Episode 8 – The one with Quirky Digital – SEO and Hiring Digital Talent

Welcome to Episode 8 of The Holler Pod! The Podcast brought to you by the Searchability Group that is here to delve into the secrets of the recruitment industry, in a no nonsense and totally transparent way. Here our host and company Director Olly Preston welcomes Liam Quirk, MD at Quirky Digital, the award-winning SEO agency based in Liverpool. In this pod we delve into all things SEO, for businesses and specially recruitment. Plus we learn more about Liam’s own experience in hiring digital talent, and becoming an Associate Director of the football club we also sponsor, Tranmere Rovers FC!

How did Quirky Digital become Quirky Digital?

“When I was brainstorming the business name, it wasn’t just a coincidence. While AI business name generators were all the rage, they didn’t provide much of a connection and what I was looking for. Adding a “Y” to my surname “Quirk” and “Digital” at the end felt like a stroke of genius. Just before lockdown hit, I made the leap from freelancing to establishing a limited company. It was risky, given the uncertain market, but being locked indoors proved beneficial. Riding the wave of government support and digitalisation trends, we positioned ourselves aggressively in the market. Fast forward to today, with a team of 14 and ongoing recruitment, Recently, I’ve been recognised as one of the “30 under 30” inspiring individuals. It’s not just a badge of honour; it’s a testament to the journey we’ve undertaken and the impact we are making in the industry. A true validation of the hard work and dedication poured into building something meaningful amidst challenging times”.

Give your “Good, bad and or awkward” story

My story is relatively new, considering I’ve only been recruiting for the past four years. Drawing from my experience in previous agencies, where apprentices handled much of the groundwork, I decided to follow a similar path and hire apprentices.However, I found myself sifting through countless CVs, scheduling interviews left and right, without a clear sense of what I was looking for. It wasn’t until the 16th interview that something truly remarkable happened. During a virtual interview, a candidate appeared dressed impeccably, but the conversation took an unexpected turn when he mentioned attending his father’s funeral just moments before. Initially taken aback, I braced myself for an awkward encounter, unsure of how to proceed. Yet, as the conversation unfolded, I was struck by the candidate’s honesty, ambition, and resilience. Despite the challenging circumstances, he exuded a sense of determination and authenticity that resonated with me. Against all odds, I took a leap of faith and hired him on the spot. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my recruitment journey. While the situation was undeniably awkward at first, it ultimately led to a positive outcome. Today, that candidate remains an invaluable member of my team, a testament to the power of seizing opportunities even in the most unexpected of circumstances. Reflecting on this experience, I can’t help but admire the candidate’s courage and resilience. He could have easily postponed the interview given the circumstances, but instead, he showed up and left a lasting impression. It’s moments like these that remind me of the importance of taking risks and trusting my instincts, even when faced with uncertainty”.

Tell us about your journey particularly in SEO from then and how you’ve you come to where you are today?

“I left school at 16 with three GCSEs and was fortunate to have an uncle in the SEO and digital industry who introduced me to online earning opportunities early on. He mentored me, teaching me basic website building and sharing tricks of the trade while I was still in high school. Although I initially pursued an apprenticeship, I soon realised that formal education didn’t align with my career goals.

Working closely with a mentor at a smaller agency in Chester, I honed my skills in SEO and gained valuable business insights. By the age of 20, I found myself in a leadership role, second in command at the agency. Transitioning to a larger agency in my hometown provided exposure to bigger clients and budgets, fueling my confidence to eventually start my own agency.

Starting my own agency was driven by a desire for freedom and autonomy, but the reality of running a solo operation meant long hours and little personal time. Scaling up became necessary to achieve a better work-life balance. Transitioning from freelancer to business owner came with challenges, particularly the shift from sole responsibility to managing a team. However, it also brought opportunities for growth and efficiency. Now, with a team of 14, I’ve learned the importance of leveraging resources effectively to maximise productivity and profitability”.

Quirky Digital is clearly an SEO Savvy company, who are being recognised not just locally, but across the UK for your achievements, what’s the secret to standing out as an SEO? 

“We’ve placed a significant emphasis on our marketing efforts, particularly focusing on showcasing the results we achieve, demonstrating the tangible outcomes we deliver for our clients. In the SEO industry, results speak louder than words. Most of our clients are primarily concerned with the effectiveness of our strategies rather than the individuals behind them. That’s why our marketing strategy is centred around highlighting the evidence of our success. From the outset, I had the advantage of having tangible results, which serves as compelling case studies. Whether you’re a seasoned agency or a newcomer to the SEO scene, what truly matters is the evidence of your capabilities. We prioritise transparency, providing clients with detailed insights into our campaigns and outcomes. Our marketing strategy goes beyond just showcasing results; it’s about fostering trust and credibility. We’ve been transparent about our processes, delivering on our promises, and inviting feedback from our clients. This approach has not only attracted new clients but has also led to a significant number of referrals and positive reviews. It’s about confidently putting ourselves out there and letting our track record speak for itself”.

I know you ran a campaign for Klickstarters (Our grad proposition)  which the guys on our side were particularly happy with. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

“We optimised the website’s content for relevant keywords like “tech recruitment” by creating engaging, informative content tailored to our target audience. Additionally, we ensured the website’s technical aspects were flawless, providing users with a seamless experience. Our efforts also included link-building campaigns to enhance Klickstarters’ online visibility and credibility by securing backlinks from reputable websites.

Although the campaign lasted about six months, we believe there’s still untapped potential for further growth. Our team enjoyed working on it, as they could relate to the target audience, making the process more engaging and relatable for both graduates and recruiters alike”.

Searchability are sponsors for Tranmere Rovers FC and you were recently appointed as an Associate Director there– can you tell us a little bit about that?

“I’ve always been passionate about Tranmere Rovers, and my fascination with the associated businesses grew as I matured. I dreamt of seeing a company I was involved with featured prominently, aligning my business endeavours with my love for the club. Meeting Martin, who shares my enthusiasm, and witnessing Searchability’s sponsorship of the team further fueled my ambition. Through our sponsorship, I connected with the club’s marketing team, offering insights to support their success. This dedication caught the attention of the club’s owners, leading to discussions about potential collaboration and my own business ventures. 

About a year ago, I was offered a position on the club’s board, a decision I deliberated on carefully. Despite my passionate language during matches, I recognised the professional opportunity and accepted. Since joining the board, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with knowledgeable individuals, gaining valuable insights into the club’s operations that were previously inaccessible as a fan. Though challenging at times, serving on the board has been immensely rewarding, fulfilling a lifelong dream and demonstrating the power of merging passion with opportunity”.

“Our recruitment strategy adapts to the distinct dynamics of cities like Chester and Liverpool, recognising their charm and appeal compared to larger tech hubs. Operating in these locations allows us to tap into a pool of talent seeking a more relaxed lifestyle and avoids the need for lengthy commutes to bigger cities like Manchester. Despite facing less competition than tech giants in larger cities, we see this as an opportunity to carve out our niche and provide a compelling alternative for clients and candidates alike. I’m committed to elevating Liverpool’s digital presence, leveraging our city’s unique strengths and vibrant culture to rival Manchester’s tech dominance. With a focus on innovation and opportunity, we aim to establish Liverpool as a thriving hub for digital excellence, benefiting both clients and talent in the region.”. 

So, what do you specifically look for in SEO recruits?

“I understand the importance of cultural fit, where attitude, determination, and ambition play a crucial role. However, when it comes to the technical, the key criterion for us is having tangible examples of your past work.When it comes to technical expertise, what matters most to us is concrete examples of your previous work. Whether you’ve worked on big campaigns with large teams or independently, we want to know your role and the impact you had on the outcome. Having your own websites or case studies to showcase and test strategies is crucial in our industry. Algorithms change constantly, so maintaining an up-to-date website for experimentation is highly valued. We appreciate candidates who not only demonstrate technical skills but also show  business savviness and the ability to contribute to business strategy”.

What’s your recruitment process look like?

“Our recruitment process has evolved over time to prioritise technical ability, reflecting the changing demands of our business. Initially, we emphasised traits like work ethic and reliability, but as we’ve grown, we’ve recognised the importance of technical skills, particularly for roles with limited training time.

Candidates undergo a structured process involving video calls for cultural fit checks, face-to-face interviews for technical discussions, and skills tests to assess problem-solving abilities. While some may find the skills test intrusive, it’s essential for ensuring compatibility with our business culture. The process typically takes three to four weeks, although quick hires have occurred based on recommendations. As our business continues to evolve, we remain committed to attracting the right talent to meet our evolving needs”.

AI is taking the world by storm and impacting the recruitment market enormously (we all will be out of a job in the not too distant future!) How is this impacting your business / how are you standing out in an AI driven world?

“The emergence of AI writing tools like ChatGPT caused a stir in the industry, with many fearing they’d be out of a job. Seeming like a shortcut to SEO success, as they could rewrite content and potentially boost rankings. However, this approach soon led to a flood of low-quality, duplicate content saturating search engine results. In response, Google rolled out a Spam update about two weeks ago, targeting websites that had been exploiting these tactics. Thousands of sites were penalised or removed from search results. As technology grows and adapts, maintaining credibility and expertise becomes paramount. While some may resort to dubious tactics, it’s those who consistently deliver quality and authenticity that ultimately succeed in the long run”.

How can you guys directly help out other recruitment agencies whether that be through candidate attraction or client generation?

“Ensuring your website ranks for relevant recruitment-related keywords is crucial for attracting both clients and candidates. By appearing in search results for terms like “Recruiter in Chester” or “Recruitment Agency in Liverpool,” you position yourself in front of individuals actively seeking your services. This not only establishes your authority in the industry but also drives valuable traffic to your site, increasing the likelihood of inquiries and conversions. Showcasing your expertise through informative blogs and industry updates helps solidify your reputation as a thought leader. By regularly publishing insightful content and sharing it across your social channels, you not only enhance your overall marketing strategy but also build trust with both existing and potential clients. By establishing a strong presence in search results and demonstrating your expertise are fundamental components of a successful recruitment marketing strategy”.

Reflecting on our journey, what advice would you offer to individuals undergoing a similar transition to venture into entrepreneurship but require that extra push, or maybe they’re already on the trajectory to success within their current organisation?

“Firstly, embracing advice from seasoned individuals who’ve walked the entrepreneurial path before me was invaluable. Despite my initial confidence, I learned that learning from others’ mistakes is essential for growth. Secondly, transitioning from a peer to a leader necessitated a shift in approach. While I cherished being well-liked, I realised the importance of balancing camaraderie with constructive feedback and accountability. Effective communication became paramount in maintaining relationships while fulfilling my new role. Lastly, trusting my instincts proved crucial. Whenever in doubt, my gut often led me in the right direction. As for advice from your journey, the significance of handling rejection gracefully resonates deeply. Understanding that a ‘no’ to the business isn’t a ‘no’ to oneself fosters resilience and a proactive mindset. By seeking feedback and making strategic adjustments, we’ve positioned ourselves for success, turning setbacks into opportunities for growth”.

Get in touch with Quirky Digital if you are on the search for an SEO Audit or check out our live vacancies.

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