Category: SEO Hacker Team

From Annual Evaluation to Fast Feedback Loops

The annual evaluation is an exciting time for individuals in the team mostly because of the chances of knowing their points of improvements. You may not know it, since the team now is a fresh, new team, but it has been doubly exciting for the first people who worked in SEO Hacker because of the surety of a financial raise.

Needless to say that it was not a wise decision and culture because along the way we have rewarded people who were lazy, tardy, disloyal and downright stagnant in their career growth – not to mention that it was also not financially sustainable for the company. Thankfully, because of our mechanisms with teeth, this is no longer the case.

The evaluation period for an individual in our team comes in the 6th month and then in November – which is the supposed end of our internal fiscal year. This is now going to change.

We are now going to disregard evaluations in terms of ‘the day’ of feedback. Instead, we will (and should) give feedback at least each month. And we will give it right before the salary day so that everyone will remember that it has to be given.

It doesn’t have to be long. In fact, it must not be long. It has to be summarized to up to three points of improvement which will be addressed in the following format:

  1. What are one to two things that you are having difficulty with in your work?
  2. How can I help you out with those?
  3. Okay, here is where I think you can improve as a (job description)

This should be emailed by the team leader to each of the team members in order for them to hone each other with their work. Likewise, I will email this to each of the team leads who report directly to me. I believe that fast feedback loops will help us iterate and improve at least twelve more times than our annual evaluation (which is the current system).

I know that it means more work for the team leads and that is also why I request each of the team members to try and carry the burden of the team leaders so that your team leaders could help you become better team players.

As good as it sounds, I’m afraid that we as a team would ask these three questions and not act upon it. So I’m going to put this as a project in our Teamwork and we’ll be able to see the momentum of this new implementation as-we-go.

Mechanisms with Teeth

“Set the bar so high that we have to jump to reach it.”

Why the high bar? Because I believe that we don’t reward mediocrity. I believe that if we’re simply ‘doing what’s required of us‘ then that’s already taken cared of by our salaries.

Salary = Requirement.

But if you’re looking for a pay raise then that requires going the extra mile. Going for more than what’s required of you. Developing yourself.

Being a fun team does not mean that we have to let our performance suffer. On the contrary, we will have a lot more fun and fulfillment at work when we push ourselves to grow and exemplify that to each other.

Pay Raise = Personal and Professional Growth.

The goal of these mechanisms is not just to give everyone transparency in achieving a raise, rather the ultimate goal of these mechanisms is to develop everyone in the team to become a leader.

These mechanisms apply to all regular employees 6 months and up.

All of the factors in play is consistent to our team’s creed. It is important that we support and uphold our values in the team and one way to live and breathe it is by incorporating it into the individual evaluation of everyone in the team.

1) Hubstaff Cohorts

We have a monthly pull of data from Hubstaff. When the Average Hours based on Activity Rate is 5.0 and above, that person gets a +1 provided that he/she has at least 160 hours rendered on average per month and has no sign of stealing time from working hours through the form of unrelated websites in a span of 1 year.

2) Punctuality

When a person does not have any absences without pay, improperly announced vacation leaves, never forgets to log his or her time-in, and is never late for work (whether coming from home, lunch break or 15min break), that person receives a +1.

3) Innovations

When a person has contributed to the growth of his or her team, affecting the efficiency and output of the company as a whole by at least 50% in the form of testing and implementing a new tool, process, tactic or strategy, that person gets a +1

4) Growth

When a person has finished at least four books in the span of one year and has written one or multiple reviews of the book in his/her blog, that person will receive a +1. There are specific books that will be counted in this category. Not all books are considered as a catalyst to the individual’s growth in the aspect of digital marketing.

An individual can submit a book to be included as long as it is a book about leadership, personal growth, digital marketing, and teamwork. Sales books are only counted for people in accounts management or sales.

If a book is lost, that is equivalent to a -1. If a book stays with a person for more than a quarter (3 months) that is considered as a -1.

5) Trust

The team will each vote on all of their other teammates (on a company level) on their level of trust towards the company. This will be done twice before the annual review. The top 20% most trusting gets a +1 and the lower 10% gets a -1.

The reason being: The team knows who trusts the company most and who trusts the company least so they should have the responsibility to vote on each other and be transparent to the company about their own opinion of each other. Individuals cannot vote for themselves.

6) Respect to the Company and Peers

The team will again vote on all of their other teammates (on a team level) on their level of respect towards the company and each other. They can name special names if they think that a person is especially disrespectful even if he/she is on another team.

Respecting the company includes following rules and values – not using social media and other unrelated sites during company hours, turning off Hubstaff on breaks, coming in early, is always present and follows instructions.

The top 20% will get a +1 and the bottom 10% gets a -1

7) No supervision

This is the most subjective factor as team leaders will be the ones who will give a score on this one. The person who takes completely no supervision (supervision is different from guidance and spoonfeeding, and mentorship) will get a +1. The person who takes a lot of supervision (the most supervision) in the team, gets a -1.

8) Client Save

If the person took lead of saving a client from churning (assuming they have given word that they are about to churn because of operational reasons), either talking to the client, producing output that made a major difference in putting the client’s main keywords on the first page, or defending our company’s efforts via email and the client was persuaded – it will be considered as goodwill and that person will receive a +1.

So far there are 8 things you can get a +1 from. If you are able to bag at least 5, that will include you on the people to be financially raised list. The top 20% of the people in that list will get evaluated for a raise.

The bottom 10%, provided that they don’t get at least a score of 3, will be listed as low-level performers. They will be issued a non-performer warning. Two consecutive non-performer warnings or three overall non-performer warnings and they are out.

There are 4 main teams in our company today who will be evaluated with these 8 criterias:

  1. Creatives team (Web Development and Design)
  2. Blog Management Team
  3. Social Media Team
  4. Linkbuilding Team

Two ‘baby’ teams in our company – people in these teams will be evaluated slightly differently:

  1. Accounts Management Team – consists of me and Vince
  2. Marketing Team – consists of me and Pam

Causes for Warnings and Termination

We need to make the company grow. That is our main goal as a team. If it wasn’t, it’s better that we just close shop. Along with that comes protecting the best interests of the company through moderating unwanted behavior by individuals in the team. Here are some causes for Warnings and Termination.

Excessive leaves – when you have consumed all your leaves and need to take another one, that is your first warning. When you need to take another one, that will be the next warning. So you could take up to three excessive leaves and then that will be a cause for termination.

Gossip – it’s just bad. We all know it. The company will find out the source, the aggravator and everyone else who is negatively involved. We are working to make this a cause of immediate termination.

Lying – we don’t want lying to be part of the company culture. As such, lying will be set as a major offense and will be a cause of immediate termination.

Three consecutive lates or coming in very late– we all have to know when the train will arrive and when it will leave. Having everyone in the office inside the proper time (and grace period) should be observed. Three consecutive lates or coming in at 10am onwards will equate to a warning.

Failing to meet a deadline – we take work seriously and when we set deadlines, we mean them. Failing to meet a deadline can equate to a warning if there are no requests for extension made or there are no eventual justifications.

Leaking out company information – we are protective of our processes and systems as all companies should be when they are a thought leader in their industry. Leaking out information is a cause for immediate termination and can be a cause for litigation in intellectual property damages.


SEO Hacker Creed

The SEO Hacker Creed: ACHTUNG

The reason I came up with ACHTUNG is that I believe that the SEO Hacker team needs a guiding light to propel the company to success.

And in order to achieve true success, the teams and individuals working in the company has to have instilled values. Principles that the team lives and breathes as we work together in pushing the company forward.

Just to be clear, ACHTUNG is not, in any way final. I believe that values has to be shaped from a company’s past, present and future. And as with all futures, there are things that are unforeseen and uncertain.

So here goes.

Accountability in Freedom

We believe in a working culture that is not stemmed on bureaucracy, strict rules and corporate red tape. Our company deals a lot with art and creativity. And art is quite unbridled in nature. This does not mean, however, that we can do anything we damn well please with our work.

For freedom to be a tool for success, it has to come hand-in-hand with accountability. We believe that in order for an individual in our company to have true freedom that will result to the success of the team and ultimately, the company, it has to be in the bounds of accountability.

We do not believe in blocking social media sites and ‘fun’ sites like 9gag and tumblr because we believe it could be valuable sources of information, creativity, and not least of all, stress relief. We do believe, however, that we should not exploit these freedoms for our personal use or purposeless entertainment.

There lies the problem: These freedoms are so easily exploited during company hours. The thing about freedom is that if it is exploited by a teammate, it can be so easily justified to oneself to exploit it as well. The effect then turns into a vicious cycle.

So we have embraced systems to help avoid that pitfall. To be accountable.

One of them is our Skype login. This is to keep everyone in the team in the loop on each others whereabouts and availability. Another system is Hubstaff. We are all paid for our time spent making the company grow. Hubstaff enables us to check ourselves if we are taking care of our freedom by committing our time to the success and growth of the company.

Confront Indiscipline

One of the things we really believe in is that a leader is to lead from the front. People are used to having their leaders “on top” or “above” them. It is a common practice in our world today to let the leader or manager have special perks. Consequently, this drives people to shy away from telling them off whenever they find something wrong with the leadership or management style of the leader.

If there is one thing that we want to change in the way the leaders relate with the team and vice versa, it’s this: Confront indiscipline.

Whether it’s the new hire or the team lead, or even the CEO himself, if there is something wrong, tell him off. Be confrontational. We find that 99% of the time, if there’s something that’s wrong with the leadership or management style of a person, it leads to the detriment of the success of the company.

For the leaders, this means that you shouldn’t expect anything from your people unless you are also willing to undertake it yourselves. Lead from the front, don’t manage from behind.

When it comes to discipline, we are all at a level playing field. No one is above and no one is below. Everyone has to play by the company rules.

Hacker Innovation

We believe that the moment we stop innovating is the moment we die – slowly. Like a battered old brontosaurus waiting for its own extinction.

A hacker is a good analogy for the kind of innovation we do. The moment a hacker stops innovating and settles for ‘just programming’ he will soon find himself at the back office of a non-IT company doing IT work that he doesn’t really like.

I know that it’s an exaggerated picture but it’s not really an impossibility. A hacker is only as good as when he is learning, innovating, and ultimately applying all of that – to what he really loves.

Learn, test, apply, repeat.

Trust in Difficult Times

We believe it’s easy to trust a company and the people in it when everything’s well and good. The thing is, there’s nothing special about that. Everybody naturally does that.

The outliers are the people who are able to trust the company and the people in it when the going gets tough.We believe these people are the ones that are most loyal, driven and committed.

These people are extremely valuable.

They are the ones who will build the company and run with the ball when it’s their turn to make the game.

Without trust, the morale drops, gossip increases dramatically and the team chemistry goes haywire. Trust is the building block of an awesome team.

It is the stuff we are made of.

Unity in Diversity

We believe in a team that accepts all forms of diversity – religion, race, discipline, family background, work ethics, and so on and so forth. Everyone has a fighting chance in making the team and playing big.

We believe in having one purpose, one goal and one company culture that is not mutually exclusive with our differences as individuals. Freedom and diversity thrives in the company but in order for it to be used positively, it has to be directed by unity and accountability towards one goal: To drive the company to success.

Our teams have very different people playing in their respective fields but the one thing that these people have in common is that at the end of the day, they have one big goal they are shooting for.

If there is no unity in our diversity, we might as all go solo – and miss the most exciting time of our lives doing great things with great people.

No Supervision

Imagine a team where everyone works because they are passionate about what they are doing. Where targets are always met. Clients are always happy. And everyone is growing in their career.

That is the kind of team we want to be. We believe this is possible through our team’s values.

Managers cost a lot of money. Managing a team cost a lot of time.

So the question is: Who needs managers?

Answer: People who lack the discipline to work, hit targets and finish things.

In short, people who are not passionate and driven about what they are doing.

We believe that passion should be the core driver of individuals in our team to eliminate the need for supervision. Whether an individual finds passion along the way, or already has the passion for the work to begin with.

It is a core essential of a driven and productive team player.

God Above All

This company quite literally started with God. It started with a blog about Christianity, dating, philosophy, apologetics, and so on and so forth. A blog that started with extremely few readers.

Stumbling upon SEO changed all that. Not soon after, by God’s great grace, readers came pouring in. Slowly at first, then it became an increasing drip and then grew into a steady stream. I was able to turn it into a service – and then into a business.

But this isn’t the reason why we should put God above all. The real reason is that, even if God didn’t start SEO Hacker with a blog, even if God didn’t even create SEO Hacker, He is still a good God. An awesome God.

And the fact that we’re alive and kicking is reason enough to thank Him.

This value encompasses each and every value we have in ACHTUNG. For most of us, this is where we derive our character, work ethics and the way we treat our teammates. We put a very heavy weight on faith because we believe that not everything in this world stems from knowledge – especially when there are lots of things still not known to mankind today.

Ultimately, without God in the center and core of our company, we would rather not have this company at all.

Coaching Program

– Choose a coach you want to learn from within the team
You are given an allowance of 300php each week to have a 1 on 1 time with each other.

– To show evidence, you have to take a photo with each other in your 1 on 1 session.

– You also need to submit the things you’ve learned from each other to’s journal.

– Topics do not necessarily need to be about SEO or work. It can branch out to management, leadership, faith, and/or personal advice.

– The goal of this program is to drive growth within our team from the coaches to the rest of the team – and perhaps vice versa.

– This can be done during lunch breaks or after office hours.

– Bringing a camera (phone or otherwise), a notebook, and a pen is encouraged.

SEO Hacker Creed

I’ve been reading the book Built to Last and I couldn’t help but notice their founders having some kind of creed to live by for all the company’s employees. I realize now that this is one thing that we lack. We do not have direction in how we are supposed to behave. We do not have a code we are supposed to uphold.

I’m really quite ashamed that we are now almost three years and this is the very first time I’m taking a shot in conjuring a credo I truly believe in. A creed that will  be the guiding star of our company as a whole.

This is my first draft so forgive me for lacking any experience whatsoever in doing this.

I figured a creed will be most easily remembered if it’s arranged in some sort of acronym. I chose the word “Achtung” which, in German, means “Attention”. It’s also a word used by my favorite band, U2, in their 1991 album, “Achtung Baby!”.

This creed is not in any way final as I believe all creeds have to be tested in order to see if it is a creed that cohesively works with the company’s culture and DNA. So here goes.

Accountability in Freedom

We are a team that is free. Our office attire does not require a uniform. We do not block off any website found on the internet during office hours. We allow anyone in the team to sleep over at the office to bond and grow as a team. And that is an awesome thing. A thing that most established companies do not have.

However this freedom has to be confined and defined in a fashion where there is accountability.

“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” – 1 Peter 2:16

God has freed us from a life of sin and fleshly “freedom”. And in doing so, we do not become just “free men”, no, we become “God’s slaves” because we now know the truth of God’s freedom. It comes with accountability and it comes with Jesus’ Lordship in our lives. He now becomes our Master – the one who calls the shots.

In the same way, I expect people who are given freedom in the office to be accountable for it.

This means that, whenever there are sleep-overs, there will be lights-out. There will be a proper segregation between the men’s and women’s quarters – and there will be no crossing of that boundary. This means that there will be no skimpy clothing found in any of us in the office. This means that office hours are going to be used for the company’s purposes and not our own.

To whom will we be accountable to?

First and foremost, to God. We know that He sees everything.

Secondly, to your peers. The people we work with are smart and respectable people. We are able to see when one is abusing the freedom given us – and the truth will surface over time.

Thirdly, to your leader(s). The company’s leaders are put in position by the Lord. I am grateful to be able to personally choose the  men and women who I know will be subservient to your needs and who will be able to resolve problems in the workplace.

If there are people who you think are not being responsible for the freedom the company has endowed to them, please be accountable for that knowledge and protect the company’s interests. They are your own interests as well, as you are part of the SEO Hacker family.

How can you be accountable for that knowledge?

Confront the person who is flaunting the freedom of the company. If he/she does not listen, report it to the concerned leader(s). A true leader will always act in behalf of the company’s best interests and protect the SEO Hacker family.

Confront Indiscipline

A huge divider between a person who is considered an ‘A Player’ and a person who is considered a ‘B Player’ is discipline. Naturally, this is also what separates an ‘A Company’ from a ‘B Company’. Apple’s downward spiral when Steve Jobs left was devastating. As a company, it was dying a slow, painful death. Jobs returned at 1997. Consider Jobs’ first move:

“What did Jobs first do to get Apple back on track? Not the iPod, not iTunes, not the iPhone, not the iPad. First, he increased discipline. That’s right, discipline, for without discipline there’d be no chance to do creative work. He brought in Tim Cook, a world-class supply chain expert, and together Jobs and Cook formed a perfect yin-yang team of creativity and discipline.

They cut perks, stopped funding the corporate sabbatical program, improved operating efficiency, lowered overall cost structure, and got people focused on the intense ‘work all day and all of the night’ ethos that’d characterized Apple in its early years. Overhead costs fell. The cash-to-current-liabilities doubled, and then tripled. Long-term debt shrunk by two thirds and the ratio of total liabilities to shareholders’ equity dropped by more than half from 1998 to 1999. Now, you might be thinking, ‘Well, all that financial improvement naturally follows breakthrough innovation.’

But in fact, Apple did all this before the iPod, iTunes, or the iPhone. Anything that didn’t help the company get back to creating great products that people loved would be tossed, cut, slashed, and ruthlessly eliminated.” (p. 83) 

Jim Collins, “Great by Choice”

The result? From 1997 – 2002, Apple outperformed the general stock market by a whopping 127%. 8 years later, Apple would go to become the world’s most valuable technology company.

It all started with discipline folks. I find the words of Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ a powerful mindset in driving us – the people of SEO Hacker as individuals.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”  – Jim Collins, “Good to Great”

“A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.” – Jim Collins, “Good to Great”

There are more than enough times that I find some of us lacking in discipline – in areas that involve personal growth, company tasks, short-term goals, perfectionism of output, cleanliness of workspace – even in simple things such as keeping the doors closed knowing the air-conditioning systems are open, and so on and so forth.

Discipline is vital in propelling a company to greatness. It has to be instilled in each and everyone of us. And like our first creed, everyone is accountable for his/her own discipline at work.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7

When you see someone who lacks discipline in specific areas of work, confront that person. More importantly, if you find yourself lacking discipline in areas of your own work, confront yourself and ask help from a leader in the team.

I’m not confining discipline in a box, stating that there’s only one way to be considered a person of discipline in our company. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I understand that some people have the discipline to work better and focus at night, and some people have the discipline to let creativity flow during break times or informal collaboration.

What I’m trying to point out is for all of us to have the basic disciplines of a person driven to succeed in life. In most cases, it starts with the discipline of the body – sleeping at the right time, sleeping enough, exercising, eating right and healthy, etc. then it trickles down to working habits and in little, nitty-gritty obsessive compulsive mannerisms that shape a person’s creative differences.

In all, the result of discipline is a team player who will bring the ace in his/her game – always.

Hacker Innovation

There are few things more fulfilling than growth in life. Knowing something new. Discovering something different. It doesn’t have to be a colossal, world-changing contribution to society. It can be as small as an awesome, free WordPress plugin that you discovered – and implementing it to some of our client’s blogsites.

At the heart and core of my work, I have pursued a hacker’s thirst for innovation compounded with an obsessed attitude towards problem-solving. What does all this amount to?

A hacker’s thirst for innovation is his driving force in life. Without it, he’s not really a hacker. He’s an old, worn-out guy who knows how to edit old code and work on banks as a maintenance programmer.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”Ecclesiastes 9:10

As much as I hate to admit it, there are people in the team who are stuck. Stuck with the knowledge they had since they started with the team. Stuck with the same set of tools, same set of tasks, and quite possibly, the same set of clients. This, for me, is a nightmare. One of the things I fear the most in life.

With innovation comes problems. Take this scenario:

A new plugin you want to install comes with some code-tinkering so you go to github or stackoverflow to learn how to make a workaround. You come across a good fix. You try it out – then your entire site stops working. There are three options:

  1. Stop there and quit.
  2. Ask for help.
  3. Suit up and find a fix for your website.

The first is the easiest thing to do. The widest road to tread. The second one takes a little bit of humility and patience. The third is the most exciting route to take. The hacker route.

The route that will propel you to greatness.

It’s easily one of the reasons why I am who I am today and why I know what I know. I’ve always taken the third option. The hacker option. Do note that I’m not a coder by heart or skill – I’m naturally a writer. However I pushed myself, perhaps to the furthest limits of my mind and will, to learn as much code as I can.

And so I do realize that there are legitimate fears and problems that some of us in the team may face in the process:

1) You don’t know where to start

2) You don’t want to tamper with code – at all

3) You don’t want to break things

First-  you have to start with your own blog/website. There’s no better starting point than having your own baby. That way, you can empathize with a client freaking out whenever something’s wrong with their site. Having your own site gives you the opportunity to test things and break some stuff – all in a controlled platform.

Second-  you have to realize that coding is one of the skills in our world today that is considered a ‘superpower’. The good news is, it’s not really hard. If you are in the SEO Hacker team, it means you have the capability to learn how to code. You don’t have to be a whiz at it – the basics is more than enough to open a whole new world of innovation for you.

Third-  things break all the time. That’s actually how you learn to piece it all back together again. The more times you break something, the faster you can put it back next time. The more things you break, the more you learn about the fundamentals of putting things back. I’ve broken my blog more than a hundred times by now. And yet, it’s still there. No real harm done – and I’ve learned a world of things.

Innovate like a hacker.

Trust in Difficult Times

Let’s be honest, there will seldom be days when we will sit back, relax, and tell ourselves, “Ah, what a life.”

Smooth sailing isn’t really one of our company’s mantras. Thus far in the two and a half years we’ve been pushing SEO Hacker’s flywheel, we have been grinding on all sorts of aspects of the business – financial, legal, accounts management, cashflow, marketing, client services, and so on and so forth. While these things may not be felt by all of us in the team, it is felt completely by the leaders of the company.

As early as we are existent as a business, we have experienced people who tried to bring our dream and vision down. People who malign and maliciously spread slander amongst ourselves in order to hasten some aspects of the business that are beneficial to themselves. While they may have their grounds for doing so, it has severely damaged something more important in our company’s values.


“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”Hebrews 13:17

I have always dreamed of a team who will trust each other completely – and I believe I have displayed this by my own actions. There are no CCTV cameras in the office. I rarely check up on what people are doing. I do not ask for a daily report from the team. I let my people sleep in the office to bond and grow together. And I do all of these things with joy hoping that it will be returned with enthusiasm.

For some people in the team, it is indeed a joy. However, for some… Well… They are not really as happy with the trust than with the supposed “benefits” they should be receiving. As ironic as it sounds, the Bible says that failing to ‘have confidence‘ or, in other words, failing to trust in your leaders will be “of no benefit to you.”

I want all of us to know that SEO Hacker did not start that way. It started as a family – with no real regard to: “But what do I get out of this?”, “What’s in it for me?”, “Why don’t I compare my salary with my peers and see where I’m at?”

It’s really saddening how the “I want my benefits now” mindset has plagued our team for quite a while now. And while me and the leaders in the company have been working ourselves on client work, marketing, revenue generation and client acquisition, I’ve also been working my ass off trying to make the benefits happen through the incorporation.

The truth is, I never thought that people in my own team would someday demand to hasten this process – which I believe should be implemented on a right and proper time in our company’s history.

At this, I want to be completely transparent with you in saying that my trust in the team has been damaged. Trust is first and foremost given, and then it is earned. But trust is very delicate. There are some things that would strike trust in its foundation and it will come crumbling down to ashes.

It is a saddening picture. And while I can remove that trust from the team and implement rules and regulations to make our current state of freedom void, I will choose not to. I believe that in order to incur trust, it has to first be given. So as a leader, that’s what I choose to do. I will be giving it again and again.

However for those individuals who violate my trust, I will be less forgiving. I’m not really the type of guy to just turn the other cheek when I deem it improper. That’s not being a good steward. That’s being an idiot. And I believe, as a company, we should not be that way. As with all things in our company’s DNA, I believe the example should start with me.

There will be a lot more difficult times to come than this, and as I’ve always done before, I will choose to continue doing – I will trust my team because I want the team to grow in trust with each other. It is and will always be my vision and dream to have a team that is strongly connected with a bond of trust.

Unity in Diversity

You are unique. No one in this world will be exactly like you. God made your fingerprint to be yours and yours alone. And yet, SEO Hacker is a place where all of our uniqueness works together as a team. The perfect word in describing how we operate is “University” – Unity in Diversity.

This is an absolute truth that is realized in our team.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:12

There are people who are exceptional in writing, some in management, some in marketing, some in technical programming, some in analysis, and the list goes on. The talents in our family is diverse. Everyone has his/her own skill-set that is uniquely useful and powerful for work.

This is not to say that we want SEO Hacker to be autonomous in all aspects. There will be things in our company that will be absolute values whether you believe or agree with it or not. However we will respect opinions so long as it is not damaging nor slanderous. A person’s uniqueness is respected and upheld in our team.

We recognize that each has his own voice and that it should be heard. We also realize that taking those individual’s ideas and molding it to work for the team in driving the company forward is necessarily important.

This value works hand-in-hand with our Hacker Innovation – we learn from our diversity and we practice through our unity.

No Supervision

A team exists to fulfill a purpose bigger than themselves. As with all teams, it starts with the individuals that it is made up of. As a leader, I believe my team should be equipped and empowered to do meaningful and commendable work – without the supervision of managers.

With that, I believe that the common mindset of hierarchy should be abolished. Yes, there will be an organizational chart, but this chart does not need to dictate who has power over who, rather who is the subservient leader of which team.

And so me being the leader of the SEO Hacker team as a whole means that I am the subservient leader of everyone in the team. The fact of the matter is, I am at the beck and call of anyone who needs help, empowerment, equipping, coaching and guidance.

A person who can work without supervision is a person who has a high level of discipline. A person who can grow and innovate like a hacker is an unstoppable force in our team. If we all apply this then our company would be an unstoppable force in our world today.

Consider the opposite: each one of us needing supervision to work. It is a disaster! We would need to hire manpower just to supervise our work – and we would hate it. Who in his right mind would want to keep looking over his shoulders to see if he’s being watched?

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” Colossians 3:22

So be disciplined in your work. I believe the best way to go about this is to have a raw passion for what you do. That is why we make sure to position you for the work you can be most passionate about in our team. Working remotely requires the highest level of discipline. It is something I want all of us to have, so that someday we may be able to go places knowing that we will still be able to accomplish the work set out for us – wherever we are.

It’s a beautiful world. Being kept up in an office for 5 days a week is not the best way to spend our lives.

God Above all

Ultimately, the reason why we live and breathe and work is because of our purpose in life – to glorify our God. Each and every value in this creed is reinforced with a biblical, absolute truth from the Word of God. And that’s because it is God’s truths that stands at the end of everything. At the end of every decision we make, every value we instill, every client we acquire, there is God to be acknowledge, and praised.

In SEO Hacker, I want the ultimate reason and purpose for everything we do or decide to be God. Our freedom? God. Our discipline? God. Our unity? God. Our trust for each other? God. Our growth? God. He is the person that binds all of our efforts and values together.

When there are things that me as a leader fails to do or deal with, remember that there’s a bigger leader that towers anything and everything I do. If I have wronged anyone, remember that there’s someone who will remember your cause and who will tell me of my wrongdoings.

It is the fear and love of God that drives me as a leader, manager, friend, mentor, husband and father. I hope and pray that He will be your driving force as well.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”Romans 8:28

The only way we can work together is because God causes us to do so.


In light of the negative events happening in our team, I want this creed to be our guiding light. Our Bethlehem star. The one thing that would help us to realize who we were, where we are, and what we need to do. Perhaps it would be used by the Lord for other purposes than this. Perhaps not.

In any case, I want you all to put this in your heart. I will make a version of this that would be much shorter and that would be shown to each new team member before they are melded in the team chemistry.

So, until this creed is changed for the better… ACHTUNG!

SEO Hacker’s Growth and Future Projects

Okay first thing’s first. I’m now a dad 🙂

And for you to be in the team as this happens means a whole lot to me. I haven’t worked my emails in three days time and I’m simply SWAMPED. The thing is, I don’t have  a lot of time on my hands as baby Leo is waking up almost every 2 hours to breastfeed. My role is to check his diapers, change if necessary, burp him and put him back to sleep. It’s a role I’m totally delighted to do. I have a very cute and adorable baby boy.

So there goes the 100+ emails (and more in spam) that I’ve received and yet to reply to. I’ve also gotten brilliant ideas I think I should implement for team on-boarding and growth during my time in the hospital and at home (yes we’re now home after just 2 days in the hospital – labor included).

You all know I’m in a ‘paternity leave’ for a month – but we all understand that it is superficial as I cannot really take a leave for a whole month. I’ll be online checking emails, answering them, writing for our blogs, replying to clients, etc. The usual.

I’m hearing about the new interviews (and possibility of a hire) for the linkbuilding team. These are very exciting times as the SEO Hacker team will be shaken with the exit of key players and entry of new hires. It’s even more exciting as I’m planning a comeback for SEO services at least with training as I realize there is a huge gap in knowledge and expertise in some of the teams.

So here are the plans for the near future:

The Classroom (name not final)

I plan to make the porch some sort of a classroom. I’ll need to rework the lighting because it’s dark for a classroom setting but the tables and chairs are underway. The whiteboard is not getting its deserved attention and use. SEO School is on pause and I’m planning to maximize the possible video sessions with an open office plan. You can check it out here.

The open office will invite other specialists to teach in our office – they don’t need to be SEO specialists. They could be copywriters, social media managers, project managers, etc. I’ll be the main ‘teacher’ here for sure – at least in the first few months.

More Clients

Yes, we’re not going to stop. SEO Hacker is still growing and we’re still getting a lot of inquiries online and offline. We have a strong growing brand and we’re very widely known in the Philippine SEO scene. I want you to know that whenever we have new clients, we do consider your workload and your extra time for growth.

Rest assured the management team tries to hire as soon as possible so that you’ll have time to read and experiment on your own while making sure that you are able to produce quality work.

SEO Summit 2015

We need to keep this ball rolling. It’s a project we want to undertake yearly and we have to keep it moving. We’re planning on publishing the website for the next SEO Summit but I’ll need someone to help me get sponsors and reserve venues and other event suppliers. If someone is willing to step up on this, please send me an email or chat and let’s collaborate.

Internal drip-feed email

This is one of the plans I have regarding on-boarding. I won’t get into details as of now. The plan is to simply have a schedule on what to do, what to read/learn, where to subscribe, etc., as the day goes by for new hires – so that managers don’t have to take time off to do this.

My Expectations

Fellas, I expect you to come out more responsible and mature as we grow. I know that our open forums back and forth have been really good in ironing out differences, misunderstandings and miscommunications. However I have identified one root problem of all this: People in the team prefer not to talk directly to the person they have a problem with – especially me.

The open forum is not an excuse to keep things to yourself. Communication should be our strong point as an ‘open door’ company. I’m simply an email away – I keep on repeating that.

As such, I want you to know that I am expecting you to do this from now on. Any uncommunicated issues will be considered your own misgivings from hereon out.

Again I am finite, and as you can see, I have a lot in mind and I am moving in this vision. I cannot remember everything that we may have talked about. I do try – that much I can promise you.

If you think I will forget things, please course it through Sandy and ask her to keep reminding me until it has been accomplished. That’s a lot of help for me.

For the office, I expect you to keep it clean and neat. It is as much yours as it is mine. You are the ones using it, so I expect you to be the ones cleaning it. For the times I’ve visited I noticed that it is not kept clean and it needs sweeping, mopping, etc. I expect this to change the next time I drop by.

The electricity bill is of concern to me. I am assigning the air conditioner’s controllers to be Pam’s and Sandy’s jurisdiction and no one else’s. It has to be set at 24-26 degrees. No more, no less. It also has to be set on auto otherwise it loses its purpose as an inverter type air conditioning system. We have bled Meralco bills from 15,000 when we started up to 32,000 just a few months ago. That could’ve been revenue – instead, we had to pay it to Meralco. I expect this to significantly decrease for July and August because of the new policy about the remotes.

This is the shortlist of what’s to happen and what I expect from the team. Changes will happen and I’m simply giving you a heads-up and a boost about the short term vision of the company.

Exciting times team. Keep up the good work.

Implementing Hubstaff


As you all know, a brave, intimate group agreed to test Hubstaff for us. Looking at the results of the test, I would say that I’m really impressed how the tool works.

I’ve asked around and so far as I’ve heard is that it does make the team more efficient as a whole. Our ‘free trial’ is coming to an end. I took the extra effort to communicate with the owner of Hubstaff. We exchanged a few emails.

The good news is, we are going to be able to use Hubstaff – for free. In exchange, I have agreed to promote them in my blogs.

That being said, I am now officially implementing Hubstaff as one of our measures of accountability as a team. For those who don’t have it installed, please do so as soon as you can.
Some things to be mindful about:
1) If you are not able to maintain at least 7 hours and 45 minutes (we have a full 8 hours to work not considering the 1 hour for lunchbreak and 15 minutes for the ‘free’ break), please send an email to your team leaders and CC me for the reason.

2) If you are not comfortable Hubstaff being turned on while doing something ‘private’ in your laptop, please feel free to pause it.

3) I don’t want to hear any excuses of ‘forgetting to turn Hubstaff on’ so as to not achieving the 7:45 we are all required to undertake

4) If you have problems running Hubstaff or syncing it to your laptop, please make sure to have me check it on Monday

5) I will be regularly checking Hubstaff however I won’t be regularly checking the screenshots as it is too tedious for me. I will only check screenshots of people who are under performing or who are mounting up less than 7 hours per day.

6) Remember that you are serving the Lord and integrity is highly valued. If the output has been awesome and the work ethics has been impeccable, Hubstaff would NOT HAVE BEEN NEEDED.

7) If you have any questions or concerns, please email me or set a meeting with me on a Monday.

I expect everyone to have Hubstaff installed and running this Monday 12nn.

Testing time is over. This is the real deal.

Thank you very much,

– Sean Si

Respecting the Company and Company Policies

To whoever it may concern in the SEO Hacker team,

I know that getting to work early is a thing mostly overlooked by other company cultures. I want you to know that we’ve been lenient with that for almost 3 years now.

I will be completely transparent with you as I have always been. I’m not really happy that we have a 15 minute grace period and still people come to work late. I can simply accredit this as due to our lacking of any negative consequences for people who are regularly late BUT I will definitely not concede to this as being part of our company culture.

I know that you try to extend hours to keep up with your lates – however, if you can finish work early and go home early, wouldn’t that be all the better? But getting to work on time has to be respected – both for yourself and for the company.

When will the train arrive?

Not knowing what time the train will leave means that people in the next station won’t know when it will arrive. This is something I think should be addressed. We want to eliminate the constant question of “When will the train arrive?”

Go to work on the right time. Don’t be late.

You maybe thinking “it’s not the company it used to be” – you’re right. It’s not.

We’ve grown – and we are growing in an unexpectedly rapid rate. At that, we all have to adapt. For most of you, your salaries are not the same as well – and we have the company and God to thank for that. The growth has sustained our payroll and has even expanded our office to where we are now.

As all growing things, it connotes change – change in culture, change in management, change in leadership, change in efficiency, change in style… Basically change in everything.

Please do not be so surprised as these changes are happening. It’s extremely hard to keep a culture the way it is from start to finish. Apple started in a garage – do you think they logged-in and logged-out with their hours during their early days?

Hell no.

Jobs and Wozniak at the Apple Garage

What they did was burn their assess off in making the company good. And once it reached a net worth of more than a billion dollars, things changed. They had to take the company from good to great.

That means they did have to log-in and out. They had to be efficient. They had to produce. They had to deliver on time. They had to keep warehousing low while keeping supply and demand at a consistent rate. They had to deal with numbers. With a board. With shareholders.

In short, they had to deal with a lot of stuff they really didn’t deal with before.

I don’t need to write this letter to you. Let’s face the cold, hard facts: I can simply implement a policy whenever I want because SEO Hacker is a sole proprietorship – and I’m the sole proprietor. Of course, that is with the implicit knowledge that I won’t implement a stupid or harmful policy – and that, with each policy I implement, I myself take the lead.

The point I want to make is that change happens. We all have to deal with it. I used to be able to lead and deal closely with the ENTIRE TEAM – that’s because the entire team used to consist of just 4 – 5 people.

Now there’s almost 20 of us.

I know that you may not like the new policies. You may not like the Skype sign-in, sign-out, you may not like Hubstaff and how it’s taking screenshots of you and pushing/pressuring you to be more efficient, but hey, these are measures that we need to implement because we’re a business.

At the end of the day, we need the output. Our clients need the output. And there are times when the teams are really producing bad output.

I can’t deal with bad output.

Please understand, I’m a solo salesman. I’m not even a super salesman. I’m just an SEO salesman and God knows I’m doing my very best to close deals and renew contracts so that the company can grow and thrive and we’ll all have work to do and income to look forward to.

Do you know how hard it is to close a deal? Much more, to sell a service that is relatively ‘uncommon’ at a high value-for-money price?

I need the operations’ output to be good. No, not just good – great. Because that’s what we say and that’s what really makes us different.

Do you understand how much bad output frustrates me?

I’m not writing this to demoralize you or to tell you you’re doing a bad job.

I’m writing this to you to ask you to do your best in where you are. Because #1, God put you there, #2, you owe it to yourself and to the company to do great things, #3, because I am personally eyeing people who are A players and taking note of people who are B players or otherwise.

And right now, I don’t see that happening.

I’ve been reading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. It shed a lot of light to where we are and what I’m supposed to do. One of the key points he makes is that the company should have the right people in the right seats. A players.

These people are self-motivated and have the company’s best interests at heart because they know, at the end of the day, the company is going to be the one to support them.

Someday things will change once more – and the company will need A players in the team. Perhaps only the A players will make it to the end.

Here’s one of my favorite nuggets of knowledge from ‘Good to Great’:

“Yes compensation and incentives are important, but for very different reasons in good-to-great companies. The purpose of a compensation system should not be to get the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to get the right people on the bus in the first place, and to keep them there.”

So far SEO Hacker has been a company that’s lenient with management, efficiency and delivery. We allow unlimited use of social media (even in company hours). We allow unlimited fun (also in company hours). We allow unlimited break times. We (used to) allow unlimited air-conditioning even throughout the night for those staying overnight.

All unaccounted for.

We cannot have that anymore. There has to be changes. There has to be accountability. And I assure you, these changes are for the better – for all of us.

Honestly, I would never want it to get to the point that I would be willing to lose some good people in order to implement a change that will improve the company as a whole. We have an awesome team – and we are like a family. Losing someone can really hurt. However, the thought of losing the company should be even more fearful. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Policies are not respected, deadlines are not met, menial tasks are overlooked.

We have to change that.

One smart uncle of mine used to say: “No one is indispensable. A boss who makes one of his people indispensable is stupid.”

Please don’t make me believe that I was wrong in thinking of making each of you Linchpins – indispensable individuals with high capacity for efficiency, growth, innovation and value.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10

We all know this verse. What I want to imply is very simple: If I can’t trust you to do the little things I ask of you, I wouldn’t be able to trust you when I ask you to play it big.

And I do need people who can play it big.

So tell me 5 things:

  1. What can we do to make sure that everyone gets to work at the RIGHT TIME
  2. What can we do to make sure everyone signs-in and signs-out on Skype
  3. What can we do to make sure that everyone’s testing Hubstaff correctly (recording time correctly, finding issues with screenshots/the app itself, finding issues with not meeting at least 8 hours, etc.)
  4. What can we do to make sure that everyone posts in the forums and reads articles even if things may not look like it’s picking up yet (because it’s still asked of you to do it – and it is part of our work)
  5. What can we do to make sure that you are meeting your quota, producing output, innovating and growing daily

Let’s face it, what we’re being paid for in SEO Hacker is our effort and our time. That’s what we have to offer. Are we really giving it our best? Or at least, are we really giving our job the right time and effort it deserves from us?

Because anything that falls short of that is considered stealing.

I also want to clarify that I may be wrong and this letter may just be another side of me that has been blinded by working remotely. However, the numbers speak clearly.

May God oversee all this. At the end of the day, it’s the Lord who gives wisdom and tells us how to act.

Lessons Learned Growing our Startup to $17,000 in Monthly Revenue

I had nothing but a mere 2,000 pesos in my wallet. I wanted to get rich. I didn’t want to work for money (I wanted money to work for me). And I had a whole ton of ideas. Here’s where I started to try and take SEO Hacker to $50k in monthly revenue.

I wanted to blog.

That’s where it all started.

I took up IT in college but I my heart was set to writing – and what better place to write than in a blog? Where people could immediately see your ideas play out – and even share it out to their peers.

“What do I write about?”

I had the will, but did I have the passion to fuel my writing to last?

So I took a deep look at what I really wanted to do in life – and found it out.

I wanted to write for God.

So with my last 2,000 pesos, I went ahead and bought a 1 gig space of hosting and a domain name:

It would turn out to be God and You – and I would still write there up til today.

Then I realized, a mere 3 people were coming in to visit my blog – me, my mom and my brother.

I needed more traffic

So I searched around and stumbled upon this acronym “SEO.”

What the hell is SEO?

I delved deeper into it. Sooner than later, I was hooked!

I was testing each and everything I could get my hands on to my personal blog – God and You.

But some things I couldn’t test out in my Christian blog, and I needed to document what I was learning anyway – so I started another blog:

SEO Hacker was my online journal – where I’d write everything I learned about SEO. At the same time, it was my test bed – I could do any and every test I wanted with it.

But things became more interesting – more and more people started to pay attention to my stuff. SEO Hacker’s traffic grew and grew – and I knew I had something big cooking.

The Business Model

I didn’t know any other SEO company during the time – but I knew that SEO is a maintenance thing and not a one-time development. That’s fine because maintenance spells “Security” for me.

So I made my own business model – to charge up on a monthly basis. And sooner than I expected, my first client came along.

It was a $500 per month contract – I was extremely happy about it, especially since I was getting paid less than that for my day job.

My day job entailed 1 and a half hour of commute, paying for lunch and dinner (I was almost always working overtime) for myself, and working 5 days a week.

With my first SEO gig, I could work 3 hours a day, 3 days a week – and all from the comfort of my home.

It just didn’t make sense for me to keep my day job anymore.

The Sales Pitch

Being an employee means you don’t have your own time and you work for a system. Being self-employed means you have your own time and you work for a system. Being a businessman means you own your time and you own a system.

Seeing that my SEO gig could turn into a business, I started to formulate my own system based on the strategies I was using to rank.

It was a measly skeleton system at first – since I was doing the legwork myself.

It wasn’t working as well as I’d hoped with the first client – but it was showing some promise.

So I went ahead and pitched to a second client – I didn’t have any real portfolio, any real professional experience, anything but my blog to show him – but he bit it.

We closed the deal and I made $1,000 per month from the contract.


It was the biggest scuba diving and liveaboard company here in the Philippines.

I applied my system – plus I told him that since I’m the writer too, I’ll need to experience what it’s like to dive.

I got my basic and advanced diver’s license for FREE.

I did nothing but dive for weeks! It was a dream job.

And I got paid $1,000 for it.

The system I made is so stupidly simple.

First: Keep writing.

Everyone knows that content is a very important foundation of a website’s SEO. Personally, I think written content is still the best form of content to date. It fattens up your index, it increases your sitemap and it improves your entire website’s keyword density and relevance.

Second: Build Relevant Links.

It doesn’t have to be a guest post! As long as you’re building links consistently – from blogs, directories, forums, heck even social media profiles – it’s going to help! Hell, if you’ve got nothing but just guest post links, it’s still going to be dubious.

Third: Be Real

A real company will have real social media profiles – and use ’em. Make sure the client has a Facebook page, twitter and Google+ page. And make sure that their latest articles are there.

These are some of the strategies I started with. We played with it, tweaked it, and refined it along the way.

I realized I couldn’t handle everything especially when our client base began to grow – so I started hiring people and I imparted this strategy to them.

Up to today, this is still the main three things that our company does for clients – and it works!

Key Takeaway

If you’re starting out your own SEO services company, formulate a system and stick with three stupidly simple strategies – it will make imparting them to the next generation of teammates easier.


Building an A Team

It’s been 4 years since I wrote the first word in the SEO Hacker blog. I vividly remember telling my then girlfriend “Oh that God would bless me with an awesome team!”

Lots of things have happened since then.

Here we are now – a band of crazy ones, misfits, rebels, round pegs in the square holes. A team that sees things differently, not fond of rules, and no respect for the status-quo.

A team that is meant to make a dent in the universe.

So here we are in our fourth year – young guns, all of us. And here are some questions that lay ahead of us:

  1. What’s next?
  2. Where are we headed?
  3. And why do we want to go there?

I’ve been blogging about this awesome book I’m reading: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

He talks about having the right people at the right seats and getting the wrong people off the bus.

This is something I am very focused about right now. It is critical for us to have the right people this year. For no other reason than because it is the year we are going to tip.

We are about to start an epidemic like the SEO industry has never seen before.

We’re going to be in blogs, in the news, and in the mouths of people who are hyped up about who we are and what we do.

We have built a brand that is strong enough to make a grand entrance in the online marketing scene.

That means we all need to be A players.

We all have to have an initiative for bringing the company forward.

We all need to put a high price on Spiritual Discipline. To Put God first. That’s the highest point of leadership. When you know your ultimate purpose in life, are secure in a love that is beyond anything this world can fill – then you can move, achieve and ultimately fly towards anything you set your heart and mind to do.

A players are people who Test. Test. And Test. Move fast and Break things. Have your own blog. Do whatever inspires your curiosity enough that you’ll take unwarranted action.

A players are people who Read. Don’t you know the reason why the Bible is not in video? It’s because reading leaves room for imagination. Grow that vision and dream big.

A players are people who Innovate. Imagining is thinking it. Innovating is doing it.

A players are people who Write. Document everything. Why we are here now is because of the things that were blogged in SEO Hacker when we were starting out. People will read your stuff. But even if they don’t. You will remember it because you wrote it.

There’s another truth to having an A team.

And that is taking the B players off the bus.

When you have a B player with an A player, what usually happens is that the A player is discouraged to perform in peak capacity. Because hey, the B players are getting their pay grade and the same benefits anyway.

We don’t want that to happen.

And you know what?

Because, you are going to be A players, I know you’ll be offered a job elsewhere – in fact, I’m predicting it.

And when that happens, I want you to know that I’ll be proud of you wherever you decide to go.

You guys have helped build SEO Hacker into what it is now and I know wherever you’ll be sent, you’ll make a positive change.

And for the people who will stay, I want you to know that I’ll take you with me all the way to the top. And the world will know who you are and what you’ve done to contribute to the society.

You’ll be a super star team.

Here’s the vision for SEO Hacker for this year:

1) Be self-supplanting – We all know that our real goal is to have our own product and right now it’s SEO School, have its own online tool (which we’re working on with Richmond Ibasco as we speak), have a perpetual revenue stream from multiple incentive models (Issho Genki, Uratex eCommerce, Meiji eCommerce, etc.)

2) Be the thought leader – always innovating on how to do awesome marketing for our own branding first – then for our clients. We’ll keep on pushing and pushing until other companies are forced to keep up or die off. We’ll invent and invent because we have it in us to do so.

3) Grow the Talents – We are planning to hire more technical people to help us achieve our plans of perpetual revenue stream. In order to achieve this, we will need people who have an uncanny knack for awesome User Experience, Design, and Front and Back-end Development.

4) Build a million dollar company – Why stop where we’re at? When we get to a point where we can self supplant, it will be a colossal cataclysmic growth for greatness.

5) Have tons and tons of fun while we’re at it – And that’s what we’re about to do now.

So as we approach this year with our hopes held high and our jeering strong, let’s offer a clap of praise to what God has done for us.

Here’s to another year of growth, friendship, innovation and success!

Cheers guys!

Sean Si