Like most people who fell into the SEO industry, it's never anything that happens on purpose.
You're just wandering around your usual field one day, decide to go explore the bushy outskirts, then discover this whole new field next door.
It's like finding Narnia. Everyone's just fallen through the back of a wardrobe.
For me, that wardrobe was a very weird place. I think the characters were more eccentric in the wardrobe than they were on the other side of it.
I'd discovered AdSense, and started making Blogger sites to grab a chunk of that sweet Google money. This was a full-time gig for me. I was invited to a large IRC community of other internet recluses who were also building up their networks of monetised websites. I quickly became an OPER of this IRC server, probably due to the fact that during this period I lived and breathed this world. These were my people. A number of us spent all our waking hours together day in, day out —chatting, collaborating, sharing insights— in our respective homes, curtains closed, regardless of timezone, because day/night cycles don't matter when you live on the internet.
This was before we all carried our internet friends around in our pockets too. These days, it's a whole lot easier to balance your internet life with your "real life". You can go do your 9 to 5 or socialise with local friends, whilst simultaneously messaging people on the other side of the world from a device that never leaves your hand.
Naturally, when the objective is to build as much traffic as you can to your website, you realise pretty quickly that you need to be ranking in Google. So you start researching and strategising how you can go about doing just that. This is where I fell in love with SEO.
It started off with posting all this crap tailored to the sorts of high-revenue ads you want to attract on the page. Then SEO was a game-changer, because it wasn't just about optimising the content and keywords based on the ads you wanted to appear, but also based on how you wanted to be found on Google by the audience while also pushing them onto the ads. And then you go one step further: why don't I just use analytics to find and produce the type of content that the audience is looking for?
And then, it's like...
That's when I "went legit" (as I announced to my IRC community) and started to get into e-commerce, integrating it into one of my existing websites that was already doing well in terms of organic search and commercial search demand. Imagine not having to rely on ad revenue, and being able to sell stuff to people. Like a real business.
Trouble was I didn't really know what a "real business" looked like. Hence the number of mistakes I made from the very beginning. I didn't have faith in the concept of dropshipping, so I invested a bunch of my own money into buying various stock wholesale from China (mainly via DHgate, which often took months to arrive) and shipping products from my bedroom instead. This allowed me to customise that delivery process, putting little goodies into each package (like stickers or a keyring) to sweeten my customers' reviews. I remember a particularly sour customer one day demanded to speak to the person in charge of the business, and I peered over the top of my monitor at the countless boxes stacked around my messy bedroom, and thought, "This isn't a real business; this is a joke".
I didn't know what I was doing. I just liked SEO.
In 2013, I joined a digital agency called Silkstream. This is where I learnt how to be a "professional". Not just some kid goofing around on the internet trying to get rich.
I had real, respectable clients with real, respectable businesses. The stakes were higher. These weren't churn-and-burn websites.
This is where I matured professionally, alongside the SEO industry as well as Google's own search ranking algorithms. I took my foundational knowledge and refactored it into long-term, ethical SEO strategies that put customers first in alignment with actual business objectives.
My new community was the Moz community, where I participated so much that I gradually earned myself three Moz t-shirts and a Rogerbot! 🤖❤️
I was at Silkstream for five years before moving to NZ, and continue to be grateful for all the opportunity that was afforded to me there.
So that's how I got here. I've done a lot of growing up since my IRC days nearly a decade ago. Since I moved permanently to New Zealand in December 2018, I've been exploring the fields adjacent once more, familiarising myself with the digital landscapes of Wellington. I've learnt a lot from one adventure to the next and now I'm keen to re-focus on providing SEO in Wellington, applying all this new-found local knowledge I've gained over the past few months.