Client Projects vs Your Own – What is an SEO to do ?

For most of us who work in online marketing, the question of where to spend our time is something we ponder on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Ross Hudgens recently wrote a post on why being busy is not good thing to be in which he gives an interesting view point on how to approach that enormous To Do list staring you in the face (as I write this, my Basecamp is giving me dirty looks). Since I started in SEO I have always tried to spend time working on my own projects, this has and hasn’t worked. The following are some highlights from my experiences in client work vs your own projects (this will vary greatly/wildly/massively between people).

1) Being a non Techie / Oh my GOD What happened to my site kind of guy or girl:

For the most part if you are working on a client site, you don’t need to get your hands dirty in terms of code, hosting, database customization etc etc, when recommending changes to improve their site performance (optimisation,speed, conversion etc). You provide a document and then order your clients IT team to make the necessary changes (tongue firmly in cheek as for the most part you will be begging :)). Although that being said, it really helps if you can hold a conversation with the great tech gods at your clients company. One of the biggest advantages I had when starting out online was 6 years prior IT experience. I remember talking to an SEO consultant and asked could they do a little work for me, which involved looking at some code – “No, I don’t know how to look through source code” – hmm.

On the flip side, working on your own sites can lead to hours/days wasted on technical tasks, when you would prefer to be doing traffic related work to bring in the $$. For example, I spent yesterday on CPU throttling ( at least it’s going down)

and today on a site migration. Tech problems can hurt all that lovely traffic you have built up (big dip is due to hosting, spike up is when i got the CPU issue resolved):


Neither of these tasks are going to bring in the big $$ but are necessary. For the most part the two options to resolve this sort of wasted time (in the sense it’s not measurable against ROI), is to partner with a techie (something I am considering) or outsource (but is difficult until the site starts turning over a monthly profit and cash on outsourcing is better spent elsewhere).

2) Resources – Ya Gotta Have Them

If you are doing client work, resources are less of an issue. You still need help from IT, PR, designers and management to implement both on-site changes and any  link building campaigns you want to launch, but you should become skilled at matching an SEO strategy to a clients resources. There will always be clients who ask for the world and have no resources to get it, but part of your role is to either educate them or say find someone else.

Resources for your own projects are a lot more difficult to get. They also depend on the type of project/site you are implementing (discussed in next point). You have to become skilled at finding good people at good prices. You also need to be prepared to spend money with no return for a number of months. For me, one of the biggest flaws people having in growing a site is their willingness to spend money. Cheap hosting, Cheap content, Cheap link builders, Cheap boiler plate design etc etc = No chance (for the most part).

3) Site Type / $$ Strategy

For me, this is the most crucial part of planning out your own project. Deciding on the market and strategy to make $$ will determine what type of site you have. This is something I am still learning and need to become a lot better at. Types of site you could have are:

a. Large Publishing – Make cash via advertising / affiliate offers – Look to sell based on revenue and traffic (get some high value rankings): This kind of site is a drain on point 2 (resources). You need good writers / ongoing design and usually stand out content from your competition. It’s about building a brand in that market.

b. Niche blog – Make cash via advertising – Usually a couple of high value affiliate offers – Sell on based on revenue / rankings: These are the sort of sites that are focused on one core subject i.e. How to get great abs. You build based upon doing research on what’s selling on clickbank etc. Less resources than publishing, usually allow you to focus more on the SEO side of things.

c. Static Site: Rank for couple of high value keywords promoting one product – Sell on based on revenue / rankings: Much like the niche blog but focused on a couple of high value keywords and one product. Allows you to concentrate fully (for the most part) on traffic generation. Usually very competitive in terms of other affiliates.

This is the high level view, just on my experience, I know there are 100’s of other ways to make cash.

The point being, it’s probably a good idea to decide on market / site type / $$ before building.

4) Learning

Both client work and personal projects should allow you to keep learning. This is really at the core of online marketing. It’s ever changing. Although a plus for personal projects is your ability to burn through some sites, just to learn a tactic or work on something that will indirectly improve your ability to do client work (for example my Link Network allowed me to play with a lot of aspects of link building and test out theories). Never burn through clients site 🙂

5) Creativity

This for me is the big PLUS of personal projects. For those of  us that have lots of ideas, having personal projects is a great opportunity to mess about with them. Of courses, clients are usually open to some of these, but they have brand guidelines etc etc that need to be adhered. Want to try something on Facebok, Twitter, Youtube, personal projects allow you to do that. For example, I have always liked fashion so I went into that market. Today I am working on video reviews of sneakers brands from across the globe have sent us. Personal projects allow you to get involved in markets you have a real interest in.

When is Play Times is about the $$ ??

I ask myself this a lot. Play time for me is when I can mess about with my own projects. But I still have a goal in mind for each project, this means I am still working under the same kind of principles as I would approach client work. The downside to that is it can leave you drained. It’s important to ensure your personal projects to become a burden, which means it’s extremely important to control your costs until the site starts turning a profit. Is this easy to do – NO.

Apologies for the lack of “Oh that was useful” in this post, but time is against me this month, so ramblings is best I can do.

About Kieran Flanagan

Online Marketer who implements both inbound and paid strategies to help companies grow internationally. Lover of content marketing, SEO, analytics, CRO and strategy. A highly motivated marketing geek high on data crack.