Chase Reiner October 2nd, 2018

John Carcutt AMA

by | Oct 2, 2018

Today we are doing an AMA for John Carcutt.

John is the Previous Director of SEO/Social at Advance Local, (sister company to Conde’ Nast) increased SEO revenue from $250K to over $8Mil in 6 years. Has hosted SEO 101 podcast with 25k-30k weekly listeners for 9 years. Currently VP of Strategy for Enterprise level SEO Agency.

Ask him anything White Hat SEO Network by Chase Reiner!

George Blandford: Hi John, in your opinion what’s the best way to approach an agency as a potential supplier?

John Carcutt: What do you mean by “Supplier?”

Link Building

George Blandford: so a potential agency partnership, we, for example, are a link building agency and most of our clients are other agencies who outsource that element to us in part or whole. Just interested to hear what tends to grab your attention?

John Carcutt: At advance, we regularly used other firms to support our deliverables. Almost all of the suppliers we used came as either first-hand knowledge (based on my years in the industry) or as direct referrals from someone I trusted in the industry.


So using that as a model, I would say networking. Get to know someone at the agency and or someone who knows someone at the agency. I never had time for cold calls and usually deleted sales emails. I only looked for suppliers when I had a specific need, then my first stop was my network.

George Blandford: good advice thanks, had a few introductions recently from existing clients. Will look to add everyone that surrounds your desk.



Isah Ndung’u: Looking at the aspect of money John. What sells more or what boosted the sales to achieve such figures. I mean courses/audits/ local or what. Give an insight of what’s in demand.


John Carcutt: Scalability is the key here and it’s very hard to do and maintain quality. Putting together pre-defined packages for a wide variety of business types and building processes to efficiently fulfill those packages.

The hardest part, however, was training the sales teams.

As far as which types of SEO were “in demand” … that was entirely up to us, what new wanted to sell and how we trained the sales teams to sell. We focused on packagers as they were the bread and butter.

Isah Ndung’u: that’s a great insight.thank you


SEO Factors

Steven Kang: What’s the number one factor that made the firm go from $250K to 8M?


John Carcutt: Scalable processes that retained quality service and deliverables on the backend, and constant training and support for the sales teams.

Steven Kang:  Have you done any sales? What do you see as the latest SEO trend? What does the firm’s profit margin look like?

John Carcutt: Better than average, but not as high as we would like.


Hats SEO

Doug Seidl: 1. If you could give an average site a list of 1-3 things that would move the needle the most… what would those things be?
2. At the level you’re at, is everything you do strictly “White Hat”? Or do you mix in other tactics that might be considered  “Grey Hat” sometimes?

John Carcutt: 1. Three things huh? They will have to be rather generic as individual sites have individual needs.

1. Ensure you are technically sound. Engines need to be able to cleanly access your site and it’s content without the many issues that can be caused by technical missteps.

Access Restriction
2. Understand your audience as well as you can to effectively determine where the opportunities are

Knowing Audience
3. Build good quality content to address those opportunities.

Content Media

2. I have been “White Hat” since day one and continue to work that way.

Doug Seidl: thanks!


Steven Kang: What’s the firm’s biggest expense?

John Carcutt: Just like most … payroll. 

Steven Kang: What percent are strictly SEO clients?

John Carcutt: If you mean SEO and no other services … I’d say around 75%

B2B Startup

Mustafa Shah: What are the effective way to generate quality backlinks for a B2B startup where the niche is highly competitive? What could be done within the limited budget?
How to outperform ranking in the dominance of competitors like
And likewise!
Best Regards

John Carcutt:  Mustafa Shah If you are in a highly competitive niche and it’s a new site and you have a limited budget, you are in a world of hurt … Time is your only friend.

Mustafa Shah:  John Carcutt you are right, the case is exactly the way you got it, but still, there must be some way out as you are the most genius SEO guy,

Talked with one Tech SEO agency and they said, they will charge $9000/Month
Which is too high for me at the moment!!

I would appreciate if you could recommend some good resource for link building specifically helpful in my case


Budget SEO Startup

Trevor Cherewka: Hey John. Was the average annual budget for your clients and what was your acquisition costs for clients (in the rapid growth period)? Was it a percentage? I think we fantasize that growth means we need $100k/year budgets from clients and wonder how we can get them. I tend to work with sales-preneurs, small biz (up to 12 employees), busy professionals. I also find that traditional sales get them in the door for more online sales. Would love any insight (lots already served above) on SEO’s working with smaller clients.

John Carcutt:  About 10-12k a year .. we had over 800 clients when I left.

I didn’t track acquisition costs .. sales teams dealt with that. They kept commission pretty close to the vest.

Trevor Cherewka: So then it is all in running tight processes … something I need to work on.

Matt Pelkey: Hi John. Building off what Trevor asked…

1) Was this budget roughly the same for your clients since Day 1? For example, in Year 1 did you start off with smaller clients who had smaller budgets and slowly raise prices as you grew, or has it been consistent throughout?

2) What was the most successful method used to gain new clients in the company’s beginning?

John Carcutt: Hey Matt,

1) We had an existing advertiser base (25 newspapers) and we built two levels of products the Scalable productized version of SEO and Custom solutions. Package prices were raised minimally twice I think and Customs was .. well … Custom. 


2) Leveraging our existing customer base which was primarily Newspaper advertisers.


Ciarán Redmond: Our agency has about 300 clients in the cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry verticals. We were hit pretty hard by the recent “medic” algo update. i.e. page 1 rankings are losing -50 spots virtually overnight. Word on the SEO street is that we need to increase E-A-T across the board.

SEO Websites

To be honest, The sites that have been outranking our sites are junk.

E.x. this junky site


Assuming that we are hitting all the SEO basics proximity, prominence, schema, quality high-value content, quality relevant backlinks from high DA sites, lots of citations what else could we be doing to rebound from this hit?

We work with some of the top surgeons in the country that have celebrity endorsements and are highly respected by their peers and clients alike.

John Carcutt: Hire me to evaluate your processes and client results to determine where you can improve … 

Seriously, this is WAY to broad a question for me to give a realistic answer, Sorry.

Ciarán Redmond: John Carcutt I’d say “how do I rank my site” is a broad questions Mine was pretty pointed, Not convinced that hiring you would be my best option, let’s work more on your salesmanship!


Xavier Cuvit: Hey John!

What would be your best advice for someone starting an SEO Agency?

SEO Agency

What were the big steps during the journey that allowed the agency to move from 250k to 8M? And just to know how many SEOs are necessary to run an agency of this size?

Thanks in advance

John Carcutt: Nail down your offerings and build tight processes. In the beginning it’s hard to say no when someone asked you to do something outside of your comport zone … try VERY hard not to take the bait. Expand your product set if it makes sense, but try to stay away from agreeing to do tihngs you will probably never do again.

That said, if you have processes around doing Custom work, those kind of requests can fit into Custom sometimes, but bill accordingly.


Winta Hai: Hi John Carcutt, Congratulations! I am more a visual and person learner. I am in a beginner level. What would be the best way to learn SEO without going to college? May bethree month intensive course? Thank you for taking time to answer our questions!

SEO Agency Tools

John Carcutt: Hey, get a job working for an experienced SEO. Trying to learn this on your own is not a good idea.

Most college courses are bullshit anyway.

Winta Hai: John Carcutt  any good course?


Joshua B Allen: What are you using to keyword map when starting a new client? For example, determining which keywords to place on Experiencewhich pages and also keeping track of said keywords and landing pages?


John Carcutt: That’s an easy one. My brain and experience. That’s not a job for a tool.

Gregg Thorpe: Excel


Jon Woo: Hi John Carcutt any recommendations for learning seo – courses etc

John Carcutt: Not really. I have never taken any so I can’t evaluate them, so nothing to recommend.

Shihab Uddin: John Carcutt How can we be an SEO Expert? Would you give us a guideline on it for learning?

Time and Experience

John Carcutt: Shihab Uddin Honestly it takes experience and time. When I started there were like 100 people doing this in fact neither Google or the term SEO were around. We lived on the forums and shared experiences to try and sort out what was happening. Darron Babin has given us the name “The 1st Generation”. We taught ourselves.

With that in mind, I don’t look at or evaluate courses. I do think “The Art of SEO” would be a good book to read, but it won’t make you an expert. Only time, hard work and experience can do that.

I have been doing this for over 20 years and I still learn new things every day.


Achmad Muqorobin: Have you done any amazon affiliate site? Any SEO tool you use? I have small budget, $20 per month, Do you think I will be success in blogging sphere? like $50,000 per year may be

John Carcutt: The only tool I have used specif to Amazon is Helium 10. Mostly For their Amazon KW data. It’s not a small budget tool however.

Achmad Muqorobin:   Do you have a guide to use helium 10? It has free plan, i would like to try it. Or may be you have some clues how to optimize helium 10. As soon as I make I sales, I hope I can upgrade it.May I know, how many articles you have to generete $500 per month?


John Carcutt: Helium 10 has a set of training videos I think. No way I can tell you how many articles = a certain revenue number. Too many variables.


Alistair Duff: Can you give any advice to a complete noob looking for a career change with very limited transferable skills about where to start?

Ismail Khider : Hello start with what you love a patient or a skill will makes you successful otherwise you’ll not continue on the road