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Interviewing Carolyn Lyden

Welcome to a new Weekly Interviews edition where we'll interview brilliant women in our industry and share their stories with the world!

Introducing Carolyn Lyden, President of Search Hermit! Based in the Greater DC area - Carolyn grew up helping the family business on weekends and started her career in SMBs, startups, and agencies. We asked her everything from how she first got into SEO to what empowers her to be the brilliant woman she is 💪🏽

How did you get into SEO?

I started my career out of college as a copywriter at a small agency based out of Atlanta. We served clients in multiple industries, and I quickly learned that if I wanted people to read what I was writing for my clients, I needed to teach myself SEO. I got a primer on Google Analytics from the agency CEO and then took the rest from there.

I grew up on the computer (thanks to being a latchkey kid when the internet was just starting to become "social" with AIM and chat rooms and MySpace pages), and did A LOT of Googling back then to learn and to figure out how the web worked. So you could say my whole life has been leading up to me working in SEO.

What is your favourite SEO task?

I really love keyword research, content planning, and writing. It makes sense given my background, haha! But, to me, it's the perfect combination of creative and analytical skills built together in one activity.

The best is when you're chatting with a client and they say something offhand or casually thinking it's inconsequential to their SEO or their website, and it hits you as the writer like--"YOUR AUDIENCE NEEDS TO KNOW THIS! THIS IS THE KEY FOR YOUR CONTENT!"

Then taking that hunch, gathering the data, and creating a piece that strikes the right tone and resonates with that client's audience. It feels like hitting the jackpot.

What is your go-to tool or resource that you can't live without?

Not very obscure, but I love the old standards. Ahrefs, SEMRush, Screaming Frog, and, honestly, Google itself. I think too many people get caught up in the tools sometimes and forget to actually go look in the SERPs and investigate what's going on there. Who's ranking? What type of content is it? How is it formatted? What are they saying? How is it different from what you have or envisioned? I think these are elements the tools often miss.

What is something you learned in SEO that made you have an 'AHA' moment?

I've had quite a few AHA moments in SEO, but I'd say my biggest one is that somewhere along the way I realized that--even though there are "experts" out there posting articles about patents and APIs and automation and python, etc...

No one *really* knows 100% what they're doing.

It can feel like you're behind or that your skills aren't "top level" when you see pieces like that or tweets about SEO semantics on Twitter. But SEO is constantly changing and there are different ways and methods that are more or less effective for different industries and clients.

There's no "official" handbook. So don't feel bad or "less than" or lower tier than people putting those things out. As long as you're following best practices, you're helping your clients or your company improve.

What is your proudest industry achievement?

I'd say quitting my 9 to 5 job and starting my own business in 2019. I'd always thought, "I could never do that." But when circumstances forced me to take the leap, I weaved the net on the way down and made it work.

And I work harder than ever, but I get a great sense of satisfaction out of doing the work for my own business. I've been constantly growing Search Hermit, exploring new options, failing, learning, making mistakes, and somehow finding a decent amount of success along the way.

What advice would you give women who are starting out in SEO?

Find an "in" into SEO and start there.

I feel like so many new SEOs want to learn it all at once. But I think you can also find success in niching down into an area and truly becoming an expert there. Then, as you continue to learn, you'll see how ALL areas of SEO are so intertwined and you'll pick them up as you go.

My "in" was through copywriting and content. I started out trying to learn how I can get more eyes on my writing--and from there learned about the more technical side of SEO as well as local SEO and other off-shoots.

You don't have to master everything right away. Find a pathway into SEO and expand from there.

Give a shout out to a woman in the industry who inspires you and tell us why

There are so many women in SEO who inspire me.

Niki Mosier is my #SEOBFF. We have been Twitter friends for a while, and finally met in person at Shine Bootcamp a year ago. She's not only a good, smart, helpful SEO, but she's a decent human being, a wonderful friend, and a positive force in the industry.

I love women in SEO who are outspoken about promoting equality and inclusion, like Jenny Halasz and Jessica Levenson.

There are so many women in the Women in Tech SEO and Twitter communities who I consider my genuine friends. I recently moved to a new state and then quarantine happened, so quite a few of my friends are "online" and the women in the SEO community are a saving grace for my sanity and my professional health too. They've become my community.

Finally, what empowers you to be the brilliant woman you are?

I tell myself that I'm the expert.

I see it a lot on Twitter (mostly from men, TBH), that if you call yourself an "SEO Expert" then you're not really an expert ("Any man who must say I am the king is no true king." Yadda yadda yadda).

I think that's bullshit. The truth is, that to my clients who know nothing about SEO or who come to me to help them improve theirs--I AM THE EXPERT. That is literally why they hired me: to be the expert. And I stand in that power and that responsibility and accept that as my role.

So when I feel insecurities or creeping imposter syndrome or any kind of doubt--I tell myself, "You're the expert here. That's what the people pay you to be for them. Go be the expert." And then I go kick some ass.


Thanks Carolyn for a truly insightful interview! You can check out Carolyn's website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

To view more interviews with brilliant women, check out our Interviews page. If you've enjoyed reading this interview, then we'd love for YOU to share your story with the world! Simply fill this form here, we welcome brilliant SEOs from all walks of life! 🙌🏽