Growth Hacking Interview Series #38: Stacey MacNaught

Stacey MacNaught works as a Search Director for Tecmark, in an awesome Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Manchester and London (From About).

I encourage you to connect with Stacey through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.

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

It varies for us from client to client. But all of our campaigns are typically centred around online sales or leads.

And that’s the real indicator of success – a client that’s making a cracking ROI on an SEO campaign.

What type of links do you believe are the best links to get?

The ones you don’t have to ask for. The ones that just happen.

Granted, in the real world when you are working with lesser known companies, it’s not always feasible to expect links to just magically come on their own.

But when you produce something (a study, whitepaper or great piece of content) and then a link you weren’t expecting just shows up, it’s a good feeling.

What SEO Tools do you have experience with and which ones do you prefer and why?

We use loads of tools. We have the Moz suite (which is just amazing), MajesticSEO, Screaming Frog, SearchMetrics and Buzzstream amongst others.

All of the above are worth a mention for being brilliant. BuzzStream saves us so much time in managing content promotion campaigns.

SearchMetrics is fantastic for competitor insight. Screaming Frog is the best site crawler I’ve ever used.

MajesticSEO has a really comprehensive link index and Moz have so many tools that represent great value for the subscription fee.

What kind of “white hat link building strategy that scales” that you recommend? (What makes it your favorite one? How to execute it properly?)

For out and out links, I’m a fan of using images as it can be applied in any niche.

We distribute a number of images for our clients under Creative Commons Licensing and we track their usage and chase appropriate attribution in the form of a link. A great example of that in place is with this: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-deighton-meets-manchester-leaders-to-discuss-infrastructure-strategy achieved through this very method.

There’s a link to our agency from that piece and it comes off the back of them using our image.

With some thought, planning and strategy, it can be an incredibly effective means of acquiring out and out links.

How do you scale this favorite white hat strategy of yours?

 This is a really easy tactic to scale if you get 2 things right:

It’s those 2 things that really take the time and thought.

What is more important: Onsite blogging or content marketing?

To me, on site blogging is a form of content marketing. I consider content marketing to be simply the use of content to meet marketing goals either directly or indirectly.

Blogging is content and when it’s done with thought and structure, it can win links, shares, traffic and customers.

If we’re talking about the difference between on site content creation and content for link building purposes, then I’d say they are equally important.

There can be no visibility at all without the right content on your website and the correct technical foundations, but by the same token, the best content in a competitive market isn’t going to perform well in search if it isn’t on a domain that’s being linked to.

What is more important; rankings or converting traffic?

Ultimately, it’s all about converting traffic – traffic that becomes revenue.

There’s so much talk of rankings being dead… being a thing of the past.

I accept that personalisation, the dominance of paid results and the richer search engine results pages mean that rankings are not what they were.

But…. If you’re on the first page for a big keyword (“cheap holidays,” or “car insurance,”) then make no mistake, you will get relevant traffic with huge potential for conversions.

So while I agree that rankings have changed, they’re not dead. Not yet. I don’t know a business owner who, given the chance of being handed a massive ranking, would say, “No thanks, rankings are dead.

What I would say is that we need broader horizons on the rankings front than we once did.

We used to laser focus on a group of big keywords, whereas now, even with some massive headline rankings, we see just as much traffic coming through medium and long tail.

Overall domain visibility is a better measure of how a campaign is performing than a single keyword.

But I do still pursue rankings for big keywords too because they generate relevant traffic and in turn, sales! And that’s what my clients need.

Anyway, I’m waffling. In the end, it’s all about revenue. But rankings and visibility are an important step on the way to achieving that.

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

The Penguin 2.0 update was one that gave me the biggest headache. I was working with a handful of clients with a legacy of less than perfect link building and it was a big job to get some of those cleaned up.

There were positive to come out of that too though.

With an update like that, it became much easier to position content led link building to new clients (rather than the low quality, high quantity link acquisition they had been accustomed too with other companies).

What is the most important stage of SEO for you and why? According to other SEO’s each SEO campaign has stages from where to start and how to start it, my apologies if the question is a bit fuzzy but just to rephrase it, if SEO is about stages (ex: onpage audit, offpage audit, linkbuilding, content creation, onpage seo, etc) what do you think should be given more importance by an SEO given the current Google Algorithm updates?

It’s really hard to decide on one single SEO activity that’s more important than others. Because unless you do everything (in competitive areas), you won’t see the success anyway.

But I think if I were to pick out one of the single most important parts, it would be long before we get to the on page audit… it would be setting the strategy.

There’s no point going off and doing an on page audit or building a load of links if the strategy isn’t clear in your head.

Before you write a single word of an on page audit, you should know exactly who your target audience is, exactly how they are researching and searching for your products and services, the online publications that influence them and how to get those publications linking to you.

I like a written strategy in place before I begin any sort of auditing.

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

I’ve met so many amazing SEOs that I’m going to cheat on this question and name a few of them.

  • Kevin Jones is the Technical Director at Tecmark and he taught me SEO from scratch some 6 years ago. He’s a brilliant problem solver and although he isn’t directly involved with SEO at Tecmark any more, he’d always be someone whose opinion on an SEO matter I would value.
  • Hannah Smith is brilliant when it comes to content and she and the team at Distilled have carried out some incredibly successful campaigns

Aleyda Solis is (apart from a prolific speaker!) incredibly knowledgeable in SEO terms and, in particular, with on site international SEO.

If you’re setting up sites for multiple country or language targeting, you’ll want to go through some of her past presentations.

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