An interview with Alina Ghost

Alina Ghost

Photo credit to Mike Glide photography.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Alina Ghost, SEO Manager at Amara and founder of the ‘SEO with Mrs Ghost’ podcast.

Tracing the history of SEO is difficult. Before speaking with Alina, we did some research into when SEO became a viable career option and most articles led us to believe that SEO became a ‘thing’ around 1991. As a fairly young industry, it has evolved and changed frequently over a short period.

In their article ‘A Brief History of Search & SEO’, Hubspot detailed the evolution of SEO and documented that after the launch of Bing in 2009 ‘search engines became more mainstream and widely used, site owners started to get wise.’

As the SEO community, Moz puts it, “It was discovered that by taking some rather simple actions, search engine results could be manipulated and money could be made from the internet.”

Working with SEO is notoriously one of those jobs where you hope not to be asked what you do at a dinner party. Explaining what your job role is, pretty much consists of taking people through the entire contents of Hubspot’s article!

“As did many others before me, I fell into SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). I studied English Literature at University and for months I was in limbo, not quite knowing what I wanted to do. 

I turned to digital and volunteered as an editor for a charity called Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM.) Because I had ‘SEO’ experience from when I did work experience with a fashion company based in Colchester when I was at University, I was often contacted for these roles. 

I only knew about ‘keywords’, which is laughable now that I now know so much about SEO but I was then picked up as a trainee SEO at a small local company and from then on I worked my hardest to progress my SEO career and worked for amazing brands such as Carpetright, Debenhams, and Tesco. 

Currently, I head up SEO as a team manager at Amara, a luxury interiors brand. I always had personal projects alongside this too, from my interiors blog called The Fairytale Pretty Picture, that won Best Cosmopolitan Blog Award in 2014, to my current SEO podcast called SEO with Mrs. Ghost.”

A lot of the time, SEO’s are asked if it’s a good career choice. And many will admit that if you aren’t prepared to prove yourself and stay ahead of the curve, it isn’t a career suited for you. You can quickly get left behind if you don’t keep up to date and you have to be willing to learn, relearn and learn again. When it comes to providing advice for people looking to break into the industry, Alina says:

“I did a talk about this at the Women in Tech SEO meetup in December 2019, but essentially, I recommend that you start your own website to practice SEO, PPC or whatever the digital marketing task. 

I can’t express how much my blog has helped me in my career; from showcasing my creative content ideas and writing skills to the techy and analytical confidence I now have. I remember that once, I messed up my website HTML so bad that it caused an error that I was still trying to fix at 2 am. I do not regret a second of the stress this caused either because it has taught me so much and now I’m comfortable with tech SEO alongside the creative stuff!”

A misconception about SEO is that it is a boring job, likening it to data input, or accounting. There are of course large volumes of data involved and having an analytical mindset is beneficial. However, people forget that there is a creative talent required for SEO that goes beyond being ‘techie.’

“I’m a people person and full of ideas. This makes my adoration twofold, the first being the ‘proud moment’ when my assistant lands an awesome new job (although sad they’re leaving their SEO-mama…) and secondly, the ability to get out of my comfort zone with a new project. For example, in 2018, I ran an awareness video campaign that saw branded searches increase by 55% compared to the previous year. I’ve never heard of an SEO manager who was able to create a brand video for SEO purposes before, so it was a delight to see such good results.”

As with any career in digital, SEO has its challenges and difficulties. It’s a high-pressure job that demands results time and time again. Alina has also noticed the uncertainties in the UK lately and tells us about some of her worries:

“It’s always a challenge when there are uncertainties in the country and therefore industry. As a woman who is currently pregnant, it’s scary to see so many companies going under and lots of redundancies happening around me. The job instability is scary in a normal situation, let alone with a baby on the way, so it has been challenging to adjust to the fact that my job security is left to fate…”

When it comes to digital burnout, as we’ve discussed before, the SEO industry is one of the industries most prone to ‘burnout’. 

“I’m very lucky that I haven’t suffered but I think a lot of my coping mechanisms are the reasons why it didn’t get bad. I always feel better after a walk or some air and vitamin D (that’s sunshine!) during lunchtime. No matter how busy you are, the work will ALWAYS be there, so it’s your duty to yourself to go and have a mental and physical break. 

I even found that my best ideas came from a brisk walk around the building. I am also an avid supporter and pioneer of working from home. I brought in the concept to Amara so that there’s a policy that allows for remote working across the business. I have been working 1 day a week from home for a year and a half now. This helps my mental state, especially as I don’t have to worry about commuting and, it saves me 2 hours. Get your work-life balance right and you’ll be the most proactive worker the company has ever seen.”

Mental health often goes hand in hand with digital burnout. As a taboo topic in the workplace, we asked Alina if she feels that awareness of mental health is improving now that it is being spoken about more.

“I did a podcast episode on mental health a couple of months ago and very much recommend it to anybody suffering. I spoke to Amy McManus (from AM Marketing and who featured in SOCIALight’s November issue) who had taken to the Brighton SEO conference stage to talk about her experiences and there are a lot of tips that are sure to help.”

We asked Alina who her inspiration is and why:

“This one is always tough, but a quote that always gets stuck with me was spoken by Emma Watson. Cheesy, I know BUT one of her feminist speeches went as follows; “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Powerful words. It’s about not waiting for others to make a change.”

Year in and year out, the digital industry is reported as being a male-dominated industry with a lack of women role models and mentors to encourage women to join. Alina says:

“Digital marketing is very male-dominated but there have been recent initiatives that are trying to combat this, from Women’s only conferences to meetups. I’ve also seen many more ladies go up on stage which I think is great to showcase that women are a part of this industry too. It was also great to see a woman win the ‘UK Search Personality’ award at the UK Search Awards. Little by little…

I spoke to Lexi Mills in episode 13 of my podcast. She is an amazing woman who taught me about Ethical search and she shared a story with me about when she was discriminated for, not only her gender but her age and potentially even her height too. She said that she remotely met some clients for the first time via a virtual reality conference. She felt she had authority during this meeting and that it went well so that the client came to see them face to face, to which they were shocked how small and young she was. There are some crazy stats out there showcasing that even height can make a difference when it comes to creating an authority so there’s no surprise some women power dress (with elongating stripes for example.)”

We asked Alina if she felt the pressure to prove herself more so than her male counterparts: 

“Yes and I often question myself too whereas I’m sure that most guys wouldn’t. I consciously power-dress when going into an important meeting and have read Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, a book I recommend.”

When it comes to social media, Alina provides her insight into its impact on people as pressure for you to stay in the loop at all times.

“As we mention in the podcast episode I mentioned, social media is great for being updated on industry updates but awful when it comes to stress levels and sleep. There’s pressure to always keep up and if you’re unable to switch on before bedtime, it can affect your sleep! 

Other issues with social media is the ‘Instagram perfection’ where everyone else’s lives look fucking great and you start comparing it to your own. Remember to switch off and keep your screen time down!”

As a successful SEO, we were keen to hear Alina’s insights for 2020. It’s difficult to predict the future of SEO but by watching emerging trends and keeping your finger on the pulse of digital marketing, accurate predictions can certainly be made.

“2020 holds more of the same, I believe. Google will always be focusing on the user and so should you. Sort out the basics and look towards the future too, so how can voice search help your business for example. 

I’m excited to learn more about other aspects that started being touched on by SEO, such as CRO (conversion rate optimisation), social media advertising and more.”. 

Twitter – @MrsAlinaGhost https://twitter.com/MrsAlinaGhost

Linkedin – Alina Ghost https://www.linkedin.com/in/alina-ghost-1026a050/

Website – https://aghost.co.uk/ 

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