Michelle Symonds

Founder of Ditto Digital

Michelle Symonds is the founder & CEO of Ditto Digital, a UK-based digital marketing company specialising in Technical SEO (Search Engine Optimization). After a long career as an IT professional in both the oil industry and investment banking, Michelle established an SEO consultancy in 2010 that enabled her to draw on her strong background of IT project management, software and web development to devise and implement effective SEO campaigns for small businesses.

As the consultancy took on more clients it expanded to include a dedicated team that could offer other digital marketing services such as content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, conversion rate optimisation and social media management. Still very much focused on their specialty of Technical SEO campaigns they also provide SEO Audits and SEO Health Checks; and advise SMEs on their digital marketing strategy. The company has been highly successful at enabling small businesses to compete effectively with big brands in the organic search landscape in both B2C and B2B sectors.

As Ditto Digital continues to grow Michelle remains focused on her core objectives to develop long-lasting relationships with clients, dedicate time and resources to them and deliver an exceptional SEO and digital marketing service backed up by technical expertise that continually exceeds expectations.

Where did the idea for Ditto Digital come from?

I was looking for a role with a better work-life balance than the IT vice-president role I had at an international blue-chip organisation in London that involved long hours and a long commute. Little did I know then that the long hours would remain but the commute would be replaced by a profound sense of satisfaction creating something from nothing. I initially started an online art gallery but very quickly realised my skills lay not in discovering the next new contemporary artist but in the analysis and logical thinking that had originally attracted me to IT. So instead I started learning the “art” of search engine optimisation (SEO) and my fledgling SEO consultancy was born to enable SMEs to compete with much larger companies in the organic digital marketing arena.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My working day usually starts at 8.30am and the first thing I do every day is make a To-Do list of the immediate tasks I want to accomplish that day. These are my short-term To-Do’s which run in parallel to my longer-term activities and goals on my master To-Do list. This was a tip given to me a few years ago that has really helped me avoid being overwhelmed by a constantly growing list of tasks and to ensure I stay productive. Depending on what point in the month it is I have certain days that I dedicate to regular client work, monthly reporting and lead generation. Most of my day is spent in my office at my desk but after two decades in the corporate world I relish the calm atmosphere.

How do you bring ideas to life?

On the one hand ideas pop into my head spontaneously every day but on the other I try to work through them in logical steps (that’s the old programmer coming out in me) to reach a point where the ideas can become reality. Converting ideas to reality is the lifeblood of my business and I value people with initiative who will look at problems from unusual perspectives to find solutions. We achieve this by believing every idea has value and brainstorming to either find the value or learn from those ideas that can’t work.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The world of SEO has always required content in one form or another but I’m excited to see the really exceptional content now being recognised and given credit over the click-bait pieces that have never really added value to the online experience. Search engines like Google now prioritise in-depth, well-researched content from experts in their field, which has to be good for all of us.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Self-motivation! I love my job and want to do it the best I can because I’m never satisfied with anything mediocre or second-best. That means I take time to get to know clients: their business and personal objectives, so that I can deliver digital marketing results for them in the same way I would for my own business.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Believe in yourself! And learn sooner how to communicate complex technical ideas using straightforward language.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

In depth analysis of data is fun! But more than that there is real value in business data that is often overlooked yet could make a real difference to revenue.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Understand the data. There are swathes of Google Analytics, Search Console and Link Profile data for every website and business out there. It is easily accessible and can add real value if you take the time to analyse it and compare it with competitors’ data. There is always some additional value hidden in the data that you can use to a client’s advantage.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Working as hard for client businesses as for my own business; going the extra mile to do what is right and not taking the easy route.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My first business did not capitalise on my strengths and failed to make any significant profit but I learnt from that failure and quickly moved on without regret. My next business – Ditto Digital – focused on what I knew, understood well and could deliver for small businesses in a way they could not do themselves.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Businesses often don’t capitalise on the potential customers who visit their website so I would urge anyone with a website to monitor metrics such as Bounce Rate and Conversion Rate and constantly try and improve both to gain more revenue from existing visitors. You don’t always need to increase visits to secure more customers. Make changes to your landing pages and calls-to-action, monitor the effect, test, test and re-test. Use the free Google Optimize tool to help you get started.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

After years of struggling with inefficient or unreliable backup systems I finally invested in a decent backup and data protection system (Acronis) that means I sleep more soundly at night.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Without a doubt SEO PowerSuite from Link Assistant has made the business far more productive. It works extremely well to aide detailed data analysis but also produces simple and easy-to-understand reports. We use it for tracking organic search rankings, analysing and auditing websites, and monitoring link profiles for both clients and competitors. One of it’s main advantages over it’s rivals is the complete control you have to configure it to suit your requirements.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“The Gendered Brain” by Gina Rippon was a book recommended to me by an academic who promotes diversity in, and encourages more women to embark on, STEM careers. It demolishes the myth that there is any such thing as the “male” brain and the “female” brain. It’s written in a way that we can all understand (even though it is neuroscience) and should be compulsory reading for anyone working towards gender equality.

What’s your favorite quote?

“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.” Estee Lauder

Key Learnings:

• Dedicate yourself to client businesses as if they were your own.
• Analyse and understand your data because there’s always more value in it than you realise.
• Focus on your personal strengths.
• Work hard!