With a wealth of experience in business, Matt Tomkin is the Founder and Director of Tao Digital Marketing, a search marketing agency based in Bolton, UK. He also oversees one of the business’s main projects, Vofio.
Matt has been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years, and whilst setting up previous businesses he learned the power of optimising a site to generate consistent, high-quality leads. To him, this was a hugely untapped opportunity that many business owners just weren’t aware of.
He officially set the agency up in 2017 having previously run companies in the worlds of eCommerce and telecoms. Tao Digital provides services across content creation and technical SEO, helping a range of businesses across the globe achieve their goals.
The business has grown from just Matt to a strong team of six, each with their own areas of expertise. Client industries vary hugely, from insurance through to footwear and recruitment.
His years of experience as a business owner had given him a strong insight into how to provide the best bespoke service to cater for an individual clients’ needs – no two businesses are the same, so why would the SEO strategy be too?
In this interview, he shares some of the lessons his varied career has taught him, as well as his tips for budding entrepreneurs.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
With three kids under 10 it starts early! I try to get a nice strong coffee and if I have the time, I have a Personal Training session or go for a run. This helps set me up for the day ahead.
I like to have all the tasks I need to work on already arranged on my task management tool, ClickUp. That way I don’t really need to think about the day before I start. The only thing I might do is look to batch similar tasks together so that I am as productive as possible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
For me it’s just a case of trial and error – try it and see if the test version works. It’s all about having a go and learning as you move along. Not all ideas may land, but when they do, it’s a nice reward for taking a risk.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Video is going to be huge for SEO in 2023. TikTok has changed the game massively and TikTok videos are now even being displayed prominently in search results. Google Search Console added a ‘video’ section into the platform, which is a clear indicator that this is the way to go this year.
We’ve already started investing into video within our team – we’ve started creating video reviews for two of our own websites, Fishkeepers Handbook and Simply Electricals, and are exploring how we can incorporate this into TikTok now too.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
I’m still working on this, but I’m aiming to implement the ‘pomodoro technique’, which is briefly touched upon in the book ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport. This involves 25 minutes of deep work followed by a five minute break, then repeat.
It explores building good work habits and how, through one hour of deep work, you can get much more done than a full working day that is interrupted by distractions. Email in particular is the bane of my life, and I’m constantly distracted by it. I also find that noise cancelling earphones can really help me with tasks where I have to deeply concentrate.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell myself to take the risk and go all-in with the business you didn’t have 100% confidence in. For context, when I was 19, I qualified as a personal trainer and set up a website called Trainer Force, way before our modern search engines existed. I invested in a piece of software that used videos of people exercising to use as examples and put together food and training plans. The goal was to provide plans for people who couldn’t afford to go to the gym, let alone hire a personal trainer.
Back in 2005, a website named ‘The Million Dollar Homepage’ became very popular, where your business could buy a pixel of advertising space on the site for $1. Coca Cola had around 20 pixels at the time. I bought 4 and strategically placed the ad for Trainer Force right next to Coca Cola, where people’s eyes would be drawn to.
This was the only marketing I ever did and we got five subscriptions from it, before subscription models were even really in the market. All of my friends and family were telling me to get a proper job and so I followed their advice. Six months later, a business in America did the same as I did and became hugely successful. If only I’d carried on! Moral of the story: Believe in the businesses you start, even when you are young.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
That Gerry Cinnamon – Belter is one of the greatest songs of all time!
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
I’m always reflecting back and seeing what I learned from a situation/project. What went well, and what could be improved? That’s how I learn my biggest lessons. Otherwise, you’re bound to keep making the same mistakes.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
Go for a run! It always helps and it’s how I like to start my days if I have time. It sets the tone right.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Hard work and a belief that you may need to miss out at times in order to achieve your goals, whether that’s a social event or giving into a Nandos – it’s all about balance! There will definitely be times where you need to make sacrifices for your long term goals.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
Many years ago I set up a business called VO2 Sportswear. After selling my shares in the telecoms company I previously set up, I spent £15,000 on producing yoga kits. The factory we used turned out to be shocking, the quality was awful and ultimately, they were unsellable, so it was a huge waste of money.
Even up until a couple of years ago we still had boxes and boxes of yoga kits in Tao Digital’s office! It was a huge waste of £15,000, but from it I learnt the importance of quality assurance.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is a huge gap in the market for really good quality plain hoodies. No ‘brand’ printed onto them, just decent hoodies that don’t fade or fall apart after a few wears. I even know where they can be made, so give me a shout if you want to do it – I’m happy to help!
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
As mentioned earlier, we use ClickUp. It’s a great project management tool that the team has been using for a few years. All of our client’s projects are managed in their individual folders and we track time on tasks, meaning we’re able to manage the team’s workloads effectively and make sure we are spending the right amount of time on the right clients.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
The best money I spent recently was on my Meater Plus Probe! It’s a wireless smart meat thermometer that I love to use when cooking meat on my outdoor grill. It’s such a great way to make sure you don’t end up with dry meat and that it’s cooked all the way through. I loved it so much that we even did a review on it through Simply Electricals.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
One of my favourite books of all time is Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s like a blueprint for your business. The ideas presented won’t work for all business models, but every entrepreneur will gain something from reading it.
A podcast I’m really enjoying at the moment is ‘The High Performance Podcast’ by Jake Humphrey. It’s all about how to perform better and be more productive. There are lots of great guests – I particularly enjoyed the episode featuring Toto Wolff.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
I really loved the new BBC series Silent Witness. It’s got everything you want in a TV series – a decent story, science, tension – I’d definitely recommend it to thriller fans.
- Believe in your own business ideas and keep experimenting with new ways of working. Not everything will work, but you don’t want to miss out on those ideas that could have landed really well but that you were too afraid to do.
- Never stop learning. Whether that’s reading, listening to podcasts or watching webinars, there’s a wealth of information out there for free that you can use to push your business forward.
- Always reflect on the choices you make and look at what went well, and what you could do better next time – it’s one of the best ways to learn.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.