In 2019 I was left jobless, and financially pretty messed up, to say the least (because of a lot of bad decisions on my behalf).
I was at my absolute wit's end.
SEO didn't just give me a second chance, but it put me on a journey and in a vehicle that my 7-year-old self would have never even in my wildest dream imagined. This is the undramatic story of how I found SEO, an insight into my past, and my 3 biggest failures and lessons from entrepreneurship.
This is a brutally honest story, so beyond SEO if you find any of this in any way inspirational or aligned with your story feel free to reach out and share your experiences. I would love to hear about them.
Before I get into the story, I want to share with you a bit about my past as this will provide context to my SEO journey.
I felt by recording this video and being open about my past would have multiple benefits, both for me and for those who have supported me for a very long time. This is why I decided to record this video and write this article about my past, my learnings and how I found SEO.
The reason why I have opened up and advocated for transparency is not just to portray a positive image of myself or try and convince my readers about my work or whatever I do, but much more to serve as a wholesome experience and personal analysis of my life, so I can reflect, grow, and provide more value.
Overall, my experience of being open about my past has helped me heal, build stronger relationships, learn from my mistakes, foster empathy and understanding, and overcome shame and stigma.
We live in the era of machine learning, "AI" large language models, and billions of ML parameters. Everything is so defined and predictable.
How I found SEO is probably the most unpredictable thing that ever happened to me in my life.
I was born in 1993 and grew up in an extreme religious group, which has extreme principles of separation from all that was outside of the church. (This so-called "religion", goes to all lengths to separate the "members" from all external influences, at all costs.)
I wasn't allowed access to the internet, initially, we didn't have mobile phones, computer games, and absolutely zero access to TV.
As a kid, I enjoyed riding my bike around the neighborhood, playing with my brothers and sisters and always enjoyed building things with Lego or Wood. I also loved the outdoors, fishing, water, and bonfires were always a highlight!
I had a normal upbringing other than my total disconnection from the real world and enjoyed my younger years.
Shortly after I was 9 years old, my family embarked on an adventure of moving overseas.
Destination: deepest, darkest South America.
In October 2002 I moved with family from England (ole blighty) to Argentina, for religious purposes.
The first few weeks for me as a 9-year-old energetic kid were quite the adventure, but soon it went from novelty to challenging.
Learning a completely new language, new culture, new everything. It wasn't easy but it definitely served me well and later in my life these experiences would be foundational for overcoming challenges and invariably moving forward.
The challenges of growing up as a 10-year-old in the darkest depths of Argentina range from being ridiculed in class because I didn't know how to say I needed to use the bathroom to having people chant intimating things about the Falkland Island dispute (which in Argentina is a very sensitive topic).
Not to mention Maradona, Football, and The Queen. Argentina is a beautiful country and anyone that knows me to know, knows how much I love it today, but back then it wasn't a bed of roses. By a long shot.
As I grew up into a teenager and continued my studies, I had a desire for access to technology.
In my video (link) I mention that I was in the "Desert" as this is what it felt like, everyone had access to video games, social networks, and technology, and I was totally isolated from this reality.
It felt like being in a bubble.
When I was 15 my Dad and Mum acquired their first cellphone (which was supplied and monitored by the "church"). Even though there was no internet, this was a breakthrough.
This was my first touch point with technology and I was fascinated.
The following year we got access at our School to computers and I took up IT Lessons with much vigor.
Little did I know that I would be doing SEO Coaching and handling complex SEO projects for a living 10 years later.
The sense of liberty, opportunity, and scope that the internet gave me at 16 was inexplicable.
This changed my perspective forever. With the internet, the sense of equality and reach just skyrocketed.
As much bad as the internet can or has represented, I am still a firm believer that there is proportionally so much good. Connecting, community building, and the opportunities for businesses to reach online organic visibility are endless.
As I finished secondary school and went on with my tertiary studies I built my first website when I was 19 years old.
The website flopped like many of the websites I have built. But the experience was unique and life-changing.
1 year later I was commissioned to build a website for the business I was working for.
The website which was an online furniture store, was the catalyst to How I found SEO.
It was a hot summers afternoon and we were working in a stuffy office, trying to improve some of the content on the website before we published it online. I was in new business development and helping with the sales team's initiatives. My task was to get this website launched as soon as possible so "more people could click on the links in our emails" (pure irony)
I remember asking one of the designers "How do we reach people who don't know us, or aren't aware of our website?" He looked at me kind of weird.
Bear in mind, that 95% of our marketing in those days was direct mail, email blasts, trade shows, cold calling, and referrals.
The designer looked at me and said "Well I know there is this thing called SEO which means you rank your website on the internet and more people can find you"
I remember spending the next few months of that summer researching, implementing, testing, and working on ranking this website so we can reach more and more people.
This was 2014, things were very different back then than they are now.
This was my first interaction with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and from then it became a hobby for me that I was fascinated with.
During these years, I was admitted to an online SEO WordPress Group, where I met some of the pioneers of SEO, I found many answers here and also a lot of pointers to understanding the power of search, search engines, and user intent.
During my late teens and early twenties, I spent a lot of time, money, and resources on fruitless pursuits of satisfaction. I also struggled with anxiety related to my religious upbringing and frustration with my existing job (which is also a whole other story).
After many ups and downs in my early 20's when I was 24 I decided to leave the big city (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and head back to my smaller home town which is in the South of Argentina and try to rebuild myself.
2 weeks after I arrived, I lost my job.
So 5 years later from finding SEO as a hobby, I was left jobless and desperate.
I remember sitting at my small homemade MDF desk in my tiny flat and began planning out my options.
As you may have imagined I turned to SEO.
I choose Upwork and TopTal, along with my LinkedIn profile, and started applying for as many SEO jobs and projects as I came across.
I applied for thousands of projects. I remember having a checklist where I would block time and apply for 50 projects per day. I remember running out of projects online and turning to LinkedIn.
My only desire was to book out my schedule with enough work to feed my dog (literally :D) and be able to pay my rent which at that time I was renting friends flat until I managed to find something more stable.
In November 2019 I turned to a very close friend of mine and asked him if he would help me pay my rent. He helped me, but I will never forget the feeling of desperation and vulnerability.
By the end of 2019, I had managed to book out nearly 40 hours of my week with SEO work.
I would take anything, literally anything:
"Optimize this page"
"Improve these meta descriptions"
"Research these keywords"
"Set up this, set up that"
"We need a competitive analysis done"
"Build an SEO strategy"
"We need a backlink audit"
"How can we increase our DA"
"Audit this website"
"Improve our rankings"
The requests went on and on and before i knew it I had built myself a positive reputation on Upwork and other marketplaces.
Time flew by, and I went on to work for a selection of businesses which all served me as experience and learning opportunities.
Today I help businesses achieve Organic Visibility through SEO Coaching and Training, I also head up an SEO Masterclass and own a performance YouTube Ads Management agency, called Yugo Media which is a whole other story!
From all my experiences I am humbled by the support from people around me, my clients, vendors, and partners.
I am appreciative and wouldn't be here without them.
My journey is only just beginning and I look forward to whatever the future has in mind.
My SEO journey from 2015 to 2023 (which is the present day I am writing this article) has been filled with pitfalls and many learnings. This is the list of Fails and Lessons from my journey.
This failure of understanding organic visibility is closely related to my SEO story and how I built my first website.
Without visibility, there is no value.
People can only value what they can visualize or see. In the first few websites I ever built I totally messed up the #1 goal of any SEO Strategy which is: visibility.
I did not build the websites with visibility in mind.
This led to me finding SEO, understanding keyword volume, technical structure, content authority, rankings, positions, and the importance of traffic.
Getting the right eyeballs on your content is the goal.
You will often hear people talk about hiring the right people for the right places (this is underrated)
Since I had close to ZERO financial resources in late 2019 and then the pandemic, I was extremely cautious about building a team and growing my delivery.
One of the biggest failures early on in my SEO journey was working with people that I did not feel were aligned with my vision or goals.
Although this happens to most business leaders or entrepreneurs, I found that not expressing this or being open about my feelings regarding a certain position or project would lead to more anxiety and burnout.
Don't overlook situations. When something isn't okay, reach out, be honest, and be empathetic, but communicate it. When you build a team even if they are not client-facing, be honest about the relationship and make sure you have the right people in the right seats.
Today I have an extremely small team in my SEO Coaching business and a single-figure team in Yugo Media. I aim to keep it this way, as my business needs align with my personal goals, and my hiring should align with it too.
If you hire, communicate.
People need to know what you feel.
People who respect their employees will respect their vendors and partners too.
I realized over the past few years that when I would sit down and work with a client or a project and noticed that there was a clear failure to show respect it would always rub off onto others and evidently the project or engagement.
There is NEVER an iota of nobility in disrespect.
I failed to partner with individuals that would not be respectful to their own businesses, employees, or partners. This every single time ended poorly. As I developed the habit of looking out for people who were respectful and empathetic I found that the relationships, trust, and engagement grew.
Don't allow yourself, your team, or your business to be disrespected.
Show respect and be respected.
This is a bonus learning that I have only just come to grips with over the past few years.
Many business leaders and books talk about the importance of giving your all to something at any cost.
I will have to disagree with the "any cost" part.
Anything of value comes at a cost, but the quantitative cost of what you want to achieve must be measured.
I believe that commitment and perseverance are absolutely key to achieving anything. In my opinion, my career and my business are not the entirety of my life. As I develop (this is a work in progress) the ability to be aware of my context and invest back into myself I realize that balance is a skill that is a rare possession.
We live in a very transactional world, and working extremely hard to achieve something of value is key. I have worked multiple 70, 80, or even 90-hour weeks. I understood this was part of my journey and I needed to achieve something specific to unlock something else.
But I knew that I would limit myself to doing this, as this was the time that I needed to get the job done.
I am obsessed with my skill set and my work, but I daily remind myself of my purpose, the importance of balance, and my goals.
Discover balance, take care of the smaller things, people you love, habits that enrich you, and most importantly discover the inner objective of how your life overlaps with your business.
The fine line of balance is a treasure and I cannot claim to have found it entirely, but if for a small fraction of time you can enjoy some balance, make the memorable experience of balance a goal.
Sometimes I feel my journey has been a blur, everything seems to happen so fast! So many things have happened over the past 4 years, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I have been shown, the businesses I have been able to work with and help, and most importantly showing true value.