Local Digital Marketing Meetups with Andrew Woolley

C: Today, I am joined by Mr. Andrew Woolley, a Welshman, as I’m sure you will hear with his accent. So, thank you very much for taking the time to join Andrew. How are things?

A: You’re welcome. I’ve been looking forward to the podcast, Craig, to be honest.

C: Yeah, I think you’re one of those guys that’s like, “Yeah, get me on. I’m really enjoy listening to it.” And I’m glad to get that kind of feedback as well. You seem to enjoy listening to it as well and obviously you’ve got a lot of experience and be able to sit on the other side now, so it should be an interesting one. But before we go into any kind of conversation, can you just give us a bit of a background about yourself, what you’re currently doing and things like that?

Andrew Woolley’s Background

A: Okay. Short version, 30 years – been plugging away doing marketing, run my own company for a number of years, got bored of that, widened my perspective by going and working for a couple of agencies to make a bit more sense of all. I think that’s where, even from the perspective of SEO, we look at all the pieces that connect together, such as PPC, content writing, web development, project management and then obviously marketing campaigns. So that gave me a good headset of all the players that you need in order for a brand to move forward.

A: So I worked through a couple of agencies, did a big project then with the Welsh government and a big affiliate company and then sort of got burnt out at the end of 2017. Too many hours, working hours and I decided to go freelance. So, I took the leap of faith again, became self-employed, set up my own little boutique SEO agency called Want SEO. So it’s just three of us in it. It’s myself that does marketing SEO, Sarah who does the SEO and PPC and then Scott who does the content writing.

A: But that grew quite quickly because we talked the languages for agencies, so we basically just promoted to agencies as a bolt-on and I represented them up and down the UK. Happy to do that. But I got to the point again, burning myself out, very long hours, lots of agencies coming forward and putting multiple clients in front of me, and I sort of wanted to keep doing a bit of the teaching as well, which is an opportunity that fell into my lap. And then, a little bit like yourself Craig, I realized I want to increase my digital footprint and build my brand awareness, which is where a lot of people know me well in Swansea because of the number of things I do, and like your good self, I run a digital meet up as well, Swansea digital marketing meet up and SEO group.

A: So, in the last couple of years, I’m getting better known, but I’ve been quite selective with building that digital footprint and connecting with the right sort of individuals, like your good self. So that’s my background, it was heavily marketing and SEO.

C: Yeah, it’s interesting to hear. The most interesting part that you say though and something that I can resonate quite well with is the burnout part.

A: Oh God yeah.

C: So what is it you feel that is burning you out when you’re dealing with clients or just, do you get bored easily, where does the problem lie? Because, obviously I’ve been there and I’ve adapted my own business to suit my own personal hates if you want to call it hates.

A: No, I get you. I mean, the short answer is, all of those, to be honest. I think there’s an element in every entrepreneur, it’s the ego. The ego that you want recognition and reward for what you do. And you know what? Why not? We are social animals at the end of the day. We deserve what we get and if we don’t pat ourselves on the back sometimes you don’t get a pat at all. That’s kind of an element that drives all of us and I think, when I’ve met lots of SEO people, and anybody in the marketing field, they’re passionate because, at the end of the day, they’re on a personal journey, as much as they’re working for a client.

A: It’s nice when you get the value through the client, but as you just said there, you get to the point that sometimes you hate the clients you’re dealing with because they don’t value the work you’re doing. Unfortunately, you have to open those doors, do an element of the project with them and realize this is not the right fit for you.

A: Because you’re not the perfect synergy of a partnership. I’ve got through numerous clients like that. And we’ve come to amicable separation, but then I’ve met many fantastic clients, ones that still work with us in our agency and I handle a few of those. Those are great relationships because you’re adding value to them, they’re paying you for good work, which as you know, is part and parcel of the journey, finding what you’re worth and charging for it, which is where most people feel scared to do these days. And then, once you get to that scenario, it’s a win-win for everybody, because they get the organic traffic, they get the conversions, you get paid handsomely for it.

Working with Clients

A: Then you don’t have that fear and trepidation at the end of a month when you’ve got to do a catch-up call and you’ve got some reports and you’re thinking, “Oh my God, we need to fudge this.” Which is, unfortunately, too much agency. There are good agencies out there, let me just put that out. There are some good ones but likewise, there are some dire ones as well.

C: Yeah, I think with anything, whether it’s clients or agencies or anything, and in SEOs as well, there’s good, the bad and the ugly. I think what you’ve said there is something I resonate with. You’ve got to say no to certain types of clients and not be fearful of it. And one of the failures, I keep saying on different podcasts, that I’ve had with an agency in the past was undercharging, over-delivering and not being treated well by the client.

C: As a guy who was new to that type of, you know, building an agency thing, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know. I just thought get any old client in and let’s stack them up and make millions and millions of pounds until you get that burn out, anxiety, stress levels all through the roof. It’s insane.

A: I think, the biggest problem there, this is one that’s hard for not just agencies but brands per se, is that we undercharge because we don’t give a realistic expectation to the client. SEO, it resonates a little bit more out there nowadays. But unfortunately, it’s still a little bit cloak and dagger. How long does it take to rank my website? Well, ultimately, that’s a marketing question, not an SEO one because it depends. It depends on the resources, how much time and energy you’ve got, how competitive that market is, what you’re actually after. Once you answer more specific questions, that gives you the criteria to move forward. But once you know that, more so from an agency, or even an individual’s point of view where you’re using freelancers, you’ve got to stack the boxes.

A: What I mean by that is, you’re stacking the content writers, the website changes, the emails, the SEO campaigns, the PPC. And if one of those is weak, it can bring the whole lot down. And that’s a problem I experienced quite a few times in the agencies, is you go in with a set price per month to a client, and then when you slice that up and put it to the respective teams, actually you can end up just doing just two hours on an SEO client for a month, and you’re thinking, “I’m not going to move the needle here, or make any difference that’s going to be significant, but they’re getting value elsewhere.” And I hurt for agencies that built that way. And I say agencies but I also think a lot of freelancers go with that sort of mentality as well and I think you have to be very careful going down that road.

A: Well that’s kind of where I come from nowadays and I enjoy the teaching. Because my go-to when it comes to teaching is teaching people about value and nothing else. Because everything is built on that. Know your value and sell yourself on that. If you consider you’re only £20 an hour, fair enough. But if you consider you’re £200 an hour or more, then you should be charging that. As long as you have the justification to prove it and then deliver it.

C: Yep. I mean, I think we all suffer from that at one point in our careers, is undervaluing the skills and service that we provide. I’ll tell you a story. Once I had this bunch of lawyers, well, it was a legal firm, and they said to me, on the phone, “We’re doing really well. Can you come in and talk to us. We want to talk to you.” And I said, “What’s it regarding?” “Just to see if there are any other options for us to generate more leads.” So I went into the office and that wasn’t the reason they wanted me to go there. So, they took it upon themselves to have three lawyers sat in front of me, and they said to me, “So, we’re doing really well. Really happy with the traffic, everything else. But, we don’t understand how many man-hours go into this project. We don’t really understand what it is you’re doing.”

C: I was always quite evasive, not evasive, but I’m not going to sit and tell people exactly what I’m doing. The reports are going to be traffic, key rankings and conversions. And that’s something you would not go into a car mechanic for example and say to him and say to him, “Listen dude, you’ve serviced my car there and you’ve charged me 100 bucks, I need to know what screwdriver you used and the exact centimeters of oil that you changed,” and all that kind of digging about. “And where did you buy the screwdriver and how much did it cost?” People feel that it’s acceptable to dig that deep and what they’re doing is they’re not valuing us as individuals who’ve maybe taken 17 years, for example, to be able to do things in a much smarter way. I’m not being penalized for that because I can’t put it down to man-hours. I’m not selling a labourer service or whatever.

A: Can I add some context that, because it’s exactly the same dilemma I’ve had over the last couple of years because my partners, Sarah and Scott, say exactly the same to me. I tell clients too much. But then I kind of try and keep an impartial view and I think about it. You’re right. If you go into the garage and you go in there and say, “I want this build broken down and I want to know exactly how you did it, step by step.” Okay, but is that a bad thing? Because at the end of the day, as much as I go in there to see how the mechanic does repair the engine, I don’t give a shit about actually doing it, because I don’t have the time.

Time is Money When You’re Working with Clients

A: One of the lessons I’ve learnt from a very long and prestigious marketer is, as he said, “Everyone is time-poor.” So as much as you see lots of these how-to videos, and I have it now when I talk to clients, and they say, “Oh right, so how did you do this and why did you do that?” And explain the process, which is the secret sauce in some cases. I just know they won’t do it because at the end of the day, they don’t have the time.

A: I think you’ve seen that resonate over the last couple of decades where you’ve seen influencers and good marketers out there explaining to people on stages, “You need to do this and you need to do that,” because they know less than 1% will actually go and do it and implement it. So, it’s nice to keep the secret sauce back and not say specifically, do this and specifically do that granted, but actually demonstrating and talking about the process, I don’t think is a bad thing. Because sometimes when you go into those discovery meetings with clients, it resonates your capability, your passion, your knowledge, and those the things that switch them on to think, “Ah, this is the guy for the job.”

A: So, that’s my sort of taking on it. Whether I’m right or wrong, you know what, it’s all about winning the client and then doing the deed, getting the job done and then getting paid. But, each to their own, isn’t it?

C: Yeah, definitely each to their own. You’ve got to do what humours the client and keeps them sending that paycheck every month. It’s obviously debatable as to how much information you want to give to them. I mean, I think client education is massively important and the more a client understands or gets SEO, the easier that client becomes and things just happen easier. But I think, there’s a big grey area there as to where I would debate on how transparent you should be. Because I’ve been overly transparent with people in the past and I’ve ended up getting kicked out and they’ve just done it in house because I’ve made it sound too easy for them. There are loads of other things. Because you understand SEO well and you’re being transparent and all that kind of stuff, sometimes you’re probably playing it down slightly.

A: It’s a hard one to call because ultimately, you don’t know what’s in the client’s mindset. Are they basically using you as a short stopgap in order to bring the services in house? And if they are, they’re going to learn what they can off you and get what value you can. Or, are they just being, “Oh, I just want to understand the process and understand the value,” because as you know, when you’ve sat opposite clients, the ones that don’t ask any questions are the ones that don’t give a shit. And somewhere down the road they don’t value what you did anyway because they didn’t care to understand it.

A: So you need enough investment from them to appreciate that, this is what SEO is, it’s not a dark art. It has a fundamental part to play about being found online. And then when you realize that, and I think it’s something that Gary Vaynerchuk says all the time is that any business or brand out there is a media company first and foremost. Because if you don’t get found online, doesn’t matter how good your service or product is, no one’s going to bloody find it to buy it.

Local SEO Meetups

C: Exactly. That’s why I took the easy option in speaking at Meetups and on stage.

A: Yeah, yeah, it’s spreading the word, isn’t it, at the end of the day?

C: Exactly. But I think it’s interesting to hear your viewpoint on how much you give to a client and stuff like that. Obviously what I want to talk about next with yourself is the education side of things because again, I’ve done training courses. I think it’s a great thing to do because just what you said there, some clients want you to train them, help them, be their mentor, consultant, whatever it’s going to be.

C: I think being transparent in that and sometimes knowing that a client just wants everything you’ve got and will pay you for six months. I’d rather the client just said to me, “Just come into my office once a month for six months and we’ll pay you for training. I just want to pick your brain and know everything that you’re doing.” It’s a great model and obviously I’ve helped people build up their own internal teams, which is crazy because I get kicked out the door at the end of it.

A: But here’s the thing, right. There is no one else like Craig Campbell. There is no one else like me. What I mean by that is, you’ve lived a certain life and gone through certain campaigns and experiences that are giving your rationale, your decision-making process that allows you to implement something in a way that will get a result that you can’t always convey to a team. And you can’t educate someone else because they’re not doing it day in, day out like you are. So at the end of the day, as much as you can educate a team or pass on some knowledge, because you’re living and breathing this all the time, you will always be ahead of that curve. So, therefore, you will always have the value in order to keep pushing forward.

A: That’s what I kind of do from the teaching perspective. I don’t know anything. I never call myself an expert or a professional because I learn every single day. And in this very field of digital marketing, be it an element of SEO, it changes on a dime all the time. So I think you have to just look at the fundamental things you know work and apply good common sense because Google can do 180s at any time on their decision on something. You’ve seen that with the meta descriptions a couple of years ago and they went from what, 156 up to 320 then back to 156, and you just think, you can’t play tennis. Just do something you know is solid, good and reliable for the client. And if you’re talking the right sort of stuff on-page as well as off-page, it’ll get a result.

SEO Trainers who actually do SEO

C: Yeah, but what I really like about your business model is that you do three-day client work, two-day training. And what I think there’s a lot of, is people are jumping into this training bandwagon because they think it’s easier money. There’s a lot of guys that are just doing training, all day, every day and they’re not actually practising what they preach. I think that’s where problems arise because they’re potentially teaching you stuff that’s a year out of date, two years out of date, sometimes even worse.

A: Or worse still, regurgitated information because they haven’t got off their arse and basically done the tests themselves, run on multiple websites. Like Kyle Roof does in America, like I know you do, so you actually know whether something does or doesn’t work because you can’t find all the answers out there. The only way to then find them out is to do a test. But you know those golden nuggets only exist for so long because the digital landscape is going to change.

A: So from my perspective, the teaching is all about pushing forward other minds, inspiring them, but also learning at the same time with me that I don’t lose certain skills. Now, you talked about it there, a lot of people go into the teaching or the consultation side of things. It’s not an area I’m looking to do or promote on a private level yet because I think you need a good stalwart of credibility behind you and that people then, when they check you out and say, “Well, there you are.

A: If I’m comparing eggs to eggs I know which one I’d bloody choose.” And I think that’s the difference in the market. Everybody seems to think they’re an expert but in reality, when you dig a little bit deeper, you realize, hold on, there are only a few people really know what they’re talking about.

C: I don’t know how to quantify that in terms of numbers, but in terms of everywhere I go, whether it’s America, whether it’s in the UK, there is only a handful of guys that really know what they’re doing and actually do it day in day out. Loads of guys can talk a great game and they’re just sales guys and they just, somehow, have mastered how to talk SEO very well or sell other people’s services or whatever it may be.

A: They know the technical babble and they just drop it in the conversation and that makes them sound intelligent. It’s when it comes to the delivery, hey, you know what, it’s something else. You find this, you go on most like, the forums, the one that Steve Klang runs, The SEO Signals, and now and again, they’ll do those surveys.

A: How many people out there actually have genuine hard-fought knowledge they’ve run by tests or those that are just doing it be regurgitated information they read off Search Engine Land or Google and stuff like that. And it’s most people’s impression is, it’s less than three or 5%. And they’re probably not wrong, you know, to give that a quantifiable number. It is probably that because do you know what? Most people are bone idle. They don’t do it because they’ve got a passion in this industry. They just do it because it’s a job.

‘Give a Fuck’ Factor

A: And that’s the differentiator —  you can tell when you speak to some people they give a shit. I call it the GAF factor, give a fuck. And you can always tell. There’s no polite way of saying that one when you’re in a meeting of suits and boots, but at the end of the day, they get it. They know exactly what you mean by it, and that’s what always differentiates when you’re having a quick conversation with somebody and you know whether they’re going to be somebody who’s going to move the needle or someone that’s just going to do it by the numbers and it might or might not work.

C: Certainly when it comes to education or learning as an SEO, a lot of people won’t see us in the background. As I say, I can’t really speak for everyone, but the only ones that I know that are successful are the ones that are actually passionate about it and they’re not seeing it as a nine to five job opportunity.

A: Oh God, no.

C: And it’s going to lead on to the next thing I want to talk to you about, but I’ll tell you a way I identify some of these people is by doing the Meetups that I done. People are taking time out of their own personal time to come to the Meetups that I was organizing at night time and that shows me one, that they care about personal development and learning. That ticks a massive box for me when you’re looking at people to educate or work with or hire or whatever it may be.

A: Yes, it’s your sort of litmus test, isn’t it? The ones that step over the line and want to be counted.

C: Yeah. And I don’t think there are many people doing it. You know, the Meetups go really well, but at the Meetups I do, we’re getting say, 100 plus people there. And that’s all good and well, but at the bar, after the Meetup, there’s maybe 10, 15 guys that hang around. And it’s those guys that are hanging about, they’re the clever ones. The real clever ones, because they’re picking brains, mingling, networking and everything else. I want to see if that’s the case at your particular Meetup.

A: It is. It’s the ones that turn up early and it’s the ones that stay late. Because at the end of the day, they’ve got an agenda and there’s no shame in that. We’ve all got agendas at the end of the day, but it’s about, in this day and age, collaborating with people to get results. To be fair, literally last Thursday was our 1-year anniversary and we had a fantastic turn out there, can’t claim 100, but we’re getting steady numbers and seeing regular faces.

A: First thing I always do in the room is I like to identify, just by putting their hands up, what’s the difference between, you know, have we got contractors in here, freelancers in here, agencies in here, business owners in here? So you get a fair idea. And to be honest, every single meetup we’ve done over the last year, it’s pretty much split.

A: It’s not heavily influenced one way or the other. So, A, that’s great because that tells me there’s a thirst for that knowledge out there. And then, the difficulty I have, because obviously, probably same with you, is when you’re running that, you get bogged down by having a lot of conversations for a couple of hours afterwards, which is fantastic, but you get to meet a lot of characters.

A: From my own personal experience, I’ve collaborated on several projects already and I don’t like to call it a networking group, but I do use that from an SEO point of view because ultimately, a lot of work gets passed in that room. And that’s a nice byproduct. It was never my intention but it’s a nice by-product of it.

C: No, and it certainly wasn’t my intention either. I mean, I’ll give you a bit of the background on how I started with a Meetup, and I don’t know if I’ve actually said this in the podcast before, but me and a guy called Andy Drinkwater used to meet up in a town called Chester. It was for a beer. I was down there. I had a training consultancy gig with a client down there, so I was down there once a month on-site. We used to just meet up for beers when I was down there and one day we just jokingly said, we just actually jokingly put up a Meetup actually, “Wonder how many people would be interested in a meetup? Let’s do it.” I was coming down on Thursday, and it was a Sunday night. So I put this thing up on Meetup and 16 people turned up.

A: Yeah, that’s good.

Chester Digital Meetup

C: And there was no Meetup. There was no Meetup arranged. There was no speaker, no nothing. And all these guys are all coming and having beers and we’re like, “Thank you very much for coming, we just wanted to see if there was demand.” And the very first Meetup we had, we probably had 100, like proper Meetup, 100 plus people came to the one at the next month. And it was a kind of joke thing and we were just doing it because we were bored listening to each other’s stories and we thought, let’s see if anyone else in Chester’s really into SEO.

A: Seriously, that’s the fundamental entrepreneur inside you, is you’re prepared to have a go at something, whether it works or fails, that’s not the issue is that you keep doing something. And by doing something, you discover something new. That’s the true entrepreneur that’s obviously in your blood. And it’s nice when you get the rewards out of it because you’re not looking for that. Because you can’t predict something because you’ve never done it before. There’s no bench marking at all. But I’ve had lots of good comments from it. So many opportunities that have been given to me, but unfortunately the work load’s too full.

A: This is the same speech I do every single time when I introduce before the speakers go on – I tell them exactly what I’m here for, personal branding, and establishing my credibility online, right? I’m shameless about it, I do it. But as I then, I spin the bottle and I say to everyone, “So why are you all here for? Because nobody comes out on a dark evening’s night, to spend a couple of hours watching just two presentations and mixing with a load of strangers in the room unless you want something out of that, and you know what? Too right, you should. So bring your business cards, start networking with people. There is some fantastic talent in South Wales, I’m just lucky I’m the organizer for this event because I’ve met good people already that have helped me on multiple projects.”

A: And that’s my spiel every single time. And you know what? It’s nice then when you hear some stories of people who have already collaborated, got some work out of it and started getting busy. And I think, yeah, well that didn’t happen unless I orchestrated it, very much like yourself.

C: Yeah. It’s nice to see that happening, see others do well. It’s not always just about your own personal gain. Although, sometimes it is about your own personal gain.

A: It is, it is. I mean, personally, and I say this, I just can’t do any more hours. Literally can’t do any more hours because I’m teaching in three colleges, between three colleges at the moments. Then I have just two personal clients then I have one local client. That is probably 78 hours a week. So I’m on that way to burn out again, but I’m on the way for a change. The burnout I’m doing for this time, is I’m actually getting paid what I’m entitled to. I can say, hand on heart, it’s probably the most money I’ve ever earned. How much it is, I don’t know because it comes in so many different directions by different amounts, but I’m content enough it pays the bloody bills.

C: Yeah. I think once you’ve got yourself into that space where you’re not actually that fussed and you know you’re just paying the bills and you’re doing well is a nice place to get to.

A: Well, you’ve got your little one, haven’t you? What is he? Only two months old, isn’t he?

C: Oh, he’s nine months now.

A: Nine months? My God, has it gone on that fast? Because I’d seen your christening photos there the other day and I’m thinking, my God, that’s another lifetime ago for me. My eldest is 19 and my next one is 18 now next week. So it’s just like, wait till you get there. That’s when the real money kicks in. You’ve got to be paying for everything.

C: Bloody hell, I’m thinking my bank balance has taken a massive hit since this guys came into the world. Yeah, but people do say that, “Wait, it doesn’t stop.” New prams, new this, new that. You’re like, fuck. I’m having to give up a lot of my beer time and everything else but it’s a good fun experience.

A: I don’t want to burst your bubble, but that doesn’t stop.

C: People keep telling me that. I was like, “Yeah, it’s really had at the start when you’ve got to buy all this stuff.” And they’re like, “Listen, it only gets worse. The older they get, the more they want.”

A: That’s why you have a second one, see, to justify the first one.

C: Oh man.

A: You get a better return on your investment.

C: I don’t know about that. My sleeping pattern is still not up to scratch, so I’m not sure about a second on. I’d love to have the second one but it’s something I’m going to have to take seriously.

A: I’ve got three. The youngest ones the hardest one, believe it or not. He’s 13. But anyway, from a strategic point of view, don’t ever be more than a family of four because it’s surprising what goes against you. You’ll know this, if you keep doing your travelling on flights, the fifth one costs you a damn sight more money because they just consider everything as a family of four. Taxis, theme parks, you name it. It’s the way it’s built.

C: Yeah.

A: Again see, this is where I like the digital landscape. I just think will they adapt more to actually how people live these days?

C: I’m not sure they will.

A: No, no, I don’t think so. It’s the bottom line, that’s what it’ll always come down to, is whether it’s feasible or not.

C: Yeah. But people are looking for angles to absolute shaft you. They give you those nice little intro deals and family of four or whatever. Even getting on the airplanes and stuff, they’ll give you your first bag free and all that kind of stuff, but when you’ve got a baby and you need to take some food and stuff with you, you get absolutely pummeled for the second and the third bag that you need. I was over in America there for a month and my baby takes these ready-made bottles, and the brand of bottle that he loves is not sold in America. So we literally had to take 200 bottles with us to America.

A: Oh, bloody hell.

C: We were absolutely shafted.

A: That’s the interesting thing see, is everything comes down to logistics and the brand that succeeds is the one that provides the best convenience of delivering it.

C: Yep.

A: So, if you’d found a company that was online and allowed you then to pack that sort of excess for a baby without really charging you that much, you’re naturally going to move towards that brand. And that’s what I see more these days, is we call it in marketing, your points of difference. We all have points of parity, which are your benefits, your features, unique selling points, but actually, what differentiates you is what makes you stand out.

A: Again, we mentioned this off air just before the podcast, is you’ve got quite a memorable brand in wearing the shorts, having the tattoos and having a Glaswegian accent, but that makes you stand out amongst the minions. Because that’s the danger sometimes. You see that with some of these conferences that have got 500 speakers on and you just think, what? 500? Who am I going to bloody see?

C: Yeah, exactly. Obviously it wasn’t a deliberate ploy to be Glaswegian or to have tattoos.

A: Where are you originally from then?

C: No, I’m actually from Glasgow but sadly, I’d like to say that this was a strategy behind it and it was great to stick out from the crowd and do this, that and the next thing. I still pinch myself when a few guys say to me … but I mean, some people hate the whole tattoo, Glaswegian accent and a bit of swearing and a bit of honesty, some people take that as not their thing.

A: Yeah, everybody’s a little bit different. I get that and I know. But the thing is then, the open mind will always look past what they see as their personal preferences and they’ll look to the thing that really matters, and that’s the knowledge.

C: Yeah. I mean, for 90% of the cases, I think people now respect and say, “Right, fair enough. He’s got his angle, he’s got his point, and he’s off his head,” or whatever. They’re probably right, I am a bit crazy and don’t give a shit and stuff.

A: Well, you’re better looking than me. If they want a bald guy with sad, tired eyes, hey, I’m your man.

C: But it is amazing that somehow, I can be myself and do that. I think that’s what you have to be in this industry, is be yourself. I could have put the suit on and gave it all the corporate bullshit talk and I think people can see through that straight away anyway.

A: Yeah, we all wear a persona and the thing is, we all feel more comfortable, more relaxed doing something if we feel that our outward persona matches our inner persona. So, you know what? Never excuse who you are, Craig, because to be honest, that’s how I found you originally, which was a couple of years ago, is that you look through the industry and you try and align yourself to people that have got something credible to say. Because those are the ones that you want to learn from, and that’s exactly how I found you. Your brand, it emanated, it had its own sort of uniqueness about it. And you know what? That’s your strength.

C: Yeah. I would always encourage anyone to do it. I think we’re in 2019 now. When I was a young kid growing up and stuff, you always wore shirts and ties to interviews, and do stuff like that. At client meetings, believe it or not, I still go with shorts and a T-shirt on. If I was doing client meetings or consultancy or whatever, I literally do turn up dressed like that.

A: Yeah, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Obviously Sweden are leading the way when it comes to the way that we work within our employment. You know, like if you don’t take paternity leave off, it’s actually frowned upon because they don’t think that you appreciate that work/life balance. I know everybody talks about this work life balance but I see it a lot on LinkedIn on Sunday and how many people actually enjoy doing work on a Sunday because they don’t have the pressure of clients.

A: And they don’t want to feel guilty for it. But I don’t think you have to. I think in this day and age where we go beyond nine to five, and I think this is where the SEO industry has led for many years to be honest because of the very nature of its being portable and linked in to the internet and clients being then global, is at the end of the day, you make your work the way it is.

Is there such a thing as work/life balance?

A: If you’re not happy with it, change it. I look into the pain culture of other businesses and some of them have those same sticking points. They have quite caustic working cultures in there. And I say to them, “Why are you doing the course?” Because you’re doing it for two reasons. Firstly for your professional side, but you’re getting paid for that because that’s your time for your employer. But also, what’s your personal reason? Because you’re going to possibly career hop. You’re never going to be in one business for the rest of your life. That doesn’t exist any longer. You’re going to keep moving back and forth. You’re adding more values or skills to your set. So therefore, you need to make sure that you are happy with what you’re doing. And if you’re not, jump. No one’s forcing you. We’ll all earn enough money to pay keep.

C: Exactly. But I think people have a fear that they won’t earn enough money. That’s the thing. People are riddled with fear. I’ve spoken to so many guys in this industry, whether it be through training or just meeting them and they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve got all these plans and I’m going to jump out of the job.” And they’re just riddled by fear of keeping this 2k a month or whatever the salary might be. Everyone’s different.

A: No, it tends to be the norm. The problem is, people don’t know what they don’t know. This is not me being preachy because I don’t want to sound preachy, but at the end of the day, you can read the Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and you realize, there are many other ways to earn income, whether it be passive or earned. It’s easier to do my own projects or do things like affiliate marketing or rank and rent or whatever or flip domain names or websites, you realize then, oh, there’s other ways to earn money.

A: Then when you realize that moment, you’re kind of thinking, well, A, I’m not tied by nine to five. B, I’m not tied by a salary that the ceiling’s set, because it’s something that Brad Burton talks about all the time, the guy that does 4Networking is, you’re trading time. It’s the one commodity we all trade and is fixed. I can learn more, I can do more, I can enjoy more things I do but the one thing I can’t change, is time. So when you realize that you’re going and you’re putting your feet under somebody’s desk nine to five, and credit, there are some really fantastic people I’ve met who’ve done that and are happy doing that because contentment comes from compromise. Compromise in the sense of, I’m happy with my lot. But most of our entrepreneurs, like your good self and me, we always want more.

A: But we don’t want just more financially. We want more in rewards, in value, in learning more, in discovering more. We’re pushing the envelope all the time and that’s why I love meeting people because then you meet likewise people who are doing exactly the same. But, you learn life lessons from them. They’re doing it in other ways.

C: Yeah, and that’s the thing. It’s just getting yourself into the position to give you that time to be able to do all of that stuff. And as you say, you can get bogged down, and no amount of money can buy us time.

A: Oh God, no.

C: You have to work smartly to free up the time to be able to do that stuff and take it up to the next level. But it’s just one big game at the end of the day.

A: Of course it is, course. If you’re not prepared to fail, then you’re not really prepared to learn. Because you see that, some people will play things safe. They’ll write a post or they’ll do a little bit of moderate keyword research, or they’ll do what the competitor’s doing, but you’re thinking, okay, you’re just going left when everybody else is going left. What happens then when the winner is going right? You’ve got to be able … we call it change management, which is the DREC principle, denial, resistance, emotion and commitment. Most people don’t like that, clients included.

A: I’ve got it now next week, I’ve got a big migration with a company on a website that we’ve been on now for the last six months, and I just know the fear and trepidation of what they’re doing. I’ve heard it so many times in those catch up Meetups, “I don’t think we should have started this process, we should have just basically stayed where we are.” Well then, doing nothing guarantees one result. If you want to be the market leader, you have to go against the current tide and you have to be seen to be the leader. As I said, doing nothing gets one result but doing something will get a result.

C: Yeah. No matter how little that something is.

A: Exactly, and I think that’s the job of most SEO and marketers these days is actually being the project manager. The person that actually goes into that meeting and says, “This is what you need to do.” You mentioned it earlier, you teach other companies and you go in there, you train up their team, but realistically, you’re wearing many hats in there. Which is project management, which is taking them through that change management. There’s going to be pain points but likewise, your experiences will help them get through it.

Are SEOs nowadays project managers?

C: Exactly. It’s not easy. Sometimes you ask yourself, are you still an SEO? Or are you a recruitment consultant because I help interview people and bring people into teams. You have to adapt into being some … learning a bit more about how you interview people and the different techniques and the different angles that interviewers use. I’ve heard people in the past, even on my podcast someone said recently that part of their interview process is that they take a guy or a girl down the pub as part of the interview and loosen them up with a few beers because they want to see how they are on a personal level.

A: Yeah but, I like that. I like that the old cliched interviews have gone. Like you, I’ve sat in so bloody many of them over the years, and hearing though some of the stupid redundant questions, “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” Probably not in this job, but you can’t say that at the time. Not when you want the job. But you just hear these redundant rhetorical questions and you just think, ask me something interesting, ask me something different.

A: In the last few years, where I’ve gone into agencies, I’ve always pushed the envelope and I’ve always been cheeky. I’ve actually put the interviewer more on the spot and you can probably tell from here, I’ve always been a little bit more assertive and that. And sometimes it’s gone in my favor and sometimes it hasn’t. But I firmly believe life has karma. If it’s meant to work that way, it’s just going to work that way. And there’s enough people out there who’ll buy into what you’re selling and know that, you know what? This is a person that can deliver the results for us.

C: Yeah, no I think if you’ve got the balls to be a little bit cheeky, it probably ticks a box on me anyway, but I’m weird that way. No, I like a character. But the point with the chap that said he takes people down the pub is, most people, including myself when I had an agency, were interviewing people and basically what I would do is interview 10 people in one day, half hour slots.

C: And did I really get to know that person? What was I looking at? Was I looking at what they were wearing? Was I looking at how they conducted themselves through the interview? Was a looking at their CV? What was I actually looking for because I wasn’t looking at them at the personal level and that’s probably why I hired a whole bunch of the wrong people. They weren’t the right fit, and it’s because you have that half hour or an hour to try and make that decision.

C: I would get 10 people in, regardless of what was happening, I was picking one of them. That was just something that was forced. Whereas, the other guy said, “I’m going to take more time than that. I’m going to actually take them down the pub. It might cost me an extra 20, 30 bucks per interview, but it gets another person that I feel is the right fit for my team.” How many times have you hired someone and had to let them go within a two or three week period because they don’t fit into your culture or they’re not what they said they were in the interview? So I think it’s a really good thing. Just a small thing like that.

A: The problem is, you’re leveraging your business and having been a business owner as well, you’re scared by taking staff on sometimes. Because at the end of the day right, there’s two parts to that. The first part is, whilst they have the necessary qualifications, it’s on their CV or they’ve come through a recruitment company and they’ve been put forward, that’s all well and fine. That gets you a place at the table. But it won’t keep you there. The only thing that keeps you there is passion and a thirst for knowledge.

A: And those are things exactly going down the pub will demonstrate. You’ll get to know the person behind the persona. Because, in a very short space of time, you are getting that person to come to your business, give them access to your assets, and they’re either going to literally pummel it into the ground or they’re going to take it through the roof. Sometimes they do something in between. But ultimately, you’re jeopardizing everything that you’ve worked for and putting it on the line and it’s scary when you see that to play.

A: The second part of that then is, I see it with brands more these days, how many lean back on their heels and not on their toes. Hence the reason we see so bloody many going through, you know, Thomas Cook, Maplins, Courts, MFI, Toys R Us, because at the end of the day, smart people in a board room can sometimes make dumb decisions. That’s not to do them a disservice. It’s because they have more to leverage, and it becomes scary.

Are conventional interviews useful?

A: And that’s why I like being a freelancer by all accounts because at the end of the day, I have less to leverage like I did with my business. I built my business up over 10 years and it was worth a lot of money. And then, having people come in and then wreck it or not doing what they’d promised they’d do leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, but also can set the clock back. And that’s the danger with brands these days, you’ve got to really know the person you’re taking on is the right fit.

A: Doing conventional interviews is so redundant. It doesn’t tell me more about this person. What floats this person’s boat? What do they do? What makes them tick? What makes them think that they’re going to go in next week like I am, because I’m off now for the kids half term, but actually go in next to go and do this migration? Because I give a shit.

A: What’s missing these days when you talk to clients, is being candid. Is saying, “That’s broken, that’s broken, that’s broken.” And I’m not being critical, but at the end of the day, if you fix the weakest links, you’re going to have a strong brand. It’s no good me patting you on the back saying, “Well, you’re doing a great job on this and a great job.” I know that already.

A: You do it like I do it. When you do your competitor analysis or you do your market analysis or do your keyword research, you have to do it. And this is why I find that I personally have never put this out, because for me doing that is two to three days research. But through that, I get discovery. I find areas that they’re weak, areas that they’re strong, where they’re leaning in one market more than another. And that gives you the opportunity then to go back and give them actually a strategy to say, “Right, this is what you should be doing. This is how you should be changing the landing pages. This is how we restructure your silo structure on the page.”

A: By understanding that, you can go off and delegate to the team to go and have a whole lot of new content written, the web development team to restructure the website and all of a sudden then, you start seeing it within a three month period, wow, I was on the money. The organic traffic’s coming back in, paid traffic is kicking in lovely as well, you see the conversions starting to come in and you actually see the client happy that all those changes and the expenditure wasn’t for nothing. Because unfortunately, nine times out of 10 they’ve been bloody burnt before then.

C: Yeah, I’ve heard some absolute horror stories just in my recent years of doing consultancy and stuff. Absolute horror stories with some of the stuff that’s going on out there. But, I think, with any industry there’s rogue tradesmen when it comes to putting roofs up, too.

Do Fiverr and Upwork ruin the business?

A: Unfortunately you have programs like the PPH, the Fiverr and the Upwork that whilst they serve the needs of the person trying to get more work, ultimately they do more damage to an industry because when you only set it on a price and price alone, people will over promise and under deliver. It’s going to happen. I think it’s a crying shame that there are some great, don’t get me wrong, there are some really great freelancers on there that earn their living and it’s surprising how many agencies are on there as well. But when you’re shopping by price and price alone, I want to be on page one, I can guarantee it and you just think, well, that’s bullshit straight away.

A: Whilst I can say this to you, I’m the type of person, I lean back a little bit rather than have these conversations with people because I could just spend all day replying back to these forums and platforms and saying, “Well, that’s bullshit. There’s no way that’s going to work. You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Because you just know, unfortunately, these are the people that are giving our industry a bad name. But likewise, every other industry probably has them as well.

C: I used to have a fight with a few of these guys online and on LinkedIn and stuff like that because I went through a phase where it really pissed me off. I would start riots on LinkedIn calling out bullshit but I think what that does is puts a target on your back and what Brad Burton said is, you can’t buy time back and it’s just a complete farce. Worry about what you’re doing and your time rather than wasting time with these bullshitters, although it’s fun sometimes. Sometimes I do still go on and do the odd troll here and there.

A: To be fair, we live in a day and age now where everybody’s got a voice and they’re pretty wise to how they can use it. And thank God for things like reviews. So I think, naturally, if you’re full of shit, you get found out. Then you get weighed and measured and people will appropriately put the right information up about you. Yeah, sometimes they can be a bit emotional about it to start with because it is personal and it hurts, but ultimately, that sticks and you get a reputation.

A: And I think that’s, from my own perspective, that’s what I said, 30 years I’ve been plugging away at doing all this sort of work, marketing especially, seven years in SEO. It’s only the last couple of years I really wanted to build a digital footprint because I’d rather take my time, nurture that correctly for the next couple of decades than rush in there like everybody does and say, “Well I’ll an expert in this.”

A: I saw one the other day, right, and I screen grabbed it and the guy was advertising, he’s a PPC expert, that was his title, and he could tell you the winning techniques for 2020. I thought, wow, really, knowing how many changes happen on a month by month basis on Google ads? But this guy knows because he’s an expert. The sad thing is, the audience that is uneducated will see that and think, oh, possibly he does. Those are the people that need to be called out and literally burnt and roasted like witches on a stake, sooner rather than later, but I kind of think there’s enough online policing to do that anyway these days.

C: There’s online policing, there is to a certain degree, but this industry is not regulated. It’s a free for all in other ways as well but it’s fun, it’s fun. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

A: No of course not. Do some black hat SEO then, isn’t it?

C: That’s it.

A: You could just have, what was it? There’s a new one now isn’t it? Google have just come out with it, they’re doing fake profiles aren’t they? They’re creating fake profiles that are genuine avatars that you can use, and you just think, well that’s open to abuse. You just know how some people are going to go and use that. So, if I don’t succeed as me, you know what? I just become this alter ego. And then I just build a whole profile on that. The only time that it’s going to be adrift is when you actually see me in face to face, and then you put the image to the face and go, “Oh my God, it’s like being on a dating site.”

C: Yeah, being catfished. Probably some hot blonde alter ego, flirting with everyone and getting links and whatever. Sadly, Andrew, we are out of time. We’ve been waffling on for nearly an hour.

A: Wow, that’s fast.

C: It was fast and I think we could probably sit here talking for 10 hours chatting back and forth.

A: We will when we get a pub in front of us.

C: Yeah. Or you invite me down to your Meetup, one or the other. But for anyone who liked what you’ve got to say, potentially interested in your training or potentially interested in your client services, where is the best place for people to find you?

A: Wantseo.co.uk. You can find me on LinkedIn as well, that’s probably where my complete profile is. My mobile number’s on there as well because I’m an open networker. As soon as I meet people I put their names in, so I know who I’m talking to nine times out of 10 before I even pick up the phone so, I’m happy to advertise.

C: Not sure that’s a good idea.

A: Well there might come a time when I have a burner phone, but for the moment it works, it works.

C: I do appreciate you taking out the time to come on and share some useful insights and how things are working for you. And as I say, good luck with the Meetup. I’ve heard good things about it and it’s been running for a year, so if anyone in Swansea or surrounding areas is looking for somewhere to go, get along to the Meetup down in Swansea, Andrew’s running it. But as I say, thank you for now and hopefully we’ll get you on in the future.

A: Perfect. It’s been a pleasure, Craig, and I’ll see you soon.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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