Growth Hacking Interview Series #10: Ester Del Fierro
The first female SEO being interviewed at Marketing Manila, Ester Del Fierro works as a Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing Manager for Trinko, Inc..
She has been exposed working on sites related to different niches including travel, accommodation, B2B, and outsourcing giving her solid working experience in the SEO field.
Hi Ester, great to meet you! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you became to be involved with the SEO industry?
I’m Ester but few people in the industry knows me by my real name. They know me as ‘gurlalien’ – my username in SEO Organization Philippines.
I’m 28 years old from Singalong, Manila. I’m a proud graduate from Mapúa Institute of Technology with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Information technology.
When I graduated from college, I started working as a CSR and TSR. But I know my calling is not in the call center field so I quit.
I applied as a web developer in a company in Ortigas. Unfortunately, they didn’t have an opening that moment for the position I applied for.
Instead, they asked if I’m interested to be an SEO Specialist first, then just transfer on the web development team as soon as there’s an open slot.
That’s the first time I heard the term ‘SEO Specialist’ so I inquired what the position is all about. The HR personnel was able to clearly explain it to me so I got interested.
I started working for them as an SEO Specialist and I enjoyed myself too much that I decided not to transfer on the web development team when it had an opening. And the rest, as they say, is history.
That was way back 2006. In my eight years on this industry, I have experienced working as an SEO Specialist, Senior Link Popularity Specialist, Social Media Marketing Manager, Online Marketing Manager, and now as a Digital Marketing Manager.
You can assume I know so much because of my background but I think I still need to learn lots of things. SEO is a big changing world. You need to keep up or you’ll not survive.
How do you personally keep up to date with the latest in SEO? It’s an ever changing industry so SEO consultants by nature need to be on the ball – how do you achieve this?
I READ. I have online subscriptions and I make sure I have the time to read the articles posted on those sites everyday.
Not only they inform you on what’s happening, they also give you tips and ideas for your strategy.
I attend conferences and seminars. Honestly, not all SEO seminars conducted in the Philippines are affordable and worth attending. So you have to be keen on this.
I have a list of people that I look up to in this field and when they conduct seminars, I try to find a way to attend (despite of the busy schedule) because I already know that I’ll learn something from it and the payment is worth it.
But if the seminar is free (yes, there are free SEO seminars), I make sure that I attend as this is also a good way to socialize with people on the same field.
Speaking of socializing, I participate in SEO Organization Philippines Forum. This is an organization for people working in the online marketing field all over the Philippines.
I consider this as a fun way of being updated because not only you learn from the community, you also get to share your thoughts and knowledge.
There have been a lot of algorithm changes from Google over the last year. I am sure that you’ve had many potential clients come to you with ranking issues due to past SEO practices they might have undertaken. Do you have any top-level advice for people who have seen their websites take a dramatic hit recently, or incurred a penalty?
My SEO work is not complete without Google Analytics and Google Webmaster. So I always tell them to check what their Google Analytics and Google Webmaster is telling them.
I also (and always) advise them to conduct a thorough SEO website audit. It will be very useful since it’ll help us determine what we did wrong and what needs to be done.
What sets your SEO practice apart from the competition? Are there any unique aspects to your consultancy that gives you a competitive advantage?
I can’t say it’s unique as I know it’s also done by others. But one thing that they can expect from me is that I am straightforward.
I will tell you my opinion, what I’ll do, and my recommendations. If I think something is not doable, I will tell you right away.
If the metrics are not achievable, I’ll explain it to you. But this approach will only work if the client is open-minded.
It’s a good thing that more businesses already understand how SEO works. Gone are the days where the client wants to be #1 on their targeted keywords in one week.
Clients right now are more understanding (well, based on my experience) as long as you give them a detailed explanation and you let them understand your strategy, then everything’s good.
If you were talking to client in your local area who was unsure about the benefits that local SEO can bring to a business, what would be the key components of your pitch to them in order to convince them?
I always use this strategy to convince people: give examples.
I’ll compare their business to a competitor who’s doing SEO and is more successful than they are.
I also tell them what happens when they don’t start implementing SEO to their business. It works most of the time.
For any beginners to SEO, what advice would you give them? It could be anything from how to set the business up, to winning business, or just some plain motivational advice.
Be as honest as possible. Don’t say or promise them things that you can’t do.
Don’t tell them that their goal is achievable when it’s not. Don’t act that you know anything when deep inside you know it’s not true.
I’ve seen people who call themselves ‘experts’ but failed to deliver what their clients expect from them. Save yourself from disappointment and humiliation.
Don’t be afraid to disagree to your client especially if you know what you’re talking about. You’ll gain respect when you do this.
Don’t get tired of learning. As I’ve said, SEO is a never ending learning field. You need to learn and re-learn in order to be on top of your game.
If there’s a strategy that you want to test, then test it. If it fails, it’s okay. Failing is part of learning. At least you already know that it won’t work. Always be proactive.
During your career as an SEO consultant what has been your favorite or most interesting project that you’ve worked on?
FAVORITE: I’ve worked on a travel related company for five years and I was able to handle many hotel/resort websites.
No favorite project in particular, I just love doing SEO related to travel. Traveling is one of my hobbies and incorporating my career on it makes work less stressful.
INTERESTING: I was given the opportunity to handle a B2B website. This is interesting for me because I have no experience working on a B2B website.
I considered this the most challenging as well. But I learned a lot from it.
Are there any other websites or online projects that you want to tell our readers about – or perhaps any social channels or things you are working on currently?
As much as I would like to brag the client that I am currently working on, I can’t because of the non-disclosure agreement that my client and my employer is on right now.
But I am an active member of SEO Organization Philippines (http://seoorg.ph/forum/forum.php). It’s an open organization so anyone can join especially those who want to learn SEO.
It’s also a good place to mingle with the other people in the industry.
How do you view content in SEO as a leverage in providing relevant search results and as a way of doing link-building in the advent of the recent changes in Googles Algorithm and penalization of Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest?
I consider content as a requirement in SEO. One should produce a relevant and informative content.
If before we produce content so we can put links on it going to our website, it doesn’t work this way anymore and if you’re still doing it, then get ready for its negative impact on your website.
We produce content that others will read. We create content that will help us boost our brand.
We generate content for thought leadership and to increase the brand’s authority to the niche. Content marketing is not for search engines. It’s for the people, consumers, and clients.
If people think your content is something worth sharing and is a reliable source of information, then you don’t need to do link building.
They’ll do the link building for you (post it to their social media accounts, share it to their friends, use it as a reference on their blog, etc.).
This is what we consider as natural link building, which will impact your search rankings on a positive way.
As for the penalization of Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest and blog guest posting, I think it still works as long as you don’t rely heavily on it.
Do it with caution and still spend more time on producing content for your blog rather than creating articles for other websites.
What do you think of Google’s approach to SEO? Are they being helpful by launching the disavow tool or do you think that this only gives more credence to negative SEO?
To be honest, at first, I totally hated Google for their algorithm updates.
I mean, you spent a lot of time implementing the strategy that you have been using for the longest time, and suddenly Google decided to penalize websites that implemented the strategy that you’ve gotten used to.
Do they even realize how frustrating it is to clean a website that has been implementing SEO for five years already?
But then again when you think about it, the algorithm updates that they implemented is not really to torture SEOs (although it sure looks that way), but to give relevant search results to users.
Internet users are getting wiser and wiser and it’s just right that Google provide them with intelligent results when they use the search engine.
In layman’s term, Google wants to please the users and not the SEOs, and SEOs will be forever slaves of Google.
The disavow tool is a big help and I can’t think of a negative effect of it on SEO, yet.
However, using the tool won’t give results immediately so I still recommend implementing the ‘manual cleaning’ while waiting for the results that the disavow tool will provide you.
What is the fastest way to generate backlinks?
But if we’re talking about quality backlinks, then I’m afraid there isn’t.
The fastest that I know is to produce a viral content that others will consider worth-sharing and post it on social media sites, which will still take a lot of time.
What is the best quick fix way in optimizing your website for SEO?
I don’t believe there’s a ‘quick’ way on implementing SEO. I still recommend doing it slowly but surely.
I follow a process on implementing SEO, and even after the algorithm updates, this process still works.
Website Audit –> Keyword Research –> Onpage optimization –> Offpage Optimization, Content Marketing, and Social Media Marketing –> Monitoring and Maintenance
It might look old school but still works for me.
How do you measure your SEO success for a particular campaign?
I don’t start working for a project without determining its objective and goals. I always ask my clients ‘Why do you want to implement SEO? What are your expectations?’
This helps us determine if we’re on the same page. Usually, clients tell me they want online exposure or they want to be seen on Google, etc.
Few clients give me specific goals and metrics (e.g. 20% increase on website visitors in three months).
Whether they give me specific goals or not, I include on my presentation the goals I set that I think are feasible and achievable.
I do this by relying on their data history. The same goes for social media marketing.
What project that you’ve handled that gave you a hard time in optimizing yet you came out successful afterwards?
It’s a work in progress so I still can’t say if it’s successful or not.
What makes it challenging on my part is that I don’t have access to the website’s back-end. I only give instructions on how to implement my recommendation to the IT personnel.
What makes it worse is that the website is not using any CMS. Implementing Google Analytics correctly on all of its webpages took us one whole week to finish.
And lastly can you suggest any book, video, person, website that keeps you inspired in doing SEO?
I highly recommend subscribing to MOZ, Hubspot, and Website Magazine. The strategy I am currently designing is inspired by an article I read in MOZ a few days ago.
Moz’s Whiteboard Friday is highly recommended too.
There are a lot of people that I look up to on the SEO field. Some of them are Matt Cutts, Rand Fishkin, Benj Arriola, and Jimmy Cassells.
Special mention to Ed Canape, the reason why I became knowledgeable in SEO. He was my mentor when I was still new in this field and I still think I owe him big time because of that.