“Marketing is no longer just artistic. It becomes mathematical.” – Interview with Jill Quick

Interview with Jill Quick - Hero Image

Jill Quick is an analytics consultant and co-founder of The Coloring in Department. More importantly, she is passionate about everything she does and it was an immense pleasure to sit down with her for an interview. This talk turned out to barely cover SEO, but I guarantee it’s worth your time!

What does your day-to-day entail, and how does it relate to SEO?

Well, my work isn’t directly linked with SEO. 

Since the pandemic has started, the services I traditionally offer have changed. At the moment, I would classify myself as an analytics consultant. I mostly train, consult, and create materials mainly to do with migration from G3 to G4 in-house for larger brands.

I also do a lot of audits and reviews on Google Analytics. While I work with brands directly, I also collaborate with several agencies as a freelancer. They contact me when they experience overflow. With this kind of work, I hardly have any contact with clients.

I am also working on the side, developing my own training materials on the topic of GA4. I’m fortunate to have enough paid work to free up some time and work on what drives me.

In layman’s terms, people often want to understand what the numbers are saying. So I audit and explain, using the numbers as a blueprint to justify marketing tactics.

What is your favorite part of the job?

What I enjoy most about my job is working with small brands, not large companies with all the money. 

I love giving the opportunity for smaller teams to pick up skills and experience they could only get at large companies. It’s wonderful to give them tools and skills and a pathway to accomplish great things. This kind of work is a lot more rewarding since, with the big companies, I know they will be fine regardless.

I still get emails from people I taught ages ago; they say they remember my lectures and advice, they tell me how it has impacted their jobs, and they still ask for help.

How does working from home affect your work? Do you miss times before the pandemic?

Pre-pandemic, I had to be physically present on-site for teaching, workshops, lecturing at universities, and physically seeing clients.

Many jobs simply stopped because of the pandemic, including school. I have two small children, so teaching, taking care of them was a priority. So it’s been an interesting time.

Pre-pandemic I was renting an office in central London. I was spending 10-15 hours a week commuting – that’s time I could be spending on my own projects or with children.

Now, my work is still going on, but I don’t have the office anymore.

I think the pandemic has removed the stigma of working from home. Beforehand, I would get comments almost like, “Aww, you work from home. You’re not a real consultant.” Nowadays, it’s like, “You’re working from home, wonderful.”

I find I can work just as effectively from home, and I don’t think we need an office. Many clients that previously insisted on meeting are now perfectly comfortable with zoom.

My kids are 6 and 9, so I have a small window of wanting to talk and cuddle. However, teenagers are different, and I don’t want to miss this stage. That’s why working from home really suits me.

In terms of training – I don’t do the full days anymore. People do not want to sit in front of Zoom for 8 hours. They don’t have the mental space to do that. They have cognitive overload; it’s been challenging to adjust. Interaction is very different online; 2-3 hours is good enough now.

And what are your plans post-pandemic? Are you planning on returning to the office?

Things are starting to pick up again. I’ve been waiting for my second jab to come in, so I feel fully confident out of the home.

Businesses are getting ready for the hybrid approach. I don’t really want to travel without needing to.

My husband’s at work during the day, but from 3.30 the house gets noisy. But we have a new coworking space just a 5-minute walk from my house. So I’m going to do a hybrid of working at home and at the office in the evenings.

Brands and businesses that used to only be in central London are perfectly open to a hybrid model. There’s now an opportunity down the road for hybrid work instead of being glued to an office. I believe post-pandemic people will no longer want to commute as much.

But it’s all about blending around the children. I wouldn’t go to the coworking space if it weren’t for the children.

How do you find clients?

At the moment, it’s more that clients find me. It’s usually somebody that I’ve either taught, or they’ve seen some of my social media posts. So it’s about word of mouth. I don’t have to use PPC, as we have enough clients coming in from reputation.

And what issues do they inquire about?

Marketing is no longer just artistic. It becomes mathematical. Typically the clients, for some reason, are not comfortable with data, or the numbers don’t make sense. People don’t know what they don’t know. 

Going further, many clients don’t realize that the data they are reporting on is inaccurate in some way. They may not know that they are presenting data in Data Studio or report, but the account is set up wrong. As a result, the data is not the whole truth. It is under- or over-attributed. And you need to have confidence in your data.

Sometimes they don’t realize where the problem lies until after I’ve done an audit. My catchphrase is that confabulations of data are a lie honestly told. 

This is where we come in. We want to make sure we present the right numbers to the right people and justify recommendations and strategies.

Where are the problems clients are facing coming from?

Well, with analytics, there is no formal education, no formal training. It’s more like “here’s your login, work.”

You’re assuming that the account’s fine. You have some knowledge, and that might be as far as it goes. There is no definitive skill set needed, and that’s where the gaps are coming from.

The other angle some clients come with, they come from venture capitalist companies. They tell me, “Somebody is going to give me a lot of money – we are going for that funding, we have to present numbers that are correct, there is no room for error, we need to be confident.” 

I go into analytics CPA, report on return of ad spend, review how it’s being configured, how data is processed. The goal is to get to a clean line of truth right for the client’s business model.

It’s rinse and repeat for most clients. As mentioned before, I do this for agencies as well. The only difference is that I don’t present to the client. They do.

It’s great, but I do like having the follow-up. You know, do the audit, present the findings. I like to see the impact the piece of that puzzle will make.

Going back to the lack of formal training and education, what is your background?

I don’t think many people follow my background. I have been doing marketing since I was 14 during my GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). In sixth form, I continued with business studies and aced my marketing modules.

Then I went on to work at PR companies, agencies; I got a plethora of work experience in the marketing scope, not yet digital, but fliers, faxes, and so on. I got a degree in marketing management. 

The format was interesting. It’s what’s called a sandwich degree. You do two years, and the third year is work experience. I worked for a web agency building websites. There was no analytics yet.

Then the fourth year, the final year to finish was back at university. I got first-class honors, and I credit that to working in the industry. Experience is so important.

The marketing management degree got me into my first roles in marketing as a post-grad. I worked for a lot of charities and non-profits.

Then I did my master’s level. Big companies need that formal education, so I did it. During that time, I carried on working in lots of different companies.

Then I had my son, and I realized I couldn’t make it work with the hours I was doing. So I set myself up as a freelancer, and I’ve been like that ever since. I was lucky to find what I loved very early on.

In your opinion, do you need formal education to work in your field?

Qualifications work, but it’s not as gated anymore. You just need to be able to do the job.

Most people I work with never did marketing degrees. Of course, the degree part can help you live your shared experiences, but looking back, could I have got where I am today without the degree? 

Yes. I’ve met people who started at the bottom with no degrees, and they are charging the same. And even now, I am still paying off my student debt.

Nobody asks me when they hire me as a consultant what my education is, but who I’ve worked with and what I have done.

Some corporate jobs require you to have those qualifications, but there are many more opportunities for those who can show they are willing to work now.

A lot of what we learned at university became out of date very quickly. Therefore, I believe you don’t need to go to university unless you are really passionate about the subject or want to work in something like the medical field or a big fat corporate.

If my kids wanted to go into digital marketing, I would not tell them to go to university but get a part-time job in the field and earn experience. 

In my 25 years of experience, I learned you get jumps from jobs, not degrees.

The difference between me 20 years ago and young people now is that we didn’t have YouTube. So you don’t need to invest a lot of money to self-teach yourself if you know what you’re looking for.

The things that I still call upon from my degree center around structure and strategy. That doesn’t change the formula, the approach of strategic building, and internal communication.

At the time, I found it boring, and I didn’t use these skills until I was in a managerial role eight years later.

Organizations like Women in Tech SEO also didn’t exist then. Before, education was gated by money and privilege. It’s different now, so it’s difficult to compare with my example.

How you do it, where you click, where you go – you get that in workshops, hands-on non-traditional roots to get educated.

With universities, they have to submit a curriculum years in advance. It’s so hard to change anything. Once you’ve written your lesson plan, it’s out of date.

I enjoyed the degree for research and critical thinking. What’s funny is that I didn’t realize I learned that until later down the line.

I have to admit, I can’t completely say the same for myself, but I did study in a different field. All I learned about marketing and content creation was on the job, so I agree with you there. What is your one piece of advice for those who are just starting out in SEO?

Get hands-on experience as much as possible.

Where do you go when doing research or when you want to expand your knowledge?

It depends on what I want to learn. I don’t have a go-to place, but I have a self-awareness that I need to go beyond just understanding analytics.

Being involved in analytics, I try and look at expanding my skillsets to make me a better consultant, but that doesn’t always have to do with analytics at all.

I became interested in copy – I am dyslexic, so I process things differently – I invested in Joanna Wiebe’s Copyhackers School. She’s good. She’ll talk to you like a normal person. It’s well worth the money.

I am a small business, I write my own content. If I write like an analyst, no one will read that. While copywriting is not essential, I need to know enough to be dangerous!

What’s more, data visualization is critical to present. I need to make it easy for clients to understand. So when I want to dive into user experience, design elements, I dive into TED talks, reading blogs from people in the industry.

I believe YouTube is also a great resource. Talks and conferences reference other experts, and you just go down the rabbit hole.

Recently I read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. You will be angry when you read it, but it’s eye-opening. It pulled together academic papers that prove the world is built on a dataset for men.

Do you think this influences search?

I’ve come across many examples of when languages default to men. The same goes for voice search. The corpus of data was male data search, many may not recognize female voices.

Even me, I’d had this unconscious bias to refer to the boss as a male. This comes from education, culture, storybooks. This book opened my eyes. Since then, I always concentrate on promoting women, girls. The men can look after themselves.

How did you find out about Women in Tech SEO? How long have you been a member? 

I think I joined because a lot of the speakers I met at conferences told me about Areej. I met her in 2019, and I joined fairly early on – at least, I like to think it was early on.

Female SEO speakers recommended the Slack community, how helpful it is, how it’s not cliquey.

Do you often collaborate?

For the most part, I’m a quiet lurker, I am not active, but I listen and observe. I am not a vocal member of the community, but I don’t think the community needs everyone to be loud but absorb the content.

This is going to be the first time I’m doing the workshop. I pitched the idea to Areej at the beginning of the year. 

I really like that they pay their speakers. I am donating my share to charities (Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and Choose Love), but I do think speakers should get paid for their work and time.

I like the idea of giving training that I charge for to women who may not have the funds. This year has been so hard for people, impacting income, and it’s my way of giving back to the community and leveling them up.

Your topic for the WTS workshop is GA4. Could you briefly introduce the topic?

The topic is really how to go from GA3 to GA4. The analytics platform we are using is going to be ten years old soon. There have been so many changes around search – it’s analytics time to change.

I will present the helicopter method – my process based on GA4 implementations and audits, categorized – you don’t need to do everything straight away – there are 5 phases. Depending on skills, time commitment, you may get away with just a phase for now.

There’s a long to-do list – cutting it up into sections is a lot more doable; complete the task, move on.

Some clients tell me they don’t want to move on to GA4. Then, I ask them: “Okay. If we aren’t migrating to GA4, then where are we migrating?”. GA3 is going to stop. Do you want to be prepared or not?

What do you hope listeners learn or remember from your workshop?

I remember when this was announced – October 2020 – and I just remember thinking, “I don’t need this on top of my job.” But I’m afraid I am the bearer of bad news – analytics is going to change whether you like it or not. If you don’t upgrade, you will have an analytics ecosystem that has an expiration date on it.

People are thinking, “I’m just trying to get through the day, the pandemic,” which makes people uncomfortable for change. Many have the approach that “I know I need to do something about it, but I don’t know what.” 

Nonetheless, GA is changing. Nobody likes change, and it’s especially hard now that we’re living in a pandemic. Google – read the room!

I want to bring clarity to the process and what can be done in your environment, in your system. I want listeners to be confident about this strategy and have a ready approach for migration. I would hope that my listeners understand the differences between these 2 data models.

I want to introduce a phased approach to make them feel confident and ready with a plan. So they know what to do with the GA.