My journey into the world of SEO and Digital Marketing was a long and bizarre one. At one point, I was responsible for reviewing applications for a scholarship my employer gave away each year in an attempt at link building. Having read 1000s of really bad essays and 100s of fairly decent ones, one thing I thought would have improved all of them immensely was pictures of cats. Moment of Truth: I’m not just trying to win a ticket to MozCon, I’m also hoping to help my cat, BellyRubz, take her place among the Internet Cat Elite.
A brief history
In college I thought I wanted a career in Arts Marketing. My main interest was in Audience Development: trying to build new audiences for classical music organizations. I graduated in 2008, when arts orgs were laying people off, not hiring. I ended up doing a variety of internships and unpleasant customer service jobs before deciding to go to grad school. In 2011 I started the Public Relations and Advertising Master’s program at DePaul University in Chicago. My second year in the program I moved in with one of my classmates and adopted BellyRubz.
A teacher who wore tight pants
I’m an SEO late bloomer. I didn’t know anything about SEO until January of 2012 when it was introduced in a class I was taking on social media. The teacher, who is a SVP of Digital Strategy at the local office of a well-known giant PR company (and who wore very tight jeans), was excited to teach us SEO, but my classmates didn’t seem too enthused. I couldn’t understand it. I had a moment in this class where I flirted with the Dark Side and realized “People who get this have all the power! Why wouldn’t you think this was important!” From that moment on, I had SEO fever.
How I explain SEO to my mother
When I worked at a Bath and Body Works they’d sometimes ask us to take EVERY customer back to the sink to test out the hand soaps – no matter what they came in for. The manager was convinced that once people tried the soap, they’d buy it. When the customer came in and asked me where the candles were, and I took her instead over to the sink- that was BAD, SOAPY SEO. She was searching for candles, thought I was going to show her candles, and instead she got a sink. If I followed my instincts and showed her what I thought were the best candles, that was GOOD SEO. The customer got what she came for, maybe even discovered that her favorite candle also came in a hand soap, and everyone won! My mom still doesn’t quite get it, but she’s glad that I don’t sell soap and candles for $8.25 an hour anymore.
Becky, her good hair, and her awesome SEO skills
In the fall of 2012 I started working at a small coupon and deal site doing SEO with my manager, Becky. Becky knows a lot about SEO and is also really good at coming up with cool new things to do to improve rankings. I learned a lot from her and from working with our account reps at SEER. She was especially helpful in introducing me to the SEO community, including all of the Mozzers! She sacrificed her annual Moz Pilgramige so that I could attend my first MozCon in 2013. Since I didn’t change her name in order to make a cool, current cultural reference, I have attempted to protect Becky’s privacy by sharing a picture of her cat Olivia, (who also has pretty stellar hair), instead of a picture of her.
One time, at MozCon….
In the summer of 2013 I graduated from grad school, went to MozCon, got married, and went on a honeymoon. I won’t tell you that MozCon was my favorite of all of these things, but it was still pretty awesome. I made some great friends who I still talk to! I also learned a lot and discovered that many of the things I had learned in grad school (in my PR and Advertising program) were now being taught to SEOs….I was ahead of the game! I also was extremely humbled by the technical SEO knowledge of a lot of my new friends.
When I was at MozCon 2013, any time I saw some of the presenters standing around (especially at the Tuesday night party at EMP), I wanted to be like BellyRubz jumping at these birds…
A harsh lesson in dreams
In March 2014, I took a big career risk! Even though I loved SEO and working my SEO job, there was a marketing job open at a small Baroque orchestra in Chicago that I was familiar with from my years as a career intern. I was afraid that if I went too far down the digital marketing path that I’d miss my chance to realize the dreams of my 22 year-old self back in 2008. I took the job, and it was a disaster. I bought into their promises that they wanted to do new and exciting things, and a year later found myself walking around the city hanging up concert posters and sending out uninspired email blasts. I’m glad I took that risk, so that I can live the rest of my life knowing that what I thought I wanted at 22 and what I want later in life are not the same thing! I quit in May of 2015 and set out to try and figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.
Unemployment: Or, that 6-month period where I took 1,000 pictures of my cat
During the almost six months I was unemployed I split my time between applying for jobs and taking pictures of my cat. I applied to SEO and Digital Marketing agencies, I applied for in-house marketing jobs, and I applied at a few museums and other non-profits because I was still having a hard time giving up on my old dreams; it was a mess. I had a hard time selling myself in interviews as the perfect candidate for the job because I wasn’t sure if the job was really what I wanted. I came home from visiting a friend in Buffalo and went into a job applying frenzy. One of the jobs tucked into the list that day, was my current job and I couldn’t be happier that it finally worked out- and suddenly I was (sort of) back in the SEO world.
Time for an unrelated photo break
This submission is getting pretty long, so here are some of my favorite photos of BellyRubz.
Uber Culture Shock: Leaving a company of 7 to work at a company of 39,000
The tiny orchestra didn’t really care much about SEO. They also didn’t have a content management system and had to special order me a copy of Adobe Contribute so that I could make basic changes to the website. Our site was static unless we wanted to call our web designer and pay him big money to make changes. At my new job I’ve found that in general our marketing leaders are, as one would hope, good marketers. They might not be SEO experts, but by having good marketing strategy, the SEO has sort-of fallen into place. I say “sort of” because on the ground level, it’s still a work in progress. I work with quite a few marketing people on publishing intellectual capital to our website, and I am constantly trying to train them to think more about SEO. My favorite moment was when someone in our benefits practice went up to their marketer and said “I did a Google search on “Norway disability” and I couldn’t find our article on Norway’s disability act!” Well, not one time in their whole article did they use the phrase “Norway disability”. They only used Norway once in the page title and they only mentioned disability once in the body. Of course this phrase wasn’t in their keywords or meta description either, even though we explicitly ask them to provide meta keywords. Slowly but surely I am bringing them all into the light!
Conclusion: Just like BellyRubz, I’ve found a home.
Unlike BellyRubz, my world does not revolve around napping, begging to go out on the porch immediately followed by begging to go back inside, and meowing because my slave doesn’t play with me enough. Instead, I need to keep up with the digital landscape and after spending almost 2 years out of SEO, I’m afraid I’m starting to fall behind! Because we are still recovering from a merger in January, there isn’t any room in the marketing budget to send me to MozCon, but now, right after blending our companies and making a new brand, is when we need to focus on SEO the most! We need to get our new brand identity out there and to help our customers find us. It’s a little intimidating to have our marketing leaders ask me for my SEO input so I want to make sure that I am on top of my game! I love working for this company and I want to help out my new home however I can, and a trip to MozCon 2016 can help me do that.