Christina LeVasseur, at the time of our interview still Christina Brodzky (congratulations!), is an SEO Consultant and CEO of MediaSesh. Last week, we sat down to have a chat about her work in the industry and professional growth. Check out her tips for figuring out your place in the SEO world (or maybe even somewhere else?).
Could you briefly describe what you do and how it relates to SEO?
What I do each and every day will look a bit different depending on what’s going on, but I will say that on most days in the morning I will spend some time reading through and responding to some emails, I read about new discoveries, case studies from our industry. There is always something new!
If any of those items that I read may have an impact on clients’ analytics, I’ll go ahead and spend some time making annotations.
An example would be any confirmed or unconfirmed algorithm updates or anything else interesting that happened. I add these things to my agenda to update clients.
Then I spend a part of the day analyzing Google Analytics to see how organic traffic is performing, organic conversions, revenue, and looking to see if there are any top-priority items that I’ll need to investigate.
The rest of the day, that’s usually conducting some type of deep-dive analysis based on something interesting that came up from the data or it’s usually me working through some type of an audit.
That can include technical content, but not necessarily.
Do you mainly work from home or do you maintain an office? The pandemic has had a huge impact on many SEOs.
I do work from home and actually, I was working from home even before COVID had ever started.
I remember I used to get so distracted working at the office. People would always come up to the desk, ask me about my weekend, someone would be tapping their pen, or a phone would be ringing in the distance. Those things were always huge distractors for me.
That’s why I love working remotely. The one thing I do miss from before COVID happened is those post-work happy hours.
Did you work in a large office, then? Because I know you own a company, MediaSesh.
Now I have my own company. It started as a side hustle in 2015. And then, in early 2019, was when I was officially on my own. Previous to that, I had always worked for large agencies supporting mid-market to large enterprises.
How many people do you employ?
I am the sole employee but I do have people that assist me, whether that’s a virtual assistant or an SEO freelancer.
I thought about growing my company. I remember there were a lot of leads coming my way and I had an opportunity to grow my business into something really big, but I realized that as I was growing the business, I was becoming more anxious.
I felt maybe keeping this operation small is what works for me.
What type of clients do you work with, individual ones, big companies?
I would say I’m the person you come to before working with a large agency. I think that helps with the foundational items, some technical, but also content, some link-building. I don’t work with small businesses any longer, I did once upon a time, but I find that there’s not enough work for me. I like long-term contracts, that is what gives me a lot of opportunities.
As my clients grow, they need more engagement and then I have recommendations for agencies they should work with. I am the person you come to before your company needs additional SEO resources.
What qualities do you think are important for this kind of work?
As far as traits, what is really important in our industry is to have integrity, accountability, and honesty. You can’t teach that stuff, but that’s what makes you an amazing SEO who gets leads for years to come.
Is it harder for women in this industry?
As far as my gender, I don’t think it has an impact on the work that I do. I know during the course of my career, I have been made to feel like a valuable member of a team by both men and women, but, on the flip side, I was also made to feel inferior by both men and women.
I think it has been an even playground.
And what is your favorite part of the job?
I like anything that allows me to think strategically and analytically. It’s the part of my brain I enjoy using.
There are so many different paths that someone can take in this industry. The part I like the most is interpreting data in order to craft next-step recommendations. This can come in handy when I have to explain to clients why traffic decreased and what they should do next.
I think it’s healthy to have a love-hate relationship with SEO. There are days that my hair is on fire and I just think “I hate this place,” but I think overall the positives outweigh the negatives. I love seeing my clients being able to bring on new people since I was able to get them more money, that feels really good.
But my favorite part of the job is when I am able to give back for free. That might come in the form of mentoring, giving free advice to small businesses so they have a fighting chance. While I love-hate SEO, I love being able to give back.
What are the biggest challenges in your field?
What a great question. I think what’s really interesting about our industry is that we all take different approaches to sometimes arrive at the same answer. And what I think, what that ends up doing, is causing some riffs between SEOs, and how one person thinks they’re right because their method worked and vice versa.
At the end of the day, the goal is to help clients get more money. It’s a challenge when you see conflicting data. The solution to that is for us to all share our experiences, learn from them and realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Has the pandemic changed your workflow in any way?
Not really, I’ve worked from home since, I think, 2015. It has not disrupted my workflow, but
I can see how it may have impacted the workflow of some clients.
When COVID had first started I noticed three different types of clients. One was the “Oh my goodness, we have to stop what we’re doing, we’re gonna go under” and the pandemic has impacted them very negatively.
There were some clients that said, “Um, I think we’re gonna push ahead, not really sure what this means for us, let’s just play it out day-by-day”.
And I had other clients, one e-com client, in particular, that said, “We need to ramp it up, this is amazing.” COVID was really good to them.
So for my day-to-day, I’m really just rolling with the punches and the fluctuations that my clients have experienced.
As far as clients, I have not been able to accept any new clients for almost a year, but I would say there has been a variety. There have been some more e-commerce clients that I’ve had as referrals, I pass them on to other SEO consultants. But I would probably say that’s a trend that I personally have seen.
Before the pandemic, did you ever do any real-time meetups with clients, or conferences, or public speaking that would not be possible today?
The opportunities have been abundant. I remember before COVID, I was working remotely, we always did just phone calls, but then COVID happened and I felt like a lot of the smart communicators came online and they were teaching me how to be a better virtual communicator.
Zoom is something that I never used previously, and if I did, I never turned my camera on. Now I do.
I actually find that I’ve been able to attend more conferences and get to know who other thought-leaders in the SEO space are. I have also felt that I’ve been able to amplify my own visibility a little bit more because everything is virtual.
While I do miss seeing people face-to-face, I feel that having this virtual format has allowed the SEO community to communicate better with each other.
That’s really interesting. So, before COVID, you maybe wouldn’t necessarily go to a conference, but now you can watch them online, so you’re more inclined to participate.
Exactly. Even when I worked at an agency, I mean COVID happened when I was already by myself, but I felt that at agencies you really had to make a strong case for the company to shell out a budget for you to go to a conference.
And while conferences are so fun, it’s so challenging sometimes for companies to send you 3000 miles away to see or view sessions.
I think the pandemic has made events like conferences a lot more accessible.
What is your educational background?
I had graduated college in 2007. I don’t know if you remember anything from that time, but that was not a good time to get a job. My degree was in advertising and that field was not in a hiring frenzy.
But then, I eventually got a job in public relations. I had been doing that for a couple of years.
Then, the PR firm I was working at started a digital division. I had gone to over the directors, I told them I wanted to join, and then voila! A few months later I was on that team for online reputation management that was my start in the SEO industry.
And from there I had taken a short break to teach English in Vietnam because I figured I was young and had no obligations.
Then, when I came back, it had taken a little bit of time, because at that time there were not a million SEO jobs like there are today. But I got back into SEO again, but this time I was focusing solely on internal site search.
As time went on, I had an opportunity to learn a bit more about traditional SEO.
So, do you think you need a degree to work in SEO?
I am going to lean “no” on this one, especially since I didn’t get a degree in SEO in order to get into it. I just kind of worked my way in.
I will say, though, that unfortunately, the PR company I worked for, and a lot of other companies require a degree in order to get an entry-level job. Without that, I’m really not sure what I would be doing.
I’m confident I would figure it out regardless, but I don’t see there being any harm in taking some kind of class to learn the very basics.
For me, if I was to start a new career tomorrow, I probably would take some sort of course. But not spend the same amount of money as for a higher education degree.
What do you think about free resources for SEO, digital marketing, things like YouTube?
Absolutely. My Goodness, I was just having a conversation about this yesterday.
Free is fine if you don’t have the budget, but I want to say, if you’ve got a little bit of money, don’t be afraid to use it as an investment in learning faster by working with a consultant one-on-one, get the chance to pick their brain.
There are a plethora of SEO courses out there. Depending on how you learn best, I know everyone says you can learn SEO for free, but there is no harm, no shame in spending a little bit of money to quicken the process.
I follow Jamar Ramos. He is my Twitter bestie. He is the number-one support system anyone could have.
I also follow Kristie Plantinga. She is someone that lives here in Denver, Colorado. We actually met through the Women in Tech SEO group. She provides SEO for therapists, which, you would think is very niche, but she gets a lot of leads, it’s every type of therapist that you can really think of, small, larger practice, she does one-on-one consulting and training, webinars, etc.
I usually tell people “If you’re interested in seeing who I follow, just look at my follow list on Twitter.”
Is there any advice you’d like to give SEO newbies?
Yes. I would say never stop learning because the knowledge keeps changing. There is a lot to learn about SEO, and it doesn’t matter if you have been doing it since the beginning or if you are just starting.
Just know that there’s going to be a steep learning curve, like in everything, keep at it, be confident, trust your gut, and know that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.
What tools should they learn?
My main tools are Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
I don’t think they’re perfect, of course, no tool is, but I use it as a way to learn about how visitors are seeing a website, how they get to a website, from where did they come, how they engage with a website. I use it as a tool to see what’s going on and how to craft next-step recommendations.
Data is one of the most important things an SEO can learn about. Being able to interpret the data is very important. Anyone can look at GSC or Analytics and see that traffic or site errors and warnings are going up and down, but what you do with that data is more important.
Outside of that, I use Screaming Frog. That is my go-to for everything. And then, after that, Semrush.
How did you find out about Women in Tech SEO? Do you often work with them?
I had first come across Women in Tech SEO on their Facebook group. It was early on when I was officially on my own. I wanted to find other brilliant SEOs to connect with since I was no longer at an agency. I didn’t have that resource anymore.
Then I found out that they had a Slack channel. And so, I would say, I heard about Women in Tech SEO in 2019, but this is the first time I am collaborating with them on anything.
So, SEO path: do you think it looks the same for everyone? Can you skip some steps?
With my presentation for Women in Tech SEO, I wanted it to be a little bit different than some of the other ones. There is a ton of great presentations on technical, content, link building, etc.
I wanted something that was a little bit more internal. So, the presentation that I will be giving will be on the 10 questions to ask yourself as you carve your path in the SEO industry.
The ultimate goal is for listeners to learn more about themselves. In order to find their niche, get the money they deserve, and see how they can make a difference.
I strongly believe there is a place for everyone in the industry and this workshop will be a place for you to discover where you fit in.
How can they start?
If I was to start in any new industry tomorrow, the first thing I would do is read a book on it and take a lot of notes. Those notes are then going to be transferred over into questions I wanna ask someone in that industry. Before I see someone I wanna come prepared with intelligent questions.
Then, I would reach out to my network to see who knows who in the industry that I can connect with for just a half-hour informational sort of thing. That’s where I’ll ask my questions and learn a lot from that person.
I also have to recommend connecting with the Women in Tech SEO group, ask your questions, there is enormous support from women from all different walks of life.
I would also encourage SEOs to experiment on their own. Start your own website, even. I look at my website as one huge sandbox. I do a lot of testing to see what works, what doesn’t on this small-scale site.
When did you start this website? Is it still up?
I started MediaSesh.com in 2015 when I officially came up with, well, I thought, a clever business name.
I had used one of those WordPress themes. During the course of my career, I dabbled into coding, but then I started my own website and there have been a lot of learning lessons along the way.
I look at the website I had in 2015 and I think it’s funny because I would not have that same website today. I’m sure 5 years from now, I will look at my current website, and I will think “It looks ridiculous, what was I thinking?”
I would encourage anyone to just start their own website. It’s not going to be perfect, we’re not perfect, just use it as a place to try different things and you’ll never get better unless you get started.
And lastly, what is the one thing you’d like your listeners to remember from your workshop?
I think I mentioned this before, but what I really want listeners to take away is for them to learn about themselves. To find their niche, get the money that they want and deserve, and find out how they can make a difference.
I’ve joked around that my presentation is a little hippie-dippie because of the questions you’ll be asking yourself, but I think it’s a way for you to explore and advance your career in SEO and determine whether this is the industry you want to stay in.
No one talks about retiring from SEO. I think it’s something we should discuss.
What do you mean by “retire” from SEO?
Leaving the industry. I think I’m starting to see people retire in general. Because SEO is still new-ish, we’ve seen people enter but we haven’t really seen them leave. But now, over the last couple of years, I have noticed some of the tenured or more experienced, seasoned SEOs retire.
Seeing them leave – I like that. I ask myself, can I see myself doing SEO forever? I don’t know. I like it for now, but I may decide to go to another industry, and the way I would approach this is by asking myself the same questions I will be including in my presentation.