How I Left My Job To Start A $30K/Month E-commerce SEO Agency

Published: September 7th, 2022
Jamie Irwin
Straight Up Search
from Northampton
started November 2020
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I'm Jamie Irwin and I'm the founder of Straight Up Search. In its most basic form, Straight Up Search is a full-service, bespoke SEO agency based in the UK but with clients all over the globe!

What makes Straight Up Search different is that we focus exclusively on SEO – it’s our bread and butter and our primary offering as a team. This means that our clients receive 100% of my attention (and the attention of the rest of my team), to improve their search rankings, which leads to better ROI from Google Search. Plus, because we only work with an exclusive number of clients at any one time, we can get to know their businesses inside-out; this knowledge forms the foundation upon which our tailored strategies are built. Our key focus from then on is to help clients increase their online visibility and reach their target audience.

We've been fortunate enough to work with some amazing retail businesses, mostly eCommerce companies but have also had success in several different industries from healthcare to fashion to food. Our customers are always our top priority and we strive to provide them with the best possible service.

Our sweet spot is working with companies who are willing to invest in long-term customer relationships, rather than thinking of their customers as one-time transactions. In our experience, this leads to happier B2C relationships and bigger profits for our clients! Some big wins in the past year have included securing PR mentions and high authority backlinks from huge publications, with worldwide interest, including, The Independent and Shopify!

In just over two years, Straight Up Search has become a leading provider of affiliate and SEO services, with a portfolio of 35 clients that generates average monthly revenue of $30,000. We attribute our success to our commitment to providing quality services and developing long-term relationships with our clients. Our team of experienced professionals provides a full range of services, from keyword research and link building to content creation and social media marketing. We also offer customized services that are tailored to the unique needs of each client.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

To rewind a bit, I was working as an SEO as part of a much larger SEO and marketing agency. I had never really set out to start a business but SUS was inevitably born out of my frustrations at this time and after being subsequently let go from this role as a result of the pandemic.

In my time as a β€˜big agency’ SEO, I felt like a number of things could have been done better if approached in a more focused and personalized way - rather than being simply touched upon as a small part of a much-generalized service.

I felt that I had enough industry knowledge and experience under my belt, as well as the drive and motivation to succeed as a small business owner to step out on my own (a very bold move at the time considering I had a young toddler to look after and another little one on the way!). But, I am a very determined person, passionate about helping others and giving businesses a boost where I can, and so, the SUS journey began.

Starting your own business can be a daunting task. It's important to have a clear idea of what you want your business to achieve, your main goals, and your objectives. Once you have a good understanding of your vision, you can start to put together a plan of action.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

As I said before, I was previously working in SEO and so had most of the knowledge I needed to get started from that experience. In my spare time, I also spent a good bit of time exploring affiliate marketing which gave me a deeper insight into that side of things.

I basically started by offering what I knew - pure SEO. I have to admit that we have sidetracked a bit since then to include other services such as guest posting and PR but ultimately, we are an SEO company. In fact, the team has a wide range of skills that they have been able to bring to the table, such as content creation and copywriting which have served to only increase the value of our offerings.

To get a website or page ranked on the first page or even first position on Google, you need to do a lot of on-page optimization (adding the right keyword density, title tags, meta descriptions, etc.), build high-quality links from other websites, and make sure your website is mobile-friendly. There's also a lot of competition. Every SEO agency out there is competing for the same top spots. So it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to succeed. Having these additional, unique skills that we can offer clients in such a personalized way is our USP.

I will be the first to admit that it has taken a lot of trial and error, but I feel now we are in a great position to scale and grow with the core services we are providing; on and off-page SEO, technical SEO, and content optimization. It’s been a challenge but a highly rewarding one at the end of the day.

Describe the process of launching the business.

To begin with, it was just me. It wasn't until about six months in, when I decided it was time to expand to take some pressure off myself when I took on Straight Up Search's first employee. Then, in the new year following that, the team expanded pretty quickly as a result of rapid success.

In the early days of my business, my first five customers were all local businesses that I was able to land on small retainers. This gave me the foundation I needed to start building my business and soon evolved into eCommerce-based and SaaS clients. Our SEO Strategies are very popular with eCommerce clients but really, SEO can be applied to any industry. The important thing is to have a clear understanding of your goals and objectives and then tailor an SEO strategy that will help you achieve those. For example, if you're looking to increase brand awareness or drive traffic to your website, then you'll need to focus on different aspects of SEO than if you're trying to increase sales or conversion rates. But regardless of your ultimate goal, SEO can be a powerful tool for achieving it.

I knew from the beginning that the core mission of the company would be to help businesses find their ideal customers online and do so in a way that would continue to benefit them for years to come - even after utilizing our services. I believe very strongly in establishing lifelong partnerships with clients to achieve mutually beneficial results. We are not at all like the big agencies who secure dodgy links for short-term results purely for the purpose of making quick and easy money. We are a long-term solution for a dynamic challenge.

As with any small business, we have experienced a few ups and downs since getting started (especially the first year, establishing the business during a global pandemic!). However, more than a year in, we are a six strong team with a collection of fantastic clients and exceptionally high client retention rates.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

There are a few key things that have worked for us in attracting customers. In general, we've been extremely lucky that many of our clients have reached out to us for help, rather than us having to go in search of them. However, recently we've been focusing our outreach efforts more on eCommerce businesses. We never want to be that company spamming you with emails or cold-calling, so we encourage those in need of our services to get in touch with us through our promotional efforts on social media channels and via contacts such as the local Chamber of Commerce. So far, it's been working out great and we've been able to connect with a lot of businesses that need our help!

As for retention, first, we make sure to offer comprehensive and customized SEO services. No two businesses are alike, so it’s important that we tailor our services to each individual client’s needs. Second, we offer affordable prices without sacrificing quality or results. We understand that SEO can be a costly investment, especially in today’s economy, so we work very closely with our clients to find the most cost-effective solutions possible.

Finally, we maintain consistent communication with our clients throughout every project. We keep them updated on our progress, listen to their feedback, and adjust the course as needed. It might seem obvious, but genuinely caring about your customers and wanting them to succeed is the best way we have found to maintain positive client relationships.

At the onset, we found that clients really appreciated the level of personal service and attention to detail that we offer. We make it a point to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques in this field, and this has ultimately helped us secure a position as one of the top SEO companies in the UK.

The only way to guarantee failure is if you quit. So many entrepreneurs give up too soon because they never learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. Try to surround yourself with supportive people. Building a strong network of family, friends, and colleagues can make a big difference when setting up and running your business so make this a priority.

By being able to continuously demonstrate our expertise and establish trust over time, our clients tend to be more willing to let us branch out and experiment with new strategies. This freedom has undeniably helped us grow as a business and I am extremely grateful to those that allow us these liberties to do what we do best. We're proud to have a strong track record of success!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We are currently reviewing our business development goals for the next few years and I am really looking forward to continuing the expansion of our team. We have been involved recently in a Kickstarter scheme to train up some new talent and I am optimistic that interest and demand for SEO will continue to grow in the coming years.

The future of SEO is absolutely fascinating. With the ever-changing trends and algorithms, it's hard to predict exactly what will happen, but we can make some educated guesses. For one thing, SEO will continue to evolve as a marketing tool and move away from being solely about keywords and ranking. There will be a greater shift towards quality content that is relevant and engaging, which SEO professionals will have to learn to produce - I am proud to say we are a step ahead on this one! Social media marketing will also play a larger role in SEO, as search engines continue to factor in social signals when determining rankings. In general, the future of SEO looks bright and full of possibilities!

As you can see from the graph below, you don’t have to look far to see the positive impact of SEO. This is taken from a case study highlighting some successful results for one of our long-term clients. With rising costs and economic uncertainty we hope that businesses like this one are able to better recognise the value of organic channels and begin to utilise companies like ourselves to achieve higher numbers of organic traffic - SEO is the future of marketing!


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have learned more than I ever thought possible over the past year. First (and this was a tough one for me), don't try to do everything yourself! It's impossible to be an expert in all aspects of SEO, so focus on the areas that you are familiar with and outsource the rest, either to team members that you trust or to experts in that particular area.

Second, and what I tell my clients all the time - be patient. SEO results don't happen overnight, so be prepared to put in some hard work and wait for the results to start flooding in. Trust is a huge part of this process, so be proactive in seizing opportunities and confident in your skills and success will follow.

More specifically to our offerings, I've learned that it's important to focus on high-quality content. This not only helps improve your website's SEO ranking, but also helps keep your visitors engaged and coming back for more. Quality content is key to a successful online presence. Finally, and perhaps the most important thing I've learned is to never stop learning. SEO is an ever-evolving field, and the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to keep up with the latest changes and trends.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

At Straight Up Search, we use a whole host of data-driven SEO analytical tools to inform our decision-making. This includes industry-leading platforms like Ahrefs, SERPRobot, SurferSEO, Majestic, Mangools, HARO and Google Analytics. We believe that data should drive all SEO decisions, which is why we invest approximately $2,500 per month in tools and platform access.

This allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the latest trends and changes in the SEO landscape so that we can ensure our clients are always ahead of the curve.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

If you're looking for some good books on entrepreneurship, I highly recommend the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Both of these books contain a wealth of information on how to be successful in business.

The "4 Hour Work Week" is all about finding creative ways to optimize your time and get the most out of your workday. "Rich Dad Poor Dad" is a great book for anyone who wants to learn more about money management and investing. It's full of practical advice that can help you build wealth and achieve financial success. If you're serious about becoming an entrepreneur, these are two books that are definitely worth reading.

In addition to these, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I highly recommend both of these books to anyone looking for ways to improve their lives. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn how to be more effective in their personal and professional lives. The book covers a wide range of topics, including time management, goal setting, and effective communication. "Think and Grow Rich" is another great book that covers a variety of topics related to success. In particular, the book focuses on the power of positive thinking and how it can help you achieve your goals. Both of these books have helped me to improve my life, and I am confident that they can help you too.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Starting your own business can be a daunting task. It's important to have a clear idea of what you want your business to achieve, your main goals, and objectives. Once you have a good understanding of your vision, you can start to put together a plan of action.

From my own experience, the best bit of advice I can offer is just to go for it. Start small if you need to, but don't be afraid to take the plunge and go after your dream. Of course, it takes more than just courage to succeed as an entrepreneur - you need a good business plan, a strong vision, and the determination to see things through. But if you have those qualities, then my best advice is simply to go for it. Don't let anything hold you back from being your own boss.

Running a business may feel like a lot of responsibility but don't be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes them, and it's how we learn and grow. entrepreneurs especially need to embrace this, as the risks we take are often where we see our greatest results. And it’s cliche, but don’t give up - the only way to guarantee failure is if you quit. So many entrepreneurs give up too soon because they never learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. If you find yourself struggling with this then try to surround yourself with supportive people. Building a strong network of family, friends, and colleagues can make a big difference when setting up and running your business so make this a priority.

Finally, don't forget to have fun! Yes, running a business can be stressful at times, but it shouldn't feel like a chore. If you're not enjoying yourself, something is wrong.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

At the moment, we're not actively advertising any specific positions, but we always welcome enthusiastic and talented members to our team. We believe that a strong team is a key to our success, so if you think you would be a good fit for our company, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can find more information about Straight Up Search on our website or social media channels. We are hoping to develop these channels towards the end of this year with even more content so make sure to give us a follow and keep an eye on those!