Peter Handley's Blog

Organic Search Engine Marketer, Portsmouth, Hampshire
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    February 29th, 2012ismepetePersonal

    I was watching the BBC news this morning, and grew increasing irritated about repeated comments of “it’s easy stacking shelves”.

    These people have clearly never done it! This was presenters as well as guests brought on to talk about the topics, one for it and one against. They all seemed to say exactly that though, and it really raised my hackles.

    I’ve worked in retail for a number of companies – most horrifically Asda, when I took a job with them as a Christmas temp to get off the dole. I quit there about 5 months later (I grafted so they kept me on after the immediate Christmas rush) and moved to Co-op as it didn’t involve a 30 mile bus commute – I could walk instead, and it was just over a mile.

    The job was not easy!

    Working in the alcohol department, stock is heavy, it attracts dust, things get broken and require cleaning. You have to manage stock levels, prioritise stock to get out when you have limited staff to put it out in busy periods (and need to focus on getting stuff out that sells). You have to make sure the products are laid out in a sensible way, with similar items, and you have to make sure that the bottles face forwards (you would not believe how many people used to find this hard!). I’m sure I’m forgetting some bits, particularly from Asda, as it was a job I hated, and I’ve blotted as much of it from my memory as possible.

    I took the job because I didn’t want to be on the dole. There was nothing else available that I had any skills for. I was 18 – I didn’t have any skills back then. I commuted for nearly 90 minutes, on crappy smelly buses. It wasn’t a proud time in my life.

    I then moved to the Co-op where I ran the frozen department of the Hayling Island store. That job was slight better, if only because I could walk to work. But, it was in freezers, at temperatures approximately -36 degrees. There wasn’t much in the way of specialist equipment. I used my own gloves for several months before finally convincing my employers to purchase some that were designed for that situation. I always used my own coat, as there wasn’t one provided.

    You think its easy working at -36 degrees? Doing a stock take in there for 4-6 hours? Do me a favour!

    Anticipating demand on sale stock. Making sure you ordered the products that ran low. Making sure your actual stock levels matched up with what the computers said. Locating stock that was hidden away at the back of the freezer. These things would still challenge me today!

    I still clearly remember the day I passed my probation there. They told me I was an excellent prospect for management training, and that if I wanted to, I could start supervising at nights and weekends. I said that what I wanted in the future was a more typical job, perhaps not necessarily *just* 9-5, but where weekends were sacred. My manager said “that doesn’t exist any more”.

    My response was thanks, but no, and I signed up to go back to college the very next day. Working at the Co-op and Asda spurred me into having some drive in my life. If that hadn’t happened, who knows, I might have been a manager of a Co-op by now. Would I be happy? Probably not, but I’d be employed.

    I worked 35 hours a week minimum to put myself back through college. I’d broken my ankle the first time I went to college and didn’t have the grades to get in to University. So, I went and got them, working hard throughout both on my studies (well, sort of, the qualification was mostly stuff I “knew” but couldn’t prove) and at work. I paid my parents rent throughout this too – why should I get to live there for free, on a handout? They weren’t exactly rolling in the cash, and I ate a lot of food, so fair was fair!

    I got to university and took a job at HMV. I loved this job, but it wasn’t that easy either. There were very defined section standards that were to be adhered to at all times. No more than 6 CDs per pocket, no more than 4 artists per pocket either.

    Plenty of staff couldn’t grasp those simple rules years in to working there, as it was too easy to take short cuts. Chart walls were always to be laid out in particular ways. Store card sign ups (god I hated selling those, but sometimes people asked for them) involved some stupidly complex forms, and then involved using a crackly phone line to speak to someone in a really thick Scottish accent that I could barely understand.

    Particularly at HMV, customer experience was paramount. You’d bend over backwards to help people find what they were looking for, suggest alternatives or additional recommendations. Manning the tills at Christmas time was bloody tough too. You try and serve 50 people per hour, every hour for an 8 hour shift and tell me that’s easy!

    These are physically demanding jobs. They are mentally exhausting. Yes, they can be horrible. But, you know what – I am really glad I did them! I’ve worked labouring at a concrete construction yard and as a gardener too. They were pretty tiring as well, but “stacking shelves” was up there in being tough. It really shouldn’t be belittled in the way I am constantly seeing at the moment

    I don’t really know enough of the details of these schemes to pass comment on them specifically, but I will say this. My experiences got me ready for the world of work that I find myself in today.

    These days I am self motivated to get things done. I haven’t needed people to tell me what to do for years. I just do it – it gets done. It does seem to me that some people today “expect” to get given things on a plate without putting that graft in. But that perception of mine is almost certainly warped by the same media that irritated me to write this post

    I don’t really know that people should be doing this work for free. The premise of doing 2-4 weeks work experience, giving you a chance to impress, work well in the team, learn some useful skills is a good one. My own experience from doing work experience at school for free suggests that this probably isn’t the reality of the situation. That’s sad, and probably why it’s getting so much media attention.

    If I had one message to the younger than me folks of today though, it would be this. Don’t turn your nose up at any opportunities. Take them, excel at them – get what you can from it. Move on and develop. It’s all down to you though, no one is going to “give” it to you.

    UPDATE: Based on some conversation I’ve had on Facebook, I should clarify I lived in a comfortable house with my parents throughout most of this period. I mostly used the money for entertaining myself. If you define “easy” for a job in a way that means “if most people could do that job” then yes, stacking shelves is probably easy. I just don’t think its helpful to belittle the effort that people put in to work hard in these roles.

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    December 9th, 2011ismepetePersonal

    This is a blog that I write with a heavy heart and misty eyes whilst equally filled with excitement. I wasn’t quite sure how to start writing this post, but had some things I wanted to say, so I’ve been listening to a mini playlist of tunes that are helping me put this down into words. Press play on this for starters (you might want to stop it before moving too far on, as there are a few others on here):

    After nearly 5 ½ years at Vertical Leap, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to take a plunge and try something different. Coming to this decision was far from easy – it’s probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life…

    Vertical Leap has been great to me over this time and I really can’t thank the company enough for everything that they’ve done for me over the years – I just hope I’ve managed to give back just as much in that time.

    I started as a graduate, with few responsibilities initially and a brief to learn SEO sharpish. I was fortunate to have done a degree with skills that I thought would be relevant; HTML, image manipulation, the odd bit of flash (which I appear to have completely forgotten) and a bunch of other stuff – but it was the project management items that have been most in use in my day to day life since really.

    Vertical Leap took a chance on me at the time. I was raw and enthusiastic, but I wasn’t an expert back then. I grew up really quickly. I got over my fear of the phone. I pushed to get more involved in retail (which had been my part-time work whilst studying) style customer interactions and meetings, rather than “hiding” behind emails.

    I learned a lot, really quickly and before I knew it really, wasn’t just the graduate – I was managing a full portfolio of campaigns, getting results, keeping customers happy (until last week when I moved them on, I still had 5 clients that were among the very first I was given all those years ago).

    I built long term relationships with clients as often as I could. I’m pretty sure that I was doing fairly well, as 2 years or so into my career I started overseeing the company’s activities in the SEO world, determining updates to processes strategies, helping determine who we would recruit for that department, becoming active in interviews.

    I became a manager of people, as well as process for the SEO department – and I relished it.

    My time at Vertical Leap has been the Best of Times:

    The team we built there are awesome, a truly cracking bunch of people who I will be friends with forever, and that I am going to miss my daily interactions with dearly. All the people that I work with at Vertical Leap – every single person – are my friends.

    All of them I will happily spend time with in the future. I’ve not had a hell of a lot of different jobs – but for those that I have had in the past, this was not always the case.

    The office banter, the cutting humour, the fun going out for drinks and meals… Laughs are a plenty, there is a great team spirit, both within the specific teams and the company as a whole. Leaving you guys behind makes me feel a little lonesome inside:

    I know we’ll still see each other. I know that I will see everyone in just a short week at the Christmas Party which I was really grateful to still receive an invite to. But whilst things will be different, I’ll look back on these times fondly forever.

    Thank You All at Vertical Leap, staff past and present, friends that I’ve made for life…

    So, I’m moving on… I know some people already know what I’m doing next… But I’m not going to announce it just yet, I want to let someone else have the pleasure of the first public announcement of that.

    Suffice to say, its one hell of an opportunity to have encouraged me away from what I already had. I’m super excited, can’t wait to get stuck in, and can’t wait to learn everything that I am going to need to do moving forwards. There will be some different challenges, likely some similar ones, and I’m certain that there will be ups and downs that I can’t predict right now… The time is right for me to seek a new challenge. So…

    Roll on Monday morning, and the challenges that will bring…

    In the meantime, it’s time for me to Hit the Road Jack:

    Adios Amigos, Au Revoir Mon Amis, Farewell for now my friends – but I will see you all soon :-)

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    November 3rd, 2011ismepeteInternet Good Deeds

    This is a blog that looks mostly at online marketing, you might think that this is a blog post about a Google Panda update? Well, no,a bunch of online marketing types have seen The Panda Made Me Do It campaign, being run by the WWF, and thanks perhaps in part to the links with some of the algorithm updates so far this year, its something that the search community has decided to get involved with.

    Well, seeing as it’s getting close to Michelle’s birthday, and I am being uncharacteristically rubbish at organising her any presents, I’ve decided to adopt an Orang-utan for her.

    Don’t worry, I might find something else for her too before then, I still have a week or so to go!

    So as part of this campaign, if you can, go adopt an animal, pledge to buy good wood, sponsor an acre of forest – anything to help these guys out

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    March 6th, 2011ismepeteBlogging, Personal, Social Media

    On my way up to Think Visibility, I spied the following Tweet from Dan Harrison, a Twitter friend I was hoping to meet for the first time (despite the fact that we were both travelling up to Leeds from the south of England):

    meeting old friends for the first time

    This really resonated with me, as it’s how I’ve felt about every event that I have thus far attended in the search marketing arena.

    As I touched upon in a previous post, Twitter (which is my main tool for this type of engagement), is a place that real communities form around, and as part of that community, you begin to build what totally feel like real friendships from the individuals that you engage with.

    In just about every example of me having met in real life those that I talk to on Twitter regularly, it hasn’t felt like “meeting” for the first time. Instead, as the title says, its meeting old friends for the first time.

    I know that some people from the outside, may well perceive this, as well – a little sad? You meet your geeky internet friends in real life? Saddo!

    But for me, it really doesn’t feel that way at all. The world is evolving – who would have thought hundreds of years ago that you would be able to pick up the phone and call someone on the other side of the world? Or that electronic devices would make it possible to exchange short messages to anyone and everyone?

    As human communications have evolved, so too have the ways that you engage with people – you don’t have to have met someone in “real life” to get to understand some of what makes that person tick.

    I, amongst probably many others, possibly share too much of myself on social networks. But the value that I get from them seems to be matched by what you put in. I really do not want to become a boring twitter account that completely lacks personality, and is just trying to be promotional. That’s just not me.

    I probably bore some people when I tweet about food and cooking – if that is the case, you can just choose not to follow me – I probably won’t be offended (though I do monitor who unfollows me on there, just for reference).

    When I’ve met some of those folks that I “know” best from Twitter, like Rhys Wynne, Kev Strong, Samuel Crocker and Paddy Moogan, it has after a few moments felt completely natural. There are many more that I haven’t mentioned, and I truly mean no slight to those folks, just these guys are almost as active as me on the old Twitter

    Of all the folks I met for the first time at this year’s Think Visibility, the best intro has to have been with Ingo Bousa – we’ve been talking on this platform for a few years, and he is a very funny guy. For the last few weeks, it’s been made clear to me that I needed to introduce myself by shouting “IS ME PETE” in a Borat style voice. I did this with amusing results (not least losing part of my voice repeating it throughout the night at loud volumes), as it caused Ingo to immediately drop his drink.

    For those that may consider it sad – I would just say, try it – you don’t know what you are missing. It is likely that it is easy for me working in the online marketing industry – I don’t know if it’s the same for other groups – but don’t rule it out just because you don’t know it!

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    February 19th, 2011ismepeteBlogging, Personal, SEO

    It’s been a while since I got a post up on here, and my last past, looking at the communities that really do form on Twitter, was tinged with sadness.

    I am still around, it’s just life has been very busy of late. Whilst I’ve not been posting here much, I have been blogging still, and I thought I would share where you can catch up with some more of my recent writings.

    I’ve been writing a bit about server load speeds – at least slow ones – having a negative impact on SEO and other Search/Online Marketing efforts – first back in November, where I looked at Negative SEO Issues with Website Loading Speeds (which in this case had caused home pages of a few sites I worked on to be temporarily de-indexed) and again in January with Further Implications for Search Marketing of Webpage Loading Speeds, where I reviewed an email sent to our PPC account manager for the same websites, and some of the problems that can arise when you have problems with loading speeds.

    I also wrote a blog in January, moaning about the lack of update to that ever annoying, meaningless PageRank figure, only for there to be a huge update a few days later (and being informed that whilst the 100+ sites I check may not have been changing unless 301’s were involved that some others had been seeing changes in the period I hadn’t observed any movements). Whilst the title was “Please – Update or Ditch”, having had an update, I am somewhat of the opinion I would rather see it ditched, as despite our best efforts, I still hear tales of people being very heavily judged on the performance of this little green bar, when the fundamental bottom line for the website is steady or increasing. Ah well, such is life, all we can do is to continue to educate as best we can about focusing on what really matters!

    I’ve also been doing some guest blogging over the last few weeks – I’ve done 2 already, have a couple more lined up and really need to get my writing hat back on for Vertical Leap again soon.

    If you want to catch up with these guest blogs, go and check out Daniel Bianchini’s blog with Top Questions to Ask Your Potential SEO Agency, and Common Technical Mistakes Made When a Website Launches where Dean Cruddace has kindly let me post on SEO Begin.

    I’ll be looking to be doing some more guest blogging on some sites if I can secure some slots too, so I am definitely going to have to get my writing motivation back, especially as my food blog has also been being somewhat neglected of late!

    Coming up in the next few weeks/months, I’m looking forwards to being at ThinkVisibility in 2 weeks, giving me a chance to meet up with a number of my favourite Twitter friends again, and for the first time, and am hoping that I will be able to secure a ticket for the next BrightonSEO on April 1st, though that can’t be guaranteed until Monday morning when I learn if I have managed to be one of the lucky ones! I’m sure both events will be packed full of useful tips and tricks as well as great networking opportunities.

    That’s it for now folks, and hopefully see many of you soon!

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