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Interviewing Laura James

Date: 24/05/2023

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Laura James
! Based in Mayo, Ireland, Laura is a Senior SEO Consultant working agency-side for over 7 years. She's recently joined the wonderful team over at Flow SEO and brings with her expertise in international SEO, organic video, site migrations and Disney trivia!

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?

Very much by accident, as I suppose is the case for most people! No one grows up wanting to optimise websites - from the age of 11 I wanted to work in film and TV. I was absolutely fascinated by the process and would spend hours watching behinds the scenes features, making short films and funny videos with my friends, and generally consuming as much film and tv as possible. Working in media was the only path I could see for myself and I was so desperate for it.

I went and studied at Confetti Institute at Creative Technologies in Nottingham for 4 years, with a top-up year at De Montfort in Leicester to get my degree. I worked so hard, like, really hard. I prioritised learning and being the best student over a social life, making memories and firm friendships. I was never a natural behind the camera or sound desk, my passion was for directing and producing. The organisation, construction and creative influence behind a piece. But, all the paperwork, research, dedication and consistency weren't enough to see me truly recognised for my efforts. There was always someone else. Someone whose parents had bought them the latest kit. Someone else who had no plan for what they were going to create, but who got their friends together and kicked out a music video late at night and won a Confetti award. It was heavily male-dominated, and the odds were always in favour of people who were more outgoing, better equipped, had fewer family ties and could work for free without worrying about paying their bills. It was heartbreaking, but I soon realised that I couldn't make the film and tv industry my career path.

After that, I took up whatever job would pay the bills, admin roles here and there. I got stuck in a long, tedious job at the financial company processing subject access requests and felt my life force leaving my body. I decided I needed to find something that was accessible, creative and paid well. I looked at marketing. There were a few false starts, some dodgy job ads that turned out to be scams.

Then I found a position at a digital marketing agency in Nottingham that sounded really interesting. It was for a junior SEO position. I quickly googled 'SEO'. Seemed interesting, a dynamic industry with lots of moving parts where things are always changing. I applied and read up on as much jargon as I could fit into my head. I passed the interview, throwing in a few mentions of 'serps' and 'structured data'. The rest is history.

What is your favourite SEO task?

I do love keyword research. I find it to be a really creative and investigative process. I love drilling down into topics, finding new ways that potential clients or users talk about subjects and weighing those against the client's product messaging. There's a lot of nuance to it and everyone seems to do it slightly differently. I love that. And you really have to keep the content purpose and audience in mind, making decisions about whether to go for high or low volume, low-hanging fruit, high intent etc. I find it really interesting.

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

Everyone says this, but I don't know if I could do my job without Screaming Frog, it really is a brilliant SEO tool. Aside from that, I seem to have a mental block when it comes to formulas and regex, so Chat GPT, SheetAPI, Keywords in Sheets and Formula God are also lifesavers.

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

I think when I finally figured out how canonicals work early in my career. For some reason, despite all the articles I'd read and fellow SEOs I'd spoken to, it just wasn't sinking in. Then one day when I was looking at a client's duplicate content, it clicked! Oooooooh, I get it now!

What is your proudest industry achievement?

Managing a big domain merge project for an international travel company, it was a huge learning curve and showed that even when you think you know a lot, there's always more to learn. I'm also very proud of the work I did with a B2B SaaS company in the hr tech space. My work with them helped my previous agency win a Drum award and saw the client achieve 168% increase in closed-won revenue.

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

Make mistakes and ask questions, try things. It's the best way to learn. You can read all the articles, and do all the courses, but if you can setup a Wordpress site on your own and get it ranking, that's worth 1000 SEO resources.

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

Gotta give some love to my new boss, Viola Eva, she really is an inspiration. From her journey in SEO, to starting Flow, to seeing how she treats clients and her team - she's a legend. The best thing about Viola is that she's always open to discuss, try and learn new things, she doesn't assume that because she owns her own agency she knows everything. There's great power in knowing what you don't know.

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

I would say CBT and a Rooibos tea! Before starting at my old agency, Hallam, I was an incredibly anxious person. I went through a period of not being able to sit in meetings and I couldn't have a one-on-one conversation with a superior. It was debilitating in both my professional and personal life. I had a round of CBT which ultimately opened my eyes to the fact that people don't exist to judge me, 9 times out of 10 they WANT me to do well and are rooting for me, and that generally people are good and kind. It unlocked my anxiety (although I think anxiousness is just part of my personality at this point) and gave me the ability to grow in my career.


Thanks Laura for a truly insightful interview! You can connect with Laura on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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to share your story with the world! Simply fill this form here, we welcome brilliant SEOs from all walks of life! 🙌🏽