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Interview by SEO Analyst & Copywriter, Skye Sonnega
When I think back to my first week as a full-time SEO Analyst, it seems like a blur full of information and emotions. I had just graduated college a week prior and was still grasping onto the idea that I was a working adult (gulp). I was familiar with SEO, but was by no means an expert.
I remember sitting down at my desk after the first week and sifting through all of the notes I had jotted down on my laptop or random pages of my notebook. One name became a common theme amongst the sea of words: Nick LeRoy.
Over the months, I started to realize that there’s a reason why Nick was so frequently mentioned amongst my coworkers. Not only is he a proud Minnesota native, but he’s creating his own path in SEO, and he’s doing it well.
Recently, I got to sit down with Nick via Zoom for 30 minutes to kick off a series of “mini'' rapid-fire interviews we’re featuring on the Uproer blog and social media. I kept my questions broad, and his answers did not disappoint.
Here, you can tap into what I hope will be the first of many mini-interviews with some of Uproer’s favorite industry professionals. Through these interviews, you’ll learn why we think these humans are pretty darn special.
How did you get your start in SEO?
Nick chuckled at this question because, similar to most, he fell into SEO in an unexpected way. Nick graduated college in 2008, and the job market was far from ideal. After getting turned away from a handful of larger companies like General Mills, he landed an interview for a project management position at a small web development firm.
Long story short, he didn’t get the position, but something even better came out of it. He said, “I found out literally within the first two minutes of the interview that the position had already been filled. . .But what [the interviewer] ended up telling me was that he had a position that he didn’t really tell anybody about, he needed someone to learn SEO.”
From there, things took off. Nick was hired for $18 an hour to teach himself SEO, and to help optimize all the websites that the firm was creating. Over ten years later, he has worked at several different agencies, and now owns his own consulting firm, Nick LeRoy Consulting LLC.
Through all of the ups and downs in the hiring process, Nick’s biggest piece of advice was to never stop networking. He said, “Networking is everything. I knew somebody who was a family friend, who knew somebody, who knew somebody, who was looking for a project manager at that web development firm.”
Who did you look up to the most when learning SEO?
At the beginning of his career, Nick was motivated most by those who were starting to make income from SEO, and showing that it was valuable. He said, “I think what really spirited me was people who were starting to make money online. . .When people started showing the AdSense checks saying like, ‘Hey, I know SEO, and I’m making money.’”
One of the most influential blogs Nick referenced was ShoeMoney by Jeremy Shoemaker, who was one of the first to post a photo of his Google AdSense check for the world to see. Blogs like Moz were also pioneers in the industry and helped Nick expand his knowledge base when teaching himself SEO.
Through his continuous networking, Nick was able to connect with a number of individuals online who helped challenge him to grow and learn in the ever changing world of search. He joined message boards like SEO Chat where he befriended professionals like Dr. Marie Haynes. He said, “She and I kind of grew up in that same era and through the same means. So today she and I are always like ‘Hey how did you get so smart about SEO? It’s that SEO chat.’”
Best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Nick is no stranger to venturing out on his own. After being laid off in 2020, he took the leap into freelance. You can read more about the peaks and valleys of that journey here.
When I asked him what his best tip was for young entrepreneurs, he said to never overthink it. In his words:
“Like, literally jump in and do it. I had been wanting to do my own thing, specifically SEO freelancing, for years. It was probably 4-5 years into my career when I realized that could’ve been an option but I made literally every excuse there was. Everything from like, ‘well I’m going to miss Bob, Joe, and Sandy at work to well ‘I don’t really work that hard, it’s an easy paycheck’ and then towards the end when I started having a family it was ‘Wow health insurance is going to be really really expensive I won’t be able to afford to do it.’”
Like many of us, Nick was no stranger to excuses. He said,
“I made every single excuse. And admittedly, had I not gotten fired during COVID, I probably wouldn’t be freelance. I had to be pushed out of the window and so pissed off at the corporate world to just kinda say f**k it. At that point it is really about setting your own rules, and for me, that was never accepting failure as an option, and just grinding.”
This mindset helped Nick earn over $100K in revenue in his first year of freelance. Today, he has two newsletters (we highly recommend) and just started his own podcast. Learn more about Nick’s projects here.
Favorite and least favorite aspect of SEO?
Nick’s answer to this question followed a common theme I’ve heard during other conversations:
“I like that question because I think the answer to both of those is going to be the same. What I think the most challenging part is that it’s constantly changing, daily. And that’s what I love and hate about SEO. I always look at SEO as a game or competition, and I’m very competitive, I want to be the winner.
And in no situation are you ever like number one or making too much money or driving too much traffic to a site, so it energizes me every single day to be able to get on, see the progress we’re doing, but also knowing what opportunities and levers we have to only continue to increase performance.
But at the same time, as exciting as that is, it is daunting. There are lots of times where we’re spending weeks, months, some even years and you’re just seeing minimal gains and you know it’s there, it’s working. But especially on my end, we should all be doing SEO with the idea of how we return the level investment back to our clients as soon as possible…
When you’re showing them that they’re not making their investment back, that’s stressful. I know what’s coming, and hopefully the client is on board, but it’s a little bit of a waiting game.”
For Nick and many others, including myself, the best and worst part of SEO is that it’s constantly changing form. An answer that may be right for one client, may be completely wrong for another. And the results don’t always come as quickly as we hope.
I think this says a lot about those working in search marketing. You have to have determination, grit, and the ability to face a challenge head on even when there isn’t a clear answer. It’s the reason we become addicted to SEO, but it also can be the reason we lose our hair over solving problems. A love, hate relationship in all its glory.
If you receive $10 million tax-free tomorrow, how would you use that money in the next six months?
Shout out to one of Uproer’s newest Senior SEO Analysts, Ben Bjerken, for this question. During his first couple of weeks he scheduled “Get to Know Ya” calls with each team member and asked a series of discussion questions. This one I liked in particular. It's fun and slightly overwhelming to think about all of the possible paths you can take with $10 million in six months.
When I asked Nick this question, he started with the basics: buy a new house for his family, a collection of cars, set money aside for retirement and college funds, and travel.
He said, “Admittedly, if I were to ever win $10 million, I would have to just sit on it… My brain would be like, going everywhere. That’s my hyper analytical part, I’d have to sit in a spreadsheet all day long.” I’m right there with you, Nick.
What does the future look like for Nick LeRoy?
With a quickly growing self-run brand, Nick is primarily focused on maximizing revenue while continuing to deliver valuable consulting services to his clients. He said,
“Being on my own, my biggest risk is always lack of scale. Meaning, I can’t take on 20 clients and do the quality of work that I want to do. So, what I’m always doing is looking for ways to maximize the revenue to each initiative.
Part of that is creating a little more passive income. So that’s where part of the SEO for Lunch, the newsletter comes in, and now the SEO Freelancer podcast. Things that I can do not necessarily every single day that help to build up my brand and industry contacts, and share more with individuals, which just builds more opportunities. Those are what I’m always excited about.”
Subscribe to Nick’s free newsletter SEO for Lunch to stay up to date on Nick’s career, and the latest in the search industry. For anyone interested in freelance, you can also check out his newsletter the SEO Freelancer, which is curated for current and aspiring freelancers in search.
Nick’s final take on freelancing and learning SEO: “Everybody should do it. You don’t have to jump in full-time. Make a couple bucks on the side and learn a ton.”