Growth Hacking Interview Series #71: Gradiva Couzin

Gradiva Couzin has been working in SEO since 1998 and is a partner at Gravity Search Marketing LLC, an online discoverability consultancy founded in 2006 by Couzin and Jennifer Grappone.

Gravity’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, entertainment, B2B, e-commerce, and non-profit.  Couzin and Grappone co-wrote Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day (Wiley, 2006, 2008, 2011) and Five Stars: Putting Online Reviews to Work for Your Business (Wiley, 2014).

Gradiva lives and works in the SF Bay Area and enjoys eating KitKats.

How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?

SEO done right mixes many services, ranging from the mundane (for example, editing website content to integrate keywords) to complex and sophisticated (for example, reverse-engineering YouTube’s “related video” algorithm).

Anything that enhances our client’s discoverability online, whether it’s on Google or a social site, is within our definition of SEO.

What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?

Different clients have different needs and goals, so the first priority is understanding what the client wants to accomplish, and figuring out what opportunity really exists for them.

Usually the goal is to bring in more revenue or more and better leads, but sometimes we have a reputation-oriented goal.

As a boutique firm, we are able to be selective about the clients we work with. We only take on projects where we believe that we can bring about a great value for the client.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

It’s rewarding when a client comes to us feeling lost and confused, and we’re able to demystify the world of SEO for them.

I love consultations where we can make ourselves obsolete by teaching the client to do what they need for themselves.

I also enjoy testing and iterating: Good SEO is a process that requires constant evaluation and adjustment to point resources in directions that are getting results.

How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?

I follow the usual suspects on Twitter (Searchengineland, Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz), but most of my updates these days come from my super-smart employees, who monitor the industry news and call out topics that are relevant to our clients.

As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?

I’m not sure this would count as a hack, but a favorite tool of mine is the Web Developer browser extension for Chrome.

It’s a quick way to view or manipulate a web page, including viewing ALT tags, disabling javascript, displaying link details and more.

Are there any particular SEO trends on the horizon that really excite you?

I’m excited about the evolution away from focusing on ranks.

We’ve been advocating this for years, but finally the rest of the world seems to have caught up and is ready to notice all the different ways that a brand’s presence in search can be improved (for example, through an improved Knowledge Graph, or tweets in search results), and all the different ways that success can be measured.

What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?

Of course we use all the Google tools: Search Console, AdWords Keyword Planner, Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Google Trends.

For reporting we use SuperMetrics, Advanced Web Ranking, Majestic SEO, and the Moz suite of tools.

Tunnelbear is a handy proxy tool for checking international status, and we also use proxies from http://buyproxies.org/.

For site technical reviews, we use the Microsoft IIS SEO toolkit as our site spidering tool. Also, we use Teamwork Projects (https://www.teamwork.com/) as our in-house project management and time-tracking tool, and it has been a lifesaver.

How is your typical work day structured?

I work from home, as does everyone at our company, so I have the easiest commute ever! Our whole team is on Skype and in constant communication.

I’m somewhat baffled when friends ask if I have a hard time being productive working from home. Working without interruption: what’s not to like? My day starts with checking my morning alerts from paid search campaigns.

This is followed by a plethora of emails; reviewing and sending out reports and deliverables for clients; and lots of brainstorming and collaboration over Skype with my partner, Jennifer Grappone, and the rest of our team.

We keep open lines of communication with clients, so I’m always available for an email or a call with a client who has a question.

What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?

Make sure you’re focusing your efforts on things that are going to bring the best results. Avoid spending your time out in the weeds chasing down some tiny ALT attributes or debating between H1 and H2 tags.

Remember that just delivering a lot of recommendations is not delivering an outcome. Check in with clients constantly to be sure you’re giving them a good value.

Among the Google algorithm updates what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?

None of our clients has been hit with any of the really devastating Panda or Penguin updates; we attribute this to our SEO guidance being very risk averse and focusing on sustainable SEO tactics.

Same goes for Mobilgeddon; this was a non-event for our clients.

If there’s one SEO Guru you’d recommend who and why.

Not exactly an SEO guru, but, I’m a fan of JohnMu (John Mueller), a Googler who has regular webmaster hangouts where you can actually get questions.

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