Sramana: What role do inbound links to a site really play? There seems to be ambiguity and controversy around link-building techniques.
Mike Mothner: You can have 10 experts in a room and get 10 different answers, hopefully with some overlap. Fundamentally, the best links are those which are not negotiated or traded for. They are links to great, unique content on your site that someone else thought was worth linking to. We call that digital PR.
The problem is that a lot of sites just well a widget. There is no blog dedicated to installing window blinds in Santa Monica, California. In that case, people may choose to buy links which will prove to be effective. It may not be an ideal long-term strategy, but it does offer consistent short-term gains. Our approach is to be anchored in good long-term value building SEO while engaging in what is necessary to keep our clients on the cutting edge.
Sramana: In SEO what role does Twitter play?
Mike Mothner: Search engines have just started announcing their intention to include tweets in their results. That implies that if a lot of people tweet about a website, there will be a lot of rewards about that site. There is unequivocal value in getting the word about the site out there. It is also a great way to do reputation management.
Sramana: I have been blogging for five years now. In the early days of blogging if somebody saw your post, they would use the blog to link back to that post. Now they are using Twitter and Facebook to broadcast posts that they like. The link back effect there has diminished.
Mike Mothner: I think that is exactly the reason that Google made their announcement that they would start to weigh Twitter. They realize that conversations spill over, and they need to account for that.
Sramana: You said you were charging your first client $250 a month to manage a $1,000 a month campaign. How has your pricing evolved since then?
Mike Mothner: Our standard pricing now is the greater of 15% of your search budget and $1,000 a month. At the high end, where clients spend $30,000 a month or more, we will develop an alternate pricing schedule.
Sramana: How many clients do you have?
Mike Mothner: There are two divisions in the company. The Small Business Services Section handles clients who spend around $150 to $300 a month. These are local mom-and-pop shops. Our Agency Services Division handles the higher-end clients, whose pricing we just walked through. On the small business side we have 2,000 customers and on the agency side we have 200 customers.
Sramana: How does the revenue split?
Mike Mothner: We will end 2010 at about $11 million in revenue. Our 2011 projections will be $17 million. Right now the revenue split is about 65% agency services, 35% small business. Small business services, however, will continue to grow rapidly. We estimate that in Q1 of 2012, the small business side of the house will eclipse the agency side of the house.
Sramana: How do you manage the small business side? What do they get with your service?
Mike Mothner: The small business offering is a self-service platform. You can either come up with your keywords and ads or ask us to do it for you, and then we will manage them in aggregate. Quicklist is our small business PPC product, which is a micro PPC campaign for budgets that are too small to run on their own at Google.
The small business will pay us either $99, $247 or $495 a month for us to spend a percentage of that budget. The small business pays a fixed fee and we pay the variable costs. If you pay us $100 we might spend $70 at Google and Yahoo. We will spend $70 far more effectively than you will spend $100. Most businesses at that budget will be very wasteful with their funds.
Sramana: Have you taken any external financing for this company?
Mike Mothner: No, we have funded it from day one with operational funding. We are talking to some equity groups about potentially doing our first round to help us with growth right now.
Sramana: Great story. Good luck with everything!