Brett Farmiloe has worked on several business ideas over the years, including a restaurant deals aggregator, an app for minor league baseball teams and a careers website inspired by a road trip.

But only one of those has made it to the first page of Google. Farmiloe’s SEO company, Markitors, spent more than four years in the number one spot for the keyword search “digital marketing company.”

Farmiloe started Markitors in Scottsdale, Arizona, as a freelancer in 2011. When he got his website to the number-one spot in Google results in 2016, he found himself answering the phone from his young daughter’s bedroom and explaining to prospective clients that Markitors was a company of one.

The demand that flowed in from web searches prompted him to build his company and hire staff, he said in a 2021 interview for Mailman, a Gmail plugin.

Farmiloe found his SEO path by chance. He had studied accounting in college, but after graduating, went on a road trip in an RV with a group of friends. They interviewed more than 300 people about their career paths and published their stories on a website, Pursue the Passion, which later became a book.

After returning from the road trip, Farmiloe started a job as an auditor. But a few months into the job, he started getting messages from people who had found those career interviews online.

“I didn’t know what SEO was” at that point in his life, he told the People + Profit Show podcast in 2020. “But I found out through that website the power of connecting real-world experiences to some online initiatives.” He said that experience made him fall in love with SEO.

“I was probably at it for four or five years” to outrank other SEO companies, Farmiloe said, by “establishing expertise online, building links, [and] having digital PR placements.”

He said there’s no magic to build a presence online — it’s a matter of building credibility over time.

Markitors balanced startup mentality with staff stability

Over the years, Markitors grew to a team of about 15, solely focused on improving search engine optimization for its clients in Arizona and beyond.

But building the business with intent helped Markitors gain kudos from clients and his staff. Markitors was repeatedly named a best place to work by the Phoenix Business Journal. During the pandemic, the firm went “remote forever” rather than having to make judgments on the best time to bring the team back into the office. And the company even skipped a month of invoices to help its customers during the height of Covid-19, Farmiloe noted in a 2021 business column.

One move Farmiloe made during the pandemic helped both the team and himself as founder and CEO.

Markitors hired a VP of operations to take care of “small fires” that popped up day to day. It helped free up time for Farmiloe to grow the business, he said, but it also provided consistency for the team.

“I like to experiment, challenge and change things,” Farmiloe said in his Mailman interview in March 2021. “That chaotic nature is not good for employees, who’d like to have some stability.” The VP of operations role allowed Farmiloe to embrace his creativity while resting assured the business was moving toward its goals.

Markitors sold to Elevato, another digital marketing agency based in Scottsdale, Arizona, in January 2022. Farmiloe did not join the merged firm (where the SEO arm is now known as Markitors by Elevato), but VP of operations Jenn Christie made the move to serve as VP of sales at Elevato, the buyer announced.

Elevato, which has worked remotely since 2019, had merged with another digital marketing company about a year before acquiring Markitors. Since purchasing Markitors, it has gone on to acquire two other agencies.

The purchase price was not disclosed, and Farmiloe declined an interview request for this story.

Farmiloe now focused on credibility platform for small businesses

Since selling Markitors, Farmiloe has been focusing on Terkel, a project he launched in October 2020. It’s a platform where professionals and small businesses can share their expertise by answering questions that can get featured in content published by the site’s partners. Mentions in that content help users build their web presence over time.

Terkel is aimed at businesses who aren’t yet ready to work with an SEO company. “I found myself turning away nine out of 10 leads because they weren’t ‘ready’ for our services,” Farmiloe told the Phoenix Business Journal in a 2020 pitch for the platform. “These small businesses needed an in-between marketing solution.”

Terkel raised $500,000 in seed funding in early 2022.