Welcome to the SEO Careers interview series. This week, we’re happy to welcome Adam Smith, Agency Owner at Niche Website Builders, which is a full scale agency for affiliate/content website owners. He’s based in the UK & has over 8 years experience in SEO .
You can connect directly with Adam on LinkedIn here.
If you are interested in being featured in the SEO careers interview series, please submit your name and contact details on our contact page.
Let’s jump in:
Hi! We’re so glad to feature you on SEOjobs.com. Please introduce yourself to our site’s readers.
My name is Adam Smith and I am from the UK. I’ve been working in digital marketing for around 8 years. Initially I worked agency side, then left to run my own portfolio of content/affiliate sites and then set up my own agency to help other content/affiliate site owners.
Please share with us your current SEO role and for what company you work for.
I am the co-founder of Niche Website Builders. We are a full scale agency for affiliate/content website owners. We provide ‘done for you’ website builds, content creation, link building and aged domain sourcing. Essentially it’s the agency I wished existed when I was looking for help running and scaling my own portfolio of affiliate/content sites.
The agency is 3 years old in December 2022 and we now have over 150 full time employees and create over 5,000,000 words of content each month.
My primary role is more “on the business” and not “in the business” – this involves direction and strategy, new services and managing the senior team.
Can you share with us how you entered the SEO industry?
I have a degree in International Business Management. After university my first role was in car rental via a graduate program – so nothing to do with marketing or SEO.
I always had an interest in computers and digital marketing – I even created some websites for friends and family. I had tried a number of different ways to make money online including print on demand, running a FB group and monetizing it via CPA offers etc.
My first agency role was for a digital advertising network. I was on the ‘advertising operations’ side of things – mainly managing the Google AdExchange account. With no experience it was an entry level position and the salary was around £20,000.
I then moved to a more traditional agency that focused on the higher education space in the UK. I started as a digital strategist and then moved to senior strategist. I would work with different universities on their paid and SEO strategy – this included both short term campaigns (around things such as Clearing) and long term campaigns (around things such as brand positioning). When I left the business the salary was around £38,000.
While working at the agency I bought a website from Empire Flippers for $10,000. I worked on it throughout the evening and weekends and sold it 8 months later for $59,000. It was more than I made in a whole year so I quit and bought another site, making it my fulltime job and income.
I then started Niche Website Builders, but still run my own portfolio of sites too.
How did you start to learn SEO? What are you currently doing to keep up with the ever changing SEO industry?
I learned initially though on-the-job training. I am a big fan of both YouTube videos and podcasts. These are my top 12:
- Niche Website Builders (Obvs)
- Matt Diggity
- Income School
- Authority Hacker
- Ron Stefanski
- Above Average Blogger
- Buying Online Businesses
- Minted Empire
- Niche Safari
- Niche Pursuits
- Doug Cunnington
- WP Eagle
My learning massively accelerated when I started working on my own projects. Having to run everything from strategy, to content creation, to link building, to optimization means you get to experience everything. Failing quickly and learning what works and what doesn’t work.
Can you share what factors are most important to you in an SEO career and why? When do you know it’s time for a new job? Do these same factors play a role?
- Salary (base/bonus)
- Stock options
- Benefits – healthcare, PTO, travel
- Remote work
It was a totally different world when I worked for an agency, but I think there are several things that are important. We recently did a staff survey at Niche Website Builders and these are some of the things that we flagged as important:
- Incentives and benefits package – this includes things such as goal based incentives, mental health support, days off for birthday, additional holidays based on tenure team building days etc.
- Flexibility hours – when performance is measured on an outcome i.e daily word count, you can be flexible and allow team members to work their own hours assuming the weekly target is met. The whole team is remote, and I think this is important too.
- Training and up-skilling – Good incentives and benefits aren’t enough – people want to learn and progress. We have just introduced a training schedule where each team gets training each month and a clear route to progression.
- Communication – We use Slack to communicate and also have monthly team meetings – one month virtual and one month in-person. The first half of the day is company updates and the second half is team building.
You’ve had the great opportunity to both work for and own your own agency. What lessons (good/bad) did you take from your experience when starting your own agency?
There’s both good and bad points. Some good points are:
- You get to build and work with a team that you have built. This means that everyone there is working towards a common goal.
- You get to work with clients from start to finish and see how you are changing their lives / businesses.
- The upside is unlimited and growth is only capped by your imagination. We grew the agency to £5,000,000+ in 3 years.
Some bad points are:
- You will work more hours and harder than you ever did working for someone else. I remember the first 12 months we worked 12 hour days, 6 days per week. It’s easier now we have a management and senior management team, but I would still argue I work more hours than I did when I was ‘employed’.
- There’s a lot of pressure to keep everyone happy. As the business grows and you get more employees, it’s impossible to please everyone. Running things such as the staff survey has enabled us to concentrate on issues that the majority want fixed vs the minority.
- While you don’t have a ‘boss’, you’re clients are essentially your boss. That typically means you are only as good as your last campaign/results.
What recommendations would you give to someone who is looking to join the SEO industry and get their first full-time SEO position?
Start your own side project ASAP.
Around 12 months ago, Elena Dyulgerova applied for a job with Niche Website Builders with no formal experience or training in digital marketing. However, she was running her own side-project. A content site monetised with display adverts.
As a founder, that’s far more exciting and shows a willing and passion to learn.
She started as a link builder, progressed to link team manager and is now one of our Website Investing Specialists.
She recently shared her story on our YouTube channel – it’s an awesome listen as she shares her experience of failure and how it’s turned around – https://youtu.be/3BbbcSw44ac