How My SEO Agency Doubled With A Few Strategic Pivots [Update]

Published: April 28th, 2024
Alex Robinson
Novus Digital Ltd
from Northampton, UK
started August 2019
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I’m Alex, I’m the founder and SEO director of Novus Digital. You can read my original Starter Story interview here.

We launched as an SEO agency, but after some soul searching we’ve developed our offering into Paid Google Ads too. Essentially, a digital toolbelt for Google marketing. We’re still grappling with some of the main headaches from our last interview, but in terms of the raw service and value we offer, we’ve never been in as strong a spot.

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Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Business has continued slow and steady growth since our last interview. Whilst we’re still hunting for that “silver bullet” of growth, we’ve hit approx. $50k MRR, which has surpassed all expectations when I first launched.

Last interview the business was hugely reliant on 2 big clients, which we’ve now diversified away from, making us much more resistant to any unexpected shocks.

Additionally - and I know how basic this sounds - but I’ve learned the importance of making profit. I was always a staunch believer in “invest everything back in the company”. Although I’m still guilty of this, as the team has gotten larger I’ve recognized that there’s a duty of care to squirrel away some profits for a rainy day, which has come in handy more than once.

Last interview I mentioned that we could scale 2x without any additional investment. We’ve now surpassed that 2x, but we’ve expanded the team fairly significantly. Whilst some of this has been focused on leveling up the service and value, what I didn’t factor in last time was the other roles that would need filling eg. sales and marketing.

Retention is still the absolute focus within the company and although we have lost clients, our churn has stabilized at about 1%

Although some members of the team have come and gone, mid 2023 we built (and dissolved) a Digital PR team. End of 2023 saw the building of our marketing team and Q1 2024 saw the sales team. On paper, these all sounded like easy additions to the current setup, but each came with their own challenges.

2023 was the year of Facebook Ads for us, but even working with some amazing companies who managed our ads, we couldn’t get it to “stick”. Instead we’re moving back to cold calling and email marketing. I honestly didn’t think they’d still work - but don’t knock the classics!

I’m excited to see the progression of our sales team. I’m excited to delegate business growth and I’m willing to sacrifice equity if needed to find the right person. I’m also excited for all the new industry challenges and to take on bigger and bolder projects.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Honestly, we’re still grappling with many of the issues we were years ago - that is “how do we scale”? I’m so grateful that referral and word of mouth has allowed us to keep scaling, and solid retention means we don’t slip backwards - but we’ve still not found that catch all. It’s the thing that keeps me up at night.

Hiring an outbound cold calling team has been amazing, we’ve developed an awesome squad, but it was a lot more involved than I factored in. Constant call feedback, scripts, systems - it’s been a constant drain on time. The team are relatively raw still, but can already see their confidence growing.

I speak to a lot of other agencies and always find it interesting that we have opposite issues. We struggle with sales, but smash ops. Other agencies seem to be the opposite. With that in mind, the next big hire needs to be a commercial director - someone who can spearhead growth, as it’s just not my forte. Progress is solid, but I want to be doing so much more.

I’ve also still struggled with taking a break. Similar to the profit revelation, I’ve realized I need to take better care of myself, or I just can’t perform as well. I speak to a lot of entrepreneurs who say the same, but there’s a sense of guilt when stepping away from the business, that I need to overcome.

Focus on providing the best service possible…keep the clients you have happy, and every new client builds on that foundation.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

It’s important to make profit. I’ve been living a fairly stripped back life over the last 5 years, reinvesting everything back into Novus. It’s important, not only for my own sanity, but also to mitigate risk, to make and save profit.

Mental health is vital. I don’t need to be on call 24/7 for the company and there’s no shame in switching off. I’m still working on this one.

Building a business is hard. The influencers make it look easy, and good for them - but the journey definitely isn’t plain sailing. Managing clients is hard. Building a team is harder. Maintaining both whilst trying to focus on growth is never-ending. It’s pretty cliche at this point, but if you don’t enjoy the journey, what’s the point?

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

2024 has to be the year of growth. Although we said the same for 2023. We enrolled in 2 separate (and very expensive) Facebook Ad projects in 2023, and whilst both worked at generating appointments, we were lacking the sales skills to make it stick.

We also diverted the majority of our focus into the US market too, which looking back was a mistake for us. As a native, cynical Brit it was more of a culture shock than we expected!.

I’m excited to see the progression of our sales team. I’m excited to delegate business growth and I’m willing to sacrifice equity if needed to find the right person. I’m also excited for all the new industry challenges and to take on bigger and bolder projects.

The next 5 years is going to centre around building the best marketing agency possible. That will act as the springboard to an AI proof business. I’m far less bullish on AI than I was a year ago, but sooner or later it's coming, and I don’t want to be trapped in digital forever.


What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

Anything by Alex Hormozi. The guy’s an entrepreneurial machine. I’ve made no secret that sales is not my bag, but he’s opened my eyes to new ways of doing things. It’s a slow journey, but I’m dedicated to it.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Don’t give up. I’m always looking for advice myself, but experiment with new things, be different. Every other agency is pulling the same tactics of cold calling and email, but by giving something unique, you grab attention. Attention is the most valuable commodity, and if you can capture it, you’re onto something.

What works for someone else, might not for you. Tons of agencies make Facebook Ads work for them, but we just couldn’t get it to stick.

Focus on providing the best service possible. The only reason we’re still standing is because our churn rate is so low. If you only chase new clients, you neglect the old, and you’ll end up stuck on a stagnant client “win and loss” carousel.

Keep the clients you have happy, and every new client builds on that foundation.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m not openly looking, but I’m going to be seeking a commercial director. Someone who can take a look at what we do as an agency, package it into something valuable and drive the sales side. It’s not my skill and it’s the one missing link in the business now.

When / if I find that person, I’ll be able to live my dream of being able to focus on being a major SEO nerd.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!