Growth Hacking Interview Series #49: Nora Dunn
Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo – a woman who sold everything she owned in Canada (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 to embrace her dreams of full-time travel.
She has been on the road ever since, earning a location independent living as a writer on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design.
Her latest book (Working on the Road) helps people design careers around their travel and lifestyle preferences, and her monthly “Dear Nora” column on CreditWalk.ca answers commonly asked questions about travel and finance.
How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?
To be clear, I’m not an SEO expert – far from it. In starting my lifestyle website (The Professional Hobo) almost 10 years ago, I couldn’t define what SEO meant; even five years ago, I was still pretty clueless!
I stumbled up the learning curve of what it is to work online and build a website, making just about every mistake you could imagine along the way.
But given the amount of time I’ve had in the saddle, combined with being on the leading edge of the location independent industry, I’ve done pretty well.
What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?
My marketing efforts are mainly divided between social media (Facebook, Twitter, and G+) and building an email list (currently just shy of 8,000).
I also am a freelance writer, which serves as a great cross-pollination tool between my site and my client websites.
Using these platforms, I can effectively market content on my website, books I’ve written, etc.
Having a strong social media presence, email list, and third-party website platform exposure is also very effective in procuring sponsors, sponsored trips, and other collaborative ventures with complementary brands.
Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?
The SEO industry in my experience is ever-changing, and as such, it’s a bit fickle. One policy change on Google’s part leaves everybody scrambling to adhere to new guidelines and harness them to their needs.
So I’d recommend staying on top of what the current “game” is, but not to get too caught up in developing intricate plans, since the game board could change. Be adaptable.
What do you find most rewarding about SEO?
Being highly searchable of course! Most of my traffic comes from organic searches, so good SEO practice can yield significant benefits.
How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?
I generally find out about SEO industry news through my feeds and social media buzz (such as through some targeted Facebook groups in my industry that I belong to).
I generally find that anything I need to know filters through these channels, and this way, I don’t need to spend an inordinate amount of time specifically reading/searching for SEO news.
What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?
I’m very simple. I use an SEO plugin on my site called Yoast SEO.
It helps me create beneficial keywords and meta descriptions and ensure that my posts use the keywords effectively.
There are all kinds of extra features with this plugin as well that allow me to search for keywords etc.
How is your typical work day structured?
I’ve been living on the road since 2007, traveling full-time and making money with little more than my laptop and an internet connection.
So “typical” isn’t really part of my vocabulary! But I generally find my most productive time of day is in the mornings – so that’s when I try to get the lion’s share of my work done.
Although it’s a good practice to stay offline and get my writing done first, I often get distracted by online tasks such as email and social media, so it takes some discipline to stay focused and productive.
What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?
Know when it’s time to get offline!
A gargantuan amount of time can be wasted online, and there’s no end to the SEO research you could do and articles you could read and analytics you could analyze – all before you’ve technically made a cent.
Define what activities directly earn you money, and focus the majority of your time on those.
Among the Google algorithm updates what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?
What’s a Google algorithm? (Just kidding). But I’m surprisingly unconcerned with algorithms and analytics.
I focus instead on creating quality content and engaging with my readers and colleagues. It is a very organic approach (and a slow/steady one), but it has served me well.