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Kristina Azarenko on How to Teach SEO and Soft SEO Skills

Kristina Azarenko on How to Teach SEO and Soft SEO Skills

Kristina is the founder of MarketingSyrup Digital Inc. an SEO consultancy providing high-impact SEO help. She’s also a creator of the SEO Pro extension and an author of the SEO Challenge course.

Kristina was named one of the 13 women shaping the SEO industry. She is also an expert contributor at Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, SEMrush, HotJar as well as a speaker at Google Search Central Live Conference, Women in Tech SEO Festival, BrightonSEO eCommerce Summit, and other marketing events.

1. How many years of experience in digital marketing do you have?

I have over a decade of digital marketing experience. And even before that: when I was a kid, I tried to market an idea of a store selling re-used plastic bags 😀 .It was traditional, not digital, marketing through as there were not many digital things at that time in general. And I also think that the quality and depth are more important than the number of years you have under your belt.

2. What type of digital marketing do you have the strongest skills in?

My strongest skills are in search engine optimization (surprise, surprise!). But I’ve also done paid ads, social media marketing, brand management, email marketing. Each channel has given me an additional angle and perspective, so all this knowledge complements each other well. I’ve also learned a lot about digital marketing through launching my products. There’s nothing better than going through the full cycle of creating and selling a product. It taught me a lot!

3. What projects have you launched recently that you are proud of?

I launched multiple products and I’m so excited about each of them!

First of all, I created the SEO Pro extension. It’s a free browser add-on that helps get all important SEO info in 1 second. It shows the page title, description, canonical, headings, images, redirect chains, Core Web Vitals etc. Based on what I hear from SEO Pro users, it helps them save hours on daily SEO tasks which makes me so happy!

Another product I launched is SEO Challenge. It’s an SEO course that helps people fill in their knowledge gaps and build their SEO processes. The course is not new, there are 150+ graduates already who got new jobs, promotions and clients due to the SEO Challenge. But I’ve recently moved the course delivery from cohorts to on-demand learning. That’s new.

I’m also launching something new about technical SEO soon. So there are a lot of things going on!

4. You are one of the brightest female representatives of the SEO industry. What is your recommendation to all the girls thinking of starting a career in SEO?

Thank you so much for the kind words! I think one of the most important things that helped me when I started is that I just didn’t know that it’s a male-dominated industry, seriously. So I didn’t think that I was not ‘allowed’ to do something.

So my advice would be to concentrate on YOU and YOUR path to the SEO career you want without looking at other people’s opinions about your gender, skin colour, background or anything else. You’re enough.

One more thing I would suggest is joining the Women in Tech SEO community. It’s an amazing group of women who support and elevate each other.

5. What do you do to further your own SEO knowledge and skills?

At this point, I practice every day as I work with clients. And I also keep myself updated on the changes in the industry (as there are a lot of them). When I started, I would find particular people I liked and who were where I wanted to be, and I would seek help from them through mentorship or courses (free or paid). That’s actually what I still do when I start something new outside of SEO.

6. What SEO tactics do you think are underrated?

I think people often forget about basics as they seem ‘too boring’. They’re too quick to jump on a new tactic or shiny object. In reality, you should make sure the SEO basics are set up properly. These things are important:

  • User intent mapping
  • Content optimization
  • Website structure
  • Internal linking strategy
  • Solid technical SEO

And then you build on those things.

7. You also run a popular SEO course. What is the most common problem your students struggle with the most?

Yes! From what I can see, the most common problem my SEO Challenge students have is a lack of structure. Most people learn SEO themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that and it works for a lot of people.

But then many self-learners end up feeling like imposters as they’re not sure they’re doing SEO right, they have a lot of knowledge gaps and as a result, they don’t feel confident in their knowledge. I’d say this is the most common problem I see.

8. What are the most important soft SEO skills?

Communication skills are definitely important. It doesn’t matter how great your strategy is if you can’t communicate it and convince the client or your team to implement it.

Also, critical thinking goes a long way. You need to always test and keep improving your approach based on data.

One more skill I find very important is taking responsibility. When you do SEO, you’re responsible for the website and the business behind it. Of course, you’re not 100% responsible for everything that happens to that business in general. But you are responsible for your actions and their consequences. That’s why I’m not a fan of shady tactics that can bring immediate results but can kill the website (and the business) in the long run.

9. In your opinion, what are the top trends for SEO in 2022?

Focus on user experience is a huge one. At the end of the day, UX and SEO are tight together.

Another trend is building content with user intent in mind and creating content hubs based on this. Google provides a lot of information regarding searches related to the initial query (for example, in People Also Ask boxes). And it’s a great idea to utilize this information in your SEO strategy.

10. What is your approach to developing an SEO strategy?

  1. I always start any SEO strategy with the business goals. There’s no point in advising something to the company without knowing where they are moving. It won’t help.
  2. I use is the implementation capacity: will my client be able to implement my recommendations and at what pace.
  3. I consider is fixes vs opportunities. Sometimes, we’d concentrate more on fixing the existing issues, sometimes we’ll prioritize the opportunities. It depends on what’s going on with the website.
  4. I form a strategy where I find the most suitable ratio of fixes and opportunities and prioritize all the items in the strategy for effort/impact. The whole process helps to make sure that I help the client move in the right direction, at the right speed to the business goals they care about.

11. SEO is such a controversial thing. Every SEO specialist rates its success differently. What is your way to rate SEO success? What metrics do you look at?

One of the main metrics I look at is conversions from organic traffic. Additionally, I look at the traffic growth. The first helps to make sure that the traffic is meaningful. The latter shows if the SEO strategy is working.

12. How can start-ups and early-stage businesses use SEO effectively to drive traffic to their sites?

The truth is: not every startup will need to work on SEO right away. Some basics are important in any case like making sure that you have a website and it’s crawlable so that people can find you at least when they are searching for your name.

On the other hand, many startups can use SEO to achieve incredible results, mostly by creating the top-of-the-funnel and middle-of-the-funnel content to create awareness and help the potential buyers in their research process. And here it’s very important to target the right user intent and topics that will convert users into customers down the line. I love how Canva did it.

13. What do you prefer the most: client SEO, own projects, consulting, something else?

I’ve done many things over the last 10 years, including working at agencies, client-side, launching my projects and providing SEO consulting. I enjoyed all of it. At this stage of my career, I really enjoy providing SEO consulting and teaching people through my courses.

14. Have you ever run Google Ads campaigns? How do you combine Google Ads campaigns and SEO?

I have! I even managed to achieve over 1000% ROI for one of the accounts I was running. Fun times! At that time, it was great to analyze search terms and find gaps in the website content. It helped to create pages that then ranked organically. I also tested the keywords in Google Ads to see if I needed to create the content for them on the website.

In general, combining Google Ads and SEO is a great strategy because many searches would still get ads, and it’s beneficial to be there and in the organic results too.

15. Does your university degree help to succeed in SEO and digital marketing?

Yes and no 😀 I’m a teacher by education. It didn’t necessarily help me to be a good SEO consultant. But it definitely helped me in teaching. I’m all about structure and practical skills, so I’m using this when I create lessons in my courses.

16. Can you share your professional and business plans for the next 2-3 years?

The world has proven to be so unstable that you never know what’s coming next. But I’d be happy if in the next 3 years I transitioned into teaching more, I’ve already started this pivot. I take fewer clients and only those I really love. I’d also love to speak from more stages now when they’re opening again.

17. How do you see the future of SEO (in 5 years)?

I see that SEO is still live in 5 years. It has already survived longer than many expected!

Things like content creation will be more automated in 5 years. But SEO professionals will still be needed. The demand for SEO has grown substantially over the past 2 years and this growth will continue.

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