Ethical SEO

Mark Blackhurst started SEO Next from a bedroom in 2009 and now turns over £1 million.

How did you start the company?

I founded the company with my brother in 2009. We wanted to create an SEO business with an ethical approach; you see a lot of fly-by-night SEO companies that try and entice businesses into contracts whereas we don’t force customers into this. Also, other companies in this space can be lazy and offer SEO in a box while we deliver commercially-minded business strategy as well.

How did you fund it and get business?

We bootstrapped with just £4,000 of our own money and didn’t need any more funding. Running the business from home helped keep costs down and phones, laptops and bills didn’t use up too many funds.

To get the word out, we used to go to breakfast meetings, phoned up companies, sent out emails. We would look through companies on Google and pick a sector, say underfloor heating, and contact the businesses that had great websites but were stuck low down in Google. A lot of our business has been through referrals and we also eventually used PR and social media.

What were the challenges?

When we were a smaller company without much money, it can be a challenge to keep on top of account management since we’re always updating the client database. Managing cash flow and collecting money from people can be an issue, but we try to work with the best companies so people do tend to pay us on time.

What’s next for the company?

At the moment we’re looking to hire more sales and account management staff and it’s all about carefully selecting the right people with the energy to drive the company on; everyone we hire has a unique skill. My brother and I are quite sporty people and that brings a good team bond. When times are hard if you’ve got a team that sticks together that helps. The brand we have has decent legs now and we look forward to taking that brand further.

Related: Sole Trader Case Study: Running a SEO business

Alan Dobie

Anya Feeney

Alan was assistant editor at Vitesse Media Plc (previous owner of smallbusiness.co.uk) before moving on to a content producer role at Reed Business Information. He has over 17 years of experience in the...

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