Canonical Chronicle - Episode 63 - How our Business is Staying Afloat During the Pandemic

In this video

Hello everyone and welcome to the Canonical Chronicle. As you may have gathered there has been zero SEO news this week; in fact there has been zero news outside of pandemic news this week. So instead of delivering you some meme infused SEO news , we decided to tell you our agency experience and some of the measures we have taken to survive this period.

Instead of SEO news, this week we cover:

  • Personal financial changes I have made to ensure our long term success and a SEO spotlight on a leader that should be recognised

  • How we’ve communicated to our 20 strong team about what’s going on and the measures we've taken to make sure no-one is made redundant

  • What’s happened with our clients and the very real calculation to work out if we are going out of business

  • The exact letters and resources I have sent to our clients

  • What we are doing to make sure we still get press coverage for clients during this uncertain time

  • Some resources for coping with social isolation

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I’m Ross Tavendale, the managing director of Type A Media, a creative search agency based in London. I make videos about business leadership, web technology, SEO, PPC and how I turned being a Type A personality into a business.


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- So here's what SEO looked like before the global lockdown pandemic. And here is what SEOs look like after the global lockdown pandemic.

- Please disburse. Nothing to see here.

- Hello everyone, and welcome to Cononical Chronicle, or should I say the Coronical Chronicle. So to keep up the meme-infused SEO news, I've moved my entire studio to my one bedroom flat, and for the most part, everything's fine. We're just gonna pretend this is completely normal. So, as you may have gathered, there's been absolutely zero SEO news this week. In fact, there has been zero news outside of pandemic this week. So, instead of delivering you some SEO-infused meme-based news, I'm actually just gonna tell you what we've done as an agency, and some of the measures we've taken to make sure that everything is okay. So in reverse order, here's what we're gonna talk about. Personal financial changes that I've made to ensure the long term success of SEO. And I'm just gonna spotlight some of the things I think that leaders are able to recognize. I'm gonna talk about how I've communicated to my 20 strong team on what I've done and the measures that I've taken. One is so I don't have to make anyone redundant. I'm gonna tell you what's happened with our clients and I'm gonna give you some calculations that we've used to work out the security of our business. And I'm also gonna read out to you the exact letters and give you the exact resources that we sent to clients and also our teams. And as well as that, we're gonna talk about how we're still getting press coverage and how I'm personally coping with the kinda social isolation part of lockdown. Now, my very good friend, a guy called Harry Sanders, is the CEO of Studio Hawk in Australia. He actually gave me this excellent piece of wisdom. He actually said, "Don't give advice. "Just share your experience," and that's exactly what this video is. I'm gonna share my experience and tell you what I've done. No advice, just my experience. So, without further ado, let's get into it. Now, when asked to practice self-isolation and social distancing, most people find it a real challenge, but when I asked some SEOs on Twitter how they were coping with it, they had this to say.

- We are same-same. Same-same, but different, but still same.

- But, we're now a few weeks into self-isolation at Type A Media and there have been a couple of things that have really helped me keep sane. One thing in particular is something called the Corona Pub. It's a virtual Zoom conference room run by a guy called Chris Simmance. The pub is open every day at 6:00 p.m. GMT and you can access it by going to If you drop by, make sure to please share it on Twitter using the hashtag coronapub. I had the pleasure to talk to Chris about it this week. So tell me about the Corona Pub. Why did you start it in the first place?

- We SEO nerds aren't as self-isolating in normal circumstances as people are lead to believe. So, we all like to spend some time with each other and it stops me climbing the walls myself, and I think everyone else has been feeling the same.

- I understand it's been going great. You've had quite a few people in. So, how long has it been open and how many patrons do you have usually?

- Just over a week now. I think on a normal night, roughly sort of between 25 and 30 come through the doors, so to speak. But last night was, the night before last was quite amazing. We had people from Melbourne, and Central Europe, and the UK, and then the west coast of the states as well. So, it was almost truly global. It was brilliant.

- Amazing stuff. There's actually gonna be a pub quest that's taking place this Friday. And then, one of the SEO panel experts, Rick Lomas, from the community is actually gonna be doing a live stream with his band on Saturday. Some awesome events, really not to be missed. That's So, if you're a digital PR, you've probably noticed that all the journalists are kinda talking about the same shit over and over again. And all PRs are literally at home trying to do everything to meter and match exactly what the journalists want, but I don't know about you, I'm going a little stir crazy.

- Wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka.

- [Group] Wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka.

- So, here's exactly what Type A are doing. Firstly, we're increasing our technical link building output. In particular, we're gonna be running more broken link campaigns. These don't really have the same conversion rate as PR, but it's a really good stream of kinda regular links coming in to our clients' sites. Another thing we're gonna do is something called guest posting. I'm sure you've all kinda heard of that. Don't really need to explain much of it, that's pretty standard. We've also kicked off a historical reclamation project. So, most of our clients have a couple hundred brand mentions with no actual links. So we're just hitting up all those people that have posted about us in the past and we're asking them to update it with a link. Another thing we're doing is something called link repositioning. So we're actually going to all of our clients' social media accounts, doing back link analysis on that, and just reaching out to those webmasters who are linking to the social profiles and saying, "Do you mind actually just linking to the site "instead of our Twitter account?" So for all you guys who are not the kinda SEO link building people and more on the traditional end of PR, you probably wanna know what we're doing. So actually, there's quite a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. We're seeing quite a few links coming in from trade and also regional press. National's a little bit slower, but we have had some links go live in nationals this week already and it's only Wednesday. In particular, we've had six newspaper links go live for a single client in the food and beverage space, and that's been over the last week or so. So, how do we do it? Really simply, we just rework the angles to more kinda pandemic friendly and we just pitched them as normal. Now, two weeks ago, complete shit show, but it seems to be returning to normal. And when I took to Twitter to ask people, it looks like other people experiencing that as well. Okay, so next up, how have I communicated with my team. So, in times of uncertainty, I actually like to turn towards stoic philosophy, in particular this guy called Epic Titus, and he said this, "The chief task in life is simply this: "to identify and separate matters "so that I can say clearly to myself which externals "are under my control and which to I do not have choices "to actually control. "Where then do I look for good and evil? "Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself "to the choices that are my own." In other words, we cannot control what is happening, but we can control how we react. Now, as a leader in a time of doubt and worry, you need to remove doubt and worry from your team by over communicating, creating a plan, and then executing it forcefully. So, this is the exact letter that I wrote to my team and I then read out to them during a Zoom call. The virus is having an initial effect on business with many clients asking to pause or cancel outright. In particular, we're on track to lose X amount of monthly billings with an annual contract value of X amount. That's almost a certain percent of our business to be written off immediately with no reduction in outgoings or costs. Our worst case scenario is to go out of business by month if all predicted clients cancel if we do not take extreme measures to keep our head above the water. It's more important now than ever to double down and support our clients and work as hard as possible to give them the results they need and deserve. It's also more important than ever to cut costs as much as possible and use as much government aid to get through this tough time. Before I go into the new measures, I'd like to reassure everyone on this call they will not be getting made redundant. We made a commitment to you and have always handled company finances for longevity and job security for all consultants. So I'm gonna talk about what we can do with some government assistance and cost cutting, as well as some actions we're gonna take to increase revenue and build the business to a more dominant place for when people start coming back to us. I then went through things like furlough, business relief, VET relief, corporation taxes, and things like that. But, nice big upfront statements, reassuring everyone nothing bad will happen. We got this, don't worry. Next up, what should you do if clients start canceling? So firstly, if some clients in travel or events, and they're canceling, fair enough. Even if you've got a 12 month contract with these people, try enforcing it if they're going out of business and don't have money. It's totally pointless and you're only adding misery on to their very challenging situation they've already got. Now, Type A are in a very fortunate position. We work with a bunch of large brands who are not canceling and the UK government has put a measure in place that makes it easier for us to retain our staff regardless of things like payment holidays and pausing from clients. However, for any clients that are pulling back marketing spend, here's the two things that I've done in order to make their lives easier. The first one's a bit extreme. I've reduced our rates down so they just pay for our team's salary. That means the client pays the exact cost of the salary of the person inside our agency that's doing their work. It keeps our people employed and it keeps them working on their account. Yes, we do lose out short term. We don't make any money, but we do get to retain the client and also retain our staff, and at this point, retention is the most important thing. So another one is pausing accounts and then tacking it on to the end of their contract. So as people start to live this kinda new normal, a lot of businesses are gonna recover. So what we're actually doing is giving holiday payments and extending the client contract. So this way, we experience a little short term cash flow bump, but we don't lose any clients. We also support the clients to make sure that they're gonna survive. So what we've done is also doubled down on our cutting clients and introduce brand new measures that kinda guarantee they come out of this pandemic in a much stronger position. So, here is the exact letter that I sent the clients this week. At Type A, we're already 100% online from our files to our communication to project management. This has made the transition to working from home relatively seamless. However, I know that it's not quite as simple for your business, therefore I've put together a plan to help us make the most of the next 90 days while the UK practices social distancing. So, we then go and talk about the change in search behavior in the media landscape. There's two major considerations from an SEO point of view. Number one, people are temporarily buying and searching differently. No shit. And the news and media cycles are dominated by COVID stories and the population's feelings and perceptions are changing. So, how does it affect the work we do? An SEO, we want to get a better understanding of the keywords that are driving demand. So we quickly ranked them for your site. Therefore, conducting new keyword research, creating new landing pages. To make sure that we actually won you these new customers, we're also reviewing all top competitors to make sure we're doing significant things to dilute what they're doing and make sure you stay on top of them. So with PR, the media landscape is changing, and journalists are being asked to write more COVID stories as well as their regular day jobs. Therefore, they're gonna be a bit slower to respond. This may mean we need to change some headlines or some angles to make sure the stories have more of a feel good element to them. I personally have been on a bunch of media briefings with UK editors and they said that they're absolutely dying for any feel good story about corona, if you have it. Okay, we then went to talk about how we're gonna bolster their link building activity. So we said we're gonna do broken link building and back link analysis and reclamation. Confirm we're not changing the strategy. This is just a booster. We then asked the question how will this affect the results my business receives? Now, instead of plastering over that with some bullshit agency response, I just said, "We don't know, but as the economy starts to shift "and people start to live in their new normal, "we will have a better understanding. "But until then, we're going to do whatever we can "to maximize the value of your website to your business." Then I laid out a bunch of new deliverables and new planning for them so we can make the most of what's about to happen. Okay, so lastly, some personal measures that I've taken as the owner of the agency. So, as the owner, I take a salary and a dividend each month. So to add increased security to the team's wages, I have taken a penalty on my pension and cashed it out. I've liquidated all my stocks and moved all my savings into cash. Now, I've got between six and nine months of money that I can just live on and I don't need to take anything out of the company. All the cash that we've got has been reserved for my team's salary, and also paying all of our commitments to all of our suppliers. So, it's not an ideal time to do this because obviously the stock market is in the gutter, but I'm really confident that we can kinda rebuild all this and come back stronger than ever once everything calms down. And the funny thing is, the agency's actually on course to have our best month ever. However, I'm a very conservative leader and my kinda M.O. is to take all of those that are dedicating themselves to our business and make sure I take care of them. So that means the clients get the best work they can and everyone that works with us stays employed. So, whatever's happening in your world, whether you're freelance or agency or in house, take some time, take a moment to build up a new strategy, and take into consideration some new measures you can take to increase security in your life and just have some faith in your own ability to see this through. I hope you're all adjusting well to working from home. I hope everything's going great. If you like this video, please do hit the like button. If you loved it, please do subscribe. And until next time, we will see you later, or in the Corona Pub 6:00 p.m. See you there.