I graduated from SIU Carbondale in 2005 with a degree in History Education. Immediately following graduation, I found a job at a great high school in Southern Illinois, working as a detention room supervisor and assistant boys’ basketball coach.
Anyone who knows the world of public education knows that the profession is not renowned for its lucrative salary structure, but I found myself in a rarified situation: unlike most teachers, I was not burdened with lesson plans and grading. My job was simply to “ride herd” on a small room full of students who had, for one reason or another, been ejected from class. Like many teachers, I did not have an excess of funds…but unlike most of them, I did have an excess of time.
It may be hard to believe, but sitting at my desk one day near the end of my first year as detention room supervisor, I literally Googled “how to make money online.” This lead me to Ed Dale’s “30-Day Challenge to Digital Marketing,” a course that taught me the fundamentals of digital marketing and SEO. From there, I was hooked: I became active in multiple SEO-related forums, sought out other opportunities for SEO education, and simply devoured every relevant business book I could find (a habit that persists to this day).
As I approached the end of my second year of teaching, my income from digital marketing had eclipsed my teacher’s salary. At the close of the school year, much to my parents’ dismay, I quit. I had structured my salary at the high school to pay 12 months of the year, so I had all of summer vacation free with a steady income. I used this largesse to fund the beginning of my full-time career in digital marketing.
I began in affiliate marketing, managing over 100 websites at one time. I ranked #1 for “stained concrete,” “double chin,” “acai fruit,” and a host of other terms. My efforts were so successful that business owners in my respective product categories began to reach out to me for advice, since my microsites were outranking their business pages. Here, I had my first taste of consulting work, something that was completely new to me at the time.
I quickly began to automate some of my processes, freeing me to let my affiliate marketing business almost run itself. In turn, I found full-time employment at a digital marketing agency based nearby in Missouri, managing campaigns for roughly 30 law firms. While I only worked there for about a year and a half, the experience was crucial to me for three reasons:
1) It gave me my first real experience in marketing for the legal vertical, setting me on the path that lead me to found a law firm SEO agency. I had, as they say, found my niche.
2) The automation of my affiliate marketing lit a fire for something unexpected: systems and processes. In this first instance, creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) was merely a form of expediency: I didn’t have time to do all of the work myself and needed to be able to quickly explain to my assistants what needed to be done.
These days, however, my company is built on SOPs. They allow us to easily onboard new employees to our way of doing things and creating consistency and efficiency across all of our positions.
3) I began to have ethical concerns about the company that employed me. I didn’t agree with their approach to SEO or the direction that the agency was taking; it seemed that they were more concerned with their bottom line than they were in actually delivering results for our clients.
The company, as you might expect, is no longer doing business.
I’ve always felt that the easiest road to profitability was simply to make good on my promises and believe that the money would follow. When those concerns became impossible to ignore, I struck out on my own and founded Attorney Rankings/Rankings.io, LLC, hoping to use all of the skills I had acquired in a way that my conscience could stomach.
I founded Rankings.io on the idea that dominating the SEO industry didn’t have to be a zero-sum game. I could help my clients and myself; I could lead with integrity and transparency.