How Do I Start an SEO Business?
Ever wondered how successful SEO businesses were born? We’ve gathered thirteen unique origin stories from founders, owners, and other SEO professionals. From starting with volunteering to gaining insights from industry legends, dive into these insightful narratives that reveal the diverse pathways to starting an SEO business.
- Start with Volunteering
- Transfer Essential Product Skills
- Code Your Own Website
- Learn HTML and Search Rules
- Experiment with Different Approaches
- Find a Mentor
- Create Websites Before Needing to Rank
- Transform a Negative Experience
- Seek Free Videos and Articles
- Follow Your Passion
- Make Connections and Industry Friends
- Explore Blogging Opportunities
- Gain Insights from Industry Legends
Start with Volunteering
In early 2019, I was made redundant by my then employer. It came as a rude shock, and I felt rejected and upset for months. In hindsight, it was the tipping point that led me to pursue entrepreneurship. I bounced back by upskilling in digital marketing, and as an analytical person, I was especially drawn to the field of search engine optimization. I immersed myself in learning all I could and volunteered my time for pro-bono SEO projects.
Soon after, I landed a job at an agency. After learning the ropes, I helped multiple clients achieve stellar results and grow their online brand via SEO. At this point, I felt confident in my ability to start a business. In 2020, just on the cusp of the COVID pandemic, I launched my SEO business. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life, and I haven’t looked back since.
Transfer Essential Product Skills
Prior to working in SEO, I ran a landscaping company. In this business, I learned that customers not only want to see a good end product, they also want to be involved in the process. This is insight I still use today with my SEO company. While working in landscaping, I also learned how to promote my own business on the internet, which I now use in helping my clients.
I have provided SEO services since the late 1990s and traded under my own name for many years, until I established Evolve Digital. Evolve Digital is the result of my desire to present my services in a more organized way, but also to ensure that clients know they are dealing with a professional firm.
My past experiences in landscaping allowed me to learn about packaging, selling, and delivering a product. SEO is very much the same as what we did there, but the product isn’t something you can touch. However, it’s still something that is needed by clients and it’s better delivered in a well-crafted package.
Code Your Own Website
I had worked at an agency for four years. They had me managing 40 clients, and I was doing just about everything: managing content creation, coding, site edits, graphic design, link outreach, budgeting, reporting, etc. The only thing the agency was really providing was clients for me to work on.
I thought, “If I can just fill in the gap and create my own inbound funnel, I could really be running an SEO business myself.” So, I designed, wrote, and coded my own website. I then created a Google Business Profile and conducted link-building.
It took about three months to get some inbound leads, but the first three inbound leads ended up being my first three clients. Those clients helped me quit my agency job. They’re still clients with me now, and the referrals they send have helped me grow my client base.
Learn HTML and Search Rules
My SEO story started a long time ago, in fact, even predating Google by a year.
I was working for an engineering company, and they asked me to make them a website—this was back in the day when having a website for your company was not that common.
So, I learned HTML, produced a site I was reasonably happy with, and fired up the best search engine of the day, Lycos.co.uk. I was astonished to find that the site ranked in position 6 for the company name.
This started my fascination with organic search; I had to know why it didn’t rank number 1 and, more importantly, how to get it there!
I knew absolutely nothing about SEO (as did almost everybody else in the world at that time, circa 1997), but I had to learn.
Fast forward through a lot of freelancing, working with web design companies and agencies, helping to form an agency in the UK before moving to the US. I started STOLBER Digital Marketing Agency in January 2019.
It’s been a fun ride and is a great industry to work in.
Experiment with Different Approaches
Back in 2016, in a marketplace, I started as a freelance writer in the digital marketing industry. Though I was successful, I didn’t like the deadlines. Inspired by the potential of digital marketing, I started my own blogs and niche websites but failed.
I bounced back from the initial setback and restarted with new strategies, avoiding past mistakes. It worked and turned the tables for me. I saw results on my sites and started offering content services to clients.
Initially, I experimented with different approaches, but eventually, I scaled my business by incorporating teams, workflows, and technology. This helped my small business become an agency that assists companies with partner marketing and content strategy to level up.
Find a Mentor
After witnessing a mentor’s success in the SEO industry and being guided by their expertise, I was inspired to start my own SEO business. Their proven strategies and mentorship motivated me to follow in their footsteps and establish a business of my own.
With their guidance, I gained valuable insights into the industry, learned best practices, and built a strong network. Their mentorship provided me with the confidence and knowledge to offer effective SEO services to clients, ultimately shaping the foundation of my SEO business.
Create Websites Before Needing to Rank
As a digital marketing associate for an agency specializing in SEO, I realized after a few years that I could use my skills to start a meaningful project of my own. This led me to build a music school through digital marketing. With master’s degrees in music, my wife and I built a website, optimized it, built links, did PR, and so forth. After 11 months, we ranked #1 on Google for piano lesson terms in a major city.
Subsequently, I launched a search marketing service for music schools, and have worked with dozens of schools.
Currently, I also work with doctors, contractors, consultants, travel agencies, and more through my private SEO business. I have 27 clients at present. My practice has grown by starting lead-gen websites long before I needed them to rank (letting it happen over time) and networking with talented developers—they always have SEO referrals.
Transform a Negative Experience
I got swindled on a freelance platform.
It’s true that nobody loves being made a fool of. However, some unscrupulous guy managed to swindle me out of my hard-earned dollars on a freelance platform a few years back. I paid him to run a full-fledged SEO campaign to boost my kid’s store business, but he ended up getting me flagged by Google.
My fury from that experience pushed me into learning about SEO myself and understanding how it’s done. It’s safe to say I didn’t quite get things right the first few months, but later I found courses from Brian Dean and Neil Patel, and that changed the game for me.
After working on my store, I assisted a few other folks I had met on XenForum—a Shopify forum community—and they all appreciated me with a token. After those experiences, I thought, “Why not? If I can help a few folks, why not many more?”
And that was the birth of RankWisely.
Seek Free Videos and Articles
Nowadays, you do not have to spend money if you want to learn any skill. The same went for me when I started my SEO business. You can learn a lot, if not all the basics, through free videos and articles online. It takes time, effort, and a bit of luck to rank high on search engines.
I started with learning the basics like on-page, off-page, and technical SEO, and went into the full depth of each topic. While continuing my theoretical knowledge, I was doing the practical simultaneously. Step-by-step guides are available on YouTube. It is expected from an SEO specialist to have adequate knowledge of content creation, coding, graphic designing, etc.
If you are new, then start with on-page (including technical) and then go ahead with off-page. All this self-effort and gathered knowledge helped me boost my confidence to take live projects and get the exposure. And to be fair, you can never learn SEO completely; you will have to keep learning with your experience, new articles, blogs, etc.
Follow Your Passion
My SEO business began with a passion for digital marketing and a determination to help businesses thrive online. Recognizing the growing importance of search engines, I immersed myself in learning SEO techniques. Starting small, I offered free services to friends and family, delivering impressive results. Word-of-mouth referrals expanded my client base, prompting me to formalize my business. I created a website showcasing my expertise and success stories. Social media and networking played a vital role, allowing me to connect with potential clients.
By staying updated on industry trends and consistently delivering value, my business gained credibility. Hard work, dedication, and a commitment to client success laid the foundation for my SEO venture’s remarkable growth.
Make Connections and Industry Friends
It feels impossible to sum up my SEO origin story in 1,000 characters, but I’ll try my best. SEO came to me accidentally; I graduated college with a BA in Journalism, just in time for the second internet boom and the declaration that print was dead.
Luckily, during my time in school, I worked on the college newspaper and website, learning content development skills while writing album reviews (CDs, if you remember those). I began farming myself out on freelancing sites, which back then consisted mostly of Craig’s List posts. Between starting with small businesses (a group of auto dealerships, local landscapers), plus time spent working at ad agencies as part of flourishing Earned Media teams, I was able to build up a nice portfolio of clients.
But more importantly, I made connections and friends with other SEO experts and content writers. It’s with these relationships that I have truly been able to grow my knowledge of SEO and advance in my career.
Explore Blogging Opportunities
In the second year of engineering college (2017), blogging began on the free Blogger platform.
As a college student, ways to make money online were being explored and blogging was identified as one of these ways. Out of curiosity, articles related to college studies were published. Interestingly, the blog started getting visits from different countries, which was fascinating.
Then, more about blogging and SEO was learned. After 2 years of part-time hustle in SEO and content writing, SEO was taken as a full-time role and since then, there has been no looking back.
Currently, an SEO team is being built and in this time period, work has been done with 40+ clients all across the world.
Gain Insights from Industry Legends
Amid a civil war in Libya, I transitioned from a stable role as a telecom engineer with Huawei to the uncertainty of my hometown. This tumultuous phase ignited a revelation: the perils of relying solely on traditional employment.
As I navigated this crossroads, my quest for online opportunities began. Initially lured by the allure of programming, I quickly discerned its pitfalls—it felt like another salaried trap. But then, a glimmer of potential: monetizing websites. How? SEO was the answer.
My passion ignited, I delved deep, encountering the transformative “Authority Hacker Site System” by industry legends, Gael and Mark. Gael’s insights, coupled with valuable lessons from Ahrefs, sculpted my prowess in SEO. From the ashes of adversity, I emerged as an SEO expert, now commanding my own websites and aiding clients in their digital journeys.
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