Growth Hacking Interview Series #45: Dan Callis
Dan Callis is an SEO Analyst at Further, an award winning digital agency based in East Anglia.
Dan has been working in the SEO industry since 2011, working on all types of projects from large eCommerce and enterprise sites to SMB and local trade sites.
He also dabbles in videography under the name Callis Makes Films.
How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?
I am an SEO Analyst at Further; a digital agency based in Norwich, UK.
My job encompasses virtually every aspect imaginable of technical SEO; if something is broken or can be improved, it’s my job to spot it and guide our clients on how to do so.
What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?
Goals are all specific to clients, based on what they need as a business, and what their website needs to achieve those goals.
Although there are general best practice guidelines for SEO, not all websites and industries are created equally.
My personal opinion is more traffic and improved ranking is a solid foundation to most SEO campaigns.
I feel agencies take a risk when they decide to be accountable for conversions as there are many factors out of their control.
Conversion optimisation is all well and good, but if your client is being outpriced by a competitor or have poor stock they’re not going to see the best ROI, even if traffic and visibility in search has grown.
Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?
White hat link building. It’s something a lot of people preach, but I still don’t see many practicing it.
If SEOs can move away from being introverted tech geeks and align themselves with PR-orientated skills they’ll be able to improve off page results.
What do you find most rewarding about SEO?
- Knowing you’re genuinely making a difference to the bottom line of someone’s business.
SEO sometimes gets a bad reputation due to a handful of snake oil salesmen out there who are happy to take the money and run.
I’ve never really understood why people judge SEO as a whole based on the shady characters. Cowboy builders exist too, yet you don’t see people advising others not to invest in fixing their house if it’s falling down.
- Constantly learning and evolving.
Digital as a whole is a constantly evolving industry, which not only keeps things interesting, but means my skill set and knowledge is ever expanding.
No single person knows everything there is to know in this industry, and much like scientific research, one new theory or case study can completely change the way we have to think.
How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?
As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?
Content expansion to target longtail keywords.
Gone are the days where people simply punch two or three words into Google and convert. Google has given people the power to become great researchers.
Potential customers will scope Google for information and reviews before they decide to buy, and your business needs to be seen in every stage of the customer journey.
Are there any particular SEO trends on the horizon that really excite you?
The continual growth and evolution of mobile search is an interesting area for local SEO.
The new feature in Google where they are using phones to identify popular visiting times for a business is as insightful as it is creepy.
Our jobs will continue to evolve as more dots connect between multi-screen device usage, how we use those devices and behaviour outside of search engines.
What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?
Obviously the usual Google tools. Much of my day will be spent in Analytics, Search Console or Keyword Planner.
I have a tool called LinkClump that I use on a daily basis. It makes extracting URLs from your browser to paste in Excel easier.
I’ve been a big advocate of it for the last 3 years and almost everyone I’ve introduced to it has said it changed their working life for the better.
For managing my work load I live by Toodledo. I can’t get by in life, both in and out of work, without some form of written brain dump to keep on top of things.
On top of those, I have countless tools I use for varying tasks. A few of my favourites are…
- Screaming Frog SEO spider for crawling sites.
- Majestic for backlink analysis.
- Google SERP snippet tool from SEOmofo for writing meta data.
- Found’s keyword concatenation tool for variation keyword research.
- Web archive for assessing what was once on a page before it 404’ed.
How is your typical work day structured?
I get on the train at either 0755 or 0823 depending on how tired I am from playing football the night before.
I have a 30 minute train journey which gives me a chance to catch up on social media and new posts on my Feedly.
I get into the Further’s Norwich HQ at 0830 or 0900. The first thing I do is check my emails.
Once those are out of the way I’ll dive into my to-do list and calendar to see what’s pressing for the day task wise.
Our office manager Holly usually offers to do a round of hot drinks before 0930. I used to have a coffee but I’ve recently quit caffeine, so now I have a fruity tea.
I tend to structure my working day with tasks that require intense thinking in the morning and early afternoon.
My brain tends to fire on all cylinders earlier in the morning, and starts to wind down around 1500, which is the ideal time to do simpler tasks, tie up loose ends or carry out admin tasks.
I leave the office around 1700 or 1730 to either catch the train home or go out skateboarding with the Head of the SEO team. How many people can say they skateboard with their boss after work?!
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every SEO should read?
That’s a tough question, as it very much depends on the level of experience and role of an SEO as to what I’d suggest.
I will say The Moz beginner’s guide to SEO is something everyone working in digital should have read by now.
Even if you’re not an SEO, a top level understanding of how SEO works is beneficial to almost every digital role under the sun.
What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?
Manage your work load and don’t let anything slip under the radar.
If you get an email or a request and you’re busy, write it down in a place you regularly check for later.
Among the Google algorithm updates what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?
Penguin. Without a doubt.
When it first hit I was only 6 months into my SEO career and no one had a clue what was going on. We were removing and disavowing links like mad but traffic simply wouldn’t budge on some sites.
I felt Google was heavy handed by waiting 18 months to roll out a Penguin update prior to October 2014, it left many an SEO and business owner in the dark, which was the biggest frustration; hours and hours of work going into cleaning up messy backlink profiles yet having to wait months to see if said work was going to save the day.
Google algorithms are always a tough one to crack. As SEOs we only have what Google tells us combined with experience and research to go by.
No SEO can 100% guarantee recovery from an algorithmic penalty, but we can do everything in our power to identify what caused the issue and how to best fix it.
If there’s one SEO Guru you’d recommend who and why.
I follow so many SEOs for different reasons on social media, so that’s a tough question.
I’m going to say @linkarati, the team there are producing some great link building content.
You should also follow @Further too.