SEO & Grow – DCU Alumni share their success story
SEO & Grow founders Peter O’Neill and Aidan Rooney give us an insight into their business and how it came about from their DCU days:
SEO & Grow is a Search Engine Marketing agency with a unique offering: we educate our clients and empower business owners.
Having worked both client-side and agency-side over the last number of years, we noticed a huge disconnect between a business’s needs and an agency’s offering. A lot of SEO agencies do their best to withhold as much information as possible from their clients. Through an agency’s lens, the less a client knows, the more that client can be charged. SEO & Grow serves to bridge the gap between a business’s needs, and an agency’s offering.
We work in both Organic & Paid Search for clients far-and-wide across all industries. Some of our current clients include a business insurance broker in Dublin, a luxury travel agent in Latin America, a software company in Donegal, a private tutoring agency in London and a cattle ranch in California.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? What did you study in DCU?
Myself & Aidan met while studying Marketing, Innovation & Technology in DCU. We became friends in first year and did a lot of group project work together.
When it came time to search for our year-long INTRA work placement after second year, we both sought out adventure – wanting to work abroad and challenge ourselves. After each reaching out to all of our long-lost cousins and relatives overseas on our quest for a work placement, we were put in touch with Conor McAteer, the Co-Founder of Peru Hop, an Irish-owned travel company that operate a hop-on, hop-off bus all along Peru’s south coast.
A few e-mail exchanges and Skype interviews later and we were on the plane to Peru’s capital, Lima, to start our year-long adventure in Latin America.
The pair of us headed up the Search Marketing Department at Peru Hop, and made some stellar gains whilst there, more than doubling Peru Hop’s Organic & Referral traffic, as well as more than doubling Bolivia Hop’s Organic & Referral traffic over our eleven-month tenure. We realised then that we had the talent to set up our own agency, but we knew nothing about how to run one.
Upon leaving South America, I spent a summer in London learning from one of the UK’s leading Freelance SEO Specialists in order to better understand the nuts & bolts of running an agency – and Aidan did the same in Dublin.
During our final year at DCU, we both worked part-time in SEO. We used our final year ‘High-Tech Entrepreneurship’ module to tease out our agency’s business model, conduct feasibility research and get feedback from our peers. This proved invaluable, and we were able to hit the ground running and launch SEO & Grow the day after our last DCU exam.
We haven’t looked back since!
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Without a doubt, living and working closely with Peru Hop’s Founders inspired us to set up SEO & Grow. The exposure we got and the results we achieved whilst working at that company instilled a sense of confidence in us that we could go it alone and be successful in doing so.
Launching your own business at a young age is surely pretty daunting. Why entrepreneurship rather than more “conventional” employment routes?
Firstly, I think we felt we were ready. We had a proven track record of results and had worked both client-side & agency-side with success.
Secondly, we felt we had nothing to lose. The worst case scenario for us was to stop operating as SEO & Grow and just get a “real” job.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The freedom to structure my own day and work remotely are two of the best things about my job. Aidan & I spent December 2018 travelling through India, which was amazing fun – and we’ve been living in London since the end of last year with no negative impact on new or current business. The rush of signing a contract with a new client or achieving results for them is amazing. And the fact that we work across different niches & industries day-to-day keeps our work interesting.
The worst thing about my job is having to wear so many hats in a given day, moving from a VAT return to a sales pitch, or a blog post to a tax issue. As a small company, it’s challenging to divide our time between working in the business and working on the business. Plus, there’s always the added uncertainty of next quarter’s revenue…
Do you have a business mentor/source of guidance in managing your own company?
Yes. As I mentioned earlier, I spent the summer of 2017 in London working with Drew Davies, a leading SEO Specialist. We still work with Drew today in an outsourcing relationship on some of his larger client accounts and his industry-specific advice has been a huge help to our success.
In our first year, we made a conscious effort to partner with some bigger agencies in order to upskill and learn from them. These relationships have made us better marketers.
Why a search-based marketing company rather than the broader field of digital marketing?
This was the area where our existing expertise and track record lay. And we felt there was a gap in the market in Dublin for a specialist Search agency.
What are your tips for anyone – maybe small business owners – looking to drive traffic to their website?
One of the easiest things you can do as a small business owner is have an up-to-date, optimised Google My Business listing, yet so many businesses overlook this. Ensure address, phone & opening hours details are correct, add photos, create posts, and most importantly – ask previous/existing customers for reviews!
Building links to your website can be hard, but there’s often plenty of link opportunities forgotten about. If your business partners with another on projects, why not ask them for a reciprocal link? If you sponsor a local sports team, see if they’ll link to your website. If there’s a relevant online directory, fill out your business details. If there’s an industry-specific publication, why not submit a guest blog post?
And if all else fails, send us an email – haha!
Looking to 2020 and beyond, what are the biggest emerging trends in search marketing that we should know about?
I think Zero-click searches is the one, all-encompassing trend that will impact SEO in 2020. Users are finding an answer to their query through Google’s instant answer boxes, without having to click through and visit an organic (or paid) listing. It means organic traffic, en masse, will begin to decline. Websites must start to optimise for these featured snippets.
What does the future hold for SEO & Grow?
Unlike a lot of our competition, we don’t want to be the biggest agency with the most clients. We want to be the best specialist agency, with the best results and the best paying clients.
Watch this space!
Find out more about BSc in Marketing Innovation Technology here.