Marketing doesn’t communicate well with sales. Sales doesn’t communicate well with Marketing. A common problem. Hear from industry thought leader Troy Sandidge on what both sides can do to become more aligned.
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How can you find, and more importantly – keep hold of job satisfaction in the marketing industry? Jess Peace joins me on this episode to share really useful tips and advice on how to do just that, for people of all skill levels and experience.
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Claire Carlile is a Local Search Expert at BrightLocal and Head of Pencils at Claire Carlile Marketing, and is someone who is incredibly well respected in the industry. It was a pleasure to interview her.
In this episode, we discuss:
What finding and carving out your niche means.
What impact she thinks the pandemic has had on the way people work and find their niche.
Why finding a niche is important.
Her thoughts on the theory that people should be generalists over specialists.
Advice for someone who’s just starting out in terms of finding their niche.
…and much more!
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Azeem Ahmad: Hello. And welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks All-Round Digital Marketing podcast. Very, very, very excited to bringing my guest today, Crystal Carter, who I will let her introduce herself properly in a moment. We’re talking all about how SEO is a team sport. Generally, I always give a bit of a blurb about the guest. Crystal is basically everywhere at the moment. So I am very, very pleased that she has agreed to give me, and you when you hear this, up to 20 minutes of her time. She’s absolutely everywhere. A woman in demand. So thank you very much, Crystal. Welcome to the show. Please give yourself a better introduction.
Crystal Carter: I’m really honored to be here. I’m a real fan of the show. I think you do great interviews and make great content. So yeah. Thank you very much for having me along. I am Crystal Carter. I am the Head of SEO Communications at Wix, working alongside the incomparable Mordy Oberstein, and trying to bring you more goodness for all of the SEOs of the world. And basically I am really interested in talking to people about how to use SEO strategically and to use SEO from lots of different angles. And one of the reasons why I was really excited to join Wix, because I joined them recently, is because they have a really holistic approach to digital marketing and to SEO and how it touches on lots of different areas. So I think that’s kind of one of the things that’s a theme of what we’re talking about today, and I’m really happy to get stuck into it.
Azeem Ahmad: Awesome. So let’s just dive right in. The episode is all about how SEO is a team sport. So right from the off, what makes SEO a team sport?
Crystal Carter: Yeah, so what I mean by that is I think there’s historically been a sense that an SEO, and I’ve definitely done SEO in this way, where an SEO can sort of just get their head down and do the SEO. One person does the SEO for the website and at some point the SEO is done. And you can do your meta descriptions and do your alt text and do your internal links and that sort of thing. But I think that the way that algorithms are working at the moment, and I think that the way that users are using websites and accessing content is changing so much that it requires many hands to make light work.
Crystal Carter: And I think that certainly if you look at something like the Core Web Vitals update, that huge experience update, you can see that is not a one person job. That’s not something that involves one team in particular. That involves the SEO, that involves your dev team, that can involve server teams, that can involve legal sometimes if you have to move around what your cookie notice says, and things like that.
Crystal Carter: So that’s something that comes to mind. Another one that comes to mind is around things with like Google Shopping, Google Merchant. The local inventory ads, for instance, that involves local feeds, that involves a what’s in-store, that involves the website, that involves Google Merchant, that involves coordinating with the ads teams to make sure that’s all up to scratch. And so I think that in order for SEOs to provide value, we need to do more sort of team management and not just focusing on sort of say, delivering SEO tasks. And and I think that really involves SEOs taking a leadership approach, which I think a lot of great SEOs really do that.
Crystal Carter: But I think that sometimes you can go into a project or go into an SEO client situation where you might not expect to do that, but as I’ve been working recently, and certainly it’s different from when I first started. It seems to be that in almost every case, you’re managing a team of stakeholders. You’re managing the developer team, you’re managing the social team because you might have to, particularly with tech SEO, sometimes you have to say, “Abby there’s a server can’t actually cope with the traffic that you’re getting from the social ads. We need to readjust our servers so that we can actually serve these ads. So can you just hold on while we sort that out?” And things like that. So I think that there’s someone, I can’t remember his name him off the top of my head, but he’s running an SEO MBA at the moment. That’s mostly it’s talking about not necessarily soft skills, I guess, but around that sort of management, team coordination skill. And I can see you want to come in, Azeem.
Azeem Ahmad: No, absolutely. Please, please carry on. This is solid gold. We’re five minutes in, and already it’s clear to see why you’re so well respected in the industry. You are full of knowledge. So I’m going to shut up and just let you carry on.
Crystal Carter: So, yeah. I think that certainly what I’ve seen from making SEO more of a team sport, I think there’s always a few different elements; which include bringing in people who are competent, but not necessarily SEO capable. So there’s lots of people who know their business, they’ve started a business, they’ve got things going on. They might not know the term for a conversion, but they know when they’ve made a sale. They might not know the term for what we call a soft conversion, or whatever, but they know somebody watched a video and they can tell whether or not there was value in an ad, or some something to that effect.
Crystal Carter: And so it’s very important that we’re able to, as SEOs, communicate the value of that. And it’s very important that we’re able to educate people along that way. So very often in order to make SEO team sport, if you think about a team your bench is deep. You need to make sure that you’ve got everybody there. You’ve got your star players who are out at the front. Now I’m getting really into the sports metaphors. But you set up a 4-4-2, it’s a game with two halves, hope nobody breaks a metatarsal. I don’t know, I’m running out. But basically, you want to make sure that you’ve got the conversions, the star players. I’m going to get into a metaphor now. I’m going to try not to go too far in the weeds.
Crystal Carter: But if you think about something like PPC, that’s very much like somebody who’s hidden goals, right? Their main aim is to get the goals in. And then you got the people who are setting all that up, right? The person can’t score the goal at the end without those people setting all of that up. And then you’ve got the coach who’s thinking about how to arrange everything and how to make everything work and all that sort of stuff. And I guess the server teams is like the groundskeeper to make sure there’s no holes or something, I don’t know. But I think you just need to make sure that everybody’s working all together and that you recognize at what stage you need each player in your team.
Crystal Carter: But I think that things are getting really competitive. I think particularly for the way that the algorithms are, and the way that the SERPs are, there’s so much going on on a single SERP result. You’ve got your ads at the top. You’ve got dropdowns with a bunch of results there. You’ve got your plain blue links somewhere in the mix. You’ve got videos, you’ve got blah, blah, blah. All that different stuff. And really, you need to make sure that you’ve got as many bases covered as possible. And in order to do that, you need to have a good, solid SEO team.
Azeem Ahmad: I love that because I’ve literally got a million more questions. But as I’m thinking of the next question to ask you two second later you answer it. You literally the perfect guest. I could end the episode right there and literally it would be a hit.
Crystal Carter: Mic drop.
Azeem Ahmad: But no, honestly, there are so many things that I’d just love to pick apart there. But I think the main one, really, is we’re talking the whole episode is about SEO being a team sport. But how can SEOs ensure that their team players, it’s very easy from what you’ve just said there, let’s say the SEO is a star player for argument sake, it’s very easy to focus on the self. How can SEOs ensure that they’re team players?
Crystal Carter: Right. So I think this is something that I found a challenge. I certainly found this challenging. I went to my previous team and I said to them, “I want to take management class. I have no plans to be a manager at the minute, but I want to take a management class and I want to learn management tactics.” And I literally did a day course, and it was transformative. There are tried and tested management techniques for how to assess how your team will work together, how to assess either things like Myers-Briggs and things like that, which will tell you that you’ll get more positive results from one person if you approach them in this way, that you’ll get more positive results than if you approach them in the other way.
Crystal Carter: And I think also if you go into the situation of managing SEO as being part of a team rather than being someone who has a task to finish, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s what’s required. With clients in particular, there’s some clients who are happy to just let you go and do whatever and they’re just like, “Here’s the website. Do some stuff.” And there are some clients who they want to ask questions, and they want to be involved, and they want to do the thing, they want you to add value. And they want you to be proactive with all of the different ideas, and all of that sort of stuff.
Crystal Carter: And in that way, it’s very collaborative. And I think that if you’re able to work with people in a collaborative space, then that opens up more opportunities for the types of clients that you can get, the types of clients that you can retain as well. And it’s really a skill that’s worth investing in. Additionally, a lot of SEOs that I know will have, particularly freelance SEOs, will specialize in a particular segment of SEO. So be it content, or technical SEO, or e-commerce, or what have you.
Crystal Carter: But it’s very seldom that a client that you have, that is a good client who respects your opinion, is only ever going to do that one thing, right? They may very well decide that, “Okay, we want to get into social soon.” Well, your client values your opinion, thinks you’re great. That’s cool. So they’re going to come to you and they’re going to say, “Who can we get to help us with social?” This happens all the time. And so if you have good networks, and if you’re able to work with people collaboratively, then they will recommend you and you can work alongside them, and you will recommend them and they will work alongside you. And then you sort of have this sort of back this sort of back and forth.
Crystal Carter: So I would say that it’s worth investing in some management time. And again, like I said, I did a day course. Sometimes I can be quite literal, and I was finding I was like, “Well, I sent him the email and he didn’t send it back.” That’s not good enough. There are things you can do. There are tactics that you can do that people know, like NLP and like lots of different things. And so yeah, if it’s something that you’re struggling with, invest in a management course which talks to you about how to manage other people and how to manage yourself and will make it much easier for you to work as a team. And it will open many, many doors.
Azeem Ahmad: This is solid gold. I’m trying to think of there’s two areas I’d love to explore further. I’m trying to think of the best one to go with first. I’m going to do it this way. This type of thinking that you are displaying now, where did that come from? What made you think to start moving in this direction? And here we are now on a podcast talking about it. But what made you think, “Right, I’m going to start thinking like this?”
Crystal Carter: Well, I think that really it came down to clients really. At the end of the day, particularly if you’re working in an agency or a freelance space, if your clients aren’t getting good results, they won’t stay with you. And sometimes even if your clients are getting good results, or even if you are getting good results, if they don’t feel like you’re on their team then they might not stay with you anyway. And what’s really important is that building that relationship can really make the difference. I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never shared this. So this is an exclusive.
Azeem Ahmad: Exclusive.
Crystal Carter: I was once doing a site audit for a potential client. And we didn’t actually land the client. We did the audit and stuff, but we didn’t actually let land the client. When I did the audit, the website was a mess. It was a mess. And the client had had their guy, who was their current website person who had been working with them for years, and he sat through the meeting with us and we were going, “Well, there’s this wrong and that wrong. And this doesn’t work. And this isn’t any good.” And afterwards, we didn’t get the account. He’s still on the account. He’s still on the account. You know why? Because he works with them and he’s on their team, right? And they feel like he’s part of their team.
Crystal Carter: So sometimes you’re like, “What is this? This doesn’t make sense.” But I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it so many times. And I think it’s because people feel like they’re on the team. It’s very interesting because I feel like you can take a lesson from everything. After that I didn’t think, “Oh, I’m not going to do a good job.” I didn’t think that. But I thought that this is a valuable skill. Being able to be on someone’s team, and for them to believe that you are on their team. And for them to know that if I’m stuck, I can go to this person and they will help me. And if I’m stuck, this person will do their best to help me. Then when you come to them, you’re like, “I’ve got this great idea to do this thing on the website. I’ve just learned all about this. And we need to be moving over to like this and this and that.” They’ll go, “Okay, cool. Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s go with that. I trust you because you’re on my team and you help me.”
Crystal Carter: And I think also when the pandemic first hit, because I had invested all that time in nurturing client relationships and making sure that they knew that I was on their team. So I’ve had it where people are like, “We’ve got a new person, a new agency, that’s going to be working on this part of the thing.” And I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine. We’re all on a team. Hi there, other agency person. Let’s do all the thing.” I just did a conversation with Google talking about developers. And I do the same approach when I meet new developer teams. So, client comes to you and they’ve got whatever developer situation they’ve got. You don’t wait until things go wrong to say hello to the developers. Developers are constantly fighting fires all the time. And everybody wants something from the developer and everybody wants it yesterday. And everybody thinks whatever their problem is the most important thing in the world.
Crystal Carter: And sometimes you get clients who are like, “Oh, the developer’s terrible. Oh, we ask him for things that he never does anything. Nobody ever does this.” And I’m like, “Okay, all right. Okay.” What did I do? I email the developer and I go, “Hi, I’m crystal. I was wondering if I could just set up a call with you just to say hello. I’m going to be helping out with some SEO in the next little while.” We set up the call and the developer’s there expecting this at the very beginning.
Crystal Carter: And it’s no. Just, “Hi, I just wanted to introduce myself. I take this approach generally speaking. How do you guys work? How do you like your tickets? Do you outsource? How do you all work? Cool. Thanks. Bye.” I want nothing. I’m saying hello. I want nothing. I’m saying hello. You’re setting up that relationship. You’re building trust. Because we’re all a part of the team, right? And then the client knows that you’re working with them. You’re working with these other people. You’re all part of the team.
Crystal Carter: So when the pandemic hit, because I’d spent all that time working with all of those things, I had very little client turn. Very, very little. Yeah, I had very, very little. And actually, when it happened, I know that there were lots of businesses who as soon as it happened everything stopped straight away. Lots of things picked up. We all know it all picked up. But lots of people said it happened straight away. So many of my clients, and God love them, I busted my butt for them during all of this. But they all stayed. You know why? Because they knew I was on their team. They knew that my team was on their team. And we all worked. We were like, “We are here for you.”
Crystal Carter: And one of the things, shout out to my team at Wix, Wix works like this as well. They are there for the team. They want everybody to win. They want everybody to do well on the platform. They work really, really hard to make something that is good. And they spend a lot of time with that. And I think that that’s one of the things that really attracted me to the team. And that’s one of the things that I really value about SEO. Because the other thing is, when your clients feel like you’re on their team, when you win they win. And I remember doing this before back in the day, I’d be like, “Look, I just got us 10% more traffic.”
Crystal Carter: Well, I did nothing. I mean, I kind of did. Obviously, I did what I did, I changed the code, all that sort of stuff, but I’m not doing it by myself. And I had it one time where I was like, “We improved conversions by 10%.” Or, “We doubled conversions. It’s the highest we’ve ever had.” And they were like, “Oh, we didn’t see that.” And I was like, “What do you mean you didn’t see that?” And they were like, “Oh, Julie was on holiday.” “Oh, this, that and the other.” Oh, we didn’t get the thing.” And I was like, “See, if we were on a team, if we had been all working together, I’d know that you didn’t have the infrastructure to handle such a big increase in the first place.” And we could’ve been working.
Crystal Carter: So then we had to work on that part of the funnel, as a team. It makes a really big difference. It gets buy in because people feel like we are all helping. So I stopped saying, “I’ve done this.” And I started saying, “This contributed to X, Y, or Z.” Because, of course, there’s going to be various different things that happen across. They could have gotten a sponsorship. I saw I had one client who had everything go crazy on their site because somebody was on a reality TV show. And the normal traffic was like, “Oh.” And then it was like, “Whoosh.” So I couldn’t be like, “I got this much.” It was nothing to do with me. It’s nothing.
Azeem Ahmad: But you know, people will claim that. People will hundred percent claim that.
Crystal Carter: But clients will notice it. Clients are like, “What?” And you sat there and you’re like, “Look at my chart.” And they’re like, “You’re cuckoo land.”
Azeem Ahmad: Honestly, this is gold. I’m sad to say that we are nearly come to the end of this episode. But I think we can genuinely talk for hours about this sort of stuff. Well, before I ask you the penultimate question, I will say for the listeners, if you are only listening to this in audio format, you can get this video on Spotify and you can also get this on YouTube. I strongly recommend watching because you can hear the passion in Crystal’s voice. You need to watch her when she speaks. Because honestly, she needs a TV show by herself. But yeah. Look back to the point of this episode. Just one question. Perfect way I think to wrap up before you share your contact details. I’m absolutely positive there are either individuals or businesses who will be listening to this and are yet to work in the methods and ways that you’ve just described. What advice would you give them to start adopting this approach?
Crystal Carter: I would say that what’s really important is to focus on the end goal. So if the end goal is to increase sales from a certain channel, then that’s what you should focus on. And you should think about what pieces you need to make that happen. SEO will certainly be part of that. There might be other things that are part that. There might things on the ground that are part of that. And you should be working towards the goal.
Crystal Carter: I’ve definitely seen people who make SEO recommendations for SEO’s sake. They’ll be like, “Oh, I’ve seen this on the report. And I ran this crawl and it says that this is wrong.” It’s like, yeah. But is that actually going to help us get to our goal? And sometimes it’s a case that you need to do those things because obviously nobody wants a bunch of 404s for no reason, or whatever. But you can put them in a sort of a different priority of things ticking along and things that need to be actioned in order to drive the business goals.
Crystal Carter: But I would say, focus on the end result for your client and it makes it a lot easier for them to understand the value behind what you’re doing. We are doing this because it’s going to help us to increase our seasonal sales, or we’re doing this because it’s going to help us get more traffic into the bricks and mortar store, for instance. And then they can go, “Oh, we can also do something to help with that.” And we go, “That’s great. Good. Do that.” And then you can bring it all together.
Crystal Carter: So if you focus on the end result and don’t get too hung up on terminology. It’s great to be smart, it’s better to be effective. So don’t just say a bunch of words that make you sound really clever for no reason. One of the things I always say is if you ever read Albert Einstein, or the theory of relativity, it is written in completely plain English. It’s all a train on a ball, the people on a train. Super plain English. If Albert Einstein can do it, you could do it. So that’s what I’m saying.
Azeem Ahmad: Honestly, this episode is not about me. This is your episode. But I worked with a guy who would just constantly say “Circle back.” Blue ocean marketing.” What the f**k is that? Anyway.
Crystal Carter: There’s funnels and flywheels and 7 Ps and 4 Cs. And there’s…
Azeem Ahmad: What is reminds me of, is.. If you’ve ever wrote an essay and you’re just trying to fill up the word count. It’s just verbal diarrhoea. But yeah, I’ve digressed. Listen, this has been a fantastic episode. I am positive the listeners are going to take incredible value from this. And I cannot let you go with asking you to share your contact details. Where people can find you on social media. And if they would like to learn more about anything that you’ve discussed in this episode, how can they do that?
Crystal Carter: So my main, my main point of contact is Twitter. On Twitter I am CrystalOnTheWeb. And my secondary contact is LinkedIn, which I go on once a week. Although I did change my notifications so I might be on there a little bit more because the notifications, there’s too many. So I’ve reduced them. So hopefully that’ll be better. I am going to be at brightonSEO at the beginning of April. I think you’re going to be there as well. We’re going to hang out. It’s going to be cool. And I’m going to be full on paparazzi mode. So I’m going to be taking as many selfies with everybody from my Twitterland as well. So that’s all going to go on my Instagram, which is also CrystalOnTheWeb_ with an underscore at the end I think.
Azeem Ahmad: Amazing. Yeah. And I can’t believe we have yet to mention on the recording that we both share a birthday. Incredible.
Crystal Carter: Yes. Twinsies. Yes.
Azeem Ahmad: So yeah. Look, I can’t think of any better way to end the episode. This has been absolutely full of gold. I’ve enjoyed listening to you share your wisdom. I’m absolutely positive the listeners will too. If you have listened and you’ve enjoyed this episode, please do the usuals: like, write, share and subscribe. And if you wouldn’t like to do any of that please take some time out. Message Crystal and say, “Wow, you are so full of wisdom. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.” But that’s it from me. We will catch you on the next episode when I can find the stop button, which is here. Peace out. See you soon.
Crystal Carter: Thank you so much.
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