About This Episode
In this episode, we have Chris Green on the show to talk about SEO skills evaluation and how to create a plan to achieve your career goals. Chris also gives his best advice on finding the best mentor for guidance, how to assess your skills of persuasion and how to get started creating an improvement plan.
Very often one of the biggest challenges you as an SEO is that, really, you are friction for other business processes that are already happening. – Chris Green
What You Will Learn About
- The different SEO skills required based on the site or industry you work in.
- How can you fill the gaps if you’re working on a site that needs skills outside of your skillset or your teams.
- What steps you can take to self-evaluate and grow your own skillset as you advance in your career.
- Where to find SEO resources for self-evaluation.
- How you can evaluate your team members and help them set goals for the year.
- How you can gain the skills to be more persuasive in giving SEO recommendations.
Connect With Chris
- Visit his personal website
- Visit the Torque Partnership website
- Follow Chris on Twitter
- Connect with Chris on LinkedIn
Thank you for listening!
If you’d like to know more about change-makers in digital marketing, celebrate their wins, and discover how they built a breaking ground career, subscribe, share and comment on the Digital Marketing Victories Podcast.
Hello, today we’re joined by Chris Green. Chris has provided strategic technical and hands-on digital marketing expertise for more than 10 years. He’s delivered SEO campaigns for enterprise brands, managed marketing campaigns, trained teams, coached other SEOs and has spoken at industry events.
And this episode is going to be perfect for you if you’ve ever wondered about how you can evaluate your own skills, or evaluate others in the industry, based on their career goals, or yours, and how to set a plan to improve those skills.
If you’re ever interested in how mentoring might help you, and how to find a mentor and the digital marketing industry, and how to ensure that your skills most importantly, match the areas that are going to drive, the most impact for the websites that you work on in your industry.
So without further ado, here’s our interview with Chris Green. Chris, thanks for agreeing to be on our podcast.
Thanks for having me.
So can you tell us just a little bit more about yourself and your marketing background?
Yeah, sure. I mean, I often characterize what I do, to people who don’t really understand it, as I kind of mess around on the internet might be a little bit self-deprecating, but it’s my background before I got into SEO was had nothing to do with marketing. I mean, I, I finished a master’s in Film and Literature. And I was planning to go and do sort of a route into a Ph.D. and then lecturing and long story short, I kind of realized that I wasn’t ready for that, to kind of continue that journey.
And it I pretty much managed to, I guess, black my way into a job, I kind of sounded like I knew more about SEO than the person hiring me. And they hired me. And that was, you know, and then obviously, I had to come good on it.
And actually, in the early days, I kind of learned a lot about Google Analytics, AdWords fundamentals of SEO, SEO copywriting. And then a few months later, after working in house, an agency picked me up and trained me as a technical SEO. And yeah, the rest is kind of, I guess, kind of history. I sort of picked it all up as I’ve gone along. I mean, it’s, I say, an unconventional route into SEO. But is there a conventional route into this? I’m not sure there really is. But I just I’ve always been fascinated with the internet with solving problems.
And, you know, looking in places that other people won’t look for answers, you know, like stitching together pieces of data that don’t often get looked at side by side. And I think those things and the ability to translate technical elements into easily understandable things kind of meant that I sort of advanced pretty quickly through sort of agency. And then not only was sort of the technical, a lot of projects, but would also do a lot of the actual account direction and then running the team. So I think it’s just yeah, just being really kind of curious and not being afraid to roll up your sleeves.
So funny, because as you were talking, I was just thinking about somebody on my team ages ago, I kind of wonder if that combination of curiosity and fascination with the internet and analytics sort of go all together in relation to a technical SEO career only because as you were talking, I was like, Oh, that was actually his fascination, too. And now he’s a technical SEO. And that was my start.
I got a little bit of Crash Course and analytics. That was obsession of mine early in my career in technical SEO, and I was tinkering around with the internet early anyway, I just kind of wonder.
So anyway, the part of the reason I wanted to have you on the show is that I think you’d written a post, perfect for January, of course because everyone’s sort of reassessing their Well, not everybody. Some of us are reassessing what they’re doing with their lives and January. And what you want to do with your career, am I in the right space, there’s certainly plenty of that going on with the current pandemic, trying to evaluate whether you’ve got the right skills, maybe putting together a professional development plan, because you’re in house and somebody asked for it.
So how do you think that SEOs, whether they’re in maybe this different if they’re in house versus independent, or an agency, how should they go about evaluating their skills and building a plan?
Yeah, that’s, I mean, that’s a great question. And that’s, that’s really, I guess, what inspired me to do it because I’ve, you know, helped people progress, obviously, sort of progress myself, and that there’s no real benchmark, I guess, as to what good looks like really, or people don’t really often agree on it.
Some, some people will say, Well, it’s, it’s the results, you know, do you work on campaigns that generate great results? If yes, then you must be great. The longer I’ve done this, the more and more I think that actually, you know, there are certain campaigns that you’re only a small part in unless you can control everything you could be amazing and you can still not get great results for various reasons so that that method I find is kind of lackluster and often down to luck.
I often found that also some people that seem to advance really quickly and certainly who feel really confident in their skills are really, really good at telling their own story. But often less good at actually doing the job. And I’m trying not to throw shade too intensely, but you know that so there’s that kind of this, this sort of disparity of shift between Well, success isn’t all white doesn’t always mean you’re good.
A lack of or lots of, but also, you know, your confidence, you can be overly confident and that doesn’t reflect. So in terms of how do you assess them and find that relative to others. I think if you’re in an agency, or you’re in a company that has a team of SEOs and structure and people that you can work against, it’s actually far simpler, because you can kind of compare and contrast, you know, you obviously see that everyone skills, their passions or interests them, they’re all sort of different. But particularly if you’re in house, or you’re working on your own say, freelance or contract, you don’t often have that benefit of, you know, comparing against team members. And even if you have a team, if there’s only two or three other people, it’s still not the most objective way of comparing, because it’s based on them, you know?
So I think the whole idea of, you know, understanding, well, firstly, what are the accepted truths in our space? You know, are there these resources that the industry would generally consider good knowledge? And what’s your awareness of that?
A really good starting point, you know, can you read Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and get totally lost? Or do you read it all in, you kind of get it? That’s, I mean, that’s quite a vague litmus test. But for me, that’s often a really good one, especially if I don’t know where someone’s skill actually lies.
But then sort of more in-depth ones, then, you know, kind of focusing on specific tasks, specific skill sets. So we’ve already talked about analytics, well, if you’re speaking of an SEO that’s not familiar with analytics, or the analysis side of the job, that’s going to have knock-on effects on loads of elements of what you do, even if it’s not in the Google Analytics interface. Because a lot of the reasoning a lot of the problem-solving methodologies there kind of get linked. So it’s kind of building up this list, as I said, these accepted truths, what are what do we think is important? And then working it out? How well do you stack up against that thing? That’s, if you’re going to do it yourself? That’s that’s the primary way that I’d start. And then, you know, you start from there, how confident are you, you know, against these elements? And then what do you do to close those gaps? And that last part is probably the most important.
And do you know of any guides or resources out there that help people pull this together? You sort of mentioned the Moz’s guide, but…
The Moz’s one is where I start, always start with people who are new into SEO, because it’s so approachable. And, you know, it’s become pretty universal in many respects. And I think that, that gives you a good grounding, I mean, others in other tool providers, so SEMrush. And I think most tool providers have got their own kind of forms of guides, documentation, you SEMrush have their own qualifications, that’s, you know, doesn’t mean anything beyond you have a badge to say you’ve done it. But again, it’s sort of recognized as a good source of knowledge, whether or not it’s the most exhaustive sorts of data is one question. But if I know someone’s been through it, or at least know, well, I know what they’ve done. And I know that it’s broadly speaking pretty onpoint, pretty much what you need it to be. So those resources are very good on the entry-level.
I think beyond that, what do you do when you’re looking for much more advanced content? The choices do get a little thinner. Aleyda Solis has her https://learningseo.io/ site that she’s been pulling together, over sort of recent months, and that’s quite quickly becoming the place that I send people the most, in the sense of, you know, go look at this, it’ll signpost you to lots of amazing resources, it’s been arranged really well to covering you know, from basics to different niches within SEO to additional skill sets, advanced techniques.
And I think that is, you know, kind of simple as you just look at that, look at that data that information, what, what their scares you? What, what in there doesn’t, or do you feel you’re kind of confident in? Or do you think that’s pretty cool, I maybe need to learn a little more.
I mean, that it’s very self-direction, although, you know, it’s, it puts a lot of emphasis on you to go in and uncover those gaps. And, you know, even after you’ve done that, and you’ve read those blogs, and you’re happy that you’ve read what you need to – that’s the theory part nailed.
I mean, the huge part of the learning process is you need to then go do it, go put it into practice, go see how it works in the real world. But that’s probably a bit of a digression for the moment, but that’s, I think that’s a good you know, that’s a really good source.
So like, I said, Moz’s Beginner’s Guide, you know, the SEMrush certifications are pretty useful. And then the foundation laid is, is pretty strong. The rest kind of depends on where you are, and what it is you’re doing. And I guess we’ll come on to talk about this a bit is that dichotomy between in-house between agency between contract and those different roles, because the emphasis on what you need to be really good at is very, very different depending on where you are.
And I think it’s, you know, if you’re an agency, it’s, it’s actually very often your skill at doing the agency’s processes depends on what type of agency and the size. But broadly, you know, most agencies will deliver to a certain pattern or template, and how good are you at delivering within that, which is usually a balance of speed and quality. Whereas in house, various, you know, if you’re in an SME, sort of smaller business, you know, a lot of your job might not be SEO, there might be a digital marketing element.
So that’s your ability to juggle, whereas, you know, if you’re working for, you know, massive web sites, million-plus pages, huge amount of emphasis on your job is going to be your skill and knowledge of the platform of the limitations of who needs to do what. That’s the less of the SEO skill that you can go elsewhere to learn, it’s all it’s actually more your ability of them, you know, kind of learning how the company works, and how the web ecosystem works. So I think that becomes very situational. When you get above that, you know, basic level for me.
Yeah, I was actually thinking about that. Last week, I was chatting with a photographer in Australia, of all things, but he was ah… does quite a bit of local SEO. And I just don’t do a ton of local SEO at all. And I just, he was sort of giving me an update, because I wasn’t reading the local SEO stuff, because I don’t do it much. But I was just kind of floored. Again, I don’t even know I’ve been the industry forever, about how specialized you need to get depending on your type of client. And industry. You know, because local is its own beast some days.
And so we’re kind of just wondering, if you’re an SEO, obviously, it makes sense for you to keep your job. So if you’re working on small business stuff, that’s a different track, and I heard you talk are sort of you were hinting at that life might get more complicated when it comes to the people. And if you’re working with bigger sites, do you think that’s always true?
Yeah, vast majority of cases, I think the people is two things is where the greatest challenges can come out of. And that’s not me saying that I dislike working with people, but it’s the a lot of what we do, a lot of what we do is simple, relatively simple, we ignore the fact that we’re, you know, we’re, we’re trying to work with, you know, the search algorithms behind Google and other search engines that are, you know, black boxes that that can change at a moment’s notice the support they give, you may or may not be accurate.
And, you know, SEO is kind of like you’re trying to wrestle with water anyway. But the, the accepted truths and the knowledge that we’ve got a fairly straightforward, you know, if you’re going to migrate a website, broadly speaking, I can write you down a list of exactly what you need to do, and roughly at what points but the news and SEO managing that process, you’ve, you’ve not just ensuring that you know, what to do is you want to make sure that people do do the job when they need to, because if you’ve migrated and something goes wrong, if someone else hasn’t done the thing, they need to use the SEO, we’re still going to be the one answering for that, broadly.
So, so much about this is the buy in the stakeholder management, persuading other people to help you, you know, again, SEO is quite unique in that you as the SEO, you’re not the one that’s often doing a lot of the stuff that’s gonna make the difference. You know, you’re not a web developer, usually, you’re not a content writer, usually you’re, you’re not usually the PR team. You’re not the one sending out emails, you’re not the person developing the product, you know, the SEO is trying to coordinate other people to behave in a way that’s more conducive towards their goal. I mean, it helps everyone’s goals.
But if you’re not very good at building that picture, or and getting everyone else to see that your vision and how that it helps everybody, then SEO becomes very, very challenging. And yeah, when when you’re in really complicated businesses where, you know, even changing title tags can take six months, that changes absolutely everything about how and when you do things, who you communicate them to, you know, throw away recommendations that you could do in 30 seconds on a WordPress website becomes things you don’t ever touch, because there’s no point and there’s, there’s a lot of stuff like that to weigh up.
And I think that that’s knowledge you gain through, you know, by going through it, you know, if you’re a photographer that’s doing a lot of local SEO, that isn’t going to ever be your biggest challenge, which is, you know, in some respects is quite cleansing and really quite useful. But then actually, if you spend everyday lamenting all of the rubbish on Google Maps, because this poor reviews or rubbish listings, you might find yourself longing for a nice big enterprise client that doesn’t rely on those map pins, but it’s different challenges. all the time.
So, um, so what if somebody assesses their skills, and their weak spot is in that larger bucket where they realize a lot of it’s the persuasion part? Do you have spots that you point people to help them up their game with figuring that out?
Yeah, that’s a good one. I mean, I think it depends where on this where, where the specific person is in terms of their kind of journey and the troubles they’re sort of having, I think that the place that I’ve pointed most people to recently is SEO MBA, which Tom’s course, and, or his newsletter.
And I think that’s, that’s a very, very good resource that’s getting gets more and more people to think in a more of a consultative mode, but more importantly, learning to communicate upwards. And that’s, that’s not something that the SEO industry teaches an awful lot of.
Now, if you look more into consulting, McKinsey and others and read a lot more of the text, where they’re kind of skills or their playbooks and methodologies, I think a lot more of that teaching is pretty much embedded in it, I think it’s assumed that your job is is much just convincing someone to believe in you and buy into what it is you’re doing. Whereas SEOs or SEO is an industry loves talking to other people about how to do SEO.
And that’s not always the same as convincing someone to help you employ three more people into your team or, you know, undertaking the initiative that’s not on the roadmap initially. And I think that’s so I think moving outside of the, you know, the SEO sphere and looking more into management, leadership, communications, communication styles, sorry. One of the biggest things that helped me actually, in my past is looking at sort of psychometrics and not Myers Briggs, but there’s one called insights that’s based on some more union model. And it’s kind of all based on sort of archetypes and where you fit. But if you’re familiar with Myers Briggs, or anything like that, it’s the similar instances.
And what I’d very often recommend people do is understand firstly, their own personality type or preferences, you know, not to pigeonhole someone based on, you know, four, four letters, but what are you what are your tendencies? How do you like to be communicated with? How are you most likely to communicate with someone else, but then understand that same thing, how it functions with other people.
And I think the if you’re speaking to if you’re presenting an audit, which is a very common thing for SEO, and you’re really happy that you’ve done, the most incredible audit is detailed, it’s meticulous, it’s well thought out, you found some really big things. Your pride in that part is, there’s a good chance that that’s gonna sabotage how you then present that to a stakeholder, especially if it’s a project sponsor, that’s normal SEO that actually fundamentally doesn’t care about the issues, they just want to see results. They aren’t necessarily going to sit and have you present to them how amazing your audit is, they’re going to cut straight to the and what does it mean? Why should I care? And when we fix it, how quickly is the benefit going to come?
And that is a lesson in learning that that difference in communication styles, preferences of how people learn or want to take on knowledge. But also, what are those people looking for? They’re things that I don’t think is SEOs, we think enough about as an industry. I mean, there are people that do and actually, it’s often in house, SEOs that I think, learn this far quicker, because they have to. But I think that’s a really nice blend at that point to say, well known about me, don’t learn about NLP, you know, about language about communication, presentation skills, confidence, creating business cases, a lot of skills that have actually zero to do with SEO, but also had everything to do about getting SEO done.
And did you pick that up personally, while you’re at the agency? Or was it something you picked up when you’re on your own or?
So? Wow, so yeah, so actually, I was lucky, the agency I was with at the time, put us through that insights process. And we actually had like a management training kind of, sort of track that we were doing, which is where I got exposed to a lot of these teachings and learnings. And I’ve been fortunate to work with business mentors and trainers who teach on that sense. And that actually was all with agency. And that was where the mode to actually helping people sort of progress out of their, their expertise into a slightly more kind of balanced role. So that’s where I picked it up.
I think the thing you have to be very conscious with, and you have to kind of do afterwards is keep that knowledge in the forefront. What do I do with that? So if you’ve got, you know, if you’re working with a client or you’ve got a manager who’s particularly problematic, I don’t know if you find that no matter how many times you tell them something, they still ask you the same questions or they don’t seem to get it. A lot of this comes down to is think back to what you’ve learned that those kinds of sessions that psychometric profiling you’ve done. What could be at the root of that? It’s not that they’re, you know, they’re a pain and you’re absolutely in the right or it’s not as if you’re the one doing everything wrong in there, right? It’s actually that your communication styles are wrong.
So it’s keeping those bits in your, in your, in the forefront of your mind and actually working with that. And that’s something I’ve done very consciously and worked really hard at because that helps those moments of introspection of why is this why am I not getting these recommendations through? Why is this report getting revised? Again, what am I missing? It’s, again, it’s not SEO that will solve those problems, it is those other soft skills and teachings that will pull you out of them.
So it sounds like tactically, you take a guess at what your client’s communication style is, or what their slot is on Myers Briggs or whatever personality trait program you’re using?
Yeah, I mean, you once you start, you, if once you’ve done the original stone, the work kind of figured out where you sit on it. And with the process, then is to make yourself a little familiar with everyone else’s. So you don’t just learn about your own typing inclinations, you learn about I was, doesn’t have to take very long, I mean, I find I into it quite towards this sort of thing quite often.
So I’m innately curious as to other people’s preferences. But actually, when you’re in a room with somebody, and, or even, I’ll have some meetings, and I’ve worked a lot in agency, so I’ve met with a lot of people, and you pitch and discuss things with a lot of different securities, and usually even just running through the like the agenda for a meeting, you’ll know. You’ll know who’s what, just by their body language or the questions they ask, you might even find if you’ve got there’ll be that one person in the room that says but what does it all mean? before you’ve even gotten past the intro slide that teaches you an incredible amount about that. And tailoring your what you then present how you present to that is that I mean, it takes a long time to learn and become sort of fluid at that.
But picking that stuff up is just such an invaluable skill set. And I think yeah, the, you know, if you kind of think of agency account directors who just seem to have this way of building a rapport or doing incredibly well, they’re doing this all the time that you know, and they might not even know it as consciously as what they’re doing, they might just do it instinctively. But it is just what what do these people need to know? How do I need to adjust my own communication styles to them, to give them what they want?
Really interesting, I did a similar one, I don’t remember the name when I was at Ketchum as big agency. I have actually done on a ton of these over my lifetime. But the reason I like this one, in particular, was that it had you figure out or once you figured out what the personality preference was, it would talk through what that personality preference acted like in times of stress.
Particularly in an agency environment that was really helpful. It was also very interesting because there’s… there was one personality type, that’s basically the extreme extrovert, kind of one, which I fall into. And it was the, you tend to get louder, maybe even scream the extreme extrovert side when you’re stressed. But anyway, the opposite of that was this very analytical minds or analytical personality type.
And what I find interesting is they don’t like to hold eye contact with you, which I had noticed, with my, we only had a few on our team, like literally two, maybe out of 12. But I noticed it with those people and I thought it was odd because I’m not that I’m the opposite. Right? And it was very interesting to manage those folks and on purpose try not to hold their eyes. Like I had to, like coach myself in every interaction, look at their ear lobe or whatever. But it helped.
It’s almost it’s not only it’s kind of not knowing what might annoy you about that trait as well as my alienate them about what what you mean, it’s the where people move in times of stress, because you know, we can, so I’m, I’m probably closer on the analytical side of that spectrum. So I kind of much more, I’m likely to go quiet when I’m annoyed, rather than go kind of out. And that’s but you know, and very often the discussion I’ve had with kind of senior members of staff or my management is just because I’m not jumping up and down furious about something doesn’t mean I’m not cross or I’m not going to fix it. I’m just, but that whole idea is we can be different things at once at different times.
And I think it’s, you have the behavior that you are most likely to default to but then you have the behavior that you can kind of project and change to and I think that changing that process that sort of morphing from one state into another is really valuable. So, so useful. Absolutely. I mean, it’s every I mean, even from how teams work together that can be really super beneficial. But I mean, you know, when we’re, when we’re talking about managing stakeholders and clients, I mean, what we’re effectively doing is just saying, Well, how do we get the most out of them? We, we want them to be happy of what we’re doing. But we need them to say yes to the things we’re asking them to do. There’s a… I mean, I guess it sounds a little manipulative when you frame it in that sense, but it’s just kind of you’re just greasing the wheels, or you’re laying down the runway for you to get what you need to.
Or maybe not adding friction, because you’re right, the introverted trait, I’m trying to remember back to this training, but yes, it was holding the eyes actually added stress. So if you want a better conversation, don’t stare him in the eyes, because it’s gonna stress them out. And maybe they’ll get obsessed about the uncomfortableness of that unconsciously and not listen to what you’re saying. Right.
I think and I think friction is such a great term, when we kind of play it back against them. SEO is a skillset and a space, an SEO is kind of where they are in a process of sort of abstracting it a little bit. But that’s very often one of the biggest challenges you as an SEO has to kind of deal with is that, really, you are friction for other business processes that are already happening.
I mean, obviously, in those businesses that are well established, and the phrase SEO first or search first, or however, people might kind of call it now is, you know, you realistically, you’ve got to kind of integrate and work between and across teams. And try and kind of sneak in or add in your initiatives in a way that, you know, doesn’t cause too much friction or doesn’t cause things to stop kind of completely.
And I’ve worked with some incredibly talented technical SEOs in the past whose technical recommendations, they’re not just friction, they are, you know, log jams, they are, you know, become serious issues or blockers in a process. And it’s almost to a point that very often what they present or give as, as part of being an SEO is almost harder, you’re creating more work than you need to even just to interrogate the data and understand what the recommendation is.
And it’s, you know, so much of this is just, let’s just smooth it on through this kind of push it or make it all as digestible as possible, still have that difficult conversation, but don’t try to be an absolute pain in the a** while you’re doing it.
So, so changing gears a little bit thinking back to this agency experience that we both have had have, what do you recommend if somebody is in an agency, and perhaps they aren’t industry specific, and they are getting thrown a totally new challenge and a new industry?
Suddenly, when this happened a lot in my agency anyway, but you’d get something, you know, suddenly, I have to do local SEO for some client where that’s not what we normally did. How do you recommend SEO sort of ramp up their skill set to be able to handle that challenge and pivot?
Yeah, that’s a good one. So I mean, the there’s a couple of things, I guess. So the first one is, you know, within most SEO niches, there are really kind of these noteworthy pillars of people that we return to so in the local space, Greg Gifford in the States, huge kind of local SEO presence, in that sense, but there’s also David Members in the UK, and there’s a few other people that that I would I know, because I follow a lot of people and you realize, yeah, so in SEO industry is pretty tiny.
I know if I ever had a local SEO question who I would ask I make sure I kind of follow them and whatever they talk about, I tend to look at, and that’s so much the case, like if tomorrow I had a local SEO client come in, that would be one of the first things I do, you know, even going down to go and look, what have they shared on their feed for the last two weeks, you know? And then, you know, the it’s not just local SEO, if you will, news, SEO tend to Barry Adams, if you know, there’s loads of people that and it’s slightly different, obviously, the US SEO scene in the UK is they overlap a little bit, but they’re also quite distinct. But if you’re doing something in the States, you, you know, won’t take you long to find that person.
So I’d say that’s, that’s kind of very often the first thing that I would do from a following perspective, but then it is these personal networks that you build, you know, if you are in an agency, that doesn’t just do SEO, you’re one of two or three SEOs, you know, in a big agency, and you’ve got to solve that problem yourself is you’re building that personal network of like minded people is so so important. And very often, that’s what’s differentiate the SEOs that are really successful. They’re not in my experience is just, you know, networking with other people in the space.
I mean, if you pay attention to SEO Twitter for too long, you can kind of sometimes feel maybe this is a little bit hostile and a bit, you know, a bit much but, but actually, and I find you know, all of the conferences I’ve been to and places that are spoken and people that I mingled with his most SEOs are brought together by the fact we all like doing the same thing. And it’s this really kind of nerdy, weird area that isn’t really applicable outside of us there. And that and that, that kind of, you know, people want to, broadly speaking, people want to help each other out, as long as you’re not actively, like, kind of starting fights or something. So, I would say, actually seek out those people, you know, don’t just sort of straight out, say, hey, I need help give me free help, which people do, but follow them, you know, in, engage with their content, go to their talks, complement, the mod speak about their talks, meetups, all of those kinds of things are so, so important. And they’re not often really super quick.
So if you’ve got a new Local SEO client tomorrow, you know, that knowledge, you have to backfill your knowledge with doing stuff, but actually, you know, you’ve signed his contract, and you’re gonna be working with someone for a while, make friends in that space. And then what I would do in the interim is just is upskill yourself with what’s written, you know, a lot of the, the local, a lot of the tools providers in the SEO space are often really good sources for sort of immediate knowledge. Because, you know, with content marketing being the way it is, and SEO being the way it is, if you do a tool that is about you know, building local citations, or, you know, rank tracking on the map, there’s a good chance that actually you a lot of your blog is going to be about those things. So they’re a great source of information, obviously, you know, if it’s published by a tool that does the job, there’s going to be a little bit of bias there. But very often, it doesn’t mean that the information you gained from that is invaluable.
So I think it’s a mixture of, you know, find the experts and follow them, build up your contacts in that space, but then just read what’s about and then it’s up to you that knowledge, and then the day to day getting on and doing it. I think even if you hadn’t done Local SEO For five years, and you picked it back up tomorrow, once as soon as you learn, you know, the differences in how the data sources influence the map. And, you know, where is paid on a map versus Where’s organic? And how do I report on those accurately based in Google Search Console? Once you’ve answered those basic questions, it’ll start to click I think so I think there’s a, you know, if you’re good at SEO, and you understand the core principles of what the search engines are trying to do, you should be able to catch up with the rest.
Yeah, I actually definitely found that to be the case when I was the only SEO at Ketchum for a while because I’ve worked on 1,000 different industries. But yeah, the face of it was like, okay, you know, it’s gonna be natural gas. Great. I know nothing about natural gas. Let’s do this. And then the next day, it’s like Slim Jims. Okay, cool. Let’s do this.
Um, I personally find as it sounds like you do, too, that COVID is a bummer because the face-to-face search shows are so much fun in relation to just geeking out with other people care about what you care about. But then also so helpful in relation to the real life human relationships you can build at those conferences. I’ve had some really stunning sort of results. I don’t know – support afterwards, I guess is a better way of saying it. From folks that I’ve met at shows.
So now that we’re all stuck at home. And some of us might be for a while I still have unvaccinated kids. Because she’s too little. Where do you go now? Do you have you found online spaces? This is where I plug the Tech SEO Women’s group because the Slack and Facebook there are amazing. And it’s it is a place where you can just ask a random questions and people help you. I’ve had people that were at the top of the industry say like, “Hey, I’m free. Right now. You want to do a web chat? Let’s walk through it.” Okay, amazing. Yes, let’s do that. But that’s obviously you have to be a woman to get in. So what’s on the other side? Do you know of any online spaces where maybe it’s safe to ask questions?
Yeah, I mean, it’s since obviously, since COVID, since pandemic people kind of not doing face to face as much I mean, there are some, I guess, sort of proxies or you know, versions of that I think the finding the right slack group or even WhatsApp groups or Signal or Telegram. I think they’re that whole you know, these little communities have become a lot more fragmented. And I think if you can find yourself into one that’s got your, the people who are willing to help save space, that that can be amazing. If anything, I think they can give you something that you couldn’t even have got you even by doing the face to face.
I wouldn’t say it’s a complete replacement, but I’ve personally found I have a handful of WhatsApp and Signal groups, you know, ones on analytics. I was on technical SEO I was you know about de su do and other things. And yeah, they’re very often where I dip into if I’ve got a specific issue or likewise, other people might chime in with problems, and we kind of feed them back. And that’s, that’s very cool. That’s very useful. I think the, you know, Twitter and LinkedIn, in particular to, but still very good kind of networks, just to see what people are doing. I mean, went to Brighton SEO last year, the first in-person, one that there’s been held in the UK since, since the pandemic, and the amount of people that I bumped into who also follow me on various other socials, we might not have spoken that much, but they kind of know a lot about enough about what I’ve done.
So I took up jump rope in pandemic. And actually, what I spent more time talking to people about Brian was the fact that I’ve done that rather than SEO, and that kind of that’s where that sense of community and kind of staying connected thing can really work as well. So I think there’s no balancing act is there. I still, there still is no true replacement for those face-to-face interactions, really. But I think if you’re, if you want to connect more with the industry, if you want to talk to people more about it, and you don’t know where to start, I’d say absolutely start there. I think that the women in tech SEO one is, is absolutely fantastic. And it’s given a lot of people something they wouldn’t have had before which so I think that, you know, if you’re 50% of the planet who could make use of that, then absolutely give it a go.
There’s, I can’t think of a reason why not. But even if you’re not 50%, there’s still so many apps out there, it’s the internet. I mean, you go onto Twitter, and even Twitter spaces. There’s now I see them two or three times a week, there’s this there’s a group of SEOs with some well renowned, you know, internationally sort of SEOs in them join in ask a question. And I think that’s that’s what anyone everyone says. They said, it’s a small industry. So even if you think someone’s, you know, top of their game, international speaker, the industry is not that big, where they’re not going to appreciate you dropping in and ask him a question or, you know, as long as you’re respectful about it, I think absolutely go and do it. Start it tomorrow, if…
Even if they’re top of their game, the space changes so quickly.
That is true. I mean, there’s a slightly hubris type element of if you’re top of your game, and you kind of get caught out. Yes, that possibility.
Yeah. So So coming back to the sort of goal setting? Do you have a process that you use with your team members? And is there a process that you use to help them move their skill set more effectively? Is that any different? Because I know you’ve met with people outside of your team, too. So do you have a different process that you use for mentoring other people? And I’ve come back to this because there was a mentoring program in the Tech SEO women’s group for a while, and I think they’re going to redo it again this year?
Yeah, I think so. I’ll start with if it’s kind of members of a team. So I think the if you’re an agency, and you’ve got a team, or the way that I would usually work?
Well, firstly, we’ve got to assume that there, everyone has a clear job specification or job spec, we’d call it in the UK, where it just says, What does doing my job look like? And then what does exceeding my job look like? And I know everyone has that not everyone produces it, but I think it should be there. Because I think it gives you a really clear idea of what do I need to do to just fulfill my day-to-day what kind of work functions and then if I want to grow, develop, and then you know, move up? What do I need to accelerate and develop more on?
If you’ve got those in place, and you’re managing a team, the actual goal-setting part can it was just a lot simpler, because you know, you kind of work with your line manager or supervisor, or if you’re the manager or supervisor, you work with your team, to then go right, well, do we feel that these are being met? Are you kind of matching on? And um, you know, you can do this process? Well, or you can do it incredibly badly. You know, I’ve seen people whose job specifications is a stick to beat someone when they’re not doing the job, right.
And then I’ve seen other, I’ve seen employees come in and say, Yeah, I’m doing it all, when they’re quite plainly not. And it’s kind of you, if you’re both approaching it at that take of well, that that’s kind of we want the same things, we want growth, and we want people to perform the best they can. What, how close are we to that? And that’s fairly straightforward.
And I think that when we come into the goal setting, there’s many different frameworks for goal setting and lots of different approaches. But my favorite is the smart methodology because it just makes sure that you know, what is it is my goal specific? Is my Is it measurable? Is it gonna be a verb? I think achievable. Thank you. Yeah, it is. Yeah.
Is it relevant to your overall kind of growth trajectory is time-based, when is it going to be done by and I think that’s literally down that’s But this is kind of complex gets.
And very often that process of walking people through smart or getting someone to do it, you will work out really quickly. Is that actually an important goal? Or is that just been put on there, just cuz it’s that time-based accountability part is when you really learn, actually, I’m going to do this, I’m going to learn a new programming language because I think it’s going to help me but it’s going to take me four hours a week, I’m going to do over the next three months. And by the end of three months, I need to build an application that will help me do X task, I don’t know, which makes you kind of then realized, well, actually, am I gonna have time to do that? Is it gonna fit in with everything else? Do I really need that? Or do I think I need that?
And that process is so so valuable. But what, what it often needs to come back to what I like to sort of merge it into. And it’s something that was taught to me when when I was kind of going through these journeys and agencies, you have your professional ones, but you have your personal ones, too. And that’s when it doesn’t matter who you kind of mentoring or helping Is that realistic realism that we know with some people, as much as you might enjoy work as much as you might enjoy SEO and kind of love your craft, you know, you’re doing this to get paid to feel satisfaction to achieve certain things. That should also then relate into other things. And I think it’s just weighing up the goals in relation to both.
So yeah, is it in in an agency or in a team where you got a clear job specification, that’s where I would often start, obviously, if you don’t have a good job specification, that’s something that can be harder to, to navigate, because you kind of, you know, if you’re in that position, where you’ve got to try and tell your boss that you don’t think the job specifications, right, and they’ve written it, for example, that that’s they’re always interesting conversations, but where I would then go from here, and if it was meant to on the people outside of a team, or is thinkable.
What, what job title are you going for? What’s your aspiration? I don’t know, is it head of department? Is it a senior SEOs position? Go and find, you know, 10 job specs, like, for that look for people advertising for those jobs? You’ll have a list. I mean, obviously, if it’s a recruitment piece, you’ll have a list of requirements that are far too long and often contradictory. But you can you can pull down this list and work out what does the market say I need to be able to do to do my job well. And that’s such a, hopefully, that’s a validating kind of helpful thing to do.
Sometimes it can be a little demoralizing if you’re over pitching where you think you should be. But that will that will at least give you an idea of well, what does the market think, because actually, none of this is absolute, but one organization may think is mandatory, and other maybe an optional. You know, I’ve seen some internal SEOs also have to know how to fix the email server when it goes down, or unjam. The printers like they know SEO jobs, or they need to be proficient at Photoshop. It’s like nothing in SEO takes place in Photoshop, I can guarantee you there so but it’s just understanding where that sits in it’s using that kind of barometer and for those people that I mentor that aren’t in that structured kind of environment, it’s, it’s down to where do you want to go? And what do they what are they going to expect of you? And then how do we close those skill gaps? Or do we not need to close the skill gap?
Do you just need to reframe your story? Do you need to rework your CV or re-pitch a case study and it’s just sometimes people will have the experience and they just need to kind of suck it up and go out there and go knock on some doors, other people, they might need to work at it for a bit longer, but at least if they know what they’re developing, and what people are asking for, when they feel ready, they can tell that story a little better.
I think it’s also okay in the industry to realize that you don’t like doing certain things. I mean, it’s I guess it depends on you know, where you’re at employment wise, obviously, I do my own thing. So I really can pick whatever I want to do, but just realizing, and I’m also further along in my career, but there are certain things I’m not good at. I tried to do development, and I miss punctuation, which sometimes means some things don’t work. So if I’m going to QA code in that sort of detail, probably not what I’m going to be happy doing because it’s really challenging for me. I’m not really great at it. And I think that’s okay, I’m good at a lot of other things.
Right, but even that ability to say, I’m not good at that, and that’s okay, that that’s, that’s such a hard one position to be saying because I know, I mean, the word imposter syndrome or phrase imposter syndrome is used a lot within SEO. And I think that might be because of the sorts of people that are often getting into it. But a lot of people are so worried that they can’t say I don’t know that because they will be judged as being poor at their job or Well, if you don’t know find someone who can, you know, when you’ve done the job for two years, you think it’s you as a failing but I think actually once you’ve done this for five years, 10 years or more. It’s that of course this stuff we do No, no, there’s people in Google that don’t even know the answer to the question about how Google runs. So it’s just having that confidence to know that and that’s, that’s not learned. I think that’s earned, isn’t it?
Right. Yeah. Also, you know, there are other things that bring you joy, right. And if you spend all of your time, really trying to get good at the thing that does not bring you joy, your life is gonna be miserable. When instead, you know, SEO is a big space, and you can specialize in a lot of things. I know, both of us do technical SEO, but you know, you could be doing link building, then you could be working at a link building SEO agency, or you’d been content, and that’s your jam, or digital PR, whatever. You don’t have doesn’t, not everyone has to code, Python, I guess, is really where I’m coming down.
Yeah, and I think the other thing with SEO, it’s, you know, even if you enjoy juggling that spreadsheet for eight hours, that’s actually super fun. Because that the skills that you develop, you’re fulfilling a really good function. Other people I know, just, they’re in a happy place when they’re applauding metadata.
Now, sitting at eight hours worth of metadata is not something I want to be doing. But I have done it, I feel like I’ve earned my stripes, you know, those sort of spreadsheets of, of kind of content, and is just kind of means to an end. But you do also need to go through an experience or the stuff that intimidates you or you don’t like, as well, I think, too, it’s, you know, I’ve I’ve kind of done lots, I mean, for me personally, like, link building outreach side, is something that I’ve done enough to know what good looks like in that role. But I’ve also done enough to know that I’m not the person that drives rows in there. I mean, it’s, you know, chasing journalists or bloggers is, you know, I’ve, I don’t have the chops for it. Frankly, it’s not kind of my way. But if I find someone who does, I usually say, right, we need to employ that person, that’d be great on that team, because of what we’re seeing.
And it’s just knowing that every friend, SEO teams get bigger as it becomes more and more expected. I think the need for an SEO to wear all of the hats at once he’s becoming less. You know, that SEO who is a link builder, who is a technician who is a content writer, who can also edit in Photoshop and fix email servers, that’s, that’s a mold that shouldn’t exist or won’t exist, I think, in you know, another sort of five or so years time, because there aren’t enough good SEOs who do specialize, let alone those who are happy to be the general generalist kind of digital person. And I think businesses will learn that really quickly when their SEO starts feeling like actually, I’m not doing the stuff that gives me joy, I’m going elsewhere.
And we see that this thing that a lot at the moment, so much this, you know, it’s really good time to have a couple of years of even a year’s worth of SEO experience under your belt, because you can go and find the right thing. Just the risk is that, you know, as always happens in these stories, people get over promoted a little too quickly, because there’s not as many people about and if you do get over promoted into the wrong kind of role in you can really knock your confidence and professional sort of standing. And that can often cause you more damage. So this is just being realistic, but also knowing that, Heck, I’ve got really sought after skill that not many people have, you know, I need to leverage that for me too.
Yeah, yeah, totally. Um, well, so this has been an amazing conversation, as I knew it would be because you and I have chatted earlier and spent time left. We’re like, wow, where’d all the time go? Um, but I do have a couple of standard questions. I always asked my podcast. Yes. So as marketers, I know, we’re constantly thinking about our customers and what makes them tick. So is there anything that you’ve seen recently with any of the clients you’ve worked on that was really kind of an aha moment about customer psychology.
So I’ve had two. So, one of them was doing some keyword research for a brand that sells or facial masks or face masks like cosmetics and cleansing masks and bits that not something I usually have an awful lot of overlap with. But, you know, doing the SEO thing, kind of doing keyword research in the Tools, and then it’s that moment where you Google that term, kind of search, facemasks hit go and then you realize that every single one of the facemask rankings on position one are all face masks to protect against COVID or airborne viruses or particulates, and then you think her. I mean, as a searcher as a customer, I will have almost said I may have searched for a facemask because I was looking for them. But immediately I’m not going to get the results that I think I want.
So that’s that is a keyword ranking. You know, this isn’t a new moment, but just for this particular Nisha, just as a lovely poignant reminder that I don’t want to rank for that term, the customer, you know, isn’t going to find me there.
They are going to refine and actually that particular it was what’s the most likely refined term to find that facial mask for And who ranks there and that, for me, that’s always I kind of I talk about keywords and keyword intent long enough. But if you really want to understand your customer search journey, you need to know well, what SERPs? Are they actually finding? What are the results actually coming up?
And, and for me that is an absolutely brilliant one. And then the other one, and it’s come back to me quite a lot with many different customers is that working out that, actually, so very often, like the company business has been so hell-bent on ranking well, for particular kind of keywords, the actual the customers in that space, they are there, they’re not searching generically for that product and or service, because this particular one, there’s only like 10 others, other companies. So these landing pages that were trying to optimize for non-brand keywords, were never going to work, because actually, the only people in the space that would have the buying power, or the decision-making would never search and consume in that fashion.
And actually, I think those aha moments and understanding the customers that will show that will actually, you know, we’re doing an integrated campaign, we moved budget away from SEO week because it was there was no, there was no point there wasn’t a lot of point, you know, that we then sat down with a sales team and said, Who do you speak to? And they’re like, well, these people have been industry in 10 years, we normally, your nine out of 10 of our customers, we meet our Industry, Trade Shows twice a year, pre COVID. It’s like, Well, okay, I need advertising, what’s going to target those people? Not me, hoping that I’m going to rank better for this keyword based on all of this additional content I’m going to pump into the site with because they, the customers don’t need that content. And it’s I mean, they’re both I guess it both of these things are variations on a theme, which is just understanding that that purchase journey and where that person is.
And it’s very kind of thinking about the human making the search, rather than this search has 50,000 a month, on average, I want to rank for that. Because I want a slice of that. 50,000 people, it’s like, well, but what happens if they’re not the people you need to be speaking to? And I don’t know, I still don’t think it’s something to think about enough. And I think because it proves gives me an aha moment. Every now and again, I think it’s one thing that I still need reminding of periodically, just to kind of help show me that just to kind of help, you know, because they’re doing it via search volume is such an easy way out, isn’t it? I mean, you know, one of the keyword tools shows you this 50,000 people searching. Okay, cool, that’s a really easy decision to make but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one. So I think yeah.
I hink that’s very, very insightful. Sometimes SEO is not always the solution for everything, as much as we love it. So what’s the when or resource that you want to share with your audience today?
I think because of what we’ve spoken about, I think I’ve already sort of name-checked it. But the resource that I want to share is the https://learningseo.io/ It’s such a well-selected and thorough kind of source of knowledge and information. We, as an industry, there’s no kind of definitive qualification, there’s no universal acknowledgement of certain ways of learning really. So anywhere that can kind of anywhere that reviews, quality checks, and then pulls together the learnings that goes on in this sort of disparate space for me is huge, invaluable. Not just if you’re a beginner, but if you need to kind of keep up with things as you go. So I think that’s the I would recommend everyone takes a look at that if they haven’t already.
I know he keeps updating it. It’s I don’t know how this woman at the time.
I don’t know I say that too often. But she’s maybe she’s got a time machine or a clone. I don’t know. Very productive. That’s all that it benefits us all as well. Yeah,
So how can people learn more about you?
I… so a couple of places, I guess. So Chris Green SEO on Twitter is where I am most frequently, although I’m a little cautious on they’re sort of in COVID times, I guess. But I think that’s where if I’m pontificating about something search-based, it’s going to be there. But my DMs are also open. And it’s one of the best ways of reaching me if anyone does have a question or wants to check. But then I’ve got Chris-green.net is my site and blog.
That’s got a bit more about me what I do, but I’ve you know, the professional focus for SEO skills blog that I’ve done is up there. I also did one last year, which is talking about how to become a senior SEO in an agency which I had a lot of people reach out to me quietly and say that that’s really helped them which is super cool. And that’s also where I’m going to be publishing I’m doing a slightly more in-depth SEO skills question kind of quiz. So not just the self-appraisal and where do I feel confident but this is going to be breaking it down into a couple of kind of core SEO stuff. and how confident are you to be able to do this independently or not?
And actually what I’m doing in the background, what I’m trying to build into is, it helps people understand this strategy where they need to learn more, you do need to learn more and measurement reporting or technical or content.
So that’s that’s going to be a fairly, hopefully, useful and chunky piece that I might even try and develop into a tool. So you know, I’m saying it now. So it holds me accountable. So I need to actually go on and launch it. Great in backburner, so, yeah. So my blog there, when that comes out.
Great, that sounds amazing. Thank you so much for sharing some time with us.
And thank you for having me. Yeah. Great.