Growth Hacking Interview Series #73: David Vallance
David Vallance is a writer who fell into digital marketing after he got bored brewing, tasting and writing about beer.
He marries a pragmatic approach to link building with a focus on genuinely valuable content to drive long term growth for online businesses.
David joined the newly rebranded agency Digital Impact in 2014 and set about defining a brand voice and iconic content style across its various platforms.
Today he balances an intensive internal marketing strategy with a number of client campaigns.
He has had articles featured on SEOmoz, Search Engine People and is a regular contributor to TechWyse.
How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?
First and foremost, I wouldn’t say I’m an SEO.
Digital Impact uses an Inbound Marketing methodology so, while SEO is a part of that, my role is substantially more broad. There’s writing, paid search, PR, design and all sorts thrown in.
Although I hate the word, our strategies are much more holistic. Urrgh.
I come from a writing background and fell into digital marketing when the search industry went all topsy turvy a few years ago.
Farming low quality links weren’t enough and websites needed quality content if they wanted to climb the rankings.
I spent my first year or two devouring everything I could about digital marketing, learning about where the industry came from and where it’s going.
I built a couple of websites and used them to test new ideas and approaches.
What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?
Our clients come in with all age old demand of digital marketing: they want to be ranked number one for their main keyword.
Our first job is to do some digging and discover what it is they really want. Is it improving brand recognition? Is it driving conversions? Is it enticing users to sign up?
That means our primary marketing goal has to be pretty flexible, but we always match it up to what is most beneficial to our clients.
That said, it usually comes down to cold hard cash. How many users are you attracting to the site and how many of them are converting into customers?
Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?
The search industry is so tumultuous, I honestly have no idea. Just look at Google’s new RankBrain. It’s gone from complete secret to one of the most important signals for websites in just a few days. And we still don’t really know what it is.
If any one skill is going to help you in an industry like this, it’s flexibility.
A willingness to experiment with new approaches, test your strategies and ditch the stuff that isn’t working. That’s what’s going to keep you ahead in SEO.
What do you find most rewarding about SEO?
Working with new businesses is always incredibly rewarding.
We worked with a lawyer who had just split with his existing firm and established a new practice. We built his website and designed his entire digital marketing strategy.
In a few months we had him ranking on the front page for various highly competitive keywords. It felt amazing to see the enquiries coming in and someone’s venture actually take off.
Considering that 20 percent of new businesses don’t even get past their first year, we’re pretty proud of where he is now.
How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?
Oh, god. There’s way too many blogs, commentaries, podcasts, videos and news websites to list.
At one point or another, I’ve subscribed through most of the big names – Search Engine People, Moz, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and so on – but I’m pretty quick to drop them if what they recommend isn’t working for me.
I like to keep my regular reading fresh so anything I list now probably won’t be true in a couple weeks.
Oh, I forgot one big resource. In the past the SEO and BigSEO subreddits were packed with spam. However, since they’ve banned links, they’ve become great places for genuine discussion.
As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?
Politely asking for links. It doesn’t sound that revolutionary but it works.
I use Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique quite a lot and you’d be surprised how many website owners will happily link to genuinely valuable content if you ask them nicely.
What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?
Again there’s too many to count. I love trying out new tools too — although most don’t stick around for more than a few weeks. The core members of my toolkit usually stay the same though. Moz, Google Analytics and Raven Tools are a few of my favourites.
We’ve been experimenting with user testing lately as well. Peek is a great service which allows you to try it out for free. I recommend you give it a go — I think you’ll be surprised.
How is your typical work day structured?
I don’t really have a typical day.
It might be working on internal marketing materials, rewriting site copy of planning influencer outreach. This lack of dull, boring, routine is one of the reasons why I love this job so much.
What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?
Segment projects as quickly as possible. It’s daunting looking at a huge article you’ve got to write or a strategy you’ve got to build.
But as soon as you break it down into component parts, it gets substantially easier to tackle it chunk by chunk.
If there’s one SEO Guru you’d recommend who and why.
I’m a big fan of Brian Dean. I think he approaches things in a very pragmatic way and always shows what’s going on behind the scenes.
Rand Fishkin is also very impressive. Part because of his obvious mountain of knowledge and part because he’s a genuinely brilliant presenter. However, the ridiculousness of his mustache is making him harder to take seriously.