064: Self-Taught SEO: Using Professional Setbacks to Inspire a Future in Freelance

C: Podcast

Pack your bags and join us as we head to Minnesota to speak with Nick LeRoy, freelance SEO consultant and owner of SEOjobs.com.  In today’s episode of the Digital Marketing Mentor Podcast, we’ll explore how Nick hit the ground running by learning SEO in his first job out of college. Having experienced several professional setbacks, he shares how he used this experience and leaned into mentors to propel him into entrepreneurship and a freelance career in SEO. We’ll hear about his passion project, SEOJobs.com, and his vision to revolutionize the SEO job market. 

Key Points + Topics

  • [1:03] Nick graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Computer Information Systems in 2008. His first job was as a web marketing coordinator. He didn’t know much about SEO, so he frequented his local Barnes and Noble to learn about it. Too broke to buy books, he’d spend hours reading titles like ‘SEO for Dummies.’ 
  • [5:44] Nick defines a mentor as someone who challenges a person’s thinking and provides guidance. Never having had an official mentor, Nick has learned from the leaders in SEO, such as Rand Fishkin, Aaron Wall, Wil Reynolds, and Jill Whalen. Through videos, message boards, forums, and social media, these indirect mentors have shared their knowledge with him. 
  • [8:50] The incredible amount of information and knowledge shared by SEO professionals is unlike any other industry. Nick likens it to ‘iron sharpening iron,’ meaning the SEO experts constantly learn, improve, and lift each other. 
  • [11:21] Nick says much of what he’s learned in his career can be boiled down to ‘test, try, measure, and repeat.’
  • [12:16] Nick currently offers monthly SEO advisory services, his version of mentoring others in the industry.  In this capacity, he enjoys challenging his mentees and constantly asking, ‘Why?’ He wants them to be intentional and understand their actions.
  • [16:53] Nick became a freelance SEO consultant after being released from his agency position during COVID-19. He welcomed the career pivot because he’d missed many family events due to his agency job.
  • [18:23] Freelancing has also allowed Nick to be ‘his true’ self, which often means brutally honest and direct. He must be able to tell them what’s not working from an SEO perspective. This approach helps him get the job done and done well.
  • [19:31] Nick says he’s ‘building a lifestyle business and is reluctant to miss any more family events due to work. He’s enjoying being able to dictate his work hours and his rates. He’s relearned the word ‘no.’
  • [25:11] Losing his job and jumping into the freelancing world forced him to check his ego. He was never as laser-focused and producing his best work as he was in his first year of freelancing. Ultimately, that experience brought him to where he is now.
  • [26:19] Though Nick has worked with a variety of clients, he currently primarily focuses on enterprise SEO. He enjoys working with larger companies to improve their rankings and functionality because they have the time and money to realize what SEO can produce.
  • [33:45] Seojobs.com, which Nick created in 2022 during the pandemic, has become a passion project for him. He’s always been an ardent supporter of connecting people in the SEO community and helping those who have fallen on hard times get back up. 
  • [36:55] Nick has no desire to compete against the giant employment websites such as Linkedin or Indeed. Instead, he wants to be the leader in posting the most comprehensive online catalog of SEO-centered jobs. 
  • [38:09] Nick addresses a part of the SEO industry that many people don’t discuss or understand: employment. If he hadn’t had firsthand experience losing his job not once but twice, Nick wouldn’t have been able to create seojobs.com. 
  • [41:49] Nick feels the top skills an SEO professional must have nowadays are passion and curiosity for the industry, an understanding of the industry’s ‘hard skills,’ and strong communication skills. If you can master these talents, you’ll automatically be in the top 10% of all SEOs.
  • [43:51] To stay up-to-date on industry trends and changes, Nick recommends reading the newsletter he regularly writes, ‘SEO for Lunch.’ He also stresses striking a balance between reading up on SEO news and getting out there and practicing it. Nothing can replace getting your hands dirty and learning new things about SEO.

Guest + Episode Links

Full Episode Transcript

Danny Gavin Host


Hello everyone, I’m Danny Gavin, founder of Optidge marketing professor and the host of the Digital Marketing Mentor. Now get ready to get human services to provide the enterprise-level solution to organic search needs. He offers SEO audits, seo advising and fractional SEO director services. Today, we’re going to talk about mentorship, as well as freelance SEO and the SEO job market. How are you, nick?

Nick Leroy Guest


I’m doing fantastic. Thank you so much for inviting me on, Danny.

Danny Gavin Host


All right, so let’s jump right in. Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Nick Leroy Guest


I am based in Minnesota. I’m in the Twin Cities for those that are familiar with St Paul, Minneapolis and if you drive about two hours north, there’s a little town called St Cloud and basically there is a college there, and then there’s all the businesses that support that particular college. So I went to St Cloud State University. I got a degree. They called it Business Computer Information Systems, which was actually just a fancy way to say MIS or Management Information Systems and I graduated at the perfect time that 2008, when we were going through that new, quote unquote recession and anyone who follows me online has definitely heard my story about C’s get you degrees, but they certainly don’t get you jobs, and especially in a market where they’re trying to take the cream of the crop and other people struggle a little bit more, including myself. But it brought me to SEO, which is where we’re at today.

Danny Gavin Host


Awesome. So what was your first job in SEO?

Nick Leroy Guest


So long story short is, I was I think it was called a web marketing coordinator is what they called it, and it was an individual that owned a web development shop and was sick of creating these amazing websites and then sending them out to SEO agencies to be optimized, if you will. So he didn’t know a whole lot about SEO, but understandably, now looking back, he didn’t want to pay a lot to be able to invest in this. So he found a hungry kid right out of college, and offered me $18 an hour. It was a contract position, no benefits and basically he told me nobody here knows SEO, but we want to pay you to learn on your own. So that was day one and I’ll be completely honest with you, Danny, I didn’t have a whole ton of money.


I remember going to Barnes Noble, which I know is already kind of dating me and I found a SEO for dummies book which is super impressive, and I didn’t have the money to necessarily buy it. So I sat in the corner and read before I started, but that was my intro into SEO. It was just kind of like any job that I could get. I had heard about SEO before. What I specifically had kind of heard was Black Hat versus White Hat, and that was the extent of my SEO knowledge. But I was hooked from day one.

Danny Gavin Host


And the craziest thing is, you know we’re talking about 2009. So the internet’s been around, you know, for like in its strength for like 10 years or so, but I remember that was kind of how you studied SEO, like I remember having books as well, right. So it’s crazy. You know my mom, she was a big blogger and she learned everything from this one book.

Nick Leroy Guest


I forgot the name, but yeah it’s a small agency and I remember going to them and being like okay, I understand I haven’t really proved myself as an SEO, but your entire website right now is Flash. And that’s what I learned in SEO 101 in my first week was like if you have a Flash website, Google can’t see you, so we have to change this. Otherwise there’s no purpose for me to even be here, and I remember that being the first thing. It was kind of like please don’t fire me.

Danny Gavin Host


Especially to a webshop, right? I mean, those Flash websites were so freaking cool, but yeah.

Nick Leroy Guest


They were amazing. It was all sorts of blinking and scrolling things. It was a cool website. I just remember reading something I think it would be like an Aaron Wall’s website SEO book or something like that told me day one or ran fish skin. It was like, oh, just not good. And I was like, okay, here we go, we’re going to start day one. And little did I know that 15 years later I’d still be having these types of difficult conversations with clients about what they can and cannot do for the sake of their organic traffic.

Danny Gavin Host


Amazing and I think another just crazy thing you mentioned. It is like you still have web shops today who don’t integrate SEO and have to send it out. So a lot has changed and a lot has gone better, but some of the same old stuff still exists.

Nick Leroy Guest


I’ve, literally, for 15 years, have used this analogy is just that there’s a way to build a website so it’s beautiful and good for users, and there’s another way to be able to build that exact same website so that’s beautiful, usable for users and search engines, and it seems like that’s a finite, really minute detail. But, as we know and everybody listening, that’s the difference between our job being easier and incredibly difficult, slash impossible.

Danny Gavin Host


So, Nick, how would you define a mentor?

Nick Leroy Guest


and incredibly, a difficult slash is impossible. So, Nick, how would you define a mentor? I think a mentor is anybody who really challenges the way that you think and just gives you guidance. I realize that’s a very simple and open-ended definition, but I truly think that those are the two qualities in my experience that really have been the most valuable over the years.

Danny Gavin Host


So, interestingly enough, when we asked you the question before, who are some of your most influential mentors, your response was you’ve never had an official mentor. But growing up in the SEO world in 2009, 10, 11, we have all these amazing people right: Rand Fishkin, Aaron Wall, Ray Hoffman, Jill Whalen, Bill Sebald, Will Reynolds and a million more. But those, you are the mentor. So how did they challenge you? How did they make you want to become better?

Nick Leroy Guest


Well, honestly, I think a lot of us still to this day, we have a lot of the pretender syndrome. We’re always afraid to do our work, to stand up, to raise our hands and just seeing other people being willing to share their knowledge sometimes correctly, sometimes maybe not, but having message boards and forums and social media to a certain extent Rand Fishkin was doing his whiteboard Fridays, I mean these were just all opportunities where it’s like we don’t. At the time we didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to centralize SEO documentation, case studies. So for me it’s just like for people to go out of their way and just share what they’re doing and document in any form and then try to promote it. That was just very encouraging for me. That was just very encouraging for me Because, again, my background at the time starting out, was I was one SEO within a room of about 10 web developers.


I kind of by default, was the smartest SEO, but in a world where I had no clue if I was any good or any bad. So all those individuals that you had mentioned and many more, were just ones that I kind of used as a benchmark of like did I think, the way that Jill did, or Bill made this comment and I disagree. But how do I check how I’m thinking about this? And to me that was just kind of the emphasis or the impetus for being curious about SEO, challenging the way that I do and getting other people’s feedback, because otherwise, if I turned all that off, it would have been really easy for me to just say and I hate this term I’m the SEO expert because there’s nobody here to call me out otherwise.

Danny Gavin Host


Now living in the world we do, the SEO or digital marketing world. This has become so normal people sharing and sometimes when you speak with other industries, they’re like what ‘s crazy? Why do you think about SEO or digital marketing that everyone is so open to sharing, giving case studies, letting people know how they do things? I mean just the information flow is just remarkable and it allows new people right in every generation every year to learn, get better and then to contribute further. So what’s different about us?

Nick Leroy Guest


It’s a really good question. I don’t know if I have the perfect answer for you, but I’ll kind of work with you here a little bit, in the sense of I think because none of us are true again, I use the word experts we don’t know for absolute certainty I think that we inherently want validation. So when we are doing client work, our own project work, just random tests, even though we are pulling our own data and building our own narratives, we want to throw it out, because I think we want to inherently get validation from our peers and people that we consider mentors. So I think we want to inherently get validation from our peers and people that we consider mentors. So I think that there’s opportunities for that to happen and get that feedback.


And I truly think that a lot of people in our industry view it as like iron sharpening, Because it’s not the people that come on and say I know everything, here’s what I’m doing. Because those people that aren’t open to being questioned or even answering questions, they’re not sharing their information, They’ve already decided that they’re the best and that they have nothing to learn, Whereas I think all the great content that we have, and even conversations as a whole, are truly open-ended of like, let me tell you what I think or what I know, and then help me question whether that’s right or push me to further develop that thought, that process, that strategy.

Danny Gavin Host


That’s a really good answer.

Nick Leroy Guest


Do you disagree, Danny?

Danny Gavin Host


No, I don’t disagree, I think I mean, I think it’s funny. I was while you were talking. I was thinking like, yeah, we’re all like this mob that is all against Google, right, they’re hiding the exact recipe and we’re just trying to figure it out. But yeah, I think there is that common thread that no one can actually be an expert in the true sense of the form. So therefore, we’re all working to get to this point and because we’re all working together, we’re lifting each other up at the same time. Now, not everyone is a good apple. There are some rotten eggs in our industry, but overall, I feel like the goodness shines through more often than not and people are out there to help each other and just get everyone to be better.

Nick Leroy Guest


Well, I think your point. There’s kind of two things that I felt like took me a long time to learn and arguably I’m still learning. One is just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s true. I mean the amount of things that I had done for my websites and client websites. Because I read it somewhere else, I just assumed that these individuals are smarter than me, and then they didn’t have that positive correlation.


A lot of what I have learned in my career is truly test, try, measure, repeat.


The other part is like I said, so one is just not trusting everything that you do. But I think the other thing, too, is maybe less so today, but when I started, at least, there was a lot of information paralysis. I spent so much time reading what other people are doing that I didn’t necessarily act on it, because it felt like I spent so much time reading what other people are doing that I didn’t necessarily act on it, because it felt like I was so overwhelmed with this person thinks this, but these five people argued that this person did that, it did that and it was like I get so caught up reading the message boards all day long that I wasn’t doing SEO, and I think that’s what social media is today. A lot of us, including myself. At times, I get caught into it. We’re on LinkedIn, we’re on Twitter or X, and we’d rather banter back and forth about SEO semantics instead of going into our sites and trying to do something just a little bit better.

Danny Gavin Host


So jumping into mentorship a little bit further. So I know in your current position you don’t have any necessarily direct reports, but you offer monthly SEO advisory services and you’re coaching people giving feedback on SEO campaigns.

Nick Leroy Guest


So what are your keys to mentoring success and getting one by the results and the clients that I’ve worked with and the testimonials that I have people, clients that are willing to give to me, but also just the years of experience. I think a lot of us in the SEO space know that you can be a really good SEO in two years. You can be a really bad SEO in 15 years, but I have that breadth of experience where I feel like I’ve gone through most everything at least one time. So it’s very rare when somebody comes to me with a situation that, at minimum, I don’t have at least a strong opinion on, and I think a lot of people enjoy that. There’s a little bit of solace Again. We are all in this world of we’re doing our best to unwrap. It’s like just literally trying to rebuild Google’s algorithms, trying to understand how they’re working. So really it’s just an opportunity to ask the right questions and challenge each other until we get to, you know, an answer that works for us.

Danny Gavin Host


And what is your teaching or mentorship style? You know, some people like to give the answers right away, other people like to make people think a little bit. You know, think a little bit first. Do you have any specific way when you’re kind of coaching or mentoring?

Nick Leroy Guest


I’m a challenger, and not necessarily in the sense of saying you’re wrong. But if you tell me this is the answer to something or this is how I’m going to do it, I’m going to be the first one to say why. And just because I say why doesn’t mean that I disagree with you, but it’s because I want you to feel confident in why you’re going about it and I want to make sure that you are considering everything else that could potentially be a solution. Yeah, I’m also. Again, this is a little bit of just how I grew up and I’m sure, Danny, you’ve experienced this too.


I’ve had years where I had to do redirect mapping by hand thousands of rows. So I’m a little bit of hard knocks like just get your hands dirty. I’ve been known in previous roles, before going out on my own, to let my employees do things manually, to then teach them about VLOOKUP or concatenate, and it’s like that wasn’t an efficient use of time. But you’ll never forget how this works. Now let me show you how to do it in a 30-second solution, so that you’ll never do this by hand again. So I guess with that sometimes I can come off a bit brash, but it’s never in the means of being mean or telling somebody no. It’s about building up that confidence and really making sure that you’re being intentional with all the actions that you’re doing.

Danny Gavin Host


Love it and I align with you on that teaching strategy tremendously as well, especially now, you know, in my university classes where we’re teaching the students how to use AI, right chat to BT to help with keyword research and different things like that. It’s the same thing, like we expect them to do it manually and then, you know, a week later we show them the, the, the, the guide to using ChatGPT and they get so annoyed it’s like what. But it’s amazing because they really understand how to do it. I mean, you know, just because you have a prompt and you type it in doesn’t mean now you can do SEO, so you have to create that foundation, and so I love that and it’s so cool that we agree on that method.

Nick Leroy Guest


Yeah, absolutely. I think one thing that’s really interesting is I tend to work with enterprise level clients that have tens, hundreds of thousands, if not more pages and a lot of people get intimidated by that. And the reality is if you kind of grew up or learned early in your career on how to optimize a 10-page static website, you can optimize a million-page website. People don’t recognize it. It’s like, instead of thinking about, wow, how do I start on page one and get to the million page, it’s more of like identifying there’s only seven templates to this entire site, to this entire site. So what we’re going to do is put optimizations for seven templates, which isn’t all that much different than doing seven individual pages. It’s critical thinking again and how are you taking the knowledge? That’s the difference between really knowing your SEO versus executing like a checklist of this is what we do to SEO a page.

Danny Gavin Host


So pivoting to freelance. You worked in the agency world, in SEO, for quite some time. You’ve since made the move to freelance work. What led to this change?

Nick Leroy Guest


So, to be completely honest, I got fired during COVID. So that’s where a lot of my passion comes from, both in what motivated me and kept that fire just burning. For going out on my own Because, as you had mentioned, I always joke and say I’m a recovering agency SEO. I did agency life for 10 years. My wife and I had children while I was very much deep into a senior role within agencies, missed a lot of family events because of that, missed a lot of family events because of that.


And while I’m not necessarily anti-agency, I know for me it wasn’t the long-term solution. So when I was put in this really kind of awkward situation of losing my job, I had opportunities of interviewing for some other companies and I just really never adopted company politics really well and, as we all know, going through the interview process it’s like that’s basically what you ace. It’s like can you do the company politics, can you smile and say the right things at the right time? And I finally just got to the point where it’s like I’m done, I know SEO. I don’t really need to prove it to anybody else. All I’m doing is kissing butts and shaking hands how somebody else is telling me to do it and my clients have always appreciated since day one how direct and honest I am with them Because it helps us get stuff done which ultimately gets results.


However, when you’re being blunt and honest and having these difficult conversations, agency owners and companies don’t like it because it’s a potential risk to their revenue. If I’m too brash, if I’m too honest, if I happen to hit a nerve, somebody could choose not to renew. Whereas now, being a freelancer, I do that very intentionally because I can only work with a certain amount of clients. That’s one of the drawbacks and benefits of being a freelancer, but I get to make sure that I love everybody that I work with. So if I’m challenging you and you’re offended and you’re not getting the results and you’re upset, great, we probably aren’t a great fit. Whereas if you appreciate somebody telling you why something’s not working and what we need to do and then calling you out if you’re not doing it or helping, being your biggest cheerleader for doing it, then I’m the right fit. And to me, freelancing really was the unlock for that, because that is all. Passion has always been probably one of my biggest strengths when it comes to SEO.

Danny Gavin Host


So what about the downsides of freelance?

Nick Leroy Guest


Yeah, I mean, the downside of freelance is literally what everybody thinks about. I mean, there’s no guarantee of making money, You’re not necessarily always working, which is both good and bad and I think that there’s also this cruel reality of just because you’re really good at SEO doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good freelance SEO. What is a huge shocker and I talk to people a ton about this is there are people that are probably 10 times the SEO that I am, but they can’t talk their way out of a paper bag, Whether it be the sales process, pitching any type of information or just communicating and owning client relationships. So if you are unable to do both sides of the business and SEO, you’re going to really struggle with freelance. I will say there’s also the stigma of freelance as a pseudonym for underemployed. So there’s always this idea of like if you don’t run your own agency and you don’t work for somebody else, then you’re kind of spinning tires.


And where I think I’ve really come to the conclusion after doing this for almost five years on my own, is now and I hated this term when I first heard it but I’m building a lifestyle business. I don’t want to ever miss one of my kids’ events. My kids are still young enough where it’s like they remember me not being around when they were tiny, and now I don’t miss anything. I work with who I want to work with. I when they were tiny, and now I don’t miss anything. I work with who I want to work with. I set my own rates and I got to relearn the word no, which is amazing because so many people aren’t empowered to say no in a business situation.

Danny Gavin Host


I think one of the concerns that I think about when it comes to freelance. You know, let’s say, if a certain number of clients you know four or five and you lose one, it could hit that revenue. So how do you kind of manage that, where it’s like you want to keep on doing business development in a way, but you only have a certain amount of clients that you can take. So how do you kind of balance that?

Nick Leroy Guest


Instead of balancing it, let me challenge the way that you think about it. Okay, so I have five clients and we’ll just say, for the sake of easy math, because I’m all for that, they’re all 20% of my revenue. I lost one, that’s a 20% haircut. Like, yeah, that sucks. But guess what? When I got fired, I lost 100% of my revenue overnight. So it’s not.


I’m the ultimate defensive business person. Every single coach and book tells me I do it wrong because I love diversifying my revenue. And it starts with hey, I’m going to try to have 3, 4, 5 clients all of similar size, so that if I lose one, I only lose a third, fourth, fifth of it. I also have the newsletter. I have SEO jobs, which we’ll talk about, but I think the main goal from that is trying just not to be so reliant on one client. I knew when I first went out I had one client that paid me $10,000 a month and one other client that paid me $1,500 a month, and my sole goal was I feel like I have a runway of one year and I need to make sure that I am diversified, because this client, all clients, very rarely hold on to their freelancers forever and I knew that if and when we divorced from that large client, that that would be 90% of my revenue. And I was fortunate enough that eventually, when we went different ways, I had built up some other clients that allowed me to have that diversification.


But, like I said, my big thing that I want to challenge people is I always joke and I say this tongue in cheek, but I actually really mean it. I’ve had great bosses. I’ve had horrible bosses. When I work for somebody else in a 9 to 5 job, I only have to piss off one person to lose all my money, whereas in a freelance world, if I have five clients, that means I have to piss off five individual people to lose all my money overnight. Now is it possible? Sure, but the reality is a lot of people tell me all the time what are you going to do if it all goes away? You’re taking such a risk and I am almost more terrified of having to go back in-house or go to somebody else, because to me that’s the riskiest proposition, because how many of us are going on LinkedIn every morning and then we see the latest? I’ve been made redundant and I’ve been there and that is probably the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in my professional career.

Danny Gavin Host


And that is probably the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in my professional career, no-transcript to really diversification strategy, which we all know. Like in the stock market, you’re never going to invest in one stock, but you’re going to spread it out a little bit, and that’s essentially what you’ve done here and it makes so much sense.

Nick Leroy Guest


Absolutely. I’ve never been so. I mean, I’ve always considered myself a fairly good employee in the sense that I work hard and take pride in my work, but I have never been more motivated to do the best work that I’ve ever done in my entire career than that first year of when I was freelancing. When you have and this is just my own story, but I had three kids and a wife that at the time wasn’t working, failure, the ability to not pay for our mortgage, was not an option. I tell people a lot. If there’s any time for you to take a step back and check your ego, that’s the way to do it.


I went from being billed at $500 plus an hour being a director at a large agency to taking projects that paid me $75 an hour. $75 an hour is not bad when you’re trying to pay the bills. It’s a lot better than having to go up to Walmart and work for $10 an hour. Now again, was that the ultimate goal just at that point? Not at all. But for me, I was so laser focused on providing for my family, paying my bills, growing and learning, and I just have never been so clearly focused in my entire life. I’m almost jealous. I still very much take quality very seriously and results are the most important. But I’m almost jealous because of that fire that you had when you first started, especially for me who had lost my job. I just have never been so focused in my entire life and terrifying in the moment, but it ultimately brought me to where I’m at now.

Danny Gavin Host


I know you’ve had experience in all realms of SEO enterprise, small business, legal. What led you to focus on enterprise level SEO as a consultant?

Nick Leroy Guest


The biggest thing that people don’t talk about is the higher you charge, the less pushback you typically get, and I don’t think that that’s a new concept, but let me I try to phrase it a different way is when you’re working with a plumber, or even like a small lawyer, and they’re paying for marketing out of their own checkbook, we all close our eyes and we know how much is in our checking account and your expenses are accounted for.


You’re naturally going to be poking at things and asking questions and you’re not going to be patient when you are spending from your marketing budget. If you will, then you have the capacity to be patient. This isn’t dollars out of your direct checking account, and that is really, I think, the biggest opportunity. So, for me, swimming upstream to enterprise allowed me to work with people that I felt like quote unquote, understood it a bit more and allowed themselves and their company to have the patience for how long SEO actually takes to work, and I’m kind of a technical SEO dork by default, so the hairier, bigger, messier the website can be, the better, and there’s just not too many plumbing websites that I’ve had technical issues with, whereas I’ve wrangled some crazy crawl monsters before, if we will with some of these larger sites.

Danny Gavin Host


That’s awesome. We actually have a pretty big plumbing client which has quite a few technical issues, but I think Of course, no, no, no, I’m choosing the one example that you gave, but no, no, it’s okay, I get the point. We’ll call it an accountant. So, given many digital marketers consider themselves on the introverted side, how would you coach them to put themselves out there and make professional connections?

Nick Leroy Guest


That’s probably the scariest part of our industry as a whole, I think, especially today. We have so much documentation on how to learn SEO, we have so many people that are willing to give you information, and we even have a plethora of clients, whether it be smaller retainers that we had just talked about, or you can donate your time or you build your own affiliate site. We can learn the technical part of SEO fairly easily, but what I always tell people if you have to inherently have the ability to communicate and for a lot of us, that skew a bit technical, you’re making up for not necessarily having those communication skills, and the best thing that I always tell people to do is just to push themselves a little bit, like one little thing at a time. I have a buddy that runs his own agency. He does a great job. He has people on his team that speak at conferences. When I convinced him, I was like every Monday, I want to see you write something on LinkedIn. I don’t want you to overthink it. It’s just because there’s so much stuff in here that people are curious about and you just assume that they know it or they’ll think it’s dumb. So it’s just do it, assuming you’re not being rude, bring politics or religion into it. I mean, just share your thoughts. I mean, the only caveat I will say is my personal pet peeve is I don’t like when people tell me definitively how something in SEO works, because, again, my way of mentoring is to banter and argue about it. But share your experience. Who am I to tell you that these five things you did and then this chart to the right doesn’t work? You’re literally showing me your experience. So it’s all about taking one step at a time, pushing yourself. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and get as many at-bats if you will as humanly possible and the more you can err.


On the communication side of the communication, I talk a lot about effective communication. It’s like talking to leaders, talking to businesses, people that actually own that checkbook. We have to unnerd SEO. I’m going around on all these podcasts and that’s what I’m saying Unnerd SEO. If you were talking to somebody who holds the keys and the wallet and they’re not an SEO, I don’t want to hear the word canonical tag out of your mouth. I don’t want to hear about robots or crawl budgets or hreflang. I want to talk about how we’re making a foundation so that Google can come into your site and effectively take a screenshot and display it in their search results.


Everybody understands that Somebody is much more open to paying you, giving you a budget when you can talk their own language. Not many people want to come in, be made to feel stupid and then asked to be paid for that time. So that’s a lot. That was kind of a passionate rant, but I think that’s it, though. It’s one step at a time. Get better at communicating. If you suck at it sometimes I suck at it. I certainly did in the past Do it again and then get up and do it again and do it again, Because that is what’s going to separate you from 90% of the other SEOs out there.

Danny Gavin Host


Outside of communication? What other business skills did you find yourself needing to focus on enhancing the most when you opened up your own consultancy?

Nick Leroy Guest


As we had kind of talked about. There’s the business aspect of it which really throws people off, and I had far more stress trying to figure out and reconcile my tax documents and my accounts than I ever did about writing hreflang logic across seven international domains, and it’s funny. That’s just where your skills are and we can appreciate that. I have learned over the years to be really good at what I’m doing and try to charge as much money as I can and bring other people on to do the things that you aren’t great at. So I for one have an accountant, so I don’t stress out about that. But we talked about the effect of communication. So that’s part of being able to sell yourself. And then there’s being able to write and execute a contract, and then there’s invoicing, collecting payments, being able to document appropriately in your books doing your taxes.


By the way, make sure anyone who’s doing freelance side work or full-time puts 30% aside. I don’t care what anybody says, it might be too much, but it’s better to have too much on the side than to make the tax man angry at the end of the year. Really, it’s everything that’s not SEO related, but it goes into that communication and just thinking more like an entrepreneur or a business owner, which I don’t think a lot of people consider when they talk about either starting an agency or even a freelancer. They’re just caught up on. I know SEO. I can get the results, but the reality is, if you can’t do all the other stuff, it doesn’t matter. That’s why you make a really good nine to five jobber.

Danny Gavin Host


Exactly so. Talk about jobbers. You started seo jobs com in May of 2022. This was kind of just as some of the world was starting to think about returning to some sense of normalcy, while still in the thick of the pandemic. In many ways, what led you to create an SEO specific job site?

Nick Leroy Guest


Oh yeah. So this is definitely like a passion project for sure, as I had mentioned. What I don’t always talk about is I’ve actually been fired twice before. So I’ve felt that feeling of panic and not knowing what to do. And I remember having to drive home and tell my wife that I lost my job pre-pandemic, when we were all at the office. I remember sitting at home remotely being told that my job is being removed as a whole; they’re just eliminating the position and having to tell my wife that. So I’m just very empathetic to people that go through that. I mean, I literally can just take half a second and I just felt everything that I remember going through in both of those instances. So I’ve always tried my best to build my network and to try to connect people the best that I can, to try to connect people the best that I can.


But I had this opportunity to originally partner with SEO Jobs with a gentleman named Peter Askew. He’s well known for being kind of the onion guy. He owns onions come and vidaliaonion com and his big deal is he likes to buy premium domains and build a business around them and he originally bought seojobscom and he reached out to me because he wanted to advertise on my SEO newsletter, the SEO for Lunch, and share some of the jobs he was posting, and that worked out well and he eventually was like you know, here’s the thing I know SEO, I like SEO, but I’m not an SEO guy. He’s like I feel like I need an SEO guy or gal person to be a part of this. He’s like what do you think about partnering on this? And it was just like an instant. Yes, because, like I said, it already was hitting home and we floundered for a year. We were figuring things out, trying to work as a couple, and he gave me this opportunity to buy him out, and it was strictly because he had an opportunity to buy one of his own projects back that he sold and regretted. He just needed a little bit of cash flow and I jumped on it. It’s like the premium domain of seojobscom with my passion for how I make sure that people have an opportunity to get back on their feet. That just makes me feel good. I think we all can say that we’ve had the same experience. How many of us I’m going to raise?


Both my hands have gone to LinkedIn or Indeed. We type in SEO and either with our location or hopefully remote and the first thing that comes up is like JavaScript architect. And then you go in there and halfway down it’s like nice to know SEO best practices and it’s like what are you doing? And then you have to continuously weed out all this and now we’re in a world where easy application is a thing on LinkedIn and Indeed all this. So you’re competing against thousands and thousands of other people for one position.


What I want to do is I don’t want to compete against Indeed. I’d love to make a fraction of what their revenue is, but I want to beat them by half a percent of their target. I want to be the best at SEO jobs. When you come to my site, you’re going to see only SEO jobs. You might see someone looking for that magical unicorn of SEO and PPC, but you’re not going to have a developer role.


These are SEO jobs. The only reason it’s not going to be relevant to you is either it’ll be too junior, too senior or potentially not hit some of your earnings requirements that you have. But everything there is at least relevant from a skill set perspective, and that is SEO jobs. I mean every single day. It’s just like a reminder of like every time that I’m like I hate this site, I don’t want to work on it, or I spend more money than I’m making. I just think to myself this is what I wanted when I was in between jobs Back in 2009, despite the fact that I didn’t know that I wanted to be an SEO 2008, 2009,. It sure would have been great to have a website that’s dedicated to one industry that does it exceptionally well.

Danny Gavin Host


And I imagine, now that you have this platform, I mean you’re well-connected in the industry anyhow, but how has it influenced just meeting more people talking, increasing that network?

Nick Leroy Guest


It’s been amazing because it’s not completely unselfish. I almost feel like when people send me notes thanking me for this, I’m pulling one over on them, but people aren’t unaware that I’m charging for some listings or now the ability to put SEO profiles on there. But the reality is we’re addressing a market within SEO that otherwise is very rarely ever talked about, which is the employment side of it. So people are curious, they’re excited, and I’ve been very, very fortunate that I’ve been able to meet a lot of good people and I’ve been able to help a lot of people get jobs and again, as somebody who has gone through, a lot of people get jobs in. Again, as somebody who has gone through, I truly don’t think that I could do seojobscom the service that it deserves had I not gone through some of the difficult moments that I’ve gone through in my career.

Danny Gavin Host


I think the way you’re approaching it is yes, of course you’re making money, but it’s really, it’s the mission, and you know how people feel, and so I would say I don’t know if you’re the best candidate to run it, but you’re definitely up there, and so it really was. It’s a match made in heaven. The only thing is, like we’ve spoken about before, hopefully you’ll do PPC jobs one day.

Nick Leroy Guest


Yeah, let’s get ppc jobs to start with, and then we can go from there.

Danny Gavin Host


All right, we’ll have to work on that.

Nick Leroy Guest


Like I said, the one thing that is kind of fun and I’ve talked to quite a few people and Tom Critchlow is one individual that talked to me about the idea of being very intentional with where you spend your time as a freelancer, I realized my time is most efficient and most valuable selling it to individuals and companies. I spend a lot of time on this website and don’t get paid anywhere near what I could, but it’s a passion, it’s an investment in the future. The one thing that people don’t realize is, as an individual freelancer in a perfect world, I work until I’m 60 or 65. And then I just turn it off and I’m retired. I don’t get the benefit of like an agency where you’re going to sell it, but it would be really cool if I could own SEO jobs for 20 more years, help the industry, leave kind of my stamp in the industry and then be able to give it to somebody else or sell it to somebody else. That can keep it going. Like that is a little bit of what I think is being able to have your cake and eat it too. I don’t have to work with other people, I don’t have to worry about employees, but now I have an asset as well that could be beneficial later on.


And it helps people. That’s the thing I tell people. It’s really, really simple in that I am trying to help people all day, every day, and I am a believer in karma. You do good things. I try to be better tomorrow than I am today, and that’s just my barometer for success. So it comes around and the industry has been amazing and helping the site grow and I make a little bit of money. And helping the site grow and I make a little bit of money and, tangibly, the goodwill that I get from that site helps on the freelance side too, because people are like, oh, and he’s a freelancer, so people go. Do you know any freelancers that work on these types of sites? They’ll be like I know. Nick, I’m going to make an introduction to Sweet.

Danny Gavin Host


Pivoting to kind of a subtopic. I know we don’t have a lot of time left, but I want you to know, given that you’ve helped many people find employment in the SEO space, what would you consider some of the top skills one should have to find good work in the digital marketing industry?

Nick Leroy Guest


One. I think passion for the industry is really underplayed. When I was hiring, when I had teams, I didn’t really care so much how much you knew about SEO. I cared that you were passionate about anything. Because, again, we’re in a world where there’s an SOP for everything. I can have a book and a checkbox for you to do SEO, but I can’t teach you to be hungry and to want to learn and to try to get better hungry and to want to learn and to try to get better. So if that’s you and you have the ability to tell your story, display that curiosity, I think that’s going to be your biggest benefit.


And then the other two things which I feel like are just kind of like sub-bullets 99 and 100 after the first 97, which is curiosity and passion are obviously the tactical things, assuming you’re not starting from scratch. But even if you are, start up your website. I bought nickLeroy com back in 2008 because somebody on Twitter told me you should own your own domain and then I could build my own site. Turned into like wow, I could do black hat stuff too and not get in trouble and I’m not causing any issues for a client Learning hunger.


And then we talked quite a bit just about that communication. Again, I can’t stress enough unless your goal is truly to sit in the back and white label and you want to just do the work and you don’t have ambitions to get above a certain level, then you’re going to have to communicate, you’re going to have to figure it out. So you don’t have to be amazing, but be passionate, learn those hard skills and communicate, communicate, communicate. If you can get those three things down, I’ve been saying this a lot, but it’s like you are instantly within the top 10% of all SEOs, because not many SEOs can do all of that, nor do they want to.

Danny Gavin Host


In addition to SEO for Lunch, what are some of the best publications you would recommend for SENiors to stay up to date in the industry?

Nick Leroy Guest


Yeah, so I love Aleda’s learning ohio. That is literally the default, so I send everybody there, whether they just heard the acronym SEO or they consider themselves the world’s best SEO leader in the world. It’s a great opportunity just to go through, really just polish some of the knowledge that you have Selfishly. I have my own newsletter, so, like you said, the SEO for Lunch. But Aleda Solis also has a great newsletter. There’s quite a few others Steve Toth has one, eli Schwartz there’s so many other people that have these newsletters, and I think newsletters are the new version of blogging, so I’m a big fan of signing up for those.


The only caveat and I mentioned this earlier is just make sure that you are balancing the time reading about SEO and making sure that you’re doing it, because nothing can replace actually getting your hands dirty and learning it. But those are really the big things that I’m telling people to do. And then the other thing is because I haven’t said this enough is like build your network, ask people for a virtual coffee. I have not met another SEO that isn’t happy, if not excited, to tell you about their SEO story and what they learned, and you’ll be amazed. You’ll have this virtual coffee with somebody, and it might be five years later and they might hire you. You might hire them, you might be doing a contract, you might be interviewing them. There’s so many opportunities. This industry is so small. Reach out, become friends if you can, and give. That’s the other thing too. Just give as much as you can, because it will come back around. But everybody hates it if you just come and say buy my links.

Danny Gavin Host


So before we wrap up, I know you are a fan of cars and watches. It can be a little bit of a car, a little bit of a watch. What would you say?

Nick Leroy Guest


your top three combo car watch would be yeah, so I’ve always been kind of a car nut, you know I would say it’s really easy to be able to just spit off. You know it’s like a ford gt, a lamborghini huracan. You know, some of the more exotic cars. But you know, I for one, like my summer ride, I have a mustang 5.0 convertible. You know, it’s just a passion, probably a six speed manual transmission, the exhaust is all gutted, so it’s nice and loud and obnoxious. And yeah, it’s just for me. It’s like when I get stressed out for work or the kids are driving me crazy, I’m the first one to volunteer. It’s like I’m going to go to the grocery store. It’s like, but now I’m going to drive the car and we’re going to take the scenic route to get there.


Yeah, and watches are just one of those things where I have found that for me I’m very goal-oriented.


So, especially as a freelancer, where you determine what success looks like, and for me I had to be very careful not to get stuck in more for more sake, because I don’t have ambitions to be Elon Musk or have his wallet, but I do want to do good work and I want to be rewarded for it. So I am a big Rolex fan, so I was able to pick one up last year and the year before that. There’s a sister company to Rolex called Tudor, and I was able to pick up one of those watches as well, and I’m hoping that every year or two as a reward, I’ll be able to pick one of those up. I’d love to be able to leave them for my children. Or it’s one of the biggest jokes, kind of within the watch space is there’s nothing more liquid than cash, than a Rolex watch. So you know, an opportunity to be able to enjoy something a little bit and then be able to sell later on if need be.

Danny Gavin Host


Congrats. That’s amazing and you definitely deserve it. Thank you, Danny. I appreciate that. So where can listeners learn more about you and your business?

Nick Leroy Guest


Yeah, so I would say I’m most active on LinkedIn these days. So if you just go into Google and type in Nick Leroy  LinkedIn or Nick Leroy  SEO, both my Twitter X as well as my LinkedIn account will be there. Both my Twitter X as well as my LinkedIn account will be there, and then I would love to see you in both the SEO for Lunch newsletter and then, if you are looking for a job, or you’re just open to seeing what’s available on the market, seojobscom, and that also has an email that goes out every Monday as well. So I’d love to connect with you through all of those.

Danny Gavin Host


Well, Nick, thank you so much for this wonderful interview and being a guest on the Digital Marketing Mentor, and thank you, listeners, for tuning into the Digital Marketing Mentor. We will chat with you next time, thanks so much.

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