Are you a little confused? I know what you are thinking. Why is he writing a blog post listing his personal SEO story in the form of 42 tweets instead of writing it as a story?
I’m not going to lie to you.
I originally wrote this as a long Twitter thread to post on my own Mark A Preston twitter account. I went ahead and added all 42 tweets in a very long twitter thread and what happened? Yup, you guessed it… Twitter went ahead and blocked all my tweets from the tenth tweet so nobody could see them.
Because of this, and as I do think a little differently than most people in the digital marketing industry, I decided to put a spin on the situation and add it here on my own personal blog.
Because these series of tweets are about me (Mark A Preston) personally and it is my own personal story of how I started in the SEO industry, what I’ve done since 2001 and the good and bad experiences I have had along my journey, where better place to publish it than on my own personal website.
Actually, being restricted to just 280 characters has actually meant that my SEO story is very much to the point and highlights the key moments in my career in this industry instead of me waffling on about an SEO conversation I had 20 years ago.
Anyway, let’s get stuck into my story. If after reading it you feel like there is a great conversation to be had between us both, feel free to get in touch.
So, it begins…
If you would like to:
> interview me
> get me to speak at your event or conference
> have a chat about me becoming your SEO advisor
> get me to come into your office to train your team
> help you to solve your SEO problems
Read this 42 long twitter thread about my SEO story...
Started in the digital marketing industry back in 2001.
Over a 3 year period, I built many lead generation websites (about 120 of them) in many different industries.
I'd test many online marketing ideas to drive organic growth via the various search engines, and sell the leads.
I then turned all my lead gen sites into affiliate generating machines as I couldn't keep up with the lead management and filtering process. Going down the affiliate route made me around £10K per month.
I then decided to sell all my 120+ sites as business opportunities.
With the money from the sale of my sites, I setup my first digital marketing agency (offering web design and online marketing) as many people kept asking me if I could do for them what I had done for my own sites, but for their businesses.
Out of the blue I got a phone call...
That phone call landed me a £350K per year contract, so I got myself an office and some staff.
Suddenly everything hit me and I realised just what was involved in employing people. A big sense of responsibility came over me...
Everything was going great and I setup a second office so I had an office in Scotland and one in England, both fully staffed.
Business was good, all bills were getting paid, all staff were paid well, and surplus money was in the bank.
Then I had a brain wave...
A brain wave...
I realised that I had something good going on and after a chat with a franchise consultant, I digressed and setup a white label web design and marketing franchise.
Agencies would keep their own brand and my team would provide all support, training, and services.
I grew my franchise business into the largest white label web design and SEO marketing company in the UK. I had franchisees from the top of Scotland right down to Cornwall. Think there were around 50 franchisees within a couple of years all selling to local businesses...
In 2008/2009 when the first big recession hit and most businesses stopped spending, I promised my staff/team and all my franchisees that I would do everything in my power to keep them all in a job.
Let's just say that it was a very stressful year...
I basically put everything I had both in the business and personally on the line to save all jobs.
One of my employees though did a deal behind my back with my biggest client who was basically keeping things ticking over through the start of the recession.
I lost that client...
Although we were providing a great service to that client, as their contract was due for renewal, they decided to go with my employee because he was charging 1/3 of what I was.
BTW, 6 month later, that client called me to say he had lost £500K in revenue since going with him...
By trying my hardest to save everyone's job through the recession instead of just cutting my losses at the start, I lost:
> my house
> my new car
> all my savings
I was flat broke, and I had to make everyone redundant in the long run.
I went through a deep mental breakdown...
With the support of my amazing wife, I picked myself back up and started to offer SEO services to companies as a freelancer.
Just me, working from my bedroom.
From past sales experience, generating the work was never an issue. I was constantly at full capacity...
My mental health got back to full power and I started to want more than just being a freelancer.
I realised that I was turning work away all the time and my personal income could ever only grow as large as the time I had to sell.
So, I launched an agency 100% dedicated to SEO.
I built up a client base and tried my hand at outsourcing my clients work being the middle-man.
Problem was, I just could not find an outsource partner who had the same level of SEO depth as I would go to for each of my freelance clients.
There was only one thing for it...
Yes, you guest it.
I got another office, but this time, I employed one experienced SEO manager and took on trainee SEOs and would dedicate my time into training them. I would oversee everything.
The business leads got to a stage that I could not filter or convert them myself...
I decided to employee a sales person who would filter all our incoming leads, jump on sales calls and convert them.
Yet another big mistake.
Let's just say that we didn't see eye-to-eye when it came to SEO sales tactics, so we parted ways.
This left me with a dilemma...
How was I going to scale the business by having to do all the lead filtering, sales, team training along with all the normal duties of running a business!
I stopped taking on direct clients and dedicated my agency to providing white label SEO services to established agencies...
Suddenly, one single sales call meant a mountain of new projects.
I had basically built up an unpaid sales force via my white label agency partners.
The in-house team scales and the trainees started to climb the ladder.
We were working on some of the biggest brands around...
However nobody ever knew we even existed as it was a white label service. We had some big agencies on our books who had an array of well-known brands as clients.
We would do all the hard work and the agency would get all the credit.
Then one day...
I saw a photo of a director of one of our agency partners holding up an award at a prestigious global search awards for a campaign that I was personally responsible for achieving the results.
I felt like the biggest unknown SEO specialist in the industry, so I sold up and...
Got myself a 3 month gig as Head of SEO in an agency.
Why only 3-months? I didn't want to tie myself down to a full-time job, so I said I would go in structure the SEO processes, train their team, and help them to recruit a great head of SEO to replace me.
It flew by...
I then launch myself personally as a brand providing a freelance SEO service.
I confirmed just three local established businesses as clients. Charged them each £500 per day and went into their offices to work one-day per week.
I was making decent money for a 3-day week...
Whilst freelancing, I got a call from a design agency owner asking if I could come in for 2-days to train his designers on basic SEO so they can design websites with SEO in mind.
As I was only working a 3-day week, I had 2 days spare anyway so went in and totally LOVED it...
That was the start of my SEO training service.
I started to go into more agencies as well as established companies to provide bespoke tailed SEO training. I travelled all over the UK doing this.
Due to high demand, I slowly moved over towards the SEO training side full-time.
One day I was in London doing a training day for a business networking group and one person was the owner of a book publishing company.
At the end of the day, he asked me if I would be interested in writing a book on behalf of his publishing house.
I already had...
My own monthly column in a business newspaper as well as a few articles published on high profile industry websites, so I knew I could already write.
Instead of writing about SEO techniques which would become outdated, I decided to write about starting and growing an SEO agency.
I didn't write a war-and-piece book about how great I was.
I wrote a book about my own experiences running and building an agency, both the good and the bad.
I gave solid lead generation and sales techniques that I perfected.
Then, it was launched 'The Business Side of SEO'...
The moment I received my book through the post and flicked through the pages has to be my proudest personal moment in my whole career.
Because when I was at school, I was in remedial English. I wasn't even good enough for the bottom set of English.
Grammarly is amazing...
After my book launched, I got a call from my book publisher to say that a corporate CEO he knows wants me to go down to London to do a talk in front of around 700 people on digital marketing.
When he told me that I would get paid £1,200, I said, OK, no problem.
At this stage I had only done a few small speaking gigs at local events but nothing on a large stage in front of a big audience.
I created my slides and walked on stage totally crapping myself. As soon as I started to speak though, I got right into and smashed the gig...
Knowing the money I could make speaking at corporate events, what else was I going to do but...
Yes, I created an SEO Speaker page on my website and got it ranked.
This page together with all my professional speaker contacts got me a string of speaking gigs around the world.
My proudest moment speaking at a corporate gig was when I was sharing the stage with...
> A TV presenter
> A famous comedian
> A TV programme host
> An Olympic gold medallist
> And a host of top digital folk
I was sat in the green room thinking, WTF am I doing here???
I was happily plodding along traveling around the world doing both training and speaking gigs then something hit me...
I wasn't too far off the big 50!
Although training and speaking was generating me a good living and life, it wasn't enough to base a retirement plan on...
That very day I set myself a personal goal to...
Semi-retire in July 2025...
I then worked backwards and listed down everything I needed to do in order to make my personal goal happen.
I then looked at the list and something had to change...
One day I met the CEO of a large group of businesses in the UK who was on a massive growth plan. We got talking and the next thing I knew, I became their Head of SEO and given full control of the complete digital estate from an SEO perspective...
As part of the deal as Head of SEO, I was given a vested interest which would allow me to achieve my personal goal.
The best thing was... The CEO loves the entrepreneurial spirit in people so I was given the freedom to explore personal business ventures outside of the group...
I decided to launch a local monthly meetup #digitalmeetuppreston to get people together and chat about the industry.
I did some PR and got in 3 local press publications.
At my launch event, I had 150 sign-ups and amazingly 124 of them turned up. It fizzled out after 6 months.
Running my own businesses for 20 years, I would go crazy if all I had was a job, so to feel that sense of ownership, I...
2. own a boutique Wix SEO agency.
3. am an SEO advisor to companies in return for shares.
Besides those, I setup Talk About Digital, sharing the Truth About Digital.
With my past experience in the franchise industry, I plan to turn this into a digital marketing event franchise who's mission it is to help make a real difference to our industry...
To summarise, I've:
> Done lead generation & affiliate marketing
> Built a couple of agencies
> Run a franchise
> Been freelance
> Wrote a book
> Trained tons of folk
> Spoken on big stages
> Worked as Head of SEO in both agency and in-house
> Run events
> Become an SEO advisor
Well, that's about it.
This is the main chunks of my past 21 years in this industry but there are many sub-stories I haven't included as this thread would stretch to about 500 tweets.
If you think my past experience has been interesting, feel free to get in touch...
I forgot to mention, I have achieved all this whilst...
> bringing up two Autistic Son's.
> bringing up a Daughter who has a severe heart condition who needs 50 tablets per week just to keep her alive.
> being there for my wife who is type 1 diabetic and suffers from long term mental health issues.
This is me, Mark A Preston. My personal SEO story. Fully open, honest and transparent. I am who I am and my experiences throughout the years has enabled me to become the person I am today.
I don't admit to know everything as we are all learning all the time in the SEO industry but one thing is for sure...
I am, Mark A Preston - SEO Advisor, Trainer & Speaker.