From a Regular Web Developer to Pro at SEO: The Journey | RankWatch Blog

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From a Regular Web Developer to Pro at SEO: The Journey

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Tell us something about yourself and SEO Rocket.

My name’s Darren Rogers, founding partner & CEO of SEO Rocket. I was with an agency as a web developer in 1999 when I began studying SEO from industry articles and forums. I noticed that most other agencies could benefit from having access to someone with my SEO/PPC experience, so I left the agency I worked for in 2003 and began to freelance for other agencies until I decided to start my own agency in 2008.

SEO Rocket is a Google Partner agency serving small to mid-sized, US businesses with SEO, PPC, Social Media, Google Analytics and RocketReviews – our customer reviews tool for local businesses.

Was it difficult owning an agency with no prior business experience? During which year of the business did your agency start earning profits?

I think it is safe to say that owning any business, especially bootstrapping your first, is always much more challenging than anyone might think it will be. However, I can’t imagine being as fulfilled doing anything else. Having started my journey at a time when SEO wasn’t widely known or available meant I was responsible for figuring out how to explain to a business owner what SEO is and how it’s valuable to their business, do the work, and report my results to them. In addition, I had to advise the agency owners on pricing, contracts, the industry tools needed and train and manage others in my department. That experience was invaluable for preparing me to start my own agency. I’ve also benefited greatly from having family members who have owned businesses and from having employees who’ve been decision-makers and partners at other agencies. They offer me excellent support and feedback whenever I ask for it. In my opinion, much like with SEO, having a passion to learn, being open to new ideas, and willing to do a bit of calculated experimentation has been quite useful.

I was already profitable as a freelancer doing contract work for a few other agencies at the time I helped found SEO Rocket. I also benefited
from having a very lucrative affiliate marketing relationship that helped provide the financial launching pad for my agency. I just kept building from what I had in place at the time.

After being a professional developer for a web development company for years, tell us about your journey of becoming a pro in SEO and digital marketing. Was it an easy shift?

I found it to be a fairly easy transition for me to make. At that time, we were building websites from scratch. I understood enough about web servers, web design, and web development to apply that to what I was learning about SEO. SEO-friendly design and on-going optimization all made perfect sense to me as I was learning from some quality online resources. I received a lot of support building up the SEO Department, and in a matter of months, Tom Veltri was brought onboard to help me with the growth. Years later, I was fortunate enough to be able to have Tom join us here at SEO Rocket. Early on, the tools we had available to us were quite crude for the job, especially when compared to what we have now. However, there also was less quality SEO competition, and not as many options available for digital marketing, so getting the SEO basics right could quickly be very rewarding for our clients.

How did you attract clients to SEO Rocket with almost no market experience?.

By the time I co-founded SEO Rocket, many business owners no longer needed to be introduced to the concept of SEO, or why it matters to them. They were just looking for someone who could best help them with their SEO and PPC. As a freelancer, I had connections from my agency days that introduced me to new opportunities with other agencies. Once I insisted on SEO Rocket working directly with clients, we attracted a lot of word-of-mouth referrals from other agencies and from our clients.

Everybody knows about what you have achieved, I would like to talk about some major failure stories and how they impacted your professional life?

In the early days of SEO Rocket, I wanted us to focus on being the go-to outsource resource for other agencies. Many agencies insisted that SEO Rocket remain hidden “behind-the-curtain” with their clients and I tried to accommodate them. However, even with the education, support, and materials that we provided to those agencies, I found that not being able to communicate directly with clients to be terribly inefficient and problematic. Despite our efforts, I became increasingly concerned with SEO Rocket being greatly undervalued and becoming perceived simply as “order takers”. We still work with agencies, but I believe now more than ever, working closely with decision-makers is necessary in order to produce the best outcomes.

You have talked about being undervalued and called “order-takers”, what were the steps you took to overcome this major setback?

Well, we weren’t actually being called “order-takers”. That’s simply how I describe the way SEO Rocket was being treated when we weren’t allowed to work directly with clients. We overcame this once I insisted that SEO Rocket have direct contact with clients before and during any service engagement. That made all the difference for SEO Rocket and our clients. We qualify all of our prospects and interview them to understand their business, their expectations, needs, budget, etc. as well as to make sure that our services are a good fit for their objectives. From there we put together and present to them a custom solution that we can implement, and explain to them how we will to work together to get the best results from their plan. By providing this level of transparency, we establish trust and buy-in from our clients and find that we are then regarded as a valuable member of their team. I find this is a great approach for establishing long-lasting client relationships.

What makes your business/company so unique among its competitors?

There’s no substitute for the years of experience and knowledge that we have here on our team, but I would also point out that the approach we take with our clients is just as important to our successes. We work closely with each client as their trusted advisor to understand their business, evaluate strengths and weaknesses in key areas of their digital marketing, and present a plan that we can implement with them that will best serve their needs.

We love working with WordPress sites although we do have experience working with nearly all major CMS platforms.

Tell us about when you were seven or eight. Who/what did you want to be? Is it different from what you are doing now?

That would have been in the mid-70’s, so I couldn’t imagine doing this at that time. But I’m detail-oriented, I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, and have a strong, independent DIY streak. My parents had some successful entrepreneurial ventures, so I remember thinking it’d be great to invent something cool or have my own company one day doing something I would find interesting. In that sense, I’d say I have pretty much accomplished that.

Sahil Kakkar
Sahil is the CEO and Founder of RankWatch - a platform that helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape.Sahil likes making creative products that help in the automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter.