From Apprentice in a start-up company to Head of SEO…how did it all start?

During this blog series, we talk to accomplished digital marketing professionals from a variety of backgrounds about their career journeys with the aim of inspiring jobs seekers, aspiring freelancers and the trailblazing entrepreneurs amongst you!

I spoke to Declan Reilly, the Head of SEO at Evoluted!  After realising University wasn’t for him, Declan got his start in Digital Marketing by becoming an SEO apprentice after school. Since then, Declan has climbed up the SEO ladder since his apprentice days and is now currently the Head of SEO for Evoluted! 

Now for the interview, read all about how Declan made his way from SEO apprentice to Head of SEO! Over to you Declan… 

A childhood photo of Declan Reilly playing football

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Is it bad to say I didn’t want to be anything in particular? I think my ambition came a bit later on, late in my teenage years! At which point I realised SEO would be a pretty good shout.

What was your very first job?

SEO! Sadly or not, depending on how you look at it, it’s all I’ve ever really known… I started as an apprentice for a specialist SEO agency when I was 17 years old. Before that, I was doing my A-Levels but although I probably “should have gone to university”, that didn’t end up feeling like the right path for me.

How did you first discover digital marketing / your specific industry sector?

I was scrolling through Indeed or something back in 2011, looking for any type of apprenticeship that may be up my street when I first discovered the acronym ‘SEO’ and it piqued my interest. I’d grown up spending too much time on my computer and this seemed an interesting area to start putting some of that time spent to good use. Since getting involved with it, I’ve just wanted to learn more and more.

Looking back, it was a real punt to join what was a start-up agency in an industry that was still really young… but I’m really fortunate with how it’s worked out!

Share a mistake you made or an event you regret from your career:

Wish I’d gotten involved with the wider SEO community earlier. The connections you can make does open up new opportunities. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve got onto Twitter and it’s been interesting, to say the least… 🙂

Jumping in a time machine, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t doubt the value you *are* bringing to the table and *will* bring to the table if you carry on as you are. You are an asset to any company you work for, so believe it!

What industry skill do you wish you’d learned sooner and why?

Probably some of the content marketing elements. Knowing how really good content and identifying the right audience for it can impact might have more quickly moved me on from some more unsavoury link building methods!

Who are you inspired by in the digital marketing industry? 

People that are welcoming and helpful to others in our space, no matter how well followed they are. I wish the SEO industry was a bit less about who you knew, more about how you act.

Some that get this really right are:

Natalie Arney 

Reji Yates 

Andy Barr 

Lyndon NA 

Jasmine Granton 

If you were to publish an autobiography in 20 years time, what would it be titled?

SEO Isn’t Dead Yet; Neither Am I

What’s the one thing you want to be remembered for from your career, and why?

Being a good leader helped people progress with their careers and get some enjoyment from their working life. It’s something I put a lot of effort into trying to get right, so hopefully, I am doing this to an extent (or is something I’ll get better at in the future)!

What subjects were you best at in school? 

Maths, Science and Geography

Thank you, Declan, for taking part in this series. It’s always so nice to be able to share stories of marketers supporting others in the industry. We recommend everyone to follow Declan on social media and learn more about his positive impact on the industry! 

Keep an eye out for more of the MOAM series as I regularly publish new editions from other inspiring digital experts.

Could your career story inspire others to further their digital marketing careers? Or, do you know someone whose story needs to be told? Feel free to fill out our new MOAM questionnaire or get in touch with me directly via Alternatively, if you’re looking to explore your career options in digital marketing, visit our job board or upload your CV.

Did you enjoy reading about Declan’s digital career? If so, you’ll find these MOAMs interesting too!

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