Ben McLaughlan

Founder of Easy Mode Media

Ben is an Australian currently living in Edmonton, Canada. In 2013, a one-way ticket to Europe started a love for travel and learning about the different places around the world.

With over 60 countries traveled, Ben started a travel blog and learned the ins and outs of website creation and Search Engine Optimization. As COVID-19 crippled the globe and the travel industry, travel was paused and the travel blog took a back seat to a new business.

Ben created Easy Mode Media, an Edmonton based SEO company during the pandemic with the aim of helping other businesses improve their organic search rankings and traffic.

After being laid off as a qualified electrician in Canada, he turned to this new business venture to support himself until work picked up. But the demand for local SEO and freelancing options allowed the temporary project to become a full-time income quickly.

Normally, you’ll find Ben traveling as much as his bank account will allow, eating bowl after bowl of ramen or petting any kitten he sees. That is when he isn’t glued to his computer screen analyzing and improving websites, whether his own or a client’s.

Where did the idea for Easy Mode Media come from?

I got the idea from playing video games. “Easy Mode” is typically when an opponent is matched against a lower skill level player, whether AI or a real player.

This was always a joke amongst friends, as none of us are highly skilled in video games, rather just play for fun.

When I adapted this gaming term to a business name, I had the idea of turning a potentially confusing topic, such as Search Engine Optimization, into easy to understand reports and really taking the time to teach my clients what each factor means for their online business/website.

“Making SEO Simple” is the tagline I came up with to support this idea and the concept stuck. The extra time I take in explaining complicated situations is what I credit for Easy Mode Media taking off so quickly.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every morning, I take 1-3 hours to improve and grow my business. “Take the time to work ON your business, not just IN your business” is a quote I’ve heard a few times and taught me to put the effort into growing.

My morning never starts until I’m halfway through a coffee. Once that kicks in, I spend my morning networking, analyzing what I can do better and more efficiently.
In the early days of the business, finding ways to grow my business was 90% of my work-day, but this becomes harder to find the time with 10+ clients. It is something I think is crucial to the long-term success of a business.

The rest of my day is taken up from meetings and day-to-day jobs that need to be completed.

Staying productive is a constant challenge for me. I have a few times throughout the day where I get away from the computer. Going for a walk or listening to music is usually how I give my brain a rest from the long workdays.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Since SEO is often based on data and statistics, packaging my reports for clients has changed over time as my experience grew.

I’m able to visualize what is the logical way to put the relevant data together for clients. But every website is different, so making edits on the fly is important.

Answering questions without sifting through overwhelming amounts of information is crucial to my business theme of making SEO simple, so I’m always tweaking the structure and content of my reports for clients.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I would say the constant changing of Google’s algorithm for search results. That is a very nerdy answer, but I find the unknown exciting.

Google rarely gives anything but vague answers to what is in the pipeline of algorithm updates. The regular updates and constant shifting in best practices mean the job rarely gets stale.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Removing distractions. When I first started this business, every little noise or notification would cause me to lose my train of thought.

When I’m working, I often have headphones on that block out any background noises, and having no social media accounts to alert me when I have a new message is crucial for me to keep focused on my task at hand.

It’s a pretty simple habit I’ve been able to develop in the few months of running my company, but it has turned 10+ hour days into more manageable hours and I get a lot more done.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Just start. I redesigned my website, prices, and packages so many times that I didn’t start working with a client for almost 3 weeks.

I was scared of getting the smallest things wrong. Once I started doing actual work, I understood where my failures were much easier.

My packages had gaping holes in them when potential clients would enquire about things. The pricing structure was (and still is) something I’m constantly working on. Undervaluing my expertise is a pitfall I struggled to understand when I first started.

Once I began seeing results and improvements I made for websites, it has given me the confidence to set my prices what I’m worth.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

From an SEO perspective, there are a lot of misconceptions. One of the most common I see is too much emphasis on Domain Authority (or DA) on being a ranking factor.

DA is a metric many website owners don’t correctly understand. It was created by Moz and serves as an estimate of how your website, in theory, should rank against your competitors. This measures relevant backlinks to your site, but doesn’t take into account the other 200+ factors Google uses in its algorithm for search results.

Backlinks are very important as an SEO factor, as long as they are relevant. But the 0-100 score of DA isn’t something you should be all that concerned with.

From a personal perspective, I’d like to point out Australia isn’t as deadly as many people think. While there are potentially deadly creatures, “everything wants to kill you” isn’t true. You will likely see some spiders, though.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Learn to worry less. I’m not saying to not care about providing the best service/product possible, not at all. But there will be things that happen out of your control and stressing over some things just aren’t worth it.

I’ve lost clients, broken websites, and made many mistakes during my first year in business. I’ve had phone calls with prospective clients that didn’t end up working with me.

I’ve learned from my shortcomings as a business owner and improved my mindset, what I offer and how I package it, but it no longer keeps me up at night thinking “what if I said this…”.

Learn from your mistakes because you’re going to make them, but don’t let them define you.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

When I started I offered a complete website audit for a fraction of what I did a week later.

My regular price was set to $100, but I offered my initial audits in a local Facebook group for just $7 for whoever wanted one. Four website owners took me up on this offer.

Not only did this get me referral clients, but I also was able to use the reviews to grow my freelancing profile on Fiverr.

Many clients on Fiverr have become monthly clients from the initial one-off audit I provided.

Starting so low allowed me to close the gap slightly on the people selling services for years on Fiverr and grew into a steady stream of clients that I’ve been able to create a stable foundation on.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest failure is not understanding who my ideal clients are. Creating what is known as an avatar is a crucial part of beginning a business.

Identifying the type of customer you want to convert into a client helps to define the message of your business. Once I understood who I’m targeting and the specific problems they are trying to solve, pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.

Creating this ideal business persona was something I did do in the beginning but wasn’t in nearly enough detail. Understanding what drives clients to search for SEO services and the pain points behind them helped me define what I do.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As an off-shoot to my travel blog, I sell travel related photography online. While travel photography isn’t the easiest niche to break into, there are specific locations or style of images that makes you become the authority.

From selling canvas prints on Etsy to stock photography, there are plenty of avenues a photographer can sell their favorite images and make a decent side income.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I would have to say a basic home gym. With winter setting in and the icy ground making exercising harder, staying in shape during COVID-19 has been a challenge for me.

Last week, I brought a basic set-up to be able to work out inside my home, away from the pandemic and the sub-zero temperatures outside.

Staying fit has helped my productivity in both personal and professional aspects of my life.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Normally, I write my notes down with a pen and paper. It helps me remember specific details a little better.

Once I reached 10+ clients, my notes quickly became overwhelming. The calendar I brought to write down appointments and work completed was messy and frustrating when I needed to make edits.

I moved this part of my business online using Trello, an online planning tool. Even though I don’t enjoy writing notes or updating my calendar as much, it’s important to have everything in one place so it doesn’t get lost.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

For new business owners, I enjoyed “The $100 Dollar Startup”, by Chris Guillebeau. It helped me with a few initial things I was having trouble with when I first started working for myself.
The biggest lesson I got was how to shift my mindset and have confidence in the skills and expertise I have. It got me over those first few hurdles of reaching out to people and talking on the phone to show people what I could do for them, even though I had no previous results to back myself up.

There are also several case studies throughout the book. While a few of them were in my industry, I was able to learn bits and pieces from several different strategies to start putting together my way of doing things.

I’ve read the book multiple times now and there are still things I’m learning and implementing from the book.

What is your favorite quote?

“I face the horizon, the horizon is my home”. This is a quote from a song called ‘The Road’, by Frank Turner, an English folk singer/songwriter.

When I first left Australia to travel, I listened to a few of his albums on repeat and this line stuck with me.

I’m always ready to explore and travel whenever I can, so this quote is my favorite.

Key Learnings:

  • Expertise and time is valuable: Underpricing skills and expertise can lead to undervaluing your business and what you can do for others.
  • Focus on results: People can hear how you can help them, or solve a problem for them. Focus on the results you can bring for others.
  • Done is better than perfection: Optimizing your business is never finished. It’s something you should continue to test and edit where needed. If you chase perfection, you might never start.
  • Failure isn’t always a negative thing: It’s often said that failure is the best teacher. Learn from the mistakes you make, understand why they happened, and what you’ll do better next time.
  • Not every client is a good fit: Don’t be afraid to turn down a client that isn’t a good fit for your business. You’re in control of your business, no one else.