How I Went From SEO Trainee to Director in 4 Years and You Can Too!

SEO Trainee

Danny is the co-founder and chief strategist for dapa, a UK agency of 35 people who specialise in SEO.

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of utilising key techniques to make Google like your websites (or others) better.

Enabling those websites to rank higher up when a potential customer searches.

The higher up in the results your website is, the more traffic you’ll receive.

What intrigued me most about the SEO industry is the power it gives to those who master it.

Google is the biggest high street in the World, getting a website at the top without the overhead costs of running an actual shop, struck me as being a huge possibility to live the lifestyle I’d envisaged for myself.

How I got my first opportunity

Controversially, main-stream education wasn’t for me.

Though I attended college studying Business and started a degree in Business Entrepreneurship at Northampton University, I dropped out in the second year after setting up a bedroom-business.

I was always looking around for ideas and when I spotted Google Analytics arrive on the scene, it amazed me.

A websites’ traffic could tell you so many things about your investment in offline marketing activities.

i.e. Companies spending thousands of pounds per month on banners around the town, newspaper adverts and TV etc. literally had no clue how effective their advertising was.

A quick question to my mother, who had worked for decades in global enterprises, and I knew instantly that it was something businesses were not using.

But, being able to monetise a free product was my problem.

I decided that rather than sell analytics as the service, I’d sell the ‘sizzle’, not the bacon.

So I used analytics to form conclusions on marketing activity, helping businesses understand return-on-investment.

After 6 months, I had a grand total of zero clients, though my Halo 3 ability had improved considerably.

I needed a new angle.

So I started searching and found some incredible resources online.

I realised then that what I was doing was very closely related to SEO, so I read on.

This is where I also discovered white labelling.

Basically, white labelling a service or product is taking what someone else does and offering it yourself, under your own banner.

This is massively common in industries like clothes printing.

After offering my services around to local digital agencies to label up as their own, I was invited to meet a few. The first offered me a job to do exactly what I was doing,  but internally, for them.

I took the job, of course.

What my first role involved.

Though I started as a trainee, I soon became an account manager which involved the complete 360 of SEO services.

My time involved everything from sitting in on sales meetings, to reporting and actually doing the hands-on SEO myself.

Back then SEO was a lot easier, more technical but a simple process, involving lots of link building, onsite SEO and content marketing.

Link building is basically creating a link from one website to another.

Something that hasn’t really changed.

In the background, I always had my own websites, blogs and forums. Spending time testing, learning and making a few quid on the side really inspired me.

Though each project never really lasted long (I got bored or thought of something ‘better’) it certainly inspired me to carry on.

Over the next 2 to 3 years I moved from one agency to another, learning more about SEO and realising that most of my knowledge that was gained on my side projects was actually missing from the places and people I worked for.

Of course, I was always on the lookout for a new thing.

Then, one of my sites came good, a blog about a computer game received an unexpected buyout offer almost equal to what I earned in a year.

This provided me with a platform to go it alone.

Two years later I own a 35-strong agency who specialise in SEO.

How you can shortcut the process

SEO can’t be taught and you can’t really learn it anywhere.

The only way to learn it is to do it yourself.

Read as much as possible, but always remember this one fact:

Google does not like SEO people.

We’re working to beat their algorithm. So never, under any circumstances, believe that what they tell you is true.

I’d also suggest staying away from the big name blogs, like unless you’re reading up about onsite SEO, which forms about 10% of what makes a website great for search engines.

The rest is off-site, link building to be exact.

Don’t get me wrong, Moz is great, an industry thought-leader, but they’re in a hugely fortunate position to focus on the cream of SEO.

You wont be working with IBM, so you have to learn what works at grass roots level.

Read forums, test with your own content, read as much as possible and try it, then form your own conclusions.

Until then, take everything you read with a pinch of salt.

The only reason I got my break in this industry is because I spent 6 months in a bedroom (between playing Halo) building a basic website, trying to get it ranking and from there it evolved.

My biggest interview tips for would-be SEO’ ers

Owners of SEO companies are interested in how you got on at University, of course.

But you put a website in front of them with all the right SEO elements, some rankings, some traffic etc and the job is yours.

Learn the basics of onsite SEO through guides like these.

Unfortunately, the offsite elements, you’ll have to test and learn for yourself.

There are so many theories on link building and I’d be a hypocrite to tell you what you should do.

It’s so simple and cheap to build a website these days, literally your nan could do it, start with WordPress and learn.

Spend a month or two of evenings doing it, get a few rankings, form a few opinions on the basics and that £35k starting salary will be yours.

If, like Danny you have ambitions to work in Search Marketing, why not apply to take part in our training today, and before you know it, you could be running a search marketing campaign for one of our Business Partners.

About post author

Danny Chapman Dapa
Danny is the co-founder of a dedicated SEO agency in the UK. At only 2 years old dapa ( continues to grow it's team and work with B2B businesses. Danny is always on the lookout for new talented graduates and welcomes CV's at
Posted in How I started