Two former UWS students have wasted no time in setting up their own successful design agency in Edinburgh. Alan Carmichael and Harvey Anderson met in late 2015 while studying our MSc Digital Marketing programme. During their studies, Harvey and Alan considered setting up something when they completed their course but didn’t predict they’d be well on their way with a catalogue of clients, seven months before graduating.
It’s been a big year for them both; handing in dissertations on January 5th, leaving their jobs on the 6th and moving into their new Edinburgh office on the 9th. We caught up with them both to find out more about the whirlwind six months leading up to their July graduations!
Tell us a bit about ourselves and your business?
Harvey: We are a web design and digital marketing agency based in Edinburgh, our passion is creating exciting websites that convert into paying customers. Our whole business model is based on what we learned during the MSc: building sites then optimising it using a variety of tools.
Alan and I met at UWS and quickly realised that we both had similar entrepreneurial mindsets. I took a work based route, working as a Marketing Coordinator for a food company in Glasgow. This route allowed me to work on the practical skills we learned in class every day and improve quickly. I realised that it was something I could do successfully for a living and started to put plans into motion with Alan.
Alan: I worked in retail for Apple in their store; I loved it but it just wasn’t where I wanted to go as I’ve always been an avid maker of things and I enjoy beautiful design. As the course progressed we decided that to start our own brand, it would mean major financial investment which as students, we didn’t have. The solution to this was to go into a partnership with a nationwide brand - Nettl. Why did you choose to set up in Edinburgh?
Alan: This is one of the most asked questions we get, everyone wants to know why we chose Edinburgh.
Harvey: Being well versed in metrics and analytics from our Programme Leader Theo, we decided to base our business decision on data. When we started our keyword research we found that there were only two main searches within Scotland for web design and digital marketing services. We explored both the Glasgow and Edinburgh markets and realised that there was a little less competition within the Edinburgh area.
Do you think your degree has helped? Alan: The MSc Programme was a fundamental building block, that gave us an in-road, to start exploring the vast world of digital marketing. SEO, PPC Advertising, Wordpress and the theoretical side of things was covered in great detail.
Harvey: The course gives you a sample of everything in the digital marketing world and then it’s up to you to go and further yourself or specialise. If we’re being honest, when we started our company we probably didn’t feel like we had all of the skills required but that soon changes after three months of working and learning. This is all thanks to Theo, Matt and the rest of the team. The theory side gives you a basis to go and learn anything connected with Digital Marketing.
Have you been in contact with the University since you have left? Alan: We were invited back last month to deliver a lecture to current students. We prepared a presentation going into the basics of Google’s search rankings. We spoke to around 10 students who had keen interest in learning more about the niche areas with link building and as well as a broader look at search engine optimisation (SEO). As part of the lecture, we wanted to effectively show SEO live and in action so we wrote an article and used it to bring traffic to our site. This was key to demonstrate the importance of SEO. A week after we published the article online, we moved up 14 ranked places to page one of Google search as due to the traffic boost from the article.
Harvey: Aside from coming in to do the SEO talk, Theo, Matt and Alan in the School of Business and Enterprise have all been very supportive and have regularly given business advice. So even though the course ended, the relationship hasn’t stop there. Has there been any notable successes in your first six months? Harvey: Aside from working with some big clients within the Edinburgh area, we’ve actually just had our first major milestone reaching the first page of Google on our high volume keyword. We’ve found that our fresh ideas are helping us start to move ahead of companies that have been in Edinburgh for years. We’ve went from 90th in search engine rankings in February, to 9th as of last week (page one).
Alan: We’re ahead of multi million pound companies who have big advertising budgets. We use Pay Per Click (PPC) on top of that which has bagged us lots of great clients however we want to rank as the best at what we do without having to pay an external advertiser.
What are your future plans?
Harvey: Although it is our responsibility to handle the day to day and the marketing of the company, we are still in partnership with Nettl. We use their brand and the back end of their systems for proposal building, keeping track of our finances which takes some of the stress off but now, six months down the line we’re a bit more experienced. We feel that the next stage is to build our own brand and then progress from there.
Alan: We have a lot of big ideas and we want to expand into Glasgow and other parts of Scotland. The first steps we can take is to stay up there and continuously improve our rankings for the most popular ranking keywords.
Do you have any tips for current students or anyone thinking about applying to the course?
Harvey: Embrace it. In one year, you can’t possibly learn every part of Digital Marketing however you’ll get a flavour of each discipline and learn how to apply yourself. You have the option to decide what suits you best in the digital marketing sphere and then you have to go away and work away at it yourself!
Alan: We decided to focus on core concepts first and foremost like web design, branding and content and then under each of those categories there is a never-ending list of sub categories and sub categories of those sub categories so it’s a real rabbit hole. The course is a great starting point for anyone, not just people who have a marketing background, it could be someone that wants to take control of the whole marketing department in their own business.
Harvey: Digital marketing has so many working parts that knowing one discipline isn’t enough because they all have a knock-on effect on each other; how each part integrates with each other, how social works with PPC, how SEO works with web design or even how branding works with Adwords and the flow of what customers look at when they come onto your site. It’s not enough nowadays to know about one part. When I was looking at digital marketing courses, this course was the one that stood out to me the most due to it being the most forward thinking which is what digital marketing is all about.
A big thanks to Alan and Harvey for taking time out to chat with us. If you’re interested in the MSc Digital Marketing course, you can find out more here.