“One of the superior elements of adjusting site architecture is research” – Interview with Aleks Zarzycka

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Aleks Zarzycka is a junior SEO specialist at Onely. We had a chat about what she is passionate about in SEO and her beginnings in the industry. She wrote an in-depth article about site architecture that I also wanted to discuss. We ended up covering many topics, from her experience in SEO and daily routine to working at Onely and helping our clients improve their websites.

First things first – do you prefer to be called Aleksandra or Ola?

Actually, you can call me Aleks! It may make more sense to English-speaking readers (laughs).

I totally get that! So many people are confused by Malgorzata and Gosia somehow being the same name. So, how did you first get into SEO?

I have many years of experience in the travel industry. At one of my previous jobs, I began to discover the importance of SEO and how it could help companies.

I saw how creating valuable content and including it on your website can help respond to people’s needs – that is also a key element of site architecture. Improving a website’s performance can translate into increased revenue.

So I began to analyze our data and explore the steps the company should take next, and eventually became a part of the SEO team.

I joined Onely in January of 2021, and here I am!

How passionate about SEO are you exactly?

I’m very passionate about it, but there are always new things to learn that are not necessarily easy!

The more I learn about technical SEO, the more code I see. Do you view yourself as a coder?

(Laughs) Maybe someday! But I’m not there yet.

What are your favorite aspects of SEO?

I would say market research; this is one of the first elements that got me hooked on SEO and site architecture. For me, they are these real-world and “human” elements of SEO.

I like to find out what users want to see on websites and why and how we can make it easier for them to find relevant content. I can spend hours on end learning about user intent and exploring the most appropriate ways of showing information to satisfy customers’ needs.

Speaking of site architecture, congrats on your article! It introduced a whole topic to me that, frankly, I didn’t know much about. What gave you the push to write it? Did you see the need for an article like that online?

Site architecture is one of the most interesting aspects of a website for me. After digging in and doing research, I saw that there was, in fact, other material on the subject, but I wanted to create a specific type of article. I wanted mine to be thorough, direct, and guide the reader through the process step by step. These are the types of articles I enjoy reading – informative, detailed, and ones that I can follow through.

What would you say is the most important aspect of site architecture you mention in the article?

One of the superior elements of adjusting site architecture is research, followed by other steps. We might think we know what our website should look like, but without research, it’s just guessing. Our users may approach our website differently than we do.

I’m curious – have you encountered any strikingly bad examples of site architecture on clients’ websites?

Unfortunately, yes…

This is a particularly major issue for large e-commerce websites, less so for blogs. As a result, customers of e-commerce companies can experience difficulties in completing their intended actions, not to mention the issues it can cause for search engines and their understanding of the site.

Personally, if a site I visit is too confusing and I can’t navigate to what I want to do, I generally just quit it – and I’m sure many others do the same.

I agree – I do that too. Very often, important information that seems basic for anyone feels like it’s nowhere to be found. What do you think, which issue is the most severe when it comes to site architecture? The lack of information is one thing for me or when I’m asked to perform a long and complicated process full of unnecessary tasks to just complete a single action.

What also baffles me is the use of peculiar, non-intuitive, or non-specific names of categories, menu items, navigation elements, and so on. It happens more often than it should, or than I would expect it!

I try not to focus on negative elements, though – in life and in SEO (laughs). What I tend to notice first are a website’s positive aspects and things that it’s doing well.

That’s a great approach; I didn’t know it also worked in SEO (laughs)! Let’s reverse it then and focus on the positives. What is the biggest asset of a website when it comes to site architecture?

It may sound simple, but when I can access all information easily, and it flows and connects naturally.

And when it lets me quickly jump to and explore related topics and content. It’s a pleasure to use websites that are well-planned and are made with the user in mind.

Let’s discuss your work now – how do you typically work with clients? What does your communication look like?

Two-way communication is actually the crucial part of our work – we use Slack and one of the tools for managing tasks for the client’s team, like Trello or Asana. We give clients tasks to complete and follow up with them.

We also schedule meetings where we divide responsibilities, and, if necessary, we are available for additional appointments if any issues require more explanation. We try to ensure that all tasks are straightforward – we explain the tasks until the client’s team understands what needs to be done and how.

Does every workday have a tight schedule, or does it vary?

Every day is different, but it generally revolves around monitoring progress on websites in Google Search Console.

Changes to sites are not implemented daily, but I stay on top of the tasks and possible issues.

And what is the first thing that you do every day?

I make coffee (laughs). I can’t do much before having my morning coffee – and for me, it really is MORNING coffee, as I usually start at 7 am – or at least I try to (laughs).

And then, I can proceed with looking at my list of tasks for the upcoming day.

You’ve been at Onely since January 2021, and I’ve been here since February. I think we’ve had enough time to learn a thing or two about the company and how the whole team operates. Which qualities do you immediately associate with Onely and its team?

The first thing that comes to mind is that everyone is direct and determined. When website issues require more time or are more complicated, we get to the core of the problem and continue working on it until it is solved.

Our team is also results-oriented and focuses on achieving outcomes that will benefit our client’s company, even if it’s a long process.

Another element is that everyone is supportive and gives you space to work the way that’s most comfortable for you. If you need to run an errand in the middle of the day and will be back to work in the evening, there is no issue, and I definitely appreciate that.

Yes, I think this space is often underestimated but extremely valuable. You’ve mentioned that you’re still learning and working on your skills. Who do you typically work with on a daily basis that helps you grow?

I spend a lot of time with Maria Cieślak, and let me start by saying how much I value her expertise and dedication. She still surprises me every single day – in the best way (laughs). She represents a whole new approach to things we deal with. I think she’s exceptionally ambitious and, what is rare, she is not afraid to admit if she doesn’t know something – though sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s possible (laughs)!

If you had to choose just one thing that makes Onely stand out from the competition, what would it be?

That we are not afraid of dismantling a website and analyzing it piece by piece. If we think something can improve the website’s condition, we ask our clients to change it, even if it’s challenging and takes time.

About your clients: what type of companies or businesses do you work with the most? Is it individuals with smaller websites or big companies with multiple markets?

I would say the majority is definitely bigger companies, especially large e-commerce websites. But that’s not a rule – my first project at Onely was for a blog.

I’m sure you can give me a whole list of answers to this question, but I’ll risk it… What are the most common issues that you see your clients face?

A common issue is site indexation. And I often encounter problems with site architecture. Even one of my recent projects involved this issue. What is interesting to me is that it was actually our initiative to adjust and redo it – the client was initially unaware of this being a problem.

I guess that’s another proof that site architecture is an issue that’s often overlooked. So your clients can use your knowledge and experience to make their websites better, and they count on you to tell them what should be fixed, right? But what is it that you expect from them?

That they implement the changes we recommend (laughs)! And this is a bigger issue than you might imagine.

You’re right; I didn’t know it was so common (laughs). How often does it happen that your recommendations are not implemented?

Too often – some clients either don’t do it, or they delay it.

I know there can be various reasons for that. Sometimes they simply need to rely on their developers’ availability. In many cases, delays occur due to financial limitations but also the lack of motivation. I feel like they are not convinced that completing a specific task will be effective and beneficial for their website. Trust me – it will.

SEO is about practice and taking action. Without implementations, it becomes a theory, which does not have as much value. Also, in SEO, different solutions will work for various websites, so it’s essential to test and try out new and improved solutions.

I hope your words convince them to implement what’s necessary! Now, I see that every person working in SEO gets asked this question a lot, so I will be no different. What are your favorite SEO tools that you use when you work?

Well, I am addicted to Answer the Public; that’s my number one tool. And I like using SEMrush, especially for phrase analysis.

Which SEO blogs or websites do you follow to stay up to date with the industry?

That’s actually a difficult question!

What I benefit from is being part of the community and learning from others. For example, I learn from our team at Onely and follow industry social media channels for the latest news.

One of my top communities has to be Women in Tech SEO, though – being a part of it gives me confidence and support to grow in technical SEO.

I discovered Women in Tech SEO quite recently, and I do love what they do as a community. I feel like it was much needed to have this kind of energy in the search industry! Alright, I’ve asked you a lot about work, but there is more to life than that, even if your work is your passion. Is there room and time for other stuff in your life beyond SEO?

Of course! I love reading and walking my dog – it relaxes me. But my number one passion is traveling and exploring the world in as many ways as I can.

Are you planning to write any other articles soon?

I definitely want to write more articles, but currently, it may have to wait.

I’m preparing to conduct a workshop for Women in Teach SEO on the communication between SEOs and developers. Onely is actually a sponsor of the workshop. But I am planning on writing an article about it, so look out for it on our blog!

What is your one piece of advice for those who are just starting out in SEO?

Join Onely (laughs)!

Honestly, it’s hard to disagree! Is there anything else?

Find someone who can mentor you and share their knowledge and experience with you. Even better if you can talk to them and consult anything you do – this kind of assistance is invaluable, especially at the very beginning of your SEO journey.

Since we’re giving advice now, picture this: there is a person who is seriously struggling with their website’s performance. What advice would you give them? Where do they start improving it?

Start at the beginning – outline your strategy and desired results and how you want to achieve them. Do you have the motivation and resources to improve your website? You should answer “yes” to both motivation and resources.

Define what you want to achieve before you set out to achieve it. And if you don’t know how to make your website better, we are more than happy to help!