Growth Hacking Interview Series #57: Simon Penson

Simon Penson is founder and managing director of Zazzle Media, an international content marketing agency based in Peterborough and London.

He is one of the most prominent writers and speakers in the digital marketing space, having grown Zazzle into one of the most respected agencies in the UK.

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

I’m certainly not an SEO and in many ways have never been. My background was in print journalism and Zazzle was set up to counter the obsession with chasing algorithms.

I had learned how powerful content was as the conduit for creating targeted audiences of value and wanted to translate that into an online offering before ‘content marketing’ was a thing.

There are undoubtedly technical elements to consider and it is important to bake that into the overall plan but we/I focus on audience understanding first so we can design a proactive plan that will drive audience growth.

Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?

A tough question but I would say really getting into mobile usage data and really thinking about how the journey is different to that of a desktop user (where time has really been spent until now).

Take a mobile first view on user experience and get buy in for your plan with that data.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

Seeing a brand that may have been burnt by previous SEO techniques growing again.

It’s a great feeling to change perceptions and mindsets around ‘SEO’ to be much more about digital audience and wider marketing.

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

Twitter! Follow the right people and make time to watch your feed. It’s the best curation you can get and a worthwhile time investment.

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

Everything excites me and that’s really, really important. If you don’t have that in this industry you will fall behind.

When we hire people we look, above all else, for what we call ‘a voracious appetite for learning’ and a genuine intrigue for the world and how things work. If you have that you’ll do well.

Talking specifically I would say it continues to be the trend towards a true understanding of the value of content and how it should sit at the very centre of your marketing plan.

How is your typical work day structured?

As a Managing Director I get very little time to work on specific campaigns now, instead focusing on strategy, recruitment and new business.

That usually means lots of meetings early before I might get into a conversation about content ideas for a client, general operational progress or new business pitches.

The general pattern is start early, collate information and steer questions before getting into something myself in the second half of the day. I will then tend to write posts or prepare speaking presentations in the evening.

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