s a long story, but about my brother being able to say no to a bunch of crazy, wild ideas I have that would probably mess everything up too, so.
Ben: So as you bring your brother in you now have the foundations of an agency. You guys are trained with the same school of thought in terms of SEO. Talk to me about scaling and what do you do today?
Jeremiah: Yeah, so from there Sean and I were handling a lot of business. He was having these leads contact him through the content he’s putting up on Medium. I had people who were reaching out to me through agency relationships in Atlanta and friends and previous clients I’ve worked with. So together he and I were both just hustling. We had client deals coming in left and right. We’re putting them together and we were consulting them and we were making really good money off of that, but honestly we were losing clients a lot because we couldn’t fulfill a lot of the actual production work that they needed.
Jeremiah: A lot of that production work came down to producing content for their sites, building links for their sites. A lot of the various SEO stuff that not a lot of SEO people take seriously. A lot of people when they talk about SEO talk about just the technical components, and the technical components could not be anything more than just foundational. Like, at a certain point in time you can build the nicest library in the world, but if it has no books in it is pointless. Right? So that’s what a site is when it comes to SEO. It’s the technical component is just a well-structured and built library. But what’s in it? That’s your content. And who votes for those pieces of content? That’s the link aspect. And how usable is it? That’s important too.
Jeremiah: So we weren’t able to fulfill any of that so we started hiring contractors and building a team of people that can help us with it. We made so many mistakes. We did it so wrong so many times doing that, but eventually we kind of started to figure out what worked really well about building that team and we were able to really kind of focus things in, developed some core values as a company, and started hiring one person after another from contractor side into full-time employee salary side, and eventually built a really strong team of people that were better than Sean and I are at all these different areas that we needed help in. That’s really where SimpleTiger started to scale and grow.
Ben: As you look back on your career development, and you’ve gone from discovering SEO to working in an agency to being independent to being an independent agency owner, how have you felt about your career development and as you think back on the path is there anything that you would have done any differently?
Jeremiah: That’s a good question. The consulting side of things was so fun and so lucrative that if you’re a consultant right now I highly recommend probably staying in that position, and unless your ambition is to build and grow an agency, stay a consultant. Stay small. There’s this book by Paul Jarvis called Company Of One. I’m working on reading it right now, and it’s really good idea to just kind of keep it small and keep it simple.
Jeremiah: Now, Simple Tiger, our goal is to kind of stay small. We want to be a boutique agency. I don’t want to have 100 people or anything like that. But you know, I think the consulting thing was so fun and so lucrative and so cool but it required that I was always on tap and always talking to clients every single day, you know, sunup to sundown, lot of work. It wasn’t easy, but I think going from that into building an agency was where I went through probably the most personal change because being a consultant, you kind of get this big ego and big head of what you know and always pushing people around with what you know. But building an agency and a team of people requires you to really sacrifice a lot of what you would prefer for yourself and for the greater good of a system that you’re a part of and actually humble yourself a bit. It’s only when you do that, that the system starts to work and that the team worked well. That’s actually what a team takes.
Jeremiah: So for me, I went through a bunch of personal evolution through doing that. I think it’s really helped me a lot. I’m not going to say I don’t have a great big fat ego still or anything like that, but it’s just that having this team has really helped me not let my ego be the driver all the time and instead look out for my team and what’s best for them because they’re looking out for my clients and what’s best for them. So that’s probably been the biggest change in my career, ultimately.
Ben: What I’m hearing is that as a consultant you can stay small, be nimble, work on projects that are right in your wheelhouse, but you’re always the end operator so you’re always responsible for the end results. When you decided to make the move to becoming an agency owner you’re able to distance yourself from the operational work but now you’re responsible for managing the team, so it has to do with your hiring and training process and that’s where more of your focus is.
Jeremiah: Exactly. That’s exactly right. That’s a much more beautiful and eloquent way of putting it. I think, you know, the challenges that come there have been really rewarding for me because this agency, this business is my heart. I love it. It’s my baby, but I don’t see it being the only business venture I have in my entire life, and I want to do others. I think to do the others I’m going to have to have the skills that building this into an agency gave me. So kind of going from consultant to agency owner has helped me with that.
Jeremiah: It’s also changed how I work as a consultant, actually. Because see, I still do consulting with my clients very often, but now I think of them more as being in a position in a business instead of just being, you know, when you’re a consultant you think everyone else is like you, that they could just do what you’re telling them to do but it’s not always the case. There are political things, there are all kinds of things going on that are out of people’s control that you’re talking to. So running a business helped me realize that. It helped me realize that sometimes our recommendations, they may not happen. You know? Sometimes the relationship may be great and we lose the client. That things just happen. I think going from being a consultant to an agency owner allowed me to have a more realistic understanding of business, to be honest.
Ben: That’s interesting. I guess my last question for you is as you look back on your career, going from a semester or two in college to being a successful agency owner, if you were going to talk to Jeremiah 2.0 who was it the beginning of his career, what advice would you have?
Jeremiah: I really think, in regards to growing the agency, I would have specialized years ago. By specialized I mean we do just SEO for just SaaS companies. It took us a long time to finally say that and commit to it because we worked for, you know, we were stuck in the AFM route, like you were saying. Anything for money. So I would do anything outside of SEO but I’m trying to grow my SEO business, and I would do it for any kind of business but I’m trying to get more of these SaaS companies.
Jeremiah: I didn’t ever really specialize until past couple of years. We decided to get tighter and tighter with our specialty until we finally decided, no, we’re only ever going to do SEO only for SaaS companies. And that may change. You know, that could evolve. But for now it’s just on fire and it’s what we should have always been doing for very long.
Jeremiah: So if you’re listening to this, you’re trying to grow an agency, trying to build a consulting business or something like that, really apply the 80/20 principle, which is something that we live by. Apply the 80/20 principle. Find out what 20% of clientele are generating 80% of your revenue or something along those lines and see what persona they dominate. You know? For us it was SaaS companies, and not just that, but like what 20% of clients make our whole team the happiest to work with? Like, they’re fun. We enjoy talking to them. We get on calls and they get stuff done and they love what we say and it just feels good, good morale, you know? It was SaaS companies. So for us that was just our blood, our nature, and so we went that route. I would like to tell Jeremiah 2.0, do that, you know? And any agency listening now, do that.
Ben: If we only knew now … What’s the saying?
Jeremiah: If we only knew then. [crosstalk 00:35:43]
Ben: Something like that. Boy, I wish I knew that back in the day.
Ben: Well, Jeremiah, I appreciate the story. I appreciate how you are a self made man and how your career has developed from discovering the SEO function to working for large companies to going independent and then scaling your company to be not necessarily a large agency but the kind of agency that you want it to be. So thank you for sharing your story with us and appreciate having you on the show.
Jeremiah: Hey, Ben, thank you so much. I appreciate having a platform to just be vulnerable like this with somebody who gets it. Thanks for being just a such a good host and guiding me through it. I really enjoyed it.
Ben: I appreciate it.
Ben: Okay, that wraps up this episode of The Voices Of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jeremiah Smith, founder and CEO of SimpleTiger. If you’d like to learn more about Jeremiah you can find the link to his Linkedin profile in our show notes. You could send them a tweet at @JeremiahCSmith, that’s J-E-R-E-M-I-A-H-C-S-M-I-T-H, or you can visit his website, which is SimpleTiger.com.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk about this podcast you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet at @BENJSHAP, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.
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Ben: Okay. That’s all for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.