Please tell us about your background and how you got into the SEO
A: To cut a very long story short, I'd been working in a full service digital agency for a few years on the admin side but wasn't happy at all in that role. Rather than leave and waste all that experience I decided to pick up as many digital skills as I could while I was still there. The search team looked like they were the most innovative department in the agency, and to be honest, they were the ones having the most fun too. I tried my hand at basic SEO, loved it, knew I was good at it and it all snowballed from there. Just wish I'd done it years ago to be honest. In terms of my background, I studied English at Oxford but have done everything from being a nanny in Paris to being a shop assistant in Harrods.
Q. How do you manage to work for Bronco and run your own agency? Have you experienced any conflicts with the two?
A: I’m very lucky to be in the position where I’m part of one of the best SEO teams in the UK but I also get to run my own company. Sorbet Digital had been going for about a year when a post became available at Bronco and I didn’t think I’d be much of an SEO if I didn’t at least apply for it. I’ve always been upfront and honest with Dave & Becky about Sorbet and there hasn’t been any conflict between the two agencies - when I’m working for Bronco, all my efforts are focused on those clients and vice versa for my Sorbet accounts. I’ve always been good at organising and compartmentalising my workload so that helps a great deal of course.
Q. I know that you do SEO and PPC both. Which area is most enjoyable for you, and which is most beneficial based on what you've seen with your clients?
A: Although I totally appreciate the benefit that a PPC campaign can bring to a client, it's SEO that really fires me up. There's no doubt that for a new site, or one that has little to no presence in the rankings, a good paid search campaign can make all the difference in the early days. However, organic rankings stay around long after the PPC budget has run out or been turned off so for
a long term business strategy, excellent organic rankings are the goal for me.
Q. If a client had number one organic rankings for his top ten keywords and his brand, would this affect your PPC strategy? If so, how? If not, why not?
A: It would absolutely affect it, yes. In that situation it becomes all about the conversion rates, the effectiveness of specific landing pages and the ROI of one type of campaign over another. If a PPC campaign was bringing in converting traffic then I’d be certainly recommend continuing with it and use the data for the SEO campaign.
Q. Let's talk about social media, something that is usually fairly tricky to measure. Do you think that all websites should be marketed on social media platforms? It seems that everyone is rushing to get a Facebook page even when they aren't measuring the ROI and may not have many fans.
A: I think that many people hugely underestimate the time and effort it takes to run a really effective social media campaign and think they can fling a Twitter account or Facebook page up and be done with it. I’ve advised more clients NOT to do that then I have to go ahead because it simply wasn’t appropriate or they just didn’t have the resources to maintain the momentum. Instead, I’ve tried to convey what social media is, as opposed to what tools can be used, and build up the understanding and enthusiasm that way. Social media is important but it’s just a huge bag of nothing if the client doesn’t buy in to it or understand the long term implications.
Does your typical strategy for inheriting a client differ from the
one you employ when a client is starting from scratch?
A: Yes, it has to really – but surprisingly not that much. For me, there’s as much of a learning curve with an established site as there is with a new one and I tend to do the same kind of keyword research, competitor analysis and on and off page review with both. You can get much more information from an established site of course (well, hopefully) which can be super useful but I’ll still tend to approach new accounts from roughly the same starting point.
Q. I've seen some pretty messed up link profiles from clients who come to us, and while I'd love to clean them up, sometimes the client says no. As you know, clients don't always take our advice. Would you agree to keep working with a client who rarely, if ever, listened to your advice and wanted to do something that you thought would be harmful for him or her?
A: It’s very, very difficult because I’ve seen the kind of damage that can be done and my conscious won’t let me stay quiet. Empowering the client with some SEO knowledge can be a very beneficial thing for both parties but conversely, a little knowledge is also a dangerous thing and it’s in this situation that it becomes a problem. I’ve reluctantly parted company with one client because they absolutely refused to believe that duplicate content and deleting pages with decent TBPR was an issue....
Q. If I came to you with $5000 and a shiny new website with 5 pages of decent, but not exciting, content, how would you have me invest that money in order to get started?
great content, more pages to hold that great content, inbound links
from guest posting and elsewhere, a PPC campaign if appropriate,
content generation for article placements......whatever it
Q. Any thoughts on how the UK and US SEO industries are different from each other? What about differences between the UK and Europe?
A: When I first started in the industry I think that the US was a couple of years ahead in terms of knowledge but the UK seems to have caught up – or perhaps that’s just because I work with Dave Naylor who’s pretty much the first one to know what’s going on anyway LOL
Q. Are there clients that you would refuse to work with for whatever reason? When I first started I thought everyone deserved a shot, but then I encountered someone marketing something so truly distasteful that I couldn't do it.
A: There *are* one or two things that I'd really rather not work on to be honest. I'm a pretty strict veggie so I couldn't really see myself putting long hours or much enthusiasm into finding links for meat and I'm a bit claustrophobic too so even the thought of optimising a pot- holing or caving website has me hyperventilating.
Fun ones finally...so stop pretending to be bored.
Q. Has Dave Naylor ever really, really scared you? How much does he curse at work anyway?
A:Dave is a big pussycat, the only time I've ever been really scared is when I thought he was going to drive Bob the Campervan through the office wall one morning. As for cursing at work, it's pretty compulsory in the Bronco office. All in context of course.
Q. Roxy Music is touring and you've said you don't want to see them in case they suck. What other bands from that era would you see? And don't say none, damn you.
A: My first memories of Roxy are from the early 80's so we're really talking Duran Duran, Japan, Scritti Politti, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, ABC, The Human League, New Order and other stuff that was coming out of Factory plus indie pop like Aztec Camera. Thank God for Spotify so I can listen to these bands on a continuous loop..:-)
Q. If you had to pick 5 SEO mates to be stuck in a pub with on a rainy day, who would they be and what would you argue most about?
are far too many industry people I want to meet, or meet again, that
there’s no way I could narrow it down to 5. That’s such a lame
answer isn’t it? Haha
Q. What non-SEO blogs do you read?
A: Oh my God, I read loads. I’m obsessed with conspiracy theories, the crazier the better, and anything on cryptozoology so I usually treat myself to a couple of hours of searching for that type of stuff on Stumbleupon for a couple of hours a week. Otherwise it’s mostly blogs about pop culture, cupcakes, New York and the iPad.
Well that concludes Carla's part but I'd like to point out two things.
1. Carla refused to write my SEO haiku. For that I respect her.
2. In order to annoy an English major at Oxford, I decided to use a period after the Q and a SEMI-COLON after the A in this interview. Take that!!