My first full year as an independent SEO consultant has passed already, so it's time to review and set some goals for 2022.
Still, I want to give further details, stats, and musings of what's happened over the year and what I want to achieve in 2022.
If I were to pick one thing that went exceptionally well, it'd be this, which is good, considering it's the main thing I focused on!
Here are a few anecdotes.
Consulting has also gone incredibly well; I've worked with brands in my first solo year that I would have never thought possible. To give you an idea, here is the global monthly search volume of a few of the top brand names I've worked with:
While I've worked with many similar sized brands, it's always been via an agency. I'm genuinely thrilled that even though I'm running a one-person business, I'm still getting interest from prominent brands.
Interestingly, all of them came to me with the same story. They want to know they're working directly with the expert, not being pitched to by an expert at an agency who has minimal involvement once the contract is won. I think there's something in that.
In the last three months of my company year, revenue was double compared to the first three months.
I don't want to discuss figures directly, but what's interesting is I achieved this growth with the same number of clients.
So, how did I manage to increase revenue so significantly with a finite amount of my own time to sell?
I think the details and guidance on that is something I need to write up separately, but here are a few pointers:
- Clear deliverables and guaranteed outcomes. I provide fixed costs and don't work hourly. Not working hourly and guaranteeing outcomes better incentivises me to work fast and improve my process. It also benefits clients as they know what the work will achieve and exactly how much it'll cost them.
- Consistently delivering results. The average traffic increase for ongoing projects this year has been 104%, that naturally results in clients wanting to invest more. My smallest client became my largest client in 2021.
- Improved efficiency. I've left time each month to re-work the way I complete common deliverables. Whether that's investing in a third-party tool, building a tool myself, or simply making project management more efficient.
- I only took on projects with a good 'fit'. I've rejected far more projects than what I've taken on, sometimes that's because I didn't feel the main contact was invested enough in the project, other times because I'm too busy, or simply because the brands budget didn't match what they wanted out of the project.
- Outsourcing. I never outsource work that requires SEO-expertise. But I have outsourced admin that doesn't require my expertise, but helps move a project forward. A small number of clients don't have the internal know-how or resource to perform basic webmaster tasks. Trusted virtual assistants have provided a lot of help here that have helped me scale.
One of my goals for 2021 was to begin to work on more projects I own. Affiliate sites were the most apparent secondary use of my SEO, UX, and development skills.
I started that journey early in 2021, and while it hasn't paid off yet, there are some great early signs considering the small amount of time invested.
SEO Toolbelt is the one SEO's will have hopefully heard of in 2021. This affiliate site had a great reception when announced on Twitter
It also performed well on Product Hunt.
Since the initial rush of traffic after launch, the site hasn't performed, simply because it lacks evergreen content.
However, it has gained many authoritative links, shown by its growing authority metrics.
Ahrefs has started to see that authority increasing increased keyword ranking coverage and predicted traffic.
But unfortunately, that isn't enough to make the site reliable for income.
Creating more valuable content to take advantage of the site's strong authority will be one of my goals for 2022.
I'm currently in the design phase of how reviews and UGC could work on the site.
Affiliate site #2
I'm not announcing what my second affiliate site is yet. Still, this one has had a significant more investment in evergreen content, which the recent Google product review update has rewarded.
I haven't properly monetised the site yet, but it's averaging ~80 organic clicks per day currently, so it's something I'm going to start spending more time on.
Writing content about SEO has been a significant focus this past year, with the main focus being off-page content and Twitter.
I've totalled 14 off-page articles, with most of those being on the Advanced Web Ranking blog, as well as some on Ahrefs, with one that'll be published soon.
The only downside is I've written too much off-page and not enough for my site. While I have a few drafted articles, my time consulting and eagerness to write for my favourite SEO tool brands have resulted in my blog being under-loved.
That's one thing I want to correct in 2022.
Increasing my Twitter following has been a significant success in 2021. I've learnt a lot about managing my personal brand via the network and grew my following more than threefold, from ~1,800 followers to just over 6,000 with average likes per post of ~95 at the time of writing.
My learnings here are something I'll likely package up and sell in an ebook someday, but if you want some advice in the meantime, read Tom Hirst's eBook on writing tweets and invest in an intelligent tweet scheduler like Hypefury.
While 2021 has been a great year work-wise, I want to make some tweaks in 2022.
I've currently tied all of my income to how much time I have in a day. I want to invest more time in generating income passively via affiliate sites.
More passive income was one of my key goals for 2021; I dipped my toe in the water and had success. Now it's time to double down.
Early in 2022, I plan to streamline processes for managing current and future affiliate sites.
I'll focus on the development, monetisation and SEO strategy; freelance writers/virtual assistants or a full-time employee will support me in delivering the strategy. I'll see how it goes.
I've written a lot of content this year, but I've heavily weighted it to content on other sites. I want to get back to writing a lot for my site like I did in 2020.
I have a lot of ideas for some unique pieces of content, including:
- New ways of doing everyday SEO tasks
- How I approach SEO as a consultant
In addition to the content on my site, I also want to continue tweeting consistently. Concisely delivering information and hearing others opinions helps me increase my reach and gives a nice feedback loop providing different viewpoints on an idea.
Having a work/life balance in 2021 was difficult.
Travel has been near impossible. That results in more time being dedicated to work rather than experiences you'll remember and enjoy.
One of the key benefits of working for yourself is being in control of how you work. I'd like to take advantage of that more, working hard, but also rewarding myself with more breaks.
Finally, I want to focus my time on the projects that motivate me, whether that's personal or for a client. Creating inspires me, I'd like to do more of that.