Digital Marketing Interview – Matt Barby

I’m really pleased to introduce Matt Barby to readers of my blog. For anyone looking for inspiration in how to launch a successful digital marketing career, Matt provides a true example of what it takes. Not only carving out reputation to match his digital skills, (Matt was recently voted in the top SEO’s list of 2015) – Matt has provided creative solutions in how to master a wide range of digital marketing tools and how to best utilise these for your business.

He is also a guest presenter and his articles are published in leading international digital marketing publications such as Marketing Land, Moz, Forbes and TechRadar. My interview covers a number of interesting questions, not just SEO but also Matt’s views on the growth in digital marketing training being provided by agencies and respected consultants, how to get “buy-in” to digital within organisations, the rise in mobile as a channel and recommended reading for my readers….enjoy!


Tell us a little about Matt…

I’m the Digital & Content Strategist at Wyatt International, a lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute and I run my own digital marketing blog. Alongside all of this, I regularly write for a number of major marketing publications, including Marketing Land, Moz and Search Engine Journal, as well as being featured in the likes of Forbes, Entrepreneur and TechRadar.










When did your digital career start?

My digital career started when I was at university, studying business & management. I’d always been interested in marketing, and I’d self-taught myself a lot of technical skills like coding to a fairly advanced level which led me into the more data-driven side of marketing.

I started out my playing around with affiliate marketing and SEO to fund my university exploits. I look back on some of the things I was trying out back then and I do cringe a little, however it was these early exploits that moved me toward getting a better understanding of what does and doesn’t work. Needless to say, a lot of the techniques I was testing out weren’t exactly, erm.. ‘client friendly’.

Within my final year of university, I took on a role as an SEO/social media exec at a local agency and within a year and a half I became the head of digital. My knowledge levels were growing at a rapid pace and I was getting a lot more client experience. These were some of the most important times for me at developing my knowledge of what can be achieved with digital marketing.


You’ve leapt to prominence within the SEO industry as a voice of authority – how did your SEO journey start and did you teach yourself?

When I get interested in something, I can become quite obsessive. When I first started to become interested in SEO I would spend every spare minute of the day reading up on the latest strategies and successes that others within the industry were working on. I would make it a ritual within my day to go through forums and communities to get the answers to questions I had and spent the large majority of my spare cash on testing things out myself.

My SEO journey started this way and has slowly evolved to a point where I’m the one answering the questions. That said, I still dedicating a huge amount of my time to reading up on new approaches, and spending more money than I should on testing them out!

I haven’t had any formal education on SEO, however I’m a firm believer that there’s only so much you can learn about SEO without carrying out practical applications. The best thing that I did was to buy a few domains and just test out things on them – it really is the only way to know what works.

A key focus for you has been the development of your own digital marketing tutorials – what was your motivation to set these up?

The main reason I started doing this was because I found that more and more people would email me, tweet me and call me with quick questions about how to use certain tools, how to do things like keyword research, etc. Instead of my repeating myself, I started creating tutorials that shared the exact methods that I use and then shared them with everyone for free.

This has been one of the biggest contributors to the growth in my blog traffic, social following and my general branding.


We’ve seen a growth in agencies and respected indivduals developing their own digital marketing training plans e.g. DistilledU, Annie Cushing and here Annielytics training, Keyword Research by Nick Eubanks – Do you see this market growing to benefit digital agencies rather than through more established centres e.g. University, college

Yes and no.

Yes, because there’s only so much that you can learn from formal university/college qualifications due to the fact that they’re a lot more rigid. With course like Nick Eubank’s recent keyword research course (which is awesome, btw), he goes into much more advanced detail around the practicalities of apply specific techniques. Not only that, but it’s a lot easier for Nick to update his course to adapt to new changes in the industry, as opposed to formal education course.

No, because the more established centres for education often provide a fantastic base level knowledge for beginners that can offer formal qualifications, which is great for progressing your career, or knowledge to business owners in order for them to make better decisions on their chosen agency/individual supplier.


Getting buy-in to digital within “non digital first” organisations seems to be a key theme for 2015 as digital marketers try to justify the need for more budget spend and buy-in –  Do you have any recommendations on justifying the importance of digital marketing to a non-digital senior managers?

This is something that I spend a lot of time doing. I work with a LOT of B2B industrial businesses; some of which are huge international companies, others are smaller domestic businesses. When you’re trying to get buy in from a business that hasn’t had a huge focus on digital it’s usually because they perceive their customers to share the same view.

An example of this could be with tradespeople. I’ve worked with companies that are targeting the likes of plasterers and electricians and they often come back with the phrase, “our customers don’t care about social media, they listen to their local merchant to make the decision for them.” This is one of many similar statements that I regularly hear. The reality is often quite different.

If your direct customers aren’t easy to reach via digital, find others that influence their buying decision and reach them. There’s also the fact that digital can be used in a way that supplements and improves the effectiveness of offline campaigns (and vice-versa). If the majority of your customers are quite susceptible to in-store POS promotions, why not link them to an online social media competition and give your target audience a reason to go digital – it’s this kind of thinking that helps to get the value of digital across.

Don’t just think of digital in terms of a group of services, i.e. SEO, social media, content marketing, etc. Instead, think of digital as a part of a wider, holistic marketing campaign. This way you don’t need to make the decision on offline vs offline or traditional vs new approaches – you’ll be thinking more about how online can improve offline or how traditional marketing can fuel new approaches.


Is it time to specialise in a specific vertical or take a broad approach in developing a digital marketing career?

In my opinion, you should have a broad knowledge of marketing as a whole so that you can understand the impact of one channel upon another and how they can work together. That said, you can’t be an expert in everything.

Identify where your weaknesses lie and work with others to fill the gap – this is where your team is important.


I could literally link to your blog posts for any newbies wanting to learn SEO (and I frequently do!) What advice would you provide to someone wanting to learn and craft their trade around learning SEO?

Don’t take anything you read within blogs for granted without trying it yourself – even my blogs!

This is a lesson that I learned the hard way from an early stage. SEO and digital marketing as a whole is changing at a rapid pace. Something that you read one day may be completely irrelevant the next. In order to stay on top of things you need to have a good understating of the basics and then trial out the more advanced tactics yourself.


A recurring theme with your blogging is the art of link building – is this still an important tactic to consider for SEO 2015?


Link building is without-doubt, the most important aspect of SEO for achieving top search rankings. I’ll challenge anyone who disputes this to prove me wrong.

As much as a lot of SEOs hate to admit it, link building is incredibly important. It’s also the most difficult part of SEO. Most of the people that ask me questions surround SEO will often ask me about link building because there are tons of varying opinions, techniques, and strategies.

Again, make sure you test what works for yourself.


With the introduction of Google not provided, what key metrics should SEO’s be monitoring and measuring?

Even before the introduction of not provided, you should be focusing on business goals as opposed to just SEO metrics. Keyword rankings are good, as well as organic traffic stats and search visibility, etc. but there’s no replacement for the bottom line impact of a campaign.

Sit down and work out what success looks like to you and then build out some measurement metrics against it.


With mobile accounting for a healthy % of most brand direct traffic – what recommendations do you have to maximise a brand’s mobile platforms for SEO?

It’s becoming industry standard for businesses to have responsive websites, and it’s becoming more and more frequent that they will have their own app. Take a look at your business and decide whether your customers would directly benefit from these platforms – if the answer is yes, get to work on providing a solution.


Can we see you at any speaking events in 2015?

You can indeed.

I’m speaking at the Inbound Dublin conference on 21st January and BrightonSEO on April 10th. I’m sure that I’ll be speaking at a few more over the year as well so make sure you check out my blog and Twitter feed for more info.


Any advice for a newbies moving into digital?

Test, test, test!


What’s on your reading list?

I’m going to include a shameless plug of my social media strategy article here because a lot of my readers tell me that this is really useful (I’ll let you decide that!). Alongside this, here are some of my favourite articles:

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