Aidan Hopton: How my time at Salford Uni Prepared Me…..

Journey into SEO at Salford Uni

This is an article by Aidan Hopton about his experience at Salford University and how it will help him establish a career as an SEO freelancer.

In this piece, I will be sharing my experience at Salford Business School and how it has equipped me for my future career in Digital Marketing. As a postgraduate student, I am currently pursuing an MSC in Digital Marketing at Salford Business School having enrolled in January 2023. I opted for this school due to its reputation for offering hands-on training in Digital Marketing, which will help me enhance my skills and make me a valuable asset in my field.

Background: Before I became and SEO Freelancer

Before starting at Salford University, I had switched my career many times, most of the time was spent working in B2B sales, but most recently I had been working in the probation service for a few years. I had already changed career once as I was fed up with sales; I’d worked for various Digital Marketing companies selling advertising and then Peninsula, selling ‘Health and Safety’ packages to businesses. I was just bored as I initially went into sales to use it as a stepping stone for working in marketing. Previously, I had done some remote work, creating PR campaigns for local radios, but nothing came of this. I also blogged about the music industry, but at this stage, I was inexperienced in SEO and blogging, so I was not posting consistently enough.

Before joining the probation service, I decided to embark on a 12-month gap year. At 29, I went backpacking around New Zealand, met some great people, and even worked in sales there too.
There were some great experiences, and getting away from the British culture of sales offices was good. I only worked in sales over there after 3 months because I ran out of money. Unfortunately, working on the farm for minimum wage is not what a greedy salesman gravitates towards, whether he’s on a gap year or not. I enjoyed the culture of the offices when I worked for Employsure in Auckland; if it wasn’t for personal circumstances, I might have stayed longer.
When I came back to England, I worked for a sales company in Salford Quays selling boilers, and my passion for sales seemed to have dried up, and I just wasn’t selling. I was in my early 30s, and I was now one of the older people in the office; I just didn’t fit in anymore; it was time to move on.

Aidan Hopton: Journey to becoming an SEO Freelancer

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In February 2019, I applied and was accepted to join the National Probation Service as a trainee. It started well, but then the Covid-19 lockdown came. This made the job more stressful, and it became clear that it may not be for me. I worked here until February 2022, when I left the company with mutual consent.
The next day, I did a level 3 Digital Marketing Boot Camp, which ran for 12 weeks. I enjoyed this course and realised that this career pathway is right for me. Following this, I set up my own website where I blogged and sold some products via drop-shipping with an e-commerce focussed drop-shipping store. I then looked for employment opportunities with this experience. However, the market is very competitive, and I wanted to gain further qualifications to be more competitive.

My undergraduate qualifications were a BTEC Higher National Diploma in Business gained in 2008 and a 2:1 BA (Hons) Degree in Music Industry Management. However, these qualifications didn’t seem to be enough, but they were enough for further post-graduate study. I looked around several universities and thought Salford University was the best option due to their more practical nature and expertise within digital marketing. I was really excited by the modules and decided to enquire about enrolment and started in January 2023 and the this is how it began;

Aidan Hopton

SEO Freelancer

Modules: Aidan Hopton

  • Digital Marketing Analytics and Strategy
  • Online/ Offline Consumer Behaviour
  • Digital Marketing Communications
  • Search and Social Media Marketing
  • ICP ( Industry Collaboration Project)

For more information about the course, please visit

The modules appear in the order above; currently, I am studying search and Social Media Marketing, and this blog post is part of that project. The idea is to show that I can write an optimised blog post and share this through social media. This is part of a much bigger search and social media plan I must implement in the next 12 months. Furthermore, the article will discuss what I have learned from the course so far, module by module. The first module I did was ;

Digital Marketing Analytics & Strategy

At the start of this module, I felt uncertain as I hadn’t written an academic assignment since 2012. To combat this, I started working on the assignment early and revised it multiple times. The module included both individual and group work. The individual assignment required us to evaluate a company called ‘Hylo-Athletics’, which is a sustainable shoe manufacturer and vegan-friendly. The task involved conducting market analysis and identifying competitors using various models to assess threats and opportunities. I employed a SWOT analysis and Porter’s five forces to analyze the company’s market position. The assignment guidelines emphasized that it should strictly relate to digital marketing.

Individual Task : Aidan Hopton

The first part of the assignment was more theory-based, and we had to provide a literature review of various tools and digital marketing technologies but the second part was a more practical task and relevant to Digital Marketing Analytics. For this part we had to assess the website at by auditing the website using various platforms such as Seobility, Semrush, Uber Suggest & GT Metrix. These tools enabled me to assess the speed, performance and bounce rate of the Website, I also able to look at the keywords which Hylo Athletics were ranking for and I was able to identify keyword competitors in the SERPS ( Search Engine Results Pages). This was a very good practical task as it as taught me a lot and added to my skill set as an SEO freelancer.

The last part of the assignment was a recommendations section where I developed a buyer persona and suggested various touch points for the persona to be marketed and re-marketed. In order to get my point across further, I used the RACE model developed by Chaffey (2022), there were further recommendations. These included partnering with e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, and there was much more. Still, I will publish these in an article later once I have officially graduated.

Group Work Task

The next module component was a group task where we had to develop a shoe business as a team and compete against our classmates. This experience was good as we made executive decisions based on the virtual business environment. In our team, I was one of the team’s leaders, and we performed very well as all the team members worked both inside and outside class time. We set up Teams meetings each week where we discussed what we should do to gain points and increase profitability. This task was demanding but it was also fun and we were able to finish top of the leader board for points and revenue earned. This gave us a mark of 100% for this part and I achieved an 83% score in my assignment so my overall score was 90% which I was very happy with.

Consumer Behaviour Online / Offline

For this task, we created a portfolio discussing online and offline gambling.

We were tasked with examining how the introduction of technology has altered consumer behavior in the gambling industry. We had the freedom to choose which aspect of gambling to focus on, and I chose to concentrate on sports gambling. Specifically, I explored the impact of new services like in-game betting and the rise of gambling apps. This assignment was complex because we had to incorporate appropriate models and create a buyer persona. Additionally, we had to consider how the buyer persona’s behavior aligns with the model we selected. For my analysis, I utilized Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Furthermore, we then identified the motivations for the consumer such as Free Bets. We discussed the various touch points of the persona and analysed how existing companies can keep their consumer engaged.

For the second part of my project, I examined consumer behaviour by utilizing Statista. I then presented the pertinent statistics and trends relating to consumer behaviour in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. While these nations share some cultural similarities, there are also some differences. However, they all share a high tolerance for risk, which is why gambling remains popular in these regions.

This assignment was concluded where I made recommendations on how an existing gambling company in the U.K could establish themselves in other countries. At this point, I referenced Australia and the United States as examples of where a company could expand to, but I can’t provide any further details before graduation. However, I am pleased to report that I received a grade of 86% for the entire assignment, which left a positive impression on me. This is probably the highest mark I have ever got on any written assignment so pressures on now I suppose.

Digital Marketing Communications

This module was a bit different as for this we had to assess Marks and Spencer’s digital strategy by critically analysing their use of digital communication channels. As an aspiring SEO freelancer I chose to analyse their SEM ( Search Engine Marketing) strategy with a heavy focus on SEO with some critique on paid search ads. In addition to this I spoke in detail about social media and the rise of Influencer Marketing during the pandemic. It is interesting as this and many other trends in social media have changed and remained the same since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The second half of the assignment focussed more on Customer Relationship Management and critically looked at what Marks and Spencer had done to keep their customers happy. The areas which I focussed on were the “M&S Loyalty App” and their email marketing strategy. The loyalty app has been a big hit with their consumers and is a great tool for customer retention. This module introduced me to some very useful digital marketing tools which are great to measure performance of competitors. The tools used were; Buzz Sumo, Spyfu for social media and keyword analytics. In addition to this, I used Mail Charts to analyse their email campaign strategy. The mark I received for this was 70% which is good but I was a bit concerned as I’d scored lower than previous modules. It is still a distinction though so can’t complain really.

Search and Social Media Marketing/ Aidan Hopton Online Profile / SEO Freelancer

During this module, I had to demonstrate my practical skills in real-time. To do this, I was tasked with creating a search and social media strategy for the next 12 months. This blog post was a crucial part of that plan, and I had to optimize it using my name ( Aidan Hopton) as the key phrase. To showcase my work, I created a personal website where I can present my portfolio and write blog posts. Additionally, I plan to include my work in my portfolio after graduation, which could help me get started in my career and improve my ranking in the SERPs. The task asked us to rank in the SERPs for our name and we were to use a secondary keyword.

The second primary keyword I chose after researching was SEO Freelancer. The competition was low for this keyword and it will set me up perfectly as I am currently working as an SEO freelancer. This assignment is daunting but I have not stopped working on it since the module began. I have been researching trends in social media during the Covid-19 Pandemic and this is quite interesting but the findings will be in my video presentation. Furthermore, this is the 100% component of the module and there is a lot to include as I need to design a search and social media strategy. This will run for the next 12 months and is to enhance my online digital footprint & Brand.

I have spent the past week increasing engagement on Linked In. Furthermore, I am looking to obtain freelance work through my connections. I have signed up with Reach Volunteering to try and work on some live SEO projects. I have obtained a recommendation on my profile for work done as an SEO freelancer for a fellow student.

This module required us to do a presentation on how we would promote ourselves through our digital foot print using SEO and Social Media. You can view this bide here , title “Journey To Becoming an SEO Freelancer”

ICP ( Industry Collaboration Project) Aidan Hopton

The ICP has many pathways to go down and they are;

  • Entrepreneurship Dissertation Route
  • 6/ 12 month Dissertation Route ( Paid- Placement)
  • Traditional Research Dissertation Route
  • Unpaid Internship Dissertation Route

I think I will be going down the Entrepreneurship route. However, I have enquired with the placement team to see what’s available. In addition to this I have enquired with the Launch team with an appointment. The Launch team help you decide if you have a good business idea and give you tips on how to prepare. I am 95% sure I will do the Entrepreneurship Route after my meeting with Paul Little. This meeting was exciting and motivating and I can’t wait to begin this. I am posting further details about this in my next post.

What are the benefits of studying at Salford University ?

Aidan Hopton
  • Brilliant tutors who are experts in their field and can share industry knowledge
  • It’s close to where I live in Greater Manchester
  • I have met loads of great people and made several professional contacts
  • The modules are mixed evenly with theoretical and practical tasks
  • You can study at PHD in your chosen field if you wish
  • Funding can be obtained for this route
  • The Lecturers are very helpful
  • There is plenty of support from staff
  • It is one of the countries leading universities
  • It is close to Manchester City Centre

Please connect with me on Linked In and feel free to visit my website at and if you want to see how I can help you as a freelance SEO consultant please visit here.

Written By Aidan Hopton

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