In-House versus Agency Skills with Sara Taher
This week on the podcast, Sarah chats with Sara about the differences between skills needed in-house versus agency side.
Sara Taher is a Canadian based SEO consultant with over 8 years experience in the field. She is most known for her SEO tips and riddles that she shares on her Linkedin account.
Where to find Sara:
About 'The SEO Mindset' Podcast
Build your inner confidence and thrive.
The SEO Mindset is a weekly podcast that will give you actionable tips, guidance and advice to help you not only build your inner confidence but to also thrive in your career.
Each week we will cover topics specific to careers in the SEO industry but also broader topics too including professional and personal development.
Your hosts are Life Coach Tazmin Suleman and SEO Manager Sarah McDowell, who between them have over 20 years of experience working in the industry.
Sign up to be a guest on the podcast here.
Get in touch
We'd love to hear from you. We have many ways that you can reach out to us to say hello, ask a question, or suggest a topic for us to discuss on a future episode.
Twitter - @sarahmcduk, @sulemantazmin, @seomindsetpod
Website - https://www.tazminsuleman.com/
Instagram - @tazminsuleman
Email - email@example.com
Check out all episodes here: The SEO Mindset Podcast website
Subscribe and never miss an episode: Listen to The SEO Mindset Podcast
Copyright 2023 Sarah & Tazmin
Mentioned in this episode:
Live Podcast with Search with Candour Podcast
We have teamed up with the Search with Candour podcast to bring you, 'How to Deal with Anxiety at Conferences (for both speakers and attendees)' - a LIVE Podcast the night before brightonSEO. What is a LIVE Podcast? We'll be recording the episode in front of a live audience, including Q+A. Tickets are free and include a drink. Shoutout to our sponsors Sistrix and Captivate, for helping us make this event happen. Click the link below for more information and to get yourself a ticket.
Donate & Support the Podcast
We have set ourselves up on Buy Me A Coffee, meaning that if you enjoy the podcast and our episodes you can give us a one-off donation to support us. If you leave us a message, we can also give you a shout-out. Use the link below.
This is the SEO mindset podcast with your hosts Sarah McDowell and Tazmin Suleman. This podcast is for SEO professionals. And each week with the help of our wonderful guests, we discuss the important stuff that actually affects our careers and progression. But sadly, often doesn't get talked about, you know, the invaluable, soft and interpersonal skills that are often taken for granted, such as the skills we need for listening, time management, communication, and more. We also talk about the big issues that affect us in our careers such as burnout, impostor syndrome, self belief, saying no, plus other big issues and obstacles. With this podcast, we want to share knowledge on topics that unlock our listeners true potential, and enhance not only their careers but all parts of their lives. So are you ready to prioritise your own personal growth and career development? Then let's crack on with this week's episode.
Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us for another episode of the SEO mindset. This week, we're chatting about the skills that you need when you're in house compared with agency side. So an awesome, awesome topic. It's not just me, I have some help. Today, I've got a great guest that's going to be Help Help me chat about this topic. So I have Sara Taher, and Sara is a Canadian based SEO consultant. With over eight years experience in the field. She is most known for her SEO tips and riddles. I mean, I've got to ask about that, haven't I, and she shares and she shares that on her linked in account. Before I invite Sarah on just a little reminder that if you do enjoy the podcast, you can support us so we have a buy me a coffee page, so you can do a one off donation donation there. Link is in the show notes. So we're very appreciative. You can buy us one or a couple coffees wherever you see fit. And also if you head on over to the SEO mindset dot code at UK forward slash listen there, you'll be able to subscribe to our podcast and then you'll never miss an episode. Again, that link is in the show notes. Right housekeeping done. Let's welcome Sara on to the podcast. Hello, Sara.
Hi, Sarah. How's it going?
Sarah 2:29going really well, how's your:
So far, so good. Couldn't be better, honestly.
I mean, this is good. This is good. I mean, 18 days in so it's still early days, but sounds positive.
Yeah. I mean, I like my newsletter just hit 1k subscribers, and I launched it like, September last year. So that's pretty cool.
Amazing. Is that something to do with your riddles?
Well, it definitely grew off my riddles. Right. Like, I It's part of my personal brand that helped me grow my subscribers definitely.
Love it. Like if you've got like a, an interesting thing like that. I definitely think it helps, isn't it? So?
Yeah, I mean, it's different because most people share tips, which is great. But I noticed like while I'm working, there's like those fine small details, right? And it's all in the the devil is in the details always. So I'm like, Okay, what, let's like posts about this, like, let's, instead of like giving people the answer, like just make them you know, think about it. And it's it went really, so far, it's going really well. And I get positive feedback about it. Like some people say it's it's a real head scratcher and stuff like that.
Love that concept, because I definitely think you learn better by doing an action stuff, right? So like you say, if you provide someone with the answer, then they don't know the methodology or they don't know how to get there. Whereas if you give a riddle, yes, you're making people do a bit of the hard work, but that's how you learn. So that's awesome. Yeah, thank you. Right. So this week, we are chatting about the different skills that we need when we are in house versus agency side. And I think this is a very important topic because I feel that people in the SEO industry, we kind of bounced between, don't we until we find because some SEOs prefer the in house side of things, whereas other SEOs prefer the more agency side. But there's definitely whilst there's going to be some differences. There's also going to be quite a lot of differences. Did I say that? Right? There's gonna be some similarities, but there's going to be some differences as well. Yeah, definitely. Yep. Wonderful. Right. So, first question to you then. What are The main differences in these skills then.
So for in house roles, you need to have this entrepreneurial mindset, like you need to be able to jump into savings and volunteer to projects. And don't, you're not waiting to be told what to do, or you just have to initiate things initiate projects, and you also need to be creative. Because you, you'll come across like very different issues, you need to be able to suggest, like some innovative solutions or come up with workaround things, right. When you're working agency side, you have most of agencies I worked for or with, I have a very strict or very, some like, mainly strict structure or way of doing work, right. Like they have a specific very specific process of how to do SEO, like they get the client, they start, like, sort of a checklist like tech audit this that this that. And the reason for this is that they have a lot of clients in very less time to create, like a very custom made strategy for that client. Right. Obviously, some agencies still are able to do that. But mainly, I would say, there's, most agencies have like this generic process that they take clients through. And it's it, there's less space for you coming up with, you know, new things. In house, you don't have that structure you have, you can build your own structure, you build your email, you build your own processes, you have plenty of space to be creative, and come up with things. And I said, I think this is really important because I've worked with people who, who thrive in a very structured environment, and I didn't, I always like to have some space to do my own thing, I call it freestyle my way into the task, like if you give me a task, I like to freestyle it. But when those people when they move to in house roles, they just stay there one year max and went back to agency. It's a totally different mindset when you work in house. And then there is there's also the depths like it a lot of people think in house you have less like you have less work. So a lot of people think that and that's not true, what because you will have less work if you're trying to do the same process for the agents that you did agency because the process that the agency process is optimised for time to be done faster. Right but in house you should be digging actually deeper and deeper and deeper, you have more time to like go after details and analyse, look, do things with data you don't have time to do agency side. That's why it's not less work. It's actually a different type of work more depth, right? So and like I if someone is not willing to like take initiative, initiate things come up with like, you know, their own thing, it's while they may still be able to pass like an interview on get the role. I don't think it will be very successful there. And then also another thing is if we compare agency side and and in house, in house, there's a lot of politics, a lot of politics, a lot of stuff going on there. You need to be friends with a lot of people. If people don't like you, they will not work with you. They will not cooperate with you. End of story doesn't numbers don't matter. Nothing matters. I'm just giving you like that the conclusion there. It's never because I hear a lot of SEOs talk about struggling to get buy in in house and they always talk about every single reason except the obvious politics a lot of people will just tell you know, just because they can tell you know, and it's just Why do Should we listen to you who you are, you know what, why do we need you like you need to be able to build very, like every successful SEO and an in house role. They have amazing charisma they have like, they communicate really well. They're very interesting to talk to they know how to build relations with people. You need much of that on an agency side because you're like with a client they that you know they probably want to execute And it's like you you're inside, you're not focusing on. A lot of there's not a lot of politics going on between you and the client. It's, it's, it's just you trying to make sure that the client is happy. But yeah, and there is like a in house, there's like always this power struggle sometimes or, like, for example, one of my in house rules, SEO traffic was responsible for like, at least 70 or 80% of the leads, these were worth millions every year, right. And then every other single channel combined had a small portion of traffic, right? So even though I mean, we are like, we are all presenting to leadership, and we're all talking to leadership, you are talking about 70%, 80% of of the revenue you are, it's just the way it is you are more important. From a pure business standpoint, and this causes some issues, right? Like not, not everyone is going to be comfortable with one person owning this, right? So you need to understand what's going on there and be able to build this strong relationship in house.Sarah:
Ah, right. I mean, there's so much as you're talking, I've just been jotting down notes and stuff. And there's quite a few things that I want to pull out from what you've said. So I feel like the biggest one of the biggest difference between in house and agency side is if you're in house, you have the time to get to know the company. And that's where you can be more entrepreneur can ever say that word. Yeah. I'm rubbish with words. But yeah, like, because you're in house, you're in that company, not only do you have the time to get to know the company, but you have access to know you have access to people, you have access to resources, you have access to business data. So obviously, you're going to be in a better place to be more creative and be more entrepreneurial. Whereas agency side, you don't have that luxury, right. And you you said like, you have less time on each client because of how costings and pricing and how that setup is. So obviously, you have to be different, and you have to be flexible and adaptable, right. And also, I feel that you made another good point that some SEOs love structure. Yeah. And they might feel a bit Dawn, it might feel a bit daunting to them. Being in an in house role, where it's like, literally, you can do anything there, the world is your oyster, that might be a bit daunting, but there's no right or wrong is there, it's about understanding what your skills are, what you feel most comfortable in and listening to that.Sara:
Yeah, definitely. There's, it's finding a role where you thrive or you are doing well, you're happy and goes with your skill set, right? Not everyone wants to you know, do things differently, maybe some people are. And, and, and they actually do a very good job. So some people want structure, because the more they repeat the process, the more they become really good at it. And the more they have this attention to detail in that process, and they produce really good work right? And comfortable with that they are comfortable knowing what's happening with this client every single day, right? When you're in house, things happen. Like it's, it's it's a different game, like anytime you can get a request from any random team or asking you for like, one time I had the product team reach out what can you suggest what YouTube videos we should create based off demand? Like if you do research and find what was more popular than other like it ask I don't usually do with agency side. Like it's like I think in my entire career, I did something remotely similar to that one time. But in house you get asked about all different things that you haven't done before. And you need to be comfortable with sitting down and say, Okay, how do I approach this, okay, this is what I'm going to do, like come up with a strategy or a plan first, and then from there, you start executing and you know, and you have to, like not everyone is is equipped or likes that not everyone likes this sort of things like people, some people like routine and that's okay. It's just a it's finding what you're passionate about, and going after it. And again, some people I don't like politics, and I don't think anyone likes politics. but is this something you can live with? Right? Yeah, yeah.Sarah:
Yeah, definitely like no one. I mean, politics is awful, isn't it? And like, I suppose in an ideal world, there wouldn't be but we're humans at the end of the day, and people get rubbed up the wrong way. And or, and we don't know what's going on in their lives, there's always going to be politics. And suppose it's more about, can you deal with that? Can you manage those situations?Sara:
I mean, the last thing, first, I want to apologise for any noise going on, because my husband is preparing the lunch boxes next to me. So there's like bags opening and zips and stuff anyways. I feel it's knowing were being in a place that makes you happy. If you are like really creative, you like to do things differently or try new things all the time. You why you can work at an agency side, you will you will not be your happiest or utilise, like reach your full full potential, as they say, right in that environment. And vice versa, if you like structure, and you go into like a very, very, like an environment where there's like a lot of variables going on and a lot of different things. You may not thrive there, if that's not your thing, right. So it's definitely looking for what makes you happy.Sarah:
Exactly. Exactly. And that's so important happiness, job satisfaction. Because yeah, we spend a lot of our time at work. Right? I just seen the time, and we need to take a short break. But I feel like yeah, this first part has been really good, and very valuable. When we are back after our break. I'm going to we're going to talk about if there are any similarities, because it kind of sounds like there might not be, and ways that we can develop, develop our different skills, whether we're in house or agency side. So we will be back after this short break. Thank you for tuning in for another episode of the SEO mindset podcast. If you enjoy the podcast in our episodes, you can support me in Tasman by giving us a donation on our buy me a coffee page. The URL is the SEO mindset.co.uk forward slash donate, you can donate as much or as little a and b and we'd be very appreciative. You can also follow us subscribe to the podcast by going to the SEO mindset dot code at UK forward slash listen. So by going there, you can subscribe or follow us on your podcast playing platform of choice. And this is a great way to be notified whenever a new podcast episode is live and ready for you to listen to.Sarah:
We are back. We are back with part two. Did you have a nice little break there? So how are you? Great, great. Right. So obviously, in the first part, we covered what the different skills are. And now Yeah, well I'd like to get into is if there are any similarities.Sara:
Generally speaking, the general SEO skill set still applies in both cases, like you need to know how to do a technical audit how to do keyword research, like basically this you can carry over from a from a soft skill side. Yes, yeah. Yeah, you need to be able to be able to show I'm not sure how to describe this, you need to be able. So in the agency side, you talk to clients, right? And you have you need to be able to communicate with them clearly. And what and show the value of what you're doing. You need to have this skill as well in house, you need to talk to different stakeholders and communicate with them clearly. But there's more work that needs to be they're done. They're like in terms of like ROI and so on. Right.Sarah:
Yes. Yeah. So just to confirm then. So the actual SEO skills if what you said of like how you actually do SEO, obviously they're transferable, but it's more the soft skills that we're talking about that that needs to change.Sara:
Yeah. There's the soft skills definitely in the strategy part as well. Right, like the high level strategy, not the actual, like, most of the time, as I said, like, keywords and all the processes still apply, right? It's just the strategy part. And then there's sometimes those unique tasks that pop up here and there. Yeah. And obviously the communication you said yeah, that's that's, that's Essential anywhere.Sarah:
Exactly, exactly. Because a lot of people think SEO is like voodoo magic, right?Sara:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Even like even as a consultant, like I do have my own clients on the side outside of my work and and even when you're even meeting a client for the first time to understand what, what they need so many times I feel okay, how communication is core to closing this deal or communication is core to me, you may be doing the best work in the world. But if you're not communicating well, with a client, they don't see it. Right? They don't see, are you? Yeah,Sarah:
yeah. Okay. And I suppose as well, like, obviously, in house, you're gonna have long relationships with the different people that you've got to talk to. So like different stakeholders, your boss or the external people. But even agency side, you're still going to have that there's going to be some sort of contract, isn't there? Like, it's either going to be like, six months, a year, a couple of years? So you're still going to be able to understand, because when we're talking about communication, yes, you've got to be clear, but you've also got to speak to that person as well. So what matters to them? Right? Or what matters to the business? And that's, that's the bit of the things that where you need to be flexible and be like, Okay, this is how I need to communicate with this person, because this is how they tick basically.Sara:
Yeah, and the good thing, and that takes us to the next part you wanted to discuss, it's this comes with practice, right? Like, when I started focusing on building my personal brand, I knew that I know, SEO, like, I don't have a problem with that. But then a lot of other things, I had to start from scratch, public speaking, like, like this opportunity, for example. Or writing to other publications or communicating with as I said, clients. Like, because I'm now taking my own clients on and there's a lot a lot of, like, even I had an impersonal in, in real life event that I had to attend. And I was like, so concerned, okay, what do I say? What do I do a lot of people know me from LinkedIn, and they're gonna come to me, and that actually happened. I was like, super overwhelmed, and oh, my God. And I had to think, okay, when people talk to me, what, what should I say? Like? Like, how do you keep the discussion going? I, like you know, and a lot of these things you need to grow into, and they are definitely uncomfortable, because not everyone is an extrovert. And then there is also, I mean, growth is always uncomfortable. So if you want to grow in your career, in general, in SEO, or in any career, you need to be okay with the idea that you're going to be uncomfortable a lot. I think one of the things I discussed recently is that even though I really have a big I get a lot of anxiety before any speaking event, or I, I keep pushing, right, I keep pushing myself, and I think that's what every single person I've talked to a lot of people in, some of them told me Sara, when we started talking, we had cringe worthy interviews, it was like, what you had Cringer that you you, I like you I look up to you. You're like awesome, right? So people kept going. And that's, that's the Yeah, right. You keep doing what you should be doing. And whatever happens, you know, like, how bad can you be? Right?Sarah:
Yes, indefinitely. What I found is, it's always the thought of something that is much scarier than the actual doing. Like, obviously. So you want to say yes to new opportunities, and you want to try new things, some things you're gonna really love. And really like some things you won't, but nine times out? Well, pretty much every time I've tried something new, my me thinking about it is always much worse. Because you sort of like you go into disaster mode, don't you have all the things that can go wrong? But like likelihood is you're going to be fine. And you either going to be like, I really enjoyed that experience. I'm going to do it again or you're not right.Sara:
Yeah. And and once you get comfortable with it, there's this amazing feeling right? Like once you're, yeah, you feel you've you grow as a person overall, right? And like, I've done so many interviews, I changed my job four times last year, which is a miracle, right, like, right and I I've done like so many interviews and right now I, I don't worry as much in interviews as I used to. It's, you know, it's just whatever gonna, like whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen, right? Like you can, all you can do is just do your best and, and that's it like that's the place where you have control over and. And it's really great that you reach that point at something at least one thing. We have that covered, let's go to the Yeah.Sarah:
And yeah, you hit the nail on the head, like with personal growth, anything where you're stepping out of your comfort zone, you have to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I love that. Like, that's a really good bit of advice.Sara:
I had a speaking opportunity recently, I was invited to speak at a webinar about an SEO topic. And I literally was like, two weeks before the event. I'm like, Why did I say yes? Like, why? Why did I say yes to this? I don't want to go and literally, every single day, I'm like, Okay, I'm going to email them today. So I'm not going to make it every single day, even like 10 minutes before the event. Okay, is that possible that I just don't show up? Like, no, like, and, and then you show up, right? And things go? Well, it having anxiety, you learn to deal with your anxiety to an extent I wouldn't say I mastered that at all, because at points I literally feel I'm gonna throw up literally like you're lying. But I'm not saying that figuratively. I literally mean it. Like today morning, for example. Oh, my God. But but you just keep pushing, right? I mean, that's how every successful person out there, like no one started their journey at anything, having it all figured out. Right, exactly. So that's the that's the way to growth, right.Sarah:
And also, I think we need to stop comparing ourselves as well. So if we take this back to like, the different in house and agency skills, right, so you're always going to be learning and you're always going to be developing a skill if you're aware of it or not, and you're gonna get knocked backs. Or you might compare yourself to someone else on the team or someone in another team or someone above you. But they've had to do that growth to get to where there they are. And yeah, like, you just you just need time, and as long as you're learning. And so you do something, and you learn, okay, either that works. I'm going to do it again. Or it didn't quite work. So I'm going to try this instead. You just got to you just got to try stuff, haven't you.Sara:
Yeah, yeah. Go for it. So that's that's what I would say like, just go for it. Don't don't think a lot about it. Because the more you think the more likely you won't do it. I remember there was this, Christina as Ranko she was she mentioned that she had to do a like she applied joined a stand up comedy class, right to get over her fear. I hit Yeah, right. I said, Okay, I'm gonna do that. And I kept thinking and thinking about it, and I got literally, I got sick, and I didn't go right. So I literally got sick, like, I had to stay in bed. And that's just, you know, mentally like I I just said, I'm, I'm not feeling well, and I felt so much relieved after afterwards, right? So the more you overthink things you probably like you'll find a way not to do them either on and without being actually aware of it or or maybe you know, you'll just give give up right? So don't overthink it. Just go for it.Sarah:
Right um, we are running out of time. The these podcast episodes always go so fast. How is half an hour nearly gone? How? Right so I usually what I normally do is I ask my guests what the main thing is that they want people to take away from this episode. I'm going to slightly change it if this is okay with you. What is the main skill that you suggest people in house start developing and agency side? So what are the two different skills on both of those different sides, which you'd recommend that they develop?Sara:
Okay, in house I'd say jump on as many meetings as you can even on teams that you don't belong. Go to product team meeting the content team, like any data team meeting, learn what everyone else is doing. Again, what matters to them and what not, and how you can contribute to their goal, that's definitely a big win for you. agency side. The key to winning there, in my opinion is attention to detail. The difference between a good SEO and not that good SEO, the agency side is digging deep into the detail in details. I don't think we have time for examples. But the more you double check your work and make sure that you've looked at a task. As much as time permits well enough, the better the output will be.Sarah:
Wonderful. I love those. I feel like yeah, that was a good question to end on, really? So last two questions. First one being the best career advice you've ever received.Sara:
It's actually a comment. I had a meeting, I was super afraid, super worried. And then my manager told me, Sarah, don't worry about it, the moment you start to speak, people will see that you're a smart person. And that comment, changed the way I see things right, like, and that's why I go for it like, just don't, you're thinking you are not smart all the time, you're thinking you you don't deserve to be there all the time. But that's not necessarily how other people see it. And it's always an internal war inside you to try to convince yourself that your thoughts are not reality. But I mean, just try to have these occasional moments where you believe that you're worthy of being there. Yeah,Sarah:
I love that. I love that I'm going to remind myself of that to likeSara:
Remember any positive comments you've got, and try to give yourself a break from your, I should be telling myself that like 24 hours negative and then within those 24 hours, they're like few seconds where I try to remember something positive that I got, like a comment I got. So that helps you.Sarah:
I remember some advice that I got, were they like on a, on a folder on your desktop, or in your email, just create a folder that says positive feedback, and literally just screenshot or save any bit of positive feedback in this folder. And then whenever you're having a day where you're doubting yourself, because you will we are humans, we do doubt ourselves. If you go into that folder, and you see all the positive stuff, people are saying that should help you.Sara:
Yeah, I mean, not just that mean, every day. Right? Like I would, yeah, you think I need to create that folder, because I'll be there all the time.Sarah:
Someone recommended it to me, and I did it. And it does actually help because you like it because it reminds you of the stuff that you've done as well. So it helps with those feelings where you're like, Oh, I'm not. I'm not all that like because you've got evidence of other people saying you're all that. So yeah, that's my little tidbit there. Yep. Now carry on.Sara:
Yeah, I always just we need to remind ourselves where we're going to at self sabotaging ourselves in a way. Yes. But at some point, we need to gain control over our thoughts, even for a few moments.Sarah:
100% 100% I have loved talking to you today on this subject feel like it's a really good one. So unfortunately, that is it. We have run out of time. But if people want to carry on the conversation with you pick your brains on this subject and obviously, SEO stuff as well. Where can people find you?Sara:
On my website, sara-taher.com. Also, they can also sign up for my newsletter there. I'm on LinkedIn all over the place. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing now, but they'll find me there. Hopefully. And yeah.Sarah:
Awesome. Well, I'll make sure that those links are in this episode show notes. So then people can easily find these places. And yes, so just want to say a huge thank you to my guest. Sara, thank you very much for joining me. I hope you had a good time.Sara:
Yep, definitely. Thank you so much for having me here. Thank you. I really appreciate that opportunity.Sarah:
Yep. Well, it's been it's been awesome. I want to say thank you to our listeners for tuning in for another episode and just a reminder of the ways that you can support us so find us on buy me a coffee there is a link in the show notes. So there you can do a one off donation. It can buy us a coffee, if you like what we're doing in our podcasts episodes. And also if you go to theseomindset.co.uk/listen, that link will be in the show notes as well. You can subscribe to the podcast so you get notifications of when new episodes like this one are live and ready to be listened to. Right. So time to finish with our pledge. And that pledge is I am an SEO professional who prioritises mindset and personal growth and not just rankings improving visibility and those algorithms. Did you feel that pledge? Yep. Wonderful. All right. Let's say goodbye and until next time.Sarah:
Thank you for tuning in for another episode of the SEO mindset podcast. If you enjoy the podcast and our episodes, you can support me in Tasmin by giving us a donation on our buy me a coffee page. The URL is theseomindset.co.uk/donate, you can donate as much or as little and be and we'd be very appreciative. You can also follow us subscribe to the podcast by going to theseomindset.co.uk/listen. So by going there, you can subscribe or follow us on your podcast playing platform of choice. And this is a great way to be notified whenever a new podcast episode is live and ready for you to listen to.