I love it when you make informed decisions to alter content or implement technical fixes, and then you can see the reward of your efforts through the data.
Tom Burnett, SEO manager
Firstly, describe your career path to date and how you got into search engine optimisation?
My story is a bit of a rollercoaster after finishing my degree in Marine Archaeology! I had initially trained with an intent to spend more time diving on 17th-century merchant ships (as you do). Around a year after graduating and doing a bit of archaeological illustrating on the side, I decided to move on.
Playing to my strengths, I landed a pure digital role for an incredible team at The Goodwood Estate (home to the Festival of Speed). While working alongside a colleague who had a real passion for technical SEO, I found my niche.
I moved into the role of digital marketing manager and covered an array of activities, including paid search, CRO, personalisation, email campaign management, app content management, UX and SEO. I became more passionate about search and evolved into a specialist throughout this time - something I had strived for after being a generalist for so long.
In your role as an SEO, what gives you the greatest job satisfaction?
I love it when you make informed decisions to alter content or implement technical fixes, and then you can see the reward of your efforts through the data. It helps get buy-in from people who are sceptical around things that need prioritising when you can back it all up with data and makes for happy people! It goes back to the adage, “you reap what you sow”.
What is your proudest achievement/biggest win as an SEO to date?
For me, it was the creation of a culture that began to put SEO toward the front of planning and strategy rather than something to “fix” once live. It can be a struggle, but once people understand some of what we do (an SEO), peers can buy into best practices and optimisation and see the tangible returns.
What is your favourite part of your job role?
You get to see an incredible wealth of different sites, content, and people who have a passion for what they do. Helping those people solve problems they encounter is something I have always enjoyed.
You can only pick one SEO tool to use, which one would you choose and why?
It would have to be Google Search Console. The wealth of information that you can get on your site is invaluable and a beautiful place to start pointing you in the right direction of issues that need fixing and what people are searching for.
How to perform the perfect SEO friendly website migration
We’ve created this comprehensive guide, drawing on our years of experience helping clients navigate complex projects and difficult decisions. It reveals common SEO mistakes and how to avoid them, how to build a bullet-proof strategy, and how to perform the perfect migration while maintaining and improving your SEO performance.
In your opinion, what qualities does someone need to be effective in an SEO role?
A willingness to listen and learn from those around you, as well as those you help. Something that may seem like an easy fix in your eyes may be something unachievable from a stakeholder's perspective. It is about collaboration, trust, and honesty.
If you could change one thing about SEO what would it be?
The perception that SEO is a bunch of “hacks” and “quick fixes”. Your users are the first thing you should always look at and what they are searching for, not trying to dupe people into coming to your site for the wrong reasons.
How do you think SEO might change in future?
Artificial intelligence. I think that Google’s most recent announcements, including the MUM update, will evolve some of what we do and open the doors for more natural and conversational searches. I expect changes like this to have significant implications on what we prioritise, like images, videos, or other types of content. It also puts even more pressure on quality and relevance being the most important ranking factors (which I am all for!). A bit like anything in SEO, and particularly with future Google updates, you never know!
Are there any industry experts or role models that have influenced you?
Outside big hitters like Google's John Mueller (and @LordOfTheSERPs on Twitter for top tier memes), I have been going to Brighton SEO for years and love the breadth of knowledge from speakers there. It is hugely important to keep discussions open with your peers, and I love getting stuck in chats with colleagues about the latest updates.
What do you think the biggest challenges are for brands implementing SEO?
Number one, doing SEO too late and then taking your foot off the pedal! I think SEO should be at the forefront of a digital strategy. Brands can unlock knowledge and acquire a wealth of information from understanding their users. I feel too many organisations don't embrace user data or do not know it exists.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions around working in SEO?
That SEO is an optional bolt-on to the digital shopping list. I have come up against people who have passionately believed we do not need to worry about things as “they are fine right now”. SEO is very much an ongoing process and not something that you fire and forget about.
What do your family and friends think you do for a job?
It is a mixed bag of a great understanding between what SEO is and “Tom works for Google” or “you work in IT; can you fix this?”.