Lessons on Growing a 7 Figure Agency: A Unique Approach

Jeremy Moser is a seasoned expert at bootstrapping growth for marketing agencies, content marketing websites, and SaaS companies. 

Jeremy is the Co-founder & CEO of uSERP, a mid-7-figure U.S.-based SEO and Digital PR agency with a worldwide team of 25 and counting.

He has spearheaded SEO campaigns for global brands like BigCommerce, Freshworks, Monday.com, and hundreds of others. Jeremy is also an Entrepreneur.com Leadership Network Advisor.

He co-owns Wordable.io with Brad Smith. Wordable is a WordPress — and now HubSpot and Medium — plugin for uploading and publishing articles seamlessly from Google Docs. As a copywriting and content marketing expert, Jeremy offers a Landing Page Copywriting Mastery course based on his previous experience doing copywriting for big brands. 

Alongside running and growing uSERP, Jeremy owns and operates several niche content marketing websites, and is very active on Twitter.

He’s achieved all of this without outside funding or investment. When we contacted Jeremy about an interview, we were delighted to receive a positive response from him. 

Here’s all the valuable and actionable advice Jeremy gave us during our discussion. 

What can you tell our readers about your business portfolio? 

Currently, my main focus is operating and growing uSERP, my SEO and digital PR agency. We’re at 40+ people and rapidly hiring, so it takes the majority of my time, and I have high ambitions for the agency and the potential we have as a team.

Based on the success of uSERP, in 2020, Brad Smith and I acquired a SaaS called Wordable.

It’s a plugin that exports Google Docs to your CMS in 1-click, and with perfect formatting. I brought this into my portfolio for a low six-figure sum, and since then, I’ve been busy fixing and repositioning it for a more specific customer niche. 

I also run a small collection of content marketing and affiliate websites. We recently merged a few of these into one larger site. We’ve found this produces really strong results once you’ve built a siloed niche site to rank well, and want to expand the core topic range. 

I also do a bit of B2B SaaS influencer work (as cheesy as that sounds) for companies on Twitter — where I have a substantial following.

Twitter has been a great boost to my ability to scale projects quickly, like a recent copywriting course (copycourse.io) I built based on years of copywriting for large brands — both consumer and B2B. I launched this course in simple PDF and Loom formats, and have had around 300+ people take the course in the last 6-7 months.  

I’m fortunate that the team I’ve built around uSERP is fantastic, and continues to grow rapidly. This allows me to focus only on higher-level growth marketing, sales, hiring, and the company’s direction. 

This also frees up some time to test and ideate other strategies for growth and cross-selling, along with symbiotic ventures that can fuel one another as they grow. 

How did you start your 7-figure marketing agency, uSERP? 

I started uSERP with my business partner, who, funnily enough, was my former boss. I worked at his company — a content marketing agency — for about five years.

It went through a transition where the co-founders parted ways, and the business went in a different direction. So at one point, I was the second and only other employee. 

That experience gave me a lot of hands-on work with big clients in SaaS, content sites, and B2B; writing content and creating and implementing marketing strategies at scale with an SEO focus. 

I did this for years and realized that the promotion and distribution of that content was a service that clients were constantly asking about. But we had no concrete model built around servicing it. I went straight into the trenches for over a year, learning how to scale out PR, link building, and distribution.

I constantly tested new strategies and found smart ways to earn more than a few links a week. Now, at uSERP, we earn hundreds and hundreds of links every week for clients from some of the biggest websites in the world.

So, uSERP was born out of that growing need we saw from clients, and spun into its own agency. uSERP’s brand name is a geeky, SEO-focused play on words to get ‘u’, the client, onto the number one Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and also to usurp (uSERP)  the competition. 

How have you grown uSERP since founding it in July 2019, and what processes do you use to maintain sustainable growth? 

Here’s what we’ve done — and this is what I would say to any agency founder wanting to scale sustainably and profitably: 

  • Make your offer clear. Having a clear offer and market position is crucial for agencies, especially in the hyper-competitive SEO market. You aren’t selling a service; you’re selling a solution to a problem, and that problem should be specific. When you make that clear, and target the right companies in the sectors you want to focus on (such as SaaS), I guarantee you can charge more, do better work for the bigger clients, and get better results. It’s almost impossible to start as a generalist agency and get work. Go very niche and expand services once you’ve delivered amazing work for happy clients.  
  • Productize and standardize services and the way services are delivered. You can’t scale unless you’ve got clear, scalable processes and systems such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

    Once you’ve got those in place, then you can implement the following: 

A robust training program

  • We get new hires up to speed within 1.5 weeks on average — from giving candidates the offer to joining uSERP. 
  • This means that, within a few weeks, our new hires are ready to work on live client projects that move the business forward. 
  • We use Trainual, ClickUp, and tools like Loom to create tons of internal training, tests, and measures to get people familiar with and confident about live client projects. Our SOPs save us loads of time too, so new hires know what they’re doing and how to do the work efficiently. We basically offer them a job after the interview process, dump them into a training database that guides them, and within 1-2 weeks they’re given real work that can produce an ROI for us and our clients. 

Build a shortlist of hires

  • Being a service business, our revenue doesn’t fluctuate as much as most people would expect. We work on long-term contracts with companies. We don’t do short-term, one-off projects. Those rarely work for anyone. 
  • We work with companies committed to a minimum of 6+ months of work. This allows us to plan and forecast much better for our hiring needs. And most of our clients stay for years.  
  • We build a short list of hires that we go back to each month — when our revenue increases.
  • We also recruit directly now vs relying on typical job boards when we need to source very specific talent.
  • Updating organizational charts and job descriptions regularly. It’s key to map out company structure, especially when you go from 5 to 10 to over 20 team members. Company dynamics and working structures change rapidly, so you’ve got to plan for that and adapt accordingly.

How have you leveraged that to get into SaaS, revenue-generating content, marketing sites, and other ventures? 

If you run them correctly, agencies are a phenomenal way to generate a sustainable healthy cash flow. And not just that, I think agencies overall are severely underrated when you run them exceptionally well.

That’s key, though. You can’t scale and generate a healthy cash flow unless you do the work up-front to put processes in place that make scaling possible. 

Typical agencies have a benchmark profit margin of 20%. Some are even less. Most are probably well below that, and founders/solopreneurs only manage to take whatever they can from their business, without a clear grasp of the profit margins. 

However, you should be aiming for a sweet spot in the 50-65% profit margin range. Anything above and it’s harder to deliver quality service.

Anything below and you just need a ton of clients to produce reasonable profits that can pay you, as well as help you invest in other projects. 

Buying Wordable and leveraging it for uSERP

As uSERP grew, we leveraged some of our retained cash flow to make an acquisition into the SaaS world, buying Wordable. 

Wordable helps content sites, agencies, and media publishers publish content in bulk, instantly from Google Docs to their CMS (like WordPress, HubSpot, Medium, etc). We were long-time users of the product, having used it for our own clients. So we knew the pain point it solved. 

In addition, the Wordable acquisition was very strategic for uSERP. 

uSERP is all about promoting content and digital PR; earning legit backlinks for clients from huge websites. It’s a natural next step for companies using Wordable because they are actively publishing content. Now they need some ‘link love’ to rank that content in competitive spaces.

Big businesses like Monday.com, Ahrefs, and Stanford use Wordable to publish content every month. Not only is it a direct line to great companies, but also a trip-wire for big-budget services that are generally more difficult to cold sell without a relationship. 

We got into more content sites as we realized how effective our content production, strategy, and promotion methodologies were.

It was the obvious next step, in that we should be doing what we are doing well for other companies, but also do it for ourselves to generate new revenue streams and test theories.

Leveraging the benefits of selling a copywriting course on Twitter 

Other ventures I launched on Twitter — like B2B influencing and Copycourse.io — were also sort of born out of this. I was just sharing information on Twitter around what I was doing for fun — growing uSERP, acquiring a SaaS and trying to scale it, and leveraging unique copywriting to drive action. It took off like a rocket and people loved what I was sharing. 

I got a ridiculous amount of DMs asking for more copywriting content, so I knew I had struck a chord and found an underserved niche. I quickly put together a pre-order page for a copywriting course, just to test how many of my Twitter followers would pay $200 for a course.

Overnight, I had $10,000 in pre-orders and spent the next few days compiling, recording, and creating the course. It’s now a stellar side income and, again, a low-ticket tripwire to meet exceptional companies and people. 

You can get rich selling a $200 course if it’s your full-time job. I hardly promote it. It just rests in my Twitter bio and generates a steady income every month — without needing to promote it through a newsletter or email database.

The real win is that, again, people from big companies in my space take and love the course, and implement the techniques to improve their company website, sales pages, and anything copywriting-related. And those relationships pay massive dividends and turn into big deals for uSERP.

I see these smaller side-bets not as main income streams, but as exceptional ways to get an “in” for larger lifetime value deals, referrals, and more. 

I’m sure our readers would love to know more about Wordable.io: How have you accelerated its growth since 2020?

We acquired Wordable back in 2020 after using the product for years. At the time, it only exported Google Docs to WordPress with a few basic settings. Since neither myself nor my partner is a developer, we spent a while sourcing reliable devs to help us build a better product moat. 

After a major overhaul, Wordable now exports Google Docs to WordPress, Medium, HubSpot, and several eCommerce CMS’ like Shopify. Others, like BigCommerce, are on the development roadmap. 

When we acquired it, Wordable was holding steady MRR but not growing. Churn was high, and the customer segment wasn’t the best.

We focused on overhauling everything from the product features — making more useful things like compression, opening all links in a new tab, and featured images — and making the product more valuable, sticky, and a completely seamless, end-to-end instant publishing product. 

Working on improving onboarding was our next project. Making the process more seamless from sign-up to the first usage, and getting people to experience the ease of the product.

Onboarding was a big key in reducing churn for us. WordPress stuff is always a bit tricky since you have to install the plugin, and activate it; there are more hoops than a single back-end system and effectively multiple installations. 

After that, we shifted the ideal customer profile (ICP). This was our biggest win yet. When we bought Wordable, it was mostly solo and small-time bloggers using it.

The product was basic, and the price fit that. But they weren’t publishing enough to stick around if we raised the quality, and the price accordingly. 

So we shifted our focus, completely overhauled the product, upset a ton of solo bloggers (unfortunately), and turned it into a more bulk-friendly publishing tool that companies like Ahrefs and Monday.com use to publish in bulk and save themselves hundreds of hours of manual work. 

Shifting the ICP was our biggest growth lever so far as it enabled us to charge more and increase lifetime value (LTV) in a massive leap. Naturally, MRR jumped upwards very quickly at that point. Now our growth efforts are hyper-focused — using a range of marketing and sales activities including podcasts, organic SEO, and cold sales outreach. 

When you were starting out, how did you nail your branding, offer, and web copy to stand out in a crowded agency market? 

Great question. Whenever I write copy, I like to go directly to the source – the customer. Everything you write should be an extrapolation of their own words and phrases.

What they like and dislike about a product, what they wish it did, and what they are actually trying to achieve; not how cool your features are. 

For uSERP, we spoke directly with content clients and SaaS brands and asked them these questions in the early days. We also dug deep into reviews of other service providers who offered off-page SEO and link building. And I was not surprised; they were rife with poor user experiences. 

Link building has always been a weird space where most providers just pay sites to get a link for their client. At uSERP, we don’t do that. We lead with content and relationships, not payments for links that have no value for clients. 

We basically flipped the script on the most popular link service providers at the time, and that copy was infused with a breath of fresh air for companies wanting link building done right. 

Our website was horrendous in terms of design, but it didn’t matter. People read the copy, they heard what we had to say, and it resonated with their struggles and reassured them of our ability to solve their problems. 

When it comes to nailing your offer and website copy, my best advice is always, always, always model your copywriting after direct customer language. 

You’re doing well with content marketing, both as an integral part of uSERP client services, and with your own ventures. What’s your approach to ranking higher, and what do most content sites do wrong? 

This really depends on your niche and the competitiveness in that space. How much work is needed to rank well for specific keywords and how do you leverage this to generate revenue?

We generate revenue in a number of ways such as affiliate links, sponsorship, paid articles, and occasionally, advertising. 

For example, maybe you are in a random niche about knitting. You don’t need full-scale content production teams to win. You can probably use AI-written content at scale. But, if you want to compete for things like ‘VPN affiliates’, you need seriously amazing content and, more importantly, a ton of links.

Most content sites do one thing very wrong: they spend too much time upfront focusing on creating the “best guides in the world for X”, rather than just publishing 100 pieces of content in different topical areas and seeing what sticks, then tripling down from there.

And finally, what are your top 3 lessons from starting and building digital businesses?

Here are the three lessons for startup and agency founders I would say are crucial: 

  1. Your audience is as important as your offer. Be more selective in who you serve and you can charge far more for a hyper-focused, better-quality service. For example, at uSERP we don’t work with every business that comes our way. We only work with VC-backed SaaS companies and content portfolio owners with established sites. I’ve had $4,000/month deals that took months to close. And I’ve had $25,000/month deals on 6-12 month contract terms that closed after one email, no phone call, and with instant payment. It’s all about who you serve that determines your offer and your growth trajectory.
  2. A scarcity mindset kills growth. As an entrepreneur, it’s tempting to settle for short-term profits and not want to take risks. You’re starting to make money. It’s natural to want to retain those short-term profits, whereas you can reinvest to keep growing and scaling, and make much larger profits that can be redeployed into other businesses or investments. Scarcity prevents you from taking the risks and performing the experimentation needed to really catapult growth. It requires a mindset shift, going from hoarding profits like they’re your last meal ticket to realizing you’ve now built the skills required to get this much revenue or profit and that you can do it all again if needed.
  3. Implement the most effective productized services and processes possible. You can’t always hire the best talent in your space, especially if you’re bootstrapped. The idea of “hire people 100x smarter than you” is basically a myth unless you’re VC-backed and can pay them $300,000/yr from the start. The best talent is already doing its own thing or has a secure 6-figure job. In order to scale, you need to standardize and productize your agency’s services. That means less custom work, fewer unique projects, and more standardized deliverables that scale. Once you do that, hiring becomes so much easier because you will train the talent you find to deliver a market-leading service. Investing time now to standardize and productize makes scaling to a much higher revenue and profit level far easier. 

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Juliet Lyall

Juliet Lyall is editor in chief for the discourse publication. She has been writing and editing articles and newsletters for digital businesses (mainly investing sites) for 10+ years. As an entrepreneur, Juliet has built and worked with bootstrapped startups for 20+ years and is proud to support other women in their online journeys. The Oxford comma. Always.

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