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Interviewing Natasha Burtenshaw-deVries

Welcome to a new Weekly Interviews edition where we interview brilliant women in our industry and share their stories with the world! Anyone is welcome to share their story by simply filling this form, we encourage women from all walks of life in our industry to do so.

Introducing Natasha Burtenshaw-deVries! Based in Canada, Natasha is the Director of Organic Growth at Flywheel Digital and a Continuing Education Instructor at George Brown College in Toronto. After starting her career working with children, she now brings her love for teaching to her students, team and clients. When she's not strategizing or teaching about SEO, you can find her sailing in the harbour, cheering on her favourite soccer teams or playing trombone in a local orchestra.

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?

Like a lot of people, somewhat accidentally. I started my career working with youth in a variety of settings from a Montessori school and summer camps to fly-in reserves in Northern Ontario and social housing communities. After feeling it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and a lack of full-time opportunities, I made a somewhat impulse decision to apply to a post-graduate program in digital marketing after discovering a knack for it through volunteer social media work and playing around with websites and blogging since I was a kid.

I spent my co-op term working for a small home healthcare agency getting their digital presence going. The initial plan was for it to be more social media focused but with home healthcare, you don't really build brand awareness in the typical way — you need to be in search when people are desperately searching for help they needed yesterday. I spent a summer doing lots of hands on learning and experimentation with their website, landed an SEO and paid search role at an agency following my final semester and the rest is history!

What is your favourite SEO task?

Most of my work these days involves big picture strategy which I love, but nothing makes me happier than digging into an optimization of a page. I've always worked on smaller sites where every page matters and I love tinkering with copy and structure and seeing how even small changes can have a big impact.

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

I guess it's not a tool, but simply looking at the SERP itself. It's so underrated but there are so many hints and insights there about what Google wants to see in your content, and of course what competitors are doing so you can make your website even better!

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

The first time I really cleaned up a poorly structured site (bad heading structure, a lot of thin and duplicate content created by WordPress plugins) and saw the traffic immediately increase — a lot of dots connected in my head about how Google crawls content and how much what we can't fully see matters to the bots. It also showed me that good SEO isn't complicated but it's like a house — the fanciest furniture or finishes don't matter if your foundation is crumbling.

What is your proudest industry achievement?

The first client where I created the strategy and set everything up on my own was a brand new local hair salon. The person who hired me left a few months later (and no replacement was hired) so I was a brand new SEO suddenly given a lot of responsibility. I did the keyword research, planned the content, set up the ads account...and watched them grow from two stylists to filling all their chairs and stopping their Google Ads because they were always fully booked! Not only was that a personal accomplishment for my growth as a marketer, it was really touching to be able to really see the impact of my work on someone's business.

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

Ground yourself in the fundamentals of having an easy to crawl site, quality content, understanding your users' needs and search intent, and building your website's authority. If you do this, you'll be a solid 80% of the way to SEO success. It's easy to get caught up in the black and white thinking of many SEOs online and the latest tricks and tactics, but if you keep learning about and executing the foundational stuff then you're set.

Also, find a community. Courses, articles and webinars are great but the best learning happens from talking and learning from others working in the field. You may also be surprised at the opportunities and friendships you'll find along the way!

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

I'm always grateful for my manager, Liz! I wouldn't be in a client management role without her seeing that potential in me and her endless support, coaching and strategic expertise. I cannot emphasize how "What would Liz do?" guides so much of my work and client conversations!

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

Switching careers into digital marketing surprised a lot of people and I don't want to say they didn't believe me, but I don't think they fully understood why I chose it and what the plan was. Emptying my savings account to go back to school and completely change my career at just 25 wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done (especially with a family member undergoing treatment for brain cancer throughout my first semester as well), but it completely changed my life for the better and the hard word metaphorically and literally paid off.

Looking back on that journey, and knowing how many people helped me get to where I am today, keeps me going and also motivates me to give back through teaching and mentorship.


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

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! 🙌🏽