Meet Nial, our awesome new SEO Director

Written by Lee Colbran - 13 Apr 2022

Culture | 4 MIN READ

We caught up with Nial Davies, who recently joined our SEO team in the role of SEO Director. We asked Nial about his career to date and his take on the here and now and the future of Search Engine Optimisation.

SEO is not a technical activity, although it comprises technical elements. SEO is a mindset and understanding of what Google is trying to provide for users - quality and relevant search results and a good user experience.

Nial Davies, SEO Director

Firstly, welcome Nial, describe your career path to date and how you got into search engine optimisation?

I started as a Mechanical Engineer, completing six years of study as a company trainee and studying part-time. At the end of it all, it was clear that engineering as a profession was not for me and in 1998, I found myself temping in the marketing team at Jobsite.co.uk. It felt vibrant and full of energy, just what I was looking for in my career. After three years at Jobsite, I worked for an SEO agency in Melbourne, Australia, and after a couple of years, I found myself back in the UK as Head of SEO for Virgin Media. I went from Virgin Media to Avis Budget Group, a job that allowed me to travel all over Europe championing SEO to regional teams. I then went from ABG to American Express as Global SEO Director (a grand title indeed, but global means everything but the US).

I left Amex to start a search agency specialising in SEO for the Motor trade, which I subsequently sold at the end of 2019. Since then, I have been working on some personal eCommerce projects and consulting and spending time with my family.

In your role as an SEO, what gives you the greatest job satisfaction?

I have always enjoyed the strategic and the analytical side of things.

What is your proudest achievement/biggest win as an SEO to date?

I joined Amex when SEO had been ignored and unguided for a few years. My responsibility was to turn SEO into a significant strategic component of the overall performance marketing mix, build a team, create a strategy, and get buy-in across the business.

What would you say to anyone with aspirations wanting a career in SEO?

SEO is not a technical activity, although it comprises technical elements. SEO is a mindset and understanding of what Google is trying to provide for users - quality and relevant search results and a good user experience.

You can optimise any website; which is it and why?

I enjoy working on FMCG eCommerce websites. I like seeing my work translate into £££.

You can only pick one SEO tool; which one would you choose and why?

Screaming Frog is still the base for any technical SEO work despite the ongoing updates and reinstalls.

In your opinion, what qualities does someone need to be effective in an SEO role?

In my opinion, you need organisational and interpersonal skills (SEO's work across many teams), be technically competent and literate.

If you could change one thing about SEO, what would it be?

Aggregators, I think they de-value what Google does. In my world, I'd confine them to PPC! It's not that I don't believe that they are helpful, but their dominance shades out all the direct to market business.

How do you think SEO might change in future? 

Voice. I know we have been saying it for years, and we still think no one uses it. Increasingly I find myself saying, “Hey Google, call me a taxi” or “Hey Google, navigate to...” the medium is creeping into daily life.

Are there any industry experts or role models that have influenced you?

Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts played a big part in keeping me inspired in the early days. Later, Rand Fishkin was a great innovator and provided the understanding that EVERYTHING in your website affects SEO.

Do you think there will ever be a viable competitor to Google in search?

I think, to an extent, that Amazon has become Google's main competitor, especially when you consider the volume of people using the internet for shopping and the increasing number of sessions now starting on the Amazon home page or app.

What do you think the most significant challenges are for brands implementing SEO?

There is a paradox whereby in a channel that is often labelled “Organic” or “Free”, it ultimately comes down to those with the most money/resources who will win, in most cases. Coupled with the overbearing presence of advertising on Google and the rise of Amazon as a starting point, I sometimes wonder, “who trawls through the Organic SERPs anymore?”

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions around working in SEO?

Filling out the fields in YOAST ticks the SEO box.

Do you remember the days of Alta Vista and Web Position Gold?

I started in SEO shortly before Google was officially launched. We keyword-stuffed, hid text on pages, and created directory listings beginning with 1 or AA. We submitted individual URLs to Inktomi, knowing they would then go into MSN, Yahoo Search & Looksmart. Then we started PPC with GoTo and Espotting, and we sponsored questions with Ask Jeeves. Google saw the end to most of those things.

I remember watching Neighbours and Helen Daniels mentioning “Googling” something. That was just the start of it. 

What do your family and friends think you do for a job?

Build websites!

What are you most looking forward to working at Fresh Egg?

Ever since I left Amex, I have been looking for a company with the right approach to work/life balance, with staff who feel valued and love the company they work for. I am looking forward to being part of that.

What is your favourite way to eat an egg?

It has to be a Scotch Egg. Breadcrumb-good, egg-good, sausagemeat-goooooooooood!

Would you like to join our team? Check out current job opportunities.

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