725: SEO Hacks: Future-Proof Your Business Growth | Andrew Holland

Podcast Cover Image: SEO Hacks: Future-Proof Your Business Growth Featuring Andrew Holland
Podcast Cover Image: SEO Hacks: Future-Proof Your Business Growth Featuring Andrew Holland

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to crack the Google code and dominate search results? Millions of views, sky-high rankings, and booming traffic – that’s the reality Andrew Holland has created for himself and his clients.

Join us in welcoming the mastermind behind over 20 million video views and 200,000 page-one Google keyword rankings. But Andrew’s journey started in an unexpected place – the police force!

Join us as we delve into Andrew’s unique path to SEO mastery, his experience building a successful agency, and his current role as Director of SEO at JBH, a leading Digital PR agency in Britain.

He’s also the brains behind the popular “Growth Through Content” LinkedIn newsletter. Tune in for actionable insights and inspiring stories from an SEO guru!

Conquer Local is presented by Vendasta. We have proudly served 5.5+ million local businesses through 60,000+ channel partners, agencies, and enterprise-level organizations. Learn more about Vendasta, and we can help your organization or learn more about Vendasta’s Affiliate Program and how our listeners (like yourself) make up to $10,000 off referrals.

Are you an entrepreneur, salesperson, or marketer? Then, keep the learning going in the Conquer Local Academy.

SEO Hacks: Future-Proof Your Business Growth


Jeff Tomlin: I’m Jeff Tomlin and on this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Andrew Holland.

Andrew is directly responsible for generating over 20 million video views online and ranking for 200,000 keywords on page 1 of Google while generating millions of views in traffic for his clients and millions in revenue.

After first learning SEO in the police force, Andrew built and ran his own boutique agency for 7 years. Eventually, he moved to an in-house to a larger agency, taking his staff and clients with him in 2022. 

Today, he is the Director of SEO at one of Britain’s best-known digital PR agencies. He has a 30,000-plus subscriber newsletter called Growth Through Content and over 60,000 followers on LinkedIn.

Get ready Conquerors for Andrew Holland coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast.

Police Officer turned SEO Expert.

Jeff Tomlin: Andrew Holland, welcome to the Conquer Local podcast. How are you doing today, my friend?

Andrew Holland: I’m good. Thank you so much for inviting me and it’s a real pleasure to be here.

Jeff Tomlin: Hey, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you, and this is one of my favourite topics, all things SEO. This is where I got my start in digital marketing an awful long time ago, back in ’96, and ’97. And so I love chatting all things SEO. You made a pretty bold move. You changed careers, you went from the police force as a police officer and you made your way into the SEO world and have become an SEO expert. Tell me a little bit about that journey and how you made that move and how it came about.

Andrew Holland: Yeah, so it’s strange really. So about 20 years ago, because, crikey, I feel old… 20 years ago I joined a department which was involved in police intelligence, and we had a search engine and my job was to recruit informants and to gain intelligence to place it on that search engine, and we’d build links and it was built around entities and all the things that are quite fashionable now, but it was an intelligence search engine. And I was in that department for quite some time, didn’t know what we were doing with SEO or didn’t understand networks, because we didn’t… It was just work. And then I started just dabbling with websites, got really good. I had great results for people and myself just in my spare time. And then I got bad asthma, so I was 36 when I retired on ill health for bad asthma in the police. I’ve got really chronic asthma. And yeah, I started my own business and haven’t looked back since.

SEO Agency Owner Prioritized Clients during Pandemic, and Now works at a Digital PR Agency.

Jeff Tomlin: That’s amazing. And super cool how probably an organization like a police force, you wouldn’t think that there’s a lot of things that are super similar to somebody that’s working in digital marketing, but it’s kind of cool how a lot of different, I guess occupations and vocations use similar approaches. You need databases, you need to understand entities and objects and able to make vast amounts of information searchable. That’s cool. By the way, as I was going through the notes, you had made some changes when the pandemic started, and I thought that it was pretty interesting you made a move to be very customer-centric and specifically the way that you were handling contracts and governing contracts around that. I’d like you to tell us a little bit about that because I think it’s not only a great way to think in tough times like a pandemic, but probably all the time going forward. Tell me a little bit about that and the results that it had.

Andrew Holland: Okay, it’s not particularly just smart moves. So when the pandemic hit, I had quite a lot of business, and then when the pandemic took place, people asked me if they could come out of contract and I said yes. So essentially my business, which was a small lifestyle boutique agency, and we relied on… I had one member of an internal team and then lots of freelancers, and it was a very good business model, very profitable and very nice lifestyle-based agency model. And when I made that decision to let everyone out to contract, basically my business went down the pan and obviously it was the expense of the survival of other businesses. And some people just said, “I’m not paying you because…” and that was it. And then some people said, “Look, we need to be out of this contract. Can you help us?” I’m one of those people who probably feels goodwill is important in the world and business world. And it paid off because once we got through the pandemic, I was busier than ever. But then that led to different problems. But ultimately I ended up even doing a bit of freelance stuff during the pandemic and I actually even started a new blog. I did quite a lot of bits and bobs during the pandemic, and it was a very tough time for the business. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the money went, but then I got it back to great profitability. And then other problems hit, and what ended up happening is I just was really tired of running a business. I couldn’t find staff because, in the UK, we were having a real staff shortage post-Brexit, post-pandemic. The wage increase of SEOs had gone through the roof. And when I was looking at the finances, for me to hire more staff for SEO staff, I was being outbid by very large agencies who had also had a pandemic boost, post-pandemic boost, so to speak, in their businesses. And I was going to be paying excess fees for SEOs with very limited experience. And when I looked at it, I thought, “You know what? I’ve done this for a long time. The business is very flexible. I could start it up whenever I’ve proven that.” Somebody asked me if I wanted to go and work in their business, and I said yes. So I basically took my clients and my staff and went into another agency, which is a very large agency. They’ve got about 65 staff now. And I did that for a year for various reasons. I didn’t enjoy that in the end. And then I’m where I’m at now, which is I’m the director of SEO at a digital PR agency and I’m setting up their SEO service and have been for the past year.

Andrew Holland Grows LinkedIn Newsletter with Existing Audience.

Jeff Tomlin: When I have expert practitioners on the show here, I always like to ask at least a few questions around actual tactics so that people can take away something that they can directly employ in their business. And number one, I love talking SEO because you can build out a natural rate of growth with your company. And similar to that is email marketing. And when I talk to demand gen experts, the vast majority of them indicate that the most opportunities that they create end up coming from email when people are doing it right. And you’ve had a tremendous amount of success building a massive email list in a relatively short period of time. I think I read you grew a list from zero to 26,000 people in a month or something like that. I’d like you to walk through the process of how you did it, how you’re thinking about it and how other people can replicate it.

Andrew Holland: Okay, that’s slightly right. It’s slightly wrong, so I’ll just be truthful. So it’s not an email list, it’s a LinkedIn newsletter. And it is. It stands about… I think it’s about 33,000 subscribers now. And it’s really interesting because I didn’t… So what happened was I exited the last agency where I was at and I was placed on guardian leave, so I had some time, and I actually didn’t even have a job. So I left without having a role. And I thought, “Do you know what? I’ve got to make decisions. Do I set up on my own agency again or do I go get a job?” And I spoke to a few different people and I was still considering my options. So before when I had my old agency, I had an email newsletter called Growth Through Content, and it was me just going through a website that was doing well, looking at stuff and then just identifying key things to take out. And it was quite popular. It had a few thousand subscribers on there, but it was just email. And I thought to myself, “Well, I built up a large following on LinkedIn.” So I think something like… at the time a year ago, it was like 30,000. I’ve got like 63,000 followers on LinkedIn now. And I thought to myself at the time, what can I do to maximize and use this? And LinkedIn newsletters had just kind of been launched and I thought, do you know what? I can’t see a downside in growing a LinkedIn newsletter because one, your LinkedIn stays with you forever. Unless you get kicked off the platform, it’s with you. Two, it’s going to build… it’s like an advertising platform for me. Every week I send out the newsletter, then thousands of people will read it, if it grows. And I didn’t expect it to take off at all. I just thought it’d be a few thousand subscribers, 2000, 3000 at most, and that was it. But it kind of weirdly accelerated, and it is hard work and I use AI and all sorts of stuff now because it’s every week. I missed a week recently because I was just really busy with life and family stuff. But we’ve done about 66 editions now and each one gets between 5,000 to 7,000 readers each week. And I can’t extract the emails because it’s LinkedIn, but what it does is it keeps my presence out there, it keeps people aware of me and it’s growing as well as my LinkedIn profile’s growing. And the thing with LinkedIn is algorithms are nightmares because you can have reach one day, they can reduce it to the next, but this email newsletter, one, it pings everybody who wants it to ping and most people have got that set up; and two, it goes straight into their promotion tab and email tab. And also, it’s almost like habitual, because I’m sending it all the time and it’s not full of… It’s just looking at a website, and examining it. It helps people with their jobs, it gives people ideas. And it’s definitely brought in leads, and I can put adverts in there for our own business and their own brand. So yeah, it’s an interesting one. It’s just grown alongside my LinkedIn profile growing, but the acceleration was… because I had about 20,000 followers anyway, so I put the newsletter out there. I mean, I think I had 5,000 followers in a few days. Subscribers. Subscribers, they call it on LinkedIn. But they give you some stats and things like that. And so it’s been interesting.

Selling SEO for Organic Ranking.

Jeff Tomlin: That’s incredible growth. The other thing that I wanted to chat with you about, tactically when it comes to SEO, is about selling SEO to non-technical users. Because as we survey agencies and specifically consultants when it comes to SEO, one of the top challenges in their list of challenges always near the top is translating what they do to value for the customers. And so I wanted to get your thoughts on that and how you approach selling something that’s fairly technical to a layman.

Andrew Holland: It’s always going to be a challenge because we’ve got challenging silos of marketing. So you’ve got paid search, you’ve got paid social, and everyone wants a chunk of that budget and they want a bigger chunk of that budget. So agencies clash against agencies, and you have multi-service agencies. So for me, SEO is a growth tactic. You don’t do SEO unless you want your business to grow because you can buy spend on paid ads and paid search ads. You can do that, but there will be a limitation, a diminishing return at some point because one, it’s very expensive. And two, you pay for the clicks that don’t convert. And obviously, you’re at the very top of the search engine. And a lot of people scroll down and ignore the ads and they were very allergic to the word sponsored. And there’s been a few studies out there around click-through rates and things like that. And we know that the position 10 gets about as much click-through as the paid search. The position 10 organic gets around the same click-through rate as probably the top paid ads, paid search listings, or there and thereabouts. It differs for the sector. So the way I describe SEO, it is quite simple, and it comes down to something from what’s called the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing. There’s a fantastic book. They’re a big scientific institute, university-based, and there’s a book called How Brands Grow and How Brands Grow 2. It’s a two-part book, really. And they’ve broken down thousands of brands and done studies and looked at how people grow. And they say brands grow through two things, mental availability and physical availability. And mental availability is the likelihood of being thought of in a buying situation. That’s all your brand marketing. And then you’ve got your physical availability, the ease and convenience of you being purchased from. Well, what we have every day is millions of people going to search engines, typing in keywords to help them to find products because they are in the market or coming into the market to purchase. Those people will scroll past the paid listings and they will click on and buy from people in those organic listings. So as a business, you’ve got to ask yourself, do you want that portion of business that’s there open and available to you? Because if you don’t have it, somebody else will have it. And there’s only so many ways to grow your brand online, and that’s one of the major ones. Now, if you don’t have that and another brand does have that, then what happens is they acquire more customers, they grow bigger. That means that they have bigger marketing budgets they can spend on their brand marketing, and over a point in time they all take your market share. So when you are looking at your invoices and saying, “Okay, we’re down on sales 20% this year,” well, you actually rank lower or you don’t rank at all, and you’ve been relying on paid search heavily and your paid search costs are going through the roof. So for me, when you’re selling SEO to anyone, it’s about physical availability, about being on the digital shelf where people are walking down the aisle. And you want your products to be on the digital shelf and your products and services that is. And if you’re not there, they’re going to buy someone else’s. So for me, it’s a competitive thing. Now, sadly, not everyone gets it. They don’t understand it, and because they don’t understand it’s a harder sell. But that’s how I approach it. The problem comes when people start talking about ROI, ROAS and things like that, and subjects which really don’t make sense from an SEO perspective and they’re very hard to fit in like that.

SEO Sells Better with Risk Aversion than Opportunity.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, I love that approach and I’ll tell you why I love it so much. So many people sell something by selling the opportunity or the value of things, but there’s a thing called loss aversion theory, and what it states is that people are more motivated to avoid risk than they are to pursue an opportunity. And so I like the way that you’re positioning that as, not only is there opportunity lost or an opportunity cost of not thinking about SEO, but there’s also a risk of losing business and losing market share and ground by letting your competitors have the traffic and have the visibility. I like that a lot. There’s a group of people that don’t know anything about SEO. There’s some people that know a little bit about what it’s about. Are you finding that common and traditional misperceptions of SEO still persist or are there new misperceptions that persist today?

Andrew Holland: Yeah. I mean, definitely. I talk about SEO in a very different way than most marketers and it’s won me a lot of praise by people. It is from me. I write from marketing week and I’m lucky enough because a lot of CMOs and people listen to what I say, and that’s helped fuel my LinkedIn growth. I think one of the problems we have at this moment in time is understanding marketing effectiveness in terms of what works and what doesn’t work, and people use the funnel. I think the funnel’s a really bad thing for SEO to even be aligned with. There is a funnel marketing funnel, but we try and push SEO into all parts of the funnel, and that’s not really what it should do. And then we end up with this ROI problem where people say, what’s the ROI of my SEO? What’s the ROI of how we’re doing it? When am I getting returns? When will I see it? And we end up with a really bad conversation because some people are trying to compartmentalize SEO into thinking it’s paid search. It isn’t paid search, it doesn’t work like paid search. It’s very different and it is yet very similar. And this becomes a problem. So you judge paid search based on ROI and ROAS and POAS, profit on ad spend. You don’t judge performance of SEO on those metrics. You judge the ability to invest in it. So when you are investing in SEO, you look at what the likely returns of this is going to be and what this is going to mean for our business. And you make the decision to invest as much as you can in relation to that growth. There’s lots of ways to do this and clever ways to do it, looking at the size of the businesses, ranking organically and things like that. But what happens is we come very much about the numbers and when we do that about the numbers, we have a problem because paid search works because it targets people who are about to buy. In many ways, very often it’s that story about the person who’s handing out the leaflets outside the restaurant for the restaurants, when they’re just about to go in the restaurant with a discount. And that’s the problem with a lot of paid search. Now, when you add paid search agency fees on top of that, sometimes it’s 20%, if people are doing a percentage of ad spend, many times people think they’re having great ROI or great return on ad spend when actually when you look at the profit on ad spend, it’s really poor.

And also something that happens with PMax right now is a lot of PMax is bidding on brand terms. Most big brands now are currently bidding on their brand search terms, and many of you even know it. And I saw that today with a small brand. I messaged a small brand and said, “Look, you are a small brand. You are bidding on your own brand terms. You are paying for people who would’ve found you anyway. Repeat business. You are paying to access repeat business. It makes no sense.” So what ends up happening is we misjudge how to analyze the marketing effectiveness of SEO because we’re trying to compare it to something else, when you have to compare them in different ways and measure their performance in different ways.

Lifelong Learning is Key to Marketing Success.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. You’ve grown on a unique path. You’ve changed occupation, you started an agency. You worked from a solopreneur to build your own agency and now you’re in a large organization. Just like to pick your brain a little bit about… were there any principles along the way that you employed as you were growing from a solopreneur to a new agency and growing a customer base?

Andrew Holland: Yeah, make a lot of mistakes. I have done, trust me. So I think I am in a really unique place now because I’m 45 this year. I was 45 a couple of months ago. And so I’m really weird in terms of I’ve come from a different career. I’m nine years into a second career and I don’t know where I’m going to end up. So my viewpoint is I need to get as good at marketing as possible. So my biggest thing is to become a learnerholic, and you have to spend a lot of time learning. That’s the only fuel we really have because we can’t control AI, we can’t control the economy, we can’t control demand. And I’ve become a learnerholic, so I can apply my knowledge in lots of sectors in different ways. And it’s SEO now, but I did social media when I first started as well. So I’ve just narrowed it down to SEO over time. I’ve delivered over 20 million video views online to people. So it’s like I could go and do video marketing because the principles behind everything is what matters. There’s lots of algorithm changes of SEO, but SEO really is about getting yourself ranked for the buyer intent search so you can make money. There’s lots of principles in video, but really it’s about creating the best content and that’s what you want to do, create the best content for people. And there’s principles in advertising. So learn what those principles are behind things. Learn the theory, learn the theory of virality, learn the theory of marketing science, learn about availability theory, learn the theory to back up and figure out why things work, go and investigate, go and break things up. Why is this video viral? That’s what I do in my newsletter regarding websites. What are these people doing that is good that I can then take and make uniquely mine, or try? I’m a big James Altucher fan, and I have been for years, and he has a great thing about idea sets, smashing two concepts together. I also think you’ve got to… we’re currently entering the biggest phase of what I would call the idea economy, where people with great ideas are going to be able to leverage AI to start new businesses, to create content and with content consumers on scale, we need more micro-content to keep us happy now than ever before. We’ve gone from watching five programs a night to watching 500 videos a night on TikTok.

Jeff Tomlin: It’s amazing.

Andrew Holland: We are consuming more than ever, and we’ve got a chance to go and fill that void for people, fill the white noise, so to speak, and go and reach out to people in various ways and earn revenue through various systems and ways. So I would say the biggest thing is to become a learnerholic, learn how things work, study, and start testing and do stuff.

Future-proof yourself: Embrace Uncertainty, and Build Brand.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, I love that. I like asking people about principles because the most important thing is different for people based on the unique situation that they’re in. And I think that there’s so many people that are on the path that you’ve been on recently because we see an explosion right now in people that are entering the agency space, entering becoming online consultants in different aspects of marketing and business growth because of the tools that are available now. And so I think that your thoughts are so applicable to so many people on that. If there’s one other takeaway that you wanted to leave the audience with, what would that be?

Andrew Holland: I would say you’ve got to future-proof yourself, and future-proofing yourself is actually, you’ve got to learn to be comfortable with being uncertain. You’ve obviously talked about loss aversion and certainty principles. We hate uncertainty. We’ll do anything we can to avoid uncertainty. But I think the pandemic, the current economic crisis, the cost of living crisis and everything else, we live in a very uncertain world. Careers today are not going to be the careers of next year. We’re seeing disruption large-scale, and that’s frightening because lots of people don’t have pensions, and lots of people don’t have backup plans. Lots of people have got mortgages which are going through the roof. There’s so many issues that we’re facing in society right now. You’ve got to learn to be comfortable with being uncertain. And also, I think people need to build themselves their own personal brands. And not everyone can, not everyone will, but you don’t have to do it on a scale where you’ve got 60,000 people. You can have a very tight network of a few hundred people that you can call. And there’s some fantastic books and resources around this kind of thing. But I think we need as people… and not everyone’s going to do this, and that’s the point. The people that are listening that want to do this will go out there and make a ruckus, so to speak, to copy Seth Godin. But if you’ve got thoughts in your head, words, insights, just put them out online, let people share them, let people read them. Everyone’s got a story that’s worth telling, and we’re living in that generation and you don’t know what that’s going to lead to somewhere down the line. You don’t know if it’s going to lead to a connection. Not everyone needs thousands of followers. Sometimes we just need a bit more connection. You’ll never lose through connection, you’ll lose through isolation. So yeah, that learning, being comfortable with being uncertain, I think that those are the things we’ve got in the future. We’ve got a few bumpy years ahead of us. There’s no doubt about that. And AI is going to be a massive disruption, but it’s also going to be offering massive opportunity for people as well. And so yeah, get comfortable with uncertainty.

Connect with Andrew Holland on LinkedIn or via the Agency Website.

Jeff Tomlin: You’ll never lose through connections, you’ll lose through isolation. I love that thought. Andrew Holland, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show and having a chat with you. If people wanted to continue the conversation with you, how do they reach out to you and find you?

Andrew Holland: Yeah, so the best, there’s a couple ways. So you can go to our website, jbh.co.uk, which is actually the agency’s website. You can go to LinkedIn, which is probably the best place. And if you search for me, I should show up. If you search for Andrew Holland, I should show up as one of them, if not the main one. And you can find my LinkedIn profile there. Or just go to LinkedIn and search for Andrew Holland SEO and I’ll show up, and you can subscribe to my newsletter, Growth Through Content, which comes out every week. You have to be on LinkedIn to subscribe. That’s the only downside of that.

Jeff Tomlin: Andrew, an absolute pleasure chatting with you. Have a fantastic week and an amazing summer in front of you.

Andrew Holland: Thank you very much and thank you for the opportunity.


Jeff Tomlin: Impressive background! 

A few learnings from my conversation is that SEO is a growth strategy, not a cost centre. Andrew argues that SEO shouldn’t be compared to paid search in terms of ROI. It’s about building brand awareness and organic reach, a crucial element for long-term growth. It’s certainly noteworthy.

Also, embrace lifelong learning and become a “learnaholic.” The marketing landscape is constantly evolving. Andrew emphasizes the importance of staying curious, studying trends, and adapting your skills to thrive in the “idea economy.”

If you enjoyed Andrew Holland’s episode discussing SEO for long-term growth, keep the conversation going and revisit some of our older episodes from the archives: Check out Episode 709: Unlocking SEO Success: Discover the Three Essential Pillars with Damon Burton or Episode 627: Driving Business Growth through Effective SEO Strategies with Nic Padilla 

Until next time, I’m Jeff Tomlin, get out there and be awesome!