Rory Tarplee quickly progressed from SEO Account Manager to being the Head of SEO – he shares how he became the SEO marketer he is today.
RORY TARPLEE: BUILDING MY CONFIDENCE AND TECHNICAL SKILLS – HOW CLICKTHROUGH HELPED ME BECOME A LEADER
Rory Tarplee is ClickThrough’s Head of SEO. Rory joined us after finishing university, where his interest in business and people management led him to the world of marketing. Rory has quickly progressed from SEO Account Manager to being the Head of SEO – achieving the business and people management goals he set out for!
Time with ClickThrough: 2 years, 9 months
Joined As: SEO Account Manager
Current Role: Head of SEO
Total Roles at ClickThrough: 4
How my interest in people led me to marketing
Joining ClickThrough was my first professional experience in marketing. I’d completed my BA in Business Management but went on to do an MSc in Digital Marketing Management so I had some idea of what I was coming into, and was able to join as an SEO Account Manager. I’d always wanted to be a manager of people and drive businesses forward. What really drew me to marketing was my interest in how consumers behave and why people buy into certain brands & products – my dissertation was actually focused on the whole ‘Pepsi versus Coke’ war. I wanted to know why people pick one over the other, whether it’s the taste or the branding and marketing around them! As for choosing digital, it seemed obvious that things were moving online – digital was growing rapidly so it was a space I wanted to be in.
Building my confidence and working on ‘soft skills’
Even once I’d decided to go down the digital marketing route with my masters, my goal was always to be in a position where I could manage people and have an influence where I worked. When I joined ClickThrough, it was my first role in marketing, in fact my first full time job (I’d been working part-time at a supermarket throughout my studies) and I’d never spoken to a client before. I knew the theory from my degrees, but it was time to put that into practice, which was a huge learning curve! ClickThrough has a strong culture of support and feedback, which was really constructive for me when I needed it. There’s so many talented people here that I was able to learn from to develop the ‘soft skills’ I needed in my role, particularly communication.
By being in the Account Manager position, I was able to quickly build some confidence, develop my communication skills and reach a position where I was comfortable talking to clients about what we were doing. This was so helpful when I moved to the specialist role as I was already in a position where I felt like “okay I'm confident here, and I know how to talk and share my knowledge”. I think being in that Account Manager position first was really helpful to grow that confidence in my own ability and knowledge, which was crucial at such an early stage in my career.
How skills gap analysis helped me step into new roles
I’d been interested in SEO roles as I always felt it was the biggest potential for businesses digitally and that it is the core component in getting people to your website. As I started to grow into the SEO Account Manager role, I became really attracted to the technical side of it and looking at how websites are built and set up to rank well on Google. When the opportunity came, I moved over to an SEO Specialist role which allowed me to really deepen my knowledge of SEO, especially on the technical side.
Though I had a broad knowledge of the channel from being an Account Manager, I needed to develop more technical skills to become the person that makes the recommendations that drives our clients technical SEO strategies! Part of this was a skills gap analysis, where we identified my needs for training, the areas of technical SEO I needed to develop, then put that plan in place. I was able to work with people across the team who had those specialisms I was weaker in and really harness our knowledge, grow mine and get involved in the tasks to cement that learning as well.
Having been both an Account Manager and a Specialist, becoming Head of SEO was a good fit for me. I feel like I have a lot of valuable knowledge and experience to share with both the team and with clients, whether that’s in-depth technical SEO skills or from my experience as an account manager. I’d been working as a Senior SEO Specialist already, taking on that leadership role and setting an example for the team, but I still revisited a lot of the communication skills I developed as an Account Manager, making sure I was in a position to take them further and manage a whole department of people! We also worked on things like my commercial awareness, which was a key development point for making sure I was in the right place for the role.
My goal to become a thought leader
I think something that’s served me well when progressing is my passion for SEO and ClickThrough – if you don’t love what you’re doing then you’re not going to get very far! For SEO in particular, the positive attitude is important but a problem solving approach, a growth mindset… these are really important qualities. The SEO technical knowledge is something that happens over time, but you need to have the right attitude to make things happen. I do genuinely love SEO, so having that willpower to dedicate myself to self-development and self-learning gave me that boost in gaining more and more knowledge.
A real high point for me is having had client campaigns reach awards shortlists, as well as reaching one on my own! I was a finalist for The Drum Search Awards’ Rising Star of the Year award. This isn’t something I aimed for, it happened organically from people recognising my passion for what I do and wanting to nominate me as a result. I love what I do, so my progression in the team and the awards nominations are just wonderful acknowledgements for what I put in!
One of my next goals is around personal development and becoming more of a thought leader in our industry. I’m aiming to share my knowledge in wider settings, producing more thought leadership pieces and start speaking at public events. A key goal for me is to speak at events like BrightonSEO – I was watching the online events this year and started to think that there’s no reason I can’t push myself to be a part of these events. Don’t get me wrong – it’s daunting and definitely outside of my comfort zone (as I’m sure it is for many of this year’s speakers!) but I really want to set myself that challenge.
Why I’ve stayed – my future with ClickThrough
The support I’ve had from ClickThrough has been incredible. I don’t want to sound too cheesy, but it’s like a big family and we’re so well connected to one another. I’ve never felt I’ve had to hold any opinions back, if there’s been something I think can be improved or a question I’ve needed to ask. We’ve got a team approach to problem solving and growing our department and our strengths. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to grow at ClickThrough but, honestly, the team and agency talent is what makes me want to be here!
Learn more about Rory and his passion for SEO in the ClickThrough podcast - The Assorted Digital Ramblings Podcast