Starting an Agency: Stephanie Thomas on SEO and Team Learning

Starting an Agency: Stephanie Thomas on SEO and Team Learning

Welcome to Marketer Interview, where we interview some of the most exciting and successful marketers!

Today, we have Stephanie Thomas, a senior digital content professional with an entrepreneurial mindset.

She is a freelance consultant starting her agency specializing in SEO/content marketing, team learning experiences, and digital marketing strategies.

Stephanie has experience working in various industries such as IT, insurance, home, web hosting, IoT, marketing, eCommerce, and agency experience. With her eye for detail and analytical nature, Stephanie inspires change, growth, and knowledge through challenges.

In this interview, we will learn about Stephanie’s career journey, her SEO and content marketing approach, her team learning experiences, and the tools and software she uses for her job.

Can you tell us about your career journey in the marketing industry?

I’d love to! I was a Communications student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas after transferring from fashion school in Chicago.

I was looking for a career that would fulfill me. I wanted a way to make my career like a startup. I had taken some creative marketing classes and decided to put my creative skills to the test.

I began speaking to small business owners I could bounce ideas off of. Some of them needed help, so I started taking odd jobs.

At one point, I ordered custom Bentleys as an executive marketing assistant, then helped a commercial real estate sales exec find clients and write proposals. Next, getting my feet wet in the agency world, I learned affiliate marketing.

How did you get interested in SEO and content marketing?

Initially, I found joy in using marketing copy and keywords with various digital campaigns as I was green to marketing. However, I’ve always been detail-oriented and loved research and writing.

Playing around with these campaigns taught me the value of quality SEO and content, which can take you anywhere. That led me to start my series of blogs. I get the most joy from A/B testing and experimenting with SEO tactics, link building, and performance ads.

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Can you share your approach to creating a successful content marketing strategy?

I’ve adopted a system out of my experience working at agencies. It can be summed up using the Flywheel approach.

You must earn attention from customers, not force it. And by combining SEO, social media, paid ads, and quality web content consistently, you can get that wheel spinning.

The key is approaching it with as much research as possible; competitive, historical, and market research. It takes a lot of attention to detail, but it ensures a great start to a successful strategy.

How do you measure the success of your content marketing efforts?

Measuring content marketing success isn’t one-size-fits-all. It will always depend on the goals of my clients.

In the B2B space, success will depend on leads. Other times, eCommerce D2C clients will want me to measure sales.

Either way, seeing a keyword reaching the top of the SERPs is thrilling. It lights my eyes up and lets me know we’re heading in the right direction!

Can you share any tips for creating SEO-friendly content?

Often, people assume SEO-friendly content will be robotic and stuffed with keywords.

The key is to do your keyword research first, create your outline with the keyword topics in mind, and drop in phrases naturally as you go.

Utilize headings and subheadings, using long-tail keywords where it makes sense. However, you can still write high-quality (human) content if it’s well-researched, informative, and engaging.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest SEO and content marketing trends and techniques?

LinkedIn has grown to be a knowledge hub for marketers like myself.

It’s too easy to open up my app and see anything from Google updates to trending topics and SEO tips at my fingertips from industry professionals. I feel the same way about my favorite subreddits. I don’t have to seek them out; they come to me.

Can you tell us about when you faced a challenging project in your career and how you overcame it?

There comes a time in everyone’s career when they feel burnt out.

Earlier in my career, I felt pigeonholed strictly to social media management.

Even though my skill set always included the multifaceted parts of content marketing, I needed to take on more content and SEO projects that would prove my abilities to hiring managers and clients.

I had to learn how to communicate my desires to managers more directly. It’s been my experience as a woman; you must put yourself out there to be seen and heard. I have grown into the marketer I always knew I was through my practice and vouching for myself.

Can you share any team learning experiences that have positively impacted your work?

I’ve recently discovered learning experiences through workshops and lunch-and-learns with colleagues.

Most recently, I joined a storytelling workshop. You build camaraderie when you put a group of people together, connect personally and professionally, and know their stories – even if it’s not about marketing.

Understanding a person’s communication style breaks down the invisible barriers of working on a remotely distributed team. You also learn the strengths and weaknesses of others.

Through the interactions, you can better empathize and work out a partnership with your colleagues that makes projects even better than before.

All this helped when I was hosting a learning session for my colleagues recently. A feeling of purpose and confidence came over me and solidified why I keep going in this industry.

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How do you balance creativity and data analysis in your content marketing work?

As a creative person, it’s come naturally to me when in the idea stage. I use data as a tool to feed off of and inspire me for the next project.

Let’s say a piece outperforms a series of long-form content. I take that high performer, inspiring me to dovetail off the subject to create more successful content. I then learn from the not-so-great content. It’s an experience!

What essential tools and software do you use for your job, and how do they help you?

I have too many tools in my arsenal to name! Some essentials (aside from Google Analytics and Search Console) include:

  • Ahrefs for competitive research, keyword research, and content gap analysis
  • ScreamingFrog for technical SEO and audits
  • HubSpot for marketing automation and as a CRM
  • Grammarly, because I am an (at fault) perfectionist when it comes to writing

These are the critical components of my marketing puzzle. I couldn’t do my job without them!

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