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Mark A Preston Talks About Transitioning From Fulltime SEO To Semi Retirement

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In this episode, the Unscripted SEO Podcast changes hands, and the new host, Jeremy Rivera, interviews Mark A. Preston. It's a fun conversation that dives into Mark's new semi-retirement, alternate ways for SEOs to consider their career and to look for revenue sharing or becoming part owners in businesses instead of looking for hourly income.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Mark A Preston

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(32 minutes long)

The unscripted questions Jeremy Rivera asked Mark A Preston 

  • What would you say you do here now that you don't host this podcast?

  • What are you working on next? Do you have projects currently in progress?

  • When you say semi-retire, what is your goal or plan?

  • How does semi-retirement look for you?

  • What's your opinion on alternative models for SEOs thinking about long-term career planning?

  • What brought you to the point where you can propose becoming part of a business rather than just being a contractor?

  • What's your advice or thoughts on SEOs creating their own sites or businesses?

  • How do you balance or overcome friction between sales and marketing teams?

  • What are you going to be doing when semi-retired? Why semi-retired and not fully retired?

  • Do you have any final thoughts to share with the podcast listeners as you transition away from hosting?

The unscripted conversation between Jeremy Rivera and Mark A Preston 

Jeremy Rivera: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I'm Jeremy Rivera with the unscripted SEO podcast flying by the seat of my pants. We're going to be doing an interview today with Mark A. Preston, the former host of the unscripted SEO podcast and find out what he's doing next. We're going to learn a little bit about his history, a little bit about his life and see if he's got some tidbits and pieces of to share.

So the first thing I'd like to ask Mark is what would you say you do here now that you don't host this podcast? 

Mark A. Preston: Well, I've lost more time, actually, to spend with the family. It's strange because my Saturdays are basically so different now. I'm not, Like doing all the post editing stuff. 

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah, I would that I'd say goodbye to my [00:01:00] Saturdays. So what do you, what are you working on next? Do you have projects currently in progress? Are you like, what would you say you do here?  

Mark A. Preston: well, I am on a mission to semi retire on the 1st of July 25. So, as of Monday, I've got 12 months, which is not a long time. So I need to hyper focus down on getting myself from where I am now to that point.

And I need to only concentrate on things that's going to help me get there. 

Jeremy Rivera: That's fascinating. So when you say semi retire, obviously you're not old enough to actually be a pensioner. So this would be something You know, not supported by any government program, or so what is your, your goal or [00:02:00] your plan?

There is it's to have enough. You know, savings saved up or semi automated processes to give you the monthly income you need. So what's the, how does that look to semi retire? 

Mark A. Preston: Well, I have shares in different businesses that I advise and I have like time plans attached to each business. So I know that this time next year, I will have payouts from some of them businesses, which will allow me to have the income in the bank to be able to take things a bit easier and concentrate on the more enjoyable things rather than the things that do just because we need to earn money. 

Jeremy Rivera: That makes sense. So it's more about replacing like the, [00:03:00] the hourly life input into you know, I'm going to spend X hours and get X amount of money from it.

Instead, you're creating a system where I have X money creating more X amounts of money for me over time. So the bucket or window of things where you are doing things that make income that's not immediately going to your expenses that about this, the crux of that. 

Mark A. Preston: Well, when I was, when I turned 50, I'll be 55 on Monday, just to give context to this.
So when I turned 50, I took a hard look at what I was doing and thinking, well, I need to start thinking about what retirement looks like. And. I absolutely love, love, love with a passion hosting training, providing bespoke training to businesses, but that [00:04:00] wouldn't allow me to retire or semi retire. So I had to change the way I structured things and viewed things.

So instead, I went down a road as well. I know I definitely do not want to set another agency up in my life. You know, I've got too many gray hairs already for that. And so how do I scale things without actually taking on a load of people? And I come up with this concept of, well, as an advisor to agencies and businesses, I will reduce my monthly fee in the short term in order to gain a percentage of the business.

That way, my input would benefit me financially long term. So yes, in the short term, I sacrifice the big [00:05:00] paycheck to actually benefit the long-term. And that's how I've sort of managed to enable semi retirement. 

Jeremy Rivera: That's, that's fascinating. Because. like in the past, you know, I, I've worked at agency in the house and freelance. And one of the happiest gigs that I had stumbled on was a roofer and he didn't have much cash upfront, but I said, Hey, if I can, you know, we'll set up tracking and leads and forms from the site and I'll get a percentage from the the leads that you generate, which are like zero right now. So You know, over time we worked together over a period of, you know, two and a half years before he sold his company to a much bigger organization that wasn't interested in that revenue share model, unfortunately, but in that two and a half period, it definitely grew for both of us.

And that's actually kind of an interesting itch in the SEO industry when you think [00:06:00] about it, because if I think back about all the clients that I've touched, all of the optimizations I I've done, all of the, the programs I created, all of the I know that I've created multiple millions of dollars of additional revenue for all of the companies possibly, you know, if I went back and did the math on on the numbers of of it, it's almost insane.

The amount of money that I've. Generated through my optimization efforts for these companies. And yet, you know, one company decided to stiff me on a 3, 000 bonus that I totally met the metrics for, but they were looking at these numbers and I was looking at, I've made you 3 million additional dollars.

So what's your opinion on that as, as SEOs who might be listening to this podcast about thinking long term career wise since you're now looking at semi retirement what would you say to somebody early [00:07:00] on thinking about alternative models? 

Mark A. Preston: Well, it's very important for people to understand that commission only models is not the same as having a shares in a business, right?

So I, over the years, I've been approached by hundreds of businesses saying, well, you know, is I will give you X percent of each sale. That is a totally different scenario because they could pull the plug instantly on you anytime, whatever change in management. Pull the plug anytime. The way I approach it, well, I have a seat on the board.

I own part of the business and that's a totally different scenario. So I am in the board meetings, I have decision making abilities, [00:08:00] you know, which is a totally different scenario. Now for somebody looking at their options, they have to realize, well, what do I want out of life? What does the future look like for me?

I mean, not everybody needs. millions and millions of dollars to, to retire because the lifestyle delayed, you know, other people just want to be happy. They're not bothered about things. So it's an individual thing that is, and you have to understand, well, am I getting a percentage of the business where as the business grows, the value of that business grows, and it means my, the value of my shares.

In that business, all going to grow as opposed to, well, I get 20 percent of each sale. 

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah, you're right. That is a totally [00:09:00] different another layer up, you know, going from, Hey, I get paid for X number of hours to help optimize and, you know, create systems where this company is going to do better versus getting a percentage of how they're doing better versus getting a percentage of the business regardless of whether they're doing better or not. 

Mark A. Preston: Yeah, I mean, obviously, you know, the model I've gone down, it's up to me to make sure it works for me, you know, because as I am the advisor and it goes far deeper than just SEO, you know, I need to understand the business principles that the systems are used, the processes and everything, you know, I'm involved in a lot of things that's not just about SEO.

And, but ultimately, it's, [00:10:00] it's like having my own company where I don't pay the wages. So I've got a ready built team there. They just need a little direction to make positive things happen. 

Jeremy Rivera: Interesting. So it might be something where, you know, as an SEO, we get kind of blind And, you know, we specialize our skills.

And so we think, Oh, Hey, I'm learning about link building and I'm going to read all of these link building blocks. I'm learning about keyword research or I'm keeping up with the algorithms and following Lily Ray and, you know, looking through all the algorithm leak documentation and comparing notes at that.

Maybe it's good advice for SEOs to broaden the picture out from this hyper focus of, okay, search engine optimization impacts the business in this way to [00:11:00] say, well, what, how, how can you better understand the business in terms of what they're trying to sell, who they're trying to sell to their margins. What is their process? How are they reaching their markets? So, you know, maybe understanding and exploring, you know, not just cross channel marketing and understand, Oh, now I need to learn PPC too. That's, but less of, I need to learn PPC, but more I need to learn the business. So that I can develop these bigger opportunities to not just be a salary employee for an agency, but be a consultant who is valued and esteemed enough to be you know, argue for a seat on the board. Is that right? 

Mark A. Preston: Yes, it's also about understanding how the various different departments or various different structures [00:12:00] like SEO, like paid, like social, all like traditional PR, all these things within the business actually work together. So it's ability to understand all that side of it. You know how one thing over here has an impact on this over here. And how is that communicated together, then, you know, you do have to understand the business in a basic form. You know, if you don't understand the business, how are you meant to put any sort of strategy together? 

If you don't understand what the business challenges are, I mean, just things like, well, you know, I'm going to present this SEO strategy plan that's going to send them into hyperspace and we're going to do all this. Whoa, whoa, whoa, take a step back. [00:13:00] In order for you to get them here to here, what extra resources do they need to have within that business? Are they be able to going to, you know, manage to service those new customers correctly? 

And all of this scalability, it, you know, there's a point where you scale a business, then all the processes has to change because those processes doesn't work anymore for the next level. And all these different things you have to understand. And from an SEO's point of view, can you be replaced, you know, is what you're providing.
enough valuable that you're theoretically unreplaceable. Now, if all you're doing is providing a service based on certain [00:14:00] tasks, well, those tasks could be done by other people. Right. And so you have to get yourself in a position where you are literally a part of that business. So you're so valuable to that business that you're a key player.

Jeremy Rivera: So obviously, you know, somebody who's reaching out and as a business owner, as a marketing director, trying to find an SEO you know, it, it can feel probably from the SEO's perspective, like a big jump. To getting a piece of ownership of that company, and I think maybe that's part of your journey in your career, too.
That would help be helpful to explain because obviously, you know, when I'm, I'm talking to people I've, I've been a freelance contractor and I'm explaining the benefits or what I think the outcomes could be, you know, that's obviously a very [00:15:00] different situation from, you know, you know, proposing and being taken seriously becoming part of their business.

So what does it seems like that's much more of a relationship thing that it's something where you know, you need good introductions or credentials to be able to present to. To make that argument, so what brought you to that point where, you know, you have the skills or experience or referrals from people where you can make that type of proposal to a business, or maybe it's, it's not that big of a jump and maybe more SEOs should be arguing, Hey instead of, you know 50 an hour, 70 an hour, a hundred dollars an hour.

What if. And, you know, I propose, you know, a percentage of your business, what do you, what's your experience on that? And maybe leading into, maybe this is an unexplored area.  

Mark A. Preston: Yeah, well, for the past [00:16:00] 23 years, I've, I've sort of run my own businesses. Right. I've done the agency. I've built a large franchise network myself.

I have 50 franchisees all around the country. So I built all that up, you know, I've worked within companies at nine figures, you know, I've had the experience to be able to relate to those business owners, right? So when they come to me with the challenge, it might not be anything to do with SEO, but it's going to impact some, the SEO somewhere, maybe for budgets or whatever, them challenges, I've probably come across them before.

And it's that varied experience of my history. And because [00:17:00] I have, I've, I've always grown things with zero investment, right, which looking back maybe. isn't the right choice I've ever made. You know, I mean, lots of headaches come from that. But it's those experiences and the ability to understand the challenges within a business and understand how they're affecting it.

And, you know, you, you may be. the SEO team may be not be able to get the budget the need because of other issues within the business and all these things I think that does benefit me and there's the reason why because people, business owners offer me a percentage because they don't see me as an SEO, they see me as a crucial, I mean, I was, I was doing [00:18:00] a day's training within a business last week or week before, and they turn around and say, you're not just an SEO are you?


Because we were talking about the business challenges, marketing, how it all fits together, we were discussing far more than just SEO, it's having an impact on the SEO. And I think that from anyone thinking about moving into this model, well, do you have, are you able to grab the bull by the horns and make a positive difference?

And two, are you willing to sacrifice in the short term, the income you're making in order for the long term gain?

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah. So it's both a mentality mindset and also like a skill set recognition, like am I capable of [00:19:00] learning this or do going in this direction? And also recognizing that You know, it's, it's a long term play, you know, obviously you had a 5 year plan.

And I think, I think a lot of SEOs are probably, you know, I know that I had a tendency to fly by the seat of my pants and okay, well, you know, this agency, you know, isn't working out. Okay. I'm going to go to another. Okay. Well, you know, they just cut my contract that, you know, they just, you know ran out of a big client and I guess I'm freelance now.

So maybe more of that long term planning. What you having built you know, agency and, you know, franchises, there's always that temptation. And I've talked about it with other SEOs of, of. Well, what, why don't I just, you know, start my own site and just like make an affiliate site or make, make my own literal site and do my SEO for it.

What, where do you think that should [00:20:00] grow up, grow up a little bit? Because like, I can tell you, you know, I've, I created my own SaaS and sounded great. Yeah. I'm going to get a ton of people and I'm going to get the conversion rate. And actually getting it to turn a profit is quite a different thing. So what's your advice or thoughts on that?

Mark A. Preston: Well, just to add a little context here, when I started in this industry, that's exactly what I was doing. I stumbled into the industry because I started setting websites up, working out how to get people to them and working out how to drive leads through the websites. And over three to five years I built a very solid lead generation business because those leads that were coming through the sites, I would then sell to related businesses in those industries.

And that's sort of [00:21:00] how, so I've got a good mindset related to that, but obviously things change. And could I replicate that model today? Well, yes. But the investment level required would be phenomenally higher. And the period of time it would take me to generate a profit from them would be a lot longer.

Like, obviously, when I started in the industry, you could put a few words on a page and it'd get ranked number one. It would, it, the word, you know, it wasn't as intricate as it is now. You know, even back then, my focus was, what do I need to put on this page to turn that person into a quality [00:22:00] lead? It, I might, throughout my career, it's never been, what do I need to add to this page to get ranked on Google?

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah, that's definitely a shift from, like, ranking mentality to you know, we creating a business good, which is the lead and then understanding how does that, how, how does that lead actually get processed by individual salesperson or a sales team and, you know, knowing the ins and outs of the actual, you know, what, how are they satisfied after they buy the thing can help you identify, you know, what, maybe getting these 50 leads is not as good as these 10 leads who are actually going to be repeat customers for the business. And making that decision is almost like that next step in SEO of like not looking at rankings, not just looking at leads, but looking at like sustainable [00:23:00] sales and revenue. And you know, that, that does come into like business politics and is, is it. From your perspective as it's challenging to balance sales managers and the marketing team as it has been in my career, like there's always like a push and pull, it seems between those two departments that sometimes is settled by the CEO and makes the call between those two teams. But has it been your experience that there, there is friction there?

And if so, like, how do you leverage that or overcome it? 

Mark A. Preston: Right. Now, I'm in a good position because I am not seen as an employee of a business, the business, right? Now, for me, it's about looking at the benefits providing for each one. So I would get the sales team [00:24:00] and the marketing team to sit down together.

And I would say to the sales team, what are the quality of the leads coming through? You know, what's your conversion rate look like? If I can work with the marketing team to make sure that you're not wasting your time on low quality leads that never go anywhere. And you know, you're not getting the phone slammed down on you or all these things.

If we can work to build up the quality of those leads you're receiving, is that a positive thing for you? Well, yeah, of course it is. Okay, well let's work together on that, rather than, you know, siloed. And I think a lot of time it's these different departments are just too siloed, they don't talk to each other.

You know, if the marketing just sat [00:25:00] down with the sales team to really understand what's happening at their end, because what you're doing over here has an impact on what they're doing over there. 

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah, that's definitely. I've definitely seen that like that they're just so in their lane and in their zone and SEOs and they're laying in their zone and they're hardly any crossover.

That's definitely a poison for a company. So you're moving on. You're going to be semi retired. What are you going to be doing when, what, why the semi and not, why aren't you laying on a beach in Aruba? 

Mark A. Preston: Because that's not me. I mean, just, I just, you see, for me, the money is the ability to [00:26:00] take worry away from my family.

Personally, I don't care about money. I, as long as my family is not in a position where they are worrying about things. For me to take the ability that worry away from them. I'm not saying I'm going to throw loads of money at my kids. No, they need to start, you know, doing things themselves. But, you know, if I can just take that worry away, and then focus on things that create a positive impact for people, you know, is I've got a few things in my head, you know, when semi retirement comes, obviously I'll still have an income coming in, you know, is it'd be stupid for me just to cut all income. So having some sort of income coming [00:27:00] in as well as, you know, the money in the bank, and it'll just allow me some more time to spend with the family. But not only that, to, to actually do things that I'm not just doing for the money, but would benefit people's lives in a big way.

Jeremy Rivera: Do you feel like, you know, I've done like some business coaching seminars and had a friend who, you know, he'd created a couple companies and his challenge to me was, you know, what, what is the difference you want to make? You know, like, what is it is like, not what you want to do. Like what, how do you get value out of where your time goes? Cause you only have so much time in your life. You know, so if you can find a way to see value in you know, being a manager of a wastewater measurement tool [00:28:00] company, you just have to look at what it is that you're doing and how you're seeing it. And it impacts people, right?

Mark A. Preston: Yes. I mean, there's a reason that people do what they do.

And the problem is a lot of people focus on the wrong things. That's not helping them to get where they want to be. You see? 

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah. 

Mark A. Preston: Just a quick scenario about SEO speaking, right? Now, I speak at business events, franchise events. I get paid. decent money to speak at those events. The audience are business owners.

The audience are those that's potentially going to help me to push myself from where I am now to senior retirement, [00:29:00] right? Now, is it value for me to go to SEO conferences and spend a load of time doing the prep work for zero money to speak to other SEOs?

Jeremy Rivera: No, not for you.


Mark A. Preston: Unless all the rest of yours are your potential customers. That's You know, that's good, you know, as someone starting out to build your own awareness and things. But for me, you have to understand the reasons and why you're doing it and match what you're doing with the audience. You're doing it with just simple marketing, basically. 

Jeremy Rivera: Yeah, it's marketing for yourself and marketing for your own career.
That's, that's fantastic advice. I, I'm really glad to, to get a chance to talk to you, uh, do you have any final thoughts as we wrap up this [00:30:00] transitional interview where I take over the hosting on this here podcast any final thoughts to share with the people who've been listening to you you know, shoot from the hip, talk to different people and, and gain those insights from different SEO figures over the years.

Mark A. Preston: Yes. Well I would just want to say that I've had such a fantastic time hosting the unscripted SEO podcast, but I am 100% confident that Jere is going to take it to a whole new level that I just didn't have time to take it. I can't be any more excited to see the journey it's going to go on. And I'd just like to thank all the previous guests and everyone that's continued watching and listening to the podcast.

You know, don't stop just because I'm not the host anymore. [00:31:00] Continue because it's I can sort of guarantee it's only going to get better. 

Jeremy Rivera: Well, thank you so much. I really look forward to these type of conversations. I really didn't expect to be talking about lifetime value of SEO and taking over Retirement, you know, thinking about retirement.
So now you got me thinking probably planning myself. So some five year plans. Thanks so much for your time and thanks for all your hard work as the host looking forward to seeing what you do out there. 

Mark A. Preston: Wonderful. Thanks for inviting me as well. All right. 

Jeremy Rivera: Bye.

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