Transferable SEO Skills with David Bain
This week on the podcast, we have David joining Sarah to discuss transferrable SEO skills and how you can use them to progress in your career.
David Bain stated off his SEO journey back in 2003. Since then he's managed agency SEO teams, been an in-house Head of SEO - and has more recently interviewed 100 of the world's leading SEOs for Majestic, a client of his B2B content production agency, Casting Cred. You can find him over at CastingCred.com.
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Hello and a very warm welcome to the SEO Mindset Podcast, your go-to podcast for actionable career advice and tips so the SEO professionals can optimize their career and not just the algorithms. So this week we have a fabulous guest joining me, and he goes by the name of David Bain, and he started off his so journey back in 2003. Since then, he's managed agency SEO teams, been an in-house head of seo, and has more recently interviewed 100 of the world's lead in SEOs for Majestic, a client of his B2B content production agency casting cred. And this week we'll be talking about what skills from having a career or role in SEO that you can use in a future role that's not necessarily in the same industry. So, a very warm welcome to the podcast, David.David (:
Hey, Sarah, great to be on with you. Thanks so much for having me on.Sarah (:
Thank you so much for agreeing to come on and spend the next 30 minutes with me. How, how are you doing? How's your week treating you so far?David (:
Very well indeed. Just moseyed on over to the home office and started recording with you. So it wasn't exactly a long walk into work,Sarah (:
Mm. It's more and more the case for most people nowadays.Sarah (:
Yeah, absolutely. So I got a five year old son when two come along, and he thought the fireworks were a little bit loud and unfortunately, so we're quite close to them and they went on for about half an hour or so, but they were very spectacular. I live quite close to the city of Ely and they had a wonderful fireworks display at the weekend.Sarah (:
Wonderful, wonderful. I always like it when they get really advanced and they try and time the fireworks with music. I dunno if Yeah, that's,David (:
They tried to do that. They tried to do that. Yes, absolutely. But the fireworks were so loud you could hardly hear the music, but it was good.Sarah (:
Didn't matter. Didn't matter. Okay, so I've introduced what we're talking about. It's a quite an interesting one because yeah, we're talking about transferable skills that you have from working in seo. So my first question to you, David using your own experience, when, when is it time to move on from SEO or what are some of the signs or opportunities?David (:
Well, I mean, going back to I guess why I got to be involved in SEO to begin with, it was a long time ago, as you mentioned in the introduction, it was about 2003 or so that I first started getting involved with seo. And it was simply because I was on the internet. I was creating actually my own websites at the time and figuring them, figuring how to get them to the top, top of Google. And very quickly I managed to start to rank different webpages for competitive, I dunno if there were competitive at the time, but short tail keyword phrases that could bring in a lot of traffic. So I was generating a thousand plus visits per day and making virtually a full-time income through Google Ads at the time. So SEO at the time was a great way to make some part-time income, or even full-time income by building your own websites and having ads on these sites.David (:
And that, that was probably the most common thing to do with SEO at the time. And then businesses at various networking events started asking me, well, how do you actually do that? And I, I got into training businesses and how to do that and ultimately our full-time role within seo. So, so that's kinda the back backdrop to how I got involved in seo. It was because it was a good revenue generating opportunity at the time. It wasn't necessarily because it was the thing that I was most passionate about. Okay. I was passionate about being an online entrepreneur, and SEO was probably the primary channel marketing channel to focus on at that time. The most successful channel to focus on that time paper per click was, was, was nascent. It was early stages for most other channels. I mean, I got into podcasting earlier as well, about 2006 or so.David (:
And I was, I loved the podcasting medium, but at the time, there wasn't really an opportunity to make much money from it. There wasn't much talk about things like content marketing at the time. And I liked seo. I do like seo, but it's probably not the thing that I've been the most passionate about. I, I really enjoyed podcasting, producing content, content strategy and things like that. So I think when the other channels started to mature mm-hmm.
Interesting, interesting. So I suppose then like as, as you could sort of focus on the channels that you were more passionate about, because I think that is important, isn't it? Like you're gonna do good work if you're passionate about something or you are passionate, passionate about a channel or what your, what you can achieve with it and your purpose, I suppose. But I suppose like if you if you get into, into this industry through seo and you have other opportunities and other opportunities present themselves, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to turn your back on ea, right? You can always use them and yeah, and I think that's key, but then I suppose it's about like using them within your other passions and your other projects as well.David (:
Yeah. It's following your gut. It's seeing what you really resonate with, what you're truly passionate about and what you want to be doing over the long term as well. The thing is being an SEO is, is great experience because it gives you an opportunity to work with other marketing channels learning how SEO integrates with paid search, obviously, but lots of other marketing channels and indeed also other areas in the business such as sales and customer service as well. So it gives you that big picture view on what you may want to do, what you may be better at doing in the future. Perhaps you could actually move into general business management as well. ICO could be a good start to that.Sarah (:
And I suppose it's about being open as well, isn't it? And not being close minded. Because I, I suppose we may fall into the trap of, well, seo, that is what I do, do you know what I mean? And if you've done it for a long time or that's what you you feel safe in, or that's your security blanket, you might not necessarily be open. So when opportunities come your way, you might A, not see them, or B you might turn them down.David (:
Yeah. Well, I mean, that stems from traditional education. I mean, 30 years ago when I was a kid
Felt a lot of pressureDavid (:
That's so funny. There's something that oh, sorry.David (:
No, I was just, I I was just, I mean, just just to finish off and, and relate it back to what you were saying there. Yeah. Sorry. So, so a lot of you were saying that a lot of sus think that they're kinda stuck in the job, or that's what they they do. What I was gonna say is that's what we were told for, for, for a long, long time. You pick a job, you pick a career, and that's what you do. That's what the definition of you is or, or, or was going to be. But it, it's not the case nowadays. You, you get loads of people having loads of different careers. I mean, I've, I started off working in the hospitality industry. I've worked in restaurants. I, I've been a recruitment consultant, I've been in sales but I've also been in digital marketing for a long time now, the be the best part of 20 years. So I, I, having a different experiences, a mixed background of, of doing many different things is actually gives you a wonderful perspective to take things into different careers. But it's a, it's a long way of saying don't think you're welded to your chosen job, your chosen career, because it's going to become more common in the future to have multiple careers. And that's not a failure. That's a wonderful opportunity to do different things.Sarah (:
Exactly. Exactly. And also you might feel like you're further on in your career, so I don't know, you might be in your mid to late thirties, early forties, even your fifties, right? And you think, well, I've stuck in SEO for this long. Like maybe I should stick in it, but Yeah,David (:
You think it's a feel you're giving giving up on it.Sarah (:
Yeah. But it's not, it's not, it's progression, right. And mm-hmm.
So as much as any sealSarah (:
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I mean, to to, to go back to to what you were saying just a moment ago people many eos I guess are, are a little bit introverted and a little bit technically focused. And because of that, there are, I guess like less likely to do things like public speaking, but yeah, true. I, I would just like to emphasize to anyone listening to this thinking that they want to be a guest in a podcast or be a speaker at an event everyone is a grain of sand in the universe. You're the importance of you doing a talk in terms of the rest of your life and the things that are really, really important in your life is just, just not there. It's not significant at all. Obviously it's good experience. It will give you a nice step up into what else you're gonna be doing in your life, but in compared with the things that are most important in your life, it doesn't matter. And if you can put it into that kind of perspective, hopefully that will actually make you not so worried about doing that kind of thing in the future.Sarah (:
Wonderful. And I think that's such great advice, such great advice. Because like, not getting too serious or I don't know, too out there, but you only do have one life, don't you? And you need to make the most of it. And you spend most of your life at work, right? Making money
Yeah. I mean, ideally you'd get to the situation where you're not really able to tell the fact that you're working because you're, yeah. You're just doing something you like to do.Sarah (:
That is the dream. That is the dream. Right. We are going to take a short break. And when we come back in part two, we are gonna discuss what SEO skills are transferable.David (:
Sounds good.Sarah (:
Hello, we are back for part two. David, before we go on with part two, what's the main key takeaway you want people to take from our first part?David (:
Well, I think something that I mentioned that I, I'm a big fan of is considering what you're doing as entirely insignificant. And it, it, it's, it's, it's a bit strange to perceive it like that because it almost doesn't give it any value. But I just wanted to ensure that people do what they want to do and do what they feel challenges, challenges them without feeling scared or nervous, because those are emotions that probably aren't so important or relevant when you compare it with the more important things in your life. I think that's just a key thought. It's not necessarily to do with SEO directly, but hope it's, hopefully it assists with career development.Sarah (:
Oh, a hundred percent. And that's all what this podcast is for. It's for supporting SEO's for like personal career development. So this, this episode is bang on the mark. Right. So let's get cracking with part two then. So we said that we talk about SEO skills that are transferable. So take it away, David. What do we think, what do we think we've learned as an SEO that are transferable in other jobs or industries?David (:
Well, I've always been quite a creative seo, quite a strategic seo. I didn't, I wasn't absolutely passionate about highly technical seo. For instance, when people started talking about pivot tables and Excel, I just knew that that wasn't something that I wanted to be involved in. You get different mindsets and that that's fine. You get people that are passionate about things like that, not me. Yeah. But yeah, because I viewed towards kind of content marketing, creative and broader strategy I was quite heavily involved in training. I was then, I was quite heavily involved in thinking about models for those different training sessions. So I produced I've recently actually published a course on LinkedIn learning about B2B content marketing. And at the center point of that, I've got this model that I call the six inch six H content marketing model.David (:
So I've expanded Google's three H model hero hub and help content to also add what I call heart happy and human content, heart content being product centric, sales orientated type content. Because I don't think the Google model includes that happy content, the kind of content that you deliver to new customers and human content, the type of content that drives advocacy after they've actually been a customer for a while. So I think SEO can be a wonderful initial touchpoint or channel for those six different types of content. So you can still utilize seo, you can take the different skills that you've learned from SEO and think about things like, okay, help content. How am I gonna research keyword phrases for that? I mean, I even use keyword research in podcast production and video show production as well nowadays. Also asked is a, is a wonderful tool for that to get long til keyword phrases that allegedly don't have any keyword volume. You'll incorporate that within podcast or video show episode titles, and then use that to structure the episode show notes or the even the transcript that you produce from the show as well to help rank it for those long till keyword phrases. So there are many uses of SU in that broader marketing strategy as well.Sarah (:
A hundred percent. A hundred percent. And I've just got thinking about the sort of transferable skills that I feel that I would have if I wanted to explore a different career in a different industry. And one big one is problem solving, right? Mm-Hmm.
A great one. Is a great one. Yeah.Sarah (:
Yeah. And another one is communication. So obviously there is there's certain things that we need to report back to other departments, shareholders, managers, who might not understand seo or they don't understand the SEO lingo. So I feel like SEOs are great at, are great communicators, right? Because they have to get a point across and they have to get it a point across in a way that's understandable. SoDavid (:
I think that communication is a skill that is very important for SEOs to master. I wouldn't necessarily say that all SEOs or many SEOs are great communicators, but I would say that it's a skill that if they can master it would help them greatly in the future. Because as we mentioned earlier, SEOs have to talk to different departments, different marketing channels, but also different areas in the business as well to explain the value of seo, and then to understand the perspectives of other departments in the business as well, to try and actually agree on a path forward as well. So communication is core to that. And, and I guess that if SEOs can perhaps broaden their education and maybe even take courses in communication, then that will help them deliver what they have to do from an SEO perspective, but also help them in the future as well.Sarah (:
Yes, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. Is there any other transferable skills that we can, that we can think about? Well,David (:
I mean, strategy, I, I, I think seo yeah, allows you to, to understand things from multiple perspectives. So then you can actually be one of the better placed people within a large organization to create that strategy because you do understand things from more different perspectives because you want get people from other marketing departments really taking the time to understand things like seo. I don't see as many people from say, paid search or PR or other departments. Taking the time to truly understand SEO is as you have as many eos reaching out to other departments, I don't think,Sarah (:
Yes, a hundred percent, a hundred percent. Another transferable skill that I've just thought about is so say you've done a project or a campaign, you've done your reporting. Reporting is a skill in itself, right? Visualization and getting
Well, it goes back into communication as well. Absolutely. It's how you communicate that success or failure back to other departments and still get them believing in the volume of seo.Sarah (:
Yes, definitely. Definitely. before we wrap up, is there anything else that you think is important to bring up or talk about?David (:
I mean, from, from a transferable skill perspective, I, I, I think great keyword research and structuring of your website should be something that has applied to every different content function within the business. And that includes sales, customer service, as well as traditional content teams as well. I think that's an undervalued part of SEO almost. You, you, I don't feel that keyword research is something that's really talked about quite as much as it used to be. Okay. I think there's a reliance on ai, on the machines to actually decipher the content that you're writing and maybe even produce titles or better descriptions on your behalf. But I think feeding Google the right information, feeding customers the right information to enhance conversion rates and yeah, drive the right visitors, the right piece of, of content is, is absolutely key and transferrable as well.Sarah (:
So would you say that's, that's the key thing that you want people to take away from today, orDavid (:
Is that, well, from an SEO perspective, I, I think communication to communicate the value, try to think about what's one thing that you can do over, over the next month in terms of reaching out to other departments in the organization to better understand what they do. So that's the first step. Better understand what they do and sit down with them and, and really get them to explain to you what they do, what their concerns are, what they want to achieve as well before trying to broadcast to them what's important from an IEO perspective. I think if you take the time to really understand what's in it for other people and what's important for them, then they'll be more receptive to understanding what's important for you. So I think if you work in a large organization, that side of communication is key. Listening first before trying to communicate what you want to do.Sarah (:
Amazing. Amazing. I mean, I've really enjoyed this conversation today, so thank you so much,
Thanks for having me on.Sarah (:
So my last question to you is, what is the best bit of career advice that you've ever been given?David (:
You know, I'll say it in a slightly different way but let's still use the, the universe as our way of thinking. I'm always talking about what you do is as significant as a grain of sand in the universe. I'll put it a slightly different way. There was a famous scientist called Carl Sagan, and he came up with a wonderful a wonderful piece that he called Hill blue dot. And it was based upon this picture of earth far, far away. And it was how insignificant the earth was. I mean, it was beautiful. It was just this tiny little pill blue.in the universe. And if you can think about the fact that everything that's ever been look up what Carl Sagan said, you know, I'm, I'm not gonna quote him directly here because I don't have the words in front of Pi ear and I can't remember exactly, but it was around the lines of everything that's ever been and ever will be exists or existed on that pill blue dot. And that's, can you think about how insignificant what you're doing in terms of whole human's history, and then in terms of the whole universe that's not to make you think that what you do isn't important, it's just to make you think, just enjoy what you do, do the best at what you do, but don't get upset or yeah.David (:
Worried about what you're doing.Sarah (:
I suppose we can catastrophize, right? That's a good one.
Is it spelt with an s or a Z though?Sarah (:
However, however, wherever you are listening from, it depends.David (:
Well, well, maybe the right answer from an SEO perspective is, it depends what the keyword tool says.Sarah (:
Oh, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. Very much agree. Wonderful. Well, I'm very sorry to say this, but we have ran out of time. But if people want to continue the conversation or find out what you are up to or connect with you, how can they do that?David (:
Sure. at David Bain on Twitter or LinkedIn or casting cred.com, the website.Sarah (:
And I'll make sure that all your links are included in the show notes. And also as we've been talking today, there's been a few resources that I'll also make sure that I'll pop in the resources bit of of the show notes as well. Well thank you so much David for joining us, and yeah, it's been an awesome episode. So thank you. Thank you, thank you.David (:
Great to chat. Thanks SarahSarah (:
It's I'm just wondering, is it
That's fine. I'll mark it. Our mark it. There we go.David (:
Okay. So that's, oh, so that's the catch phrase at the bottom there that you just want me to read out there.Sarah (:
Yeah. Yeah. The, I am an SEO who prioritizes mindset and personal growth and not just rankings improving visibility and algorithms. If you don't wanna do it, it's,David (:
No, no, that's fine. That's, that's fine. That's fine. That's fine. Sorry, I didn't really read that. I'll, I'll read that. No, I'll, that's fine. I put you on. Okay, I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll answer what you said before, so hopefully it's quite easy for you to cut in.Sarah (:
Okay. Okay. Let, well, I can just do that bit again.David (:
Look what you just said, is it putting you on the on the spec to do it or spot to do it? So I'll just answer that and then you can cut it in there. No, not at all. No problem at all. So here we go. I am an SEO who prioritizes mindset and personal growth and not just rankings improving visibility and algorithms.Sarah (:
Well done, well said. Round of applause. Wonderful. Right. Let's say goodbye in until next time.