Mark Wright, and Climb Online are the 2014 winners of Lord Sugar’s Apprentice BBC TV contest and recipient of a £250,000 investment, narrowly pipping Bianca Miller’s ‘True Skin’ luxury tights proposition due to a couple of errors made by Bianca during the final, namely, ignoring her market research and maintaining a price point that was too high for the lower quality packaging she had created.
As a result, and in no small part to Marks dynamic sales abilities, he picked up the investment for ‘Climb Online’ and is shortly to join the ranks of the hugely competitive search marketing industry.
During the final show Mark made several fundamental errors that were clear to see for anyone who understands the online promotion industry & specifically optimization. These errors demonstrated, that even though he has 18 months or so successfully selling web promotion services in the UK, there is a huge difference between selling those services (that are being managed by an experienced online marketing team) and creating your own agency and managing the whole business model and process yourself.
The Daily Mail’s Jim Shelley agrees that choosing Climb Online over True Skin was the wrong decision…. read the article here and decide for yourself if Jim is right.
Climb Online is undoubtedly quite a good name for a web agency, however, a crucial ingredient of the process is to establish the availability of a suitable domain name to use.
Mark committed himself to using ‘Climb Online’ before carrying out due diligence on the URL’s available and as a consequence, has had to use a hyphenated URL which are considered less authoritative than non hyphenated addresses.
Getting control of either the climbonline.com (which coincidentally has recently been put up for sale!) or climbonline.co.uk (a successful rock climbing website) domain will undoubtedly eat a large chunk out of his £250,000 investment and if you owned either of those domains, how much would you sell them for?
This left Mark with climb-online.co.uk and climb-online.com (which is on a simple redirect to the .co.uk URL) both of which are less attractive, being hyphenated.
Google has invested heavily in developing systems to combat the low quality ranking strategies and practices which were common place and effective at helping websites to climb their rankings just a few years ago.
This requirement for higher quality websites has hit one sector of the industry more than any other….. outsourced, offshore marketers who at the end of the day have little or no requirement to provide the quality of service that is required today and no recourse in the event that their efforts harm your website.
The outdated website blasting practices from pre Google Panda & Penguin will today actively harm your SERP’s rankings and if your agency outsources their day to day processes (as Climb Online have stated they intend to do), they relinquish all control, lowering the quality and implementation of optimisation and leaving you open to ranking penalties that will see your website drop rather than climb in Google’s listings.
We have carried out a huge amount of work cleaning up sites for clients who had previously outsourced their promotion activities and it can be a long and expensive process.
In 2015 and beyond, making a website climb online is all about quality. Quality design and content, quality back-link profiles and quality social networking. All of these elements need to dovetail together to provide the ranking signals that Google values and trusts.
Outsourcing services that you can sell but don’t fully understand is a recipe for long term disaster & we would question if Climb Online is going to be able to avoid producing ineffective, harmful campaigns while outsourcing their day to day productivity.
Assigning account managers for each client and visiting your clients regularly isn’t a USP. There are many digital agencies already working similar models so Climb Online is not unique, nor new with this approach.
Any business owner who understands the basics will track their web campaigns’ progress. While regular visits from an effective salesman may keep the client on board for a month or two longer, without a proactive optimization team that understand the detail, few if any clients will stay on board without seeing improving traffic and conversions to sale.
Search engine optimisation is without doubt, one of the most competitive niches on the internet. We are a digital agency and yet we still receive many emails a day from other companies offering to put us first in Google….. (if only they actually checked us out first!)
There are millions of similar companies currently in business, all fighting over the same clients, all approaching the same clients…. Mark Wright & Climb Online face a battle to attract new business without having a proven track record to show potential customers.
Climb Online’s one advantage at this stage is that they can, to a certain extent ride on Lord Sugars, and the BBC’s coat tails and use the publicity from The Apprentice to open a few doors.
The downside to this, is that I can’t see many businesses being prepared to take a gamble with their promotions budget of maybe several thousand pounds per month on a company with no track record of SEO expertise in place.
Providing each client with their own point of contact isn’t in any way unique. The impression that we got from watching The Apprentice was that these account managers are going to be more sales orientated than service provision centric, meaning that as a customer, you would get regular contact from a salesman, who’s primary interest is to keep you on board, rather than contact from your own Climb Online ranking expert (who’s primary focus would be to get you to the top of Google for competitive high traffic, targeted keywords)….. Their ‘experts’ are going to be outsourced remember.
Visiting all your clients on a monthly or quarterly basis is expensive. The average internet marketing business runs at a gross margin of around 70 – 75%. Having a team on the road visiting clients will significantly eat into that margin and in turn necessitate cost savings elsewhere.
If you have a proven track record, and a client base of high spending ‘blue chips’ all based on your doorstep then this may not be an issue. Indeed, Lord Sugar may indeed be able to bring a few onboard to kick start Climb Online, but without significant proof of your abilities, who could realistically commit their PLC to a digital marketing agency based on the evidence from the TV show?
Actual ranking knowledge was glossed over on the TV show and while I realise that the BBC are making an entertainment programme rather than demonstrating any one individuals knowledge or expertise, Mark appeared to have a proven record in selling rather than in providing a service.
As stated above, optimisation isn’t an off the shelf product you can buy wholesale, polish with a good sales patter and sell for a healthy profit….. those days are long gone.
Any viable company needs to have the in house knowledge, understanding and the discipline to be able to not only keep up with the search engines ever changing algorithmic requirements, but to stay one step ahead of their competition too.
Most agencies started with one person who could deliver traffic & ranking results and developed later, with a sales team.
Starting with a sales team and no ‘product’ is destined not to succeed for Climb Online in the longer term.
There is of course the highly likely possibility that Climb Online will inherit a ready made client base of all of Lord Sugars businesses as a starting point. With so many different companies and investments this would probably provide a basis to build from, but how long will it be before Lord Sugar realises that he isn’t seeing his sites traffic volumes climb?
The essence of Climb Online’s growth strategy seems from the programme at least to be based on knocking doors and cold calling.
Anyone who has ever tried hawking internet services using this as a strategy will probably tell you that you will be relying on finding a never ending stream of ill informed business owners who are less knowledgeable about digital marketing than they should be.
The issue is that very few of them tend to have budget of £30k per year and upwards which Climb Online will need if they are going to make their business model work.
Mark’s model involves a sales team, outsourced services and account managers visiting clients. His projections were based on the average wage of his employees being £25,000, but in the real world, where are you going to find anyone to work in London for £25k? Any SEO consultant who knows what he is doing will be making a great deal more than that elsewhere, or working for themselves, meaning mark will either have to employ less qualified people, offshore his services completely (losing any control over the process) or base his operation in a more rural location.
Proactive sales people don’t come cheap either. While there are undoubtedly many of us who would employ Mark himself to sell for us (as he has proven ability without doubt), for him to build a sales team of similar individuals for Climb Online is going to cost him a lot more than £25k a head.
His £250,000 investment isn’t going to last him more than 6 months and that isn’t a long time to put all the necessary elements in place in order to provide the services he is going to be selling.
Without doubt, Mark Wright is a very good salesman, and in 18 months with his previous employer, proved that he can not only sell, but is a very credible front facing manager.
Does that mean he can run Climb Online successfully? There are a lot of vital ingredients necessary to acquire and retain search engine optimisation customers and to perform effective rank improvement services on their behalf.
The Apprentice show didn’t demonstrate that Mark has the requisite optimisation skills or experience needed, other than knowing how to sell the skills of others.
It will be interesting to see how he gets on, especially once the initial TV publicity (that he has failed to capitalise on) dies down and his enterprise is left to sink or swim based purely on it’s own merits.
We provide a free, non obligation website audit process that will allow you as a business owner to see not only where you are currently, but what potential traffic is available to you, what needs to be done to position you in front of that traffic, how long it will take and of course how much it will cost you to rank at the top of Google for competitive keywords that convert into enquiries, leads and ultimately sales.
If you are looking for an SEO consultant that’s more interested in delivering results for you rather than in selling more services for themselves, request a website audit today and let us show you the possibilities:
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Try as you might, it is virtually impossible to retain the control over website quality if you outsource your SEO campaigns. Google rewards sites of discerning quality that offer value for their users & to achieve this, you need to employ experts who can deliver for you.
To rank well in Google your website needs;
If your website is structured correctly, you will have;
These are the core metrics that google uses to filter the wheat from the chaff
Links are a vital part of the ranking process, without them your site will lack the ‘authority references’ it needs;
It’s only natural that your website should be mentioned on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. In addition, Google search trusts the volume of social media page content shares and reshares as being a good indicator of web content that is liked and that consequently Google can trust.
One of these areas of SEO without the others will not give you the results you need. Only by combining all the required elements of SEO into a cohesive campaign can you achieve to rankings for competitive search terms.