What makes a creative SEO agency stand out in the market?

Alex Fassam

By Alex Fassam
14 Aug 2019

7 min read


When Carrie Rose decided to audition for ‘The Apprentice’ she had no idea that her preliminary business plan would transpire into a fully-fledged company. In less than 3 months, with no backing from Sir Alan, Rise At Seven now has 8 clients and a firm footing in the town of Sheffield.

Keeping a laser focus on creative SEO services, Carrie works in partnership with Stephen Kenwright to create content marketing and digital PR strategies with industrial-strength technical SEO expertise.

Carrie sat down with Infinity to discuss the agency’s journey so far, why the name ‘Rise at Seven, and the recent success surrounding Love Island influencers.

Jumping right in, what was your main reason for creating ‘Rise At Seven’ with your co-founder, Stephen Kenwright?

It was a real mixture of circumstances. I worked with Stephen for 7 years, where he acted as search director of the company we both worked at. Eventually he became my mentor. During that time, I also applied to be on ‘The Apprentice’, it was a bit of a crazy time.

Despite the auditions being a bit of a drawn-out process, I got through to the final. And as part of the audition, I had to put together a business plan.

I sought Stephen’s advice as he’s well versed in industry knowledge, competitors, and much more in-depth information that I needed.

We looked at things such as hiring staff, where our positions would be, and how I would spend the £250k winnings, if I were to win.

Essentially, I came to the realisation “I can do this” and that there was a gap in the market for what the business was all about. In order for this dream to be as big as I wanted it to be I needed someone who was a technical SEO expert, and that came in the form of Stephen.

The downside of the story is that I sadly didn’t make it onto ‘The Apprentice’, but the upside was that it opened a new door for me and Stephen to put my business plan into action.

We already had potential clients, and even investment, lined up, and after about 3 weeks of badgering, Stephen agreed to be my business partner.

So, it wasn’t born out of sheer luck as you both sound pretty prepared for it, but perhaps it was actually a good thing you didn’t get through to ‘The Apprentice’?

Exactly! I feel like it just fell into place.

And, how has ‘Rise At Seven’ been so far?

It’s been amazing. We had expectations and goals to hit which we’ve exceeded massively. We’re now on client number eight and we’ve got a lot of promotion from the wider industry. With any agency work you’ll generally have sales and PR promotion getting the word out. We don’t have any of that. We’ve had people coming to us to purely out of our initial announcement and our position in the industry.

Would you say that yours, and Stephen’s, combination of talents gives your clients that trust factor? They know they’re getting both sides of the coins?

Absolutely! When Stephen and I worked together, we would always win a pitch. We won 100% of pitches. I was able to create a vision for them creatively, and then Stephen would be able to substantiate my claims with data and technical aspects.

And putting the two together, it fills that gap in the market you mentioned?

Oh yeah! We knew that the future is creative SEO. There’s so many great content marketing agencies and SEO agencies, but there’s no in-between. We’ll always be specialists and we’ll always focus on creative SEO. There’s no in-between for us.

What is your biggest challenge you’ve faced already?

I’d say the biggest challenge is that we’ve started in a new city. We had a big reputation in Leeds, which is a digital hub for the sort of work we do. Starting up in Sheffield meant it was brand new and had limited competition, but a field that definitely needs to be grown. Local businesses have heard about us, but we do need to get our name out there nationally.

We need to make the statement “We’ve brought digital to Sheffield”.

You’ve had some success with your recent PR activity around Love Island influencers, tell us a little bit about that.

We were in talks with large fashion client a couple of weeks ago with the opportunity to pitch. This was a dream client of ours so we thought “What could we do to impress them, relevant to their brand and audience interests?”

We wanted to create something for us as an agency that we could present to the client proving we can do anything and be creative with it.

We jumped on one of the biggest topics of the summer – Love Island and conducted comprehensive analysis, using latest emarketing data, to reveal just how much the contestants were expected to earn through Instagram brand partnerships once they leave the villa.

We then pushed this to press to generate links and awareness for us as a new creative agency and capture the attention of our dream clients.

Each contestant had a new found fame with millions of followers waiting for them to leave the Majorca island. After crunching some numbers we learnt that each follower on Instagram is now worth 0.0033p and therefore, based on each contestants social following, how much they should expect to earn for brand partnerships and sponsored posts.

We sent this to a few contacts we had within lifestyle and national press and over the space of a week landed over 30 links and media placements from the likes of Sky News, Cosmopolitan and more.

I personally got invited on to BBC World News where I spoke about Love Island as an influencer marketing opportunity and as a result of this over 2000 people visited our website.

More important than all, we presented our campaign to the client during the pitch stage and successfully won them.

The kind of publications you got into aren’t the ones that an SEO agency would usually try to get themselves mentioned in. Why did you shoot for these rather than marketing-specific websites or magazines?

Marketing publications are highly relevant and something we are targeting alongside other strategies, however they are also saturated with agency content and mentions. We wanted to be the agency that doesn’t just land on the Drum but gets in-front of real people too via OK Magazine or BBC.

We’re committed to showing we can think outside of the box and land placements that others didn’t even think of targeting.

We had a goal of impressing a client too so featuring on Sky News and BBC World News helped make us stand out as an agency.

Something that has us pondering is, how did you arrive at the name ‘Rise at Seven’?

We always had this idea of getting up in the morning and loving our jobs. We wanted to be energetic and we came up with rise as it embodied these qualities.

Seven is my lucky number and it nicely fitted in with the brand name. We get up early, we’re the first people to the office, and we’re faster than everyone else.

But also, it feels positive. I think when you look at technical SEO agencies, they all seem to focus on SEO terminology. We wanted to be a bit more out there and creative.

We think that’s where the SEO industry is going. It’s got to start becoming more creative.

What’s the best thing about working in agency?

I would say the opportunity to learn is the best bit. If you’re in-house, you can sometimes get a bit stuck. You see the same people everyday, you know your product inside out-and-backwards, but agency work is different. Every month you may be working on different clients, new projects, and having new problems to solve.

It’s about jumping into scenarios you wouldn’t usually get by being in-house. It’s much more exciting.

I don’t know what I'll be working on tomorrow. I like a fast-paced rhythm, whereas some people don’t. It’s about what you’re comfortable with.

As your specialist subject is search, click, and convert we want to ask you, what do you think the future of telephone communication is going to have in the future of SEO?

It’s interesting, I see via Facebook and Twitter that some people are scared to pick up the phone and have that social interaction lately. It’s much easier to hide behind a laptop. However, communication over the phone helps build strong relationships between brands and customers, and it’s key to sustaining that relationship to be fruitful for the future.

I guess you can always build a digital relationship with a customer, but speaking to someone is much more powerful.

What is one law you would implement if you had jurisdiction over content marketing strategies?

That’s a hard one. I would say that the law, when it comes to content on social media, the algorithms need to start working better for content creators so that their content is seen by their followers. That’s really frustrating for people. Content creators are spending time and money creating beautiful pieces of content, but sometimes no-one sees it. I would definitely change that.

Let’s look at Linkedin. They’ve adapted to work smarter for their users, which is why I’ve seen an up-take in the engagement on my Linkedin posts because I’m reaching the audience I’ve spent time building up over the years.

Do you see the potential for a future channel to emerge based on fair algorithms?

Yes, absolutely. I think that brands will begin to create their own platforms. Look at Greggs. They create, publish, and push some fantastic content, but have to rely on third party platforms to promote it. I think they should stop and create their own channel for their community.

Carrie Rose is our fourth guest Infinity’s “In Conversation With” blog series. We’ve had some fantastic guests on so far.

If you’d like to check out some of the other interviews, click the link here to read more.

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