Case study

Technology company director — Joe

Joe shares his experience of setting up and running a technology company, where SEO plays an important part in supporting clients

How did you get your job in SEO?

I graduated from the University York with a first class MEng Computer Systems and Engineering. My five-year degree did not include any modules in SEO, so I read around the subject online and followed the blog of web designer Matt Cutts.

In my second year at university I worked with a group of students to create a website for a student-run company. It was this role that honed my SEO skills as I worked to get the site to the top of Google's results page for specific keywords.

My first job out of university was as an IT contractor. I was responsible for digitising my client and enhancing their clunky website, which was not performing well in either Google rankings or conversions. I did basic link building, rewrote content and got the website to a much better state.

After this I worked as a management consultant for three years, using my SEO skills to educate and support clients, and later I set up a technology company with two friends.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My computer science degree is relevant and has helped me immensely but you can pick up SEO technical skills without this.

You do need excellent communication skills to be able to write well, be persuasive, negotiate and present a proposal - and you generally develop at least some ability in these areas at degree level.

What do you do day-to-day?

Now that I am running a company, I find that I am dealing with many different activities all in one day; meeting potential clients, putting together proposals, working on enhancing a website for a customer and administering the company accounts.

How has your role developed?

The experience that I've gained from running the business has taught me to identify gaps in the market and better understand what clients need. By focusing on tackling the broader issue of democratising data, our company has now secured some larger clients, and I find that my knowledge of SEO is key to allowing us to participate in important conversations.

My ambition is to continue to grow the business and ensure its profitability and sustainability.

What do you enjoy about running your company?

I love the range of challenges that we face on a daily basis and having a team around me that love what they do. I really enjoy solving problems that no one has solved before, and working with interesting people (our clients) who also have a pioneering mind-set.

What are the most challenging parts?

The volume of work is a challenge in a small company. When you're building a product it's not always clear what works for the market it's aimed at, so you have to make a best guess and try things.

It's fun, but it often leads to long working hours and stressful conversations with colleagues because we're all so passionate about what we do.

What advice would you give to others?

Get experience by working on the SEO on your own website or by completing a short internship. You can make good money while still being ethical and providing the customer with value for money.

Be sure to follow industry trends, and understand the implications of Google's algorithms; you'll be extremely valuable to larger companies where search ranking is absolutely critical.

For companies like ASOS and Boots, even dropping one place in search rankings can mean a measurable loss of online revenue.

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