Podcast

EP#10 Christina LeVasseur - Answer 10 Questions to carve your path in the SEO industry

How to find your place in the SEO industry? There's a place for everyone and it becomes a game of finding out where we fit in. Christina, an SEO consultant based in the USA, will guide you to ask yourself 10 questions. You'll learn more about who you are, find your niche, make a difference, and earn the money you want and deserve. 

You will learn that all our paths are different, yet valuable and meaningful. We're all just trying to figure it out. There is no right or wrong way to carve your path. The goal is for young SEOs to feel more confident in their decision making and accept the uncomfortable situations that they will inevitably experience.

Download the 10 questions to answer the 10 questions yourself: https://www.mediasesh.com/seo-path/

Who is Christina Levasseur?

Christina is an SEO consultant and the founder of MediaSesh. She has been in the SEO industry since 2009, first working in corporate for a decade, supporting well-known personalities and Fortune 500 companies, before starting her own SEO consulting firm.

She has helped companies of all sizes to improve their online visibility and get found by their customers on search engines. She also conducts SEO trainings and webinars for clients located around the country, which empowers business owners and marketers to make valuable next step decisions based on data.

🧡 Many thanks to Christina for sharing her experience with us.

Did you enjoy this episode? Please, follow, like, rate, share and subscribe to the podcast – everything helps! And if you feel like doing an extra step, send the podcast guest or the podcast host a thank you Tweet or message.

Useful links

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/workinseo

Isaline’s, the podcast host, Twitter: https://twitter.com/isaline_margot

WorkinSEO Twitter: https://twitter.com/WorkInSEO

Sign up to “WorkinSEO” newsletter: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/workinseo

Getting in touch with our podcast guest, Christina Levasseur

Follow Christina on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/cbrodzky

Follow Christina on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/cbrodzky/

#WorkinSEOPodcast full transcript with Christina Levasseur

Thank you to Ahrefs for sponsoring the Season 2 of the WorkinSEOPodcast!

Isaline: A huge thank you to a Ahrefs, for sponsoring the full second season of WorkInSEO Podcast. Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset with free and reliable learning materials. Junior marketer, SEO experts, you'll find Ahrefs toolset's powerful, yet easy to master. As a beginner, you can learn how to perform many SEO tasks. Thanks to Ahref's YouTube videos, beginners' guides, and blog. By the way, do you know that Ahrefs is hiring? Do check their open positions on ahrefs.com/jobs.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to a new episode of the WorkInSEO Podcast. I am Isaline Muelhauser, founder of WorkInSEO job boards and podcast. Today's episode is about asking you questions while questions you need to ask yourself to cover your path in the SEO industry. We have a fantastic guest today. It's Christina LeVasseur. 

Christina is an SEO consultant and founder of MediaSesh, an SEO consulting and training firm. Hi, Christina. 

Christina: Hi, Isaline. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak. I also want to say thank you so much for creating this amazing resource for new and thriving SEOs. I'm really happy to be here. 

Isaline: Oh, thanks a lot. I'm really happy to have you because I've been a big fan of first, it was a webinar, and today, it's a blog post article. I'm really happy that we found the time to discuss this together. For everyone who is listening, this talk, we are going to discuss a blog article that you find on Christina's website, which is www.mediasesh.com/SEO-path. You'll find her slides, her templates, and a big, great explanation. 

Christina: Thank you very much for that introduction to that. What was really cool too, is when this presentation went live, that was around the time in which this podcast had also gone live. It seems that there are a lot of conversations happening around how to start, advance, grow within the SEO community. It's kind of nice because we're both coming at it from different angles. I come at it after some number of years. You come after it from more of a fresh lens. It's really nice to maybe bridge the gaps between the two.

Isaline: Yeah. I think it's especially great that some people who have also more senior role like you and more experience, that you actually take the time to create resources for newcomers, instead of just being really busy with clients' work. And the way you frame the question, it's really good.

Before we dive in into the question, I still want to ask you a couple of questions about SEO and how you got there. Do you want to tell us a little bit about you and how you got into SEO? 

Christina: Yes. My story is very short. It had started in the year 2009. I was working at a public relations firm. I was there for about a couple of years. In that time, they had started a digital division since they started to realize the importance of incorporating digital into their clients' strategy. And so, I just went up to the two directors and I asked if I could join the team because if you want something, ask for it. If they say no, oh, well. If they said yes, which they did in this case, wonderful. It's the beginning of something new and beautiful. 

My focus at that time was online reputation management. That was my start within the SEO industry. And then, over the years, I had then touched on a few other areas. 

Isaline: What is it about SEO that makes you go, "Yay! That's what I want to do. I want to keep on doing only SEO."?

Christina: For people that know me best, they know I have this love-hate relationship within the industry. For now, it still leans more lovey-dovey. I think the reason why in which I stayed in the industry, as long as I have is it just clicked for me. When I was in public relations, I was okay at it. I thought I could get by. But it wasn't until I touched the digital aspect that I realized a light bulb had went off. Maybe it's because, with digital, my generation was the first to get on Facebook.

Also, we just grew up with computers. I had started using a computer maybe around the age of 13, which is kind of old for some people. But having that kind of exposure, I think it's just stars were aligned. And then, when I got into SEO, I realized I wanted to stay in it also because it seemed like this was the future.

I had graduated college in 2007, and I wanted to stay on top of, at the forefront, of what was going on within marketing, in general. It looks like it was a good career path to get into because now, it's just exploded. You do not have enough SEOs to fill the number of roles that are available.

Isaline: That's true. So anyone, everyone listening, just look into SEO, and go for it. 

Christina: Yes. There is a place for everyone that is, I have a very strong belief in that because it's so expansive. It's gotten to be more and more expansive. I think it will continue to become expansive. That's why everyone can find a focus area that's very interesting to them, and which for them too, it just clicks. Their brain likes it. It falls well within the skills that they have, that the industries that they're interested in, the kind of person that they are. And so, yes, everyone that's listening, there is a place for you.

Isaline: And you, what is your favorite type of challenge or type of project?

Christina: I would say, the kind of SEO that I am, I'm someone that thinks very strategically and analytically. Whenever I'm working with a new client, I look at a number of different things to see what their current online visibility looks like and where we should really focus our efforts. Because there's a laundry list of things we could do. But really, let's focus on the things that are the most important right now, based on these initial insights that I'm seeing. And then, if we need to restructure, that's fine. But let's start with a plan, and that's my favorite. It's creating that strategy and plan and then creating audits that provide actionable recommendations based on the data. 

Isaline: That sounds great. Now, if we dive a little bit into a subject, At the beginning of your article, you mentioned the different types of skills and specialties that people can specialize in SEO. Can you tell me more about this? 

Christina: Yes. The slide that I think you're referencing to, it's on the, "Who are you?" It's almost like different lines that represent different categories. One category would be your SEO specialty. For some people, they are really good at Python. Others might want to focus on strictly mobile. I'm more of a generalist, and a strategist, and a data loverists. 

The next category would be your level of experience. Whether you are new, intermediate, advanced. The other category would be your environment. There are folks that are working at agency; there are some folks that are working in house. Some that are -- now, I'm solo. Also, another category would be your work history, whether you are self-taught. Maybe you come from a different background. For me, I had started in public relations and then transitioned in. Maybe you come from a web development background and transitioned into SEO, et cetera, et cetera. Maybe there's a particular niche that you're really interested in. That can include small business, maybe it's travel, maybe it's SaaS, whatever.

And then, you're thinking type. That can include whether you're creative, analytical, and logical. If you were to create this matrix of adding, plotting all of those different categories, you really can find the things that are interesting and to carve your path out in the industry. 

Isaline: When I read you, it seems that you have a high degree of awareness about what you think is good for you, and what is success for you. How long did it take for you to get there? 

Christina: A lifetime. I'm still learning. I do come from a very self-aware perspective. But I think that's happened because I've failed a lot. I've fallen on my face a lot. I've had high degree of anxiety and stress over the years. 

Now, I realize what's more important to me now. That could change 10 years from now. It could change again and again. It's really coming back to, "Am I being my most truest, authentic self? If I'm not, what do I need to do to change? Am I happy doing what I'm doing? Okay. What do I need to do to change that? Am I offering value?"

I'm the kind of person that keeps asking questions because I think I have to. There's situations you're in that are very stressful and very uncomfortable. While I'm in this situation, what can I get from it? Because I know this is temporary. I'm going to get out of it. But while I'm in it, maybe learn from it, so it doesn't maybe happen again. 

I appreciate you saying that you've acknowledged the self-awareness. I think I could be better. I'm still learning. That's the thing. It doesn't matter how long you've been in the industry, there's always something to learn. It is a lifetime of learning and that's the approach that I take when I'm carving my own path.

Isaline: What do you say to someone who struggles to answer the questions. Who struggle to answer, for instance: "What does success mean for me?" Which is probably one of the most difficult question of your list. 

Christina: So hard. Oh, yes. I would say, start with one question and answer it very thoroughly. There might be one question that you can just write down in a few sentences, you know it just start there. I would say even for me, I didn't even know what success meant until a couple years ago and I'm in my 30s now. I would say that maybe even when I was in my 20s, my definition of what I thought success was, it was, "I want to make as much money as possible. I want to be super-rich. I want to be a millionaire," right? Who doesn't? I want to climb the ladder as far as I can, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's what I thought success meant to me. I do believe that that is what I believe. 

Now, it's sort of evolved into, "Okay. What kind of person am I? Am I leaving some kind of legacy? Am I helping other people?" I've realized, as I'm creeping into my 40s, I think it's going to change even more with, "How do I 100% give back to…?" Doesn't necessarily need to be the SEO industry. But, "How can I really leave a mark, leave the world better than how I entered it?" 

Isaline: Is that why you took the time to write this article and prepare the presentation? To reach this, "What can I do to make the world better and help others?" 

Christina: What a great question! I think, partially, there are a lot of brilliant SEOs, and I feel like they've already put out the information. Me, personally, I didn't want to be redundant. There are folks that are putting articles and presentations together around technical, link-building content. It's already been done.

Me, personally, feel that I have much else to contribute to that conversation that hasn't already been said. So I wanted to take a slightly different approach. And so, the way in which I decided to sort of make my mark here was, "Okay. There's commonalities, no matter where you are in SEO, there are certain overarching themes here. These are the questions that I realize that I've been asking. Also, I do a lot of mentoring. I realized these are the kind of questions that I make my mentees ask. And so, let me put it in a nice presentation, wrap it up in a bow, and put it out for the SEO world to see.

Isaline: Well, it is a very organized and wrapped presentation. Do we want to read all of the questions for our audience? Do you have them? Or do you want me to read them? 

Christina: Okay. Question number one: what does success mean to me? Number two: what do I want to be known for? Number three: what is the lesson in this uncomfortable situation? Number four: what are the tradeoffs when I have to make the decision? Next one is, who am I trying to impress? Next, what do I need to let go of in order to move forward? Next, what investments do I need to make? Who can help me and who can I help? Am I stopping to check in with myself? Which is more about mental health. And then, the last one is, how can I make money work for me? Which is more about finance.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of questions that people could ask. I wanted to keep it within an hour presentation. And so, 10 questions. It was nice and short, and a way to really dive deep into the kind of person that you are. 

Isaline: You mentioned that you recommend to start thoroughly with one question. Do you think the success question is the most important one, or would you advise someone to start with another question? 

Christina: I think you could start with any of the questions. It's funny because the success one was maybe the one I answered last. I probably started from the bottom, and then worked my way to number one.

For me, the first question I was asking is, "How can I make money work for me?" Which was inspired by a supervisor who told me that I need to learn about money. He told me, as a female, it is important that I learn about money. This is the kind of guy that loves his mother, loves his wife, his daughter. He is someone that is an advocate for women. He provided me guidance on how to move forward with learning about money. Now, I'm a huge advocate of telling women, "You have to learn about money because it provides you options and flexibility." And then, everything else came after that. 

Isaline: Let's unpack this question. What do you mean exactly about, "learning about money"?

Christina: When I will preface it and say that as it relates to money, it's very personal. Personal finances are very personal. The way in which I like to approach money, "It's okay if you like to do things differently." Do whatever works best for you, your family, and your circumstances. But, looking at the slides that I have put together and the reason why money is so important is because it can change the way in which you think. It goes from, "working because I have to," to "working because I want to." I think that really helps with the passion. I'm doing this because I truly love doing what I do and helping and giving back. 

Second thing is instead of me working hard for money, which I know early in our careers, we're all hustling. We're all doing what we have to do to bring home that bacon. But then, you change that conversation to "money working hard for me," and that relates to investments. The third thing is the more you make is the more you can give back. I believe that money is the kind of thing that amplifies the kind of person that you already are. If you're all a generous person in general, you're going to be giving more of that money away to help pull others up with you. 

Just starting with money, I would recommend having an emergency fund of at least three to six months' worth. It really depends on how quickly you think it could get a job, your expenses, a lot of circumstances. I would also recommend reading a lot of books. I continue to read a lot of books. Barron's. I read The Wall Street Journal because I like to know what's going on with the economy and how that's going to impact my investments. Also, I've started getting into day trading, which is just incredible. I would also say diversify your income sources. Because as great as SEO is, I want you to not leave all your eggs in one basket. Think of additional ways to bring money into your account. 

Pay yourself first. There's this one book I'll recommend. It's called, "Automatic Millionaire." That was one of the first books I ever read about money. It was a simple read. It taught me to pay yourself first, and then pay every tell afterwards. 

Isaline: I hear that the question is really broad. It's not only about, "What do I do? What kind of work do I do to make money?" But also, "How do I deal with money in my personal finance? How do I diversify? And, if I can invest in such?" This is an important question, indeed. I think also that's having security, like financial security, knowing that you have little bit in advance, can help think a bit out of the box, and sometimes takes more risk, obviously, because you know that you have this flexibility. I suppose for most of us, it does not come during our 20s. It only comes much later when we have spared a little bit. 

Christina: I love that you said that you're able to take more risk. I completely agree with that. The moment I realized I had a safety net, that was the moment I realized I could say no to certain things like clients that didn't make sense to me. I can push the boundaries, and ask for more money, and check in with my partner and say, "This is what I'm thinking of doing. Do I have your support? Because this is a risk that I'm about to take, and let's do this." But having that security, that emergency fund, really helps you to push the boundaries. 

What's also really interesting is that it wasn't until my 30s, that I started to realize the outcome of the decisions that I had made in my 20s, which was super powerful to realize that, "If this didn't happen, then this would not have happened."

The sequence of events to get to where I am, it's: "If I didn't do that one thing, I could’ve messed this up." It's so incredible, so powerful to look back on your life and realize, "I am so glad I did things the way that I did." That's why I firmly believe, no matter how old you are, you should have accountability, honesty, and integrity because those are the kind of traits are going to pay dividends.

Isaline: Oh, yeah, 100% agree. I want to bounce on something you said about firing clients that were not good for you. Does that relate about the question you say, "Am I stopping to check in with myself?" Can you tell me more about that? 

Christina: It can. I think it could tie into a number of different questions here. There are going to be clients that give you massive anxiety. It's asking, "Why is it giving me anxiety? Is it because I don't have enough resources available? Is it because this client is just never seemingly happy with any of the work that we provide them?" Just sort of slicing and dicing what you can do better to make that situation better. But sometimes, it's just not really a good fit, and that's a learning for the future and qualifying clients a little bit better and avoiding some of those partnership mismatches. 

Having to let a client go, to me, was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do when the first time I did it. But then, the second time, it was la-la-la, didn't even prepare for it. Just got on the call and did it, but it's really uncomfortable. There are things I could have done better, and I acknowledge that. I always like to reflect back on, "How can I have done this better to become a better version of myself each and every day?" Also, just looking out for those red flags with how to avoid those clients in the first place. 

Isaline: Which advice would you give us? Because sometimes, when we are really busy in the daily life and in delivering work, we don't really see the red flags. Even though they might be there or they might not. So to check in with ourselves, what do we do to actually know what's going on with ourselves? 

Christina: Oh, goodness. When I feel that those panic attacks startup, I have to stop. I have to pause. "What's going on, Christina? Why are you feeling this way?" Keep asking "why" a million times, until you get to the root of the problem. I've never really knew what those red flags were until I felt what those red flags were. For me, I know we get a lot of guidance from people but it wasn't until I fell on my own face to know what those red flags were, and it's going to look different for everyone.

For me, personally, when it comes to red flags -- let me flip it and say, "What are the green flags I look for when it comes to working with clients?" I want someone that I prioritizes user experience and accessibility. I want someone whose values align with my own. I want someone who's going to dedicate dev and content resources. That has taught me the kind of questions that I need to ask ahead of time to see if this is a right fit or not. Sometimes, they say things I like to hear, it starts up and you'll learn eventually that this really isn't a good fit, but let's try to do our best and avoid those situations if we possibly can.

Isaline: That's very interesting because actually knowing the green flags for clients, it can be an extra question that would help us understand what are our values when we work, and what we like about a project, and what we like doing. So, yeah, it's good. It's great. Because you know, it's the end of the year, and I've had a sleepless night, Sunday, and actually read 10 times your article. I was like, "I need to figure things out before next year to do better."

Christina: Yeah, it is a good thing to come back to, every now and then. There's this other thing. Since we're speaking about advancing in one's career, I would say dabbling in different things can help you with advancing. I know through my career, SEO was always the constant, but I was always interested in other things. Like, "Oh, social media is just something that I'm interested in. Oh, PPC. Let me try that." I quickly discovered, "Ooh, I don't like any of this. I'm going to continue sticking with SEO. That's what I like. It's actually, what I'm pretty good at." 

There is one other thing that I'm going to add here. It's something that I'm working separately, maybe another separate training. It's ultimately asking the question, "What do I need in order to be successful?" And I want to break it down into different categories. And so, that can include: "What type of support system do I need to be successful?" That can relate to how you outsource work with contractors. It could be the junior staff that your company needs to hire, it could be your leadership. Do you share the same values that they do? It could be with your direct supervisor. 

The second category I would say is, "What type of tools do you need to be successful?" That could be if you're a local SEO: what local SEO tools do I need? If I'm in technical, enterprise, content, project management: what do I need in order to make my job a little bit easier?

The third category I would say is, "What type of continuing education do I need to be successful? That can include conferences or certifications, trainings, and mentorship. And then, the final thing I'll share here because I'm still flushing this out a little bit is, "What type of budget do I need to be successful?"

And that will be for all those items listed above: tools, resources. Ultimately, that is the big question. It doesn't matter if you work for yourself, in-house, agency, asking "What do I need in order to do my job?"

Isaline: I can see that having like knowing what I need, if someone wants to work in-house, it's typically the kind of question that you can ask during the interview process to make sure that the position might fit for instance, or that you might, yeah. Just be happy with this setting that you provided in the company. 

Christina: Absolutely. With me, being a consultant, I always ask the qualifier questions of clients. If you're looking to work in-house or at an agency, you're the interviewee. And so, those are the qualifying questions to see if this position is right for you. If this is a good culture fit for you.

Isaline: I love it. Thank you for adding these extra steps that are not yet on the websites, but maybe later. What would you say to someone who's starting? I have lots of questions from my community of people who say, "Oh, I want to work in SEO. Where to start?" You know, very like first, very open questions. How would you answer that? 

Christina: Yes, so open. I would say, just start, however that looks. I'm working with a mentee right now, who is trying to get an entry-level position. In the meantime, she's found several mentors that she could work with. She's trying to get a ton of certifications that are available within her price point or free. She's reading a lot. She's part of different communities. In the very beginning, you're a sponge. You're just soaking it all in. 

The thing I would probably ask you. If you know the answer to it is, "How do you learn best?" For me, early in my career, I learned best by learning from other people. So, working at an agency made a lot of sense for me. Because I'm able to learn from people that I think are brilliant in the SEO community and they're sitting right next to me, telling me exactly I have to do. Getting a decade of that has helped me to now, where I'm in my third year of working for myself, and the way in which I learn best is to do the research on my own. It just has evolved. 

If you're brand new, just get started with one thing, figure out what's your learning style. It's okay if you try something and it doesn't work out, because that's the process of elimination. Just go ahead and pivot into something else.

"Fail fast, fail forward."

Isaline: I love this advice. I love how you emphasize curiosity and just trying things, trying tasks, and doing things, and going for it. It's lovely to chat with you. I see that time is running so fast. If people want to get in touch with you, I've heard you mentioned that you had mentees. Is this something you do?

Christina: Yeah! It's funny because the mentees that I work with they've reached out to me. Another thing, if you're new to SEO, don't be afraid to send out that LinkedIn, Twitter, email message, and say, "I'm new in SEO. Would you be willing to be my mentor?" Just note that every mentor is going to be a little bit different. So, you want to have more than one mentor. 

I would say the kind of mentor that I am. I'm very high level. I am not going to sit right next to you and tell you how to do certain things. I tell you how to approach things, how to think more critically. And so, have different mentors that can teach you and just provide guidance. Just know that not every mentor-mentee relationship's going to be a perfect match. But put yourself out there and speak with a number of different people. 

Isaline: If someone wants to get in touch with you, where can they find you?

Christina: Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn. Or you can send me an email, christina@mediasesh.com

Isaline: Awesome. I'll make sure to share the link, of course, in the description of the podcast, and of course, the link to the article so you have everything that you need to ask some of the questions. Thank you so much for joining me for this podcast, Christina. 

I've always been a big fan. As soon as I saw your presentation, I loved it. I've been sharing it around in the community ever since. Now that I have the link to the article, I'm convinced that you have something great here. Very well explained and pragmatic. I'm curious to know what do you plan to do with this now? What do you have in mind next? 

Christina: The thing that's really interesting to me is giving back, more than anything else. I know someone asked me, "Do you see yourself doing SEO forever?" The answer to that is, I don't know. I have other interests outside of the industry. But while I'm in this industry, how can I leave a good mark? And so, that would be mentoring others in the SEO space. It would also be advocating for accessibility and making my own website accessible, and also promoting that with my clients, and calling certain search engines out when I feel that they're not doing a good job. While I'm here, I'm going to raise hell until I'm gone.

Isaline: Oh, thanks. I love it. I'm going to follow you everywhere to see what's happening, of course. 

Christina: Oh, and thank you again, Isaline. I'm honored that you invited me here to share this message with everyone. 

Isaline: It was my pleasure. Thanks a lot. 

Everyone, if you want to give me a feedback about the podcast or reach out to me, you find me on Twitter, @WorkInSEO. I'm always happy to know what you have been thinking and what you need. Also, if you have any idea for the next podcast subject, please just reach out. Until then, I wish you well. Thank you and goodbye.