This is a long story and it is mainly about my journey of learning about Internet marketing and SEO, there isn’t a lot to learn from it, but I thought it may interest a few wannabe SEO’s. So back out now if you don’t think it is for you! You have been warned! (It’s around 2,000 words).
Back in 2004 I was a business student at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, whilst doing my course I used to play around learning how to code websites using HTML and CSS. When I finished my course I got the opportunity to start an ecommerce shop, but back then there weren’t many good packages out there, so I decided to make my own! Using PHP and MySQL I created probably the most insecure piece of shit ecommerce site you could ever imagine! Anyways, I found once the site was up that the hard part wasn’t putting a website together, it was getting people to visit it… and buy something! So I did what every desperate wannabe Internet millionaire does…
I took a gamble on Google
I signed up to Google AdWords and spent a fortune, sadly with very little money coming out of university and already being up to my eyeballs in debt, I decided to get one of those horrible job things! My job had absolutely nothing to do with the Internet, but that didn’t stop me dabbling in my spare time. In 2006 I got a job working as a marketing assistant looking after the websites and, because I had some experience, managing the Google AdWords account. When I took over the account they were spending £1,000 and bringing in £1,500 as a result. I had a brainwave… I wrote a program that ran through all 60,000 products that they were selling and it created keywords based on the product numbers and names and bid values based on the product markup, conversion rate for that product type and the profit margin which we needed to achieve. Next month we spent £500 on AdWords, but sales grew to £15,000 – from then on I was hooked!
After that I made improvements to the website and soon we were bringing in the same amount of money (well a bit more) without spending anything on AdWords. And not long after that I started my love affair with Google Analytics and also became a certified AdWords Professional.
Chris Cardell Inspired Me?
Whilst I was working as a marketing assistant I was asked by my boss to attend a Chris Cardell telephone seminar. Now, for those of you that don’t know, Chris Cardell has a bit of a bad reputation amongst some people and I believe he recently got in trouble for a direct marketing piece (which I thought was quite clever actually, but I guess the ASA didn’t think so). Don’t quote me on any of this, I may be wrong! Anyways, whilst listening to this phone seminar where Chris told me he knew more than me about AdWords (I doubted it then, but who knows, I can be pretty arrogant), I became inspired. Chris apparently used to go to companies, charge them £10k (which was a shed load of money to me back then, but I now realise it’s not that much when it comes to marketing) and then guarantee they would only pay him his fee if he could increase their profits by more. Win win situation – I was impressed, I decided this is what I want. He then went on to say that if you increase customers by 25%, increase the number of times they purchase by 25% and increase the value of those purchases by 30% – you will have doubled your sales. This is actually an often used tactic to sell marketing services, and I now know it is an overly simplistic view of what is involved in improving a companies marketing.
One Year Without The Internet
Sadly my job here was short lived due to health problems – I ended up leaving and barely touched a computer for around a year, instead working in a warehouse and playing on Call of Duty 4 on the Xbox 360. After 1 years physio I finally sorted out my health problem and quit my job as a “picker packer” and went to Thailand to see my girlfriend who I had met the year earlier in Ripon when she came to England to study and get some work experience. Whilst out there I bought a book on SEO and read it from cover to cover, after that I thought I knew everything there was to know about SEO. How wrong I was.
Whilst I was in Thailand I started writing a book on the soon to be released game, Call of Duty World at War, I based all my writing on Call of Duty 4, with a plan to prestige within a week and then re-write it and add bits in and publish ASAP.
Dave Naylor & Bronco
When I got back to England I spent a month finishing off the book I had written, eventually getting it published (sadly I had to wait for the IRS and this delayed the pubishing by 2 months, by which time the buzz had died down). After that, I some how managed to land a job with Dave Naylor – and it was at this point I realised how little I really knew about SEO! He convinced me to get my own website using WordPress, at the time I was quite passionate about using Joomla, as the book I had read recommended it, I’d just like to state now that Joomla is riddled with flaws and comes with duplicate content problems as standard – AVOID AT ALL COSTS. So I took Dave’s advice and I started this blog sometime early 2009.
On my first day working at Bronco I was plonked down on a desk opposite Dave, nearby was a guy called Anthony and a guy called Rory. After reading the website I was unbelievably intimidated by the amount of knowledge and professionalism everyone possessed. The biggest thing was the fact that everyone was so up-to-date with the latest developments in the SEO world. After a few weeks there I learned that a lot of people kept up to date with RSS feeds – I’d struggled to come to terms with RSS feeds for quite some time (sounds stupid now, but really I did) but this time I decided to persevere – I learned how to use RSS feeds and I signed up to Google Reader. I added my blog to FeedBurner, and I subscribed to everyone at Bronco’s blog, and I subsribed to god knows how many blogs from the Technorati Top 100 Tech Blogs. After 1 week I realised I’d taken on too much and I started unsubscribing from some of them.
I spent the whole of 2009 reading Seth Godin books – thinking he had all the answers (he doesn’t, but he’s a clever guy and his blog is worth reading).
A few months into my job, after struggling to rank for my name I decided to try and rank for an SEO keyword, to “prove” myself (so people would stop taking the piss out of me mainly). I set my heart on ranking for “SEO specialist”, Shapley said I’d never manage it, but one week later I was on the front page! Last year I redirected it to Bronco as a sign of good faith, it’s still on page 1 now, sadly its dropped a bit.
Make Money Online
Later on in 2009 I realised I wanted to make some money online, so I started reading blogs such as Shoemoney, John Chow and Problogger. Up until then I think I had adsense on my website, and I was just trying to push more traffic at it. But after seeing a video by John Chow I realised that this was totally the wrong approach, this also fitted in with a book I had read by Seth Godin called “Permission Marketing”. I signed up to Aweber under John Chow’s recommendation – it was wrong, if you’re starting out go with MailChimp (it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers).
Google Overloads My Site With Traffic
I started using MailChimp on a new site of mine, www.modern-warfare.net, which was a site I had started to take advantage of the forth coming release of Modern Warfare 2. I uploaded an electronic copy of my Call of Duty guide and found I got a few subscribers, then on the day of the release I logged on to my email and found around 70 people had subscribed and more where signing up every couple of minutes, then I went to my website and found that the site was down – it turned out that I had exceeded all my bandwith in just one day! I was ranking for “modern warfare 2 tips” on the day of the release and Google had taken my site down with all the traffic – I quickly got it sorted and after a few days I had over 600 subscribers! After 4 months of having more traffic than I thought possible, I was disappointed to find I had earned next to nothing – so I sold the site and got $500 for it, which I was quite happy with at the time.
The Year Of Conversion Rate Optimisation
At the start of 2010 I managed to get myself a bit of freelance work, it was good experience as I wasn’t getting the chance to do many site audits at the time at Bronco, so I was happy to get the chance to do a few more.
In the second half of 2010 I became obsessed with Conversion Rate Optimisation – I’d played with it a bit before back in 2006/2007 when Google Website Optimizer was first released. I read a number of books, and decided I needed to get some experience – so I drew up a proposal for a client I managed SEO for at Bronco. Sadly (and quite rightly) Becky & Dave decided to go with Stephen Pavlovich from Conversion Factory. He started work on the client and I got the opportunity to be part of the project team, I learned a lot about the important of asking customers what they want – market research, often overlooked, is highly important and makes the difference between an ok business and a brilliant business. During this time I also managed to figure out something which made our link building in house much more efficient, as a result I managed to push a clients traffic up 40%, gaining lots of number 1s, despite them being onboard for around 3 years.
Towards the latter half of 2010 I managed to produce an excellent landing page for my SEO specialist ranking – it was basically a pay on results SEO, which was basically a guarantee. The conversion rate was brilliant, sadly the quality of leads were poor.
Becoming A Professional
Towards the end of 2010 I was gaining confidence, but decided that I still didn’t know enough, so I embarked on a course to become a marketing progressional, I’m currently studying for a diploma in digital and direct marketing from the Institute of Direct Marketing and I’m loving every minute of it! I’ve gained knowledge that would have taken at 10 years (probably longer) to develop on my own – it’s accelerated my learning and I can’t recommend it enough.
This year so far I have begun to have more success with affiliate marketing, my aim was to bring in an extra £500 per month by the end of the year – at the moment I’m way, way off! We’ll see how thing go… So far I’ve referred a load of people to an awesome accounting package called FreeAgent which I used, sadly this hasn’t earned me any money yet!!!