I was struggling to come up with a blog post today, mainly because I have spent a lot of time doing non-SEO things in the past few weeks for obvious reasons. If you are reading this in the future, search for “COVID-19” and you will know what I mean.Old SEO man

For some reason, an idea popped into my head about what happened in, around, and after the dotcom bubble collapse in 2001-2002, after 9/11, and after what I didn’t know was called ‘The Great Recession’ of 2007-2009. I started my first SEO agency (well, just me, in my pajamas, and a Pot Noodle – like now, come to think of it!) just after 9/11, got through 2007-2009 unscathed, and I am sure that I (and we) will get through this downturn, too – albeit a very different type of recession/period of time.

So, less of the doom and gloom – here’s some of my favourite memories of being an SEO, working with great people, and doing something for so long that I would do for free if I had to.

Around 2001

I (easily) read over 5,000 articles about SEO from 2001-2002. I am not exaggerating in the slightest. I became obsessive. I soon realised that only about 10% of articles were of good value – but I had to read them all to understand which were the articles that were simply wrong, useless, or just stocking fillers. It was one of my favourite life lessons – that most of what you read about a subject matter is absolute pants. Understanding WHY the poor articles are poor is key to success in any subject matter.

Around 2002

A very early client of mine was an old guy in Stoke that owned two second-hand motorhomes and wanted to hire them out. About 12-months later, after making an absolute fortune on Glastonbury he was easily the most successful motorhome hiring company in the country, with a fleet of 40 NEW motorhome vehicles to hire. I stopped working with him after he questioned an invoice for £400, despite the hundreds of thousands that I had made him. He was a bit of a crook you see – and a few years after I stopped working with him, during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he overbooked his motorhomes by 200%, and ripped so many football fans off, ruining their entire tournaments, as they had no means of getting there. He got his comeuppance. You cannot make bad people good, I have found.

Another early SEO client of mine was something to be very proud of. A language teacher who had just left his teaching role wanted to become a successful translation services company online. He had £300 to spend. Not £300 per month, but £300, full stop. He also gave me a box of Maltesers, but that’s another story. Cut to a year later, and this guy listened to every word that I said. He followed me to the letter like no other client has ever done since. He became the number one ranked company for ‘translation’, and ‘translation services’ on Google, MSN (yep), and Yahoo. He sold his business eventually, and I lost touch, but that was a very satisfying client because he had zero money, and went on to great things.

Around 2006

I worked for six months in New York, helping a very early Google-owned YouTube in terms of showing them how I would SEO videos along with five other key SEOs of the time. That was a nice job, although pretty boring in a hotel for six months, as Alan Partridge and Jose Mourinho will tell you.

Around 2007

I was the ‘global head of online’ for Regus, and met the company that was #1 for “SEO” nationally at the time (Just Search). I really liked the energy of the people I met, and although they were rough around the edges, I decided to give them a shot, and gave them a HUGE client in Regus. Long story short, corporate life wasn’t my cup of tea – it was far too easy, laid back, and I was surrounded by sycophants that would do nothing to upset the apple cart – my idea of death. So I jumped ship to work for Just Search for about 50% of the salary that I had been on.

I was at Just Search for only nine months after a fallout with staff members who were protected by the owners at the time…but in that time, they went from 19 staff to a LOT more staff, and a LOT greater revenue, and sold out to a Swedish company that I became the Global CTO for – for just one day, until I resigned. Let’s just say that there is no coincidence that my short time there included average order values increasing by over 3x, a brand new sales product that became by far the most valuable thing we sold (and probably the reason for the sale), and monthly sales targets moving from £80k per month to £330k per month on the day I left.

And there’s more – a LOT more…

I’ve realised that I could do several posts on this subject, so I am going to leave it there, so that I have more posts to write about this subject in the future. I am sure that I have missed out so many things, and all of these things lead up to only 2007.

James Welch

James is a digital industry veteran, and has worked various roles from SEO, head of research, to director level. He is a content nerd, and loves nothing more than demanding that evermore content is added to client sites - as well as the Embryo blog!