Update: On Celebrating 5 Years In Business And Growing To $40K/Month

Published: January 29th, 2023
Matt Tomkin
Tao Digital Marke...
from Bolton, England, United Kingdom
started May 2017
Discover what tools Matt recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hey, I’m Matt Tomkin and I started Tao Digital Marketing in 2017. We’ve been featured on Starter Story previously - you can read our original interview here!

As a reminder, we’re a search marketing agency based in Bolton, UK, specializing in SEO. The areas we mainly focus on within this are content marketing, email marketing, video, and socials.

We’re a small team of six and each team member has their own area oecialty.


Our main target audience is B2B companies within the North West of England, but we do have some clients from across the globe, including South Africa most recently. We have clients in the insurance sector, legal sector, recruitment, finance, and many more.

We’ve achieved some great results for our clients this year. We’re proud of our work with The Insolvency Experts in particular - through one ‘content cluster’ featuring a huge amount of blogs just focusing on company liquidation, we increased their leads by 384% (94 to 460) in just six months. You can read the full case study here.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

We’ve stabilized the business this year - we purposely decided not to grow the team further and refined the type of clients that we work with. We want to work with people who have a better understanding of SEO and the amount of work that is involved in getting results.

Since summer we’ve been focused on our projects. We have opened a new media company, Vofio, under which we own our reviews site Simply Electricals and our advice site Fishkeepers Handbook. Using our own skill set of how to build and grow a site, we’ve been focusing on driving more sustainable revenue through affiliate marketing and display ads.

We have pivoted away from some of our service offerings, with digital PR being the main one. There are multiple reasons for this - clients may not have a large enough retainer for a large PR campaign, the multiple huge news stories that have dominated the UK media landscape this year, more people realizing the value of PR and so journalists’ inboxes are overflowing, etc. Instead, the team is upskilling in other areas, such as email marketing and social media, which we’re seeing decent success with so far.

We celebrated our fifth birthday in May, which was a nice milestone to reach. As part of our celebrations, I ran through upcoming plans with the team and we ordered a very nice charcuterie board for our office - it went down a treat!


We’ve supported three work-experience students this year, one of which was Summer (pictured below) from our local college, Bolton College. She finished her six-month twice-a-week placement with us in May. We’re also working with another student from the college at the moment and one who is the son of a friend of mine who owns a software company. It’s great to give back and provide young people with an insight into the digital world.


We also held three of our quarterly Business Over Beers events at our favorite local brewery, Northern Monkey. This event is open to fellow business leaders from Bolton and beyond in order ttoch up and relate to each other over the common challenges of owning a business. It’s not a networking event, far from it, and all money goes towards the venue. We’re looking forward to holding the next one in early February 2023.

I’d say our top piece of PR this year was our case study that was featured on Moz about our work with Insolvency Experts. One factor that stood out in the feedback we had from Moz’s readers is that they were appreciative of how transparent we are with our analytics and in particular, sharing our revenue prediction model that we have started to use for some clients.


For this client in particular I created a forecasting spreadsheet in order ttohe resource that was needed to push the client as high as possible in the rankings for ‘company liquidation’. This spreadsheet broke down a huge list of keywords alongside monthly search volume, the average click-through rate for positions 1-10 on the SERP, the domain authority of competitors who are currently ranking for these keywords, and the average conversion rate on the site at the moment.

This worked well and was a major driving factor for the client to invest in the company liquidation hub. You can read more about this in full detail here.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Trying to stay motivated has been very tough from a burnout perspective. Since our Operations Manager, Catherine, started with us full-time earlier this year, she’s helped day-to-day operations become more streamlined. This has meant there has gradually become less on my shoulders than there was 12 months ago, and this will only carry on improving.

Over the past five years, the business has been built on me being out and networking, but with me having three kids and getting older it’s not so easy these days. My goal is to cut back on this and make sure we’re networking with the right type of potential clients who understand what we do.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

If you have a decent mix of experience levels, your team can then learn from each other rather than much of it falling on you.

Not all decisions are easy - this year has been tough with team members moving on. Our biggest client was bought by a private equity fund from the US, and with the US media creating fears of a recession for the last six months, they pulled funding in anticipation of it. This was a huge turning point for me and I realized we really needed to get going with our own projecso we used the time we would have spent on the client on our own websitThe aim is for that to duplicate the revenue we made from the client eventually.

The biggest lesson I have learned in the last twelve months is to be transparent about where the team is going and its progression. Catherine and I have introduced ‘skills matrixes’ which we run through with each employee individually in their monthly 121s. This is a spreadsheet with a variety of skill sets or ‘soft skills’ that we’d like the team to develop to get to the next level. The feedback from the team on this has been great and I really bel’re achieving better as a result.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

In the upcoming year, we’re going to be focusing on our projects and becoming a media company, as well as upskilling the team in newer areas and with more personal responsibility. We’ve got a really strong team in place and things are now in motion to make processes more streamlined, which in turn means I have more time to go out and network with the clients we really wanrk with.

Another aim of ours is to attract external investment in our content website, or any online business site that we look to buy, potentially even eCommerce. We’d like to continue growing our online business assets.

Longer term I may look to exit at some point, but that’s a long time away!

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport. As you can tell by the title, the book focuses on getting deep work done and briefly touches on the pomodoro tPomodoro, which involves 25 minutes of deep work followed by a five-minute break, then repeat.

It explores building good work habits and how, through one hour of deep work, you can get much more done than a full working day that is interrupted by distractions. Email in particular is the bane of my life, and I’m constantly distracted by it. It’s something I’m aiming to look more into solving next year.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

A big lesson I learned this year, and I’d advise struggling entrepreneurs to do the same, is to make sure you have a good mix of employees who have a lot of experience and those who are just starting out. I think we went too much in the way of hiring less experienced employees to grow and train them, but it takes a huge amount of time and investment.

If you have a decent mix of experience levels, your team can then learn from each other rather than much of it falling on you. The cost to hire may be more, but it is definitely worth the investment.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can read our blogs on our website and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.