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A year in the deep end of digital

The State of Digital 2015 Summer Series continues today, giving young talent in digital marketing a chance to shine in front of our audience. Today, Rhydian Ball from Marketing Signals tells us what he learned from being thrown in at the deep end.

A year in the deep end of digital has taught me how to stay afloat in the SERPs

I’ve been working at Marketing Signals for little over a year. During this time I’ve learnt a lot about digital, marketing and business in general. My naivety surrounding advertising campaigns has been subdued. I now know it’s not a world of John Lewis ads and brainstorming sessions and more of a game of cat and mouse with Google. This post has come from my reflection on the past year and highlights some of the home truths about working in digital.

I spent three years studying Advertising and Brand management at Manchester Metropolitan University and it wasn’t until my final year that I had the opportunity to choose a digital marketing module. The module was a great introduction to doing business online and got me thinking about all the different ways that businesses could market themselves online. There was also an SEO competition to see who could get their blog ranked number one for the course’s search term. The module was fun and interesting but I had no idea about the crazy world of digital I was about to experience…

Thrown in at the deep end

As a fresh faced grad in the summer of 2014 I was full of ideas of how to get websites to number one and it was mainly around content marketing and keywords. I had no experience or knowledge of links, Google local, penguin, panda, on page, off page… I could go on forever. I was thrown in at the deep end and picked up a number of skills along the way.

Being in the SEO deep end conducting a daily battle with Google has been a real eye opener, I’ve seen success and I’ve seen failure and that is the beauty of the SEO game. SEO isn’t marketing, it’s a science and I think that’s what can be hard to grasp. You can teach and be taught all the theory in the world, but by the time that theory has been written down its out of date.

Marketing Signals have a varied client list from full scale eCommerce websites to caterers and local builders. Fortunately this has meant that I’ve been able to have hands on experience with a number of different projects. Some of my fellow graduates have not been so fortunate and I have realised that not everyone in this industry knows what I do as I have lived SEO at all levels, from strategy right through to implementation.

Marketing Signals Ethos

The Marketing Signals ethos has always been honest SEO, we don’t sell clients an unachievable dream, and we don’t indulge in practices we don’t agree with. As a result, I have always been taught to read beyond the hype. When you’re working with clients who don’t have a million pound a year SEO budget you need to take a few risks. During my time in the deep end I have seen increases in visibility whilst walking close to the edge. These tactics have worked particularly well on a local level.

Being thrown in and facing the reality of SEO has exposed me to the risk in building business within ecosystems beyond our control. Sometime’s it’s hard to explain to a client why their rankings aren’t going up as quickly as they’d like. It’s even harder to explain why they have suddenly dropped due to an unexpected algorithm update. Convincing clients to hand over their hard earned cash for us to embark on a plan that should work can sometimes be difficult, but the business benefits of a strengthening a client’s SEO usually outweigh the risks. I have learnt that this is all a big game and some things work and some things don’t, what works now and in a year will be completely different.

My first year in digital has been fun and interesting and as a graduate having the opportunity to get stuck in and face the challenges of SEO head on has been invaluable. I would recommend any graduate to consider a smaller digital agency or in-house team, as you will learn a lot quicker by having to be more hands on. In my interview I was told “you won’t be in charge of a spreadsheet here” and I think that is an important thing for graduates to consider. Whilst the name of bigger agencies will draw you in you need to think about how much you will actually learn, to be successful you will need to be useful, to be useful you will need skills and to get skills you will need to learn.

About The Author

RhydianRhydian Ball has been working at Marketing Signals for just over a year after graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University.



This post was written by an author who is not a regular contributor to State of Digital. See all the other regular State of Digital authors here. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of State of Digital.