About This Episode
In this episode we talk to Morgan, the Director of SEO at Statwax and dive into how she managed to grow an SEO team from just her (and she was completely new to SEO) to a five member team in under two years.
As an SEO, you’ll never know everything. Know when to pull yourself out of the rabbit hole of absorbing information and start doing.
– Morgan Petrov, Director of SEO, Statwax
If you need to convince your agency or boss that you’re underwater and need a team, or you’re a young woman looking to advance your career in the SEO industry, this episode is for you.
In This Episode, You Will Learn
- How to advance from an SEO specialist to an SEO director in under two years.
- How to persuade your company or management to invest in SEO resources and hires.
- Morgan’s strategy for growing and managing her team from one to five in less than two years.
- If you’re new to SEO, how you can expand your network and understanding of SEO.
Connect With Morgan
- Visit the Statwax website
- Connect with Morgan on LinkedIn
- Follow Morgan on Twitter
- SEO Skills Assessment Template
- Who to follow SEO – Twitter list
- Semrush Academy
- BlueArray Academy
- Women in Tech SEO – Twitter and Slack Communities
- Product-Led SEO – Book
- Online Geniuses
- Big SEO – Reddit Community for SEOs
- Big SEO Slack Channel
- SMX Advanced – Search Marketing Expo
- Best of Mike King – Presentations
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.
Katherine Ong 0:00
Welcome to the digital marketing victories podcast, a monthly show where we celebrate and learn from the changemakers in digital marketing. I’m personally obsessed with how digital marketers sell through and get their ideas executed. I’m your host Katherine Watier Ong. I’m the owner of WO strategies LLC. We focus on organic discovery for enterprise clients with a training centered approach.
Today we’re joined by Morgan Petrov. Morgan Petrov, is the Director of SEO at Statwax, a boutique digital marketing agency, focused on B2B, SaaS, FinTech and higher education industries. At Statwax, Morgan is responsible for building her agency’s SEO service offerings, and leads the organic research efforts.
Before diving headfirst into SEO, Morgan first launched her career as a content writer at WP promote working on E-commerce retail and hospitality clients including Marriott Hotels, POLYWOOD Outdoor Furniture, SHEEX, and Qalo.
I’m so excited for this episode as you’re going to learn:
- How it’s going to potentially be possible for you to leap from an SEO specialist to an SEO director in under two years
- How to convince your organization or management to invest in SEO resources and hires
- How Morgan was able to grow her team from one to five and under two years
- What Morgan has learned about managing a team as a new SEO manager
- How she now supports her team
- What Morgan thinks you should do if you’re a young woman in the SEO space, looking to grow your network and your understanding of SEO
So without further ado, here’s our interview with Morgan Petrov. Morgan, thanks for agreeing to be on our podcast.
Morgan Petrov 1:44
Yes, thank you so much. I’m happy to be here.
Katherine Ong 1:47
So can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your marketing background?
Morgan Petrov 1:52
Yeah, absolutely. So as you kind of mentioned, I am the director of SEO at Statwax. We are a boutique agency that specializes in B2B businesses, as well as SaaS higher education, FinTech, and a little more of these niche businesses. But I didn’t always start out as a marketer, I actually started off going to the University of Mississippi or Ole Miss, as we like to call it. And I started out as a political science major. Unfortunately, I started getting into politics whenever an election season was happening. And I quickly realized that everybody was just too serious in politics. And it just was not something that was for me.
So I actually swapped my majors over to integrate at marketing communications. It’s a part of the School of Journalism at Ole Miss. But essentially, what this degree program did was train their students how to work in a marketing agency. So we learned a broad range of skills anywhere from you know, traditional media buying and selling all the way down to graphic design, you name it, we were learning it, but really, the point was learning how to operate in a marketing agency. And I really fell in love with it, because I think I’ve always been a storyteller. And marketing in this sense, really taught me how to tell those stories and profit off of them essentially, instead of just writing stories in a journal somewhere.
So when I was in college, I was also working two jobs, you know, paying for living expenses, and anything, you know, tuition just couldn’t cover. So my scholarships couldn’t be covered. But because of, you know, being in this integrated marketing communications program, I knew, you know, getting an internship was so essential to, you know, getting a good career with a good agency. You know, I really want it to work for a traditional PR ad agency, like something like Burson Marsteller, WundermanThompson, you know, what every ad kid dreams of doing.
So I started trying to find internships, and they were all unpaid. And I couldn’t really do that. I couldn’t really travel out of state, like a lot of my friends would do and get those paid internships. So I decided to make my own marketing internships. I’d actually go out to small businesses that were in the city where I went to school, and I’d come to them with these PowerPoint presentations. And they just had a marketing pitch deck in them and I would walk into these stores, these restaurants, and I’d immediately start going with those pitches. I was just trying to get any kind of experience that I possibly could in the marketing field, and I rightfully got a lot of NOs. But I did get a couple of YESs. And that was really the start of marketing for me.
It gave me a lot of entrepreneurship experience, but also a lot of marketing experience and just planning out a strategy.
So long story short graduate day after graduation moved to Dallas, I started working in corporate communications for a fortune 500 company. And I worked there for exactly 90 days. And I hated every bit of it, corporate communications, not my thing, working in a big corporate setting, that’s like, super frigid, not my thing. So on my 90th day, I was eligible to finally collect two weeks of PTO and they cashed it out.
So I took my PTO money, and I went to another agency WPromote. They are a specialty digital agency. They really work a lot in the E-commerce sphere and hospitality. And I started working as an SEO copywriter. Like I mentioned, I’ve always been such an avid storyteller. And I wrote a lot of content anywhere from web content to email content for a lot of brands like Marriott, Home Depot, Polywood, Furniture, a lot of really fun clients. But the problem was, I was writing this content, and I loved it. But there was still a why, like, why am I writing this content? How is it working? You know, is it even working? You know, as a copywriter, in a big ad agency, you really don’t get to see a lot of the performance metrics and things like that that’s typically handled by different departments. So I just kind of had this lingering feeling of like, I need to be doing something more, I need to start investigating the why behind this content, like what’s the purpose of it.
Morgan Petrov 6:53
So later, around 2020, early 2020, in January, and three months after job seeking, I landed an interview with Statwax. And funny enough, the interview was actually the day before the national shutdown. For the pandemic, I walked into the interview, and you know, I kind of thought it was just another normal interview, I reached my hand out to shake the interviewers hand, and we shook hands, we looked at each other at the same time, and we both were like, oh, we should not have done that. Give the hand sanitizer.
Um, but so in this interview, I was interviewing for an SEO content specialist position, which later would actually turn out to be just a SEO specialists position instead of content only. But they really want to know a lot about my experience. And they also wanted someone who knew a little bit about technical SEO. And like I said, you know, I really have been a copywriter for the most part of my career, something in the content field never really messed with the technical side of things.
I ended up getting the job with Statwax as an SEO specialist, and I kind of just dove right into SEO, it really became a lifestyle for me. Granted, that’s because it had to be a lifestyle for me. They’re really what I was the only other SEO specialist. The only other person above me was the VP who worked on paid and organic. So a lot of the training was left up for me to kind of find on my own, and kind of find my own techniques on how to do things. And I really learned a lot of it by just Googling, which I think is probably the one of the best ways to learn how Google works, and really get familiar with the SERP landscapes. And ever since then, like I said, it’s been a lifestyle. It’s something that I’m so passionate about. I eventually worked my way up to a team lead whenever my VP decided to have a quarter life crisis.
Katherine Ong 9:10
Wait, wait, wait, stop for a second. So how long were you at Statwax sort of self training yourself in SEO? When your VP had a crisis moment and was part of the company? You can skip over that? Because I think it’s fascinating.
Morgan Petrov 9:25
Yeah, for sure. So I was working as a SEO specialist for roughly about nine months give or take, when all of a sudden my Vice President decided to have this quarter life crisis, pack everything up, go backpacking across the country and make a living off of Bitcoin. Which is good for him like I wish I could do that, you know, as they do as they do, right. As every Bitcoin millionaire does. They traveled cross country and like to live in the Grand Canyon or something I don’t know.
Um, so when he left, the entire SEO team was left in my hands. And I think at the time, we had about eight full-time SEO clients. Some of them were also ads clients of ours, but I had a lot of SEO only clients. So I was the only person that was working in SEO, and it was very intimidating. Really, as the specialists who had basically been abandoned, I didn’t really know what was the future, like, what was going to come up next? Were they going to hire a new VP? Were they going to just dissolve the service offering as a whole?
Well, the next day, the VP and the president, or the other VP comes on to a Zoom meeting, and they are kind of explaining to us everything that’s happening. And they’re like, we’re gonna keep the SEO service. We’ve heard really good things about, you know, the mindset that Morgan has, and we think she can handle it. And I was stunned. I was like, Oh, my God, these people trust me so much. Well, I guess no, I have to kind of show them that I can do this. And I was up for the challenge. I was ready for it. So at that time, they promoted me to a team lead. So I was now leading the SEO team, which just so happened to be one person.
Katherine Ong 11:30
So I’ve had a team before. The Royal team is just me.
Morgan Petrov 11:36
It is more chaotic, running a team of one than it is running a team of five. And I can say that from personal experience.
Yeah, so I was just this one woman show I was trying to navigate, you know, working with six, eight clients, and it was very overwhelming. And there was no, there had never been structure put in place. As long as I’ve been working there. It was kind of like, work a little bit on this, work a little bit on this. And the client will get it when they get it on no due dates.
I knew one of the things that I had to do to be successful was just personally and for the service as a whole was kind of a map out. What does a process look like? What does when we get a new client, what step 123 and four are typically what is step 1234? Because there’s always those, it depends on the situation. And then how long do each of these things take and then I kind of had to start doing the math? Well, if it takes 120 hours per month for this client, and I only work 40 hours a week, but I have eight clients that can get very overwhelming.
So I really started to track my time religiously. And really start building out these phases for our clients and our processes. And I present it to my new VP, I just kind of changed managers at that point. And showed her I’m like, I am sinking, my head is underwater. I need help. And she took a look at our numbers. She went to our agency owner and presented him with that. And the decision was like, Oh, my god, yeah, you’ve been understaffed since like, forever. Okay, good. Now we’re all on the same page.
And I really just kind of started strengthening the agency processes and really started to get more involved on the new business side of things, really working as a part of the agency more so than on the client side.
And then in, let’s see, I was a team lead for another nine months, I believe, less than a year. And I got another random zoom call with the president and vice president and they said, Hey, we want to promote you, we think that you’ve been doing a really great job, you’ve really mapped out the service and you’re kind of outperforming our expectations. And I cried in my office in front of one of my employees who had never really done that before. And I was just really elated. You know, seeing all this blood, sweat and tears that I’d put in now. It’s finally you know, paying off and I’ve been a director since November of 2021. And have loved every second of it and love my SEO journey so far.
Katherine Ong 14:29
That’s amazing. So let’s see if we go back for the years, you’ve you were laid off in early 2020. So you started with this new agency as an SEO specialist where you had to train yourself in SEO, and then by the end of 2021. You’re an SEO director. That’s just yeah, that’s pretty stunning.
So can you tell me a little bit more about how you showed your overwhelm and shared that plan with your upper management, like, did you actually were using a timeshare racking system. Did you do spreadsheets? How long? Did it take you to kind of map out? How overwhelmed were you? And did they have goals for bringing on more than what you were currently managing? More Clients?
Morgan Petrov 15:13
Yeah. Um, yeah, that’s actually a really good question. So while I was moving into this team lead role in early 21. And after my VP decided to go do whatever he was doing, we were actually in the process of pitching a new client. And then we were also onboarding a brand new client. So this was a touch point I had never had, I never really even met the both of these new points of contact until after he had my VP had left. So it was a very intriguing, scary experience. But to answer your question about how I got started with kind of proving that I was overwhelmed because you know, you can tell someone all day that you’re overwhelmed. But at the end of the day, from a business perspective, that is just a feeling. It’s not quantitative.
And we, Statwax, we actually say that we are a data driven agency, it’s kind of behind the name step wax statistics. So everything at our agency is fueled by data. So I knew if I really wanted to prove that I was overwhelmed, I was gonna have to have the data to prove it. When I worked as a copywriter with W, promoting time tracking was a religious thing as well, you know, you want it to clock in exactly seven hours of content writing, because we build billable hours. So I kind of still kept that same habit whenever I moved over here, but it wasn’t nearly as consistent with it.
So I decided to get real consistent. So I like using Hourstack as my preferred time tracking software. So I used our second. It was every little thing that I did, I was tracking that time, I would start the timer, I’d stop the timer start-stop. If I was sending an email, I would make sure you know, track all of that time if I was shooting over a slack to answer a question, track that. But really, the data that I was interested in were the actual projects when I worked on the projects, how long? And how long did that deliverable creation process take. So then I would take that data and put it into this massive spreadsheet. And I would write, you know, SEO audit, 20 hours, backlinking strategy 50 hours. And, you know, you can kind of start to do the math on how many weeks that actually takes whenever you have a bunch of these clients. So I just started time tracking. And then even if there were things that, you know, could be divided down by the amount of URLs or the pieces of content, you could kind of start doing that division.
And so then the next step from there was taking an audit of all the clients that we had on our roster, and essentially planning out the next year or so of their SEO strategy. Like, in February, we’re going to be doing this task, this task and this task and March, this client needs this, this and this, really start to go from there, then I could start plugging in numbers.
So to initially get started and get enough data to take to my VP, it probably took me about a month. And that seems like a very fast turnaround. And that is but that was also because I was not really taking care of myself at the time. You know, I was pulling all nighters just to get things done. But that’s just how badly I wanted it. And that was you know how much I knew that I needed an extra set of hands as well. So realistically, I’d say it probably would take a sane person three months to do.
But it’s still a project that’s not done. I consider it to be a living, breathing document. And I’m consistently adding data pieces and consistently looking at my current team’s hours right now and still updating those numbers because your averages are going to change. Especially depending on how specific or how specialized you want these deliverables to be. Or if you’re training someone, it takes a little extra time so I try to put in a little bit of that cushion room into that timing as well. But that has been probably the biggest thing that has helped me fuel the growth of my team. And it’s something that is just so commonly overlooked by marketers in general, but also I think, managers across any discipline.
Katherine Ong 20:16
Yeah. And so it sounds like also you have the sort of similar type clients ish
Morgan Petrov 20:24
Katherine Ong 20:26
or do you have wiggle room in there in case you get a mess, because sometimes they’re just, they’re big, and they’re a mess, and it takes way more time than you would expect.
Morgan Petrov 20:37
Yeah, um, so we have very, very diverse types of clients. You know, we work with higher ed, which is a completely separate type of SEO, in comparison to b2b and SaaS. And then we also do finance technology, which is another completely separate realm. We have some clients that have beautiful, nicely set up websites and other ones. Some of our clients have decided to make their own CMS, and they don’t know how to manage it, and it’s kind of a mess.
Katherine Ong 21:19
I hear the crying in your voice there.
Morgan Petrov 21:23
Yeah, it can, it can be a mess. But it’s funny that particular clients are actually one that seeing a lot of really good movement right now. So we’re really excited about that.
But, um, so we have the this array of clients, and some of them, you know, are quick to implement, and some of them have to go through a lot of compliance hoops to get certain things implemented, or they have to go through bureaucratic processes, you know, the whole SEO predicament that we all face. So we do see in a lot of our data that our clients, their big projects kind of roll. So every month, or data spent on one particular client changes every month, you know, this month, these clients, we’re spending 100 hours on them, and then the next month, maybe we’re spending 12 hours on them. And that’s typically because the problems or the challenges that they face kind of come in waves, which makes having a big client roster a lot more manageable.
No, it does make predicting things a little bit more difficult. But there are some things that we know happen on an annual basis or they happen because of seasonality. And so we can kind of get a better picture based on that. So if we see, you know, workloads in July, start piling up. And we know that we have an annual benchmark audit coming up in September, we probably need to start figuring out a plan to either dilute the workloads of the team, or we need to go ahead and start thinking of adding another set of hands to the team, especially if we have new business prospects lined up as well.
Katherine Ong 23:05
Yeah, that makes sense. So it sounds like you brought on board, how many team members from when you went from zero and your how many now?
Morgan Petrov 23:14
Yes, yeah. Right now we are five strong. Okay, so my very first hire, first time hiring, I hired just one person and then I hired again about six months later.
Katherine Ong 23:30
And do they come to you knowing anything about SEO? Or are you training them from scratch?
Morgan Petrov 23:36
Really good question. Um, so typically, I do like to start looking for people who have experience. If you’ve, for people who are listening, if you have never been in the role of hiring SEOs, it’s very hard to come by SEOs, especially SEOs that are within a certain salary range like an entry level salary range. So it is very difficult to find them.
However, it’s not difficult to find people who have marketing experience or who have critical thinking skills. So whenever I can’t find an SEO to interview, I’m typically looking for people who I know have the capability and the hunger to learn SEO. I can teach you SEO skills all day, I can send you to conferences, I can send you to so many SEO academies to learn hard skills. But what I can’t teach you is how to think or how to solve. Those are things that are just naturally acquired through one form or another form of experience.
So I actually have only ever hired one person with previous SEO experience. And she never had any formal SEO experience. She just was a blogger. She has a really great blog or a couple of really good blogs. And she sees a lot of really great results. And I’m like, okay, great. If you’ve made a living off of blogging before, I think you can handle a large load of clients with us as long as I train for it.
Katherine Ong 25:15
So that reminds me: Do you check there? First of all, do all of the five folks on your team need to know how to write and you test them on their writing ability before hiring them?
Morgan Petrov 25:27
Yeah, absolutely. And I will say it does depend on what particular skill set I’m hiring for. So in general, yes, we do give out a writing test that will typically tell them either to send over a portfolio or we’ll give them a faux writing assignment that would not ever be used for our client. And we ask them to do a little bit of keyword research if they have the tools. And to kind of build out a piece of content for us. I do run it through a couple of plagiarism checkers just to be safe, do the proving myself and kind of compare the keywords that they’ve selected. Look at how actual SERP ranking pieces are looking and see if they stole ideas.
And so yeah, I think that writing and communication skills are so important to your team. Because whenever you know, it’s time to pass the torch off to managing a client account. If they number one can’t communicate, it’s going to be a very difficult handoff process. But also you want somebody who’s going to create a really good deliverable for you at the end of the day as well. So writing skills are super important. But for technical SEO specialists, I don’t typically look at writing, but I do look at the way that they communicate for those positions.
Katherine Ong 26:50
Yeah, I was really floored when I was trying to look at resumes from folks directly out of college, because I don’t know, I went to a school that was very heavy on writing my undergrad. I don’t know that everybody gets good training and writing, unfortunately. And it’s a really great skill to have, I think for your career in general, especially as a marketer. Anyway, we used to test on writing, too.
So do you have any resources that you have created for your new hires? Or do you have any resources that you would share for other people, recruiting folks on their team?
Morgan Petrov 27:21
Yeah, absolutely. So, um, onboarding, such a difficult part, especially for a brand new manager, like how do you develop a training program, especially if you know, whenever you first started, you didn’t have any kind of training resources to help you out. So whenever I got my first new hire, I kind of had to sit back and think like, what are the things that I really wish that I had whenever I was onboarding? And what resources did I find along the way that really helped me?
So I kind of have always had this running document as just a Google doc of links that I really like, and links that I think are really informative and helpful. And I had this really sloppy looking Google Doc. And that was what I gave to my first new hire. And I was like, look, these just read these links. And I promise they’re going to explain things to you a lot better than I could ever explain them to you. Also, I didn’t have a lot of time to train her because we were still only two people with clients now. Yeah, even though we had an extra set of hands still drowning. But I think that really did help her.
You know, I included a lot of links that were articles, podcasts or videos. So really trying to hit on all three different learning styles, along with on the board, on the job training, I think that also was a really helpful thing. Now, as where I sit right now, I’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated with my onboarding processes.
So we as an agency ended up getting this membership service to Guru. guru.com. It’s a knowledge sharing platform. It organizes all of your knowledge or, you know, documents or templates into this really nice organized almost like a library of sorts. So I really have taken advantage of that. And I can plan about an entire month of onboarding in guru alone, but it also serves as a continued education resource anytime I come across any fantastic sounding strategy of any array of the SEO disciplines. I’ll just pop it into guru and our team is really really good about at least once a week going in there and reading something new that they haven’t and something I’m consistently adding to Me too.
But I think really, as far as the onboarding process goes, when I get a new SEO, the first thing that I want them to learn is, of course, the agency. But on the SEO side is learning how Google works. Because as an SEO, if you don’t understand how Google works, and how they index and how they crawl or render, you’re not going to know how any of the other technical components or content components of SEO interact with a website and a search engine bot.
Katherine Ong 30:36
You can’t rank if Google hasn’t discovered your URL.
Morgan Petrov 30:38
Katherine Ong 30:40
Like I did discover crawl index steps there. I know I trained my clients all the time, because especially these federal clients are like, well, I published something I’m sure it’s ranking. I’m like, no, no, no. Discover crawl index, and on big sites, all sorts of things can go wrong.
Morgan Petrov 30:54
Yeah, just because you put out a piece of content does not mean it’s good enough to be ranked. There are a billion other pages who are trying to rank for the same keywords as you.
Katherine Ong 31:08
So right now, both engines are getting harder to index. So, big or small, you are, might even have trouble just getting the stuff in the index in the first place.
Morgan Petrov 31:18
Yeah, absolutely. And, again, if you’re not an SEO, or you haven’t been in this industry for a while, you don’t know these things, you can. And there really aren’t a ton of articles about indexing or crawling the very primitive basics of search. So these are things people really skip over. And they typically jump straight into learning about title tags and meta descriptions.
Katherine Ong 31:48
For anybody looking for that resource, by the way, just to interrupt you for a second, I’m in the middle of almost finished with Product-Led SEO, the book. And I actually think it’s very different from the fact that I absolutely disagree with the fact that SEO doesn’t need soft skills, because obviously, that’s what this podcast is about. Other than that it’s very accurate. And it gives you it’s definitely written more for the I’m new to SEO than an actual SEO. So if you want to onboard somebody, I actually would recommend that as a homework reading assignment. I realize it’s an entire book, but he does a good job of laying it out.
Morgan Petrov 32:24
I am not much of a book reader, but I think I might have to check that out. Sounds interesting.
Katherine Ong 32:30
Oh, I’m totally listening to it on Audible. Okay, just to clarify, it’s my narration while I’m doing dishes at this point.
Morgan Petrov 32:42
Oh, I love it. I’m taking mental notes right now.
Katherine Ong 32:44
What do you do to keep your team up to date on stuff? Do you have any ongoing training? And then my other question about ongoing stuff is, how frequently do you report back up to keep the balance of work to people balanced? That I didn’t say that lightly. But to make sure you have enough people to get the work done?
Morgan Petrov 33:02
Yeah, absolutely. So as far as staying up to date on the industry as a whole. So the very first thing I typically do in a morning is check SEO Twitter. I am absolutely addicted. And I love it. I’m more of a creeper on SEO Twitter than I am a poster. So Twitter, such a great resource for keeping up to date.
Now, whenever I actually start an SEO, I make a habit of going to a search engine roundtable every single morning, and I would just see if there was something new, or if there was just any kind of signs of volatility and just kind of started absorbing information that way. And I made it such a routine that it just really helped me see so many different things or take a look at things that maybe I wouldn’t have thought about before. And I would also compare it with, you know, just a quick heat check of my clients, like look at their search visibility, look at you know, all these different metrics alongside with these news articles. So it really helped me learn SEO in a different way.
But I took that practice and that routine and whenever my new hire starts, I also have an entire training session dedicated just to industry news and how to stay up to date with trends.
Katherine Ong 34:32
Oh, that’s great. So instead of assuming they’re gonna Google – you’re like, let me tell you what things to read – where to get accurate information.
Morgan Petrov 34:43
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Um, yeah, because there is a lot of really good information out there.
Katherine Ong 34:45
There is also some garbage.
Morgan Petrov 34:47
There is quite a bit of SEO garbage that unfortunately ranks well but it’s not good advice. It’s so I do still think urged the team to kind of do their own research and bring their own perspectives and find their own SEO celebrities to follow. But I do want to give them a good starting point, I want to give them a fair advantage and give them my recommendations. But also, again, teach them these habits of making, prioritizing, you know, learning and staying up to date and making it a habit. So now my team, they actually check the search engine roundtable every morning, because I’ve instilled this idea in them.
Katherine Ong 35:30
So how did you build your network? Because most people listening know that you can read stuff. But you’ll always get stuck with something where you have no idea what the answer is. And you’re gonna get the answer from another SEO, or let’s what I’ve seen in my, my experience, and so I’ve relied heavily on my network, which I got a chance to build back in the day, with some face to face shows. And obviously, I’ve transitioned and I build it in different ways now, but what do you do? How did you build your network? And how do you encourage them? Like, what? I don’t know, mass communities were big 10 years ago? What’s the sexy thing? Now? I have some ideas, but I’m curious about where you send them.
Morgan Petrov 36:11
Yeah, the sexy thing now? Well, it is, I am in such a unique position. Because I did not start getting into SEO until literally the pandemic had just started. So you know, in person meetings, or conferences and meeting greets, they weren’t a thing because we were scared to death. So I kind of had to, I guess I natively adapted to digital networking.
So LinkedIn, you know, it kind of helped. I kind of learned how to play into the LinkedIn algorithm. Again, being an SEO, I just love analyzing algorithms and knowing what makes things tick. So you know, making a lot of connections there, and just kind of staying engaged on that platform.
But really, the biggest way that I built up my network was Twitter, with SEO Twitter, and just really engaging in meaningful conversations. And then finding my people on Twitter like, but what I found is, once I started just putting my random thoughts out there, I started growing my follower account.
But yeah, that’s actually how I ended up finding women in tech SEO. And, God, I absolutely adore them. And I joined their Slack community, I think I’m in their Facebook community, but I don’t really get on Facebook these days. But just being in their Slack community and getting real advice, getting to be real honest with them, because my clients are not in that Slack group. So I can say whatever and whatever.
Katherine Ong 37:58
It’s a very safe space. And it’s yeah, every level of SEO is welcome. Your brand new fine. 20 years fine. Yeah, So I plug that regularly on the podcast, obviously. So do you have men on your team, and where do you send them? Are there Slack communities that recommend them?
Morgan Petrov 38:18
Um, yeah, that’s a good question. So we do have one man on our team. And he is still relatively new. He started with us in April of this year. So he’s still kind of trying to find out what he likes and what he doesn’t like as far as SEO news and building a community goes. I don’t know if there’s like a man in tech SEO considering that like…
Katherine Ong 38:46
There is not. I usually recommend Online Geniuses, which is a huge Slack community. And it’s got social in there and paid and like all the other stuff, but it does have an SEO channel. And if you happen to be on a bigger site, there’s a big SEO Reddit group and a Slack group for the same community. So that’s helpful if you’re on a bigger site.
Morgan Petrov 39:08
Yeah, I do like the SEO Reddit community again, I’m not a poster on there but I am definitely a creeper just there’s so many more people and you know, Reddit, you can kind of scroll through pretty quickly.
I will shout out Discord. Specifically the all about the Data Discord group, which is a data focused discord group or channel, whatever they call them, but they do have one for digital marketing specifically, it’s all gender. But it really spans across a lot of different types of data like helpful data, which I find absolutely fascinating, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. But the digital marketing channel is a really good place because with SEO, there is such a crossover with data and computer programming.
Katherine Ong 39:57
So I know you’ve been drowning, but you did get stuck. All while everybody was doing virtual shows. So did you get a chance to attend any of the virtual conferences? Some of them for a while, the first year anyway?
Morgan Petrov 40:09
Yeah. Yeah. So my very first conference was probably about two months into me being an SEO in general. And I went to Moz.com, virtually, of course, a very nice pick. I wish I would have studied a little bit more on SEO before then, because I was still so new to it. So I don’t think I got all the benefits of it. But I did love when they did these breakout rooms. And I could just, instead of watching a presentation, I could watch people talk to each other and watch how they communicated to each other. And I could pick up a little bit more on like the context clues and things like that. And so that’s kind of whenever I started, really wanting to get engaged into some form of some form of community. So I could learn a little bit faster. This past year, I made sure that my whole team went to SMX Advanced, it was free this year, which I was so thankful for because now our team was considerably bigger. Paying for those tickets would have been a little more costly.
Katherine Ong 41:14
Oh, yeah. That’s a pricey show.
Morgan Petrov 41:19
Oh, yeah. But the show or the speakers this year were just absolutely phenomenal. And the team took away some really nice bits of information from it.
Katherine Ong 41:28
And for anybody listening, SMX Advanced is free and online through August 31 2022. So the recordings are still available for free, you just have to drop your email.
Morgan Petrov 41:39
Yes, 10 out of 10 would recommend just the amount of, you know, information that came out of it. I love that it happened. Like right after a core update came out, I think there was like, there was no better timing for that. That just happened very coincidentally.
And then I also went to the Advanced Search summit in Napa, California, in June of last year, which was also a really great conference, it was my first in person conference and first time to actually get to talk to people face to face. And you know, kind of start to do some personal networking. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it is in the digital world. But it was just such a great exposure and I learned a lot of really, really advanced level SEO nuggets.
Katherine Ong 42:30
Yeah, you’re definitely going from low level to advanced stuff super fast.
Morgan Petrov 42:37
Yes, I do. But I love the challenge. I love learning. I’m a professional student. Always.
Katherine Ong 42:43
So have you seen a Mike King presentation yet?
Morgan Petrov 42:47
I don’t think so.
Katherine Ong 42:49
So there you go. You’ve got — you’ve got another presenter to attend and see. Your brain will explode. I’ve been doing SEO for 17 years, and his presentations make my brain explode. It’s why I see him every time he’s at any show. But yeah, it’ll make your brain explode. So I’m kind of curious if you’re so young doing what you’re doing. Do you have challenges with impostor syndrome? And what tips do you have to like to keep the confidence up and stuff?
Morgan Petrov 43:16
Yeah, um, I would be lying to you. If I said that I have never had impostor syndrome. I think any SEO honestly would be lying if they said that they never had bouts of impostor syndrome. It’s just something that is so common in the field, because there’s so much to learn.
And yeah, I do get it every once in a while, I would say probably once a quarter. It’s always whenever I burn out. If I’ve been pulling too many all-nighters, or things like that, that’s whenever I’m gonna get that impostor syndrome, because, you know, you’re running low on fuel real low on sleep. So you kind of start second guessing yourself.
But especially whenever I first became a team lead for my service, I kept asking myself, like, Who the hell is letting this 20 something year old run an entire service, get new business, and there was a lot of self-doubts. But I gave it about a month and I was like, Holy crap, I’m really good at this. And it wasn’t, you know, what do they call it toxic positivity? It was like, no, no, like, I’m actually getting results out of this. And so I knew that it wasn’t ever going to know everything. That’s a lot of NOs.
Katherine Ong 44:31
That’s okay. I mean, yeah, nobody should call himself an SEO expert. Because none of us are experts. We don’t know how the algorithm works. There’s always stuff each of us does not know yet.
Morgan Petrov 44:43
Yeah, absolutely. It’s like, you can dive down all these rabbit holes and you can keep going and going for days just absorbing information and still feel like you aren’t 100% positive and how you’re going to implement this and then you feel like you have to go learn how to implement it, then you start crossing over into web dev, but you’ve completely forgotten about content. So take a left turn over here and go learn content. It just gets so broad and so vast.
So I have no idea where I heard this, but I wish I could attribute this to someone, but you will never know everything in SEO, just stop learning, at some point, know when to pull yourself out of that rabbit hole and start doing as long as you get to like being 85% confident. You’re all good, you know what you’re doing, you can execute it.
But I would say, and this goes especially for women, I think I see this a lot and approach everything with confidence. And just tell yourself that you’re confident, maybe you aren’t confident on the inside, but on the outside, always have that kind of confidence. And I like to say that I have a bit of an inflated fake ego, but it’s like, you have to have this sense of confidence, really channel your inner Lizzo here, ladies, because people will really start, they’ll believe you. But you’ll also start to believe in yourself, you’ll be more confident in your abilities. And it really is just good for your life overall, your personal self esteem. And I think when I started kind of adopting this queen Lizzo mindset, I really started to see my career success blossom a lot more rapidly than before.
Katherine Ong 46:34
Yeah, yeah, I mean, smile for the shoulders back. I mean, sometimes that stuff stands straight. Sometimes that stuff really makes a difference.
Also, you know, age is just a number. I used to be involved in Youth Service America. And as some people know, I actually started my first nonprofit at 16. So you can tackle all sorts of stuff at whatever age, you just have to have the right tools and ability to learn and the confidence and the rest of it will come.
I also encourage anyone listening who has bouts of imposter syndrome to remember that you’re getting all your information from other SEOs. So make sure you talk to your clients, you probably know more about SEO than your clients, hopefully, a lot of times.
And then the other thing is that throughout my career I have had a chance to go to general marketing conferences as a speaker. So I was at one which I thought was a digital marketing conference. But it turns out it was like for in-house marketers who manage the entire marketing mix, including digital marketing type conferences, oh my gosh. So when you talk to those folks, I mean, they are your marketing friends, but you know more about SEO than they do so. So just make sure every once in a while you get your info from folks outside of the SEO circle, and then you’ll feel more confident about how much SEO you know.
Morgan Petrov 47:52
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Katherine Ong 47:55
Yeah. So this has been an amazing conversation. I’m just kind of wondering if there are any other resources that you want to share with our audience that you haven’t mentioned yet that you think would be helpful?
Morgan Petrov 18:08
Oh, my gosh, I have so many resources. Um, I’ve said it probably 4000 times on this podcast so far. But get involved on SEO Twitter, find your people follow them religiously. They are, there’s just so much information out there. I also want to give a shout-out to learningseo.io by Aleyda Solis — a fantastic resource if you are trying to learn SEO, if you are trying to learn how to manage an SEO team, I mean, they are just an incredible resource.
And then also Tom Critchlow SEO MBA, if you are trying to grow your tactical skills, yes. But also if you’re trying to learn the soft skills that are needed to be a marketer, and to be an SEO, he has so many phenomenal resources that I absolutely recommend, including the SEO skills matrix that he just came out with. It really measures your soft skills, and kind of gives, you know, like a salary breakdown of what is expected at every range based on your hard and soft skills. So really great resources there. Yeah, I think I’d also
Katherine Ong 49:24
If ever, I’d also recommend he’s been on the podcast. So check out episode nine, with Tom to get a little sort of preview about the stuff that he offers in his SEO MBA course, which I also signed up for, because I do think that probably everybody could use a few tips about how to be more persuasive, managing to your clients or managing up and he kind of covers a little bit of both a little bit more on the strategy side. So how can people learn more about you?
Morgan Petrov 49:53
Yeah, if you want to learn more about me, I’d say the best way is to reach me through Twitter. I am @morgansearches and you can also find me on LinkedIn. My name is Morgan Petrov. I think my URL is Morgan Lawrence. I got married, so it changed. I haven’t redirected my URL yet. But yeah, please feel free to reach me on Twitter. It’s where I’m most available. Shoot me a DM or you can add me. I’d love to connect with everyone.
Katherine Ong 50:22
Great. This has been fabulous. Thank you for being on the show.
Morgan Petrov 50:26
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Katherine Ong 50:29
Thanks so much for listening. To find out more about the podcast and what we’re up to go to digital marketing victories.com. And if you like what you heard, subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Rate us, comment and share the podcast please. I’m always looking for new ideas, topics and guests. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Twitter at DM victories. Thanks for listening.
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