digital communications

Meet Rich Watts, Senior Digital Project Manager. He’s our latest digital superstar, and he’s already taking things to a new level. We catch up with him to talk about village life, Six Nations rugby… and Google Core Web Vitals.

Thanks for sparing the time to chat, Rich. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, career so far, likes, dislikes… favourite Brooklyn Nine-Nine character?

OK, well I was brought up in the little village of Kilsby in Northamptonshire, until I was lured away by university and the bright lights of Bradford.

I studied electronic imaging and media communications, with lots of other elements thrown in for good measure – like graphic design, web design, photography, broadcast TV, physics and media theory.

After uni, I moved to the proper bright lights – London – where I worked for the UK’s largest independent photographic agency. I thought I’d give it 12 months and see what happened. I ended up staying for 10 years!

In 2016, I returned home to Kilsby, where I now live with my wife, Donna, and our dog Reggie.

And my favourite Brooklyn Nine-Nine character? It’s definitely Raymond Holt!

You’re relatively new to 44 Communications – where were you before?

After 10 years in London, I started working for a digital growth agency in Northampton – predominantly with e-commerce clients, but also with a number of lead-gen companies. I worked with two Sunday Times Fast Track 100 businesses and was responsible for a team of five account managers covering around 40 clients in different sectors.

From there I took on a role as Marketing Manager for an AV and hi-fi retailer. Because I’d had experience with systems and integration, I ended up leading a project to link up the warehouse management system with the website and other channels, which proved to be a big success.

Then, for the three-and-a-half years before joining 44 Digital, I was in the legal sector. I joined a business to ‘in-house’ the websites, and maintain, re-platform and build new sites, and do lots of other techie things to smooth the customer’s online experience.

What are your first impressions of 44?

Having been here just a couple of months, I can safely say that I’m loving my time at 44. Everyone has been really welcoming and made the effort to make me feel at home. I’m also enjoying getting to know the clients and learning about how their businesses work.

What do you bring to the 44 party?

I bring more than 16 years of commercial experience from graphic design, corporate identity and project management. I have lots of website know-how, whether it’s e-commerce or lead-gen, where my focus has been around site speed, technical SEO and user experience.  

So what’s hot in the digital world at the moment – and what’s likely to be the next big thing?

The biggest thing in my world over the past 12 months has been the Google Core Web Vitals (CWV).

Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a webpage’s overall user experience. They’re made up of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements. OK, I’m getting really techie now, but for those with an interest in this kind of thing, the three are largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift.

CWV became an SEO ranking factor from 17 June 2021, so getting these scores as low as you can actually improves where your site ranks on Google.

And finally, what do you get up to in your spare time?

I love rugby and I’ll watch any match that’s on. I’ll sometimes catch three games in a weekend. When the Six Nations tournament comes around, it’s my favourite time of year.

I’m also very much a fair-weather camper. We try and get away as much as possible in the summer.

If I’m at home I find it hard to relax and do nothing. I always feel like I should be doing something, but if I’m sat in a field, in the sunshine, possibly with a cider or beer in hand, I can completely relax and can’t think of a better use of the time.