Jan 062014
 

Some of my readers that have been following my blog for long time might have been expecting that around this time of the year I would post the “Best Articles of the Year” compilation (like I did in 2011 and 2012). Unfortunately, I will not. Instead, I am writing this official announcement for the closing of NGS Marketing.

I will start with the reasons and I will try to be as thorough as possible:

1. The business

My business has been growing well over the last two years. After I left OptiLocal, the first few months were difficult, but afterwards everything “skyrocketed”, I hired a few people to help me with the workload (full- or part-time), and in October I had 2 full-time and 3 part-time employees. Thus, one of the reasons is definitely not the lack of business or the lack of opportunities. However, there were two major problems that occurred, which I didn’t manage to predict:

– I had to start managing people (“human resources”, “management”), rather than do what I like (“SEO”)
– The majority of the work that was coming my way was of the kind that takes time, but the turnover is low (profit per actual working hour is very low)

My plan when I started my business was, like with many others in the industry, to offer lower rates in the beginning, and then gradually start increasing them when the leads volume increases. However, due to a possible reason I outline below, prospects of the kind that would be ready to spend considerable budgets on online marketing never started coming by. And while I haven’t had the opportunity to make a market research and discover why this has been so, I am positive it has something to do with me being located at the other side of the world. In fact, on average I have been missing 15 phone calls from potential clients per week, and have very rarely been able to schedule calls in proper times with clients that “just need to be closed”. This all due to the fact that the time difference between me and my “main market” (note: not by design) was 12 to 16 hours (depending on the time zone and the season – there is no daylight saving in Malaysia). This marked major problem #1.

My plan certainly included hiring people to help me with different tasks, but I had encountered problems with this aspect, too. SEO, in general, is not popular in Malaysia. In fact, online marketing as a whole is not popular, and is mostly associated with “spam”, “cheating Google”, “tricking Google” (most frequently used phrases when I mention I do SEO). After all, I live east of India, and west of The Philippines.

My Location vs. Spam

Thus, I had major problem finding people that would have any experience or knowledge related to SEO. I spent a few hundred dollars and as many hours in the search for suitable candidates, but in the end the options were scarce at best. It is not to be forgotten that besides the talent-finding problem, there were also lingual and cultural barriers. I live in Johor Bahru, the second largest city in Malaysia, but it has (un)fortunate geographical closeness with Singapore, and the majority of talent moves there, or in Kuala Lumpur, as a second option. Therefore, I didn’t have the chance to find someone who could take over the “executive” position for one of my two main “branches” of responsibilities – managing the business, or doing SEO. This marked major problem #2.

2. Personal satisfaction

While I planned that at some point in the future I had to hire people to help me with the workload, I didn’t want to become “manager”. I wanted to do as much hands-on work as possible and leave the management to someone else. Above, I already mentioned that the lack of talent (not just in SEO, but in almost every niche) restricted me from being able to hire a person that could take over this responsibility. Thus, gradually I started doing less hands-on work, and more distribution of tasks. And here came major problem #3 – dissatisfaction. I was trying to handle both management and as much hands-on work as possible on my own, which in times led to poor results.

3. Sustainability

I started realizing that my business was unsustainable. Everything depended largely on myself and if I was missing even for one day, the operations of my business would drastically slow down, or completely stop. This was largely my fault, because I like to be aware of everything and I like to distribute tasks based on my everyday observations on each member of my team. I do not like to rely on others, and it is hard for a person to earn my complete trust. I underestimated this flow in my character, and the results were devastating. In late September I got very sick and was unable to do any work for more than a week. At that time, everything related to my business was “frozen”. When I returned to work, I had about 40 overdue tasks ranging from undelivered reports to not-even-started work, more than 500 emails, and employees that were unable to help me, because I was generally handling all this by myself. Problem #4 – unsustainability of my business model.

4. Crime, economic, political and social problems in Malaysia

On the surface of it, living in Malaysia is great – equatorial climate, good food, ethnocutural diversity, relatively good development (overall wealth of the nation), average cost of living. You could hardly ask for more than this, could you? However, when you dive below the surface, you could discover the following deep problems:

– Crime – Malaysia currently ranks 9th in the “Crime Index by Country 2013” research by Numbeo (note – the index is based on people’s perception, not on official statistics). Johor Bahru (the city I live in) ranks 4th in the same research in the “by City” research. According to locals, crime rates have been increasing significantly in the past few years, which is partly, or fully, a consequence of the other problems I enlist below. My sister-in-law’s bag was snatched from her in front of my mother-in-law’s house when she was already within the auto-gate, i.e. she was inside the fenced yard. That was the day before my wedding, and while the whole family was gathered in my mother-in-law’s house. Snatch thieves are everywhere and as almost none of them is ever detected, they become bolder and more violent. Cases of babies/toddlers kidnapping appear in media weekly. Large problem #5.

– Economy and politics – Malaysia’s economy is in a downturn. Reasons are many, but the main one appears to be poor management of country’s abundant resources by the government. The ruling coalition (UMNO) has been in power for the past 55 years (ever since Malaysia’s Independence) and they have never lost a parliamentary election (Malaysia is a parliamentary non-hereditary monarchy). However, in order not to lose the ones in 2013, they allegedly imported large number of foreigners (mainly from Bangladesh), and there were rumors of them falsifying the results in some districts in order to gain more places in the current parliament. Let’s consider this problem #6.

– Society – Malaysia is a multi-cultural country, with the majority of the population being Malay, predominantly Muslim, hence the official religion in the country is Islam. About 25% of the population is of Chinese ethnicity, spread unevenly, and Chinese are usually the de facto majority in the main cities. About 10% are Indian, and the rest are different local ethnic groups from Northern Borneo. As the “M” in the ruling party’s name means “Malays”, it could be predicted that they would mostly be defending the rights of the Malay majority. A famous term used to describe this racial bias (which is generally not supported by the constitution of the country, but is evident in many controversial laws and government practices) is “Affirmative action“. This affirmative action constitutes of (but not limited to) the following (entirely based on my personal observations):

a) The enormous majority of government workers and police officers is of Malay origin, or is Muslim, so-called “Bumiputera” (because according to the Malaysian Constitution one is a Bumiputera “if one of the parents is Muslim Malay/Orang Asli as stated in Article 160 (2) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus the child is considered as a Bumiputra”; thus, many Indian Muslims also manage to obtain Bumiputera status), leading to any kind of problems you could imagine it could lead to.

b) Bumiputera are given privileges when it comes to buying properties – special discounted rates, lots are reserved for them for particular period of time (these lots are usually the best ones in a condominium or in a housing area).

c) Bumiputera are given privileges when it comes to applying for public university admission. I am not entirely sure how the system works, but I have heard stories of Chinese or Indian not being admitted to public universities with 30+% higher overall scores than their (mainly) Malay counterparts that have been provided admission. Again, this leads to all sorts of problems you could think of, the most scary of which is the fact that very frequently nurses in hospitals might have been admitted with a 50% score in their high school diploma. Additionally, the majority of the scholarships are Bumiputera-only.

d) In order to apply for particular government project (think anything from infrastructural development to website development), a company needs to be Bumiputera-owner.

Read more about Bumiputera here, and take this as #7.

5. Why Not Bulgaria?

Some that know I am from Bulgaria might ask this, and the answer is relatively simple – because there, the situation is worse. Bulgarian socioeconomic problems are much deeper than the ones in Malaysia, and while in Malaysia it is mostly about racial issues (Hi, 21st century!), in Bulgaria it is about unresolved mentality-related problems left mostly from the 45-year Communist spell-into-oblivion. And these problems run from the prime minister (Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic) down to the executive mail-boy. In this sense, I would say the chances of Malaysia getting up and going back to the right way are higher than those of Bulgaria. Yes, Bulgaria is part of the European Union, but in many key economic areas it is tightly knotted in the cold and unloving hug of Mother Russia.

What I Chose and Why I Chose It

About three months ago, I made up my mind. We had discussed a number of times moving away with my wife, but at that point (immediately after my severe health issues) I was sure the move should be done as soon as possible. We needed to determine a proper action plan. Obviously, the best would have been if I have found a job that would have fit my exact desires and to do what I am (hopefully) good at – local SEO. We decided that our main targets would be Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – because of the high living standard, low language barrier, and the fact that SEO in general is not that popular in other areas of the world. You might have already noticed the notable omission of the US and the UK. We just believed these two were not exactly what we were looking for.

At that time, I was hoping that I would be able to find some job, related to SEO (not necessarily local). The opportunities were probably better to try as an in-house SEO for some major company, rather than look for a marketing agency employment. The bigger the company, the higher the chances they would be willing to go through the hassle of hiring a foreigner. Thus, without even having the vaguest hope that I would be finding a job related to *local* search, I dropped a fast email to Darren Shaw explaining him that I am looking for opportunities, as he was one of my longest “local search” buddies, and I knew he has contacts with a lot of people that are frequently on the look for a lot of things. We set up a call to discuss about it and he offered me to join Whitespark and move to Canada. Such an offer was a no-brainer for me as this was practically what I had been secretly hoping for:
– Job, very similar to/same as the one I have been working and loving
– Living in a peaceful, ordered, safe, and unfathomable country full of picturesque sights (eh!)
– Working together with someone I know and trust, and I know is reliable

In fact, I could hardly think of a place I would like to work at more than at Whitespark.

So here we are in the beginning of January and my first day as a Whitesparker! (I will have to consult with Darren if “Whitesparker” is the correct expression). You could read more about the move in the official announcement.

Miscellaneous

As Whitespark offer very similar services to the ones I have been offering, I recommend to all the people that have been considering working with me to go on and contact Whitespark. The following contact options are available:

US Phone: (855) 406-6050
Canada Phone: (877) 336-3505
Email: support@whitespark.ca

Here are the links to the service pages:
Local SEO
Citation Building
Web Development
Citation Audit and Cleanup (Coming later this week!)

Ngsmarketing.com will stay online for the time being and everyone would be able to access my Citation Building Guide through it, as well as all the articles. However, from now on I will be posting on the Whitespark Blog, so I encourage all the subscribers to NGSMarketing’s blog to jump over.

  71 Responses to “Why I Am Moving On”

Comments (71)
  1. Nyagoslav,
    Thanks for your thoughtful contributions to the space. Your blog and comments elsewhere online have consistently risen above the noise that too often constitutes information in local marketing/SEO. Best wishes on your move to Canada and transition to Whitespark. Please keep writing as I hope to continue reading your comments in many places.

  2. Hey Nyagoslav,

    Congratulations! Darren told me about this recently. I’m super excited to see what you do at Whitespark!

  3. Wow that’s some news Nyag! many congratulations to you and your family and i hope that the move to Canada will suit you – are you braced for the long winter ahead! Best of luck with everything at whitespark. Myles

  4. Have a safe trip to Canada. Advice Interactive Looks forward to you being a “whitesparker”

  5. Best news ever! Dude, you and Darren are going to kick ass!

  6. Good luck with your future there! Enjoy it!

  7. Welcome to Edmonton! Don’t forget your toque!

  8. Congrats Nyagoslav, I am so happy for you! It’s nice to see you were able to find an opportunity with an awesome company that was right in line with what you were looking for. What a huge opportunity for both you and the folks at Whitespark.

  9. Congratulations to you, Nyagoslav!
    Very happy for you!
    Plus – you’re now much closer and adds another reason for me to visit Edmonton one day :)

  10. Awesome news Nyag, and thank you for the great background story.

    Well, welcome to the Great White North!

  11. Have a nice time in Canada Nyago. I’m going to work in Cambodia as an intern at the World Bank. Your experience in Malaysia was very interesting for me. I want to tell as well that the things in Bulgaria are improving and I consider that soon the country will be the perfect place to do business in Europe ;) Good luck and DERZAI

    • Thanks, Kole ;) Do you speak khmer? You might need it there!

      Regarding Bulgaria, I am very pessimistic. Without certain connections almost no kind of business can survive and prosper there with the status quo.

      • Nyago – I have been to Bulgaria and understand your reluctance to locate there. Though I’m just a one man shop at this point when I grow I might want to open an office in either Macedonia (I know an American missionary who runs a software dev company there) or Montenegro (I have a few friends there) to either do SEO in those countries or take advantage of lower labor costs (or both). How would you assess either one of those countries in comparison to Bulgaria as a place for an entrepreneur to set up shop?

        Bog te blagoslovio!

  12. Congratulations! Certain you are welcome and will continue to do well.
    We don’t often consider the conditions of working in countries that don not have the advantages we often take for granted. You’re very strong indeed and I admire what you’ve done in those circumstances.

    Welcome!

  13. Congratulations! As an American who went to college in Canada and married a Canadian I have the highest respect for the country and its people. Good luck and I look forward to more insightful articles on the Whitespark blog.

    • Thanks, Daniel! I have been hearing only positive things about Canada and Canadians, and based on my personal observations it all seems to fit right, so I am thrilled for the move!

  14. I just forwarded this post to Arsenal, in the hope that they would alter the starting times of each of their matches to suit your new time zone. I also forwarded it to UEFA.

    • Unfortunately, I seriously doubt they would be that graceful. I know of a few cases of Malaysian sending similar requests to the FA, but to no avail. Anyway, watching matches at 9am might be better than watching them at 2-3am on Sundays/Weekdays :)

  15. Congratulations Nyagoslav!
    And Good luck

  16. Hi, Nyagoslav!

    You are brave to venture out new opportunities for work. But it sounds like you gave yourself no other option but to turn the plug off on your business. Then again, you’ve sited problems that if I would encounter myself, will move me to take the same route.

    What I personally find hard is the sustainability part. That flaw is going to make your professional life harder if you are not going to work it out. And since you’ve realized that already, it would be easier for you to overcome it and be a team player.

    It was nice knowing your thoughts and plans. :) Left this comment too, by the way, on Kingged.com, the IM social sharing site where I found your post being shared.

  17. I can only imagine that pure dissatisfaction is the main reason you are moving on. I guess, the events and circumstances have tampered with things that could have inspired or motivated you consistently. Well, although disappointed, I wish you the best in the Whitespark blog.

    This comment was left in kingged.com where this post was bookmarked and syndicated for Internet marketers.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://kingged.com/why-i-am-moving-on/

  18. Hi Nyagoslav,

    Interesting blog post about your experiences in Malaysia… and great news that you’ll join Daren Shaws Team!
    Will be looking forward to read your articles in the Whitespark Blog…

    All the best,
    Sebastian

  19. Nyago,

    Kudos to your move! From what I understood it was probably the best move for you :)

    Do what you love to do and just keep doing it!

    I wish you gazillion exciting moments in Whitespark!

  20. What a great move, Nyagoslav! Whitespark has a great product, has fabulous management, and great potential. Hope you enjoy living in Edmonton.There might be slight change of climate, but it is negligible. :) The SEO community is strong. It is so helpful to have a community of like-minded people around. This is terrific news and congratulations!

  21. Nyagoslav,
    Your complete honesty and intelligence has always been appreciated when reading your posts. When I started reading this, I feared that you were leaving SEO completely but honestly the move to Whitespark is so beneficial for both you and they. I am so happy for you – this will be tremendous for everyone involved. Really happy that you have found a place with people of the same heart.

  22. Wow, Nyag that is a lot of news and a thorough explanation!

    Congratulations! I can certainly relate to many of the issues you discussed. I lived in Asia for nearly a decade and communicating with clients and managing “employees” in far off regions was quite challenging. I ultimately left Taiwan to return to Canada for many of the same reasons you have.

    I’ve followed your blog for some time and appreciate all the work you put in on the Google Places forum as a TC. I think Whitespark is going to be unstoppable with its new addition. As amazing as Canada is, I hope you are ready for the cold because Edmonton is no picnic in the winter.

    Keep up the great work.

  23. Congratulations Nyag!! And great read by the way…

    Finally time to do what you enjoy most!

    Drop me a line if you decide to visit Tampa sometime to thaw out (now that we’re on the same big chuck of land) :-D

  24. Thanks for sharing! That takes a lot of guts to come out and share the details about your business, and it’s shortcomings like that. Kudo’s to you. You are one of the best in the industry in my opinion, and Whitespark is lucky to have you!

    Good luck.

  25. Nyag,

    Take care on your journey. I am not surprised by your move. You belong at Whitespark, or a similar caliber organization. If you are ever in Chicago. Look me up.

    Safe Travels.

    James Bellefeuille

  26. I an glad to hear you are starting a new chapter that will hopefully be an even more rewarding challenge for you. At first I was worried you were leaving the industry and I am glad I was wrong. Good luck at Whitespark, I am sure you will do great things.

  27. Smart move Nyag! Also to you Darren! You guys will make an awesome team. I respect both of you immensely and look forward to the results of your collaboration.

    Canada is an absolute paradise as far as quality of life is concerned. As for the weather and climate eh…. not so much :( But you’ll adapt and the trade-off is definitely worth it.

    Good luck!

  28. Nyagoslav:

    That is a detailed long post and very interesting. So sorry for your illness and the difficulties you encountered. It sounds like you are prepared to move on.

    Its great to see how many people responded in a short period. You have a strong following. Kudos. You deserve it.

    Joining with Darren sounds like a great move. I’m sure you guys will be killers together. I’m looking forward to #Nyagospark :D

  29. Amazing news, Nyagoslav! Darren’s company is simply terrific and you will be working and living in a great new place. Wishing you so much luck!

  30. While I like your reading your blogs, I do not agree with your sketch on the sources of most spam – India and the Philippines. There are spam all over the world. Wherever there is an internet, there is always a spam. Besides, you do not have a concrete data on the evidence of your judgement.

    Take note that India and the Philippines are the biggest two places on earth most medium sized SEO companies from USA, Canada, Australia and the UK hire their manpower services. The hardworking Filipinos and the Indians working remotely for these SEO companies made these companies where they are now. Earning 7 or more digits compared to the meager salaries they give……

    • Hi Ramil,

      I certainly do not say there isn’t spam (specifically in SEO) everywhere in the world. And again, I definitely do not have concrete data, and I don’t think such is necessary, either. I added the image for illustrative purposes and not to prove a statement. It is based on perception, not on statistics.

      Exactly because India and the Philippines are the two places to which companies from all over the world outsource the most SEO work, is the reason why the spam in SEO comes mostly from there. A grey area practice I strongly oppose (outsourcing to India/Philippines that is).

      With that being said, I would like to make it clear that in no way I am saying that every Indian-based or Philippines-based company produces spam. There are many reputable businesses that offer high quality services. Online Crib is a great example.

  31. Wow, I’m late to the party! Congrats Nyagoslav!

    Darren & Whitespark are lucky to have you!

  32. Congratulations. What a thoughtful post, and dare I say, a great decision. Obviously it wasn’t easy. I’m looking forward to learning more about you and hopefully using Whitespark more in the future.

  33. Wow, congratulations Nyagoslav! I saw the message in our group chat but missed this post. Keep up the amazing work as you have done here on your company blog. Let’s hope we can cross ties somewhere in Canada for a beer soon. A lot of change happening in Canada already in the local search space.

  34. Congrats Nyagoslav! What great leaders coming together. Just saw that news in the whitespark newsletter. Looking forward to big things!

  35. Hi Nyago! Congrats from me too!

    I wish you all the best in your new life challenge, although I am sure you will manage to deal with ease! I hope you like Canada already, All the best one more time and please keep posting in nsg/whitespark blog.

  36. Nyagoslav,
    Kudos for recognizing your “former” business model for what it was and then doing something to change it! Too many people just sigh, shrug their shoulders and then put the blinders back on. 40 years go by and they have nothing but regrets. Best of luck to you.

    Edmunton is beautiful, for that matter, so is all of Alberta. Talk Darren into taking you to the Stark River, Great Slave Lake, NWT (North West Territories) to fly fish for Arctic Grayling at midnight. It’s just a hop-skip from Edmunton :)

    See you at WhiteSpark.

  37. Nyagoslav, you made a great choice! Darren is fantastic and the two of you will complement each other. Looking forward to working with you and Whitespark
    Good luck

  38. Nyagoslav, thanks for sharing the info on your move. You have become very well-respected on the Web through your insightful blogging, and through your work for clients. I know many people were really interested to hear about your move to Whitespark. I’m very excited for you personally and think you have a really bright future.

  39. A little late to the party! Hope all is well in Canada, when will we be able to read your blogs again?
    Very informative. Thanks.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.