Success Story from School Teacher to SEO Manager

  • April 24, 2021
  • Misc
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We all reach particular phases in life where we take stock and evaluate where we are heading, why we are heading there, and what we in fact wish to attain from life. One such minute struck me in the early phases of 2011, whilst working as a mentor assistant in a high school in my home town, Worthing.

Taking stock

I had actually been on a profession course that had actually meandered given that I left college with a nationwide diploma in Theatre & Performing Arts, operating in retail, home lettings, care work, and mentor.

I was 24, moms and dad to a one-year-old young boy, and I was on an insufficient income — I wished to get myself on a profession course that wasn’t going to take 7 years to certify me for the very first called of a semi-decent pay ladder. I was seeking to make my profession in a growing market to make a much better wage and offer a much better life for my young boy.

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After dismissing guidance from external sources to “enter into cars and truck sales”, I started investigating various markets with entry-level tasks and arrived on digital marketing, particularly taking a look at SEO.

At that time (2011), the most digital experience I had was producing and modifying videos for school sports days, sometimes inspecting e-mails, and losing time on MyArea (yes, I’m old adequate to have actually been an extremely active user of that social platform) — SEO was definitely alien to me. I started talking with the head of IT at the school I operated in to see what they understood. It wasn’t much, however I continued investigating and even tried to compose some HTML code utilizing W3 schools (I got about as far as making a title, a H1, and a little text link). “Piece of cake!” I believed to myself, and quickly started investigating SEO business near me.

Lo and see, I discovered an actually trendy looking firm actually on my doorstep. It had bean bag relaxing locations, a swimming pool table, xbox consoles, a fitness center, and some incredible wall art. I absolutely desired a few of that. Working at a cool, lively business, with some incredible looking advantages? Yes, please!

Here’s what I did.

I took the rather strong choice to feign being weak and left the school one bleak afternoon. I went house, placed on my finest 3-piece match, got a good looking leather pouch, put a singular CV in it, and strolled down to the firm’s front door.

Upon being welcomed into reception, I asked to see the recruitment supervisor (I’d investigated his name on their site in advance so requested for him straight). Unexpectedly, I was ushered into a personal conference space with the recruitment supervisor who stated, “so what can you provide for us?” — ends up he was believing I was from a recruitment firm and would assist with recruitment drives.

“I’d like a task in SEO please”, I stated excitedly and with all the self-confidence of a male who has actually carried out on phase given that an early age. I sang a hilariously amusing performance of “Mary Mary rather contrary” at a vacation camp when I was 5 and needed to be dragged off phase by some red coats due to the fact that I wouldn’t stop consistently singing the last line of the tune.

Stunned, the recruitment supervisor informed me to hold on a 2nd whilst he got somebody. I half-expected a guard to frog-march me out of the workplace, however rather, I enjoyed as one of the firm’s creators entered into the space. Then, he grilled me for around an hour about why I wished to remain in SEO, what I understood about it. I was likewise provided a multiple-choice survey about digital marketing and SEO — among the concerns was “who is the creator of Moz” – truly believed Rand Fishkin was a comprised name, so picked “Matt Cutts” rather.

An unforeseen journey

Quite how it took place, I don’t completely understand, however obviously my strong technique settled, and I was being used a 4 week internship, where I would discover SEO by watching the SEO group. Fortunately, this would take place throughout the school summer season vacations, so I had the possibility to in fact do the internship without it hindering the task I was contracted to do.

The 4 weeks passed in an outright blur where I discovered what the heck SEO was and a few of the techniques and procedures that entered into an SEO expert’s everyday life. There was a lot to take in, and some days I went house with my head spinning. I established my own (rubbish) blog site on WordPress to attempt and put into practice what I had learned, and at the end of the four weeks was told that I would be given a call when a job opening came up.

A month later, I was invited to come back for an interview, during which I messed up pretty much everything I answered because I had managed to draw a mental blank for every single question asked of me. Hugely embarrassed, I left the interview and waited for the inevitable call to say, “thanks for coming in, but unfortunately, we’re going to pursue other options”. Instead, I was called by the MD to firstly ask, “what happened in the interview?” to which I again apologised and said that I had drawn a complete blank through nerves. Then, to my surprise, he said, “well, by the skin of your teeth, you’ve convinced me, and I’d like to offer you a job as a junior in the company.”

Cue the cheesy 80’s celebratory scene of me running in to tell my family the good news, then walking around in a haze whilst “I am the one and only” by Chesney Hawkes played in my head.

I spent the next five years within the agency, working my way up the ranks, so to speak. I spent time not only in an SEO role but worked with the CRO team, analytics team, and development teams. I became a manager in the Inbound Marketing team and even spent an 18-month internal “sabbatical” as business development manager after the founders of the company asked me to do an interim role because I have a fairly out-going personality (drama diploma paying for itself here).

Going solo

At another critical “taking stock” juncture, I decided that I was ready to move on from my first agency and delve into some in-house SEO work for a major insurance company, motivated by money and nothing else. I can summarise the experience in 6 words; Mistake. Idiot. Red Tape. Exasperation. Quitting.

So I found myself between a self-inflicted rock and a hard place. Leaving a really decent company where I was well-respected and where I liked everyone who I worked with, to the literal opposite just for a pay rise, and where I had basically given my notice and left on the same day because I was on the verge of having a breakdown by having to work there.

In this extreme stress, I found myself deciding to find some of my own clients and work as a freelance SEO consultant. I put in some calls, and after a week or so, was in touch with someone who was looking for SEO help for their company. Thus began my two-year stint as an SEO freelancer. I had business cards made up and everything. It was glorious. Work on whatever projects I wanted to, do some hot-desking in other agencies, do some contracted in-house work for a set period, get paid some decent dollar, and be able to do the school run and spend more time with my family. As Del-boy would say, “Lovely Jubbly Innit!”

But then things came crashing down. Hard.



My marriage came to an abrupt and painful end. Within the space of 6 weeks, I found myself homeless, financially ruined, and without the comfort of being able to see my son every day.

I had choices to make because I was unable to keep freelancing due to not having enough tax records to prove my income (which is what you need in order to buy or even rent a house).

I spent the next couple of months in a proper mess. Fortunately, I managed to keep my wits about me enough to get a job (to essentially give me proof of income so I could get a flat), but it was an arduous commute and ultimately not what I wanted to be doing. I slogged it out though, and eventually I was presented an opportunity by a recruitment agency to work from home as the in-house SEO manager for a global events company. This was in August of 2019. 7 months later, I was made redundant as Covid began its sustained and flipping soul-destroying mark on the whole world, effectively shutting down face to face events overnight.

I was then forced to do some searching for freelance gigs, and thankfully a friend helped me out and I got something to tide me over for a couple of months.

A new start

Jump to June 2020, and I received an email from a recruiter by the name of James Congdon (many people in the SEO industry will probably have been placed in their jobs thanks to his amazing work), informing me of an opportunity within an up and coming London-based eCommerce SEO agency, NOVOS, who were looking for an SEO Strategist to join their team.

I had a couple of video-based interviews (because Covid), and was welcomed into the NOVOS team.

It has been onward and upward since I joined NOVOS. I was promoted to the role of SEO manager within 6 months of joining the company and now lead a talented team of strategists remotely creating SEO strategies for brands such as Bloom & Wild, T.M. Lewin, O’Neills etc. It is not just me, the agency has also witnessed spectacular growth – despite being a startup, NOVOS has worked with over 100 global eCom brands, won 6 international awards, expanded its team by 50% and has reached £1 million in annual revenue.

We work hard and we have adapted to life in a mid-covid world exceptionally well, with all of our team working remotely, and now starting to begin working in-person at our brand new digs in central London.

I’m also particularly pleased that I have joined a company where I have been able to attempt my hand at playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time (having wanted to do it for ages after watching Stranger Things). I have fun, and every day I’m excited to get up and make the 10 step journey to my home office even more exciting is the prospect of finally meeting some of my colleagues in person for the first time!

Over to you

If you’re like I was, and you’re taking stock of your career path, or you’re thinking “how can I get started in digital marketing or SEO?” then here’s my top 4 pieces of advice:

1. Start reading/watching – honestly it’s the single most important thing you can do to understand the industry, and there are so many great places to get information from. Check out Moz’s Beginner’s guide to SEO, read Search Engine Journal, SE Roundtable, watch YouTube videos. We live in a time where so much information is freely available, go out and consume it.

2. Get practical – build yourself a free WordPress blog and start with SEO and content creation basics. You’re not going to need to know how to code to be an SEO; that’s what our brothers and sisters in the developer world are there for. What you will need to know is what elements of a web page does Google look at when determining how to contextualise, and index any piece of content on the webisphere. Having a bit of practical experience, even if self-taught, is going to put you leagues ahead of any candidate who only has theoretical knowledge. Also, make sure you install Google Analytics on your blog and start digging around the GA reports so you get accustomed to this (75 to 90% of what I do is data analysis, so be prepared to crunch some numbers and look for patterns).

3. Play – use some free-to-use tools (or paid tools that give a free trial) to get some experience of researching and using data to inform the “why” behind SEO tactics. SEMrush, Sistrix, Ahrefs, Moz, Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, Xenu, Redirect Path, Answer the Public, Keyword Surfer, Tag Manager, the list is endless and there are plenty of well-written listicles showing you the best free tools out there.

4. Believe in yourself – no one is going to hand you anything in life. Life is a series of peaks and troughs, and some days you’re going to question what the heck you’re doing, or you’ll feel like giving up.

Rise up, get determined, get learning, and go knock on some doors. The worst that will happen is you’ll hear the word “no” a fair few times. It will not be an easy road, believe me, but my journey started when I literally knocked on a door and asked someone for a task, even though I didn’t know about SEO. Ten years later on, I’m working as an SEO supervisor in one of the best digital companies in the UK. I’m always learning, and that journey won’t ever end.

Start your journey, one action and one door at a time. You never understand where you’ll wind up.

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