From learning all there is to know about SEO best practices to teaching training courses to the UK government, Joshua George specializes in all things SEO.
In 2016, Joshua started his London-based marketing agency, ClickSlice. Having faced common business trials and tribulations, he has created a proven sales process. And by hiring the right employees, his agency remains on the road to long-term success.
Find out how he built his SEO marketing agency from being virtually undiscoverable on the SERPs to serving 30 retainer-based clients.
Choosing a Scalable Service Niche vs. Industry Niche
Running one of the most successful eBay stores in the UK in 2015 taught Joshua many valuable lessons early on in his career–the biggest one being how to keep 100% of his profits in his hands.
Frustrated with eBay taking a 10% final value fee (FVF) on every one of his sales, he decided to branch out and create his own eCommerce website.
“I made our website from scratch, and of course, it wasn’t getting found on Google,” Joshua laughs. “We were getting no traffic and generated no sales.”
Joshua’s Google search, ‘How to get your website into the first page of Google’ quickly became a full-blown obsession.
“Once I started learning about SEO, I knew if it benefited my own business, surely it can help benefit other people’s businesses, too,” Joshua says.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. George faced business challenges like many other agency owners, such as choosing a niche for your agency or not.
“My initial aim was to just focus on one industry, like SEO for solar panel companies or SEO for lawyers,” Joshua explains. “I wanted to focus on a particular niche. But the UK isn't that big of a place, and I realized that approach wasn't possible to scale.”
Instead, he focussed on the services his agency could offer–SEO–and eventually would specialize in one type of SEO services.
Creating a Proven Customer Acquisition Process
Once Joshua knew he wanted to build an agency for scale, he contemplated a differentiator to help his agency stand out from competitors.
“Our focus is the way we do SEO differently,” Joshua says.
He noticed that his competitors would offer generic SEO strategies to their clients and just ‘hope’ the strategy would pay off in the long run.
“They’ll say, ‘You’re on page five; you need to be on page 1, so we’ll write you two blog posts a month, maybe four backlinks, and we’ll just make up the campaign as we go along.’ But we wanted to create a more concrete process,” he explains.
His team starts by looking at the top-ranking site on the SERP, how many blogs their site has, how active they are, and how many links to build.
“It’s a proven blueprint to follow because you’re not just making it up as you go along,” Joshua says.
However, he admits it’s a lot of upfront work and is most likely one of the main reasons why competitors don’t take this approach.
“We have three full-time employees just focusing on that initial competitive analysis stage,” he says. “It can be a bit overwhelming, but we need to look at it on a granular level because it works absolutely amazing for our clients.”
Completing the initial work during the research phase of their sales process has paid off in the long run for ClickSlice.
“We used to charge upfront for all of this analysis,” Joshua explains. “But what I found by looking at our sales process is if you ask for a lot of money upfront from a client to do what you should be doing anyway, it looks disingenuous. Because how do you know how much you’d be charging that client? You have no idea what strategy to implement for them, so it has to be done upfront before that client is actually your client.”
Although they spend a lot of time, money, and resources in the initial stages, it’s been a significant differentiator that potential clients receive positively.
Clients like to shop, around going to multiple agencies, and when they see a generic, almost made-up proposal and then they see our bespoke, detailed breakdown of what we’ve done with their analysis, we’re already above every other agency that’s also trying to compete for that client. So our conversion rate is super high.
–Joshua George, Founder of ClickSlice
Highlighting Agency Value Through Video
Aside from their detailed competitive analysis approach, Joshua also wanted to go beyond the data to show why a client should choose his agency over others.
“A big part of our sales process is educating our clients,” he explains. “We can’t just tell them, ‘We’re going to do ABC because of this.’ Education is key, and when clients understand why we’re doing certain things, they’re way more open, receptive, and patient.”
In the early days of building his agency, Joshua was more involved in the sales process. He found success in making personal connections with potential leads through video, as it would build long-term trust with them.
“I used video because I loved that I could show them their website in real-time. Plus, it’s more engaging compared to typing up all the details into email format that’s usually overwhelming for a client,” Joshua says. “I could also show my face quickly to help build trust, and they knew who they were actually talking to. The goal was to really personalize the video, not scare them away with SEO jargon, and show them the value I’d bring.”
As his agency took on more clients, he stepped away from the day-to-day sales processes to focus more on his founder role and growing the business. But he wanted to ensure that his video strategy stayed in place.
To streamline this initiative, Joshua implemented specific CTA buttons on their website, such as ‘book a call,’ ‘book a free audit,’ or ‘book a free discovery call.’ Each of these links to a Calendly invite where potential clients can set up a video call with a salesperson to go over their current website and any goals they have.
“It gives a personal touch that goes a long way,” Joshua says. “There are a lot of agency sites in London that put you down this rabbit hole of filling out a form, and then they reply to you via email, and you miss that human interaction. Doing video calls helps us build more trust, which helps with conversion.”
Offering Training Services As a Client Acquisition Strategy
A client acquisition strategy that has worked well for ClickSlice is practicing what they preach.
“We do a lot of SEO on our own site and compete for a lot of SEO keywords in London,” says Joshua. “You should definitely be doing SEO if you’re an SEO agency because people do look for terms like ‘SEO services.’”
He says some of their most popular keywords include ‘SEO training’ and ‘SEO courses.’
“We have a lot of SEO courses available, and they do pretty well,” says Joshua. “However, I also get a lot of emails saying, ‘The course is great, but can you please expand on this, or can you give me specific training on my particular website?’”
Image: Joshua George teaching one of his SEO training courses.
He wanted to provide other business owners with the knowledge to do well on their own, and if they needed additional help, they would think of ClickSlice first.
“People searching for SEO training in London specifically want training, right? They’re not searching for SEO services,” he explains. “So we’ll do the training, and then sometimes that translates into, ‘I didn’t realize it was so detailed. How much do you guys charge to manage it?’ Now they became a client, and we made two sales–the training and acquiring a client.”
Joshua’s SEO training courses were so successful that he even taught the UK government when they reached out to him for help.
“We have a page on our website dedicated to SEO training and courses, and it ranks number two for SEO training in London,” Joshua explains.
“When I saw the Calendly link come through, I saw the email was ‘.gov’, and I couldn’t believe the government was inquiring about SEO.’
So Joshua and his team went to train 16 government officials in the entire SEO process, from keyword research to content creation and backlinks and audits.
“It went really well, and I’ve actually checked the traffic on some of the pages I provided training on, and it’s actually gone up in traffic dramatically,” Joshua smiles.
He plans to continue offering SEO training courses as a means of networking and acquiring clients in the future.
Building a Team Devoted to Details
ClickSlice currently has 12 full-time employees with a structure in place that promotes long-term agency growth.
Joshua implemented this structure almost two years ago:
Link building team
Data analysis expert
Blog post writer
“We have quite a few different departments, but they all work like an assembly line that works really well together,” Joshua says.
He admits that it took him some time to realize he needed this agency structure in place to kickstart the growth of his agency.
I wish I discovered this years ago. And I think it’s the reason we didn’t scale as fast because I tried to have control over everything. Letting go and having trust in your team plays a big role when you want to scale your agency.
–Joshua George, Founder of ClickSlice
Finding and hiring talented employees was a challenge that Joshua faced in the beginning. He struggled with applicants saying they were experienced and then not actually being as qualified as they said they were.
“Hiring has been one of our biggest pain points,” Joshua shares. “Our team is currently the strongest it’s ever been, but we’ve made a lot of bad hires.”
However, he overcame this hurdle by writing detailed job descriptions that would eliminate applicants who might not be the best fit for the role.
“Our hiring process is a lot more strict now. We write a massive description, and the last sentence of the job post is, ‘Say the word ‘Slice’ in your application so I know you’ve read this.’ Because so many people apply without reading the job description and we want people that pay attention to detail because you need to be meticulous when it comes to SEO.”
After putting the right people in the right positions, it came down to a matter of allowing team members to thrive in what they do best.
“Playing to people’s strengths makes them happier, which makes me happier,” he says. “And happier staff deliver great results and great work for clients. And then our clients are happy. So it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Since implementing this structure at his agency, Joshua has noticed a positive shift in morale and agency culture.
“We have a Slack channel that is absolute non-stop banter! We’re all laughing and joking, and it’s created a nice atmosphere at the company,” Joshua smiles. “We all have a real passion for what we’re doing.”
He advises other agency owners to implement an employee structure sooner and make sure their employees feel like they’re a part of the business.
“I have a lot of friends who run agencies in the UK, and they all run their businesses differently,” he explains. “They’ll say, ‘I’m going to do ABC and not really tell the team what comes in.’ But I like to keep my team in the loop with everything going on because the more they know, the more they feel involved.”
One of the ways he keeps open communication with his team is through weekly internal calls. Joshua says it keeps everyone on the same page for spending goals, plans for the quarter and upcoming quarters, and more. It’s been instrumental in his agency’s growth as it’s created a more relaxed environment that keeps everyone aligned and not feeling micromanaged.
Building the Number One SEO Agency in London
To recap ClickSlice’s roadmap to marketing agency success, Joshua ironed out his internal processes. He focussed on these core areas:
Specializing in specific services
Creating a proven sales process that sets them apart from competitors
Building trust with clients through video
Offering training courses to acquire clients
Hiring the right employees and fostering a thriving environment
As for the future, he hopes to focus on SEO services for eCommerce clients.
“It’s something that goes back to my history with my eBay store,” George says. “When you work with eCommerce clients, you can pretty much work with any niche out there. It helps to build up your expertise and show people why it’s better to work with an eCommerce SEO agency versus a generic SEO agency.”
He and his team have been testing it out as a differentiator in their UK market and have been pleased with the results.
“I also want to be the number one SEO agency in London,” says Joshua. “And not just in terms of Google rankings. I think we’re number three now, which is quite cool. But I want to be known as, ‘If you want SEO, this is who you go to. They mean business. They have a proven process. They’ve been hired by the government. They’re the real deal.’”
Richelle Peace is a joyful writer with a degree in Journalism. She loves writing web content, blogs, and social media posts. Whatever the topic, she’s fascinated by learning and sharing.Read more posts by Richelle Peace ›