I am so pleased to announce that Aleyda Solis is speaking at Search London’s 6th Birthday Party. I have wanted Aleyda to speak for a number of years and she has some time in London to come ! I have seen Aleyda on the SEO circuit for a number of years and wanted to interview her about how she started her successful career.
1) How did you get into SEO?
It was 10 years ago in 2007 when I started to work at an Online Marketing agency, called Internet Advantage. I first was in charge of managing and growing a network of travel Websites and SEO was a key part of it for me, so when there was an empty spot for an SEO specialist, I filled the role and focused on consulting for clients…. until I ended-up managing the department a couple of years later.
2) Do you think it is important to have a degree before going into digital?
Not at all. What it will really makes your life easier is to have a good understanding of how the Web works, and if not, be willing to learn as much as possible. The fact that before being an SEO I was a Web designer and front-end Web development certainly made my life easier at the start and had a smaller learning curve. I have actually an engineering degree, I’m a systems engineer, which doesn’t really have to do with digital, but it has helped me tho to understand the process, map it easily with functional and non-functional requirements, working with workflows, having taken also marketing classes to “extrapolate” what already were good practices offline to the online world, etc. but some of the best SEOs I know had no background at all in digital… so of course it will help that you have previous knowledge and that you have studied something related to it however, I don’t think is “a must” or important at this point to have a degree before going into digital.
3) Some of those newly qualified grads (who finished last Sept) still have not been accepted on a graduate program. What would you recommend to them? Is it important to join a graduate program?
With new professions like those in digital, and SEO in particular, it’s more important to be a self-learner and really, now that there are so many offers of online courses, sometimes even free or very cheap, if I was at that stage right now I’d rather first take a few online courses to see if I really like the area, read and test all what I possibly can myself, and if there are programs that *really* offer benefits that can’t be obtained otherwise, like learning first hand from very experience people in a very actionable environment or internships for example, I’d take them. It’s all about assessing the actual value that the program would bring. Education is changing, nowadays having certain degree doesn’t guarantee a job, in fact, having certain degree doesn’t guarantee that you actually know what’s the most relevant and effective techniques in your area, it might provide good building blocks of course, but if it is digital, since it advances so fast, you really need to be willing to self-learn and test.
4) Can you recommend specific companies or agencies that train staff well in digital? For example where you worked?
The best I’d say is to hire specialists of each area to train your team or hiring a digital marketer who focused on training, like Bas van de Beld.
An agency that’s doing it very well by training their team is Koozai. In the last couple of years I’ve given Mobile & International SEO workshops in the KoozAcademy, which is their internal learning series for their team, for which they invite specialists from many areas to train their employees, is amazing and a really smart way to do it I’d say.
5) What was the final straw that made you set up your own business? (Many people talk about it, but it is hard to set it up)
On one hand, my last experiences as an employee left me with the feeling of “I wish I could make this decision myself”, which I couldn’t because I was an employee. That with the fact more companies came for me for advice and consulting, and realizing that there was really no risk, made me take the decision. When I say that there’s no risk, it’s reflecting on the fact that the worst that could happen is that I wouldn’t end up having the type of expected clients that I looked to get and I’d need to get back to work as an employee…. so it was really to be what I really was, not really a risk.
6) What Three Things Would You Recommend for Someone Setting up their Own business?
- Work first on having a brand, be known in your industry *before* starting on your own. I see many people becoming independent and setting businesses without having a brand by themselves, it will become then harder for them to get customers or clients. Start first creating that potential client or user base, before setting the business, then you won’t need to do “cold sales” when the time comes…. the ideal scenario would be to already have clients before you set up the business (which you can work for in your free time as a freelance, even when you are still working full time for another company as an employee), so you don’t need to start from scratch. If you’re not willing to spend time building that professional brand before, whether by writing blog posts by night sharing to the community, or sometimes traveling during the weekend to go to events or meetups, or doing a bit of freelance consulting before; then you might not necessarily be suitable to be a business owner necessarily since when you have your own business you should be willing to give it all to succeed without the 8 to 5 mindset.
- Have good legal & tax advice right from the start -or even before, assessing how much you would need to make to keep your business in operations, and ideally, have a few months saved of money to avoid needing clients right from the start- to identify which is the best legal entity for you, avoid mistakes incorporating your company or end-up paying much more taxes than you actually should. You don’t need to be a business expert but have good professionals to advise and take care of it, and also be willing to self-learn at least the basics of how business work, what’s a cashflow, how expenses-profits work, it’s key to be able to operate effectively.
- Identify what you really like and excel doing to be able to focus on that and identifying the best strategy to whenever you have the chance to delegate what you really dislike and where you don’t provide that much value and are time suckers, to become really productive and enjoy what you do. In my case, it was to understand that I really loved doing the actual consulting, advising clients, so instead of growing by setting an agency that looked to get many clients that would make me hire many people and end-up focusing my time on managing them (which I don’t like), I focused on growing the type of projects I get involved with, working on demand with collaborators who I can delegate some tasks where I don’t add that much value and that don’t take much time to coordinate, so I can keep focused on doing what I really enjoy and add value at.
7) What are the 2 Best Things About Having Your Own Business and the 2 Things You would like to Change?
- The best things to have my own business are to be able to decide and choose the projects I collaborate with, also having the flexibility to work from wherever I want, not needing to task for permission every time I’m asked to go to an event, not needing to commute every day to work and to also be able to be involved in my own projects and not only in the clients ones.
- I wouldn’t like to change anything really, I’m loving it so far, it’s the experience of my lifetime and just looking to do it even more 🙂
Thank you Aleyda for taking the time to be interviewed on SEO Jo Blogs. Aleyda is a busy Consultant, running her own business Orainti, writing for Search Engine Land and State of Digital. She is also very active on Aleyda on Twitter, so contact her before Search London or meet her on the night.