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A Day In The Life Of An SEO Agency Senior Executive

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A Day In The Life Of An SEO Agency Senior Executive


My journey to becoming an SEO executive has spanned over 14 years, working at leading agencies and optimizing for some of the world’s largest brands. I also spent a few years working as an in-house SEO at some medium-sized businesses.

Today, I work at Acronym as an SVP of SEO. I’ve been at the agency for 7 years and manage the global SEO team, which consists of over 20 SEO professionals in the U.S., London, Singapore, Berlin, and Canada.

Working at an agency can be both challenging and rewarding.

It is my hope that sharing the story of how I got where I am today and what being an SVP of SEO means will help you in your own career journey, as well.

Getting Started In SEO

I first learned about SEO and internet marketing in 2003, when I was getting my Master’s degree in Internet Business from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Prior to that, I worked as a Q.A. specialist in the pharmaceutical industry doing auditing and computer validation. However, I was fascinated by the internet and so decided to go back to school to learn more about the world wide web.

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I started my own pharmaceutical job board in 2006 and needed more traffic, so I reached out to an SEO company for help.

After watching them optimize my site, I  learned how interesting and complex it was. Fascinated to learn more, I was inspired to start doing more of it myself.

I landed a job as an SEO specialist at Digitgrit (now Zeta Interactive), built a successful SEO practice at Havas Media, and the rest is history.

A Typical Day In SEO Leadership

Being a senior leader at the agency, I do a lot of business development – leading pitches, creating strategies, showing how SEO works with other channels, for example.

I manage the team to ensure we have the right tools, resources, staff, processes, and services to manage clients and potential clients, in addition to generating thought leadership materials.

I also read a lot to see what is going on in the industry. It’s important to stay on top of other perspectives and new technology when we’re collaborating with global vendors and international teams.

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My Master’s degree in ecommerce helped me gain the fundamentals of how the internet works. It has changed dramatically over the years, but I’ve learned that understanding the fundamentals will help you get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the history and the backbone of how things are connected.

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Being in the industry this long has also taught me a lot, especially about working with both international and domestic clients.

Finally, I’ve also realized you should always do your due diligence and dig deeper. Focus on big-ticket items and strategies that will drive business results.

A lot of agencies offer similar services. Why should a client go with your agency rather than the other 5 to 10 that are in an RFP?

Always differentiate yourself. Listen to your clients and make sure you understand their goals and objectives, challenges, key performance indicators, and what they are hoping to get out of an engagement.

Plan to show who is doing what and set realistic expectations early on so there are no surprises later, i.e., things not being implemented, etc. Build compelling case studies and offer unique perspectives on updates and changes in the SERPs.

Managing The Challenges Of SEO At The Executive Level

Managing SEO at a global agency is no easy task with clients and SEOs across time zones, different languages and multiple search engines in play, and more.

Prioritization, communication, and strong processes are vital for success.

The ability to account for cultural and language differences, as well as determining which countries will offer the best ROI, is essential.

Another challenge for executives, particularly at the enterprise level, is that some clients have incredibly complex needs.

One day you might be dealing with a migration that failed when they worked with a previous agency.

You might have a new client lose a lot of traffic and revenue after being negatively impacted by a core update.

You could be working with limited resources, etc.

I once had a client insist on using a whole bunch of keywords that were used inside the company, but not by their audience. Educating the client on why that was not a good idea was key, and that takes tact and people management skills.

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Working with the web developers that some brands employ, we are often forced to use techniques that run against common SEO wisdom and so workarounds must be found.

See also  Google’s John Mueller: Don’t Wait Around for People to Find Your Site

SEO in principle has a fundamental approach – but every new client brings their own twist to it.

That’s the beauty of working in an agency with strong leadership and a focus on training and education. It means they frequently encounter challenges and are constantly developing solutions.

Finding Inspiration And Thought Leadership

The person in the SEO community I admire most is Mike Grehan. Mike is a pioneer in the space and a great visionary. He was talking about things 20 years ago that are now coming to fruition.

The other people I look up to in the industry are Brian Dean from Backlinko. They offer amazing content and do impressive research studies.

I also have a lot of respect for Hamlet Batista, who sadly passed away. I learned a lot from him in a short amount of time and we had plans to do some meetups together.

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I am also a major fan of Jim Boykin from Internet Marketing Ninjas.

I advise that every SEO pro stay up with the latest technology. We live in a dynamic world where automation is key. There are some great platforms and solutions out there that are making a lot of noise in the space and really helping to streamline the SEO process, so we can focus more on strategy.

Assess them to see if they can help reach your KPIs internally and externally.

Also, evaluate and test different methodologies to see what’s working to drive overall business goals and objectives and, most important of all, conversions.

If you are not doing that, it is time for you to refocus. SEO is all about bringing qualified traffic to a site that converts into customers.

Don’t be afraid to fail and accept new challenges; that’s part of being innovative and well-rounded.

Do your own research. Try to get as much experience as you can with paid search, programmatic, social, and analytics, but don’t forget to build skills in leading a team, as well. You need to see the bigger picture, as it is all connected at the leadership level.

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Tips For Prospective Leaders In The SEO Industry

To succeed as an SEO executive, you must be able to hire and build a strong team, listen and be receptive to feedback, and motivate those people who have the potential to be your company’s rock stars.

See also  Google’s Mueller on Ranking Impact of Poor HTML, Spelling and Grammar

Provide a creative and consultative working environment, and set out a clear path for your employees to advance their careers. Enable them to work on different accounts across various verticals to broaden their experience.

Always be humble and include your team to get their perspectives on each issue, whether that is why they feel traffic may be down, how to improve rankings, how we can win this pitch, etc.

No man is an island. A great leader is only as good as the team he is leading.

Remember, too, that numbers don’t lie. Always show results and continue to bring innovative ideas to clients and prospects, even if they sound outlandish.

If you want to move up the ladder, you have to be able to demonstrate how your leadership translates into business results, too.

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Continue working on that plan to grow new business by 20+% year over year, get incremental revenue from existing clients by offering new services, think creatively – and be ready to prove it.

Also, if you’re lucky enough to write a column for the most prestigious publication in the search industry, definitely go for it.

Being an SEO executive for a leading agency can be a rewarding career. It offers not only longevity but also all of the rewards inherent to helping colleagues grow in their careers and clients reach their key performance indicators year after year.

If you had to choose only a few key areas of focus to drive your career in SEO leadership forward, I would say these are the “secrets” to my success:

  • Always hire the best talent.
  • Collaborate with your team.
  • Never be afraid to try out new ideas.
  • Keep up to date with the latest technology.
  • Test different optimization tactics and strategies out for yourself.
  • Read industry publications and follow thought leaders in the space.
  • Be innovative and strive to set yourself apart from competitors.

More resources:

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Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor’s Links As Manipulated?

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Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor's Links As Manipulated?


This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Arvin from Vancouver, Canada, who wrote:

“One of our competitors has gotten tons of backlinks from unrelated posts including forums like that of apache.org (and many other .edu sites, too). Even after updates like Penguin, why are they considered relevant backlinks by Google?”

Let me begin by saying, Arvin, that we are a sports-loving family.

I currently have four kids on seven teams.

I love the lessons that sports teach my kids.

And one of the big lessons I work to instill in my kids is never to blame the referees for a loss.

I’ve never seen any sporting event where, if one of the teams did something better, the referee’s call would never factor into the outcome.

This lesson translates well to SEO.

If you know how to play the SEO game, what your competitor – or even Google and Bing – does should never be your main concern.

Focusing on your competitor’s SEO instead of improving your own is a frustrating waste of time.

But, as an SEO, it is important to understand the factors that are affecting the rankings of each keyword.

Like Anyone Could Ever Know

Unless you work at Google, you can never be certain about why one site is ranking over another.

We can speculate.

We can run sophisticated mathematical models to try to understand the algorithm.

But the bottom line is we can’t ever know for sure.

In fact, I’m not even sure the folks that work at Google could unequivocally tell you why one site ranks over another.

See also  Google Doesn’t Care What’s In An Image

The algorithm is so complex that no one person could ever decipher it completely.

How Do You Know The Links Are Relevant?

There is no way to know if the links that your competitor has built are being counted by Google.

Google knows a lot more than our tools tell us it knows.

None of the many backlink analysis tools available on the market today can tell you if Google is counting a link or isn’t.

These tools use data gleaned from their own analysis to determine if a link is relevant or if it is toxic.

Your competitor could be spinning their wheels and wasting a ton of money buying links that do absolutely nothing for their SEO.

Meanwhile, one piece of content or simple link from a strategic site could be boosting the site’s rankings.

Concentrate On Your Competitor’s Strengths

When you look at the “bad” things your competitors are doing, you may miss a tactic that could put you over the top for that keyword you just can’t get to rank.

Instead of looking at all the things you think they are getting away with, look at what they are doing that is legitimate that you aren’t doing.

Frequently, when a prospect comes to me screaming about the travesty of an “inferior” company is ranking above them, the real reason for the ranking usually has nothing to do with the perceived injustice.

But usually when we find the real reason – or at least what I think is the real reason – we uncover a technique that this prospect should double down on.

See also  Google’s Mueller on Ranking Impact of Poor HTML, Spelling and Grammar

It could be that your competitor has more robust content around a specific subject.

It could be that your competitor is utilizing technical SEO techniques better than you are.

It could be a thousand things.

Bottom line – when doing competitive analysis, concentrate on discovering things your competitors are doing better than you are.

Look for techniques you can modify for your own use rather than concentrating on how your client is cheating.

Especially if you don’t plan to cheat yourself.

And I recommend you don’t.

More resources: 


Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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5 Key On-Page Optimizations For Local SEO

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5 Key On-Page Optimizations For Local SEO


When most people think of local SEO, they tend to default to their Google Business Profile, local citations, and backlinks.

When trying to capture those “near me” results, these are definitely beneficial.

However on-page optimization also plays a significant factor in the signals that are sent to the search engines to influence your local rankings.

On-page SEO helps you rank higher in organic results and in MapPack results, as well.

Here are five on-page optimization tips to help boost your local visibility in search.

1. Make Sure Your NAP Is Consistent

NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number.

These three simple pieces of information can make or break your local SEO strategy.

Make sure you have these bits of information displayed prominently on your site. A footer is a great place to house your NAP since it will appear on every page.

Linking it to your Google Map is even better.

You can also display your NAP on service area pages and on your contact page in the body.

Consistency matters. It’s important that this key business information is the same anywhere potential customers find you online – and anywhere Google may be using it for comparison to ensure its accuracy.

This helps crawlers and bots to connect the dots between your Google Business Profile, website, and other local citations through the web.

Don’t get lost in minute details such as abbreviations over spelling out street names. It doesn’t really matter as long as you choose one and stick with it.

2. Spruce Up Your On-page Content

Your site content is an opportunity to show both your customers and the search engines that you are the authority in your area for the service you provide.

Include specific details such as landmarks and street names, in addition to the services you provide in this area. Make it clear why the customer would need your service in that specific area.

The more you sound like you belong there, the better the user experience for your customer.

See also  Google’s Mueller on Ranking Impact of Poor HTML, Spelling and Grammar

Think as your customer thinks.

If you were looking for your service near you, what terms would you use?

Would you include your local metro, city, or even neighborhood?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the type of content you need and which keywords to include in this content.

These keywords will help you target both combination searches [dentist in Chicago] and GPS-based searches [dentist] while sitting in Chicago.

This is where the “near me” searches come into play.

Google matches the location of the user (using IP or geolocation) with sites that service the area near the user to provide these search results.

You can optimize these keywords on overall service pages or on targeted pages created specifically for the service and the targeted service area.

Using the dentist example, let’s say you offer teeth whitening services throughout the Chicago and Southern Wisconsin areas.

In addition to your main teeth whitening page, you may have individual pages for teeth whitening in Chicago, Evanston, Milwaukee, and Racine.

Each of those pages should be hyper-targeted and optimized for that specific location.

Don’t be shy here; this may be the landing page for many of those location-based searches.

Really tell your customer why they should trust you enough to click on either the next page or your CTA.

Don’t forget to do your research.

Customers who live in an area will know the common jargon and things that are native to the area.

If you come in with half-baked information, they won’t trust that you are authentic and truly care about their local area.

3. Optimize Header Tags

We know that header tags are important when it comes to SEO.

If you haven’t explored this subject yet, be sure to check out this resource on best practices in using header tags.

By creating local-based service pages, you have just created additional real estate to create highly targeted header tags including local-based keywords + your services.

See also  Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?

Having great header tags gives both the visitors to your site and the crawlers a basic idea of the overall structure of the page and what to expect as they read through the content.

Be careful not to just stuff keywords into the header tags as this will be unnatural to both your visitors and the crawlers.

Keep it relevant.

4. Internal Linking

Use the power of internal linking throughout the site to educate both your customer and the search engines that you are available to serve customers in that local area.

As you are adding city names to your on-page content, you can use them as an anchor link to the service area pages.

You can also get a bit creative and create widgets, lists, and blocks that house multiple links to your service areas on top-level pages for a bit of SEO boosts.

This could be in the form of a “metro areas we service” block that includes the name of the metro, an image of the area, and a short excerpt.

The text would then link to the location page.

Screenshot of AFSRepair.com by author, January 2022.

5. Local Business Schema

Schema markup can help give the search engines a better understanding of your site.

The local business schema type includes important and relevant information such as addresses, reviews, hours of operation, social media accounts, service area geo-shapes, and departments in your code that may not necessarily live in your on-page content.

This tells the bots and crawlers all about who you are, what you do, where you do it, and why others trust you without cramming it all on a page.

This also gives you a bit more control of the information you are putting out there instead of relying on the search engines to figure out different resources around the internet.

How Will I Know If This Is Working?

Once you have everything optimized and ready to go, you will want to know if this is really having an impact on your local SEO strategy.

See also  Google’s John Mueller: Don’t Wait Around for People to Find Your Site

There are many tools out there however we will take a quick look at a few.

Local Search Results Tools

There is nothing like looking at the SERPs directly unless you can look at the SERPs in a simulated environment that mimics the local area that you are targeting.

That is exactly what you can do with local search result tools like Local Falcon, Merkle, and BrightLocal.

With these tools, you even have the option to view Google Maps, select options such as desktop and mobile, and get as granular as the zip code level.

Local falcon GIF showing GMB resultsScreenshot from Local Falcon, January 2022

Geo-Grid Local Ranking Tools

Geo-grid local ranking tools like Local Falcon and Local Viking are a bit more visual and monitor the map results within a selected area.

These tools are great because you can actually schedule periodic scans that will capture a snapshot of your results and keep a history of how well your site has performed locally on the maps throughout time.

Since these scans are also keyword-based, it’s also an effective way to monitor optimizations within your content and title tags.

Google Business Profile Analytics

There’s nothing like getting information directly from the horse’s mouth.

When making optimizations, if successful, you should see a boost in your Google Business Profile metrics, whether those are click-throughs to your site, calls, or requests for driving directions.

As your visibility increases, you should naturally see an increase in traffic.

Remember when optimizing for on-page local SEO, keep it simple and relevant to your business.

Once customers see that you are providing what they are looking for in the location that they desire, the rest is natural.

It is your job to make sure that you are providing them with the right information.

Even with the rapid changes within the local SEO space, a solid on-page strategy is a winner for both you and your customers.

More resources:


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Google’s Core Web Vitals Badge Likely Won’t Happen

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Google's Core Web Vitals Badge Likely Won't Happen


Google says there are no plans for a Core Web Vitals badge in search results after proposing the idea when the metrics were first introduced.

This is stated by Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller during the Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout recorded on January 21.

A question was submitted asking for an update on the Core Web Vitals badge and whether it’s something that will be rolled out in the future.

It was never 100% confirmed there would be a Core Web Vitals badge in SERPs, but it was an idea Google mentioned on numerous occasions.

Now it sounds like Google won’t be following through on its idea.

Read Mueller’s full response in the section below.

No Plans For A Core Web Vitals Badge In Search Results

Mueller says he can’t promise a CWV badge will never happen, but chances aren’t good.

Since the badge hasn’t rolled out yet, and the idea was first proposed over a year ago, the feeling is that it won’t happen.

“I can’t promise on what will happen in the future, unfortunately. And since we haven’t done this badge so far, and it’s been like over a year, my feeling is probably it will not happen.

I don’t know for certain, and it might be that somewhere a team at Google is making this badge happen and will get upset when I say it, but at least so far I haven’t seen anything happening with regards to a badge like this.

And my feeling is, if we wanted to show a badge in the search results for Core Web Vitals or Page Experience, then probably we would have done that already.”

Muller brings up the fact that Core Web Vitals and Page Experience are always evolving.

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The Core Web Vitals metrics, as they are defined today, may include different measurements in the future. It depends what users care about.

“That said, everything around Core Web Vitals and Page Experience is constantly being worked on. And we’re trying to find ways to improve those metrics to include other aspects that might be critical for websites or for users that they care about.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if any of this changes. And it might be that, at some point, we have metrics that are really useful for users, and which make sense to show more to users, and maybe at that point we’ll have something more visible the search results, or within Chrome, or I don’t know. It’s really hard to say there.”

My interpretation of Mueller’s response is that a Core Web Vitals badge in search results isn’t an ideal solution, considering the criteria for earning the badge may change from one year to another.

If the Core Web Vitals were a set of metrics that would remain the same from year to year then a badge might make more sense, but that’s not the case.

Hear Mueller’s response in the video below:


 Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022. 





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