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The Challenges and Highlights of SEO Agency Growth with Kevin Gibbons

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Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons, Founder & CEO of Re:Signal

From humble beginnings as a university student juggling a placement year at a web design agency, Kevin Gibbons has charted an extraordinary course in the realm of SEO and digital marketing. His journey, beginning in 2003, encapsulates not just the evolution of an industry but the rise of a visionary leader.

Kevin's foray into SEO commenced amidst academia's hallowed halls, where his aptitude for this nascent field swiftly transformed from a freelance endeavour to a burgeoning enterprise. In 2006, he pioneered SE Optimise, a venture that blossomed while he traversed the Australian landscapes, embodying the spirit of adventure and discovery.

A pivotal partnership in 2007 marked the transition of SE Optimise from a freelancing gig to a limited company, setting the stage for exponential growth. By 2012, the agency had flourished in Oxfordshire, boasting a team of 15 and generating over a million in revenue. However, true to his enterprising spirit, Kevin embraced change, leading to the inception of Re:Signal. Starting with a core team of four, he has since nurtured this venture into an 18-strong powerhouse, firmly establishing himself as a luminary as an Ecommerce SEO Agency.

Kevin's ethos is one of resilience and optimism, shaped by the rollercoaster ride of agency life. His leadership at Re:Signal, focusing on agency growth and specialising in SEO, has garnered partnerships with prestigious brands and clients. His journey mirrors the dynamic shifts within the SEO industry, evolving over two decades into a testament of adaptability and foresight.

Beyond the corporate realm, Kevin's accolades resonate with his passion for the industry. He's a recognised figure on the global stage, having spoken at over 100 events. His insights grace the pages of esteemed publications such as Forbes and The Guardian. Recognition from Deloitte and the FT 1000 underscores his impact, alongside numerous Search Awards and the honour of being named Search Personality of the Year. Yet, his achievements transcend professional boundaries. A two-time London Marathon runner, Kevin channels his endurance and commitment to honour the memory of his father, exemplifying his depth of character.

At the heart of Kevin Gibbons' journey lies a commitment to perpetual growth and a desire to inspire and mentor the next generation of SEO professionals. His story is not just one of personal success but a beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs in the digital age, illustrating the power of resilience, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Kevin Gibbons

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(53 minutes long)

The unscripted SEO Agency Growth Q&As with Mark A Preston and Kevin Gibbons

What inspired you to start your agency, and what has been your journey in the SEO industry?

I've been involved in SEO since 2003, starting as a student and freelancer. I founded SE Optimise in 2006 while travelling in Australia. By 2007, it became a limited company. We grew until 2012, when I decided to start over, leading to the creation of Re:Signal. The journey has been like a rollercoaster, with both progress and setbacks, but it has evolved positively over almost two decades.

Looking back, what do you wish you had known at the beginning of starting your agency?

I wish I had a better understanding of running a business, specifically in structuring a leadership team, focusing on client retention, and driving growth through sales and marketing. Learning from mistakes was essential, but knowing these aspects earlier would have fast-tracked our success.

How have you navigated significant changes and restructuring in your agency?

Growth often necessitates restructuring. For example, every time we added seven people to the team, we needed to reassess our structure. The key moments for restructuring usually align with significant growth or shifts in the market. Adapting to these changes, like focusing more on SEO and e-commerce, has been crucial.

Can you discuss the challenges of running an agency, particularly regarding billable and unbillable costs?

Running an agency involves understanding both billable and unbillable costs. While clients focus on billable outputs, unbillable roles like HR, finance, and project management are vital for sustaining an agency. Balancing these costs is crucial for maintaining client satisfaction and operational efficiency.

How did transitioning to a remote-only agency affect your team and operations?

The transition to remote work was overall positive, though not without challenges. We already had a partial work-from-home policy, which made the transition smoother. Remote work has allowed us to tap into a wider talent pool and maintain team connection through regular meetups and activities.

Why have you chosen to focus primarily on e-commerce brands?

Focusing on e-commerce stems from our track record and client success in this area. Specializing allows us to refine our skills and offer targeted, effective strategies for e-commerce clients, leading to better retention and win rates.

How important is having a specialist focus in today's agency market?

Specialization is crucial as it builds a track record and instils confidence in potential clients. Agencies that can demonstrate success in a specific sector or service offer a more compelling proposition to clients looking for proven expertise.

What challenges have you faced in balancing client retention and new business acquisition?

The key challenge is ensuring client satisfaction and retention while pursuing new business opportunities. Balancing these aspects is essential for sustainable growth. Focusing too much on either can lead to stagnation or unsustainable expansion.

How do you navigate potential conflicts of interest when working with similar clients in the same sector?

We assess each situation carefully. Direct competitors often pose conflicts of interest, but we try to work with clients in a way that respects confidentiality and integrity. Transparency with clients about such situations is vital.

Reflecting on your agency's growth, what have been the key lessons and challenges?

Key lessons include understanding the importance of client retention, adapting to market changes, and managing personal challenges alongside business demands. Life events, like bereavement or personal changes, can significantly impact business decisions and require resilience and adaptability.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own agency?

Ensure that running an agency aligns with your personal goals and strengths. It's a long-term commitment that requires resilience, adaptability, and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures. Enjoying the journey and working with people you respect and enjoy is crucial.

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