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Interview With

Mark Blackhurst, Digital Next Q&A

We pick the brains of Mark Blackhurst, co-founder and chief of operations of Digital Next to find out how levelling up your SEO and multi-channel marketing can help print businesses cut through the noise of competition

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Mark Blackhurst, co-founder and chief of operations at Digital Next

Level Up Your Online Reach

Introduce yourself and your role at Digital Next...

My name is Mark Blackhurst, the chief of operations and co-founder of Digital Next. My areas of expertise are quite wide-ranging, but I really enjoy my specialisation in SEO [Search Engine Optimisation]. This enables me to support our team and subsequently the growth of businesses by enhancing their digital presence with organically high-ranking websites.

My background is originally in Law with a specific focus on IT and Intellectual Property and I have utilised my research and core skills by transferring this into a passion for business. This was in line with the advent of the exponential growth of the internet. I first picked up on this in light of the Y2K bug following my IT Law studies at university.

How did Digital Next come about?

Digital Next was founded by my brother Justin with a vision to help companies dominate their industries online, fuelling success through the power of the internet.

In many cases this involves our team providing top-level SEO and PPC [Pay Per Click] services. We identified a need in the market for high-level website, SEO, and Google Ads services and we were really driven to create a solution that delivers exceptional results for our clients.

Blackhurst delivered a talk at The Print Show 2023 in the Knowledge Zone area

Years later we have now proven that this methodology works for our clients, in many cases revolutionising and exponentially growing their companies. It’s been a passion of ours to use our skills to make a huge difference for the people we work with, and this is what continues to drive our passion for online marketing.

Tell us about Digital Next and the services you offer globally...

Digital Next is now a globally recognised, multi-channel marketing, SEO, and PPC agency that specialises in digital marketing.

Our services are tailored to meet the unique needs of businesses in the UK and around the world and we have a proven track record of helping clients achieve more sales and enquiries through increased organic traffic, higher conversion rates, and improved return on investment (ROI).

We grew exponentially in the first few years, really disrupting SEO in this country for a lot of the big agencies. In that time we took a lot of their business and immediately showed improvements compared to their current suppliers. We came along with better skills at a more economical price and no contract, and as a result, we kept clients on board as we were providing impressive results. This led to us turning over £1m in the first 18 months.

In 2013, the whole market started to change. We were still growing but realised we had to evolve to be able to advise from a full 360 digital perspective. Google was really trying to change the ball game around this time and it was a real time of flux.

As a result, Justin and I realised that we had to offer the following services as displayed on our current site:

•     Search Engine Optimisation
•     Pay Per Click Management (Google     Premier Partner)
•     Web Design and Development (WordPress/Shopify & Magento)
•     Paid Social Media
•     Content Marketing-Written journalistic & video/image-based content
•     Digital Consultancy

We are able to deliver any one of these services individually or as a multi-channel approach with the support of high-quality and experienced account management.

As a result, we achieved further growth of the above and built our teams of people through a mixture of acquisition and clever hires, including top-end specialists giving them a small percentage in the business. We are the trusted digital marketing partner for some of the UK’s best brands ensuring that the work we implement is ROI-driven and of the highest standard.

I do genuinely see us though as the champions of SMEs as we help them punch well above their weight online. We can give hundreds of examples of companies we have scaled in many, many industries.

How has the company evolved since its inception?

Since our inception, Digital Next has undergone significant growth and transformation. We have expanded our service offerings, invested in cutting-edge technology and tools, and built an exceptionally strong international team of skilled SEO and PPC experts, content creators, and web developers. 

Our global footprint has also expanded, allowing us to serve clients in Australia and we are committed to continuous improvement and staying at the forefront of digital marketing trends.

How do you support the print industry specifically?

Digital Next provides tailored digital marketing solutions to the print industry by optimising their online presence, driving targeted traffic, and maximising conversion opportunities. We understand the unique challenges and opportunities that the print industry faces and work closely with print businesses to help them thrive in the digital age.

For those who aren’t familiar or confident in the subject matter, what does SEO, Google Search, and digital paid marketing entail?

• SEO involves optimising a website's content, structure, and technical elements to rank higher in search engine results. The goal is to increase organic (unpaid) traffic by improving visibility on search engines like Google.
•  Google Search refers to the process of users conducting online searches using the Google search engine to find information, products, or services. It's a critical channel for businesses to connect with potential customers.
•  Digital paid marketing includes strategies like PPC advertising, where businesses pay to display ads on digital platforms like Google Ads. It's a way to reach a targeted audience and pay only when users interact with the ad.

How have you seen this area evolve and change over the years?

The digital marketing landscape continues to evolve rapidly. Google's algorithms continue to become more sophisticated, user behaviour has shifted and transitioned, plus technology has advanced. This evolution has led to a greater emphasis on user experience, content quality, and data-driven decision-making in digital

How could focusing on SEO, Google Search, and digital paid marketing help a print business to grow and become more successful?

Focusing on these areas can benefit print businesses by increasing their online visibility, attracting a larger audience, and driving targeted traffic for conversion into new leads or business opportunities. It can lead to improved brand recognition, higher lead generation, and ultimately, increased sales. Effective digital marketing strategies can help print businesses compete in a digital-first world.

Do you think the print industry is utilising SEO, Google Search, and digital paid marketing enough to promote their businesses?

While a small percentage of print industry businesses have embraced digital marketing, there is still uber large-scale untapped potential in the industry. Many print businesses could benefit from a more strategic approach to SEO, Google Search, and digital/social paid marketing to reach a broader audience and stay competitive.  We know this as we work with some industry leaders and know that this takes our clients where they want to be.

What are some common mistakes you see print businesses making when it comes to this subject?

•  Neglecting their online presence and persevering with outmoded sales methods
•  Using generic or outdated content or even AI ineffectively
•  Failing to target the right keywords and audience
•  Not tracking and analysing data to make informed decisions
•  Ignoring mobile optimisation

For anyone feeling overwhelmed or not knowing where to start, what would you say is the first thing to focus on when looking to optimise your brand’s online presence?

Start with a comprehensive website audit to identify areas for improvement. This includes assessing your website's performance, content quality, SEO, and user experience. From there, develop a strategic plan that prioritises the most critical improvements.  Google Webmaster Guidelines give a good dissection on how to start your project.

How can Digital Next help print businesses to improve this area?

Digital Next offers digital marketing solutions tailored to the specific needs of print businesses. Our team of experts can provide services such as SEO audits, content optimisation, PPC campaign management, and data-driven insights to help print businesses enhance their online presence and achieve their marketing goals.

How can print businesses get in touch with Digital Next to find out more or to access your services?

Print businesses interested in learning more about Digital Next and our services can visit our website or contact our team directly. In this case, I’m happy to accept any questions directly and readers can easily find me on LinkedIn. We offer consultations to assess your needs and explore how we can help your printing business succeed in the digital landscape.

Do you have anything to add?

We are committed to helping print businesses adapt and thrive in the modern digital era. My role as chief of operations at Digital Next ensures that we not only provide top-tier marketing services but also prioritise legal compliance and protection for our clients, especially from a cybersecurity standpoint.

Our team at Digital Next is passionate about delivering results-driven digital marketing solutions, and we look forward to partnering with print businesses to achieve their online marketing goals.

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