In the SEO industry, we learn how to get our clients found by their customers on search engines. We learn about technical hindrances, content optimization, and link building and earning. What is not talked about is how to find our way and carve our path in this growing and somewhat increasingly saturated industry.
Everyone’s journey in SEO looks different and each path is unique and meaningful. There is no right or wrong way. It is a great time to be an SEO and discover where we fit in. There are so many different paths we can take and there are so many ways we can each add value.
In the PDF presentation below, I focus on how you can learn more about yourself in order to find your niche, get the money you want and deserve, and how you can make a difference. We’ll run through 10 questions to ask yourself as you make your way in the SEO industry. By exploring your answers, you’ll become more focused on what’s important as you start, advance, coast, or dare I say, leave your career in SEO.
I have also created a downloadable PDF to help you answer these questions to discover your SEO career values. It’s the kind of document you can come back to every year to see how they have changed. There’s a place for everyone in our industry, but how are you carving your path and where do you fit in?
Presentation Notes and Breakdown
If the PDF attachments are not an option, not to worry. Here is a breakdown of the content, and what would be my voice over, on each of the slides.
Whether you’ve been in SEO since before it was called SEO, or if you’re in the beginning of your SEO career, I believe that there is a place for every single one of us. The person that you are and the value that you bring is going to make this industry so much better.
For those of you that don’t know me, which is most people (lol), my name is Christina LeVasseur. As far as the part of SEO that I focus in, I would consider myself a strategist, a generalist, and an SEO data loverist.
As far as one of my most recent accomplishments, I somehow found the courage to fire a client, and if you’ve, never had to do that, you should try it out — you may like it. Then my strength is that I know all the lyrics to Gangsters Paradise by Coolio. This is my go-to karaoke song.
As far as my weakness, I am a Knicks fan. If you don’t know who they are, then you are much better off. As far as my career goal, I want to be known for something, and currently I think I might be known for napping, and you know what? i’m not mad.
Who Are You?
So, enough about me. Let’s talk a little bit about who you are. When you think about it, there’s so many different types of skills and specialties and experience, etc., etc., in the industry. It’s a lot. Here’s a breakdown:
- Specialty: You might focus on python, mobile, strategy, etc.
- Environment: You might work at an agency, in-house or solo
- Niche: You might work with small businesses, enterprise, e-commerce, SaaS, etc.
- Level of Experience: For this, you could be new, intermediate, or advanced
- Work History: You might be self-taught or maybe made a career change
- Thinking Type: You might be creative, analytical, logical, etc.
Range of SEO Work
This is a lot and then on top of that, as if that’s not enough, what our day-to-day will also be very different. We know wherever there is a search box, there’s SEO. Here is a sample, not an exhaustive list, of everything that we do, which can include things such as:
- Amazon Strategy
- Keyword Research
- Mobile SEO
- Content Optimizations
- Google Analytics
- Internal Site Search
- Technical Audit
- Local Optimization
- SEO Training
- Social Optimization
- Link Building & Earning
- Conversion Optimization
That’s a lot and it is my belief that it’s nearly impossible to know everything there is to know about SEO. I think that over time that it’s possible to know a lot, but I don’t think it’s possible to know everything. I hope this shows you that there’s plenty of room for everyone. In fact, your presence is going to help the rest of us to keep up. That will allow us could grow stronger together.
My SEO Journey
Because of this, our paths are going to look very different, but still unique and meaningful. Here’s a high level of what my path has looked like up into this point.
- 2007: I started my career in public relations
- 2009: I moved into online reputation management, which was my start with SEO
- 2010: I then took a short break to teach English in Vietnam
- 2011: I came back focused on internal site search for enterprise SEO clients
- 2012: I moved in-house to a B2B publishing company
- 2016: I and moved back into agency life supporting e-comm and enterprise clients
- 2019: After a decade of working in corporate, I was officially on my own
If you were to plot your own journey, I guarantee it will look very different. If your journey looks just like this, I want to know who you are and why you’re following me.
What We Have in Common
Despite our differences, I think there are a few things that we are all trying to do that gives us some common ground. We’re all trying to advance in our careers, we’re all trying to make more money, we’re all trying to feel like a valuable member of a team, and we’re trying to add value where we can.
What This Presentation Is and Isn’t
There are a few things that I’ve learned along the way and I hope that these questions will be guiding lights as you navigate through your own path. These are the types of questions that you could ask yourself as you start, advance, coast, or dare I say leave, your career in SEO.
Before we get into the first question, I do want to quickly say what this presentation is not. It’s not going to tell you what you should do in your career. The goal of this is to help you learn more about thyself. It’s a little bit more about self-awareness and digging deep into who you are, so you can become more confident, find your niche, and make the money that you want and deserve.
Just note that this is your journey, this is your life and you get to make it what you want. So, with that. here’s question…
1. “What does success mean to me?”
I would say another way to look at this question is to ask what are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? What is the point of all of this? At least for me, this is a very hard question to answer. It might be easy for some, but it’s okay if it’s not.
This type of question is going to help inform the path you decide to go down. My own response to this question changes at different times of my life. Sometimes I feel like it changes every day or every hour.
Here are some examples, which are valid and different:
- Success means trying my best with the cards I’ve been handed
- Success means advancing as far as I can
- Success means finding balance between work and family
- Success means working and learning from the best in the business
- Success means having flexibility to grow and learn at my own pace
- Success means being an expert subject matter on a particular topic
- Success means prioritizing my family and watching my children grow
- Success means discovering who I am on a spiritual and emotional level
- Success means bringing joy and happiness to others besides myself
- Success means or prioritizing mental and physical health
It could also be something that’s not even listed here. It could even be a hybrid of many different things.
What Success Means and Doesn’t Mean to Me
Here’s me mapping out my own current definitions of success.
- Helping others any myself to thrive
The purpose of life is a life of purpose
- Doing work that adds value
It’s an amazing feeling to contribute something meaningful
- Learning that ‘I am enough’
Accepting, loving, respecting, and valuing who I am
I’m also mapping out what success does not mean to me since that helped me to define what success does mean for me.
- An identity tied to a title
My life and my identity are not tied up in the work I do
- Staying within my comfort zone
Pushing the boundaries is where growth and opportunity can exist
- Believing what others think about me
Lions do not lose sleep on the opinion of sheet
2. “What do I want to be known for?”
This question was inspired by the brilliant Claire Carlisle when she asked me this question. I remember I had a challenge answering this right away. You could answer this quite literally, such as “I want to be known as the most amazing local SEO out there” or “I want to be known as a technical SEO expert.”
But since this presentation is about thyself, I want you to consider using adjectives, and you’ll see what I mean in a second.
Other Ways to Ask this Question
First, here are some ways you can ask this question:
- What message do you want to give others about you?
- What legacy do you want to leave behind?
- How do you want people to remember you?
- What words would you like someone to use to describe you?
By answering this question, this can impact the type of work that you do. It can help with mapping out your values, discovering who you are, and if what you’re doing and who you are working for aligns to it.
Example of What I Want to Be Known For
Here’s my example. I would say in my 20s, these are the words that I think I was known for, or how people would describe me, or how I would even describe myself.
In my 20s
- Team player
- Make other people happy
- Hard working
- Positive attitude
I’ve noticed that it sort of evolved a little bit into my 30s. Sure there are parts of who I am based on who I was, but I’m changing and I hope for it the better.
In my 30s
- Team leader
- Make myself happy
- Self-care and awareness
- Good enough-ist
I’m getting closer to my 40s and I’m noticing that these words are evolving uh yet again. Some words that I would probably add include legacy or philanthropist.
To sum it up, I would say think about who you are, who you want to be, and does the work that you do and the company that you work for, support the type of person you are shaping up to be. If the answer is no, then it might be time to start thinking about next steps.
3. “What is the lesson in this uncomfortable situation?”
I’m a believer that there’s a lesson in everything. I try to learn from it. I would say this is the type of question that will help to advance the type of person that you are, and that this is where growth can really happen.
You Are Not Immune to Hardship
No matter who you are you are, you are not immune to hardship. It’s going to find a way towards you, so you’ll without a doubt be faced with very uncomfortable situations, both in your personal life and absolutely within your business life.
I believe that’s how we become stronger leaders. it’s how we become more confident and to become the people that we want to be, this is where it’s. Here are a few sample challenges and potential lessons:
Sample Challenge #1:
A difficult client that seemingly is never happy with any of the work I (or we) produce.
Potential Lesson #1:
Getting better at qualifying future clients to avoid red flags or partnership mis-matches.
Sample Challenge #2:
There is constant scope creep and we’re doing more than we’re getting paid for.
Sample Challenge #2:
Learning how to set boundaries and adjusting future contract terms.
Sample Challenge 3:
I am not being properly compensated for the value I’m bringing to my company/clients.
Sample Lesson #3:
Becoming more confident in negotiating and re-negotiating your salary.
Tips to Work Through Uncomfortable Situations
Here are some tips that you can keep in mind as you go through these very uncomfortable situations.
- Give yourself room to breathe to make “mistakes”: I put the word mistakes in quotation marks because are you truly making mistakes if you’re learning and growing from them?
- Look at is the first time you do anything as the first pancake: I didn’t come up with that. Have you ever made pancakes? The first one is terrible, but then after that it’s this buttery delicious golden-brown goodness.
- It is during these hard and difficult times that can teach you the most. I put the word “can” in italics because there are just some lessons that are too hard. We don’t want to learn them right now. We just want to move on. If we’re lucky we’ll never see it again and you know what that’s okay.
Just think of everything that you’re doing and experiencing as temporary, both the good and the bad. For the bad, while you’re in this space, you can take as much as you want from it before you exit.
You’re going to get out of this uncomfortable situation soon enough. Grab whatever you can. You can then change the narrative form something that’s negative and make it into a positive.
4. “What are the trade-offs when I have to make a decision?”
You’re going to find yourself at crossroads at various times along your journey. This is where things can really shape up. There’s no such thing as a silver bullet decision because every decision that you make has a trade-off.
Here are some examples:
- Should I take the job? Should I not take the job?
- Should I ask for more money? Should I not?
- Should I work for myself? Should I work for someone else?
- Should I grow my business? Should I keep it small?
- Should I pitch my idea? Should I not?
- Should I fire this client? Should I not fire this client?
Pros and Cons of Making a Decision
When it comes to making a decision, I like the good old-fashioned t-chart. That can help to, at least, highlight your maximum exposure to a particular scenario, in both directions.
Here’s an example when it comes to asking myself: “Do I want to work for myself or would it be better working for someone else.
- Pros of working for myself
- More autonomy in my work schedule
- Work with businesses of my choice
- Ability to scale up or down
- Make 100% of all decision
- Cons of working for myself
- Must consider health insurance costs
- Need to find own portfolio of clients
- Sometimes $$ is not stable (feast or famine)
- Must account for taxes and misc. expenses
- Pros or working for someone else
- Steady paycheck with health insurance
- Access to more enterprise-level tools
- Work as part of a larger team
- Larger budgets can equal more leverage
- Cons of working for someone else
- Working long hours are common
- Working for unappreciative clients
- Office politics and favoritism
- Lack of transparency from the top
Tips for Making a Decision
When you are making a decision, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- When we say yes to something, we usually have to say no to something else. Our schedules are pretty jam-packed. This is how we can prioritize what’s important to us.
- We always want to feel that we’re making the right decision, but there is no right or wrong answer. They just decisions. No matter what decision you make, there’s something to learn, there’s amazing people to meet, and there are new ways to grow.
- Instead of thinking what’s the worst that can happen, think what’s the best that can happen. Sometimes when I think about what’s the worst that could happen, can I deal with this, am I okay with this potential exposure, and if the answer is yes, all right let’s do it.
- Not every decision will pan out to be a winning decision, and you that’s okay. We don’t always know the outcome of our decisions. Sometimes you’ll just decide and see what the outcome is. Look, we’re all just trying our best with what we know.
And the most important tip of them all: Trust your gut.
5. “Who am I trying to impress?
Let’s be honest, there are so many people that we are trying to impress and make happy. This includes the following:
- Business Partners
- Significant Other
I just want to repeat that last one. STRANGERS?
Tips When Impressing Others
When it comes to navigating through impressing others, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- It’s impossible to impress everyone and people will most likely judge you anyway. For example, there are probably going to be people that look at this presentation and think, okay this is kind of coo, but then there are going to be others that think what is this dog crap? And you know what? That is a risk I’m willing to take
Plus, if you were to Google just about any of your favorite locations, there are going to be negative reviews. For example, I recently Googled “rocky mountain national forest” and it had negative reviews about mandates and policies. You simply cannot impress everyone.
- It’s okay to ‘say no.’ Sometimes it makes people want you even more. If you want to learn how to say no more often, I have a fun little exercise take one of your favorite songs, I don’t, let’s say any Britney Spears song (yes, I love Britney, leave me alone lol), and replace it the replace all the lyrics with the word ‘no’ and have fun.
- The best person to try to impress is yourself because. You are all that matters. That is all. I get it, easier said than done. Baby steps.
6. “What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?
Use this as a way to leave behind all those things that no longer serve you so you can reach new heights in your personal and your professional growth.
Here are a few examples. I’d love for you to raise your hand if you need to (or you have) let go of the following:
- Goals that now sound exhausting and bring no joy
- Expectations that you should be at a certain level by now
- Clients with values that do not align with your own
- Guilt from having to fire a freelancer or staff member
- Feelings of disappointing someone
I think if I had 10 hands, I would raise all of them for these. What else am I missing?
Changing the Narrative
So, how do you let go? One way is to change the narrative if you need to. A lot of us might have heard of this quote: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win” by Vince Lombardi. That’s a very hustle mentality sort of quote, and it’s totally fine if you’re about that.
However, if you need to change the narrative, you can consider this quote: “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time” by Seth Godin.
And this one was inspired by my friend Kristie Platinga over at TherapieSEO: “Let go …and trust that everything will be okay. The way that I like to think of it is to take your hand and ball it into a tight fist, then go tighter, tighter, tighter, and then let it go. That feels pretty good. Just let it go.
7. “What investments do I need to make?”
This is how you can work towards advancing in your career. I’d say there are two types of investments. There’s the investment that we make in ourselves and the investment that we make in our businesses, whether we are on our own or work for someone else. I think that they kind of feed into each other it’s this little spiral.
- An investment in yourself: This is an investment in your business or the company you work for.
- An investment in your business: This is also an investment in yourself, your career, and your goals.
Examples of investing in yourself and business
When it comes to investing in yourself, you could consider the following:
- Getting headshots
- Hiring a public speaking coach
- Working with a business coach
- Meditation or going for a walk
The other thing I’ll say about working with coaches is that you could try bartering your services. For example, I once exchanged knowledge with a business coach for SEO advice – boom money saved. There’s also MeetUp.com where there was a group for public speaking. I joined one local group to Denver, and it was $45 for three classes, and it was amazing.
Then when it comes to investing in your business, that could include:
- Attending SEO conferences
- Trying new tools and resources
- Networking with other consultants
- Reading industry reading-related articles
For that last one, I’d say that I probably spend about 10-20 percent of my day always reading.
8. “Who can help me AND who can I help?”
Now, we get to the part about community. It’s a little bit of give and take. The first part is when it comes to thinking about helping ourselves and asking for help.
I don’t know about you, but asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. I think it’s because of these reasons:
- You believe that you’re already supposed to know the answer.
- You believe it will leave you vulnerable to criticism and others questioning your authority and knowledge.
- You believe that others have it worse and you should just be grateful.
- It seems like a really silly thing to ask for help on and you don’t want to seem “stupid.”
But let’s change the narrative. This is what it actually should mean when you ask for help:
- You are super brave to reach out when times are hard.
- You are you value curiosity, and you want to get multiple perspectives before deciding.
- You have the confidence to ask a question that others may be curious about as well.
- You value connecting with others and seeking help is how we all grow.
As an example, sometimes in online communities I’m part of, I’ll see women start off with saying “Sorry if this is a dumb question…” but no need to start your question in that manner. Instead, you can say “I have an excellent question to ask and I’m sure others have this question as…”
Giving Back is Rewarding
Now, it’s the other part. It’s about helping others. The only way that we can really break through barriers and grow together is if we help each other. Plus, giving is one of the most amazing feelings.
Here are a few examples of how to give back:
- Pause, turn around, and hold out your hand to pull someone up with you.
- Be the person or mentor that you wish you had early in your career.
- Gift a ticket to an SEO conference or training.
- Donate your referral money to a non-profit that you’re passionate about.
9. “Am I stopping in to check in with myself?”
This question is all about the mental health check. Think about how you’re feeling today or how you are feeling for this small period of a day. Life can be hard. Sometimes work sucks and other times we’re in foul moods, or really good moods, for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
Think about the percentage that you’re at currently at. Here are some examples:
- 80%: I’m feeling pretty good today.
- 50%: Not feeling like myself. I could be better.
- 30%: I need to take a break and focus on me.
Feeling the Feels Examples
When I need a break to focus on me, here are some of the things that I do to work through it:
- Ask “why” until I get to the root of the problem
I think I learned this from a managerial blueprint training I had taken at my last job. It had said to ask “why” five times, but I say ask it as many times as you need to in order to get down to what’s really going down.
For example, I might tell myself that I’m feeling anxious today. Ok, Christina, why are you feeling anxious? I sent a proposal over to a client and I’m super nervous and I think that they’re going to hate it. Okay, why do you think they’re going to hate it? Because I worked really hard on it, and I would be devastated. Okay, why would that make you devastated? Because if they don’t like it and I’ll feel that I’m not worth it.
And this, this is how you can look at whatever insecurity there is right there in the flesh. It is one of the best way to address it and bring it to the surface.
- Give myself a big, motherly bear hug.
I learned this from a therapist years ago. If you’re feeling sad, go ahead and give yourself the most comforting hug ever.
- Go for a 2-4 hour walk around the neighborhood.
At different times, I go for some seriously long walks. It’s a way for me to clear my head and think as much as I want to if I want to. It also allows me to think of nothing. It allows me to …just be.
- Allow myself to feel it all, even if it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes I will allow myself to be consumed by the raw emotion of it all, knowing that this feeling shall pass.
- Watch any comedy, such as Impractical Jokers. I also love watching Golden Girls.
- Reach out to a therapist when I need help. I’ve been seeing therapists on and off since I was a teenager. I really wish we would normalize seeing one when we need it.
10. “How can I make money work for me?”
Now, we have reached the money portion. As great as it is to help optimize clients and make them money, it feels really good when we optimize our own damn bank accounts. I believe it is especially important as women to learn about money. Money provides us more options and flexibility.
It can help provide the following:
- Working because I have to…
Working because I want to
- Working hard for the money…
Money working hard for me
- The more you make means…
The more you can give
It doesn’t matter if this is new to you; you can start today! I believe that money amplifies who we already are, so if you’re naturally a very giving person, chances are you’ll probably continue to give, but with more money.
Getting Started with Money
Here are some ideas to get you started. Please note: personal finances are personal, so do what’s right for you, but here are some things to consider:
- Have 3-6 months’ worth of an emergency fund
- Diversify your income sources
- Contribute to a retirement fund
- Read lots of books to become more informed
- Think of ways to have your disposable income exceed your monthly expenses
- Pay yourself first
Bringing It All Together
One important thing to note is that while, yes, SEO is evolving, you are too. That’s why I want you to learn more about who you are. Here are all those questions again in one place:
- What does success mean to me?
- What do I want to be known for?
- What is the lesson in this uncomfortable situation?
- What are the tradeoffs when I have to make a decision?
- Who am I trying to impress?
- What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?
- What investments do I need to make?
- Who can help me AND who can I help?
- Am I stopping to check in with myself?
- How can I make money work for me?
Consider asking these questions at least once a year. You’ll be amazed at how your answers evolve over time.
You can also document your accomplishments and future plans every year with the Year Compass. Sample content includes the following:
- My word for the year
- My secret wish for the next year
- This year I will not procrastinate any more over…
- This year I will draw the most energy from…
- This year, I will be bravest when…
- This year I will say yes when…
- This year I advise myself to…
- This year will be special for me because…
- I will do these three things every morning…
- I will visit these three places…
- I will connect with my loved ones in these ways…
- I will reward my successes with these presents…
- I will love these three things about myself…
- I am ready to let go of these three things…
- I will declare to discover these three things…
My Current SEO Career Values
Based on all of those answers from above, I created what I’m calling my “SEO career values” this is what mine looks like:
- I will continue to show up and try to figure it out.
- I will help other women as well as myself to thrive.
- I will try to find a lesson in every uncomfortable situation.
- I will be confident in my decision making, even in uncertainty.
- I will let go of what no longer serves me.
- I will find new ways to invest in myself and my business.
- I will prioritize my mental health above all else.
- I will support clients whose values align with my own.
- I will build connections in our industry to send good referrals to.
- I will find new ways to learn about money
SEO Career Statements
When it comes to learning more about ourselves, that’s going to help influence the type of work that we do, the clients that we work with, the team we build, and the money we make.
Here are examples of what your SEO career statements can look like. I’m currently the first one, but that can change later on.
- “I value autonomy and the flexibility to focus on things that interests me most, both inside and outside the SEO industry. I have found that working remotely and for myself is an environment in which I thrive in. In order to do this, I believe it’s best to work with only a few clients at a time and keep business operations small. Success to me means self-growth and giving back to others.”
- “Success means getting to the very top and making as much money as possible. I want to be known as someone that gets it done. More than anything I want to impress my boss and clients. I want to work for a well-known company or agency that provides opportunities for advancement. I understand I might need to work long hours, but that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.”
- “I want to be known as a great leader. It’s important that my team feels valued and heard. I will not compromise our company culture in order to retain a high-paying client. I understand that the tradeoff is possibly making less money, but that’s a risk I’m willing to make. This means I will need to let go of any feelings of guilt or shame that may come as a result of doing things differently.”
The other thing I want to say is that you might realize that SEO just isn’t for you. You have no passion for it, and you want to try something else. That’s totally okay. We are more than the type of work that we do.
I ask myself if I will be in SEO forever. The answer is I don’t know. I have other interests outside of SEO that I’m kind of itching to explore a little bit more. When I do, I like to think I’ll be asking these types of questions.
I hope that all this was just a little bit helpful. There are plenty of other questions that you can ask yourself, but I’m trying to keep this presentation short. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Thank you.